Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Battle of Dranesville - Part Seven

The following is an article about the battle from Harper's Weekly, dated January 11, 1862.

By mid-December 1861, nearly 5 months of relative quiet had passed in northern Virginia since the Union defeat at First Bull Run in July. Except for the Federal disaster at Ball's Bluff in October, no significant engagement had occurred between the opposing armies. The Federals, under Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, a superb organizer, drilled daily in their camps on the Virginia Hills opposite Washington, D.C. 25 miles to the west at Centreville, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's Confederates also trained.

With the approach of winter, both McClellan and Johnston wrestled with logistical problems. Food and rations for the men and forage for the thousands of horses and mules were a constant need. 5 days before Christmas, both armies sent foraging parties for hay. Both sides selected the same area-the lush farmland west of Dranesville, a town about midway between Alexandria and Leesburg on the Leesburg Turnpike.

At daylight on December 20, the Confederates foraging party, composed of virtually every wagon in Johnston's army rolled out of Centreville, 16 miles south of Dranesville. Brig. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, with 150 cavalryman, 4 infantry regiments, and an artillery battery, accompanied the wagons as an escort. Almost simultaneously Brig. Gen. E.O.C. Ord left Camp Pierpont with 5 Pennsylvania infantry regiments, a battery of four cannon, and a squadron of cavalry. Ord had been ordered to capture Southern marauders and confiscate forage from loyal Confederates. Having only 12 miles to cover, the Federals entered Dranesville first, about noon. Scattering a few Confederate horsemen, the Union troops occupied the town. An hour later the 1st Pennsylvania Reserve Rifles spotted Stuart's approaching force to the south. Lt. Col. Thomas L. Kane, commander of the Rifles, knew the terrain and quickly moved his regiment to a hill near the intersection of the Leesburg Pike and the Georgetown road. Kane deployed his soldiers while informing Ord of the oncoming Confederates. Stuart's approaching troopers soon exchanged fire with the Pennsylvanians.

Ord and Stuart, both uncertain about the situation, hurried their trailing regiments forward. The Union brigadier deployed 3 regiments on the right of Kane, south of the turnpike, keeping the 10th Pennsylvania and the cavalry squadron north of the road. The Federal battery unlimbered beside the 10th, soon sending its shells toward the deploying Southerners. Stuart meanwhile, aligned his 4 regiments in the woodlands opposite the 4 Pennsylvania regiments. His artillery unit halted behind the infantry and replied to Ord's gunners.

The infantry action began when the 9th Pennsylvania accidentally stumbled into the 1st Kentucky, who had already mistakenly exchanged volleys with the 6th South Carolina. Stuart then attacked with the 11th Virginia and 10th Alabama. The Confederates cleared the woods and drove toward Kane's soldiers, many of whom occupied a 2-story brick house. A 30-minute fire fight ensued, with the Confederates, suffering more. Stuart then shifted the 11th Virginia to the right, but the regiment passed across the front of a concealed company of the 10th Pennsylvania, whose slicing volley staggered the Virginians, sending them back into the woods.

Stuart, with his attack repulsed and certain the wagons were safe, ordered a withdrawal about 3 o'clock. Masked by the smoke and woods, the Confederates extricated themselves without additional loss. Stuart 194 casualties; Ord lost only 68. The next day both commanders returned to their camps.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Battle of Dranesville - Part Six

Here is General Ord's report of the battle, which is reprinted from the Official Records.

CAMP PEIRPOPOINT, VA., December 21, 1861.
Capt. H. J. BIDDLE, Assistant Adjutant-General, McCall's Division.

SIR: I have to report that, in obedience to the inclosed order, I at 6 a.m. yesterday started towards Dickey's and Henderson's, about 3 miles this side of Dranesville, on the Leesburg pike, with my brigade, the First Rifles, Lieutenant-Colonel Kane; Easton's battery, and two squadrons of cavalry. I likewise heard that it was probable there was a respectable picket of cavalry at Dranesville, and that the picket supposed by you to be near the river behind Dickey's had left. I then determined to send three companies of the Tenth and 20 cavalry with the foraging party to Gunnell's, between the pike and the river, and with the remainder of the force proceed to Dranesville, satisfied that, though I might be exceeding the letter of my instructions, should I find the enemy and pick up a few you would not object. This I did, though Colonel McCalmout, hearing that there was a large force on our left, remained with his part of a regiment, and that detained the two regiments behind him. I had sent for them, but was obliged to enter Dranesville with my artillery and cavalry and a small advance guard only on the road, the First Rifles and Colonel Jackson's regiment flanking this column in the woods on the right and left. The cavalry picket in town fled and scattered and remained in small squads watching.

While waiting in Dranesville for the regiments in the rear to come up, I posted my artillery and cavalry and Jackson's regiment of infantry and a couple of companies of the First Rifles so as to cover the approaches, and sent for Colonel Kane's regiment to occupy the road in our then rear, my front being towards Centreville. This I did because from the occasional appearance of a few mounted men on a slope behind some woods in a hollow to my left and front, and a broad mass of smoke in that neighborhood, I felt pretty sure there was a force there preparing some mischief. As soon as Colonel McCalmont came up with his regiment (the Tenth), followed by Lieutenant-Colonel Penrose (the Sixth), and Colonel Taggart with the Twelfth, and while preparing to resist any attack and to cover my foraging party, I learned that the enemy in force had approached on the south side of the Leesburg pike with field pieces and infantry, and had driven in my pickets, wounding 2 men. Thinking they would attack on both sides of the turnpike as I returned eastward, I ordered (to meet this expected attack) Colonel McCalmont's regiment on the left or river side of the road in the woods, left in front, and if the enemy showed himself on that side to bring his regiment forward into line; Colonel Jackson's regiment (of which and its gallant colonel I cannot speak in too high terms) I ordered to flank the road in the same way on the right of the road in the woods, and do the same if the enemy showed on that side. Between these flanking regiments I ordered the Kane Rifles to meet the enemy behind us in the road, the cavalry to follow, and the artillery I took with me to post them and answer the enemy's artillery, which had opened fire on our then right (the south), directing the rear guard to cover the column of the Sixth and and Twelfth Regiments of Infantry in the road from cavalry.

The artillery went at a run past the station I selected for them, capsizing one of their pieces. I brought them back, told the captain where to post his guns, and then went to remove the cavalry, then exposed in the road swept by the enemy, whose attack was from a thickly-wooded hill on our right flank (the south). Their force I saw was a very bold one, very well posted, and the artillery was only about 500 yards off, with a large force of infantry on both its flanks and in front, covered and surrounded by woods and thickets. Moving east with the cavalry, which was of no use here, I came to a place in the road covered towards the enemy by a high bluff' and dense thicket, which thicket I intended to occupy with infantry. Here I left the cavalry surrounded by dense forests, wherein they could neither fight nor be hurt. The accompanying sketch will show the ground.

As I had at first thought the enemy would attack on both sides the road and moved my infantry to meet such an attack, and as their attack was confined to the right, it became necessary for me to change my front. As neither McCalmont nor Jackson had had time to come into line under first orders when I discovered this, and were moving by the flank, and as before I placed the artillery and cavalry I had seen the Rifles closely engaging the enemy by a flank movement, covering themselves by some houses and fences, my right in meeting the attack thus became the village of Dranesville, my left the gorge and woods occupied by my cavalry on the Leesburg pike.

After securing the cavalry, I found by carefully observing the enemy's fire and battery that their guns were in a road which could be enfiladed. I ordered Captain Easton to right the capsized gun and bring it to the spot from which this road could be raked, removed two other guns to this spot, gave the gunners the distance and elevation, observed the result, and finding after a round or two that the enemy's fire slackened and the gunners were raking the road beautifully without being discomposed by the enemy's fire, I told them "to keep at that," and determined to push the infantry forward. I found them (except the Kane Rifles, the Ninth (Jackson's), and the Tenth (McCal-mont's), Regiments, which were, as above stated), in the ditches, under fences, and covering themselves as best they could. I started them forward, Kane at the head of his regiment leading. His and Jackson's regiments required no urging. McCalmont's regiment was kept in excellent order by its colonel--than whom a better officer is not found in my brigade--and acted as a reserve. I put them in the woods, pushed and exhorted them up the hill, having directed the battery to cease firing, and proceeding with my infantry with the bayonet. About this time, between 3 and 4 o'clock (the action began at 2.30), General McCall, I was informed, arrived on the field. As I was very busy urging the men forward, and they required all my attention to keep them to their work, I did not at once report, but when we reached the ground occupied by the enemy's battery I reported to him. He was so kind as to direct me to continue the pursuit in the same order and to continue my dispositions, which I did. The enemy were pursued fully half a mile farther, but they had left the neighborhood in great haste, leaving their arms, a portion of their dead and wounded, clothing, 10 horses, and a quantity of artillery equipments, with 2 caissons and a limber, scattered along the road towards Centreville and in the woods on both sides.

I beg to mention the coolness and courage of my aides, Captain Painter, assistant quartermaster; First Lieut. S. B. Smith, Tenth Regi-merit Pennsylvania Reserve Corps; First Lieut. S.S. Seward, New York Artillery, and Second Lieut. A. B. Sharpe. They not only carried orders promptly, but in instances requiring it exacted obedience. They deserve a more exalted rank than that they now hold.

The medical officers (especially the brigade surgeon, Dr. Lowman) were prompt and cool, leaving none unattended. The enemy, left 2I of their most desperately wounded on the field, who were taken up, carried to houses, and their wounds dressed by our surgeons; but they will nearly all die. Their dead left on the field is variously estimated from 50 to 75.

Our artillery did terrible havoc, exploding one ammunition wagon, and some of their men whom we brought in say the slaughter was terrible. Several dead lay around the exploded caisson, 3 of whose blackened corpses were headless. The prisoners further state that Colonel Taylor was doubtless killed. Two of their officers were left on the ground, and how many were carried off it is difficult to say. After the affair we built our bivouac fires in Dranesville.

Thus, sir, we, on returning to camp, had marched 24 miles, beaten the enemy, loaded our wagons with forage, bringing in (12 miles) our killed (7) and wounded (60), among whom are 4 captains. Some of our wounded had to be brought the whole distance on stretchers, while I am informed the Pennsylvania ambulances for this division are lying empty at Washington. Lists of killed and wounded and reports of regimental commanders are herewith inclosed.

It is impossible to remember all who were conspicuous, especially as the fighting occurred in thickets and was scattered over much ground. Captain Easton was very efficient and his battery well served.

The wounded officers, Lieutenant-Colonel Kane and Captain Niles, of the Kane Rifles; Captain Bradbury, of the Sixth, and Captains Dick and Galway, of the Ninth, Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps, were conspicuous, leading their men when wounded. Others there were, as you can well imagine, equally brave, but it would be inviduous to attempt to select them.

The prisoners report that the brigade engaged against us was composed of the Kentucky Rifles, an Alabama, a South Carolina, and a Virginia regiment, with a 6-gun battery, all under the command of General Stuart.

I must not forget the prompt manner in which General Reynolds came up from Difficult Creek, some 4 miles off, as soon as he heard the cannonading. He arrived too late, it is true, to take part in the affair, but the certainty that he would come with his brigade insured a victory, and stimulated our men to earn it.

With respect, sir, your obedient servant,E. O. C. ORD, Brigadier-General Volunteers.

So, both McCall and Ord "heard" that pickets were near. What is not written is that they had advanced warning that Stuart was coming, which Jones implies in his diary. The only evidence to support Jones' claim is the timing of both forces coming to Dranesville on the same day, at the same time, to do the same thing, and Stuart's suspicions that he had been betrayed.

Next I will produce an article written about the Battle from Harper's Ferry. I will also investigate what other Stuart biographers say about the battle as well.

The Battle of Dranesville - Part Five

Here is a reprint of General Ord's orders received on December 19th. They are reprinted from the Original Record.

HEADQUARTERS MCCALL'S DIVISION,Camp Pierpoint, Va., December 19, 1861.
Brig. Gen. E. O. C. ORD, Commanding Third Brigade.

GENERAL: You will please move in command of your brigade at 6 a.m. to-morrow, on the Leesburg pike, in the direction of Dranesville. The First Rifles, Pennsylvania Reserves, Lieutenant-Colonel Kane, have been ordered to form right in front on the pike near Commodore Jones' house and await your arrival, when the commanding officer will report to you for further orders. Captain Easton's battery has been directed to form on the left of the Rifles. The captain will report to you for orders. Two squadrons of cavalry will also be placed under your command. The senior officer will report to you this evening for orders. Sherman, the guide, will likewise report to you for duty.

The object of this expedition is twofold: In the first place, to drive back the enemy's pickets, which have recently advanced within 4 or 5 miles of our lines (leaving a force of about 70 cavalry at Henderson's), and carried off two good Union men, and threatened others; and, secondly, to procure a supply of forage.

It has to-day been reported to me that there is a force of about 100 cavalry lying between Dranesville and the river. This force might be captured or routed by sending a regiment of infantry up the pike beyond their position, to strike their rear by a flank movement to the right, while your disposable cavalry, after picketing the cross-roads near Dickey's, might move near the river, and attack them in front or on the left. Should you not arrive at Dickey's in time to make this movement and leave the ground on you return before nightfall, it must not be undertaken, as I do not wish any part of your command to remain out over night.

The forage will be procured at Gunnell's or at some other rank secessionist's in the neighborhood of Dickey's. Direct your quartermaster to confine the selection of forage to corn and hay. Captain Hall will have charge of the wagon train. The regiment intended to move forward from Dickey's (if you think proper, Jackson's) might ride in the wagons as far as Dickey's, and then be fresh for the forward movement..

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,GEO. A. McCALL, Brigadier-General General, Commanding-Division.

Now coincidences do happen in life. Yet, I find it suspect that both the Union army and Stuart are ordered to Dranesville, at the same time, to collect forage. Now, it could happen, and that possibility must be noted.

But, to me, it strengthens the entries made in J.B. Jones' diary. Stuart was betrayed by Union sympathizers recently released from custody by General Winder.

McCall was in contact with someone (unnamed and implied) who gave him the position and strength of Confederate pickets. These seem to be the same pickets that, once driven in, did not report the presence of Union troops to Stuart.

Now, let's look at General Ord's report of the battle.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Battle of Dranesville - Part Four

Here is Stuart's official report of the battle.


Maj. THOMAS A. PITT, Assistant Adjutant-General.

MAJOR: I have the honor to report that on the 20th instant I was placed in command of four regiments of infantry, 150 cavalry, and a battery of four pieces of artillery, viz, Eleventh Virginia Volunteers, Col. S. Garland, jr.; Sixth South Carolina Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel Secrest; Tenth Alabama Volunteers, Col. J. H. Forney, and First Kentucky Volunteers, Col. Thomas H. Taylor, making an aggregate force of 1,600 infantry; Sumter Flying Artillery (four pieces), Capt. A. S. Catts; One hundred [men of the First] North Carolina Cavalry, Major Gordon, and fifty [men of the] Second Virginia Cavalry, Captain Pitzer, for the purpose of covering an expedition of all the wagons of our army that could be spared (after hay) to the left of Dranesville.

I proceeded at once by the nearest route at daylight towards Dranesville, and the accompanying sketch will show the route as well as the relative situation of other objects of interest in what I am about to narrate.

Knowing the situation of the enemy's advance posts, I sent the cavalry forward far in advance of the infantry, to take possession of the two turnpikes to the right of Dranesville, leading directly to the enemy's advanced posts, so as to prevent any communication of our movements reaching them, and with the main body I followed on to take a position with two regiments and a section of artillery on each turnpike, also to the right of Dranesville, and close enough to their intersection to form a continuous line.

Such a position I knew I could hold against almost any odds, but as my cavalry came in sight of the turnpike, Captain Pitzer discovered the enemy at the point (A) on the ridge and sent me word immediately. I galloped forward at once, and, reconnoitering for myself, found that portion of the enemy was in possession of the ridge, and I could hear distinctly artillery carriages passing up the Georgetown turnpike in considerable numbers, and presently saw the cannons mounted on limber-boxes passing up towards Dranesville, about 200 yards from the intersection (A). I knew, too, that the enemy's infantry were in advance, and I at once suspected that he was either marching upon Leesburg or had received intelligence through a spy of our intended forage expedition and was marching upon it. In either case our wagons would have fallen an easy prey to him, and I saw at once that my only way to save them was to make a vigorous attack upon his rear and left flank and to compel him to desist from such a purpose.

I sent back for the infantry to hurry forward, and sent Captain Pitzer with his detachment of cavalry to gain the roads towards Leesburg, give notice to our wagons to return at once to camp, and keep between them and the enemy, threatening his front and flank; and I will state here, parenthetically, that this duty was performed by Captain Pitzer and his gallant little detachment in the most creditable manner; all our wagons reaching camp safely.

In the mean time the enemy's skirmishers took possession of the dense pine in our front, and as our infantry was met by my messenger three-fourths of a mile back, it was some time coming up. Colonel Garland's regiment, leading, was directed to deploy two companies on each side of the road to clear the ground of the enemy's skirmishers. One of these companies, having mistaken its direction, went too far to the right, and Colonel Garland had to replace it with another. The pines were cleared at doublequick, and the battery was ordered in position at (B), and fired very effectively during the whole of the engagement to the front.

The infantry were placed in position as follows: Garland's regiment on the right of the road, a little in advance of the artillery; Secrest's (South Carolina) on the left of the road. Forney's regiment, arriving later, replaced Garland's, which moved by the flank to the right, and the First Kentucky, Colonel Taylor, at first intended as a reserve, was ordered to take position on the left of the Sixth South Carolina.

As our infantry was well secured from the enemy's view, their artillery fire, which opened about fifteen minutes after ours began, had little effect upon the infantry, but played with telling effect along the road, as from its position (C) and the straightness of the road in our rear it raked the latter with shell and round shot completely. Their caissons and limbers were behind in a brick house completely protected from our shot, while our limbers and caissons were necessarily crowded and exposed. There was no outlet to right or left for a mile back by which the artillery could change its position. When our forces took their position the fire of the artillery caused great commotion in the enemy's lines and a part evidently took to their heels.

The right wing was ordered forward, and the Tenth Alabama rushed with a shout in a shower of bullets, under the gallant lead of their colonel (Forney) and Lieutenant-Colonel Martin, the latter falling in the charge. A part of this regiment crossed the road and took position along a fence, from which the enemy felt the trueness of their aim at short range. The colonel was here severely wounded and had to retire. In his absence the command devolved upon Major Woodward.

The Eleventh Virginia, holding position on the right of the Tenth Alabama, were not so much exposed to the fire of the enemy, and consequently suffered less. The Sixth South Carolina gradually gained ground also to the front, and being, together with the Tenth Alabama, exposed to the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters from a two-story brick house, suffered most. My orders to Colonel Taylor, First Kentucky, were given through Colonel Forney, and I soon knew by the commotion on my left that it was in place. The thicket where the Sixth South Carolina and First Kentucky operated was so dense that it was impossible to see either [their] exact position or their progress in the fight, and I regret to say that the First Kentucky and the Sixth South Carolina mistook each other for the enemy, and a few casualties occurred in consequence, but with that exception the whole force acted with admirable unison, and advanced upon the enemy with the steadiness of veterans, driving him several times from his position with heavy loss. When the action had lasted about two hours I found that the enemy, being already in force larger than my own, was recovering from his disorder and receiving heavy re-enforcements. I could not, with my small numbers, being beyond the reach of re-enforcements, force his position without fearful sacrifice, and seeing that his artillery, superior to ours in numbers and position only, was pouring a very destructive fire into Cutts' battery, I decided to withdraw the latter at once, preparatory to retiring from the field, judging, too, that I had given our wagons ample time to get out of reach of the enemy.

The battery suffered greatly. Its position was necessarily such that it could fire only to the front, and the caissons and limbers had no cover whatever from such a fire. Three or four cannoneers had been shot at their posts and several wounded, and every shot of the enemy was dealing destruction on either man, limber, or horse.

The conduct of the brave, true, and heroic Cutts attracted my admiration frequently during the action--now acting No. 1, and now as gunner, and still directing and disposing the whole with perfect self-command and a devotion to his duty that was, I believe, scarcely ever equaled. He executed my orders to withdraw his battery under a ricochet fire of great accuracy.

One piece I found it necessary to detail some infantry (Eleventh Virginia) to assist in conducting to the rear, which was done by them under great personal exposure.

Having secured the artillery, I sent orders to the four regimental commanders to disengage themselves from the enemy and retire slowly and in perfect order to the railroad, where a stand would be made. This delicate duty was performed admirably, and our troops marched back leisurely,' bringing with them all the wounded that could be found.

The men gathered up their blankets as they passed the points where they had been deposited before the fight. I regret to say, however, that one of the regiments reached the road this side of their blankets and knapsacks, thus missing them entirely; a circumstance which the enemy will construe into precipitate flight. The enemy was evidently too much crippled to follow in pursuit, and after a short halt at the railroad I proceeded to Fryingpan Church, where the wounded were cared for.

Early next morning, with the two fresh regiments furnished me (the Ninth Georgia and Eighteenth Virginia), and a detachment of cavalry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Baker, I proceeded towards the scene of action of the previous day, the cavalry being sent in advance. Learning that the enemy had evacuated Dranesville and had left some of our wounded there, I pushed on to that place to recover them and to take care of the dead. I found our dead on the field, and proceeded at once to remove them all to Centreville for interment. The wounded (about 10) were left by the enemy at a house at Dranesville, who intended to send for them the next day. They had been cared for with the utmost devotion by several of the ladies of the place. They were also removed to Centreville, except two, who were not able to survive the removal, who at their own desire and at the surgeon's advice were left in charge of the ladies.

As to the strength of the enemy, if the concurrent statements of the citizens residing on his route of march can be credited, he had fifteen regiments of infantry., several batteries, and seven companies of cavalry. The latter had started in the direction of our wagons just before the action began, but were then recalled.

Our wounded, who were for the time prisoners, say that the enemy's loss was acknowledged by them to be very heavy, and among the officers killed or mortally wounded was Colonel Kane, of Utah notoriety; and citizens living below declared that they carried off twenty wagon loads of killed and wounded, besides many dead before them on their horses, and that as soon as their dead and wounded were removed they left the field precipitately, leaving behind much of the material which we left on the field, but which we recovered next day.

I cannot speak in too high terms of Colonel Forney, that gallant son of Alabama, whose conspicuous bravery, leading his men in a galling fire, was the admiration of all; nor of his lieutenant colonel (Martin), who, with the battle-cry of forward on his lips, fell, bravely encouraging his men. Nor can I do more than simple justice to the officers and men of that regiment, who seemed determined to follow their colonel wherever he would lead.

Colonel Garland and Major Langhorne, of the Eleventh Virginia, behaved with great coolness under fire, and the men of that regiment, though deprived by locality from sharing as much of the danger of the engagement as the Tenth Alabama Regiment, yet acquitted themselves to my entire satisfaction.

The Sixth South Carolina and First Kentucky were, I regret to say, too much screened from my view to afford me the privilege of bearing witness, by personal observation, of individual prowess, but that the Sixth South Carolina, under the fearless Secrest, did its whole duty, let the list of killed and wounded and her battle flag, bathed in blood, with its staff shivered in the hand of the bearer, be silent but eloquent witnesses. Their major (Woodward) was painfully wounded, but bore himself heroically notwithstanding; while the telling report I could distinctly hear from the left assured me that the First Kentucky, under the gallant Taylor, the intrepid Major Crossland, and daring Desha, was all right.

Our battery's loss in killed and wounded was great, and the men deserve great credit for their devotion to their pieces under such perilous circumstances.

The detachment of North Carolina cavalry, under Major Gordon, was of great service in watching the approaches to our flanks, though the ground was extremely unfavorable for cavalry.

The attention of the general commanding is respectfully called to the detailed reports of commanders of regiments and corps, and to the special mention made by them of individual prowess.

Colonel Taylor became separated from his regiment in passing from its left to its right and found himself beyond the enemy's lines, but by great coolness and presence of mind he extricated himself and joined his regiment that night.

My thanks are due to my adjutant-general, Captain Brien; my aide, Chiswell Dabney, jr.; Lieutenants Throckmorton and Johnson, of the Fairfax Cavalry, and Lieutenant Jackson (aide to General Jones), volunteers for the occasion, for valuable services on the field. Lieutenant Throckmorton accompanied Captain Pitzer and was conspicuously useful during the day, and Lieutenant Johnson was of great service to me.

Corporal Henry Hagan, of [the] First Virginia Cavalry, was of great service in showing the First Kentucky its position in line, and proved himself on this as on every other occasion worthy of a commission.

Redmond Burke, Chief Bugler Steele, Privates Lewis, Barnes, Harris, Barton, Landstreet, Routh, Brigman, Thompson, and Carroll, of my escort, deserve my thanks for their promptness and accuracy in conveying orders and instructions.

Had we effected the safety of our wagons---constituting the greater part of the available means of transportation of this army---with great loss to ourselves, without inflicting much on the enemy, alone would have been a triumph of which the brave men of the four regiments under my command could be proud; but when it is considered what overwhelming odds were against us, notwithstanding which we saved the transportation, inflicted upon the enemy a loss severer than our own, rendering him unequal to the task of pursuit, retired in perfect order, and bringing with us nearly all our wounded, we may rightly call it a glorious success.

The list of killed has been materially increased by deaths which have occurred since the battle, as the number found dead on the field was only 27.

I have the honor to be, major, respectfully, your obedient servant,J. E. B. STUART, Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Source: "Official Records of the War of the Rebellion."

The interesting note is that Stuart contributes the large amount of Union troops at Dranesville either as an advance to Leesburg or that spies had alerted the Federals that Stuart was coming. This cooresponds with what Jones writes in his diary. Jones identifies the "spies" whereas Stuart only suspects.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Battle of Dranesville - Part Three

In Richmond, J.B. Jones worked as a clerk in the War Department. He was put in charge of issuing passports to any citizen desiring to pass between North and South. He believes the system is being abused. He makes many entries correlating how Confederate troop dispositions are mentioned in Northern papers soon after certain "citizens" were granted their passes.

On December 4, 1861, he records in his diary... "We are now tasting the bitter fruits of a too indulgent treatment of our enemies. (This would be the issuing of passports to applicants who desire to return to the North) Yesterday General Stuart's cavalry and the 6th Regiment S.C. volunteers met with a bloody disaster at Dranesville. It appears that several of the traitors arrested and sent hither by General Johnston were subsequently discharged by General Winder, under the instruction of Mr. Benjamin, and sent to the homes, in the vicinity of Dranesville, at the expense of the government. These men, with revenge rankling in their breasts, reported to General Stuart that a large amount of forage might be obtained in the vicinity of Dranesville, and that but a few companies of the enemy were in the neighborhood. The general believed these men to be loyal, since they seemed to have the confidence of the War Department, resolved to get forage; and for that purposed started some 80 wagons early in the morning, escorted by several regiments of infantry and 1000 cavalry, hoping to capture any forces of the enemy in the vicinity. Meantime in Dranesville, traitors had returned to their homes the preceding evening, and sent off intelligence to the headquarters of the enemy of the purpose of General Stuart to send out in the direction, early the next day, a foraging party consisting of so many wagons, and small forces of infantry, artillery, and cavalry.

The enemy hastened away to Dranesville an overwhelming force, and ambuscaded the road, where it entered the woods, with artillery and men of all arms. Their line was the shape of a horseshoe and completely concealed from view.

General Stuart had not entered far into the jaws of the trip, before some of his trusty scouts reported the presence of the enemy. Believing it to be only the pickets of a few companies previously reported, the general advanced still farther; but at the same time ordering the wagons to retire. He was soon undeceived by a simultaneous and concentric fire of artillery and musketry, which brought down many of his men. Nevertheless, he charged through the lines in one or two places, and brought his guns to bear with the effect of such portions of the enemy's line as were not wholly protected by the inequalities of the ground and the dense growth of the woods. He quickly ascertained, however, that he was contending against vastly superior numbers, and drew off his forces in good order, protecting his wagons. The enemy did not pursue for Stuart had rather more men than the informers reported to the enemy. But we lost 200 men, while the enemy sustained but little injury; their killed and wounded not exceeding 30.

This is the first serious wound inflicted on the country by Mr. Benjamin's policy.

December 5 - The account of Dranesville massacre was furnished me by an officer by an officer of the 6th S.C. Regiment, which suffered severely. The newspaper accounts of the occurrence, upon which, perhaps, the history of this war will be founded, give a different version of the matter. And hence, although not so designed at first, this diary will furnish more authentic data of many of th events of the war that the grave histories that will be written...

December 6 - It is rumored today, I know not on what authority, that the President mentioned the matter of the Dranesville disaster to the Secretary of War, and intimated that it was attributed to the machinations of the Union men discharged from prison here. It is said Mr. Benjamin denied it -- denied that any such men had been discharged by General Winder, or had been concerned in the affair at all. Of course the President had no alternative but to credit the solemn assertions of his confidential adviser. But my books, and the register of the prisons, would show that the Dranesville prisoners sent hither by General Joseph E. Johnston were discharged by General Winder, and that their expenses homes were paid by the government; and officers of unimpeachable veracity were ready to testify that General Stuart was misled by these very men.

My first concern with Jones' accounts are the dates. Looking at the Official Records only one battle at Dranesville is listed, but it takes place much later than Jones' entries suggest. But, Jones is speaking of the fight Stuart was engaged in.

Jones introduces an element that was not mentioned by Thomason in his seminal work about Stuart. Whereas Thomason contributes Stuart's loss to mistakes Stuart committed, Jones says the fault lies with 1) the collusion between Secretary Benjamin and General Winder's policy of granting passports to known spies/traitors. 2) These traitors deliberately misled Stuart in hopes of ambushing his troops. 3) It almost worked but Stuart's skill allowed him to withdraw the majority of his troops and wagons but not before he was bloodied.

The only thing as a historian that I will have to confirm is that Stuart did not make two forages to Dranesville. The date discrepancy in Jones' diary needs to be resolved. With the limited literature and records I have so far gathered on Stuart, it would seem that Jones' diary date is wrong. More research would have to be done on this.

If Jones is correct, then Thomason's conclusions become more suspect. It is the job of the historian to analyze and assess... but reading Thomason's biography, I find a tendancy on Thomason's part to brand Stuart as a commander who allows his vanity to affect his judgement. Since Thomason did not leave a bibliography or footnotes in his work, instead telling the reader that "I have not wanted to clutter my pages with footnotes and reference numbers... I will be happy to furnish specific sources to any person who is sufficiently interested to write me about any given point." Since Mr. Thomason is dead, I am unable to do this. Without his sources, it is hard to verify the claims he makes.

Next, we will look at the official records of the battle from both Stuart and his Northern opponent.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Battle of Dranesville - Part Two

Stuart wrote to General D.H. Hill about the battle. Stuart says he wrote in haste… so the paragraph that follows is succinct.

“Dranesville, Virginia
December 21, 1861


We had a hard-fought battle here yesterday. I had four pieces and four regiments, say 1,200 strong. The enemy had from five to ten regiments, six or seven pieces of artillery. They say 3,100. Finding heavy reinforcements arriving, I withdrew my command in perfect order from the field, carrying off nearly all wounded. The enemy’s loss was over 50 killed; our killed 27. They evacuated at dark. I return to Centreville today.

In haste.

J.E.B. Stuart,

He also writes Flora on the 23rd and relates what happened.

“My Dear Darling,

I haven been so intensely occupied in the saddle and on my report since the battle that it has been literally impossible for me to write to you until now. I rec’d the bank acct’s last night and enclose one set signed, have them cashed, the money placed in your dear little pocket; as you are my better half, I send you the better half of a month’s pay (20 days).

On the 20th I was placed in command of 4 Inf’y Regt’s, 1 Battery & some cavalry to protect an expedition after forage over next to Dranesville. I marched over and found the enemy had that day advanced a large force to that point and in order to prevent our wagons falling his hands, I had to attack him vigorously attracting his attention to me until the wagons could escape. This I did, saving all the wagons & came very near whipping the enemy, so near that they left the placed soon after I did, & left several of our wounded having so many of their own that they couldn’t carry them off. I found after a fight of two hours that, I could not force the position, on account of their great superiority of numbers -- & being myself beyond the reach of reinforcements, I determined to withdraw my troops from the field, which was done in perfect order, the men marching leisurely & without confusion, and the enemy being too much crippled to pursue us. The loss on our side was severe 43 killed or since dead, 143 wounded and 8 missing. But strange to say the citizens of the place declare that the enemy’s loss was heavier than ours, that 20 wagon loads of killed and wounded were carried off by them, it seems almost incredible yet vouched for by the people of Dranesville, of which I took peaceable possession next day, bringing off our wounded and killed, to Centreville. The people declared that we engaged 15 Regt’s, several batteries, & 7 Co’s of cavalry. Whether this force was large or not, we can’t tell, but that it was 4 times larger than mine (1600) there could be no doubt. Our side therefore came out first best—I am perfectly satisfied that my conduct was right, and I have the satisfaction to know that it meets the approval of General Johnston, & all others who know the facts, and my reputation has not doubt been the gainer. I was never in greater personal danger & men & horses fell around me like ten-pins, but thanks to God to whom I looked for protection, neither myself nor my horse was touched.

There is a good deal of envy in this army among Ransom, Robertson, & al – but I assure you I let it trouble me precious little. I have had several Brigade drills to show them how I could handle a Brigade of Cavalry, & it went off splendidly, all hands seemed delighted. All the Generals were out to witness them, & expressed themselves highly gratified.

If you telegraph me the morning you start, I will have the conveyance for you. All hands are preparing for winter quarters.

Kisses to the dear ones and kind regards to all hands – write me often – write me long ----

Tell all our friends the correct version of the battle as they will get it mixed up in the paper.

Kisses, Dear ones. Ever yours

J.E.B. Stuart.”

Much has been written about Stuart’s vanity and this weakness will ultimately be responsible for Lee’s loss at Gettysburg. In fact, all that remains about Stuart in modern history is the vainglorious egotist…I think this is wrong. Even when I read this letter where he talks about his reputation and his assurances that his conduct was right, I don’t see a vainglorious egotist.

Am I blind? Can I not see the obvious? Maybe… but my introduction to Stuart came from reading his personal album and many of his letters written from the time he was a young teenager to his death. In them, I see a young man (and he was young – barely 31 when he died) who wanted to be valued and appreciated. He was the youngest son and somewhat lost in a big family.

But Stuart had the love of both Lee and Jackson and these two men trusted him implicitly. If Stuart was the shallow and dangerous egotist that seems to be the modern portrayal… then I don’t think he would have commanded Lee’s or Jackson’s trust and respect. Nor would he have been given the command and responsibility that they freely gave him.

His advancement to the head of the ANV’s cavalry was opposed. Obviously, word of this opposition got back to him. His reaction to such criticism was to be the best he could be. His insecurity is apparent in the lines he writes to the woman who knows him and understands him. What safer place to reveal them.

I like Jeb Stuart. I like the young man in this letter very much.

Next, I will publish excepts from the diary of J.B. Jones, a clerk in the War Department. What he has to say about the battle is very illuminating.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Battle of Dranesville

This week, we are going to look at the Battle of Dranesville, which Stuart fought on December 20, 1861. From Jeb Stuart, by John W. Thomason, Jr., one of the most popular biography’s on Stuart, comes our first account of the battle.

“General Stuart was placed in command of a detachment of four regiments of infantry, 1600 muskets, and 150 cavalry – say, two squadrons, and a battery. His mission was to cover a wagon train, sent up from Centreville to collect forage, reported to be abundantly gathered on the farms west of Dranesville, which is a village on the Leesburg-Washington Pike, 20 miles west of the Capitol, and five miles south of the Potomac at Rowser’s Ford. The same morning, it happened that there marched from the Federal lines west of Arlington a blue column, Ord’s brigade of McCall’s division, and a Pennsylvania rifle regiment, 3950 strong, with two more of McCall’s brigades in support. Their mission was to drive off Confederate patrols, who had been reported around Dranesville, and to gather in the same forage.

The Federals, their advance not burdened with a wagon train, reached Dranesville first, and chased off the Confederate pickets found in the place. These gentlemen-at-arms retired only as far as they had to, and hung around the skirts of the blue columns, not thinking to send back any message to Stuart, who came on serenely. Short of the town, he directed his wagons to the west, and kept on to Dranesville, intending to take position there to cover the foragers from the side of the enemy. Later in the war, he would have examined the region carefully before he passed his wagons from the rear; now he was learning.

His cavalry found Dranesville full of Yankees, provoked by the stubborn gray pickets into battle formation, and already stretching out an arm toward the wagons, which had been seen west of the town. Stuart had to attack at once, to save his foragers. His cavalry detachment rode to the left, to round up and draw off the wagons, and his four regiments were deployed and sent forward, into a zone of effective fire from the United States regular battery with Ord. There followed two hours of fighting, in which the raw Confederate regiments became intermingled, fired into each other, and otherwise did most of the things that green troops do in their first action. Ord stood fast in the village and volleyed mightily. The wagons were collected and escorted back to safety and Stuart drew off his infantry in fair order, the artillery covering its retirement. One regiment left its knapsacks and blankets on the field where it had deployed for action, and these were the Federal trophies of the fight for they remained in position until the Confederates were gone.

An infantry captain wrote a letter about the affair, it which he described Stuart, the last man in the retirement, riding out alone, his saddle draped with a harness cut by him from the fallen horses of his battery, for harness was scarce in the Confederacy. He retired five miles, halted, and sent for reinforcements. That night, Johnston ordered up to him two infantry regiments and some more cavalry, and he marched angrily back to Dranesville in the morning. The enemy had departed, leaving the Confederate dead on the field, and some of the wounded. Stuart’s losses was 194 killed, wounded, and missing, and Ord’s, 68."

Since I am preparing my own biography on Stuart, I am reading my hands on everything I can find on Stuart. My notes on the battle as written by Thomason leaves me with the following impressions.

1) That the battle happened because Stuart made a large mistake. He did not reconnoitered the area. This is an amateur mistake that Stuart would not repeat in later years.
2) He orders up reinforcements because he is angry.
3) The failure of the pickets who had been driven from the city by Ord did not notify Stuart that Union soldiers occupied the city. While Thomason does fault these pickets for failing to perform their duty, the blame seems to lie with Stuart for not reconnoitering the area.

If my entire knowledge of Stuart came from reading this biography, I would conclude that Stuart made an amateur mistake that resulted from lack of experience and that this amateur mistake was more costly than the pickets’ failure to notify him of Ord’s presence in the city. I would also conclude that Stuart angrily (or recklessly) ordered up reinforcements and returned to Dranesville. It’s the adverb angrily that does the most harm. How does Thomason know Stuart is angry? And why does Thomason choose that adverb, which to me, paints Stuart in a negative light? Of course I don’t know the answer. The text doesn’t tell me why.

With these questions in mind, I will read other accounts from McClellan, Blackford, and the Official Record. I also have Stuart’s letter on the battle. I will print that next so we can see how Stuart viewed the battle.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Major General J.E.B. Stuart by Captain William P. Snow - Conclusion

“But while in the Shenandoah valley the achievements of General Jackson aroused towards him a generous feeling of gratitude for danger averted and prosperity preserved, it is doubtful whether east of the Blue Ridge the twenty-nine years of General Stuart, added to that indefatigable energy which teaches him, after he has ridden fifty miles during the day, to regard it as his highest happiness to ride a dozen more miles at night ‘to tread but one measure’ in a Virginian country house, do not incline the scale, especially if the balance be adjusted by fair hands, in favor of the younger general. There have many English officers, particularly in the East Indian service, whose endurance in the saddle has been regarded as unequalled; but I doubt whether any Englishman ever exhibited such superiority to bodily fatigue as is almost nightly evinced by the gay cavalier who knows every hospitable roof within a dozen miles of his headquarters (and what roof is not hospitable?) and, accompanied by his banjo player, visits them by turns, night after night, returning usually to his hard-earned rest long after the midnight hour has flown.

With the earliest dawn of morning, the first voice, calling gaily for breakfast, is that of the midnight merrymaker, who rises the picture of health, good humor, and strength. I may be noticed en passant that to the circumstance that he has never touched tobacco in any form, or any wine, or other liquor, General Stuart attributes much of his health and vigor. Certainly so jovial and merry a company as is assembled at General Stuart’s headquarters I has never been my fortune to see here.”

Another account speaks of Stuart as being of a “free, sociable, agreeable, and lively turn of mind,” and as “a gentleman of high-toned accomplishments, and rare genius;” “of more than ordinary size, very handsome, fair complexion, with bright beaming eyes, quick perception and deep expression.” He had with him, on his staff, “several odd and fantastic characters. His cook was a Frenchman from on of the CafĂ© houses in Paris, a ventriloquist and comical genius; the principal business man in his office was a Prussian, a man of distinction, education and wit; and in the musical department he had Sweeny, Jr., son of old Joe.”

In the month of April, 1863, General Stuart was in command of the forces, respectively under Fitz Lee, and W. H. F. Lee, that successfully resisted the enemy’s attempt to establish himself on the south side of the Rappahannock. On the 29th he reported to General Lee the movements of Hooker’s army, and this enabled the Confederates to prepare for the coming battle.

Stuart did all he could to impede the enemy, and was ably seconded by the Lees. He crossed the Rapidan, hung upon Hooker’s flanks, attacked his right at the Wilderness tavern, then marched by Todd’s tavern to Spottsylvania Court-house, to put himself in communication with the main army. In the movement of Jackson to the Wilderness, he was effectually covered by Fitz Lee’s cavalry, commanded by General Stuart in person.

At dark, finding nothing else for him, as a cavalry leader, to do, he proposed to Jackson that the road to Ely’s ford, in the rear of the enemy, should be seized. Jackson approving, he went forward to this task, and had gained the heights when a messenger came with news of both Jackson and A. P. Hill being wounded, and urging him to come back and take command. He did so, and next morning vigorously pushed forward the corps now under his orders. The result is known; and we need only add to what we have before said, that he was very highly complimented in General Lee’s official report, for “the energy, promptness, distinguished capacity, and vigor, added to his own personal example of coolness, and daring displayed.”

In the grand movement of the Confederate army towards Pennsylvania, that followed upon the battle of Chancellorsville, General Stuart concentrated his forces at Culpepper, on the 8th of June, and next day was attacked by the enemy’s cavalry and some infantry, at Brandy station. General Fitz Hugh Lee commanded the Confederates, and General Buford and Gregg the Federals. The battle commenced at 5 a.m., and lasted till 3 p. m., both parties fighting almost entirely with sabers. The result was claimed as a victory on both sides, but the enemy had to recross the Rappahannock, and leave several prisoners, with some artillery, and colors in the hands of Stuart’s command.

Of the march to Pennsylvania, and the succeeding campaign with the battle of Gettysburg, we have already given an account. General Stuart had his full share of that peril and adventure for which his temperament was so well adapted. As an eye witness well observes, “He roamed over the country almost at his own discretion, and always giving a good account of himself, turning up at the right moment, and never getting himself into any serious trouble.”

The subsequent operations of General Stuart were now mostly those connected with the main army, as related in our sketch of General Lee. The flank movement of the Confederates, in October, gave Stuart ample work to perform; and, in December another raid was successfully undertaken upon the Orange and Alexandria railroad.

In the month of January, 1864, General Stuart was again at work on the Potomac, about Leesburg, and the Point of Ricks, and with occasional visits to Richmond and his family, thus fully occupied his time.

On the 28th of February, he was encamped at Orange Court-house, and sent to Richmond a highly complimentary report of Colonel Mosby’s daring exploit near Drainesville; and, in the early part of March occurred the affair already mentioned, between the Federals under General Custer, and the Confederate cavalry near Rio Mills.

The spring campaign then followed; the battle of the Wilderness had been fought, and, at last, the day came when the bold cavalry chief—the dashing raider—the kind and genial companion, as well as the skilful soldier—General Stuart—would be no more.

General Sheridan, of the Federal cavalry, had made a bold dash around Lee’s flank, towards Richmond, and a portion of his command, under Generals Custer and Merrill, arrived at Ashland station, on the 10th of May, just before Stuart with his force reached there after them. The next day they were followed to a place called Yellow-tavern, where an engagement took place. Here, in a desperate charge, at the head of a column, the gallant Stuart fell, terribly wounded. He was immediately taken to Richmond, and every effort made to save his life, but in vain. On the 11th he died, and the following account of his last moments, as related by those around him, may be interesting;

“About noon President Davis visited his bedside and spent some time with the dying chief. In reply to the question put by the President, “General, how do you feel?” he replied, “Easy, but willing to die, if God and my country think I have fulfilled my destiny, and done my duty.”

“During the day, occasional delirium attacked him, and, in his moments of mental wandering, his faculties were busy with the past. His campaigns on the Peninsula, his raid into Pennsylvania, his doings on the Rapidan, and his several engagements, were subjects that quickly chased themselves through his brain. Fresh orders were given as if still on the battlefield and in junctions to his couriers to “make haste.” Then he would wander to his wife and children, one of whom, his eldest, had died a year previous, while fighting on the Rappahannock, and in relation to whom he had said, when receiving a telegram that the girl was dying, “I must leave my child in the hands of God; my country needs me here; I cannot come.” Then his mind would again carry him on to the battlefield; and so it continued throughout the day. Occasionally his intellect was clear, and he was then calm and resigned, though at times suffering the most acute agony. He would even, with his own hand, apply the ice that was intended to relieve the pain of his wound.

“As the last moments approached, the dying man, with a mind perfectly clear and possessed, then made a disposition of his effects. To Mrs. Lily Lee, he directed that the golden spurs be given as a dying memento of his love and esteem for her husband. To his staff officers he gave his horses; and other mementoes he disposed of in a similar manner. To his young son, he left his sword. He then turned to the Reverend Dr. Peterkin, of the Episcopal church, of which he was a strict member, and asked him to sing the hymn commencing;

Rock of ages cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee.

“In this he joined with all the strength of voice his failing powers permitted. He then prayed with the minister and friends around him; and, with the worked, ‘I am going fast now, I am resigned; God’s will be done,’ yielded his fleeting spirit to Him who gave it.”

“The funeral of this much lamented and brave general took place on the 13th, at five o’clock, from St. James’s church, corner of Marshall and Fifth streets.

“At the appointed hour the cortege appeared in front of the church, and the metallic coffin, containing the remains of the noble soldier, whose now silent voice had so often startled the enemy with his stirring battlecry, was carried down the centre isle and placed before the alter. Wreaths, and a cross of evergreen, interwoven with delicate lilies of the valley, laurel and other flowers of purest white, decked the coffin.

“The pallbearers were General Bragg, Major-general McCown, General Chilton, Brigadier-general Lawton, Commodore Forrest, Captain Lee, of the Navy, and General George W. Randolph, formerly Secretary of War.

“The scene was sad and impressive. President Davis sat near the front, with a look of grief upon his careworn face; his cabinet officers were gathered around, while on either side were the senators and representatives of the Confederate Congress. Scattered through the church were a number of generals and other officers of rank, among the former, General Ransom, commanding the department of Richmond. Hundreds of sad faces witnessed the scene; but the brave Fitz Lee and other war-wearied and war-worn men, whom the dead Stuart had so often led were the red battle was fiercest, and who would have given their lives for his, were away in the fight, doubtless striking with a double courage as they thought of their fallen general.

“The short service was read by Rev. Dr. Peterkin, a funeral anthem sung, and the remains were carried out and placed in the hearse, which proceeded to Hollywood Cemetery, followed by a long train of carriages.

“No military escort accompanied the procession, but the hero was laid in his last resting-place on the hillside, while the earth trembled with the roar of artillery and the noise of the deadly strife of armies—the one bent upon desecrating and devastating his native land, and the other, proudly and defiantly standing in the path and invoking the blessing of Heaven upon their cause, to fight in better cheer for the memory of such as Stonewall Jackson and J. E. B. Stuart.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Major General J.E.B. Stuart by Captain William P. Snow - Part Three

At the time “Stonewall” Jackson was marching towards Pope’s army, General Stuart arrived on a tour of inspection. He took command of the cavalry, and proceeded to reconnoitre, rendering most important service. After the battle of Cedar Run, during the short truce which followed for burying the dead, many officers of both armies met and conversed upon the field. Stuart was among them, and it was then that the following interesting incident occurred, as related by an eye witness:

“On a fallen gum-tree—the slain stretched around them—sat the officers of the parley. Upon one side the Confederate cavalry leader, Stuart, and General Early; upon the other Generals Hartsuff and Roberts. Stuart was lithe, gray-eyed, and tall; of an intense countenance, nervous, impulsive manner; and clad in gray, with a soft black hat. He wore, curiously enough, United States buttons, and his sword, which he exhibited, was made in Philadelphia. Early was a quiet, severe North Carolinian, who wore a home-spun civil suit, with a brigadier’s star on his shoulder-bar. General Hartsuff was burly and good-humored; Roberts silent and sage, with white beard and distrustful eye. The former had been a classmate of the cavalry man, and he said, ‘Stuart, old boy, how d ye do?’ “God bless my soul, Hartsuff,’ replied the other ‘it warms my heart to see you!’ and they took a turn together, arm in arm.”

Shortly afterwards, Stuart, at the head of his cavalry, made another of those bold dashes, which so characterized him. General Pope then had his headquarters at Catlett’s station, and, on a sudden, one night in the midst of a storm, Stuart got in the enemy’s rear, and rushed upon Pope’s quarters. That general escaped just in time, but with the loss of his coat and hat, besides many important documents, plans, maps, estimates and returns of forces. In addition, there was much clothing found, including new full-dress suits for General Pope and his staff, also a quantity of private baggage, wine, liquors, etc. Some of the Union rifles had been stationed near the headquarters, but they were quickly dispersed, and when Stuart’s daring horsemen found that General Pope had escaped, they were so vexed that, instantly dividing into small parties, they galloped down every road with the hope of overtaking him, but in vain.

In the succeeding movement of the Confederate army, General Stuart was constantly engaged with a perfect net-work of scouting parties, and a cordon of pickets between Pope and Jackson. At Bristoe station he attacked a train of the enemy, and afterwards dashed upon Manassas, capturing a battery of New York artillery, and destroying an immense quantity of stores deposited there. He then galloped on to meet, and, if need be, assist Longstreet at Thoroughfare gap, capturing a party of Federals on the way, and engaging the Federal cavalry. Hearing the sound of a battle at or near Stone bridge, on August 29th, he hastily returned, and gallantly shared in the engagement going on; as also in the great fight of the next day. But hardly had the smoke of that second Bull Run victory to the South died away, then Stuart was off with his cavalry into Maryland—swimming fords—dashing through woods and fields—fighting where they could find an enemy—peaceably moving where there was a friend or non-combatant. The invasion of that State, and the events that occurred have already been told; but the following incident may be related.

On the retreat, a few of Stuart’s cavalry were, on the morning of September 12th, at Frederick ready to depart. Some recruits had joined the bold legion under Stuart’s command, and these were bidding tender adieus to some loved friends, when up rode a few squadrons of Federal cavalry, commanded by a Dutch major, with immense moustache. Halting before the city hall, he exclaimed, “Vere is de Got tam repels? Vere ish de Got fur-tam Stuart—vere is he mit his cavalrie? Let me shee him, unt I show him some tings!”

A lady present, told him that a few of Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry had just left. “Goot! Young woomans,” said Meinheer, and immediately started in pursuit, saying, “Ve show de repels some tings.” The major and his command had fairly got into the main street, when a company of Confederate cavalry met them, and both parties rushed together in strife. The upshot was, that the major’s command was routed, and he himself, shortly afterwards, pulled out of a cottage with a table-cloth bound round a slight wound in his head, and sent to the Confederate rear as a prisoner.

The retreat of the Confederate army into Virginia kept Stuart’s force ever actively employed, and when other troops rested he found work elsewhere. After a sharp affair at Sheperdstown with the Federal cavalry, he again started, on October 10th, upon another daring raid. While the North were congratulating themselves that all the “rebels” had been driven away, General Stuart, with a force of some 1,300 troopers, under Hampton, W. H. F. Lee, and Jones, suddenly appeared before Chambersburg, in Pennsylvania, “took possession of the town, captured and destroyed much public property, mounted themselves anew on good horses, passed around the entire Federal army, and safely returned to their own camp, in Virginia, to recount their triumphs, without loss, or more than a few wounds received in skirmishes.”*

Two or three skirmishes and minor engagements followed, between Stuart’s cavalry and the enemy’s under Pleasanton and others, but we must pass them over with this mere allusion to them. Nothing that could be said in a brief space would do full justice to these rapid and remarkable exploits of Stuart, Hampton, the two Lees, and the brave officers and men under their command.

At the battle of Fredericksburg, in the following December, Stuart was on the right of Jackson’s corps, and directed the batteries, fighting them with unyielding obstinacy, himself being everywhere in the thickest of the fight—“the target of artillery and sharpshooters alike.” His horse-artillery—including Captain Henry’s, and the lamented heroic Pelham’s—made sad havoc with Franklin’s left flank; and “well did Stuart redeem him grim dispatch—that he was ‘going to crowd them with artillery.’ The ceremony was too rough for them to stand, and when the voice of the general, in the darkness, ordered the last advance, the combat had terminated in the silence of the foe.”

The battle of Fredericksburg was wholly concluded on December 15th, 1862, and immediately afterwards, away went Stuart and his men again, dashing about the country wherever an enemy was found. The scare occasioned in the North at this time, by his bold raids, is well remembered; but the following summary of that was done will be enough description. Starting suddenly to the northward, around the Federal army, he alarmed the whole district between Manassas and Washington by his rapid and successive attacks, and the captures he made. A large force, in parties, was sent in vain to catch him; but he was too sharp and keen for his pursuers. His object was to gain information of the position and movements of the enemy, and the results were considered very important. The only thing to be regretted was the loss of Captain John W. Bullock, of the Fifth cavalry, one of the best and bravest officers in the service. He was wounded at Dumfries, while in command of the sharpshooters and gallantly charging a regiment of Federal infantry. While his friends were bearing him from the field he was again hit in two places and mortally wounded.

After scattering the enemy at Dumfries, General Stuart went on to the Occoquan; but word having been sent out of his approach, he found all the fords guarded. He determined, however, to cross at Selectmens’s ford, in the face of the enemy. The advance was lead by Colonel T. L. Rosser, of the Firth cavalry, who dashed into the stream, followed by Colonel Drake, of the First, and some fifteen or twenty men. The enemy had dismounted, and were drawn up in line of battle. Colonel Rosser, placing himself at the head of the few men near him, lead the charge up in the face of heavy fire, by file, over a narrow and rocky ford. The Federals broke and were pursued, several being captured. General Stuart said he regarded this as the most gallant thing done by the cavalry since the war commenced. Colonel Rosser afterwards charged into their camp and captured nine sutler wagons, loaded with the best of liquor, clothing, boots, and luxuries of various kinds, and burned their tents and army stores.

General Stuart then went towards Aldie, accomplishing many of his characteristic feats. At Aldie, Colonel Rosser was sent on a scout into the valley of Virginia to ascertain the state of things there. Taking with him only fifteen men, he succeeded in going around the most of Milroy’s army, and passed nearly ninety miles in front of General Jones. Although the country was full of bands trying to capture him, Colonel Rosser eluded them all, and after remaining inside of the enemy’s lines as long as he pleased, started to return. At the Shenandoah he encountered the pickets of the enemy posted to catch him, but by a peculiar stratagem he captured them all, passed by their army at night, and returned safely to camp, bringing along with him all the Federal sentinels on the route.

This hurried sketch of what was done, would be incomplete if we did not mention that at one place he captured a telegraph station, and set the wires to work to deceive the enemy. The following letter from him refers to it.

Headquarters, Jan. 6, 1863.
Dr. W. S. Morris, President Southern Telegraph Company, Richmond

Sir—I have the honor to send, through the courtesy of Major John Pelham, my chief of artillery, an instrument captured at Burke’s station, Ohio and Alexandria railroad, during my late expedition. I beg that you will accept it as a token of regard appropriate to your position. We surprised the operator, and my operator, Shepperd, took his place. I sat in the office some time while Shepperd read the wild alarms flashing over the wires about our operations, and ascertained the steps taken and the means at hand of resisting me, and then shaped my course accordingly.

Very respectfully you obedient servant,
Major-general of Cavalry

Later in the month of January, a detachment of Stuart’s cavalry drove in the Federal pickets at Chantilly, but Colonel Wyndham afterwards routed them, and took prisoner, among others, the Rev. Mr. Landstreet, chaplain to General Stuart’s force. But we must now again pass on. In the history of the war, yet to be written by some impartial pen, many pages will have to be filled with exploits of the cavalry on both sides, and it needs a volume by itself to give, in any sort of detail, those performed by Stuart and his companions. Speaking of the Southern Generals, an able writer says, “Each has his warm admirers, gained by such opportunities of intercourse as have brought individuals within the said general’s orbit. Each has attached to him the prestige of entire absence of failure. Il n’y a rien qui reussit autaut que le success.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Major General J.E.B. Stuart by Captain William P. Snow - Part Two

Here is part two of the chapter on Stuart from Snow's book, Lee and His Generals.

Fairfax Court-house was occupied by Colonel Stuart the next day, and shortly afterwards he received a letter from Colonel McCunn, of the Federal army, on the subject of Colonel Cameron’s body, left on the battlefield. This letter spoke in appealing terms on behalf of Cameron’s wife and family, and alluded to Stuart’s “kindness of heart, and high soldierly qualities;” but, of course, he could do no other than refer it to his commanding general, though he sent back a courteous reply.

A few weeks later, September 11th, Colonel Stuart successfully attacked and routed a party of Federals at Lewinsville, some six or seven miles from Washington. The affair was of no great importance, but it was the means of his being promoted to a brigadier-generalship, and this gave him more opportunity for the performance of several daring exploits. They are, however, so varied and numerous throughout his truly brilliant career, that we can only refer to minor ones, and give a little more space to those of most importance.

In the month of December, there was a fight between General Stuart’s forces and the Federal troops at Dranesville, Va., in which the Confederates were defeated. Then followed a period of mere skirmishing, occasionally, between the detached parties of both armies; and finally, in March, the Confederate forces moved southward to meet McClellan on the Peninsula. The evacuation of Yorktown took place in the beginning of May, 1862, and the battle of Williamsburg occurred on the 4th. Here, as we have seen, General Stuart commanded the cavalry rear guard, and proved of great service in the after movements of the army on its way to Richmond.

But the affair which, more than anything else, first made his name so famous, was the bold reconnaissance conducted by him, through and around McClellan’s army, in the middle part of June. This exploit borders so much upon the romantic, in its dash and gallant character, that it is almost impossible to compress it into a few lines of sober truth. It was one of those achievements that make men’s blood warm up, even at the mere recital of it, more especially so to those who were participators in the stirring scene. With a force of 1,200 cavalry, and a section of the Stuart horse-artillery—having Colonel Fitz Lee, Colonel W. H. Fitzhugh Lee, Colonel W. T. Martin, and Lieutenant J. Brethed accompany him in command—he first quietly rendezvoused beyond the Chickahominy, near Kilby’s station on the Northern railroad, and then, without any one else knowing where they were bound, moved along the left of that road, scouts on the right, videttes in advance, guards in the rear, and every precaution against surprise, or allowing the enemy to conceive their intention.

Twenty-two miles of ground from Richmond did the bold raiders cover that day, and then silently bivouacked in the woods, near the South Anna bridge. A few hours’ rest, and again, at sunrise, without flag or bugle-sound, they remounted, and turning sharply to the southeast, dashed along the roads towards Old Church. This was held by the enemy; but Colonel Fitz Lee quickly made a detour, got behind their force, and induced them, under a false idea of numbers, to move rapidly away.

Cleared from this, on went the horsemen to Howe’s store, hastily captured some Federals stationed there, pushed forward to the Tolopotamy, crossed it without delay, and then, with Lieutenant Robins in the advance, skirted fields, leaped fences and ditches, rushed through woods, and suddenly came upon a party of the enemy’s dragoons, reinforced, near Old Church.

Instantly sabers were drawn; two squadrons went ahead at a gallop; a hand-to-hand conflict ensued; the Federals were quickly routed, though at a cost to the Confederates of the brave Captain Latune,--and away went Stuart and his men as briskly as ever. Then went forward Colonel Fitz Lee, burning to have a brush with the enemy, now again collected near the home of his family.

The country people cheered him on; they gave him information: “Hurry on, boys; hurry on; they’re only a mile ahead,” said one. “Four of them are prisoners here in the house,” said another—a young girl with a gun in her hand. “Go in, boy; go into them,” said a third; and thus it was the whole way.

At the White House, Lee’s squadron charged the foe; he dashed into their camp, took possession of horses, arms, stores of every kind which they burnt, captured prisoners, looked around for more, then halted for the rest of the band to join them.

Now came the limits of their raid. Turn they must, and turn they did, but, not back by the way they came. No; they would try to pierce the enemy’s lines, swim the Chickahominy, if need be, and so make the complete circuit back to their own camp. Briefly, Stuart mentioned this to his officers. Cheerfully they agreed; and then, once more, at a gallop along the road, now towards Tunstall station, did the daring horsemen go. Did they heed the danger? Did a man hesitate or complain? No; in good truth, not so. The gallant Stuart led them on; it was enough! Sublime in unshaken trust and confidence, the brave rank and file, not once nor for a moment faltered, though a huge army of well-trained soldiers and skilful officers, under McClellan himself, was before them! Seemingly straight into the very jaws of the enemy, this heroic band dashed forward.

But now the foe has become alarmed; still greater caution is needed; Colonel Martin is placed to guard the rear, but, instead of being attacked, a small outpost party voluntarily surrendered to him. On and on, however, Stuart and his followers urge their way.

Tunstall’s station is reached; telegraph wires cut; the depot secured; five companies of cavalry escorting wagon trains, fly, and leave the stores; an infantry guard is captured; destruction of the railroad is begun, when lo! A heavy train of cars with troops aboard, comes thundering down from the Federal army! It is attacked, but the obstructions on the track are insufficient. Some loss, the troops in that train receive, and away it rushed to the Pamunkey depot. Night now comes on; the burning stores illume the country around; the work is done; and once more Stuart and his brave command gallop forward. Moonlight helps them; but after a time they halt to close up their column. Then again at midnight the march is resumed.

Day dawns: the Chickahominy is reached; the stream is found unfordable; axes are used, trees felled; a foot bridge improvised under Lieutenant Redmond Burke’s skilful hands; a friendly voice from some stranger gives good information; an old bridge is mended and cavalry, artillery, horses and men cross rapidly, and then, another dash along the Charles City road, and a mile or two more brings them near their main encampment.

Faint, famished, worn out, utterly exhausted, the enemy now in full pursuit, the gallant band arrives within the Confederate lines, and draw rein, almost for the first time, except as mentioned, for more than sixty hours.

We may now only add that for this daring achievement Stuart was promoted to be a major-general of cavalry, and none of his officers or main failed to receive reward. The damage to the enemy was great, and perhaps more through the circumstance itself, than on account of stores and property destroyed.

A few days afterwards, General Stuart rode from camp into town, and paying his respects to the authorities in a quiet way, at the executive mansion, when, as it became known to the large crowd of strollers in the Capitol square, that he was near by, the building was immediately surrounded by an enthusiastic multitude vociferating for Stuart. The gallant general in a few minutes made his appearance upon the portico and acknowledged the compliment paid him in a few remarks full of spirit and good cheer.

Among other things he said he had been to the Chickahominy to visit some of his old friends of the United States army, but they, very uncivilly, turned their backs upon him. Seeing a manifest desire on the part of the people to make for him an ovation, the general then mounted his charger and galloped off amid the shouts of the crowd, which, by this time, had increased to more than a thousand persons.

The preceding illustration of one of Stuart’s exploits will serve in a measure for the whole. After the same fashion did he and his men traverse the whole region of the principal battlefields of Virginia, except the Shenandoah Valley, and , could we find space, many a stirring incident might be related.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Major General J.E.B. Stuart by Captain William P. Snow - Part One

Here is an interesting chapter from Lee and His Generals, by Captain William P. Snow. It was published in 1867 and offers some descriptions of Stuart.

At the battle of Williamsburg, in 1862, while the enemy was advancing on the redoubts from the Yorktown Road, a horseman dashed through the streets and rode up to the headquarters of General Johnston to report. He appeared much fatigued and overworked and would have served admirably for a picture of Dick Turpin, when chased by officers on the road to York. His horse was a splendid black, with heavy reins and bit, cavalry saddle, and holsters: foam stood in a lather upon him, and he was mud-splashed from head to hoof. The rider, himself, bore no insignia of command. He word a common black felt hat, turned down in front, and up behind; a heavy black overcoat, tightly buttoned; elegant riding-boots covering the thigh; a handsome saber, carelessly slung by his side, and a heavy pair of Mexican spurs, that jingled and rattled on the pavement as he dismounted. This was all that could be noticed at a distance. A nearer view, however, showed a thick-set, full-faced, ruddy-complexioned man, with close-cut hair, and apparently some thirty years old. His eyes were bright, beaming, and, when lighted up, piercing, and full of deep expression. A stranger, unaccustomed to the war, would at first have taken him to be a daring chief of some wild predatory band; and yet, a moment more, would cause a change of opinion, especially on hearing him speak and noticing the high-toned, gentlemanly bearing he displayed.

As the horseman communicated with General Johnston and mentioned something, both smiled. Presently, it was known that he had been chased by “old Emory” of the Fifth United States Dragoons, whose light artillery could be heard blazing away, south of town. In a moment more, he rode back again to the fight.

This horseman, whom we have thus described was Jeb Stuart, then commanding the cavalry rear-guard of the Confederate forces at Williamsburg. Born in 1833, in Patrick County, Virginia, he very early displayed evidence of a quick and active turn of mind. His father, the late Archibald Stuart, former member of Congress, gave him a good academic education and got him entered at West Point Academy in 1850.

Stuart graduated on the 30th of June, 1854, and on the next day received his appointment as brevet second lieutenant of the regiment of mounted rifles. On the 3d March, 1855, he was transferred, with full rank, to the First Regular Cavalry, then having for its colonel, the late General Sumner, of the Union army, and for lieutenant-colonel, the present General J. E. Johnston, of the Confederate service. In July of the same year, he was made regimental quartermaster; and, the following December, received his appointment as first-lieutenant.

His regiment having been ordered to the wilds of Texas. He soon had an opportunity for indulging the bent of his inclination in riding and fighting with the boldest and fiercest among all the brave spirits that were there. Could we find space to narrate them, many stirring pictures might be given of his roving, dashing, adventurous life in that region, warring with the Indians and bounding over the mighty plains. But we must pass over such scenes and confine ourselves to a simple outline of his spirited career. One incident, alone, has to be related of this period. On the 29th of July, 1857, Colonel Sumner encountered a force of three hundred Indians of the Cheyenne tribe. They were strongly posted on the Solomon fork of the Kansas river, and after a sharp struggle, they were defeated and put to flight in great disorder. In this engagement Lieutenant Stuart was wounded, we believe, very severely.

Two years afterwards, Lieutenant Stuart was acting as aid to Colonel R. E. Lee, in the John Brown affair at Harper’s Ferry, an account of which we have already given; and when the present war broke out, he resigned his commission on May 14, 1861, and offered his sword to his native State. He immediately raised a company of cavalry, was soon afterwards elected colonel, and the acted as brigadier-general. At this time, he had a family, and many ties of kindred that might have influenced him, in the course he took. His wife was a daughter of Philip St. George Cooke, then colonel of the Second Dragoons (since a general) in the U. S. A., who was also a Virginian by birth, and a brother of the late J. R. Cooke, of Richmond. His mother, too, was alive in his native State; and several other associations bound him to her fortunes.

Colonel Stuart was first stationed at Harper’s Ferry, in command of the cavalry attached to Jackson’s army, and his well-known bravery made him already conspicuous. It is said of him, at this time, by one who was competent to judge: “Stuart is characterized by untiring energy, clear judgment, and extraordinary powers of moulding and infusing his own brave spirit into the hearts of his men.” General Johnston, who had assumed command of the army, also spoke of him as “the Indefatigable Stuart;” and truly, this appellation seems deserved. While in the vicinity of the upper Potomac, he was on the alert, watching the enemy, riding from place to place with his men, and giving information to the general. From Point of Rocks to beyond Williamsport, he was constantly to and fro on duty; and, on the 15th of July, reported the advance of General Patterson. That general’s movements he now incessantly watched “with lynx-eyed vigilance;” and, on one occasion surprised a whole company, who were so much startled by his sudden command to throw down their arms, that they instantly submitted.

When General Johnston marched to unite with Beauregard at Manassas, Colonel Stuart, with his cavalry, covered the movement most effectually. Posting a cordon of pickets from Smithfield along by Summit Point and Rippon to the Shenandoah, he completely concealed the change of base, and thus enabled the army to wend its way without molestation.

In the battle of Bull Run, at the commencement, Stuart’s cavalry, some 300 men, guarded the level ground extending along the stream from near Mitchell’s ford to the Stone bridge, ready for employment as might be required, and during the day his impetuous spirit was permitted to have full vent. A dashing charge was made by him upon a regiment of Fire Zouaves, scattering them and riding them down against all opposition; and readers all acquainted with the history of this battle, may remember how his daring horsemen startled the Federals in front of them, as they came, like a whirlwind, rushing forward. But, it was still more so in the disastrous panic that ensued among the Federal troops on the termination of the battle. Like the Black Hunstmen of the German forests in other times, or the wild horsemen of the Wolga, Stuart, with his men, dashed after the terror-stricken enemy. Over the Stone bridge-- across the fords-- up the road-- in and out of the woods where a passage could be found; on, on, slaughtering and cutting down, till they arrived near Centreville, did the Confederate cavalry pursue their way. But the rout was soon over. The foe had gone; hundreds of prisoners had been taken; many more human beings had been killed, and the victory was completely won.

In the official report of Beauregard, he thus mentions Stuart: “Colonel J. E. B. Stuart likewise deserves mention for his enterprise and ability as a cavalry commander. Through his judicious reconnaissance of the country on our left flank, he acquired information, both of topographical features, and the positions of the enemy, of the utmost importance in the subsequent and closing movements of the day on that flank, and his services in the pursuit were highly effective.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Minutiae of Soldier Life In the Army of Northern Virginia - Conclusion

Here is the conclusion of Carlton McCarthy's article on life in the Army of Northern Virginia.

The wagon trains were devoted entirely to the transportation of ammunition and commissary and quartermaster's store, which had not been issued. Rations which had become company property, and the baggage of the men, when they had any, were carried by the men themselves. If, as was sometimes the case, three days' rations were issued at one time and the troops ordered to cook them, and be prepared to march, they did cook them, and eat them if possible, so as to avoid the labor of carrying them. It was not such an undertaking either, to eat three days' rations in one, as frequently none had been issued for more than a day, and when issued were cut down one half.

The infantry found out that bayonets were not of much use, and did not hesitate to throw them, with the scabbard, away.

The artillerymen, who started out with heavy sabres hanging to their belts, stuck them up in the mud as they marched, and left them for the ordnance officers to pick up and turn over to the cavalry.

The cavalrymen found sabres very tiresome when swung to the belt, and adopted the plan of fastening them to the saddle on the left side with the hilt in front and in reach of the hand. Finally sabres got very scarce even among the cavalrymen, who relied more and more on their short rifles.

No soldiers ever marched with less to encumber them, and none marched faster or held out longer.

The courage and devotion of the men rose equal to every hardship and privation, and the very intensity of their sufferings became a source of merriment. Instead of growling and deserting, they laughed at their own bare feet, ragged clothe, and pinched faces; and weak, hungry, cold, wet, worried with vermin and itch, dirty with no hope of reward or rest, marched cheerfully to meet the well-fed and warmly clad hosts of the enemy.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Minutiae of Soldier Life in The Army of Northern Virginia - Part Four

Carlton McCarthy continues with his description of life in the Army of Northern Virginia.

The camp chest soon vanished. The brigadiers and major generals, even, found them too troublesome, and so they were left entirely to the quartermasters and commissaries. One skillet and a couple of frying pans, a bag for flour or meal, another bag for salt, sugar, and coffee, divided by a knot tied between served the purpose as well. The skillet passed from mess to mess. Each mess generally owned a frying pan, but often one served a company. The oil-cloth was found to be as good as the wooden tray for making up the dough. The water bucket held its own to the last!

Tents were rarely seen. All the poetry about the "tented field' died. Two men slept together, each having a blanket and an oil-cloth; one oil-cloth went next to the ground. The two laid on this, covered themselves with two blankets, protected from the rain with the second oil-cloth on top, and slept very comfortably through rain, snow or hail, as it might be.

Very little money was seen in camp. The men did not expect, did not care for, or often get any pay, and they were not willing to deprive the old folks at home their little supply, so they learned to do without any money.

When rations got short and were getting shorter, it became necessary to dismiss the darkey servants. Some, however, became company servants, instead of private institutions, and held out faithfully to the end, cooking the rations away in the rear, and at the risk of life carrying them to the line of battle to their "young mahsters."

Reduced to the minimum, the private soldier consisted of one man, one hat, one jacket, one shirt, one pair of pants, one pair of drawers, one pair of shoes, and one pair of socks. His baggage was one blanket, and one haversack. The haversack generally contained smoking tobacco and a pipe, and a small piece of soap, with temporary additions of apple, persimmons, blackberries, and such other commodities as he could pick up on the march.

The company property consisted of two or three skillets and frying pans, which were sometimes carried in the wagon, but oftener in the hands of the soldiers. The infantry men generally preferred to stick the handle of the frying pan in the barrel of the musket, and so carry it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Minutiae of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia - Part Three

Here is the next installment of Private Carlton McCarthy's account of life in the ranks of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Very little washing was done, as a matter of course. Clothes once given up were parted with forever. There were good reasons for this: cold water would not cleanse them or destroy the vermin, and hot water was not always to be had. One blanket to each man was found to be sufficient for the severest weather. This was carried generally by rolling it lengthwise, with the rubber cloth outside, tying the ends of the roll together, and throwing the loop thus made over the left shoulder with the ends fastened together hanging under the right arm.

The haversack held its own to the last, and was found practical and useful. It very seldom, however, carried rations, but was used to carry all the articles generally carried in the knapsack; of course the stock was small. Somehow or other, many men managed to do without the haversack, and carried absolutely nothing but what they wore and had in their pockets.

The infantry threw away their heavy cap boxes and cartridge boxes, and carried their caps and cartridges in their pockets. Canteens were very useful at times, but they were not as a general thing discarded. They were not much used to carry water, but were found useful when the men were driven to the necessity of foraging; for conveying buttermilk, cider, sorghum, etc., to camp. A good strong tin cup was found better than a canteen, as it was easier to fill at a well or spring, and was serviceable as a boiler for making coffee when the column halted for the night.

Revolvers were found to be about as useless and heavy lumber as a private could carry, and early in the war were sent home to be used by the women and children in protecting themselves from insult and violence at the hands of the ruffians who prowled about the country shirking duty.

Strong cotton was adopted in place of flannel and merino, for two reasons; first, because it was easier to wash; and second, because the vermin did not propagate so rapidly in cotton as in wool. Common white cotton shirts and drawers proved the best that could be used by the private soldier.

Gloves to any but a mounted man were found useless, worse than useless. With the gloves on, it was impossible to handle an axe, buckle harness, load a musket, or handle a rammer at the piece. Wearing them was found to be simply a habit, and so, on the principle that the less luggage the less labor, they were discarded.