Clement Anselm Evans.

Confederate military history; a library of Confederate States history online

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Confederacy in twain, but opened to Federal gunboats
and steamboats, for the transportation of troops and sup-
plies, the thousands of miles of navigable waters in the
Mississippi basin.

With the Trans- Mississippi portion of the Confederacy
isolated, there only remained in the control of the Con-
federacy central and southern portions of the Atlantic
highlands — the Appalachians and their slopes. The
combined land power and sea power of the Federal gov-
ernment completely surrounded and enclosed the rem-
nant of territory now left in the control of the Confeder-
ate government. Only through the port of Wilmington
was there an outlet to the outer world, and only through
that single port could supplies come from abroad to eke
out the scanty stores of the Confederacy. The execu-
tive was besieged by calls for the defense of vital points,
threatened from all directions. Rosecrans was advanc-
ing into the Great valley in east Tennessee. The fate of
Charleston was but a question of a short time. Environed
by such gloomy surroundings and threatenings, Lee

423



424 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

wrote to President Davis, from "Camp Orange," on the
8th of August, thanking him for his efforts to supply the
wants of his army, commending the proclamation he had
issued to the people, and hoping that would "stir up their
virtue . . . that they may see their duty and perform
it;" cheerfully and hopefully adding, "Nothing is
wanted but that their fortitude should equal their bravery
to insure the success of our cause. We must expect
reverses, even defeats. They are sent to teach us wis-
dom and prudence, to call forth greater energies, and to-
prevent our falling into greater disasters. Our people
have only to be true and united, to bear manfully the
misfortunes incident to war, and all will come right in
the end." After mentioning the proneness of men to
censure those who do not meet their expectations, Lee
said: "The general remedy for the want of success in a
military commander is removal. This is natural, and, in
many instances, proper. For, no matter what may be the
ability of an officer, if he loses the confidence of his
troops, disaster must sooner or later ensue. "

The general commanding further stated, that since his
return from Pennsylvania he had been intending to pro-
pose that another commander should be selected for his
army ; he had noted the discontent of the newspapers at
the result of his campaign ; did not know how far such
feeling might exist in the army, as he had had no evi-
dence of it from officers or men, but it was fair to sup-
pose that it did exist, and, as success is a necessity, noth-
ing should be risked to secure it. He continued :

I therefore, in all sincerity, request Your Excellency to supply my
place. I do this with the more earnestness because no one is more
aware than myself of my inabilities for the duties of my position.
I cannot even accomplish what I myself desire. How can I fulfill
the expectations of others? In addition, I sensibly feel the growing
failure of my bodily strength. I have not yet recovered from the
attack I experienced the past spring. I am becoming more and more
incapable of exertion, and am thus prevented from making the per-
sonal examinations and giving the personal supervision to the oper-
ations in the field which I feel necessary. I am so dull that in mak-
ing use of the eyes of others I am frequently misled. Everything,
therefore, points to the advantages to be derived from a new com-
mander, and I the more anxiously urge the matter upon Your Excel-
lency from my belief that a younger and abler man than myself can
readily be obtained. I know that he will have as gallant and brave
an army as^ever existed to second his efforts, and it would be th&
happiest day of my life to see at its head a worthy leader — one that
could accomplish more than I could perform and all that 1 have.



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 426

wished. I hope Your Excellency will attribute my request to the
true reason — the desire to serve my country and to do all in my-
power to insure the success of her righteous cause.

In reply, President Davis wrote, among other things :

I am truly sorry to know that you still feel the effects of the illness
you suffered last spring, and can readily understand the embarrass-
ment you experience in using the eyes of others, having been so
accustomed to making your own reconnoissances. . . . But suppose,
my dear friend, that I were to admit, with all their implications,
the points which you present, where am I to find that new com-
mander who is to possess the greater abilitj' which you believe to be
required? ... To ask me to substitute you by some one in my judg-
ment more fit to command, or who would possess more of the confi-
dence of the army, or of reflecting men of the country, is to demand
an impossibility.

Lee's morning reports show that by the loth of August,
by returns from hospitals and elsewhere, his army had
increased to 58,600 men. On the 9th of September, h&
detached Longstreet, with two of his divisions, to help-
Bragg, in Tennessee, keep back Rosecrans from march-
ing farther up the Great valley toward Virginia, leaving
with himself some 46,000 men. Longstreet wrote, in
farewell to Lee, speaking for himself and his corps:
"Our affections for you are stronger, if it is possible for
them to be stronger, than our admiration for you. ' '

On the 13th of September, Meade advanced, from,
beyond the Rappahannock, to learn what Lee was doing p
the latter awaited an attack in the position he had chosen,
and partially fortified, in front of Orange Court House,
overlooking the Rapidan. Meade took a distant look
at the preparations made for him, and then withdrew tO'
camps in Culpeper.

After learning of the battle at Chickamauga, Lee, on
the 25th, wrote pleasantly to Longstreet:

My whole heart and soul have been with you and your brave corps-
in your late battle. It was natural to hear of Longstreet and Hill
(D. H.) charging side by side, and pleasing to find the armies of the-
east and west vying with each other in valor and devotion to their
\;ountry. . . . Finish the work before you, my dear general, and.
return to me ; I want you badly, and you cannot get back too soon.

On the 9th of October, Lee again took the offen-
sive and crossed the Rapidan to attack Meade, taking-
a concealed and circuitous route, hoping to flank him
and bring him to battle on the plains of Culpeper;.
but the Federal commander, who professed to have
marched all the way from Gettysburg seeking a battle,.



426 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

promptly retreated during the night of the loth, to
beyond the Rappahannock. Lee then tried by another
flank movement, by way of the Fauquier Springs and
Warrenton, to bring on an engagement on the plains of
Fauquier; but while Lee was halting to ration his troops,
Meade hastened to the south side of the Orange & Alex-
andria railroad, by way of Bealeton, then took the road
still farther to the southward, leading through Brents-
ville toward Alexandria. The two armies now engaged
in a race, at times within sight of each other, on
opposite sides of the railroad ; Meade hastening to escape
Lee, and Lee hurrying to intercept Meade and bring
him to battle.

As he passed through Brentsville, Meade detached a
portion of Warren's corps and sent it across to Bristoe
Station, to guard his flank from attack by the highway
from Lee's route that there crossed the railroad. This
covering force was adroitly concealed in the cuts and
behind the fills of the railway at Bristoe Station. A. P.
Hill, leading Lee's advance, sent Cooke's superb North
Carolina brigade to the same point, from the northward
without advanced skirmishers. As these approached the
station, Warren's men met them, with unexpected vol-
leys, and drove the brigade back in confusion, with a loss
of nearly 1,400 men. Lee met Hill with stern rebuke
for his imprudence, ^then sadly directed him to gather his
wounded and bury his dead. This disaster, at the head
of the column, and the failure of Ewell to close up on
Hill, gave check to Lee's advance, which enabled Meade
to make good his escape to the fortifications at Centre-
ville, on the northern side of Bull run. Lee followed to
the vicinity of Manassas Junction and then retraced his
steps to the Rappahannock, subsequently saying, in his
report concerning this campaign :

Nothing prevented my continuing in his (Meade's) front but the
■destitute condition of the men, thousands of whom are barefooted, a
greater number partially shod, and nearly all without overcoats,
blankets or warm clothmg. I think the sublimest sight of the war
was the cheerfulness and alacrity exhibited by this army in the pur-
suit of the enemy under all the trials and privations to which it was
exposed. «

Stuart, with his usual vigilance and daring, covered the
fords on either side of the railroad, and two of Early's
brigades were left on the intrenched trap-dyke hill, on the
northern bank of the Rappahannock, at the railroad



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 427

"bridge, which had been destroyed, as a tete-de-pont to
the pontoon Lee had there laid. In the midst of a sud-
den and heavy rain, late in the evening of November
7th, Meade, seizing this opportunity, made a rush upon and
captured these two brigades, before help could reach
them, securing i,6oo prisoners, eight flags and several
guns.

After Lee had reached the southern bank of the Rap-
pahannock, everything indicated that his army would
remain in Culpeper for some time. Writing to his wife
Tie said :

I moved yesterday into a nice pine thicket, and Perry is today
«ngaged in constructing a chimney in front of my tent, which will
make it warm and comfortable. ... I am glad you have some socks
for the army. Send them to me. They will come safely. Tell the
girls to send all they can. I wish they could make some shoes, too.
We have thousands of barefooted men. There is no news. General
Meade, I believe, is repairing the railroad, and I presume will come
on again. If I could only get some shoes and clothes for the men I
-would save him the trouble.

The disaster at the bridge-head broke up all this, and
Lee again retired with his army beyond the Rapidan, and
put his men in winter quarters on the sunny side of the
"little mountains of Orange," finding another dense
pine thicket, on the mountain slope eastward from Orange
Court House, where he fixed his headquarters for the win-
ter.

The winter quiet of Lee's camps was rudely disturbed
by Meade when he began his Mine Run campaign, on the
26th of November, by ordering the First and Fifth corps
to cross the Rapidan at the Culpeper mine ford, near the
mouth of the Wilderness run, the boundary between
Orange and Spottsylvania counties, to be followed by the
Second corps crossing at the Germanna ford, a few miles
further up the river, and the Third and Sixth corps, that
were to cross still higher up the stream, expecting these
three strong columns of attack to converge upon the old
turnpike and the plank road, both leading to Orange
Court House, and turn the right of Lee's encampments.
Meade found it no easy matter to overcome the steep
banks and the chilly waters of the Rapidan, and unex-
pectedly lost a day in the beginning of his movement.
His Third corps moved too far to the north to strike its
ordered ford, and on the 27th, Johnson's division of
Ewell's corps repulsed its attempted crossing.



428 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

Stuart's sleepless vigilance gave Lee ample time to
bring Hill from his left to Ewell on his right, and the
two, advancing eastward to meet Meade, quickly found
an admirable defensive line along Mine run, of the Rapi-
dan, which flows directly northward, in a deep stream
valley, crossing all the roads, and not far eastward from
the right of Lee's encampments. The weather was in-
tensely cold, but this only added to the vigor of Lee's
poorly-clad veterans in fortifying their line with materi-
al from the adjacent forests audiences, warming them-
selves by labor and huge fires, so that when Meade ap-
peared in their front on the 28th, they were ready to
receive him in a strong line of battle, well punctuated
with 150 guns, Johnson, in the meantime, holding the
Third corps in engagement along the Rapidan. Finding
a front attack uninviting, Meade sent Warren with his
Second corps and a part of the Sixth in an effort to turn
Lee's right, while Sedgwick thought he had found a
weak place from which to attack Lee's left.

Warren took 26,000 men for his movement, which
began early on the morning of the 30th ; but when he
reached the vicinity of Lee's right, he found that his
coming had been anticipated, and that during the previ-
ous night the Confederates had there thrown up earth
and timber works and planted artillery. Driven back
with loss, he retired, and as nothing had come of Sedg-
wick's attempt, and the cold was increasing in intensity,
Meade withdrew, in disgust, on the night of December
2d, across the Rapidan to his previous encampments in
the vicinity of Brandy Station ; not having had the cour-
age, with his greatly superior and far better appointed
force, to attack his staunch and ever-ready opponent.

After the Mine Run campaign, Lee's army was permit-
ted to remain undisturbed in its cantonments in Orange
county during the remainder of the winter of 1863-64,
picketing 20 miles of the front of the Rapidan, from
where Ewell 's right rested on that river, near the mouth
of Mine run, on the east to near Liberty mills, where the
highway leading from Gordonsville, by way of Madison
Court House, to New Market in the valley, crosses that
stream on the west. The Orange & Alexandria railroad,
passing between the camps, connected Lee with his base
of supplies at Gordonsville, only a few miles away.
Ewell established his headquarters at "Morton hall,'"



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 429

the country seat of Hon. Jere. Morton, near the middle of
the encampment of his corps, which was mainly along
the waters of Mountain run, and the tributaries of Mine
rim from the west. Lee betook himself again to his pine
thicket.

Here, in the county of Orange, Lee's army contended,
during the long and severe winter of 1863-64, with
foes more difficult to overcome than Federal soldiery.
These were want of food and want of clothing, which
they met and endured, with heroic fortitude, in the log
cabins that they constructed from the trees of the sur-
rounding forests and on beds of straw, mainly without
blankets, but fortunately with abundant supplies of fuel
near at hand. The rations were reduced to a minimum ; a
quarter of a pound of pork and a scant portion of meal,
or flour, per day, to a man — and even this was sometimes
wanting. A depreciated currency added an enormous
value, in paper dollars, to all the necessaries of life, and
the high tide of starvation prices prevailed everywhere,
and especially in the army, where the pay, of even offi-
cers of the highest grade, was scarcely sufficient to meet
the most common wants. Corn meal was $50 a bushel ;
beans, $60; bacon, $8 and sugar $20 a pound. The
redeeming features of these days of gloom and suffering
were the bright shining of the heroic virtues, not only of
the men but of the women and children of the Confeder-
acy, and the steadfast faithfulness of all the negroes,
most of them slaves, who, in quiet submission to home
authority, cultivated the fields, and by the arts of handi-
craft helped to support the people of the Confederacy
and their armies. Lee not only dwelt among his men,
in simple fashion, but fared as they fared, saying, when
luxuries were sent him, as they often were, and which
he invariably sent to the sick and wounded in hospitals,
"I am content to share the rations of my men."

The luster of the heroic virtues of the army of North-
em Virginia was brightened and heightened by their sub-
limer faith. A marked spirit of devotion characterized
every portion of it. From nearly every tent and cabin
could be heard the voice of prayer and the singing of
hymns of devotion. Spacious, though rude, log chapels
were constructed by willing hands, for religious services,
and the country churches within and near the camps were
utilized for like holy purposes. Not only army chap-



430 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

lains, but the best and ablest of the preachers of the Gos-
pel from all accessible parts of the Confederacy, minis-
tered in these rude army churches to the soul-hunger of
Lee's reverent, and most of them God-serving officers
and men.

On the 6th of February, 1864, Meade sent a division to
Morton's ford, near Ewell's right, to again try the win-
ter temper of Lee's veterans. It was met with the old
spirit and driven back across the Rapidan with consider-
able loss. Early in March, Kilpatrick and Dahlgren
crossed their Federal cavalry at Ely's ford, of the Rapi-
dan, and raided southward, through Spottsylvania toward
Richmond, following the great highways leading in that
direction. Dahlgren's special object was to burn the
capital of the Confederacy, capture its oificials, release
and arm the Federal prisoners there held, and work gen-
eral havoc. He was met, not far from that city, and
repulsed, losing his own life, and failure was the only
result of the expedition worth mentioning.



CHAPTER. XXIV.

THE WILDERNESS CAMPAIGN AGAINST GRANT.

CONVINCED by his failures that Meade could not
lead the army of the Potomac to victory, Lincoln
called Lieut. -Gen. U. S. Grant from the West, to
the oversight of military operations in Virginia.
Meade's army had not only been brought to a high degree
of efficiency, by drill and discipline, during its winter
encampment in Culpeper, but large numbers of fresh
troops were added to it during the closing days of April.
Early in that month Grant arrived at Culpeper Court
House, having in mind a definite plan of campaign toward
Richmond, which he proceeded to put into execution by
ordering an advance of Meade's army to the Germanna
and Ely fords of the Rapidan, instructing him, "Lee's
army will be your objective point. Wherever Lee goes,
there will you go;" and adding, that the characteristic of
his campaign would be "to hammer continuously against
the armed force of the enemy and his resources, until, by
mere attrition, if nothing else, there shall be nothing left
him but submission." His expressed desire was "to
fight Lee between the Rapidan and Richmond, if he will
stand."

Sufficiently informed of what was going on in Meade's
army, and expecting an early advance, now that the spring
was fully opened, Lee rode, on the zd of May, 1864, ta
the signal station on Clark's mountain, near Ewell's
camps, to overlook for himself — from that grand point of
observation, which took within its sweep more than a
score of Virginia counties, and from which was plainly
visible every Federal camp in the nearby county of Cul-
peper — any evidences of Meade's intentions. This
trained master of the art of military reconnoissance, care-
fully studied, through his glasses, the field outspread
before him, and soon concluded, from the bustle in the
Federal camps, that an early movement was in contem-
plation. It was also evident to him that this movement

431



432 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

would be to his right, toward the old fields of unsuccess-
ful Federal venture. Looking eastward, Mine run and
Chancellorsville were in sight. Beyond, in mental vision,
he could see Salem church and the twice- attacked and
twice-defended Fredericksburg. He doubtless asked
himself just where — in that historic region where his
famous ancestor, Spotswood, had built the first blast-fur-
nace for making iron, in America — the impending con-
flict would begin, immediate preparations for which he
took in hand on returning to his camp.

Lee was accompanied to his point of observation by
Longstreet, just returned from his Tennessee campaign ;
Field, commanding Hood's old division, and Kershaw,
that of McLaws; Ewell, and his division commanders,
Early, Edward Johnson and Rodes ; A. P. Hill, with his
division commanders, R. H. Anderson, Heth and Wilcox.
It is said that after his information-seeking overlook of
the Federal camps, Lee turned to these officers, and
pointing toward Chancellorsville, said, that in his opin-
ion, the Federal army would cross at Germanna or at Ely's ;
and that he then bade them prepare to take up the line of
march whenever orders were given from the signal station.

When Grant ordered his forward movement, on the 4th
■of May, there were 147,000 men under his command, in
and near Culpeper, disposed in three grand army corps ;
the Second led by Hancock, the Fifth by Warren, and
the Sixth by Sedgwick. Bumside held the Ninth, as a
sort of rear guard, north of the Rappahannock. It took
20,000 men to care for Grant's vast army train, leaving
about 120,000 for fighting duty. With these were 274 field
^ns, of the most improved kind; while Sheridan, with
some 13,000 cavalry, guarded the advance and flanks of
the movement. This, said one of Grant's subordinates,
was "the best clothed and best fed army that ever took
the field. ' ' Its supply train, if extended in single line of
march, would have covered more than 100 miles of dis-
tance.

To meet this mighty host, which was about to pass his
flank, Lee had, at the end of April, less than 62,000 men
for battle; 22,000, under A. P. Hill, near Orange Court
House; some 17,000, under Ewell, in the Mountain run
valley; 10,000 in Longstreet's two divisions, encamped
near Gordonsville ; 224 guns in his batteries, manned by
4,800 artillerists; and 8,300 cavalrymen, under the lead-



CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY. 433

ership of "Jeb" Stuart. The cavalry corps was in two
divisions, of three brigades each ; the First, led by Wade
Hampton, of South Carolina; the Second, by Fitz Lee,
of Virginia. Fitz Lee's three brigades, commanded
by W. H. F. Lee, L. L. Lomax and Williams F. Wick-
liam, were all from Virginia. At the opening of the
•campaign, Stuart's cavalry held the line of the lower
Rapidan and of the lower Rappahannock, guarding Lee's
right flank.

Stuart informed Lee of the arrival of Grant's army,
on the north bank of the Rapidan, opposite the Ger-
manna and Ely fords, on the 3d of May, and of the
crossing of those fords by his advance on the next day.
Knowing this, Lee, on the morning of the 4th, issued his
-usual precautionary orders against the destruction of
private property of all kinds, and, at 9 a. m. , when the
signal officer from Clark's mountain waved that Grant's
columns were in motion toward the Confederate right, he
gave orders for his army to advance, as prearranged, to
meet the Federal movement. Two parallel roads led
from his camps toward the Wilderness. Ewell moved, at
noonday, across to the Orange turnpike, then followed that
eastward, toward "The Wilderness." At the same time
two of Hill's divisions marched from Orange Court House,
along the plank road, in the same direction. At 11,
Longstreet was ordering his advance, under Field, fol-
lowed by Kershaw, from Gordonsville, across the country,
to the same objective point; but he did not get his march
Tinder way until 4 of the afternoon, because he was
unwilling to take the direct road assigned him by Lee,
and waited for permission to take one of his own choos-
ing, which led to delay and later held him from the field
of battle at a critical moment. Anderson's division, of
Hill's corps, was left to guard the rear.

With the 28,000 men of Hill and Ewell, Lee hastened
to the front, his artillery moving with his infantry, to
support Stuart, who, in joyful combat, was already fight-
ing back every step of the Federal advance. Lee rode
with Hill at the head of the right-hand column, on the
Orange plank road, sending message after message to
hurry up Longstreet, to support the Confederate right
when the battle should be joined.

At the close of the 4th of May, Grant telegraphed,
from Germanna ford, to Halleck, chief of staff of the

TaZS



434 CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

army at Washington: "The crossing of the Rapidan
effected. Forty-eight hours now will demonstrate
whether the enemy intends giving battle this side of
Richmond. Telegraph Butler that we have crossed the
Rapidan." He then had with him not less than 127,000
men, that, almost without opposition, had reached the old
fighting ground of ' ' The Wilderness. ' ' He had told But-
ler that he would let him know when he had made this



Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 42 of 153)