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Battle-fields of the South, from Bull run to Fredericksburg; with sketches of Confederate commanders, and gossip of the camps online

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open fields intervened between our position and that
of the Federal army.

As morning approached, many of our men sallied
forth beyond the standing corn, to despoil the Federal
dead ; and this being perceived brought out the enemy's
pickets, who opened a brisk and lively fire. It must
be confessed the audacity of our men in this proceed-
ing was beyond all precedent ; for, in the woods
immediately beyond, the enemy were in imposing force,
and certainly flushed with their success of the previous

A constant picket-firing on our left gave warning
that the action would soon open, our troops rose long
before day, and the mosit provident cooked themselves
faeakifast, and, smoking their pipes, sat in groups, chat-
ting sociably, not knowing at what moment all would
be summoned to "fall in." Soon simple picket-firing
was sacceeded by the xoar of musketry^ whole volleys
occasionally broke upon the ear at different points of
the line, which, together with the occasional roar of
howitzers and jrifled pieces, was more than enough to
jfouse the entire army. Commanders were busily en-
gaged, and rode from place to place, with a business-
like air ; no hurry or confusion was visible ; all seemed -
to look upon the matter with indiffereaice and cheerful-
ness. Most of our troops had smelt powder long before,
■and they simply said, "Another day's work is before
us," and tightly buckled tlieir straps and belts, as if
bound for a march, or a long fatiguing drill.
. Flighting on our left now commenced in earnest;


troops which had been prowling about fields fronting
the standing corn were seen to hasten their move-
mentSj and on came the Yankee line of battle in good
order. Observing our clouds of skirmishers rapidly-
withdrawing from their front, and disappearing in
the corn-fieldsj they gave loud cheers," and thought
that little resistance would be offered until they had
arrived at the top of the hill, or had found shelter in
the woods. Their mistake was a grievous one. As
the Federal line-of-battle reached the fence, up rose
our men from their concealment among the corn,
and delivered successive volleys, right in the faces of
their foes, who, surprised and staggering with loss,
retreated back over the open ground, and were cut
up fearfully by our batteriesy which now opened with
rapidity from our rear. So accurate was the fire that
whole files of Federal soldiers lay dead, parallel with
the fence.

Hundreds, of shell from the enemy now dropped
in all directionSj making our position in the standing
corn very unpleasant ; and although we disputed their
advance stubbornly, they gradually forced us back,
until they penetrated into the corn-fields, which their
heavy line of battle bent .and broke, as they came
sweeping onward with loud cheers. Supposing us to
be beaten at this point, their commander lost no time,
but seemed determined to push forward rapidly and
smash our left wing. As brigade after brigade rushed
gallantly forward, they were ' subjected to a con-
tinuous and galling fire; but no token was given
of our strength in the dense timber, to which our


men now fell rapidly back, m skirmishing order. Whea
the enemy had traversed the corn-fields, and reached
the summit of the " rise," the ground slightly " dipped "
towards the fence and road, so that our commanders in
the woods had full view of the Federal force as it
advanced. Every fence and every tree was made avail-
able by our sharpshooters, who constantly poured into
their heavy masses a galling fire. Still onwards they
came impetuously, and, from their hurried movements,
were apparently breathless. Down went every fence in
their path, as they rapidly crossed the road towards the
woods, and lustily they cheered, as the last of our skir-
mishers disappeared from their front, and were lost in
{he dark, thick timber.

All was silence within our lines ; regiments were
lying flat on their faces with rifles cocked, and cau-
tiously peered at the enemy as they came rushing into
the woods in great masses, and with much noise. Sud-
denly, up rose Jackson's line of battle, the enemy halted,
a moment of awful silence ensued, no man stirred, and
then deafening, c^uick, accurate, and numerous volleys
broke from our lines. The enemy were too thicik to be
missed ; and, amid frightful loss and confusion, they
broke and rushed forth from the woods, trembling like
beings who had seen some dreadful apparition.

Soon as these fugitive, masses had gained open
gromid, our batteries in rapid succession broke loose,
belching forth grape and canister in such profusion that
the infernal storm could be heard raining upon them
with a hissing noise, and it literally ploughed furrows in
the dark confused masses, so that daylight could be seen

VOL. II. 45


through them at every discharge. Round shot hounded
and bounced, and shells, after whizzing over head,
dropped with loud explosions in the dark groups rushing
through the corn-fields and dotting the landscape. The
carnage was frightful. Through these fields the enemj
(exulting in their success of the previous day) had come
cheering in dense lines but a few moments before ; they
had swept from their front every man opposed to thenij
and had entered the woods with deafening shouts. The*
had not been lost to view many minutes ere they rushed
back in confused, bleeding, staggering masses of human
beings, without order, without officers, pursued by our
lines of battle; rapidly our brave fellows pushed over
the well-fought fields, and, amid showers of shell, kept
close to the fleeing foe, and incessantly poured into!
their shattered ranks murderous volleys, which whistled
through the corn, and peopled every acre with scores
of dead.

Field officers of the enemy gallantly rode to the
front, and endeavoured to rally their brigades. Eein-
forcements were seen approaching, to their reliel
through open fields beyond; but onward pressed qui
victorious men, and did not halt until the foe was
safely screened in their original position of the

Fighting on the left had now lasted several hours
— our men were thoroughly exhausted, and unabli
to advance farther upon the enemy. In truth, i
would not have been wise to do so; for our preseii

* This first attack had been opened on our left by Hooker's corps.


portion for defence was preferable ground to any we
could win. Oaimonading now opened with great fury
on both sides ; and it was soon ascertained that the foe
was largely reinforced, and beginning another advance.*
This they did in gallant style ; but were met again
by such a determined, withering fire, and their loss was
so great, that no impression could be made upon our
position; not only were they loth to follow us into
the woods, but they were" quickly beaten and demo-
ralized in open ground. Constant Tolleys were now
exchanged by both sides; and, as reinforcements
arrived for Jackson, they were immediately thrown
in front to withstand the third attack,f then organiz-
ing along the enemy's right, which was to be composed
of all the commands there present.

The new line of the enemy seemed to be of immense
strength ; but as they came fully into view our artillery
opened upon them with such rapidity and accuracy
that great confusion and disorder began to reign ere
they came sufficiently close to exchange shots with
our infantry. Long and constant volleys resounded
along our whole wing; both combatants were stationary ;
sometimes we slightly gave ground, and again recovered
it, until at last our, fire began to tell among the enemy ;
and it seemed that little was now required to drive
them completely from the field. While indecision
seemed to reign among Federal commanders, ours were
unanimous for an advance; and, when the order was

* The second advance was made by Sumner's corps,
t This was made by Mansfield's corps.

45 — 2


received, loud cheers and yells burst forth from all our
troops, and the cannonade reopened with redoubled fury.
The onset was furious, nothing seemed to withstand the
impetuosity of our men; the enemy gradually with-
drew from the open grounds in much confusion. Fresh
divisions* were hurried to the front to check our
advance. The meeting was terrible, but the shock
of short duration : beaten again and again, they were at
last driven beyond the po'sition originally occupied,
when Hooker's attack began the previous afternoon.

Through woods and. copse, across corn-fields,, and
ploughed fields, grassy slopes and meadows, over
gullies, ditches, brooks, and fences, the combatants
in this wing had contended since early morning,, and
their lines had advanced or retreated again and again,
until it seemed that every acre of the landscaped was
strewn with dead. Tokens of carnage were visible on
every hand; the woods were torn and shattered; the
corn and grass were trodden under foot ; outhouses and
farmhouses were heaps of blazing ruins; while for
miles, long lines of smoke ascended over the fertile
valley, and numerous batteries uninterruptedly belched
forth showers of shot and shell. Still the contending
lines swayed and advanced, or broke and retreated, so
that, to civilized beings, it seemed like some ghastly
panorama of things transpiring in a nether world.

Jackson's impetuous advance at length halted. His
men had far surpassed their olden fame ; but it soon
became apparent that weakness was enfeebling our

• Sedgewick's corps.


efforts, and that without reinforcements we could not
maintain the conquered ground, should any fresh body
of the enemy assail us. Indications were not wanting
to prove the enemy's activity, and the signal corps soon
gave warning that fresh and heavy masses were concen-
trating and forming, to make a final effort to dislodge
us from our advanced position. Soon the enemy ap-
peared to our front again, and advanced with a steadi-
ness which plainly indicated they had never yet pulled
trigger during the day. The meeting was fierce,
vindictive, and bittei;' ; volleys were given and returned
incessantly, their artillery slowly moved up to the
front, and our line began to fall back with regularity
aiid coolness. We would again retrace our steps, and
invite them into the woods, where their first attacking
corps had so suddenly melted away. Slowly we fell
back, and still more cautiously did the enemy pursue.
For some tim^ the fight was maintained by us in
open ground, and our superior fire inflicted great
loss among them. Through the corn-fields once more
we enticed the enemy onward, and boldly they ad-
vanced to try there again the fortune of war. Once
within the timber our generals quickly prepared for
their coming, g,nd fell back some distance.

I'orward still the enemy came over th6 numerous dead
of their own army ; but, ere they entered the woods,
they opened a long and fierce cannonade, throwing
hundreds of shell and round shot on those spots which
we were supposed to occupy. Our men, however,
having re-formed much farther back than at first,
these missiles fell short; not a man of our line was


touched, but all lay quietly on their faces until day-
light was shut out from our front by the dark mas-
sive lines of the enemy, who, slowly approaching,
made the woods echo with their cheers. Cautiously
they advanced, and single shots of sharpshooters re-
sounded through the forest, as of solitary hunters in
search of game. Moving forward up a gentle rise,
their long lines came Ml in view, and instantly onr
artillery and infantry opened upon them with a deafen-
ing roar. Branches and leaves showered down on
friend and foe alike; trees cracked, and bowed or
toppled over, and fell with a crash among the enemy
in low ground, and still volleys upon YoUeya whistled
through the cover, until it seemed as if the clouds
had opened and rained down showers of bullets. The
smoke, confusion, dust, and noise" were indescribable ;
and how long the fierce conflict lasted I knew not, but
it seemed to me an age.

Bravely had the enemy assailed us, and gallantly
were they repulsed. Jackson could not be moved,
but held his ground; and, taking advantage of ap-
parent indecision and mystification, gave the word
to advance, and this, the fifth corps sent a^dnat
him, was hurled bleeding, staggering, and defeated from
his front, and retreated from the timber with great

But Jackson was too weak to attempt another ad-
vance, and was content to hold the enemy in check
until positive information could be ascertained oi
M'Clellan's operations on other parts of our lines.

It was now past noon. The conflict had raged mtl


varying fortune on our left, but from the general line of
fire visible over the landscape it was evident we had not
lost ground, and could not be dislodged from the position
our leaders had selected. At the centre, heavy can-
nonading was going on, which in many instances was
disastrous to our wounded, for the enemy's missiles
flying high, coursed over our line, and fell in the village
of Sharpsburg, or caused much distress to our ambulance
trains. Groups of officers towards the left had been for
several hours anxiously watching the development of
the Federal attack, but now that the heaviest firing had
ceased, and the action seemed to dwindle down into a
cannonade, they returned to the centre and right,
apparently well pleased with the aspect of affairs, and
judged that M'Clellan would next attempt to feel or
force our other wing. Every hillock commanding a
view of the battle-field was dotted with mounted officers,
who smiled as they looked to the left, and said, " Jackson
bravely maintains the ground. They cannot force him
from his position ; he holds on to it like grim death!"
" Yes," said another, sitting sideways in his saddle, and
smoking a cigar,^" and here ai'e we doing nothing. By
Jove, the cannonade is becoming heavy on the right !
See their troops ybnder moving forward ! Our turn
comes next. Gentlemen, every man to his post! "and
the group of officers broke up as each gaEoped off to his

For miles over these beautiful fields the smoke of
battle curled away in snow-white clouds. The roar of
artillery was regular ami slow, while the patter of distant
musketry, and the sharp, ringing, crackling noise of rifle


volleys kept every sense alive to the dreadful •vrork
transpiring on all sides. Patches of wood up and down
the lines were filled with smoke; bright flashes from
hill and hollow shot fprth in all directions ; lines were
seen to form and advance, others to waver and break ;
banners rose and fell, the bright flash of bayonets and
the stream of fire, all too plainly told of deathly strife on
every acre of the scene.

It was now near four o'clock, and all felt anxious for
the end to come. The better informed felt certain that
another attack was intended, but whether M'Clellan
would hurl his hosts at our centre or right none could
tell. The doubt was soon set at rest. Heavy infantry
firing burst forth towards the lower bridge, upon which
several of our batteries in cannonading position opened
with great energy and fury. The enemy's artillery
replied, and the firing became general. Gradually
falling back, our infantry moved through the open
fields, delivering volleys as they retreated, and enticed
the enemy up the rising ground, on top of which our
artillery was posted. Fast as they crossed the bridge,
shot and shell assailed them, until it seemed as if the
passage was literally blocked up with heaps of dead.
Our round shot, striking the heavy stonework of the
bridge, knocked out fragments in all directions, while
shells fell thick and fast, exploding among their ad-
vancing columns.

Gradually retiring, our infantry re-formed in woods
to the rear of artillery, and seemed desirous of enticing
the enemy still onwards. Forward they came, and
gallantly; their force was very great, and it suffered


much from our active batteries, which limbered and
retired towards the woods, but ever maintained a fierce
fire upon the heads of their columns. As soon, how-
ever, as the enemy had ascended the " rise " from
the bridge, and come within full view of our force
drawn up near the woods, incessant volleys assailed
their line of battle, and it began to melt away. The
storm of shot and shell which met the Federal ad-
vance was awful. Every imaginable spot was alive
and swarming with combatants. Heinforcements had
arrived, and rushed into the fray with loud cheers, so
that the dark woods seemed filled with men where
none had been before. The Federal advance was
arrested ; their leading regiments had been literally
blown to pieces,- and although succour was momentarily
arriving, it only served to fill up the fearful gaps
everywhere visible in their line. For some short
time the battle raged with great fury, and although
hard pressed, the enemy would not yield his ground ;
but when our artillery had opened at shorter distance,
and our infantry advanced to closer quarters, their line
began to fall back, and our men followed over heaps of
lifeless and mangled carcases.

- But while this deafening cannonade continued on our
right, and the enemy were being slowly driven back to
the bridge, we could distinctly hear heavy artillery
practice to our left, which informed us that the attack
had been renewed in that quarter, and that Jackson was,
as usual, full of business. The whole line of battle
seemed to have gained new life and animation, and
both sides were fighting earnestly and with vigour.


The engagement could not last long, for the sun was
fast sinking, and if the enemy meant to achieve some-
thing great, it was time for M'Clellan to have commenced.
Nothing of moment occurred at our centre ; bodi wings
were seriously engaged, Jackson on the left was im-
movable, and Longstreet on our right was gradually
driving the enemy towards the bridge. The carnage
here was frightful, and as our shot and shell plunged
into their retreating ranks, the whole vicinity of the
bridge seemed strewn with bodies, horses, waggons, and

Both attacks of the enemy upon our wings had failed,
and they had been repulsed witli fearful slaughter,
Franklin, Sumner, Hooker, Mansfield, and other corps
commanders on their right, had been, fought to a stand-
still. They were exhausted and powerless. Bumside,
on their left, had been fearfully handled by Longstreet,
and was driven in confusipn upon the bridge, which
he held with a few cannon, and suffered every moment
from our batteries on rising ground. "We did not desire
the bridge, or it might have been held from the begin-
ning, and, save a desultory cannonade, the enemy were
now inactive and exhausted. When the sun sank all
felt infinite relief from the fatigue and dangers of the
day, and although it could not be said we had gaindl a
battle, we eertaintly could boast of having defeated out
enemy's plan throughout the entire day, and though
inferior in force, had frequently hniied them back upon
their original position with frightful loss.

Every one imagined that the struggle would be re
sumed on the morrow, and our lines sank to rest upoi


the ground, with the dead and dying around them.
Many of the men prowled about, picking tip various
articles from the Federal dead, while burying parties
were hard at work, and ambulances engaged in
removing the wounded. Sharpsburg itself was one
e'ntire hospital, and the inhabitants assisted our
wounded with much tenderness and care. Ev^ry house
and every cottage had some . afflicted tenant ; but all
our men bore up under their sufferings with that un-
linching fortitude which has ever characterized them
throughoii.t the war.

The night passed wearily by. Camp-fires burned
brighfly, but quietness reigned throughout the lines un-
disturbed by any demonstration of the enemy. Friends
met friends around the fires, and spoke of dangers
past. This officer was reported dead and that one
wounded ; one had lost his leg, another his arm ;
Colonel Smith had been blown to pieces, and General
J®nes desperately hurt ; shells had exploded in the
midst of a general's staff and disabled every man;
hats and coats had been perforated, and no one could
move twenty paces without seeing many with heads
car arms bandaged, or, pipe in month, limping to the
rear. In one place, a youth was lying near a camp-
fire dying, the embers lighting np his pallid features
as he opened his eyes and kissed a brother kneeling
fey his side. N'ow, I met half-a-dozen stalwart men,
bearing their wounded and moaning colonel to an ambu-
lance. Again, I passed a group of busy surgeons, cut-
ling and probing their dumb patients; now couriers and
orderlies dashed furiously by; a general and his staff


slowly trotted off in one direction, regiments and bat-
teries passed on in another. All the horrible sights
of a battle-field were frequent and heartrending, while
groans reached the ear from every barn and every
house, and through the whole length and breadth of
the woods. Preparations were still going on for a
renewal of the conflict on the morrow, should the
enemy force it; but in my inmost heart I hoped and
prayed that Providence might postpone it, for our own
men were thoroughly exhausted with long marches and
hard fighting, and lay upon the ground in battle-line as
helpless and quiet as children.

The morning broke, and all was bustle and pre-
paration, but the enemy moved not. Smoke fi?om
camp-fires slowly ascended in all directions, and their
ambulances, like ours, were creeping over the scene
in sad procession. Still we knew not at what moment
the dark masses of the foe might again appear ; it was
cause for rejoicing when it was whispered that prepara-
tions were already progressing for our retreat, and
that all the waggons had gone up the river towards

The next day passed without anything of moment
transpiring, and during night the bulk of our troops
began to retreat, but with great coolness and order.
Jackson was entrusted with the rear-guard, and next
morning (19th) the last of our regiments withdrew
from the scene without hindrance or molestation. Some
cavalry encounters occurred, it is true, but not of such
importance as to retard our movements; and save a
few shots occasionally exchanged with our rear-guard,


nothing indicated that the enemy were in such " hot "
pursuit as their official telegrams subsequently stated.
The retreat was slow, orderly, and unmolested. Jack-
son conducted it ; and his dispositions were so skilfully
made that they fairly defied any effort the enemy might
make to inflict loss or make captures. It cannot be
denied that large numbers of dead and wounded were
left behind to the tender mercies of the foe, but all
who could be removed were carefully provided for,
and safely conveyed into Virginia. Save some half-
dozen disabled cannon or caissons, and a few arms,
little was left in the enemy's hands of which they
could truthfully boast*

* Being on the defensive, our loss was much less than that of the
enemy, who, in attacking, advanced over open ground, and were much
exposed to our accurate fire. Trom the hest sources of information, I
learn that our killed and wounded amounted to 8,000, exclusive of a
few prisoners; 1,000 of our wounded were left behind, and a convention
entered into for the burial of the dead. It has been stated by Northern
journals that we lost 30,000 in all, but this is pure fiction. Among
our losses in this engagement were General Starb and Brigadier-
General Branch killed; Brigadier-Generals Anderson, Wright, Lawton,
Armsted, Eipley, Ransom, and Jones, wounded. I learn that during
the thirty hours, or more, which intervened between the engagement
and our retreat, little was left upon the battle-field in cannon or arms
but everything worth attention was carried off: Although the enemy
claim to have captured thousands of arms and dozens of cannon, I need
not add that this, for the most part, was all imagination.

M'Clellan's loss has been placed at 12,000 killed, wounded, and
missing; and I think the estimate below reality. Among his killed
were Generals Mansfield, Richardson, Hartszuff, and others; and among

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Online LibraryEnglish CombatantBattle-fields of the South, from Bull run to Fredericksburg; with sketches of Confederate commanders, and gossip of the camps → online text (page 25 of 28)