J. B. (Joseph Benjamin) Polley.

Hood's Texas brigade, its marches, its battles, its achievements online

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vicinity of Hamilton's crossing, and between that and the river.
As save through its scouts and skirmishers, the Texas Brigade
took no active part in the battle, a description of the engage-
ment will be left to the general historian. The enemy com-
menced crossing to the south side of the Rappahannock, at
daylight of the 11th. It took him all that day and the next
to get his army across and in line, and the battle, therefore,
did not begin until the morning of the 13th. During the 11th
and 12th, however, the 350 pieces of artillery, many of them
guns of long range, that General Bumside had stationed on
Stafford Heights in positions commanding every part of the
wide valley south of the Rappahannock, kept the air hot with
flying projectiles, and there was hardly a minute of either day
but was marked by the roar of a cannon, the bursting of a
shell, or the passage of round shot. Out of range of the


cannon, as a rule, the men of the Texas Brigade stood pas-
sive but deeply interested spectators of events as they oc-
curred on their right and left. At one trivial incident which
transpired, they were stirred to mirth that was long and loud.

The Forty-fourth Alabama and the Fifty-fourth North
Carolina regiments of Law's Brigade were made up, as a rule,
of conscripts — young men under twenty, and old men — dressed
in homespun, and presenting a very unsoldierly appearance.
But there were no cowards among them. Ordered to drive
back a force of the enemy which was coming too near our lines
for safety, they not only sprang forward in a charge of sur-
prising recklessness, but continued the charge until, to save
them from certain capture. General Hood peremptorily re-
called them. As they passed the Texas Brigade on their
return, one old fellow halted, wiped the powder-grime from
his weather-beaten and time-furrowed face with the sleeve of
his coat, and wrathfully exclaimed : " Durn ole Hood, any-
how! He jess didn't have no bus'ness 't all ter stop us when
we'uns was uh whippin' them ar durn blue-bellies ter h — 11 an'
back, an' efF we'uns hadder bin you Texikins, he'd never o'
did it."

How the battle of Fredericksburg would end was a foregone
conclusion. Lee and his 80,000 men held a position as im-
pregnable to any assault that could be made on it by Burn-
side's 116,000, as were Stafford Heights to the 80,000. Re-
pulsed with great slaughter at every point of the line they at-
tacked, the Federals abandoned the contest and recrossed the
Rappahannock. Then, having within six months driven Mc-
Clellan from before Richmond, defeated Pope at Second Man-
assas, won all the honors from McClellan, when again his an-
tagonist at Sharpsburg, and forced General Burnside to a
halt. General Lee ordered his army into winter quarters.
These to be constructed by the army, the Texas Brigade was
assigned heavily timbered ground. But it was so late in the
season, and there was such likelihood, the men thought, of an
early spring campaign, that they were content to erect only
temporary structures. Accustomed and inured by this time
to many discomforts, they deemed it a waste of labor and time
to build cabins they might have to vacate in a month or two.
But as in that month or two they would feel the need of


amusement, they contributed liberally in labor and funds to-
ward the erection of a single story, log theater, in which they
might listen to concerts and see plays given and performed by
the members of Collins' Band, assisted by such other talent
as was to be found in the army. The weather was cold and
dry, although snow lay on the ground for days at a time ; fuel
was abundant, guard and fatigue duty light, and drilling not
required, and with little else for the men to do, the theater
had a large patronage — General Hood being a frequent at-
tendant, and even General Lee being, on one occasion, an audi-
tor. The favorite amusement in the day-time, when snow lay
on the ground, was snowballing. This began with battles be-
tween individuals, but soon extended to companies, regiments
and brigades. On one occasion, there was a battle royal be-
tween brigades of Hood's division in which generals, colonels
and many other subordinate officers participated — the align-
ments and movements of the opposing brigades being conducted
in regular military style, with regiments carrying their flags,
and drums and fifes in full blast. Indeed, such a racket was
made that day by the Confederate army — for the sport was
not confined to one division alone — that the Federals on the
other side of the Rappahannock took alarm, and at least one
of their cavalry regiments saddled its horses in readiness to
meet an expected attack.

The Texas Brigade was not mistaken in believing that its
stay in winter quarters would be short. About the middle
of February, 1863, there were indications of a move upon
Richmond, or Petersburg, from the direction of Suffolk.
President Davis and the members of the Confederate Congress,
which was then in session, became nuite uneasy, and to allav
their apprehensions. General Lee ordered Pickett's and Hood's
divisions to the neighborhood of the capital city. The two
commands marched on the 15th — Pickett's division halting on
the Chickahominy, but Hood's passing through Richmond and
camping between that city and Petersbure- — the Texas Bri-
gade, on Falling Creek, four miles south of Richmond.

The change was a welcome one. It brought us within easy
access of the " Texas depot," a warehouse in the city rented
by the officers of the brigade, in which was stored for safe-
keeping all such private property of members of the com-


mand as could not be carried on the march. In addition, Hood
being exceedingly liberal in granting passes, It enabled the
men to make frequent visits to the city and indulge In the
many recreations It afforded. Its nearness to the main depot
of supplies for the army had Its advantages. Hood a fav-
orite with both civil and military authorities, his requisitions
on the quartermaster department were honored to such an ex-
tent that the ragged were clothed and the bare-footed shod.
Hats, however, were not to be had until some Inventive genius
— a member of the First Texas, it was said — hit upon a novel
scheme of securing them from the passengers on trains that
passed through the brigade camp.

A high bridge across the creek insured the slowing up of the
train at the point on the track most suitable for the execu-
tion of the scheme. A train due, all men in need of hats, and
many that did not need them and only went along to assist
their friends, would form In line on one side of the track, each
with a brush made of the tops of young pines In his hands. As
the train came by, a shout would be raised that, sounding high
above the roar and rattle of the train, would excite the alarm
or curiosity of the passengers who, springing to the windows,
would stick their heads out, and as at that moment the brushes
were brought into play, off the hats of the poor Innocents
would tumble. The first losers being plain, unassuming citi-
zens, were laughed at by the authorities as the victims of a
practical joke. But when, as soon happened, a brigadier-
general, the numerous members of his staff, and half a dozen
members of Congress on their return from some junketing
trip, lost their cocked and stove-pipe hats at the same place
and in the same high-handed way, complaint was made and
heeded, and thereafter there were no linings up along the track,
and the Texans and Arkansans that were still hatless were
compelled to make other calculations.

The rest of the brigade was not disturbed until the 18th of
March. Then it was discovered that some movement was in
progress or contemplation by General Hooker, who In Jan-
uary had been given command of the Federal army at Fred-
ericksburg, vice General Bumslde, removed, to gobble up Mr.
Davis, his cabinet and all the members of Congress. The blow
was to come from the direction of the Peninsula, and to sfuard


against it, the Texas Brigade was routed out of its camp and
marched in haste through Richmond, down the Brook turn-
pike toward Ashland. When within five miles of Ashland, an
order from General Lee recalled it, he having assured himself
that no danger threatened the capital of the Confederacy.
Night close at hand, and the order of recall not enjoining
haste. General Hood ordered the command into camp until

Until nearly sunset, the day had been clear and comfortably
warm. At that hour, though, the sky clouded, and a brisk
cold wind blew from the north. By midnight, the wind lay
and snow commenced falling, and fell so heavily that by day-
light the ground was covered with it to the depth of three or
four inches, and it was still falling rapidly. General Robert-
son, who, on account of his democratic ways and a certain
fussiness over trifles, was by this time called " Aunt Pollie,"
lost no time after sunrise in putting the brigade in motion
toward Richmond — the objective point of the day's march be-
ing the camp we had vacated the day before. Called into line
at 8 A. M. the men set forth in the blinding snow-storm, their
speed hastened by a natural longing to partake of the viands,
liquid and otherwise, so easily to be procured in Richmond since
a learned justice of the peace there had decided that the mili-
tary authorities had fractured the constitutions of both the
State of Virginia and the Southern Confederacy when they
prohibited the sale of liquor by the drink.

There was much straggling, but strange to say, it was not
in the rear but all to the front. When at last fairly in the
city, the brigade disintegrated, so to speak, every soldier not
a teetotaller making a flank movement to right or left. So
sudden, sui'prising and inexplicable was the depletion of ranks,
that when Aunt Pollie looked back through the obscuring mist
of yet fast-falling snow down the short and attenuated line
of shadowy figures following in his wake, he could give ex-
pression to his feelings only by exclaiming, " Where the
blankety blank is the Texas Brigade? " He was about to send
details in quest of the absconders, but luckily. General Hood
was near by and intervened. West Pointer that Hood Avas, he
not only knew Texas and Arkansas tastes and temperaments,
but was not unwilling they should be occasionally indulged.


Callmg to Aunt Pollie, he said, " Let 'em go, General-let 'em
go; they deserve a little indulgence, and you'll get them back
m time for the next battle." ^ "

About this time, General Longstreet, then at Petersburo- and
m temporary command of all Confederate force, in" ™th

Lfr I A " """^ ™™ """'' '" the hands of citizens

hvmg along the coast south of Norfolk. To collect and
transport this to points accessible to the Confederate armv he

t°he Fed Tf' *"'f " '° ^"'^o"^' "'"^ i-tru:«o„s 7hoM
the Federal forces there closely within their lines and enable

Siv?r"a;rbto'''"iT ''%"°r''-y -■■''' "f '^"Ch^fan
Kiver all the bacon and forage to be found. Hood moved his

division about the 1st of April, and passing througTpeter^

burg, proceeded to the neighborhood of Suffolk, by way of

Jerusalem and the Blackwater River. But the forti IT !„

trenchments of the Federals at Suffolk were so surrounded ^^

^•o ected from land assault, by water, that to accomp i^f t,\";^

capture was out of the question. Hence, while the Texas Bri

gade did a great deal of picketing, skir^iishing and scoutW

It engaged in no battles, and its losses were sBght-the nofl

notable and the most regretted being that of thf daring Cap

tain Ike N. M. Turner, of the Fifth Texas ^ ^

daftrspea"7o Cot'Vr'^\"^'"P of the' Fourth Texas one
oay to speak to Colonel Key about some unimportant matter

something of his unique character. Hood winked at Kev and
m a loud tone, said: "Detail an officer and twenty:fl;e of
your best men. Colonel, and have them report time at my
headquarters within an hour. I have set my heart ™i sec"r^
ing possession of one of those gunboats do™ „„ the Nlnse-

Tre it?'""' "' ' '"' "" ''''' "•^"^ ™» -" - 'rcap-

acc^ptedTt'^ "^t "^"^"f' ™''7'""'"t - ™oment's hesitation
accepted It Stepping forward, and laying a hand on the
neck of the horse Hood rode, he touched his hat in salute and
looking straight into Hood's eyes, said: '

Now look here. General Hood, eff you've jest got to

Fourth Te'nT"'' "P "'" ' "» «"' -y »' a? the
fourth Texas will buy you one. But hit ain't a goin' ter go


foolin' roun' any o' them big boats down on the river, fur
they say the dum things are loaded. Besides, hit'll take
swimmin' ter gat at 'em, an' there's mighty few of us kin
do it."

It was in January, 1863, previous to the departure of
Hood's division from Fredericksburg, that General Buniside,
seeking to restore the prestige he had lost in his blundering
essay against Lee in December of 1862, and thus ward off im-
pending dismissal from high command, ordered his army to
undertake the famous " Mud march " — his aim, to cross the
Rappahannock above Fredericksburg and fall upon Lee's left
flank. He had hardly made a start, though, when a tremen-
dous storm of wind, rain and snow began, and compelled the
abandonment of the project. The only opposition to the
movement offered was by the Confederate cavalry, the infantry
of Lee's army making no move whatever. One of the grim-
mest jokes ever perpetrated on the commander of an army,
was that of the Southern troopers who placed on trees near
the roads on which the Federals were advancing, large and
plainly lettered signs bearing the legend, " This is the way
to Richmond."

Following immediately on this grand faux pas, came an
order relieving Bumside from command, and appointing
" Fighting Joe " Hooker as his successor. General Hooker
had his hands full at once. The Federal army had deeply re-
sented the removal of McClellan from its command after the
battles around Richmond. It had no time to voice its pro-
test until he was restored to command, just before the battle
of Sharpsburg. As it was thought he would be allowed to
continue in command, the disaffection ceased. When, how-
ever, he was again removed, and Burnside appointed to suc-
ceed him, the disaffection revived, and growing greater as
events proved the incapacity of the new commander, reached
its height when he was removed and Hooker appointed. An-
other cause for disaffection was the Emancipation Proclama-
tion issued by President Lincoln when assured by his advisers
that the battle of Sharpsburg, or Antictam, as they called it,
was a decisive victory for the Union arms. Many of the
officers in high command, and especially those who had served
in the regular army, were far from hostile to slavery. A large

Company B, Fifth Texas Reg^inieiit


proportion of the pri\'^ate soldiers, especially in regiments
raised in the large cities of the North, looked with bitter aver-
sion upon the negro.

For quite a while after General Hooker took command, his
army appeared to be undergoing a process of disintegration.
Not only were there as many as 200 desertions a day, but the
soldiers at the front were encouraged and advised to desert
by their friends and relatives at home, and every aid given
them. Practically the entire army yet resented the removal of
McClellan, and the appointments first of Bumside and then
of Hooker, and believed that the Federal government would
be forced to restore McClellan to command and abandon its
policy of emancipation. What with deserters and those ab-
sent by leave, 85,000 men, of whom 4000 were commissioned
officers, left the army and scattered all over the North.

But the disaffection in the Union army neither became re-
volt nor lasted long. By the middle of April most of its men
and officers had returned to it, and it had been reorganized and
in various ways improved. When its numbers approached
100,000, General Hooker commenced looking for a route by
which he could fall upon Lee's army, and defeating it, march
his army on to Richmond. Hitting upon that least expected
by his wary opponent, he set his army in motion. Instead of
seeking to force a passage of the Rappahannock, he marched
to fords above the mouth of the Rapidan, and there crossing,
threw the bulk of his troops into the Wilderness country and
concentrated them at Chancellorsville.

This movement was so well-planned and executed that not
until the morning of May 1st did General Lee learn that, prac-
tically, the whole of the Federal army had crossed the Rap-
pahannock and was advancing upon him. In fact, Hooker
then had fully 70,000 men at Chancellorsville, Lee, a scant
20,000, and General Sedgewick was advancing from Fred-
ericksburg on the right flank of these. But Hooker made a
grave blunder. Instead of gaining position, as he might easily
have done on his arrival at Chancellorsvile, in the open country
a mile and a half southwest of Chancellorsvile, where he could
have kept vigilant watch on the movements of the Confed-
erates, he halted his troops so far back in the dense forest as
to allow Lee to form his line also in the timber, and thus con-


ceal his small force. Having this advantage, Lee held the
overwhelming forces arrayed against him in check until Jack-
son made a long detour through the thick woods, and late
in the afternoon of the 3rd, fell upon the Federal rank flank,
and putting it to rout, compelled the retreat of the Federal
host to the north side of the Rappahannock.

May 1st, General Lee wrote to Longstreet, directing him to
recall Hood's division from Suffolk, and march it and Pickett's
division forthwith toward Chancellorsville. The letter did not
reach Longstreet until May 2nd. At that date, the wagon
trains of Hood's division were far down on Chowan River,
thirty miles south of Suffolk, engaged in hauling army sup-
plies from that section. To withdraw from Suffolk before
the trains were recalled would have been to subject them to
capture. Therefore, the investment of Suffolk was continued
until the 3rd of May, when, the wagons being on the east
and safe side of Blackwater River, Hood's division withdrew
to and crossed that stream, and on the 4th set out on its two
days' march to Petersburg. Early on that day, though, it
learned that the battle of Chancellorsville had been fought and
won, and that General Jackson had been mortally wounded.
Its assistance no longer needed, the speed of its march abated.
Marching leisurely through Petersburg and Richmond, it
moved on to Fredericksburg, and after a fortnight's stay in
that neighborhood, to Verdiersville, in the Wilderness, and
thence to the Rapidan River, at Raccoon ford.

The date of the departure of the Texas Brigade from the
Rapidan is not recalled. On the afternoon of June 18th, it
camped in timber near the little town of Millwood, on the
western slope of the Blue Ridge. On the 19th it was ordered
to Snicker's Gap and took position on the summit of a moun-
tain where for three days it remained invisible in the clouds
that enshrouded its camp. On the 23rd it returned to Mill-
wood, and next day, the 24th, began the march that canned it
across the Potomac at Williamsport, Md., through Greencas-
tle. Pa., and on to Chambersburg, Pa. At Williamsport, it
halted long enough to swallow rations of whisky. Non-im-
bibing members of the command gave their doles to comrades
that liked the stuff, and as a result, it was of the breadth, more
than of the length of the road, that many soldiers that after-


noon found cause of complaint. " A fellow-feeling makes us
wondrous kind," it is said, and it was that fellow-feeling, per-
haps, that made the Texas regimental commanders look with
indulgent eyes on the disorder which marked the first few
miles of the march from Williamsport. The commander of
the Third Arkansas, though, did not appear to be possessed of
any fellow-feeling, for he found summary cures for the tor-
tuous locomotion of his men in the cold waters of the various
little streams crossing the route.

The Texas Brigade, on the afternon of the 27th, camped
in a grove of magnificent timber about a mile north of Cham-
bersburg. Commissary trains were belated, and when long
after dark they arrived, brought only slender rations of rancid
bacon and musty flour. In the country roundabout there was
a superabundance of all kinds of eatables. The Federal sol-
diers that had marched through Virginia had taken, with the
strong hand, whatever they wanted from the people down
there, not even offering to pay in greenbacks. General Lee's
order strictly prohibited depredations on private property, but
would there be any violation of that order if Confederate
soldiers persuaded the good citizens of Pennsylvania to sell
them provisions and accept in payment therefor Confederate
money .f* Surely not.

There was no violence used, no threats of any kind made by
any Confederate soldier, and none of the citizens complained
of having been intimidated and robbed. The greater part of
the supplies that found their way into camp were paid for in
Confederate money, the rest were voluntary off'erings. Soldiers
as hungry as were the Confederates could not be expected to
refuse proffers of food, even when they suspected such proffers
were made through unwarranted fear of ill-treatment. The
demanding and the giving were both good-humored; not a
house was entered save upon invitation, or consent obtained;
not a woman or child was frightened or insulted, not a build-
ing was burned, or ransacked for hidden silver and other val-
uables ; all that was wanted, all that was asked for, all that
was accepted, was food. And thus it happened that a member
of the Fourth Texas who came into the camp of the Texas
Brigade after dark on the 30th of June was able to write as
follows :


" Rejoining the brigade late that night, at its camp near
Chambersburg, and being very tired, I lay down near the
wagons and went to sleep. Awakened next morning by Col-
lins' bugle, and walking over to the camp, I witnessed not only
an unexpected but a wonderful and marvelous sight. Every
square foot of an acre of ground not occupied by a sleeping
or standing soldier, was covered with choice food for the
hungry. Chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese squawked, gob-
bled, quacked, cackled and hissed in harmonious unison as deft
and energetic hands seized them for slaughter, and scarcely
waiting for then! to die, sent their feathers flying in all direc-
tions ; and scattered around in bewildering confusion and grati-
fying profusion appeared immense loaves of bread and chunks
of corned beef, hams, and sides of bacon, cheeses, crocks of
apple-butter, jelly, jam, pickles, and preserves, bowls of yel-
low butter, demijohns of buttermilk, and other eatables too
numerous to mention.

" The sleepers were the foragers of the night, resting from
their arduous labors — the standing men, their mess-mates who
remained as camp-guards and were now up to their eyes in
noise, feathers and grub. Jack Sutherland's head pillowed it-
self on a loaf of bread, and one arm was wound caressingly
half-around a juicy-looking ham. Bob Murray, fearful that
his captives would take to their wings or be purloined, had
wound the string, which bound half a dozen frying chickens
around his right big toe ; one of Brahan's widespread legs was
embraced by two overlapping crocks of apple-butter and jam,
while a tough old gander, gray with age, squawked complain-
ingly at his head without in the last disturbing his slumber;
Dick Skinner lay flat on his back— with his right hand holding
to the legs of three fat chickens and a duck, and his left, to
those of a large turkey — fast asleep and snoring in a rasping
bass voice that chimed in well with the music of the

" The scene is utterly indescribable, and I shall make no fur-
ther attempt to picture it. The hours were devoted exclu-
sively to gormandizing until, at 3 p. m., marching orders came,
and leaving more provisions than the}' carried, the Texans
moved lazily and plethorically into line — their destination,



CoiNCiDENTALLY With the northward march of Longstreet's
corps from the vicinity of Millwood, Va., General Jeb. Stuart,
at the head of all the cavalry belonging to the Anmy of

Online LibraryJ. B. (Joseph Benjamin) PolleyHood's Texas brigade, its marches, its battles, its achievements → online text (page 13 of 32)