J. H. (James Henry) Stine.

A History of the Army of the Potomac online

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Online LibraryJ. H. (James Henry) StineA History of the Army of the Potomac → online text (page 1 of 64)
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Army of the Potomac,


Historian, of ttie First Army Corps.







Press of

The Jas. 13. Rodgers Printing Co.,








I. First Buli. Run i

II. Dranesvil,l,e. The; First Victory 30

III. Peninsular Campaign 42

IV. From First to Second Buli. Run 99

V. Second Bull, Run 118

VI. South Mountain 154

VII. Antietam 176

VIII. From Antietam to Rectortown 221

IX. Fredericksburg 244

X. Chancellorsville 309

XL From Fredericksburg to Frederick •415

XII. Gettysburg 447

XIII. From Gettysburg to the Rappahannock 555

XIV. Mine Run 581

XV. The Wilderness 593

XVI. Spottsylvania 613

XVII. Sheridan's Great Raid erom Spottsylvania to the

James 629




XVI 1 1. Preparing to Movk in the Direction of Richmond. 637

XIX. CoivD Harbor 645

XX. Cavai,ry Transactions from the North Anna to

THE James 650

XXI. The Siege of Petersburg 660

XXII. Wii^son's Raid on the South Side and Weldon Rail-
roads AND Battle at Ream's Station 682

XXIII. Deep Bottom and Wei.don Railroad 689

XXIV. Cavalry Operations of the Army of the Potomac . 693

XXV. Five Forks 699

XXVI. Lee's Final Struggle at Petersburg and Flight —

Surrender at Appomattox 707

XXVII. Miscellaneous 712

Organization of the Society of the First Corps,
Army of the Potomac 750


Facing Page.
J. H. StinE Frontispiece.

Gen. John S. McCalmont 32

Col. John H. Taggart 40

Gen. Darius N. Couch 95

Gen. S. Van Vwet 106

Gen. W. S. Rosecrans 113

Gen. Franz Sigei, 123

Hon. A. R. BUSHNEI.1, 136

Gen. RuFus King 140

Gen. Louis Wagner 149

Capt. James Thompson 184

Gen. A. J. Warner 191

Lieut. Col. E. S. Bragg 193

Gen. Daniei< Butterfiei^d 280

Gen. Daniel E- Sickees 332

Gen. WiEEiAM J. Seweee 365

Gen. J. B. Carr 448

Gen. Abner DoubeEday 454

Col. Lucius Fairchied 457

Gen. R. R. Dawes 461

Gen. J. V. Pierce 463

Capt. L. E. Pond 464

Col. George N. Reichard 468

Gen. JuDSON KiepaTrick 472

Gen. Adrian R. Root • • 474

Gen. W. W. Dudley 480

Lieut. Col. W. W. Grout 484

Gen. John C. Robinson 488



Facing Page.

Brevet Col. A. J. Sei^LERS 500

Maj. E. P. liALSTEAD 504

Gen. J. H. Kidd 509

Col. R. Bruce Ricketts 518

Gen. H. J. Hunt 523

Col. John N. Craig 525

Gen. George J. Stannard 529

Gen. Alexander S. Webb 531

Capt. MiCHAEiy Weidrich 536

Gen. J. Irvin Gregg 544

Col. Redfieed Proctor 550

Col. C M. Conyngham 596

Col. Jos. a. Moesch 600

Col. S. J. Williams 602

Gen. Edwin S. Osborne 606

Capt. P. De Lacy 608

Gen. L. A. Grant 611

Col. Charles E. Phelps 616

Hon. W. H. Harries 623

Gen. James A. Beaver ^5

Gen. G. T. Beauregard 667

Gen. Joshua L- Chamberlain 668

Gen. D. B. Birney 670

Gen. H. G. Wright 672

Gen. George H. Chapman 684

Col. D. B. Dailey 692

Gen. John A. Kellogg 702

Col. Norm. G. Cooper 714

Lieut. Abram J. Buckles 722

Gen. Ebenezer Dumont 726

Capt. J. V. Hadley 728

Hon. C E. Coon 729

Gen. HoR.\Tio C. King 736


^ I ^HIS work is presented to the public with extreme diffi-
dence, even under the circumstances which directed
me to write it. The First Corps elected me as its historian
without my solicitation, or knowledge thirty minutes before-
hand, that such a position had been provided for by the
Committee. Without time to consider its great responsibility
in a session of the corps, and no opportunity to consult with
friends, I accepted it with an inward feeling of mental reser-
vation. I would have gladly nominated another. Then I
began studying over the work before me, and decided to visit
the battlefields in company with the prominent actors on
both sides. Generals H. J. Hunt, John Newton, L. A. Grant,
-W. S. Rosecrans, J. C. Robinson, Abner Doubleday, K. B.
Fowler, D. E. Sickles, Geo. J. Stannard, Lucius Fairchild,
E. S. Bragg, Slocum, Wright, Ayres, and many other officers
and soldiers on our side, including Hon. A. G. Curtin,
Pennsylvania's war governor, gave me fully and freely what
they knew of the movements on the different battlefields in
which the Army of the Potomac was engaged.

On the Confederate side Longstreet, Heth, Mahone, Fields,
Fitzhugh%ee, W. H. F. Lee, Eppa Hunton, Kemper, Hagood,


emancipation conkl have set all the slaves free in due time,
had ambitious men not used it as a pretext to increase their
power and popularity in the South.

Tliat slavery was profitable and congenial to the south-
ern climate is a fact beyond dispute. The escaping of
enterprising slaves into the North to obtain their freedom
wrought a bitter feeling between the two sections. But the
great cause of the war was the overvaulting ambition of
John C. Calhoun and Jefferson Davis. Calhoun was greatly
embittered against President Jackson because the latter
would not allow him to be placed on the ticket with him
the second time "Old Hickory" ran for President. Cal-
houn knew full well that Jackson's second Vice-President
would, in all probability, be his successor in the White
House. Calhoun had no superior in ability, and wanted
to be President.

Then began a bitter war between Jackson and Calhoun,
the latter springing his noted "nullification" doctrine,
which, of itself, was poison to the Union of the States, and
charged with danger. Jackson rigorously laid his heavy
hand upon it, and threatened Calhoun. It, apparently, had
no vital strength ; but the frequent presidential elections
afforded fresh opportunities to increase the ill-feeling be-
tween the sections. Washington was wise in declining a
third term, and had the Constitution, at any period pre-
vious to i860, been changed to one term of six years, the
war might have been averted for a time ; but it was bound to
come, for Jefferson Davis, ambitious, and voicing the dis-
turbed feeling at the South, was fully resolved to establish a
Southern Confederacy, based upon the corner stone of
slavery. He left the Senate of the United States to put
this resolution into effect.


He was a graduate of West Point and had great influence
over the army officers coming from that section. Up to
this time the South had a Large share of the officers of the
army and the navy ; who, while they were officers of the
General Government, were more in s}-mpathy with the doc-
trine of state rights, and held their duty to be, as between
the two, first with the State.

Had Jefferson Davis been merely a politician he could
not have headed so formidable a rebellion as occurred from
1861 to 1865. His will was obeyed in the South, notwith-
standing Virginia and North Carolina were opposed to
secession. The momentum of its power coerced all into
line, and in Virginia, which had cast a heavy vote against
secession, was located his future Capital, and the State
itself made the principal theater of war. Here his best
equipped and best officered army met, and after four years
was destroyed by, that of the Government, which had its
base of operations on the Potomac, whence it derives its
historic name, the Army of the Potomac, which will live in
history until the end of time.




'^■^HE history of the first battle of BuU Run iiaturaHy
-^ belongs in the history of the First Corps, for various
reasons ; although the corps were not distinctively arranged
until some time after that. General McDowell was its first
commander, and organized it, and the first battle of Bull
Run was wholly his, so far as the Federal side was con-
cerned. In fact, the names of McDowell and Beauregard
will be known in history principally in connection with
that battle. When Sumter was fired on, and war was a
reality for the new administration to face, it was extremely
difficult to find officers who had experience in handling
large commands.

General Scott was then too far advanced in years (nearly
eighty) to take the field, but he well knew the great work
to be performed. It had been given out by prominent men
and officials that it would be a short war ; Secretary Seward
placed its duration at sixty days, therefore the first volun-
teers were called for ninety da}-s only. The zeal of the
Crusaders did not surpass the activity in both sections, and
thousands enlisted through the recruiting officers, and regi-
ment after regiment was formed, officered, equipped, and
dispatched to the front with wonderful rapidity.

Soon large armies were facing each other. Butler at


Fortress INIonroe was met by INlagruder ; at Harper's Ferry
Patterson and Johnston were organizing large commands.
In the mountainons region of West Virginia several com-
mands were menacing each other for the mastery. The Con-
federate forces were pressed to within a few miles of Wash-
ington, while Alexandria was a rendezvous — in fact, their
rear guard was just leaving when Colonel Ellsworth's com-
mand entered the city on the fatal morning when Jackson
shot him dead for hauling down the Confederate flag.

The work of receiving and assigning the regiments to
their places around Washington was done, almost exclu-
sively, by Major Ii'win McDowell.

In the mean time Congress had been convened by the
President on the fourth of July. It was decidedly appro-
priate for that body to meet on that day ; if there was any-
thing that would warm them up in the South it was the
remembrance of the day designated by an illustrious son of
the South as Independence Day ; it was the olive branch
kindly extended by President Lincoln.

To meet the great emergency, a bill, providing for three
major generals and additional brigadier generals, was
passed and signed at once by the President.

The first thing to be done was to select the major

Salmon P. Chase, who was Secretary of the Treasury,
was the most active and, at that time, one of the most pow-
erful members of the Cabinet. He not only controlled the
finances, but he gave a large share of his time to military

When the Cabinet met to select the three major generals
(I now repeat what General McDowell said to Major E. P.
Halstead and myself, which fact will give one substantial
witness to its correctness) Secretary Chase sent a letter to
Major McDowell to come to the White House immediately.
He was then absent assigning new troops to their temporary
quarters. When he returned to the War Department, he
found Secretary Chase's note. He went at once to the


White House, and sent his card up to ]Mr. Chase, who came
down and told him that the Cabinet was then in session
for the purpose of selecting the three major generals, and
that he (Chase) intended to present his (McDowell's) name
as one of them.

To this proposition McDowell stoutly demurred, saying
that it would create great jealousy, and that he feared it
would be greatly against him. McDowell explained to us
thatTie^never had any hope of attaining a rank higher than
colonel, and even that was beyond his expectation ; he said
he was glad to start early in the war with the rank of brig-
adier in the regular army, and, as he said to Chase, he pre-
ferred that rank.

He then suggested to Chase as the three major generals
McClellan, Halleck, and Fremont. But the evidence before
me is quite clear that Chase did not select the major gen-
erals, although it is said that he was strong enough aftei'wards
to name Hooker as the commander of the Army of the Poto-
mac. I am greatly indebted to General Schuyler Hamilton,
who was General Scott's military secretary, and who
saw Lincoln then, on official business, more than any other
man in Washington, for valuable information, which is
given in his exact language. He says : "In regard to the
appointments of Fremont, Halleck, and McClellan, General
Fremont as a defeated candidate for the Presidency, and a
soldier by profession, did not need anybody to urge his claim
to be major general. General Halleck owed his appointment
as major general to a letter, written by him from San
Francisco, setting forth the condition of affairs on the Pa-
cific coast. This letter was laid before General Scott, and
by him submitted to President Lincoln. It impressed both
greatly. General Scott remarked that in thinking of men
suitable for the position of major general, they had omitted
one of the trump cards in the pack. Within twenty-four
hours General Halleck was notified by telegraph of his ap-
pointment as major general." He added: "McClellan
was also selected by General Scott. ' ' When Colonel Schuy-


ler Hamilton took the news to the President of the great
victory at Rich Mountain, he added a word in McClellan's

In the mean time the three months' vohmteers would
soon be out of the service, and nothing really practical had
been done — only a mere beginning.

Butler was holding Fortress Monroe. His name was a
tower of strength at that time to the Union cause, for the
reason that in the Charleston convention he had voted
(twenty-seven times) for Jefferson Davis as the nominee of
the Democratic party for President.

In answer to a question in regard to his vote he sent me
the following :

Boston, November 3, 1890.

Dear Sir : — I have your letter in which you say you have put
into your book that I voted for Jefferson Davis twenty-seven times.
You have made a mistake ; I voted for him fift3^-seven (57) times..

Yours truly, Benj. F. Butler.

J. H. vStine, Esq., 323 C Street, S. E., Washington, D. C.

But when Davis attempted to disrupt or destroy the
Union, Butler marched at once to stamp out the treasonable
action of the man who had had honor thrust upon him by
the Nation, and who had taken an oath as an army officer,
Secretary of War, and Senator that he would support the
Constitution and obey the laws. His action at Baltimore
gave additional value to his name. But the enemv was com-
mitting heavy depredations all around him. The navy }'ard
opposite Norfolk had been destroyed, and the enemy's flag
floated triumphantly near him. But Butler was not sup-
posed to conquer the enemy at once. At Harper's Ferry
General Patterson, an officer of the Mexican War, was in
command. Great deeds were prophesied of him, and
it was said that he would soon advance on General John-
ston and drive him from the valley. Every day added to the
confidence of the South, as no battle was forced on them.
Their old idea, that the true military men of the Nation
were born in the South and that on the field of battle one


Southern man was equal to four Northern men, was begin-
ning to be the settled opinion in their armies.

Beauregard, with his headquarters in the Weir house,
near Manassas Junction, was evidently aiming to repeat
some of Napoleon's strategic moves, for he mapped out a plan
by which he was to receive reenforcements enough to hurl
the Union army back on Washington, then unite with John-
ston, pounce on Patterson — merely lunch on him — rush on
the Union forces in West Virginia, and drive them
from the State. This programme was a nice one, and
would have well-nigh freed the Confederacy ; but it
was suddenly spoiled in West Virginia, very unexpectedly
and unceremoniously, by an officer who had served sev-
eral years as a professor at West Point, and was an able

When the base of Rich Mountain was touched his
eagle eye took in the situation, and he at once asked
General McClellan to permit him to make a detour of
the mountain which would place him in the rear of the

General Rosecrans having obtained that permission from
General McClellan, set out on his perilous march, following
the guide who lived near the camp of the enemy. After a
difficult march he finally reached the desired point and threw
forward his biigade (the Nineteenth Ohio, and the Eighth,
Tenth, and Thirteenth Indiana) in line of battle. The re-
sult of that strategic move and bold assault was the first
substantial victory of the war. The brilliant campaign of
General Rosecrans, of only one day, had the effect of
paralyzing the enemy in all that mountainous region. The
news was hailed with delight and joy throughout the North,
while the South adroitly concealed its mortification over
the result.

As the soldiers are dying off so rapidly, and every day
lessens the opportunity to secure and preserve valuable his-
tory, the following letter, giving Scott's opinion of Rose-
crans is here inserted :


The Arlington,
Washington, D. C, Febiuar}- 12, 1887.

Dear Sir: — About May 19-22, 1861, General Rosecrans called
at the official headquarters of General Scott. He was m Washing-
ton to procure the money to pay for clothing, &c., for the Ohio three
months' volunteers. We met; he mentioned his object; we con-
versed awhile. I mentioned General Scott could not at that moment
receive him, but begged him to wait for a short time. Presently I
informed him General Scott would be glad to see him. The}' had
quite a detailed conversation. General Scott put to him many inci-
sive questions, and gave his views about gunboats, and an arm\- of
iron, &c., &c. Very shortly after General Rosecrans left President
Lincoln entered. Presently General Scott repeated to President
Lincoln the important points of General Rosecrans' information.
He added, " I\Ir. President, he ought to be made a brigadier general
of the regular army. He is a graduate of West Point, an accom-
plished officer of engineers. He is full of the rough vigor we so much
need. He is a rough diamond, sir, but a diamond all the same."

General Rosecrans was verx* shorth* afterwards appointed a
brigadier general of the regular armj- — viz, June 16, 1861.

Yours truh-, Schuvler Hamilton,

Major General.
J. H. Stine, Esq.

Immediately on the heels of that victory the Northern
press, reflecting the excited and anxious feeling of the peo-
ple, not only clamored, btit virtually demanded that the
army in front of Washington move forward to victory, and
repeat the crnshing defeat of the enemy at Rich Motmtain
by Rosecrans.

There were but two officers presented to command the
army in front of Washington — McDowell and Mansfield.
A choice must be made withottt delay. General Hamilton,
who knows more about this than any man, said : "General
]\Iansfield, when Jefferson Davis was Secretary of War, had
been preferred for inspector general of the army as against
Henry L. Scott, General Scott's son-in-law, who was adju-
tant general of the army under Scott in Mexico. Though
there were the kindest relations between Generals Scott and
Mansfield, that catised the weight of Scott's influence in
favor of McDowell.


"McDowell had been on Scott's staff for several years
in New York City. He was taken on Scott's staff as as-
sistant adjntant general, which brought his wife near her
kin, he having married the daughter of Mr. Borden, the
great ironmaster of Troy, and therefore knew McDowell

Mansfield was given the command of the troops in the
city of Washington. McDowell entered on his new and
responsible duties with great alacrity, working night and
da}' to prepare his command for the approaching conflict.
He realized the fact that his troops were not prepared for
battle, and so stated, but he was met with the reply that the
enemy was equally as green. That statement was not true.
Lincoln, who will live in history and in the hearts of the
people perhaps next to Washington, was an eminent lawyer
and statesman. Jefferson Davis was a military man, having
served in the Mexican War, and had been Secretary of
War for four years under Pierce, which gave him great
military advantages. Besides, almost every prominent
man in the South possessed a military training, which,
at that critical moment," was of great value, so that the
retort that the South was as green as the North was not
true in a military sense, and the fact that the bold Stone-
wall Jackson wanted to invade the North immediately after
the first Bull Run was a true gauge of their military

McDowell was laboring at a great disadvantage — drilling
and preparing his troops as best he could — under the heavy
pressure from the North to deliver battle to the enemy in
his front.

Secretary Chase was the champion, in the Cabinet, of the
intense feeling in the North that the war should be pushed
at once, with a vigor that would end it soon ; that was a
correct view if the army had been prepared to advance and
hold its ground.

There is no doubt that General Scott was weakened
with the administration, for the reason that he did not be-


lieve ill the prevailing opiuion that a few days would cnisli
the rebellion ; and the more the old hero insisted, or faith-
fully stood by his views, the more it antagonized the opinion
of those who hoped and said it would end speedily.

At the Cabinet meeting a week before, General Hamil-
ton says : " General Montgomery Blair said he would march
to Richmond with ten thousand men, armed with lathes."
"Yes," said General Scott, "as prisoners of war." Con-
tinuing General Hamilton's statement of the events which
occurred prior to the battle and during its progress, he says :
"On the Sunday preceding the battle of Bull Run, Scott
directed me, his military secretary, to say to ^McDowell that
he wished him to dine with him without fail. At the din-
ner, at wdiicli General McDowell appeared, General Scott
used every possible argument to dissuade General McDowell
from fighting the first battle of Bull Run under the then
existing condition of public affairs. Reminding him even
of the personal obligations he (General McDowell) was
under to him (General Scott) in the matter of appointing
him on his staff", previousl)' referred to, he stated that it was
his intention and wish that he (General McDovvcll) should
organize in the vicinity of Xenia, Ohio, an army of iron of
not less than one hundred thousand men, while in the
mean time, iron gunboats were constructed suitable for the
waters of the Ohio and the INIississippi, by combination of
which land and naval forces the rebellion should be envel-
oped on the one hand, by the iron serpent of gunboats, while
the army of iron penetrated the interior. He then begged
General McDowell to go to Secretary Chase, his kinsman,
and aid him (General Scott) in preventing a forward move-
ment at that moment ; one of the arguments used by Gen-
eral Scott being that the Union sentiment of the South had
been surprised by the suddenness and promptitude of the
movement in favor of secession ; that he (General Scott)
was well advised that the Union sentiment was recovering
itself, and gaining head in the South ; that from the mo-
ment blood was shed the South would be made a imit.


General McDowell regretted that he could not agree with
General Scott in his Views, and arose and retired!" A few
moments after his retirement General Scott said to me,
' Did you ever see such a man of stone ? He was not moved
by any of my appeals.' He added : ' Put on your sword
and follow General McDowell, and say to hini, he must
either go to Secretary Chase and do what I have urged, or
he must report to me by midnight that he is at Arlington.
I will not leave that army on the other side of the Potomac
without a commander. General McDowell will sa>- that he
has no staff. Tell him that I have ordered >-ou to accom-
pany him to General Mansfield to supply him with as many
young men who have just arrived from West Point as he
may desire, as staff officers. And further, direct General
Mansfield that he see that those young men are furnished
with horses and all necessary equipments for the service. '

"I overtook General McDowell on Seventeenth Street,
just near the old War Office, and communicated General

Online LibraryJ. H. (James Henry) StineA History of the Army of the Potomac → online text (page 1 of 64)