John Esten Cooke.

A Life of Gen. Robert E. Lee online

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in the commander who was called upon to decide upon them. This daring
Lee repeatedly exhibited, and the uniform success of the movements
indicates his sound generalship.

To command the force which was now to go on the perilous errand of
striking General Pope's rear, General Lee selected Jackson, who had
exhibited such promptness and decision in the campaigns of the Valley
of Virginia. Rapidity of movement was necessary above all things,
and, if any one could be relied upon for that, it was the now famous
Stonewall Jackson. To him the operation was accordingly intrusted, and
his corps was at once put in motion. Crossing the Rappahannock at an
almost forgotten ford, high up and out of view of the Federal right,
Jackson pushed forward day and night toward Manassas, reached
Thoroughfare Gap, in the Bull Run Mountain, west of that place, passed
through, and completely destroyed the great mass of supplies in the
Federal depot at Manassas. The whole movement had been made with
such rapidity, and General Stuart, commanding the cavalry, had so
thoroughly guarded the flank of the advancing column from observation,
that Manassas was a mass of smoking ruins almost before General Pope
was aware of the real danger. Intelligence soon reached him, however,
of the magnitude of the blow aimed by Lee, and, hastily breaking
up his camps on the Rappahannock, he hurried to attack the force
assailing his communications.

The first part of General Lee's plan had thus fully succeeded. General
Pope, who had occupied every ford of the Rappahannock, so as to render
the passage difficult, if not impossible, had disappeared suddenly, to
go and attack the enemy in his rear. General Lee promptly moved in
his turn, with the great corps under Longstreet, and pushed
toward Manassas, over nearly the same road followed by Jackson.

[Illustration: T.J. Jackson]



The contest of generalship had now fully begun, and the brain of
General Lee was matched against the brain of General Pope. It is no
part of the design of the writer of this volume to exalt unduly the
reputation of Lee, and detract from the credit due his adversaries.
Justice has been sought to be done to General McClellan; the same
measure of justice will be dealt out to his successors on the Federal
side; nor is it calculated to elevate the fame of Lee, to show that
his opponents were incapable and inefficient. Of General Pope,
however, it must be said that he suffered himself to be outgeneralled
in every particular; and the pithy comment of General Lee, that he
"did not appear to be aware of his situation," sums up the whole

It is beyond our purpose to enter upon any thing resembling a detailed
narrative of the confused and complicated movements of the various
corps of the army under General Pope. These have been the subject of
the severest criticism by his own followers. We shall simply notice
the naked events. Jackson reached Manassas on the night of August
26th, took it, and on the next day destroyed the great depot. General
Pope was hastening to protect it, but was delayed by Ewell at Bristoe,
and a force sent up from Washington, under the brave General Taylor,
was driven off with loss. Then, having achieved his aim, Jackson fell
back toward Sudley.

If the reader will look at the map, he will now understand the
exact condition of affairs. Jackson had burned the Federal depot of
supplies, and retired before the great force hastening to rescue them.
He had with him about twenty thousand men, and General Pope's force
was probably triple that number. Thus, the point was to hold General
Pope at arm's-length until the arrival of Lee; and, to accomplish this
great end, Jackson fell back beyond Groveton. There he formed line of
battle, and waited.

It is obvious that, under these circumstances, the true policy of
General Pope was to obstruct Thoroughfare Gap, the only road by which
Lee could approach promptly, and then crush Jackson. On the night of
the 27th, General McDowell was accordingly sent thither with forty
thousand men; but General Pope ordered him, on the next morning, to
Manassas, where he hoped to "bag the whole crowd," he said - that is
to say, the force under Jackson. This was the fatal mistake made by
General Pope. Thoroughfare Gap was comparatively undefended. While
General Pope was marching to attack Jackson, who had disappeared, it
was the next thing to a certainty that General Lee would attack _him_.

All parties were thus moving to and fro; but the Confederates enjoyed
the very great advantage over General Pope of knowing precisely
how affairs stood, and of having determined upon their own plan of
operations. Jackson, with his back to the mountain, was waiting for
Lee. Lee was approaching rapidly, to unite the two halves of his army.
General Pope, meanwhile, was marching and countermarching, apparently
ignorant of the whereabouts of Jackson,[1]

General Lee, in personal command of Longstreet's corps, reached the
western end of Thoroughfare Gap about sunset, on the 28th, and the
sound of artillery from the direction of Groveton indicated that
Jackson and General Pope had come in collision. Jackson had himself
brought on this engagement by attacking the flank of one of General
Pope's various columns, as it marched across his front, over the
Warrenton road, and this was the origin of the sound wafted to General
Lee's ears as he came in sight of Thoroughfare. It was certainly
calculated to excite his nerves if they were capable of being excited.
Jackson was evidently engaged, and the disproportion between his
forces and those of General Pope rendered such an engagement extremely
critical. Lee accordingly pressed forward, reached the Gap, and the
advance force suddenly halted: the Gap was defended. The Federal force
posted here, at the eastern opening of the Gap, was small, and wholly
inadequate for the purpose; but this was as yet unknown to General
Lee. His anxiety under these circumstances must have been great.
Jackson might be crushed before his arrival. He rode up to the
summit of the commanding hill which rises just west of the Gap, and
dismounting directed his field-glass toward the shaggy defile in

[Footnote 1: "Not knowing at the time where was the enemy." - _General
Porter_.] and undecided what course to pursue.

[Illustration: Lee Reconnoitring at Throughfare Gap.]

The writer of these pages chanced to be near the Confederate commander
at this moment, and was vividly impressed by the air of unmoved
calmness which marked his countenance and demeanor. Nothing in the
expression of his face, and no hurried movement, indicated excitement
or anxiety. Here, as on many other occasions, Lee impressed the writer
as an individual gifted with the most surprising faculty of remaining
cool and unaffected in the midst of circumstances calculated to arouse
the most phlegmatic. After reconnoitring for some moments without
moving, he closed his glass slowly, as though he were buried in
reflection, and deliberating at his leisure, and, walking back slowly
to his horse, mounted and rode down the hill.

The attack was not delayed, and flanking columns were sent to cross
north of the Gap and assail the enemy's rear. But the assault in front
was successful. The small force of the enemy at the eastern opening of
the Gap retired, and, by nine o'clock at night, General Longstreet's
corps was passing through.

All the next morning (August 29th), Longstreet's troops were coming
into position on the right of Jackson, under the personal supervision
of Lee. By noon the line of battle was formed.[1] Lee's army was
once more united. General Pope had not been able to crush less than
one-half that army, for twenty-four hours nearly in his clutches, and
it did not seem probable that he would meet with greater success, now
that the whole was concentrated and held in the firm hand of Lee.

[Footnote 1: The hour of Longstreet's arrival has been strangely a
subject of discussion. The truth is stated in the reports of Lee,
Longstreet, Jones, and other officers. But General Pope was ignorant
of Longstreet's presence _at five in the evening_; and General Porter,
his subordinate, was dismissed from the army for not at that hour
attacking Jackson's right, declared by General Pope to be undefended.
Longstreet was in line of battle by noon.]



Lee's order of battle for the coming action was peculiar. It resembled
an open V, with the opening toward the enemy - Jackson's corps forming
the left wing, and extending from near Sudley, to a point in rear of
the small village of Groveton, Longstreet's corps forming the right
wing, and reaching from Jackson's right to and beyond the Warrenton
road which runs to Stonebridge.

The field of battle was nearly identical with that of July 21, 1861.
The only difference was, that the Confederates occupied the ground
formerly held by the Federal troops, and that the latter attacked, as
Johnston and Beauregard had attacked, from the direction of Manassas,
and the tableland around the well-known Henry House.

The Southern order of battle seems to have contemplated a movement on
one or both of General Pope's flanks while he attacked in front. An
assault on either wing would expose him to danger from the other,
and it will be seen that the fate of the battle was decided by this
judicious arrangement of the Confederate commander.

The action began a little after noon, when the Federal right,
consisting of the troops of Generals Banks, Sigel, and others,
advanced and made a vigorous attack on Jackson's left, under A.P.
Hill. An obstinate conflict ensued, the opposing lines fighting almost
bayonet to bayonet, "delivering their volleys into each other at the
distance of ten paces." At the first charge, an interval between two
of Hill's brigades was penetrated by the enemy, and that wing of
Jackson's corps was in great danger of being driven back. This
disaster was, however, prevented by the prompt stand made by two or
three regiments; the enemy was checked, and a prompt counter-charge
drove the Federal assaulting columns back into the woods.

The attempt to break Jackson's line at this point was not, however,
abandoned. The Federal troops returned again and again to the
encounter, and General Hill reported "six separate and distinct
assaults" made upon him. They were all repulsed, in which important
assistance was rendered by General Early. That brave officer attacked
with vigor, and, aided by the fire of the Confederate artillery from
the elevated ground in Jackson's rear, drove the enemy before him with
such slaughter that one of their regiments is said to have carried
back but three men.

This assault of the enemy had been of so determined a character, that
General Lee, in order to relieve his left, had directed Hood and
Evans, near his centre, to advance and attack the left of the
assaulting column. Hood was about to do so, when he found a heavy
force advancing to charge his own line. A warm engagement followed,
which resulted in the repulse of the enemy, and Hood followed them a
considerable distance, inflicting heavy loss.

It was now nearly nine o'clock at night, and the darkness rendered
further operations impossible. The troops which had driven the enemy
were recalled from their advanced position, the Southern line was
reformed on the same ground occupied at the commencement of the
action, and General Lee prepared for the more decisive struggle of the
next day.

Morning came (August 30th), but all the forenoon passed without a
resumption of the battle. Each of the adversaries seemed to await some
movement on the part of the other, and the Federal commander made
heavy feints against both the Confederate right and left, with the
view of discovering some weak point, or of inducing Lee to lay himself
open to attack. These movements had, however, no effect. Lee remained
obstinately in his strong position, rightly estimating the advantage
it gave him, and no doubt taking into consideration the want of
supplies General Pope must labor under, a deficiency which rendered a
prompt assault on his part indispensable. The armies thus remained in
face of each other, without serious efforts upon either side, until
nearly or quite the hour of three in the afternoon.

General Pope then resumed the assault on Lee's left, under Jackson,
with his best troops. The charge was furious, and a bloody struggle
ensued; but Jackson succeeded in repulsing the force. It fell back in
disorder, but was succeeded by a second and a third line, which rushed
forward at the "double-quick," in a desperate attempt to break the
Southern line. These new attacks were met with greater obstinacy than
at first, and, just as the opponents had closed in, a heavy fire was
directed against the Federal column by Colonel S.D. Lee, commanding
the artillery at Lee's centre. This fire, which was of the most rapid
and destructive character, struck the enemy in front and flank at
once, and seemed to sweep back the charging brigades as they came. The
fire of the cannon was then redoubled, and Jackson's line advanced
with cheers. Before this charge, the Federal line broke, and Jackson
pressed forward, allowing them no respite.

General Lee then threw forward Longstreet, who, knowing what was
expected of him, was already moving. The enemy were pressed thus in
front and on their flank, as Lee had no doubt intended, in forming his
peculiar line. The corps of Jackson and Longstreet closed in like two
iron arms; the Federal forces were driven from position to position;
the glare of their cannon, more and more distant, indicated that they
had abandoned further contest, and at ten at night the darkness put an
end to the battle and pursuit. General Pope was retreating with his
defeated forces toward Washington.

On the next day, Lee dispatched Jackson to turn Centreville and cut
off the retreat of General Pope. The result was a severe engagement
near Germantown, which was put an end to by a violent storm. General
Pope, now re√Ђnforced by the commands of Generals Sumner and Franklin,
had been enabled to hold his ground until night. When, on the next day
(September 2d), the Confederates advanced to Fairfax Court-House,
it was found that the entire Federal army was in rapid retreat upon

Such had been the fate of General Pope.





The defeat of General Pope opened the way for movements not
contemplated, probably, by General Lee, when he marched from Richmond
to check the advance in Culpepper. His object at that time was
doubtless simply to arrest the forward movement of the new force
threatening Gordonsville. Now, however, the position of the pieces
on the great chess-board of war had suddenly changed, and it was
obviously Lee's policy to extract all the advantage possible from the
new condition of things.

He accordingly determined to advance into Maryland - the fortifications
in front of Washington, and the interposition of the Potomac, a
broad stream easily defended, rendering a movement in that direction
unpromising. On the 3d of September, therefore, and without waiting to
rest his army, which was greatly fatigued with the nearly continuous
marching and fighting since it had left the Rapidan, General Lee moved
toward Leesburg, crossed his forces near that place, and to the
music of the bands playing the popular air, "Maryland, my Maryland,"
advanced to Frederick City, which he occupied on the 7th of September.

Lee's object in invading Maryland has been the subject of much
discussion, one party holding the view that his sole aim was to
surround and capture a force of nine or ten thousand Federal troops
stationed at Harper's Ferry; and another party maintaining that he
proposed an invasion of Pennsylvania as far as the Susquehanna,
intending to fight a decisive battle there, and advance thereafter
upon Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington. The course pursued by an
army commander is largely shaped by the progress of events. It can
only be said that General Lee, doubtless, left the future to
decide his ultimate movements; meanwhile he had a distinct and
clearly-defined aim, which he states in plain words.

His object was to draw the Federal forces out of Virginia first. The
movement culminating in the victory over the enemy at Manassas had
produced the effect of paralyzing them in every quarter. On the coast
of North Carolina, in Western Virginia, and in the Shenandoah Valley,
had been heard the echo of the great events in Middle and Northern
Virginia. General Burnside's force had been brought up from the
South, leaving affairs at a stand-still in that direction; and,
contemporaneously with the retreat of General Pope, the Federal forces
at Washington and beyond had fallen back to the Potomac. This left
the way open, and Lee's farther advance, it was obvious, would now
completely clear Virginia of her invaders. The situation of affairs,
and the expected results, are clearly stated by General Lee:

"The war was thus transferred," he says, "from the interior to the
frontier, and the supplies of rich and productive districts made
accessible to our army. To prolong a state of affairs in every way
desirable, and not to permit the season for active operations to pass
without endeavoring to inflict other injury upon the enemy, the best
course appeared to be the transfer of the army into Maryland."

The state of things in Maryland was another important consideration.
That great Commonwealth was known to be sectionally divided in its
sentiment toward the Federal Government, the eastern portion adhering
generally to the side of the South, and the western portion generally
to the Federal side. But, even as high up as Frederick, it was hoped
that the Southern cause would find adherents and volunteers to march
under the Confederate banner. If this portion of the population had
only the opportunity to choose their part, unterrified by Federal
bayonets, it was supposed they would decide for the South. In any
event, the movement would be important. The condition of affairs in
Maryland, General Lee says, "encouraged the belief that the presence
of our army, however inferior to that of the enemy, would induce the
Washington Government to retain all its available force to provide for
contingencies which its course toward the people of that State gave
it reason to apprehend," and to cross the Potomac "might afford us an
opportunity to aid the citizens of Maryland in any efforts they might
be disposed to make to recover their liberty."

It may be said, in summing up on this point, that Lee expected
volunteers to enroll themselves under his standard, tempted to do so
by the hope of throwing off the yoke of the Federal Government, and
the army certainly shared this expectation. The identity of sentiment
generally between the people of the States of Maryland and Virginia,
and their strong social ties in the past, rendered this anticipation
reasonable, and the feeling of the country at the result afterward was
extremely bitter.

Such were the first designs of Lee; his ultimate aim seems as clear.
By advancing into Maryland and threatening Baltimore and Washington,
he knew that he would force the enemy to withdraw all their troops
from the south bank of the Potomac, where they menaced the Confederate
communications with Richmond; when this was accomplished, as it
clearly would be, his design was, to cross the Maryland extension of
the Blue Ridge, called there the South Mountain, advance by way of
Hagerstown into the Cumberland Valley, and, by thus forcing the enemy
to follow him, draw them to a distance from their base of supplies,
while his own communications would remain open by way of the
Shenandoah Valley. This was essentially the same plan pursued in
the campaign of 1863, which terminated in the battle of Gettysburg.
General Lee's movements now indicated similar intentions. He doubtless
wished, in the first place, to compel the enemy to pursue him - then
to lead them as far as was prudent - and then, if circumstances were
favorable, bring them to decisive battle, success in which promised to
open for him the gates of Washington or Baltimore, and end the war.

It will now be seen how the delay caused by the movement of Jackson
against Harper's Ferry, and the discovery by General McClellan of the
entire arrangement devised by Lee for that purpose, caused the failure
of this whole ulterior design.

[Illustration: Map - Map of the MARYLAND CAMPAIGN.]



The Southern army was concentrated in the neighborhood of Frederick
City by the 7th of September, and on the next day General Lee issued
an address to the people of Maryland.

We have not burdened the present narrative with Lee's army orders and
other official papers; but the great force and dignity of this address
render it desirable to present it in full:

NEAR FREDERICKTOWN, _September_ 8, 1862.}

_To the People of Maryland_:

It is right that you should know the purpose that has brought the
army under my command within the limits of your State, so far as
that purpose concerns yourselves.

The people of the Confederate States have long watched with the
deepest sympathy the wrongs and outrages that have been inflicted
upon the citizens of a Commonwealth allied to the States of the
South by the strongest social, political, and commercial ties.

They have seen, with profound indignation, their sister State
deprived of every right, and reduced to the condition of a
conquered province. Under the pretence of supporting the
Constitution, but in violation of its most valuable provisions,
your citizens have been arrested and imprisoned upon no charge,
and contrary to all forms of law. The faithful and manly protest
against this outrage, made by the venerable and illustrious
Marylanders - to whom in better days no citizen appealed for right
in vain - was treated with scorn and contempt. The government
of your chief city has been usurped by armed strangers; your
Legislature has been dissolved by the unlawful arrest of its
members; freedom of the press and of speech have been suppressed;
words have been declared offences by an arbitrary desire of the
Federal Executive, and citizens ordered to be tried by military
commission for what they may dare to speak.

Believing that the people of Maryland possessed a spirit too lofty
to submit to such a government, the people of the South have long
wished to aid you in throwing off this foreign yoke, to enable
you again to enjoy the inalienable rights of freemen, and restore
independence and sovereignty to your State.

In obedience to this wish, our army has come among you, and is
prepared to assist you, with the power of its arms, in regaining
the rights of which you have been despoiled. This, citizens
of Maryland, is our mission, so far as you are concerned. No
constraint upon your free will is intended - no intimidation will
be allowed. Within the limits of this army, at least, Marylanders
shall once more enjoy their ancient freedom of thought and speech.
We know no enemies among you, and will protect all of every
opinion. It is for you to decide your destiny, freely, and without
constraint. This army will respect your choice, whatever it may
be; and, while the Southern people will rejoice to welcome you to
your natural position among them, they will only welcome you when
you come of your own free will.

R.E. LEE, _General commanding_.

This address, full of grave dignity, and highly characteristic of the
Confederate commander, was in vivid contrast with the harsh orders of
General Pope in Culpepper. The accents of friendship and persuasion
were substituted for the "rod of iron." There would be no coercive
measures; no arrests, with the alternative presented of an oath to
support the South, or instant banishment. No intimidation would be
permitted. In the lines of the Southern army, at least, Marylanders
should enjoy freedom of thought and speech, and every man should
"decide his destiny freely, and without constraint."

This address, couched in terms of such dignity, had little effect
upon the people. Either their sentiment in favor of the Union was too
strong, or they found nothing in the condition of affairs to encourage
their Southern feelings. A large Federal force was known to be

Online LibraryJohn Esten CookeA Life of Gen. Robert E. Lee → online text (page 9 of 42)