L. E. (Lucius Eugene) Chittenden.

Recollections of President Lincoln and his administration online

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the siege of Richmond, and would be able to hold Wash-
ington against the whole Army of the Potomac.

We also supposed that this campaign only failed of
success by a narrow margin. It was thought that of
his three corps of infantry, General Lee sent the second,
or Stonewall Jackson's veterans, with forty field-guns,
a large body of cavalry, and Breckinridge's division of
infantry, in all not less than twenty-five thousand men,
under General Early, on the mission. That the latter,
moving down the valley without resistance or delay,
crossed the Potomac into Maryland, and on the Tth of
July was within forty-five miles of Washington ; that
up to this point all went well with the Confederate
army. We believed that Early then sent Bradley T.
Johnson, from his left wing, on the mission to Point
Lookout ; but the stubborn resistance of General Lew.
Wallace, and less than six thousand men at the Monoc-
acy River, cost General Early a loss of over two thou-


sand men, and, what was of infinitely greater consequence
to him, the loss of two days, the 8th and 9th of July,
after which, abandoning his wounded on the morning
of the 10th, he moved to Kockville, where he halted
within a few miles of the defences of Washington. But
instead of assaulting them on the morning of the llth,
he postponed the attack until daylight of the 12th,
when, finding the veterans of the Sixth Corps in the
trenches, he abandoned the campaign, recalled Johnson on
his way to Point Lookout, and lost no time in withdraw-
ing his invading army to the south side of the Potomac.
It was not until some years after the close of the
war that the Confederate leaders undertook to correct
what had been up to that time the general conclusion
of students of our war history. In 1877, General Long,
Early's chief of artillery, and later the biographer of
General Lee, published his account of Early's campaign,
from which we learn that the capture of Washington
and the release of the prisoners at Point Lookout were
not its objectives. " Its object was simply a diversion
in favor of General Lee's operations about Kichmond,"
and " General Early was too prudent and sagacious to
attempt an enterprise with a force of eight thousand
men which, if successful, would be of temporary bene-
fit." The account also informs us that, " after spread-
ing dismay for miles in every direction, . . . Early
proceeded to within cannon-shot of Washington, re-
mained in observation long enough to give his move-
ment full time to produce its greatest effect, and then
withdrew in the face of a large army and recrossed the
Potomac," thus ending " a campaign remarkable for
having accomplished more in proportion to the force
employed, and for having given less public satisfaction,
than any other campaign of the war."


Sixteen years after the war, General Early made pub-
lic his "version of the facts" of this campaign. His
article of fifteen printed octavo pages does not once
mention the prisoners at Point Lookout, and is largely
devoted to an effort to show that his army was so very
small, and the Union force opposed to him so very large,
that, using his words, " an attempt to capture Washing-
ton at any time after my arrival was simply prepos-
terous. If I had been able to reach Washington sooner,
Grant would have sent troops to its rescue sooner, and
hence there was never any prospect of my capturing
that city. It was not General Lee's orders or expecta-
tion that I should take Washington. His order was
that I should threaten the city, and when I suggested
to him the probability of my being able to capture it,
he said that it would be impossible."

There are several other statements in General Early's
article which we shall hereafter compare with undis-
puted facts, and leave others to form their own conclu-
sions. Enough has been quoted from it to present the
principal issue. Was the real object of this campaign
the release of the Confederate prisoners and the capture
of Washington, or was it merely a scare, a diversion in
favor of General Lee, restricted both in plan and execu-
tion to a mere threat against the capital ?

The strongest witness against the General Early of
1881 is General Early in 1864.

On the 14th of July, only two days after his retreat
from the defences of Washington, General Early, at
Leesburg, made his first report to General Lee. It was
before any question had arisen, when all the facts were
fresh in his mind. In it, after giving his reasons for
retreating, he says: "He (Johnson) was on his way
to Point Lookout, when my determination to retire made


his recall necessary. . . . I am sorry I did not succeed
in capturing Washington and releasing our prisoners at
Point Lookout, but the latter was impracticable after I
determined to retire from Washington." After this
statement, it seems a waste of words for General Early
to deny that the capture of Washington and the release
of the prisoners were seriously intended, and that they
were the substantial objects of the campaign.

The importance of a battle is determined by its ulti-
mate consequences rather than its immediate results. If
that fought on the Monocacy did delay General Early,
so as to save the capital from his assault and probable
capture, it was one of the decisive battles of the world,
and, with the events which immediately followed it, de-
serves a more complete account than it has hitherto re-
ceived. In his " Personal Memoirs," referring to Early's
retreat, General Grant says : " There is no telling how
much this result was contributed to by General Lew.
Wallace's leading what might well be considered almost
a forlorn hope. If Early had been but one day earlier,
he might have entered the capital before the arrival of
the reinforcements I had sent. Whether the delay caused
by the battle amounted to a day or not, General Wal-
lace contributed on this occasion, by the defeat of the
troops under him, a greater benefit to the cause than
often falls to the lot of a commander of an equal force
to render by means of a victory."

It is singular that the numerical strength of General
Early's army has never been given. General Early must
know what it was. He argues at great length to show
that it was very small ; why does he not give the fig-
ures ? It was an army of veterans, trained by Stonewall
Jackson ; it was opposed by raw and undisciplined forces,
with the single exception of the Sixth Corps. In such a


case numbers are a secondary consideration. General
Geary joined Sherman in Tennessee leading a division
12,000 strong. On the " march to the sea" its numbers
were only 3300, and yet in General Geary's opinion the
effective strength of his division was never greater than
when it marched into the city of Savannah. As the Con-
federate leaders, in speaking of the strength of Early's
army, deal only in the most general statements, and we
are never to know from them what it was, we are com-
pelled to rely upon estimates and secondary evidence.
Where numbers are given on all occasions previous to
1864, the Second Corps was the largest of the three com-
prising the Army of Northern Virginia. With its high
reputation there is no reason for supposing that its
strength was relatively reduced. In addition to the Sec-
ond Corps, General Early had Breckinridge's division of
infantry, forty pieces of artillery, and a body of cavalry
large enough to serve the purposes of his army, after he
had detached Johnson with a force deemed sufficient to
release the prisoners at Point Lookout.

The information received from General Sigel by Gen-
eral Wallace was that Early was advancing with an
army of 30,000 men. After fighting him the whole day
of the 9th, in part for the purpose of developing his
force, General Wallace was of opinion that it numbered
over 18,000, exclusive of Breckinridge's infantry and
the entire force of artillery and cavalry. Medical In-
spector Johnson, who was within the Confederate lines
at Monocacy during the 9th and 10th of July, reported
that they estimated their strength at 25,000, exclusive
of a cavalry force of 5000 to 6000. Until the Confeder-
ate officers, who know, give the details of their own
forces, no injustice will be done by placing the strength
of this invading army at 25,000 men.


The Monocacy is a crooked river, which runs in a
southerly direction into the Potomac. About three miles
west of it is the city of Frederick, and three or four
miles farther west is a range of hills extending from the
Potomac in a northerly direction, called the Catoctin
Mountains. The Washington Pike crossed the river by
a wooden bridge, and the Baltimore Pike by what was
called the " stone bridge." The railroad crossed within
a quarter of a mile of the lower of these two bridges,
which were about two and a half miles from each other.

As soon as Wallace learned that a Confederate army
had entered Maryland, and that its cavalry was approach-
ing Frederick, he removed his little force so as to delay
the Confederate advance. He knew that every hour of
such delay was an hour gained for reinforcements to
reach Washington from the Army of the Potomac. Ac-
cordingly, on the 5th of July, he pushed his 2600 men
out of Baltimore by railroad to the east bank of the
Monocacy, hoping to hold the bridges against any at-
tack of cavalry.

On the 5th of July, General Grant had sent the Third
Division of the Sixth Corps, under General Kicketts, to
reinforce General Wallace at Baltimore. When this di-
vision reached the place of embarkation, on the James,
Quartermaster General Pitkin, as a favor to his friend
and fellow- Yermonter, Colonel Henry, of the Tenth Ver-
mont, gave his detachment, which also comprised the
One Hundred and Sixth New York, the fastest steamer,
a favor which also secured to the two regiments severe
service and hard fighting. The detachment reached Bal-
timore in advance of the rest of the division, and hurried
on board a train of freight cars, which arrived at Fred-
erick at daybreak on the morning of the 8th.

General Wallace informed Colonel Henry that the


Confederate signal officers were watching from the Ca-
toctin hills, behind which Early was gathering his forces
for an advance, and that his object being delay, he de-
sired to make a show of as strong a force as possible.
Colonel Henry, therefore, advanced beyond Frederick to
the foot of the mountain, where he marched and counter-
marched from hill to hill, threw up mock breastworks,
withdrew his men under cover, and marched them to
other positions, showing his regiment in different places
until his men, who were not in the secret, thought he
must have become insane. About six o'clock General
Wallace was informed that a heavy body of infantry was
moving in a direction to obtain control of the Washing-
ton Pike and endanger his lines of retreat. He accord-
ingly withdrew from Frederick to the line of the Monoc-
acy Kiver. Before the Tenth Vermont could be withdrawn
the Confederate cavalry had possession of the pike be-
tween Frederick and the river, only three miles distant,
and Colonel Henry was compelled to make a long cir-
cuit until he reached the stone bridge, and then march
down the river to the wooden bridge, where he was or-
dered to report. This march of twelve miles in the
night so delayed him that it was daybreak before he
reached his position.

The second detachment of the Sixth Corps had, in the
meantime, arrived. The cowardly desertion of the rail-
road agent and the telegraph operator left the rest of
the division at Monrovia, eight miles away, where orders
could not reach them, and they were thus prevented from
participating in the battle.

At early dawn General Wallace made his dispositions
for battle. His right formed an extended line, two miles
long, from the railroad bridge to the stone bridge, and was
placed under the command of General Tyler. Colonel


Brown, with his command of ten companies from the
One Hundred and Forty-ninth and One Hundred and
Fifty-ninth Ohio, and the company of mounted infantry
under Captain Lieb, was posted at the stone bridge,
with orders to hold it ; for upon the holding of that
bridge depended the security of the right flank and the
line of retreat to Baltimore. The remaining portions
of General Wallace's original force were posted along
the river above the railroad.

On the left, where the principal attack would proba-
bly be made, were placed the 3350 veterans under Gen-
eral Kicketts, in a line which reached from the railroad
to a point below the wooden bridge. The end of the
line was held by the Tenth Vermont, under Colonel
Henry, and next to it was its companion regiment on
many bloody fields, the One Hundred and Sixth New
York, under Colonel Seward. Colonel Clendenin's cav-
alry were still farther down the river to watch the

A line of skirmishers, seventy-five men of the Tenth
Vermont, under Captain Davis, and two hundred men of
the Potomac Home Brigade, under Captain Brown, ex-
tended in a semicircle on the west side of the river, be-
low the wooden to a point above the railroad bridge. It
should have been under the command of a lieutenant-
colonel, whose name is not mentioned by Vermonters,
because on that day he kept away from his command.
Captain Brown and his men were wholly inexperienced ;
he surrendered the command to Captain Davis, whose
men held the centre of the line where it crossed a hill,
from which the field on the left was in full view.

The battle opened early. At half-past eight a body
of Confederates came down the pike, directly upon the
Federal skirmish line. Captain Davis and his men


opened upon them as soon as they came within range,
and the enemy were handsomely repulsed.

The Confederates now brought up their artillery, and
firing and sharp skirmishing began all along the line.
About half-past ten the first charge of the enemy was
made. A body of Confederates moved around the left
flank of the Northern army, forded the river, and ad-
vanced up the eastern bank, appearing from the woods
in line of battle. General Eicketts was compelled to
change front to the left, with his right resting on the
river, thus bringing his line under an enfilading fire from
the enemy's artillery. Although he formed his whole
force into a single line, that of the enemy was so long
that it overlapped it. Every man on the left was thus
put into the fight, not one being held in reserve.

The enemy's first line was met with a heavy fire from
the Tenth Yermont and the One Hundred and Sixth
New York. Several times the line was broken, and
their colors fell. The efforts of the Confederates to
rally and re-form their line were ineffectual, and they
were compelled to retreat into the woods, defeated.
Within an hour the enemy advanced his second line,
stronger and more numerous than the first, and with
the steady step and firm bearing of veterans. But they
could not move the veterans of the Sixth Corps. Par-
tially protected by the Thomas house and the cut through
which the road passed, they poured a fire into the Con-
federate line which nothing human could withstand. For
a half-hour the line held its position until the ground
was covered with the fallen, and then again retreated.

General Wallace and his staff witnessed the battle
from a hill in the rear of the line opposite the railroad.
He knew that he was blocking the way of an army which
must push him aside at any cost, and that the next ad-


vance would be in force large enough to be irresistible.
But he was there to stay, to obstruct the Confederate
advance as long as he possibly could, and the conduct of
Ricketts's veterans showed him that all that could be
done by three thousand men they would do. His order
to retire was not given.

There was now the hour or two of sharp skirmishing
and artillery fire which usually precedes a charge. Gen-
eral Gordon, with his entire division, had crossed at the
ford, and moved up the river, bringing with him the
shattered remains of the defeated brigades. About three
o'clock they again began to emerge from the woods.
First came a heavy line of skirmishers, followed by a
first, and shortly by a second, line of battle. For a full
hour the fight went on, over one of the bloodiest fields
of the war. The Confederate loss was by far the heav-
ier, for they were on the open field, while the Sixth Corps
veterans were in part protected. As the first and sec-
ond were successively repulsed after stoutly maintaining
the fierce contest, the third and heaviest Confederate
line came out of the woods down the hill behind which
they made their formation.

General Wallace saw that it was time to go. He gave
the order to retire on the Baltimore Pike, and the greater
portion of his left wing slowly obeyed the command.
But the Tenth Yermont and One Hundred and Sixth
New York, on the extreme left of the line, were shut off
from Wallace's view by an intervening hill, and the order
did not reach them. Several men were sent to them
with orders, but were all shot down by the fire which
swept the entire distance to be crossed. The regiments
were out of ammunition, except as they borrowed it from
the boxes of the fallen, and there was no ammunition
train from which they could be supplied. But they


stood their ground, fighting and checking the advance
of the enemy, until their fire slackened, and the advanc-
ing line had almost encircled them.

At last a mounted orderly dashed over the hill in their
rear, galloped within speaking distance of Colonel Henry,
and shouted, " General Wallace says, ' For God's sake,
bring your regiment out, if you can, to the Baltimore
Pike.' " It was a difficult order to obey. In their rear
was a high board fence, at the foot of a steep hill cov-
ered by a corn-field. On all the other sides were lines
of advancing Confederates. The Yermonters scale the
fence and ascend the hill, swept by screaming shells and
showers of bullets. Near the top the color-sergeant gives
out, and declares that he can go no farther. Strong arms
seize both sergeant and colors, and bear them onward.
The Confederates, yelling to the Vermonters to halt and
surrender, follow them half-way up the ascent, but they
cannot stand the pace, and give up the pursuit. Colonel
Henry re-forms the remnant of his regiment, safe for the
time, outside the line of fire. Their comrades of the
One Hundred and Sixth New York, placed in the line
on their right, pass around the hill through a tempest
of missiles hurled upon them from three sides, and those
who do not fall escape to the rear, where for the time
we leave them, and turn to the right of the Federal line.

When the order to retreat is given, the stone bridge
on the Baltimore Pike becomes all-important, for its loss
is the loss of Wallace's line of retreat. A large body of
Confederates are charging down the Pike from the west,
to hurl themselves against Colonel Brown and his ten
Ohio companies. General Tyler, without waiting for or-
ders, gathers up a few men along the river, and rushes
to Brown's support. The Confederates halt and recoil
before the hot and heavy fire. General Wallace gallops


up, and shouts to Colonel Brown, through the roar of
musketry, that the bridge " must be held until his last
regiment has cleared the country road by which the
army is retreating, and has passed down the Pike tow-
ards Newmarket and Baltimore." Brown and Tyler,
with their men, keep the bridge until five o'clock, when
the rear of the last retiring regiment is well on its way
down the Pike to Newmarket. By this time the Con-
federates have surrounded them. By the ordinary rules
of fighting, they are captured. But the men keep their
ranks, and, with Colonel Brown, fight their way through
the encircling line. Then Tyler and his staff dash into
the woods and escape.

The army has now all retreated, except the skirmish-
line on the west bank of the river. These skirmishers
have had a lively day. Their line of retreat was by the
wooden bridge, but this was burned about half -past ten,
and, before it was fired, such of Captain Brown's men
as were on the left crossed to the east bank. During
the long day of fighting, nearly all of Captain Brown's
command on the right of the line quietly passed over
the railroad bridge without waiting for orders, leaving
a few of their comrades with Captain Brown and Cap-
tain Davis, with his seventy -five Vermonters, to hold
the Pike and do the fighting. Captain Davis, in the
centre of his line, occupies the crest of a hill, from which
he sees all the fighting on Ricketts's left. During the
skirmish which precedes the last attack, he sends a sol-
dier to his lieutenant -colonel, who should be present for
orders. The soldier finds him far in the rear, and returns
with the inspiring message that that officer " supposed
Captain Davis got off before the bridge was burned."

Earlier in the day an incident has happened here which
had a share in the safety of the capital. When General


Ricketts changed front on the left, to meet the first Con-
federate charge, he opened a gap in the line of defence
opposite the railroad bridge. Wallace has no force which
he can send to fill it. About eleven o'clock General "Wal-
lace, from the hill on which he overlooks the field, dis-
covers a body of Confederates stealing down the river
under cover of the bushes towards the railroad bridge.
It is a very exciting time. He has no men to despatch
to the bridge in a few minutes a stream of the enemy
will be pouring over the bridge through the gap, which
will cut his line in the middle, and inevitably cause his
defeat. The Confederates are perfectly concealed from
the skirmish-line, and are within a hundred yards of the
bridge. They are about to make the rush, when a vol-
ley of musketry seems to rise out of the ground, and is
poured into their very faces. Many of them fall, others
reel and hesitate ; another volley is fired into them ; they
turn and rush to the rear. Davis has had his eye on
the bridge, for he may have occasion to use it. He has
anticipated this movement, and sent a small detachment
from his little force to lie concealed in the bushes and
watch it. They have watched it to a purpose.

Late in the afternoon the position of Captain Davis
becomes (to use his own expression) "peculiar." He
has seen the colors of his own regiment borne up the
hill and over it to the rear, followed by the regiment
and a crowd of pursuing Confederates. As far as he can
see, the entire Federal line has retired. He was ordered
to hold the position where he was placed ; it is not the
custom of his men to change position without orders.
But the enemy is pouring down the railroad, and in a
few moments will sweep him into the river. No man of
his seventy-five will move without an order. The mo-
ment has come when he has no alternative. He gives


the order, his men form, and march on the double-quick
to the railroad bridge, which has no floor, and across
which they step from tie to tie. The pursuing Confed-
erates press after with shouts of " Halt and surrender !"
They pour their volleys into the backs of the Yermont-
ers from a distance of fifty yards. The dead and wound-
ed fall into the water forty feet below, one of the latter
to survive the battle and the war. The Confederates over-
take, and actually seize and capture four or five of the
little company. The survivors reach the eastern bank
and rush into the bushes. But they keep together, and
follow the retreating army, leaving more than a third of
their number upon the bloody field. Davis, who is a
man of slight physique, has used up all his strength, and
is marched to the bivouac of his regiment, sound asleep,
between two stronger soldiers.

Twelve miles from the field all the detachments of
the army have come together. They wheel into a con-
venient field and encamp for the night. Wallace lies
down upon Henry's blanket, and before both fall asleep
finds time to tell him that he is " as cool and brave a
man as ever stood on a battle-field."

There were no prisoners in this battle except such as
were captured by the actual laying on of Confederate

Online LibraryL. E. (Lucius Eugene) ChittendenRecollections of President Lincoln and his administration → online text (page 28 of 35)