Wayland Fuller Dunaway.

Reminiscences of a Rebel online

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sive. It occupied the high ground that bor-
ders the river flat, and which is close to the
town, but, as it continues, recedes from the
river, leaving an ever widening plain. On
the morning of the memorable 13th that plain
resounded to the martial tread of Burnside's

Before the battle began General Lee, in-
specting the disposition of his forces all along
the line, rode up to where we stood, and dis-
mounting from Traveller, handed the bridle-
rein to an orderly. This was the first time
that I saw him, and his appearance made an


indelible impression upon my mind. What a
noble man he was in form and face as well as
in moral character! While he was examin-
ing the outlying field I had a conversation
with the orderly, who spoke of the General's
fondness for his horse.

Having observed that a few men of the Con-
federate cavalry had brought up a piece of
artillery in front of our right, I obtained per-
mission of Colonel Mayo and ran forward to
join them. Two Federal batteries came for-
ward in a gallop and in a minute's time un-
limbered and began firing against Hill's divi-
sion, the twenty guns of which I have spoken
giving them as good as they sent and a little
better. The Yankees were so hotly engaged
by the firing in front of them that they paid
no attention to the little cavalry gun upon the
flank. The first shot did no execution, but the
next struck a caisson and exploded its contents.

What more was done there I cannot say;
for seeing that the Federal infantry were ad-
vancing to the charge, I hastily returned to
my position in the regiment. Our men, lying


in a railroad cut about two feet deep, waited
until the Yankees were close upon them, and
then rising up poured such volleys upon them
as caused them to retire in confusion ; but on
our left Gregg's South Carolina brigade was
broken through and he was killed. Being
thereby severed from the rest of the army, we
changed front and took the victorious Yankees
in flank, causing them to lose their advantage
and fall back to the railroad which they had
crossed. Then occurred a pretty duel. The
blue and the grey lines were about sixty yards
apart and each was loading and firing as rap-
idly as possible. The Federal general and
his two aides on horseback were urging their
men to charge, as was evident from their
gestures; but their men would not respond.
Being an officer I had no weapons but
sword and pistol, but I picked up the musket
of one of our men, who had loaded it but was
killed before he could discharge it, and called
on some of our company to shoot down the
horsemen. We took deliberate aim and fired ;
and down went horses and riders. "Now,"



said I, "shoot down the colors." Four times
they fell, only to be quickly raised again. I
would not affirm that the little group about
me shot down the horsemen and the flag, for
many others were shooting at the same time; I
only know that we calmly did our best in that
direction. After a while the enemy turned
and fled; and I was glad, for they had in-
flicted on the 47th a loss of fifty men in killed
and wounded. However, their loss greatly
exceeded ours. The next day, when a truce
prevailed for burying the dead and caring
for the wounded, I was informed by some of
the Union soldiers that the name of that gen-
eral was Jackson. He was a brave man, de-
serving a better fate, and he fell while nobly
performing what he believed was his duty to
his country.

It was the general and confident expectation
that the battle would be renewed, and we
were, therefore, surprised to discover on the
morning of the 15th that the enemy had during
the night recrossed to the northern side of the
river. Their loss in the engagement was three


times greater than ours. Burnside made the
mistake of putting forth his greatest strength
where the Confederates were strongest. If he
had assailed our right as fiercely as he did our
left, perhaps there might have been a different

In a few days after the battle I was in-
formed by Colonel Mayo that I was "for gal-
lant and meritorious conduct promoted to be
First Lieutenant and Adjutant of the 47th regi-
ment." I had not thought of trying to make
an exhibition of unusual gallantry among so
many intrepid men, but, of course, the com-
mendation and promotion were highly grati-

"The love of praise, howe'er concealed by art,
Reigns more or less, and glows in ev'ry heart."

The campaign having come to an end, Lee's
army went into winter quarters at camp Gregg,
so named in honor of Brigadier-General
Maxcy Gregg who was killed in the battle of
Fredericksburg. It was near Moss Neck, the
large and fertile farm of Mr. Richard Corbin.



The Rappahannock river flowed between the
Yankee and the Rebel armies, each picketing
its own side of the stream. By common con-
sent there was no shooting across the river, but
on the other hand there was an occasional ex-
change of tobacco and coffee by means of little
boats. We could hear them impudently sing-
ing: "O soldiers, won't you meet us." We
had met them on fields of carnage, and ex-
pected to meet them again on the return of
spring; but whether we should meet them
"On Canaan's happy shore," or in some less
pleasing locality in the eternal world, who
could say?

I distinctly remember one night when my
turn came to go to the river on picket duty,
and the earth was covered with snow several
inches deep. When my watch was off and the
opportunity to sleep was afforded the question
was, where to lie down. I spread on the snow
some boughs that I had cut from a cedar tree
and laid a gum cloth upon them. Upon this
pallet I lay down and covering myself head
and all with a blanket enjoyed sweet, refresh-


ing, and healthful sleep. The next morning
the blanket above my head was stiff-frozen
with the moisture from my breath.

There was one man that should have been
mentioned before this time, — a negro of my
own age, whose name was Charles Wesley.
We had grown up on the farm together, and
had played, and boxed, and wrestled without
respect to color. Not as a slave but as a friend
he followed me to the war, — my launderer,
my cook, and when I was sick, my nurse.
Having orders to keep himself out of danger,
he very willingly remained far in the rear
when a battle was in progress, but when the
firing ceased he faithfully sought me and
reported for duty. While writing about
Charles, I may anticipate a little and say that
when we were in Pennsylvania I told him that
we were on Yankee soil, and that he had the
opportunity of deserting me and of remaining
there as a free man. He replied that he al-
ready knew that, but that he was going to
abide with me. And when I was captured at
Falling Waters he had the intelligence and



fidelity to ride my horse home and deliver
him to my brother.

It was while we were encamped at Moss
Neck that I witnessed a military execution
for the offense of desertion from the 47th
regiment. The criminal was on his knees,
blindfolded, with his hands tied behind him to
a stake. A short distance in front of him was
the line of twenty men detailed to do the shoot-
ing, and commanded by an officer especially
appointed. No man could tell who did the
killing, for the twenty muskets were handed to
them, one-half of them being loaded with
blank cartridges. The rest of the regiment
was drawn up, one-half on the right, and the
other on the left. At the word "Fire!" the
report of the guns rang out and the deserter
fell forward pierced by balls. Death was in-
stantaneous. Although the crime was mortal,
the scene was painfully sad.


Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a
battle won.

— Wellington.

I DID not serve long as the adjutant of the
47th regiment. In March, 1863, Com-
pany I of the 40th regiment, having from
one cause or another lost all its officers, unani-
mously desired that I should become their
captain, and this desire was approved by Col-
onel Brockenbrough, who commanded that
regiment, as well as by General Heth, who
commanded the brigade. I was loath to
sever connection from the regiment to which
I had been attached since the beginning of the
war, but I accepted the new position, because
it was in the line of promotion, and the men
of the company were from my native county
and well known to me; moreover, I would
still be in the same brigade with my old com-




rades of the 47th. My captain's commission
was dated April 30, and was signed by James
A. Seddon, Secretary of War.

When the spring had come General Joseph
Hooker, the successor of unfortunate Burn-
side, having crossed the Rappahannock river,
took up a strong position at Chancellorsville,
with an army numerically twice as strong as
the available Confederate forces, and declared
by him to be "the finest army on the planet."
At the same time a powerful detachment under
General Sedgwick crossed the river below
Fredericksburg and made demonstrations of
attack upon the Confederate lines. Never
was General Lee confronted by a more peril-
ous situation, and never did his military genius
more brilliantly appear.

In war so much depends upon the comman-
der, that I advance the confident opinion that
if the Confederates had been under the charge
of Hooker and Sedgwick, and Lee and Jack-
son had had command of the Federal soldiers
above and below Fredericksburg, the Confed-
erate army would have been destroyed ; and the


Army of the Potomac would have walked
straight into Richmond. That army would
indeed have been "the finest on the planet,"
if the skill and the courage of its commander
had equaled its numbers, its aggressive power,
and its opulent equipment.

Hooker had a grand opportunity, but in-
gloriously failed to use it. He had conceived
a good plan of action, and he successfully exe-
cuted its initial movement; but when the
decisive hour arrived his resolution failed. In-
stead of advancing aggressively on to Freder-
icksburg, as he had begun to do, he turned
back and fortified his army with intrench-
ments. Did he mistrust himself, or his army,
or both? His original scheme contemplated
offensive tactics, and all its merit was sacrificed
when he began to erect defensive fortifications.

Let me here briefly describe Chancellors-
ville and its environments as I saw them dur-
ing the battle. There was no village there,
but only a large brick tavern with a few out-
buildings, located immediately on the north
side of the road that connects Fredericksburg



and Orange. In the rear it was separated
from the forest by a narrow field, while in
front and across the road there was a large
space of open land. In the direction of
Orange the road and fields declined to a
wooded ravine. On the slightly elevated
land in front of the tavern the Yankees had
unlimbered twenty Napoleon cannon, and
along the side of the ravine they had erected
breastworks of logs and earth.

Late in the afternoon of Friday, May i, our
brigade had marched up from Fredericksburg
and halted in striking distance of the Federal
army. What could we expect but that in the
morning we should be waging an assault upon
its fortified position? Instead of that Jackson
led us with the rest of his corps around the
front of that position until we struck the road
on the Orange side of Chancellorsville. We
were now on Hooker's right flank, having
marched quickly and silently fifteen miles over
a rough and unfrequented road. The sun was
sinking toward the western horizon when our
lines of attack were formed on both sides of


the road and at right angles to it. Imme-
diately the onslaught began, silent, rapid, reso-
lute, Heth's brigade being on the north or left
side of the road. We had not proceeded far
before we struck Howard's corps all unsus-
pecting and unprepared. Their fires were
kindled for cooking supper, and dressed beeves
were ready for distribution among the com-
panies. They fled before us, strewing the
ground with muskets, knapsacks, and other ac-
couterments. Whoever censures them for
running would probably have acted as they
did, for our charge was as lightning from a
cloudless sky. On the way we crossed a little
fram, and as I passed the dwelling I saw sev-
eral ladies who were wildly rejoicing.

When we had come within half a mile of
Chancellorsville daylight had faded into
night. The moon had risen, but her rays
were rendered intermittent by scudding
clouds. The darkness, the tangled under-
growth of the forest, and the entrenchments
and artillery of the enemy combined to arrest
our progress. Those cannon of which I have



spoken shelled the woods in which we lay,
and what a cannonade it was! The trees and
bushes trembled, the air was laden with
sulphurous fumes, the very earth seemed to
quake under the impulse of exploding shells.
There was, however, more noise than execu-
tion ; only one man of my company was struck,
and his broken jaw was bound up by my

From my position on the roadside I saw a
few riderless horses running terror-stricken to
the rear. These were, I believe, the animals
that Jackson and his aides had ridden to the
front. It is recorded that he was wounded
by some soldiers of the 18th North Carolina
regiment who were in the brigade of Gen-
eral James H. Lane. If this statement were
made on less reliable authority it might be
questioned; for I know that the Yankees were
close to our front and that Jackson could not
have ridden far beyond our line without en-
countering their volley. We did not hear un-
til next morning that our peerless leader had


been shot. Alas! As when Hector fell the
doom of Troy was sealed, so with the death
of Jackson the star of the Southern Confed-
eracy declined.

Late in the night the firing ceased, and the
Gray and the Blue lay on their arms, catch-
ing brief snatches of troubled sleep, and abid-
ing the renewal of hostilities with the coming

On the bright and pleasant Sunday that en-
sued no chiming bells nor melodies of sacred
music were heard upon that famous field, but
only the cries of antagonistic men and the hor-
rid din of batteries and muskets. Our brigade
being transferred to the right side of the road
and drawn up in line of battle in the forest, it
was not long before the renowned Stonewall
brigade passed by us and charged upon the
breastworks of the enemy. It was repulsed
with heavy loss, the Yankees having prepon-
derating advantage of position. Then Pen-
der's intrepid brigade of North Carolinians
had a similar experience. There were no



braver soldiers in the army than the men com-
posing these two defeated brigades. When,
therefore, the command to charge was given
to us, could we hope for a better result? As
we advanced a shell struck the ground im-
mediately before me, exploded and covered
me with dirt, but providentially inflicted no
wounds. Onward we rushed with the usual
inspiriting Rebel yell. When we came in sight
of those formidable rifle pits we were de-
lighted to find them abandoned by our foes;
and when we climbed over them and entered
the field just beyond them we were no less
glad to discover that those batteries that had
so noisily shelled us the night before had been

There in full view toward our left stood
Chancellor's tavern, and the large field in
front was literally filled with Federal soldiers
in perfect array marching northward, — that
is, to the rear. The retreat of Hooker's army
had begun; they were not whipped but out-
generaled. Passing across the road by the
tavern and entering the forest behind it, they


left not in sight a single blue coat, save that a
battery in the tavern yard was firing upon us.
Two Confederate batteries galloped up to our
line, and, unlimbering, opened upon the bat-
tery in the yard at close range. There were
in the Southern armies many soldiers in their
teens, but here at one of the guns labored a
boy who was, as I guessed from his size, not
more than twelve years old. It was his part
to fire the gun by pulling the lanyard, and as
often as he did it he playfully rolled over
backward. "Boys will be boys" even in the
peril of battle. In the meantime Jeb Stuart,
temporarily assigned to the command of Jack-
son's corps, came riding into the field, and in a
spirit not unlike that of the boy was singing,
"Old Joe Hooker, won't you get out the
wilderness ?" The Yankee battery withdrew ;
the battle was ended. The tavern was all
ablaze, having been ignited by one of our
shells, — the house that an hour before had been
the headquarters of General Hooker. Our
army was resting along the road in front of the
burning building. As General Lee rode by,




a waggish fellow of the 47th said, "General,
we are too tired to cheer you this morning,"
and he pleasantly replied, "Well, boys, you
have gotten glory enough for one day."


He that fights and runs away
May turn and fight another day.


AFTER the lamented death of General
Jackson the divisions of the Army of
Northern Virginia were organized
into three corps, commanded, respectively, by
Longstreet, Ewell, and A. P. Hill. General
Heth was assigned to the command of the
Light Division, and the senior colonel of the
first brigade, John M. Brockenbrough took
the command made vacant by Heth's pro-

In forming his staff Colonel Brockenbrough
selected me to be his acting assistant adjutant-
general. As this new sphere of duty required
that I should have a horse, and as it was useless
to search for one in the neighborhood of
Fredericksburg, I sought and obtained a fur-




lough in order that I might seek one in my
native county. The time was limited to five
days, — not long enough, as Colonel Brocken-
brough knew; but there was an understanding
between us that if I overstayed the limit noth-
ing would be said about it.

A tramp of a hundred miles was before me,
but that was a matter of indifference to my
buoyant body and practiced feet. It was my
intention to cross the river at Tappahannock,
and proceed down the Neck to my brother's
home, but the southern bank was picketed by
the 15th Virginia cavalry, which prohibited
my passage. Walking back into the town
and finding Colonel John Critcher, who was
in command of the regiment, I explained my
mission and requested the liberty of passing
through his line. He informed me that on
the other side the 8th Illinois cavalry were
making a raid, and urged that I should not
cross and run the risk of being captured.
Telling him that I was familiar with the
country and that I would avoid the enemy, I
persisted in the request, being as desirous of


a horse as was Richard III in his final battle.
Having obtained his reluctant written per-
mission I decided that instead of crossing at
Tappahannock I would walk down as far as
Owen Hill in Middlesex county and thence
seek a passage over into Lancaster. A
negro, whose service I secured in return for
Confederate money, transported me in a
canoe, and landed me at Morattico. During
the passage I kept a sharp lookout up and
down the wide river for Yankee gunboats,
fearing that even if I should escape Scylla I
might fall into Charybdis; and indeed some
of the marauding bluecoats had but recently
departed from the farm.

Having dined with the hospitable family,
I set out for my brother's home fifteen miles
away, not knowing that one part of the enemy
was encamped on his farm and another part
in the yard. Being informed that the hostile
invaders were traversing all parts of the
county in search of booty, I sought to evade
them by walking not upon the familiar roads
but in the woods parallel with them. When



I drew near the county-seat, instead of cross-
ing the road as prudence suggested I thought
I would walk the road a short distance and
then pass over, for my shoes had become un-
comfortably smooth by treading on the fallen
foliage of the pines. Rash procedure!

I had come into the road near what is
called "the court-house mill hill," intending
to go down, cross the bridge, and turn again
into the woods in the rear of the village,
scouting as I proceeded. When I had come
nearly to the brow of the hill, I met a
squadron of ascending Federal horsemen.
If I had been two minutes earlier and they as
much later we would have met as I was de-
scending the hill; and then my capture would
have been inevitable, because the steep banks
on either side would have precluded all hope
of escape. I heard the foremost riders say,
"Here're the Rebels, boys; come on." I did
not wait to see more than their heads and
breasts as they were coming up the hill. I
was in my full uniform, having a gray over-
coat on my shoulder and a felt hat on my


head. In the twinkling of an eye the coat
was dropped, and the hat flew off as I made
such a leap into the friendly forest as perhaps
was never equaled by any athlete in the Olym-
pic games. I had no time to become fright-
ened, but I was angered by being pursued
on my native soil by men who had no
right to invade it. It is a wonder that they
did not catch me. I heard them swearing,
crying "Halt," and firing pistols. Three
things favored me: the trees and undergrowth
were coming into leaf, I was fleet of foot, and
I took an unsuspected direction. Instead of
running at right angles to the road, or ob-
liquely backward, I ran obliquely forward,
in the direction from which they had come.
When I was nearly out of breath, I stopped
to listen, and was glad to hear no sounds save
those that were made by my thumping heart.
The pursuit had ended, and I lay down to
rest and to recover my wind, — not unlike the
stag that had been chased by Fitz James'

In a little while rising refreshed from my



rest, I went onward and crossing the mill
stream higher up than I had purposed, I ar-
rived at the residence of my cousin Robert.
I had been there but a few minutes when his
wife, who had glanced up the lane, cried out,
"Run, run; the Yankees are coming!" At
the first utterance of the word "run," I was
making rapid tracks for the forest in the rear
of the house; but before I reached it she
called me back. Two of the Yankees had
been there before, and her excited imagina-
tion had mistaken a Rebel officer for two
more. It was her brother-in-law, Ned
Stakes, major of the 40th Virginia. He
and I then set out for a place near Wicomico
church, where, as he told me, a few Confed-
erates were in hiding. Having spent the
night with them in the forest, we were in the
morning informed by a faithful negro, who
had been acting as commissary, that the
Yankees had all gone. Although I trusted
his report, it was with circumspection that I
traveled homeward.

The departed Yankees had carried away


teams and wagons loaded with plunder from
meat-houses, barns, and cabins, and as many
of the negroes as desired to take advantage of
"the year of jubile?" which old Spencer said
"had come." One girl, who refused to de-
part, was thus upbraided by her father:
"You's a fool, gal, not to go where there's a
plenty to eat and nothing to do." That regi-
ment of cavalry had robbed my brother, and
had treated many other peaceable citizens in
the same way. Large was the booty they
carried away, and long was the train of
negroes, horses, and loaded wagons. It is
said that "all things are lawful in war"; but
this adage, like many others, sails under
false colors. War is lawless, as Cicero ob-
served : "Silent leges inter arma." There was
neither constitutional nor statute law that
justified the invasion of the South by armies
from the North; none for the emancipation
proclamation; none for the cruel and de-
structive deeds that were perpetrated by the
Federal armies.

My furlough had run out, and my object



was yet ungained. The next day I found a
bay horse to my liking, five years old, large,

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Online LibraryWayland Fuller DunawayReminiscences of a Rebel → online text (page 3 of 6)