|Remaining for some days longer in front of Winchester, and several times
called into line of battle on false alarms, the private soldier was forming
his own plan of campaign when our great commander received information that
Beauregard was being attacked at Manassas, and determined at once to hasten
to his relief.
Accordingly, about noon on the 18th of July Johnston left a cordon of Stuart's
cavalry to conceal the movement from General Patterson, and put his column
in motion for Ashby's Gap and Manassas. As soon as we had gotten about two
miles from Winchester there was read to us a ringing battle order from our
chief, in which he stated that Beauregard was being attacked at Manassas
by a greatly superior force -- that this was "a forced march to save the
country," and that he expected us to step out bravely, to close up our ranks,
and do all that could be required of patriotic soldiers who were fighting
for "liberty, home and fireside." I remember how we cheered that order, and
the swinging stride with which we set out, as if determined to make the whole
march that night. But it proved a most wearisome and unsatisfactory march
-- the straggling was fearful -- and we only reached Piedmont Station, thirty
four miles from Manassas, in the time in which a year later we could easily
have made Manassas Junction. Jackson's brigade being in front reached Piedmont
at 8 o'clock in the morning of the 19th, and two hours later took the cars
for Manassas. Our brigade did not reach Piedmont until late that night. Incidents
of the march were the wading of the Shenandoah -- the cheers with which we
greeted the announcement that Beauregard had defeated the attack upon him
at Bull Run -- the frequent raids we made on blackberry patches (a witty
surgeon of our brigade remarked that our bill of fare on the march was "three
blackberries a day, pick them yourself, and if you got a fourth one it was
to be turned over to the commissary -- and the crowds of people who turned
out to see us pass and supply us with what food they had. I remember that
on reaching Piedmont, late in the night, my regiment was assigned a place
of bivouac which was covered with water, and I looked around for some more
comfortable quarters until I found in an old fashioned Virginia chicken coop
a couch where "nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep," soon brought me rest
as refreshing as I ever enjoyed on downy pillows.
We were detained at Piedmont until late in the night of the 20th by being
unable to obtain transportation. I witnessed here an incident which illustrated
the fact that at this date every private in our ranks thought himself as
good as the highest officer. While General Kirby Smith was superintending
the embarkation of the troops, a private in my company asked him a question,
to which the General gave a rough reply, whereupon the soldier straightened
himself up and said: "I asked you a civil question, sir, and if you were
disposed to act the gentleman you would give me a civil answer." General
Smith at once grasped the hilt of his sword, but the soldier quietly drew
his pistol and said: "If you don't put up that sword I'll shoot you." The
private was arrested, but Colonel Hill interceded for him and General Smith
generously consented to his release.
I do not know whether it is true, as was currently reported, that one of
the engineers proved traitor and caused a collision of two trains, but I
know that we had a wearisome night on the crowded cars waiting for the track
to be cleared; that we went down Sunday morning very cautiously, expecting
the enemy to strike the railroad; that for miles we heard the roar of the
battle then progressing; that once we disembarked and formed line of battle
on a report that the enemy were advancing on the road, and that we reached
Manassas Junction when the excitement was at its height, and were double
quicked out to the Lewis House, where we arrived just in time to witness
the rout of McDowell's grand army, and join in the shouts of victory.
I shall give no description of the battle of Manassas, nor enter into any
details as to its results. But it may be well to correct a widely circulated
error in reference to the movements of General Kirby Smith, who was represented
as stopping the train four miles above the Junction, and marching across
the fields to strike the Federal army in flank, and thus decide the fate
of the day. Now, as General Smith was that day in command of our brigade
(until he was wounded, and Colonel Elzey resumed the command), I am prepared
to assert in the most positive manner that no such movement was made, but
that the brigade was carried on to the Junction, reported to General Johnston,
and (with the exception of the Thirteenth Virginia, which was detached),
was marched thence to the battlefield, where it arrived at an opportune moment,
and, together with Early's brigade, gave the finishing blows of the hard
fought field. I had, until recently, the blanket under which I slept on the
battle field that night, and it recalled a thousand reminiscences which I
will not here relate.
The next day we were marched to Fairfax Station, and held the advance at
that point, picketing on the outposts, and having not a few stirring skirmishes
with the enemy. I might fill pages with the details of this outpost service;
but I recall only a few incidents.
In the latter part of July, or the first of August, Stuart, with five companies
of the First Maryland and five of the Thirteenth Virginia, and several companies
of cavalry, captured Mason's, Munson's and Hall's hills, from which we could
plainly see the dome of the Capitol at Washington. The day we captured Munson's
hill, Major Terrill was sent with a detachment of the Thirteenth on a scout,
during which we drove in the enemy's pickets, ate their smoking dinner, and
pursued them back until they rallied on their reserve, and our gallant Major
thought it would not be prudent to advance further. Accordingly we were moving
back to our reserve when we met Stuart. "What is the matter? I hope you are
not running from the Yankees," said the cavalier. Major Terrill explained,
and Stuart said "That was all right, but the Maryland boys are coming, and
I think we must go back and beat up the quarters of those people." Just then
a scout rode up and informed him that the enemy were fully five thousand
strong and had five pieces of artillery. (We numbered about five hundred).
"Oh, no!" was the laughing reply, "you are romancing. But it does not matter
how many they number. We can whip them anyway; and as for their artillery,
the Southern Confederacy needs artillery, and we will just go and take possession
of those pieces." Dismounting from his horse after our line of battle was
formed, he took a musket and was among the foremost in the charge as we dashed
forward and cleared the wood to and beyond the Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad,
causing the long roll to beat and the troops to turn out for miles along
General McClellan's front.
It was my privilege to see a good deal of Stuart at this period, at his
headquarters, on a red blanket, spread under a pine tree on Munson's hill.
His athletic frame indicating that he was a splendid war machine -- his lofty
forehead, dashing blue eyes, prominent nose, heavy, reddish brown whiskers
and mustache -- his beaming countenance and clear, ringing laughter, and
his prompt decision, rapid execution and gallant dash, all showed that he
was a born leader of men, and pointed him out as a model cavalryman. Those
were merry days on the outpost, when we fought for a peach orchard, a tomato
patch, or a cornfield, when Stuart would call for volunteers to drive in
the enemy's pickets, or amuse himself with having Rosser's artillery "practice"
at Professor Lowe's balloon, or sending up a kite with lantern attached,
or causing the long roll to beat along McClellan's whole front, by sending
up skyrockets at night from different points.
On the 11th of September, Stuart took 305 men of the Thirteenth Virginia,
two companies of his cavalry, and two pieces of Rosser's battery, and advanced
on Lewinsville, where, by a skillful handling of his little command, he drove
off a force of the enemy consisting of a brigade of infantry, eight pieces
of artillery, and a detachment of cavalry. I remember how delighted Stuart
was, as he declared, "We have whipped them out of their boots."
He was also chuckling over the following note, which was left for him with
a citizen by his old West Point comrade, Griffin:
"Dear 'Beauty'," -- I have called to see you, and regret very much that you
are 'not in'. Can't you dine with me at Willard's tomorrow? Keep your "black
horse" off me.
"Your old friend.
To this note Stuart made the following reply:
"Dear Griffin; -- I heard that you had 'called,' and hastened to see you,
but as soon as you saw me coming, you were guilty of the discourtesy of turning
your back on me. However, you probably hurried on to Washington to get the
dinner ready. I hope to dine at Willard's, if not "tomorrow," certainly before
"Yours to count on,
Stuart was made a Brigadier General for his gallantry and skill on the outposts,
and wrote Colonel Hill, who was then commanding the brigade, a most complimentary
letter concerning the conduct of the Thirteenth Virginia regiment. I recollect
that a facetious private in one of our companies (poor fellow, he fell at
Gaines' Mill in 1862, bravely doing his duty) remarked in reference to this
letter, which was read out on dress parade, "I do not like it at all. It
means 'you are good fellows, and there is more bloody work for you to do.'
It is preparatory to butting our heads against those stone walls down about
Arlington. I would rather exchange our Minnie muskets for old flintlocks,
and get no compliments from the Generals, and then, perhaps, we might be
sent back to Orange Courthouse, to guard the sick and wounded."
I remember one night, two of us were on picket post in a drenching rain,
and had received orders to be especially alert, as the enemy were expected
to advance that night. We had constructed very respectable breastworks in
a fence corner, with portholes for our guns, and were prepared to give a
warm reception to any approaching bluecoats. About two o'clock in the morning,
the rain still pouring in torrents, my comrade was quietly smoking his pipe,
while I was keeping a sharp lookout, when he suddenly called me by name,
and said: "I want here and now, in this drenching rain, on the outpost, to
lay down a plank in my future political platform. If I live to get through
this war, and two candidates are presented for my suffrage, the very first
question I mean to ask will be: 'Which one of them is fit?' and I mean always
to vote for the man who is fit. I tell you those able bodied men who are
sleeping in feather beds tonight, while we are standing here in the rain
to guard their precious carcasses, must be content to take back seats when
we get home."
I gave him my hand there in the dark, and my pledge that I would stand with
him on the camp platform.
These frequent movements with cavalry, often requiring long or very rapid
marches, made the men begin to speak of the regiment as the "foot cavalry."
But the first time I ever heard the sobriquet publicly applied was after
the evacuation of Manassas, in March, 1862, while General Ewell was holding
with his division the line of the Rappahannock. Our regiment had been on
picket at Bealton Station as a support to Stuart's cavalry, and the enemy
were rapidly advancing in large force, when another infantry regiment came
down on a train of cars to relieve us. We had just gotten on the train, our
friends were rapidly forming line of battle to meet the Federal advance,
"Jeb" Stuart was going to the front with his "fighting jacket" on, and our
train was slowly moving back, when a battery of the enemy galloped into position,
and threw some shell, which shrieked through the air, and exploded uncomfortably
near us. Immediately Colonel Walker called out in his clear, ringing tones,
"It's all right, boys. The Thirteenth Foot Cavalry are mounted at last, and
we will try the speed of our horse flesh." So saying, he ordered the engineer
to increase his speed, and we rushed to the rear amid the shouts of the men,
who gave "three cheers for the foot cavalry," and made the woods echo with
the camp song,
"If you want to have a good time,
Jine the cavalry."
The whole of Jackson's splendid corps was afterwards called "the foot cavalry;"
but I believe that the above was the origin of the sobriquet. My grand old
regiment afterwards won imperishable renown as it bore its tattered battle
flag into the very thickest of the fight on many a victorious field, but
we never forgot those bright days with Stuart. when we had our "outpost service
with the foot cavalry."
Cite: Southern Historical Society Papers
Vol. II. Richmond, Va., March, 1881. No. 3.
Reminiscences Of The Army Of Northern Virginia.
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Section: Main ::
Order of Battle