the war

The War





The Man







J. William Jones

Order of Battle
I pass by the scenes of our winter quarters at Manassas, and of the falling back from that line of defence; for although there are many points of interest connected with these events, I can only in these papers touch on a few of the more important movements of our army.

Ewell's division held the line of the Rappahannock, while Johnston fell back to Richmond, and went thence to the Peninsula to support Magruder in the skillful and gallant resistance he had been making to the advance of the overwhelming force of the enemy. The situation at this time was anything but encouraging. The confederates after the battle of Manassas, had been beguiled into the idea that the war was virtually over -- that foreign powers would certainly recognize the Confederacy, and that it was scarcely necessary to make much preparation for another campaign.

I remember meeting, the day after the brilliant affair, near Leesburg (Ball's Bluff),an officer of high rank, who had just returned from Richmond, and who said to me: "We shall have no more fighting. It is not our policy to advance on the enemy now; they will hardly advance on us, and before spring England and France will recognize the Confederacy, and that will end the war." The time of the enlistment of nearly the whole of the Virginia army expired in the early spring of 1862, and nearly all of the infantry were planning to "Jine the cavalry!," or to become artillerymen. A number of new companies of cavalry and artillery were formed (on paper), and if these plans had been carried out, the whole army would have been converted into cavalry and artillery. But the disasters at Forts Henry and Donaldson brought us to our senses, the patriotism of the men promptly responded, and most of them enlisted "for the war," while the "conscript law," which was now passed, settled the matter with anyone who wavered.

The Thirteenth "Foot cavalry" had tried in vain to be transferred to Stuart's cavalry, and they now gracefully accepted the situation, enlisted for the war, and entered upon the reorganization by the election of new officers. This fatal defect in the law by which the men were allowed to choose their own officers would have demoralized almost any other troops in the world; but the splendid morale of our army, their high intelligence, and their devotion to the cause, brought us safely through this severest ordeal without serious damage. There were, of course, some good officers who were thrown out, and some indifferent ones elected; but on the whole the army was about as well officered as before. In my own regiment the Colonel (J.A. Walker -- A.P. Hill had been recently promoted), stated in my presence soon after the election, that if he had the appointment of company officers, he would have appointed just the ones whom the men had elected.

Stonewall Jackson had been sent to the command of the "Valley District," in October, 1861, and had displayed that wonderful activity which seasoned his men and prepared them for what was to follow. His mid winter march to Bath, Hancock and Romney; his indignant resignation because he thought the Secretary of War (Mr. Benjamin) had listened to complaints of his subordinates, and undertaken to regulate the internal affairs and movements of his troops without consulting him -- and his brilliant fight at Kemstown, which, though in one sense a defeat, recalled to the valley the column which was marching on Gen. Johnston's flank -- are all of deep historic interest, but will be omitted from these sketches, as we had not yet joined the valley army. It was, indeed, uncertain, whether Ewell would be sent to join Jackson, or be ordered to Richmond and even after ordered to the valley there was a doubt as to what point we would go, until finally it was decided by our falling back to Gordonsville, and marching thence to Stanardsville, in Green county, where we had for a few days a very delightful camp Ground. On the afternoon of the 30th of April, Ewell entered Swift Run Gap, which Jackson had just left, to fulfill his plan of uniting with Gen. Ed. Johnson, then posted twenty miles west of Staunton, to strike Fremont's advance under Milroy.

Ewell's division at this time, consisted of Gen. R. Taylor's Louisiana brigade, Gen. Trimble's brigade (consisting of the Twenty first North Carolina, the Twenty first Georgia, the Sixteenth Mississippi and the Fifteenth Alabama regiments), and Gen. Elzey's brigade (composed of the Thirteenth Virginia, the Tenth Virginia and the First Maryland regiments), and the batteries of artillery which were then attached to each brigade. We had also two regiments of cavalry making our whole force about 7,000 men well equipped, well disciplined, and of splendid morale. I had opportunity at this time and subsequently of seeing a good deal of Gen. Ewell, and he impressed me as being every inch a soldier. Plain in his dress, quick (and if need be rough) in his orders, prompt in execution, almost reckless in his courage, and stubborn and unyielding in holding any position assigned him, he was just the man whom Jackson needed, in whom he seemed to have the highest confidence, and to whom he was certainly indebted for much of his splendid success.

I remember being at his quarters one day at Swift Run Gap, as he was sending out a scouting party. The captain who commanded it had received his instructions and was just mounting to ride off when Gen. Ewell called him back and said: "One thing more captain, I wish you to particularly observe: I don't want you to send me any information received from 'reliable citizens.' I only want what you see or positively ascertain yourself." He seemed to appreciate fully the character of the volunteers who composed his command, and the difference between them and the old United States regulars whom he had commanded so long. He remarked to me one day: "There are a great many of these officers who will be held to account after the war is over by the rank and file of the army. Many of these men are our superiors in point of intelligence, wealth and social position, and if an officer fails to appreciate the difference between these men and the rough elements found in the old service, he will rue it when the war is over."

The brigadiers of our division were all men of mark. Gen. Richard Taylor (son of "Old Rough and Ready") was a gentleman of rare accomplishments and a soldier of such decided ability, that he was destined to rise to the rank of lieutenant general, and give to "Stonewall's Quartermaster", (Gen. Banks) on his Red River expedition the additional sobriquet of "Dick Taylor's Commissary."

Gen. Trimble rose to the rank of Major General, lost a leg at Gettysburg and gave most untiring service to the cause he came from Maryland to expouse.

Gen. Elzey was also a Marylander who had won a fine reputation in the old army, who had been called by Beauregard at First Manassas, "the Blucher of the day," who became also a Major General, and who was recognized as an accomplished and gallant soldier.

Besides there were then serving in the division, J.A. Walker, J.E.B. Terrill, Geo. E. Steuart, B.T. Johnson, Hays, York, J.M. Jones, Posey, Canty and others, who afterwards won the wreath and stars.

While watching Banks, and awaiting Jackson's movements, we luxuriated in the green fields, the beautiful groves the clear streams, the magnificent scenery, and (what was, perhaps, even more appreciated), the delicious milk and elegant apple butter of the glorious valley.

But we had not long to wait. General Banks retreated down the valley, and took a strong position at Strasburg, while Jackson raised the drooping hopes of the Confederacy by the following characteristic dispatch:

Valley District, May 9, 1862.

To General S. Cooper:

God blessed our arms with victory at McDowell yesterday.

T. J. Jackson, Major General.

After defeating Milroy Fremont's advance guard -- and pursuing him until he was driven out of the range of proposed operations in the valley, he ordered Ewell to move down the Luray valley, while he marched across by Harrisonburg down the main pike to Newmarket, and then over Massanuttin mountain to join Ewell in his advance.

I shall never forget the enthusiasm with which we started on that march. The "Luray Valley" lies between the Blue Ridge and the Massanuttin (a high and precipitous mountain which suddenly rises from the valley opposite Swift Run Gap, and as suddenly terminates near Strasburg, fifty miles below), and is one of the loveliest spots that the sun shines upon. As we moved down this beautiful valley, by the pretty little town of Luray, past many pleasant homes and well stocked farms, the people received us everywhere with the liveliest demonstrations of joy, and supplied us abundantly with food of every description. Ewell continued to lead the advance, which was directed on Front Royal, in order to flank banks' position at Strasburg. The ubiquitous Ashby had pressed his cavalry close up to Strasburg, and had stretched across the main valley a cordon of pickets, which completely concealed our movements as we pressed on rapidly towards our objective point. I well remember when Jackson first came to the front of our column. Hearing loud cheering in the rear, which came nearer and nearer, we soon saw that it was Stonewall himself, mounted on that old sorrel which we afterwards came to know so well, and galloping along the column with uncovered head. We, too, at once took up the shout, and gave a hearty greeting to the great captain, who had come to lead us to victory, and the mountains echoed and reechoed with the glad acclaim.

About two o'clock P.M. on Friday, May 23d, our advance (consisting of the First Maryland and Wheat's Louisiana "Tigers," all under the command of General George H. Steuart) made a dash at the Federal force stationed in Front Royal, which seemed to be taken completely by surprise, but which made a gallant resistance as it was pressed rapidly back over the two forks of the Shenandoah river.

Jackson was always in the forefront -- sometimes even in advance of the skirmish line -- and manifested the greatest impatience to press forward; at one time directing an aid to "order up every rifled gun and every brigade in the army."

The stubborn fight between the two "First Maryland " regiments (the Confederates under Col. Bradley T. Johnson and the Federals under Col. Kenly); the cavalry charge at Cedarville, five miles from Front Royal, in which Col. Flournoy (under the order of Jackson and in his immediate presence), charged with 250 men four times his numbers, and so completely broke and scattered them, that other Confederate forces coming up, about 700 prisoners, two rifled guns, and large quantities of arms, ammunition and stores were captured; the gallant fight of Col. Ashby, at Bucktown, and the complete turning of the position of the enemy at Strasburg, were all results of these rapid movements which I have not space to describe in detail.

We bivouacked that night just beyond the forks of the Shenandoah, while some of the pickets of our division were advanced to within four miles of Winchester.

Cite: Southern Historical Society Papers

Vol. IX. Richmond, Va., April, 1881. No. 4

Reminiscences Of The Army Of Northern Virginia.

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