|I closed my last sketch with a brief statement of how "Jackson and his
Foot Cavalry" were "caught" at Cross Keys and Port Republic. There is abundant
proof that Jackson's plan was, after repulsing Fremont with Ewell's division,
to concentrate on Shields early the next morning, crush him, and then return
to make finishing work of Fremont.
But there was unexpected delay in crossing the river on account of a defect
in the bridge, and the attack was thus postponed to a much later hour than
was intended. Besides this Shields made a most gallant fight; his position
was a strong one, well selected and most stubbornly held, and Jackson was
not able to fulfil his purpose as expressed to Colonel Patton, whom he left
to confront Fremont on the other side of the river: "By the blessing of
Providence I hope to be back by 10 o'clock."
It was after 10 o'clock before all of his troops had crossed the river. Jackson's
first attacks were repulsed with heavy loss, and when Shields was finally
driven from the field it was too late to go back after Fremont even if it
had been deemed advisable to attack him again in the then exhausted condition
of our troops.
Why Fremont stood idly by while Jackson was fighting Shields, and did not
cross the river (as he could easily have done at several fords) and fall
on Jackson's rear, has always been a mystery to us. In the afternoon he advanced
into the open ground near the river, and as I gazed upon his long line of
battle, his bright muskets gleaming in the rays of the sun, and his battle
flags rippling in the breeze, I thought it the finest military display I
had ever seen, and only feared that he would cross the river. But there he
stood an idle spectator of the raging battle, content to play no part in
the drama, except to throw shot and shell at our ambulances and litter bearers
who were caring for the Federal wounded, and to shell the hospital into which
we were gathering and ministering to the wounded of both armies.
Fremont retreated to Harrisonburg and thence down the valley, where he formed
with Shields the juncture which they had so long coveted in vain, but which
was now too late to be of value.
For five days Jackson rested his weary men in the beautiful valley just above
Port Republic where, on the Saturday following the battle, we were summoned
by orders from headquarters to a most delightful thanksgiving service in
which the stars and bars of rank knelt in the dust with the rough garb of
the private soldier and our great chieftain brought the imperishable glory
he had won and humbly laid it at the feet of the Lord of Hosts.
And surely the "Foot Cavalry" were now entitled to at least a few days' rest.
In thirty two days they had marched nearly 400 miles, skirmishing almost
daily, fought five battles, defeated three armies, two of which were completely
routed, captured about twenty pieces of artillery, some 4,000 prisoners and
immense quantities of stores of all kinds, and had done all this with a loss
of less than 1,000 men killed, wounded and missing.
The battle of "Seven Pines," as the Confederates called it, or "Fair Oaks,"
as it is named by the Federals, had been fought and claimed as a victory
by both sides; and the Army of Northern Virginia had been deprived of its
able commander, General J.E. Johnston, who was severely wounded.
But fortunately for the Confederate cause General R.E. Lee was called to
the command. Some time before, when Colonel A.R. Boteler had applied to him
from Jackson for an increase of his force to 40,000 men, with which he "would
invade the North," General Lee had replied: "But he must help me to drive
these people away from Richmond first," and the plan of the great campaign
was thus foreshadowed.
We were confident that we were to sweep down the Valley again, and the sending
of some eight thousand troops from Richmond to reinforce Jackson deceived
us as completely as it did the authorities at Washington. I remember to have
heard General Ewell say just the day before we broke camp and started for
Richmond: "Well, our reinforcements are coming up, and after a few days rest
we shall march rapidly down the Valley again and beat up the enemy's quarters
about Strausburg," and when some time afterwards I intimated to General Ewell's
chief of staff that he had merely made that remark for effect, as he, of
course, knew of the contemplated movement, that officer assured me that General
Ewell (the second in command) had not the most remote idea of the contemplated
move -- that when he did move the only orders he received were to march in
the direction of Charlottesville -- and that as a rule Jackson kept Ewell
and the rest of his officers in profound ignorance of his plans and purposes.
General J.A. Walker has recently given me an amusing illustration of this.
A few days after Ewell's division moved into Swift Run Gap to take the place
of Jackson's troops, who were then marching on Milroy, Walker had occasion
to call to see Ewell on important business, but found him in such a towering
rage that he took the advice of a member of the staff and did not broach
his errand to him. But as he was about to leave Ewell called him and abruptly
asked: "Colonel Walker, did it ever occur to you that General Jackson is
"I don't know, General," was the reply, "We used to call him 'Fool Tom Jackson'
at the Virginia Military Institute, but I do not suppose that he is really
"I tell you sir," rejoined the irate veteran, "he is as crazy as a March
hare. He has gone away, I don't know where, and left me here with instructions
to stay until he returns. But Banks's whole army is advancing on me, and
I have not the most remote idea where to communicate with General Jackson.
I tell you, sir, he is crazy, and I will just march my division away from
here. I do not mean to have it cut to pieces at the behest of a crazy man."
And as Walker rode away he left Ewell pacing the yard of his quarters in
no good humor at being thus left in ignorance of the whereabouts and plans
of his chief.
Riding down to see General Elzey, who commanded the brigade, Colonel Walker
found that officer in an exceedingly irritable frame of mind over an order
he had received from General Ewell, and pretty soon he said: "I tell you
sir, General Ewell is crazy, and I have a serious notion of marching my brigade
back to Gordonsville." Just then one of the conscripts who had been recently
assigned to the Thirteenth Virginia (Walker's regiment), bolted in with a
paper in his hand and rushing up to General Elzey exclaimed:
"I want you, sir, to sign that paper at once, and give me my discharge. You
have no right to keep me here, and I mean to go home."
As soon as General Elzey recovered from his astonishment at the fellow's
impudence, he seized his pistols and discharged two shots at him as the man
rushed out of sight. Coming back he exclaimed: "I should like to know, Colonel
Walker what sort of men you keep over at that Thirteenth regiment? The idea
of the rascal's demanding of me, a Brigadier General, to sign a paper. Oh!
if I could have only gotten hold of my pistols sooner."
"Well," replied Walker, "I don't know what to do myself. I was up to see
General Ewell just now, and he said that General Jackson was crazy; I come
down to see you, and you say that General Ewell is crazy; and I have not
the slightest doubt that my conscript, who ran from you just now, will report
it all over camp that General Elzey is crazy; so it seems I have fallen into
evil hands, and I reckon the best thing for me to do is to turn the conscripts
loose, and march the rest of my regiment back to Richmond." This put General
Elzey in a good humor, and they had a hearty laugh over the events of Colonel
Walker's visits to division and brigade headquarters.
I might as well give here several other illustrations that came under my
personal observation, of how Jackson concealed his plans from even his higher
officers. A short time before the battle of Slaughter's Mountain our division
had been lying all day in the turnpike above Gordonsville, when General Ewell
rode up to a friend of mine, with whom I was conversing at the time, and
"Dr. , can you tell me where we are going?"
"That question," was the reply, "I should like to ask you, General, if it
were a proper one."
"I pledge you my word," said the General, "that I do not know whether we
will march north, south, east or west, or whether we will march at all. General
Jackson simply ordered me to have my division ready to move at early dawn.
I have been ready ever since, but have had no further intimation of his plans.
And that is about all I ever know of his designs."
On the march to Slaughter's Mountain I remember that I lingered at our camp,
three miles above Gordonsville, until sundown, in order to ride in the cool
of the evening with a brother chaplain and a sick friend (a gallant artillery
officer whom we could not persuade to go to the hospital), and was thus in
the rear of our whole column. At Liberty Mills we met a courier who inquired,
"How far back is General A.P. Hill?" We replied: "He is not on this road
at all; he moved in the direction of Orange Courthouse." "You certainly must
be mistaken," he said in great surprise, "I have a very important dispatch
for him from General Ewell, who told me that I would find him at the head
of his division moving immediately in rear of his own." Upon our assuring
him that we saw Hill's division break camp and file off on the road to Orange
Courthouse, he said: "Well, I must hurry back and report to the General,
for he is expecting an attack, and is relying on General Hill to support
him." I learned afterward that General Jackson had made the impression on
General Ewell that Hill would follow him closely by the same road, and that
upon information (which proved; false) that the enemy was advancing, Ewell
was preparing to give battle in the confident expectation of being supported
In the autumn of '62, after the rest of the army had crossed the mountains,
I was assured by one of our higher officers that our corps would certainly
winter in the Valley -- that he had gotten an intimation of this from General
Jackson himself -- and that he had ascertained that the General had rented
a house for his family. We marched the next day for Eastern Virginia, and
the glorious field of First Fredericksburg.
So completely did General Jackson conceal his plans from his staff and higher
officers that it got to be a joke among them when one was green enough to
attempt to fathom "Stonewall's ways." The men used to say, "Well, if the
Yankees are as ignorant of the meaning of this move as we are 'old Jack'
The movement from the Valley to Richmond was so secretly planned and executed
that army, people, and enemy alike were completely deceived. The reinforcements
sent to the Valley from Richmond were purposely sent in such a public manner
as to have the report reach Washington as soon as possible, where it had
the effect of inducing Mr. Lincoln to order General McDowell to delay his
intended advance to McClellan's support, and caused the retreat down the
Valley of all the forces opposed to Jackson. But the deception was rendered
still more complete by a little finesse practiced by Colonel Munford, who
held the Confederate advance with his cavalry.
A train of ambulances, with their escort, and a number of surgeons had come
under flag of truce to Harrisonburg, to ask permission to carry back the
Federal wounded, and while detaining them in a room adjoining his own quarters
Colonel Munford received Mr. William Gilmer (a widely known humorist, to
whom he had given the cue), who came in with clanking spurs and sabre, and
announced in a loud tone, "dispatches from General Jackson." At this the
Federal officers stealthily approached the partition to hear what would follow.
"Do you bring any good news?" asked the Colonel.
"Glorious news," he answered. "The road from Staunton is chock full of soldiers,
cannon and wagons come to reinforce Jackson in his march down the Valley.
There is General Whiting, General Hood, General Lawton, and General I- don't-
know- who. I never saw so many soldiers and cannon together in my life. People
say there are thirty thousand of them."
After a few more questions and answers of like import, framed for the benefit
of the eavesdroppers, Colonel Munford dismissed his "courier," and the whole
town was soon agog with the "glorious news." Several hours afterwards Colonel
Munford sent back his guests, who, of course, carried "the news" to headquarters.
Colonel Munford pushed his advance down to New Market, and the Federal army
immediately retreated to Strausburg, where they were busily engaged in fortifying
against Jackson at the very time when "the foot cavalry" were thundering
on McClellan's flank before Richmond.
Our march was so secretly undertaken and so secretly executed that our higher
officers, as well as the men, were in profound ignorance of our destination.
At Charlottesville we expected to turn off through Green county to meet a
rumored move of the enemy across the mountains. At Gordonsville I was told
by the Presbyterian minister, at whose house Jackson made his headquarters,
as a profound secret, not to be breathed, that we "would move at daybreak
on Culpeper Courthouse." We moved instead on Louisa Courthouse, where again
we were deceived into thinking that we should move across by Spottsylvania
Courthouse to meet McDowell's column coming down from Fredericksburg. At
Frederick's Hall, Beaver Dam depot, and Hanover Junction, we still expected
to head towards Fredericksburg, and it was really not until the afternoon
of June 26, when we heard A.P. Hill's guns at Mechanicsville, that we appreciated
the true nature of the move we had made, and the bloody work before us.
It was on this march that Jackson met one of Hood's Texans straggling from
his command, when the following coloquy ensued:
"Where are you going?"
"I do not know, sir," promptly responded the Texan.
"What command do you belong to?"
"I do not know, sir."
"What State are you from?"
"Don't know, sir."
"Well!" said the General a little impatiently, "what do you know?"
"Nothing at all, sir, on this march for old Stonewall says we must be know
nothings until after the next battle, and I am not going to disobey orders."
At Fredericks Hall, Jackson made his headquarters, by special invitation,
at one of those hospitable old Virginia mansions which were so famous in
their day. The lady of the house had prepared the next morning an elegant
breakfast, and sent to call General Jackson to partake of it; but his room
was vacant and no one knew whither he had gone. He had risen at 1 o'clock
A.M., and with a single courier, had started on a ride of fifty one miles
to Richmond to hold a conference with General Lee. He impressed several horses
on the route -- the owners growling loudly at being compelled to give up
their horses to "that grum colonel, who looked as if he would not hesitate
to shoot if necessary."
Mr. Matthew Hope, who resided in the lower end of Louisa county, gave me
a very amusing account of his interview with him. Galloping up to his house
about 4 o'clock in the morning he aroused Mr. Hope, and asked if he had a
good, fleet horse.
"Yes, sir!" was the reply, "I have the best horse in this region."
"Well, then, bring him out quick, for I want him! I am a Confederate officer,
traveling on important business. My own horse is broken down and I must have
"You shall do no such thing," was the reply. "I do not keep horses for any
straggler that may chance to come along."
"But my business is urgent, and if you do not let me have the horse I shall
be compelled to take him."
"But what guarantee do you offer me that it is all right?' persisted Mr.
"None but my word, sir; but I have no time to argue the case, and you will
please saddle the horse at once."
"I shall certainly do no such a thing," was the irate reply "I do not saddle
horses for myself, and I shall not do it for you."
But Jackson cut the matter short by dismounting, and with the assistance
of his courier, saddled the fresh horse and galloped off with the promise
that he would return him in a few days.
Mr. Hope says that when the horse came back "with General Jackson's compliments,"
his chagrin knew no bounds, as he would have esteemed it a privilege to let
him have every horse he had, and to have saddled them for him, too.
Jackson rode into Richmond so quietly that no one knew of his presence; had
his interview with General Lee; received all of the instructions necessary
to enable him to carry out his part of the great battle which was to culminate
in McClellan's "change of base," and galloped back to the head of his column
before it was suspected that he had been absent at all.
And now we hurried forward to bivouac near Ashland, in the "slashes of Hanover,"
and to march the next day to our position on the flank, while A.P. Hill led
his splendid "Light Division" across the Chickahominy at Meadow Bridge and
opened the great battle by advancing on the enemy at Mechanicsville.
But of these battles, the part borne in them by the "Foot Cavalry" and the
masterly retreat made by McClellan in his "change of base," I must speak
in my next.
I have only been able to give in this an imperfect sketch of how we were
transferred from the mountains to the Chickahominy.
Cite: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. IX. Richmond, Va.,
July And August, 1881. Nos. 7 And 8. Reminiscences Of The Army Of Northern
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Order of Battle