Eppa Hunton, Jr.
|Death:||Died in Richmond, Virginia|
Son of Maj. Eppa Hunton, Sr. and Elizabeth Marye Hunton
|Managed by:||Private User|
Historical records matching Brig. Gen. Eppa Hunton II (CSA), US Senator
About Brig. Gen. Eppa Hunton II (CSA), US Senator
United States Senator from Virginia, Brigadier General in the Army of Northern Virginia in Pickett's Brigade.
Here is the text of his autobiography:
The Autobiography of Eppa Hunton
There were only 100 copies of the ‘Autobiography of Eppa Hunton’ published, and few remain in circulation today. There are many relatives of General Hunton who have not had a chance to read the accounts he laid down in his biography. I have published this manuscript in an effort to make it available to these relatives.
What follows was collected from pieces of the book having been published on the internet. The majority was culled from 67 individual genealogical postings on the rootsweb.com website by the grand-daughter of Anna Hunton Rector, Pat Vorenberg. Those web postings were typed in from copy No. 33 of the book. Where passages are known to be missing, this has been indicated by the following: [text missing]. On the whole the manuscript seems to be approximately 95% complete. Eppa Hunton, Jr. added his comments and remembrances to the book which are noted by * and **.
Eppa Hunton dictated the book to his son Eppa Hunton, Jr. in 1904, while he was living with his son at 8 East Franklin Street in Richmond. Eppa Hunton was 82 at the time. An addendum was added a year later. Eppa Hunton died in 1908 and Eppa Hunton, Jr. published the book in 1933 by way of The William Byrd Press. The published book is 268 pages.
The William Byrd Press, inc.
2901 Byrdhill Road
Richmond, Virginia 23228
Known copies of The Autobiography of Eppa Hunton are located at: US Senate, Emory University, John Hopkins University, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Loudon County Public Library, Fauquier County Public Library, University Of Virginia , Virginia Historical Society, Virginia Military Institute, Richmond Public Library, University Of Richmond
For those of you who have not had a chance to read the biography, here is your chance. It is a good look into the times of our family and our nation. Eppa Hunton’s direct participation in and description of some of the key events of our country such as Virginia Secession, Gettysburg, and The Hayes-Tilden presidential contest put his eyes in our hands.
David Baer Tierkel
Great grandson of Wofford Middleton Hunton
The Autobiography of Eppa Hunton
- Chapter 1 -
"I was born on the 22nd day of September, 1822, on my father's farm, "Springfield," on the road from New Baltimore to Thoroughfare, in Fauquier County, Virginia. My father, Eppa Hunton, was the son of James Hunton, and a grandson of William Hunton, both of said County of Fauquier. He was born January 30, 1789.
James Hunton married Hannah Logan Brown of King George County, and had four sons and three daughters. My father, Eppa, was the second son. He taught school for several years in a school house near Old Broad Run Church, Fauquier County. He purchased "Springfield," and married Elizabeth Marye Brent.
My father was a very active business man, of the quickest perception and promptest action. He was very popular and was twice elected to the Legislature. He was a prosperous man and at his death owned three good farms: “Springfield," "Mount Hope: and a farm in Prince William County. He possessed military qualifications of a high order, and was an officer in the War of 1812*. He was at Bladensburg and Craney Island and was a brigade inspector of the Virginia Militia. He purchased "Mount Hope" that he might be a mile nearer to New Baltimore, where there was a fine academy for both boys and girls. He died on the 8th of April, 1830, aged 41 years.
The Huntons of Virginia were remarkable for their intelligence, hospitality, integrity and good conduct. The records of the courts will be searched in vain to find any proceeding against one of the name for any breach of law and order.
- He was First Lieutenant of Captain William R. Smith's Troop of Cavalry from Fauquier County, attached to the command of Major Thomas Hunton, Virginia Militia, according to the records of the Adjutant General U.S. Army."
My father had eleven children, to-wit: Virginia Freedonia; Hannah Neale; John Heath; Judith Ann; Silas Brown; James Innis; myself; Elizabeth Marye; George William; Mary Brent and Charles Arthur. The oldest and youngest died in infancy. The others grew to maturity -some of them to old age – and became useful and highly reputable citizens. My sister, Mary Brent, the widow of Thomas R. Foster, and myself, are the only surviving children. My father's estate wound up badly, it took all his personality, and his Prince William Farm, to pay his debts.
My mother, at the age of thirty-eight years, was left with nine children, none of them grown, and comparatively poor. She was the most anxious and devoted mother I ever saw, and applied herself to rearing and educating her children with a singleness of purpose and unselfishness never equaled. She was a model mother, lived to a good old age, and saw all her children (except the two who died in infancy) become useful and reputable men and women.
I was educated almost entirely at the New Baltimore Academy. It was a most excellent institution of learning for that day, presided over by the Rev. John Ogilvie. I was ambitious from early boyhood to become a lawyer, and desired to obtain a very good Latin and English education; but my funds gave out and I had to borrow money to go to school the last year, 1839. I completed my English course, and then commenced my Latin the 1st of September, 1838, and finished the full course of Latin by the end of 1839.
In 1840 I taught school for Richard Rixey and Sylvester Welsh at a log school house on the road leading from Warrenton to The Plains, near the latter town. I devoted my leisure time during this year to the study of history, and was especially interested in the history of England, from which I learned its feudal system, on which the great system of the Common Law is founded.
The next year I opened a public school at Buckland, Prince William County, Virginia. This was in the neighborhood of John Webb Tyler, who afterwards became Judge of the Circuit Court of that circuit. He sent five boys to me, and gave me instruction in law gratuitously, and furnished me with the books to read. I taught there during the years 1841 and 1842, and in June 1843, I obtained a license to practice law.
Under the advice of John Webb Tyler I determined to settle at Brentsville, the county seat of Prince William County, which was a small town. There was not a great deal of law business in that county, but there were very few lawyers, and Mr. Tyler advised me to go there and learn to practice and then to move to some place where business was better. I found but one lawyer at Rentsville - Daniel Jasper - though there were two or three others in the county and the Warrenton lawyers always attended the courts.
I was slow in getting business in Prince William. Daniel Jasper had preceded me nearly a year; he was a very active man and a very sprightly, smart fellow, and got most of the business for a year or two.
In the winder of 1847-48, John Webb Tyler was elected Judge of the Circuit Court. Mr. Jasper and I were candidates to succeed him as Commonwealth's Attorney. At that time the County Court consisted of twenty or thirty magistrates, who elected the Commonwealth's Attorney. The race between Mr. Jasper and myself was a very close one. I was successful.
On the 14th of June, 1848, I married Lucy Caroline Weir, of "Hartford," Prince William County, Virginia.
This marriage was a most happy one. My wife was in every respect an affectionate, loving help-mate.
We remained with Mrs. Weir during the balance of the year 1848. The farm "Hartford" was sold during the year, possession to be given the 1st of April, 1849. I purchased a comfortable home in Brentsville and went to housekeeping the first of January. 1849. On the 1st of April following, when Mrs. Weir gave possession of "Hartford," she and her two daughters Bettie and Martha, came to us and made our house their home. We were a happy family, and after adding to my house in Brentsville I had a very comfortable and beautiful home, which was destroyed by the Union soldiers in 1862.
Mrs. Weir was one of the nicest and most charming old ladies I ever knew. I have often said that I had two of the best mothers any man ever had. She was devoted to me and died in my arms in Warrenton in 1870. Martha died at my house in 1882. Bettie remained with me till the death of my wife. She is now with her nieces in Clarke County, Virginia.
In 1852 a new Constitution was adopted by the State of Virginia, which affected all the offices and made most of them - Commonwealth's Attorney among them - elective by the people. Jasper and myself were again candidates for the position of Commonwealth's Attorney. It was a long, arduous and exciting contest, resulting in my election by a large majority. I carried every precinct in the county. I retained this office until my absence from the county in the Confederate Army, in 1861.
In 1848 I was elected Colonel of the Militia Regiment of Prince William County, and in 1857 was elected Brigadier-General of Militia, by the Legislature of Virginia.
On the 20th of June, 1853, my daughter Elizabeth Boothe was born and on the 30th day of September, 1854, God took her to Himself. It seemed that he had loaned her to us to brighten our home and cement our love. She was our only daughter.
On the 14th of April, 1855, my son Eppa was born. His birth tended to moderate our grief for dear little Lizzie. He still lives and has been the greatest comfort to his mother and to me. He has never given me an hour's trouble, except in smoking cigarettes. He has become a lawyer of distinction, and is loved by all who know him. His life has been interwoven with mine more closely than is usual with father and son, and he will be
often mentioned in this biography.
I was a Democrat from my earliest youth. My father before me was a Democrat. All of the Hunton name were Democrats. I took an active interest in politics from the time I was grown, and was put upon the stump by my party in every presidential canvass from 1840.
In 1856 I was one of the delegates to the National Convention at Cincinnati. Franklin Pierce was President, and I favored his re-nomination, though my ultimate choice was R. M. T. Hunter, of Virginia. Mr. James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania, was nominated and elected.
During this period, up to 1860, I had practiced my profession at Brentsville, with some success. I got a good practice and accumulated property. Excitement sometime before had begun to run very high between the North and the South. The question of slavery was the exciting cause. The North had the largest territory and the greatest population, and became very violent against the South on the question of slavery. Seward, one of the leading statesmen of the North, declared that this Union could not exist one-half slave and the other half free. Scenes of turmoil and violence occurred in both houses of Congress, and the patriotic and peace-loving man looked forward with the utmost dread to the future.
In 1860, the Democratic party, which had been a unit up to that time and had always managed to hold the balance of power, was divided upon the "free-soil" question. The Party met in convention at Charleston, South Carolina, April 23, 1860 and was divided between Douglas and Breckinridge - Douglas representing the Northern "Free-Soil" wing, and Breckenridge the "States-Right" wing of the Party. Violent scenes occurred in the convention, and finally it was disrupted. Then two conventions were held, one in Baltimore, which nominated Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, and the other in Richmond, which nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky. The old Whig Party in convention nominated John Bell, of Tennessee. The Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois.
These candidates were all men of great ability. Lincoln was a rough man, and was called the "Illinois Rail Splitter." He was one of the most vulgar men that ever attained high position in the United States.
It soon became apparent that there was great danger of the election of Abraham Lincoln, owing to the division in the Democratic Party. This increased the intense feeling between the sections. The people in many of the Southern States declared in convention assembled that they would not remain in the Union if the country elected a sectional president. I was elector on the Breckinridge ticket and actively canvassed the State of Virginia in the interest of that wing of the Democratic Party.
Abraham Lincoln was elected on November 6, 1860. Although he got only a minority of the popular vote, he got a majority of the electoral vote. The country from the Potomac to the Rio Grand was at once convulsed with excitement. Several of the "Cotton States" took early action for secession. James Buchanan was the President. He was a good man, but timid. After the "Cotton States" had all withdrawn from the Union they formed the Confederate States government at Montgomery, Alabama, with Jefferson Davis as President, and sent Commissioners to Washington to treat with the Buchanan administration for recognition as a nation. Mr. Buchanan promised time and again that he would recognize them, but his timidity interfered, and he postponed it until his term as President expired.
In the meantime Virginia had not taken any steps. Up to the 1st of January, 1861, she had made no movement towards secession. Soon thereafter the Legislature, then in extra session, passed a law calling for a convention to determine the course of Virginia in the premises. The election was to take place February 4, 1861. I declared myself a candidate for this convention. Mr. Allen Howison, a very estimable Whig gentleman of the county, was a candidate against me. I was for immediate secession. Mr. Howison was unconditionally for the Union. I published a card in which I took the ground that I was for immediate secession for the sake of the Union. Elaborating my position I argued that if Virginia would go out of the Union, at once, followed by some of the border states, the movement would be so formidable that the United States Government would not make war upon the Confederate States, but that the doctrine which was held by a great many Northern people, to "Let the erring sisters go in peace," would be adopted even by the Lincoln Administration; and that when war was avoided reconstruction would take place between the North and the South on terms satisfactory to both sides, and permanent. Of course my theory was but a theory. I was elected to the Convention by a large majority over Mr. Howison.
- Chapter 2 -
I attended the Convention, and reached Richmond the day before the session began on February 13th, and found the city in an uproar. Everybody was excited. The women and the clergy were a unit for secession. I never saw anything to equal it.
The morning I went to the convention -- I found the lower room crowded with ladies. We had to pass through this room to get to the convention hall above. I made an appeal to the ladies to let me get by, explaining that unless the members of the convention could get upstairs, there could be no convention. One of these ladies said to me, "Are you a secessionist?" I replied, "If I had my way I would vote the State out of the Union tomorrow morning before breakfast." She exclaimed, "Ladies, let him pass; he'll do!" They made a way for me to pass, and I went up to the convention.
I have often thought that if we could have seceded the next morning before breakfast, how much better it would have been than to waste the time from February until the 17th of April in useless debate. How much preparation could have been made in that time to meet the troubles ahead of us! But it was not to be.
The Convention met and elected Mr. John Janney, of Loudoun, President, over Mr. V. W. Southall of Albemarle, by a vote of 70 to 54. Both of them were Union men, but the secessionists favored Mr. Southall because he was considered less opposed to secession than Mr. Janney.
The convention was dominated by the old Whig Party, most of whom were Union men. The Democrats had had control of the State of Virginia for many years. When the call for a convention was made by the Legislature, the Democratic candidates as a general thing took ground for immediate secession. The Whigs, with more policy, took the ground that they were for the Union, and desired to preserve it, but if the time came when secession was a necessity they were for secession. They did not believe Virginia would secede and they set to work to revise the old Whig Party, which had so long been in the minority in the State. It was represented by the grandest men of the party, and as grand men as any in the State...
I felt very much provoked at the conduct of these gentlemen. I felt that the time which ought to be devoted to preparation was being wasted; but nothing could move them.
The Secession party was in a comparatively small minority. It was led by some of the ablest men in the State, such as ex-President Tyler, Professor James P. Holcombe, Lieutenant-Governor Montague, Henry A. Wise, John Goode, Jered Morton and many others. We were all for immediate secession.
Henry A. Wise had an idea that we ought to make our fight in the Union, and while he acted with us he always advocated his doctrine of fighting in the Union. I never could exactly understand how we could do it.
Just previous to the meeting of this convention there was a Peace Congress held in the City of Washington, called at the instance of Virginia, the object of which was to try if possible to harmonize the differences between the two sections of this country. It was composed of some of the best and ablest men of the North and the South, but resulted in absolute failure. When the Secession Convention met in Richmond, our delegates to the Peace Congress, among whom were ex-President John Tyler, of Charles City County, and George W. Summers, of Kanawha County, now West Virginia, had just returned there from.
Soon after the Secession Convention opened, George W. Summers made a submission speech. He was for submitting to any terms that the Northern people might impose upon us, rather than to secede. He was replied to by John Tyler, who told me afterwards that when he commenced his speech he did not think he would live to finish it, on account of the feebleness of old age. He spoke three days, and got better and better as he went along, making one of the finest speeches in defense of the South and secession that it was my fortune to hear from any source.
The leading speech after Mr. Tyler's in favor of secession was made by Professor James P. Holcombe, of Albemarle, who had long been one of the professors of law at the University of Virginia. It was one of the finest speeches ever delivered in the State of Virginia. It was received with rapturous applause by the secessionists on the floor and the audience in the galleries, and gave immense pleasure to the people of the City of Richmond and to the secessionists throughout the State. The ladies for days banked his desk with beautiful flowers, and he was the hero of the convention for a long time. He was replied to by John B. Baldwin, one of the ablest men of the Union side. He made a fine speech, taking the ground that there was no such thing as the right of secession; that if the time ever came for the South to resist, it would have to be by revolution and not by secession. This was the general doctrine of the Whig Party of the State. His speech occasioned intense pleasure to the Union side of the convention, but fell very flat in the City of Richmond. There wasn't a lady of Virginia who sent him a flower. There were three ladies wintering at the Exchange Hotel in Richmond, from Massachusetts. They favored his sentiments and sent him flowers.
For some time after the Convention met it was doubtful whether the United States would make war on the seceding states. There was a strong feeling in the Lincoln administration and to some extent among the Northern people, to "Let the erring sisters go in peace." At this time the Northwestern Governors, headed by Oliver P. Morton, of Indiana, came to Washington and insisted upon war upon the South, and the administration was committed to that course.
On April 15, Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to coerce the seceding states back into the Union, and the question propounded to the Virginia Convention was whether Virginia should furnish her quota to fight against the South, or secede and fight for the South. The feeling of secession took possession of the Virginia Convention. These old, able and patriotic Whigs who had so violently opposed secession, now became earnest advocates of it, and after a few days debate in secret session the ordinance of secession was passed, on the 17th day of April, 1861, by a good majority, 88 to 55 and was finally signed by every member of the Convention except a few from the northwestern part of the State which is now West Virginia. These left the Convention upon the passage of the ordinance of secession, and became violent Unionists in the war.
ORDINANCE OF SECESSION.
An Ordinance to Repeal the Ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution.
The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in convention on the 25th day of June, in the year of our Lord, 1788, having declared that the powers granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States:
Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain, That the ordinance adopted by the people of the State in convention of the 25th of June, in the year of our Lord 1788, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying or adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State.
And they do further declare, That the said Constitution of the United States of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.
This ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day, when ratified by a majority of the votes of the people of this State cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule to be enacted.
Done in convention in the City of Richmond, on the 17th day of April, in the year of our Lord, 1861, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth of Virginia....[signatures]
One hundred and forty-three delegates of the convention signed this ordinance. All those who had opposed secession, except those from the immediate northwest, united in signing it, and when both sides - Secessionists and Unionists - united in signing the ordinance, it was a virtual and absolute surrender of the doctrine maintained by the Whig Party prior thereto that there was no right of secession in the State.
When these distinguished and patriotic Whigs who had opposed secession, signed this ordinance reciting that Virginia had the right to secede, and that there had been abundant cause given by the Northern government, for secession, the doctrine of secession was thoroughly established in the State. It cannot be imagined that these distinguished gentlemen would, by signing the ordinance, commit themselves to political principles which they believed to be unsound. I occasionally meet with a Virginian who says there was no such thing as the right of secession. I point him to this ordinance of secession and say it is too late for anybody to maintain that doctrine after the best men in the State not only agreed to the doctrine, but acted upon it.
I would like to give more in detail the proceedings of that Convention, but they really consisted of useless debate up to the time the ordinance was passed, and any interesting incidents of a personal character that occurred have faded from my memory.
Although the old Whig Party generally opposed secession, when the ordinance passed that Party was as patriotic and as devoted to the cause of secession as those of us who had been originally secessionists. There was scarcely an exception, and practically every man, woman and child in Virginia united in supporting the State of Virginia against the Northern Army.
The Ordinance of Secession by the terms in which the convention was called had to be submitted for ratification to the people of the State. This was done in the midst of preparation throughout the State for war and a large portion of the vote upon its ratification was taken in the camps of the Confederate soldiers. It was ratified by an overwhelming majority, May 23, 1861.
My wife and son were with me during the session of the Convention, and we boarded at the Exchange and Ballard Hotel. At this same hotel some Massachusetts ladies boarded, and they had a little boy a little older and larger than my son Eppa. This little Massachusetts boy was a violent Unionist, and my son a violent Secessionist. They used to fight every day. Eppa most always got the advantage in the fight, but one day I was crossing the bridge which spanned the street between the Exchange and Ballard House and found them in a fight; Eppa had kicked at the little Yankee, and the Yankee caught his foot and had Eppa hopping up and down in a pretty bad way. I passed on and did not release him, but he finally released himself and got the better of the boy.
I felt I could not hold a militia office, and I sent my resignation to John Letcher, who was then Governor, as soon as the Ordinance of Secession was passed. I was always very much gratified at the fact that every member of the convention accessible at that time (those from the northwestern part of the State having withdrawn from it) signed a petition to the Governor to appoint me a Colonel. This petition was carried around the convention by my distinguished friend, Ballard Preston. The Governor sent word to me that he would have plenty of work for me as Brigadier-General of Militia, and refused to accept my resignation. I sent again a peremptory resignation, informing him that if he would not appoint me a Colonel, I intended to resign as Brigadier-General of Militia and go into the ranks as a private. A few days thereafter I strolled up to the Fair Grounds (now Monroe Park) and was sitting on the fence watching the V. M. I. cadets drill the recruits. I was greatly depressed and disappointed at not getting my appointment as Colonel when Mr. Ballard Preston walked up to me and saluted me as "Colonel Hunton." Governor Letcher had appointed me Colonel of the Eighth Virginia Infantry. I was very much gratified.
Immediately after my appointment as Colonel of the Eighth Virginia Regiment, I asked and was granted a leave of absence from the Convention, and left Richmond to organize my regiment in Leesburg, Loudoun County, Virginia, and to take the field.
I had by the time the ordinance of secession was ratified eight companies at Leesburg, and two were added thereafter. It was composed of six companies from the county of Loudoun, commanded respectively by Captain William N. Berkeley; Nathaniel Heaton' Alexander Grayson; Willliam Simpson; Wampler and John R. Carter; one company from Prince William, commanded by Captain Edmund Berkeley; two from Fauquier, commanded respectively by Captain R. H. Carter and R. Taylor Scott; and one from Fairfax commanded by Captain James Thrift.
Captain Thrift did not join my regiment with his company until the 23rd of July, and Captain Scott about ten days afterwards, so that at the Battle of Manassas I had only eight companies in my regiment.
On May 24th, the evening of the day after the Ordinance of Secession was ratified , a regiment of United States troops marched into Alexandria. The Marshall House, one of the hotels of that city, was kept by James Jackson, who was a violent secessionist, and had a secession flag flying from the top of his hotel. He had pledged himself that he would kill any man who cut that flag down. When the regiment of United States soldiers marched into town and were informed that this secession flag was flying, the Colonel of the regiment, Elmer E. Ellsworth, of the First Zouave Regiment, New York Militia, detailed three men and at their head marched up to the top of the Marshall House and cut the flag down. As he returned down stairs Jackson killed him, and his squad immediately killed Jackson. This was the first blood of the war in Virginia.
Besides my own regiment I had in my command at Leesburg the Loudon Cavalry, commanded first by Captain Shreve, and afterward by Captain Meade; and a Loudon battery commanded by Captain Rogers.
A little later a Maryland company commanded by Captain George Gaither reported to me at Leesburg, and became temporarily a part of my command. This was a very fine company of soldiers, but its commander was absolutely worthless as a military man, being excitable, emotional and unreliable in his reports.
I devoted myself with great assiduity to arming, equipping and drilling my regiment, and soon found that I had under my command a body of as good men as could be picked in the State.
Not a great while after I went to Leesburg and formed my regiment, the United States forces appeared on the opposite side of the river, under the command of General C. P. Stone, of Washington City. This increased my labor in guarding the approaches to the county. I had to keep a guard at all the fords and ferries of the Potomac River within the County of Loudon.
General Stone was a very superior man - a man of fine intelligence and military attainments. He was a gentleman, and conducted the war in the most gentlemanly manner. He would not allow his soldiers to cross the river surreptiously and steal property from the people of Loudoun, and if he found out any such case he made them return the property. This did not suit the excited indignation of the Northern people and those in high command in the army. General Stone became unpopular.
Sometime early in June there was a fight gotten up between my men and Stone's men across the river, neither party attempting to cross. This was some distance up the river from Leesburg, and as soon as I heard the firing I mounted my horse and went to it. There were no casualties, and I soon discovered it was nothing but a desultory firing across the river, and returned to Leesburg. I was a little tired. My general health was very poor. I laid down upon the lounge in my office and had a very severe hemorrhage of the throat. This was followed by many others, some of them quite copious.
When the Federal Army took possession of Alexandria it captured all the cars and locomotives on the railroad from Alexandria to Leesburg, except one train. This consisted of a very fine locomotive and a large number of freight cars, and was at the Leesburg Depot. General Lee, who was then on duty in Richmond, directed me to burn those cars and destroy the locomotive, so that the Union forces could not use them in case they got possession of that country. I took the liberty of separating the freight cars from the locomotive and arranging them so that they could be fired and burned, at a moment's notice, and instead of destroying the locomotive, I dismantled it, and send some of its important pieces into the mountains. I reported to General Lee what I had done and he approved it. Before the Union Army took possession of that country, this locomotive was hauled across the country, and put upon the Manassas Gap Railroad at Piedmont (now Deleplane). It took twelve yoke of oxen to move it, and it was used by the Confederates all during the war. I felt gratified that I had not destroyed it.
Captain Gaither, with his fine Maryland company, was stationed at Edwards' Ferry to prevent any crossing from the other side on the part of the Union soldiers. One night in June about 12 o'clock I received a dispatch from Gaither that the enemy was preparing to cross the river at Edwards' Ferry in large force. I instructed him to keep a sharp lookout and advise me if there was any real effort made to cross the river. I received a sensational dispatch from him every half hour, in which he said that the force was very large and was prepared to embark across the river. At last he reported that the force was crossing the river in large numbers, and he was about to be surrounded and captured.
I could not conceive that all this was untrue, and I prepared my command to fight or retire, according to circumstances; set fire to the freight cars, according to General Lee's orders, and marched to the edge of the town, towards Edwards' Ferry. This was not long before day-break.
I heard nothing further from the enemy; Captain Gaither presently appeared with his company unhurt. I concluded these reports were untrue; sent to the river and found there had not been a single effort to cross; no preparation to cross, and evidently no idea on the part of General Stone of crossing the river. I was very much provoked and deeply indignant and mortified. I sent Gaither with his company away, and he reported to General Joseph E. Johnston at Harpers Ferry. I went back into camp and resumed my regular duties.
I was criticized for this, especially by the "Fire-side Generals," who said that I had become panic-stricken in Leesburg and burnt up the cars. I never heard that any military man criticized me. Every officer, however, small his command may be, is obliged to rely upon reports from those who occupy the position of pickets. I had no reason to doubt Captain Gaither in any particular and up to this time had thought very highly of him.
About the 1st of July the 4th South Carolina Regiment was sent to Leesburg, and with it came Col. N. G. Evans, of South Carolina. The regiment was commanded by Col. Sloane. Evans was sent along to take command of all the forces in Loudoun. The South Carolinians boasted very strongly of what they were going to do. They said they had come there to fight the war and to conquer a peace. They did not want the Virginians to do any of the fighting, but just to stand back and look on and furnish them with bread and meat. They would win the independence of the Confederacy.
The talk was very captivating to the outsiders - especially to the young ladies who had up to that time been very attentive to the young men of my regiment, but they deserted us and went over to the South Carolina boys bodily. They went so far as to call mine the "Cornstalk Regiment." Our boys were "cast down, but not dismayed." They pursued the even tenor of their way, became very efficient in drill, and anxious to do their duty as soldiers of the Confederacy.
About the 15th of July Col. Evans was ordered to take the South Carolina Regiment back to Manassas, and I was left again in command of the forces in Loudoun.
- Chapter 3 -
The command of the Union forces organizing to make war on the Confederacy in Virginia, was given to General Winfield Scott, a renegade Virginian. He was old, about 75, and infirm, and could not take the field. He designated General Irvin Mc Dowell to take command of the army that was being collected south of the river, opposite Washington, in order to commence the war.
While Mc Dowell was collecting his army near Washington, the Confederate Army was gathering at Manassas under the command of General P. G. T. Beauregard. It was very apparent when Mc Dowell made his movement the objective point would be Richmond, and that he would strive to reach Richmond by going along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad (now the Southern) to Gordonsville, and thence by the Central (now the Chesapeake and Ohio) Railroad, to Richmond.
This was very obvious, because otherwise they could not have gotten their supplies. Manassas, therefore, became a strategic point, and it was apparent that the first struggle would be for the possession of Manassas Junction. At that point the Manassas Gap Railroad left the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and went through the Manassas Gap into the Valley of Virginia. It was, therefore, an important point, and as far as our troops reached Richmond, they were sent to Manassas.
While Mc Dowell was preparing his army of invasion near Washington, Gen. Robert Patterson was put in command of the Union forces in the extreme lower valley; and General Joseph E. Johnston was in command of the Confederates at Winchester, with some 8,000 or 9,000 men to meet Patterson. Johnson sought to bring Patterson to a fight, and in the meantime Mc Dowell got ready to move.
Mc Dowell reached Fairfax Courthouse about the 10th or 12th of July. Our forces had occupied that point, and on the approach of Mc Dowell fell back to Manassas. In a few days Mc Dowell moved his whole force to Centreville. The strength of his army was estimated by Beauregard in his report of the Battle of Manassas at over 50,000 men.
Mc Dowell was an accomplished soldier and a brave man, and had under him such men as General Tyler, General Hunter, General Miles and General Heintzelmann. All of these reached distinction in the subsequent years of the war. This was a formidable force, commanded by superior military men, almost every one of whom was a graduate of West Point.
To meet this force Beauregard had at Manassas from 12,000 to 15,000 men. General Johnston had under his command at Winchester about 8,000 men. It was arranged that Johnston was to deceive Patterson in the Valley and bring his forces to Manassas and unite with those of Beauregard. This would give Beauregard a force of upwards of 20,000 men.
Beauregard was a fine soldier and in the Battle of Manassas he had under him General Ewell, General "Jeb" Stuart, General Early, General Longstreet and General Kirby Smith. All of these attained to high rank in the succeeding years of the war. I was ordered to take my regiment and cavalry and artillery down to Manassas. We left Leesburg on the 18th of July. One of my companies in passing through the town put corn-stalks in their muskets to remind the girls that they called us "The Corn-stalk Regiment." Everybody knew that we were going down to fight, and the girls were very sorry for what they had said and wept sorrowfully about it. We reached Orris Buckner's house on the evening of the 18th, and spent the night there. The next morning we heard of the fight that had taken place at Mc Lean's Ford.
I had been a resident of Prince William County for eighteen years preceding the war, and knew of the blind-road that led from Centreville to Sudley, and concluded that McDowell might use that road in a flank movement on Beauregard's left. I sent a picket of five mounted men some distance on this road. On the morning of the 21st this picket was driven in, and reported to me the advance of McDowell's army by this blind-road. I immediately reported to General Beauregard; and I believe that this was the first information he had of McDowell's flank movement.
General Mc Dowell's first plan was to flank Beauregard on his right. Examination of the broken ground on Beauregard's right about Union Mills, satisfied McDowell that this was impracticable. He then formed a plan of battle of a most admirable character as follows:
A large force under the command of General Tyler was to march up the turnpike from Alexandria to Warrenton to the Stone Bridge across Bull Run, without attempting at that time to pass. General Heintzelmann was to march to the Farmers' Ford two miles above, without attempting to pass.
McDowell with Hunter in command, marched on this blind road that led from Centreville to Sudley through a dense forest known only to the people of the immediate neighborhood. His plan was to march to Sudley and then down Bull Run, uncover the force at Farmers' Ford, join McDowell's main body, drive the Confederates from the Stone Bridge and allow General Tyler to cross and unite with McDowell, and then with his whole force march on Beauregard at Manassas. A comparatively small portion of his force was left at Centreville.
Nobody can doubt that this was a most admirable plan of battle. Beauregard divined McDowell's first plan to attack him on the right, and most of his force was upon that part of the line. Early was down there; Ewell was there; Longstreet was there - only a small portion of his command was up in the neighborhood of the Stone Bridge, and none further to his left than the Stone Bridge.
Beauregard did not divine the change of the plan of attack on the part of McDowell until advised by me of the latter's advance in that direction, but still looked for him to attack his right.
McDowell's orders to his subordinates were to move at 2 o'clock in the morning, and to reach Sudley and the Stone Bridge by daylight. There was great delay in the movement of McDowell's troops. Tyler did not get to the Stone Bridge until half past 9 o'clock. Mc Dowell did not get to Sudley until about 10.
Early in the morning Beauregard discovered this change on the part of McDowell and made his arrangements to meet it. I was stationed near the Lewis House, where I at once lost my cavalry and artillery, which were placed in other portions of Beauregard's army.
I bivouaced near the Lewis Ford of Bull Run on the Lewis farm with the 40th Regiment, commanded by Colonel William Smith. It was a great pleasure to be near this gallant, heroic man. He was well stricken in years, but was always ready for a fight. He was afterwards made Governor of Virginia for the second time and Major-General in the Confederate Army, and always was a man of great distinction in whatever position he was placed.
On the morning of the 21st, finding that McDowell had changed his plan, Beauregard determined that he would cross the run on his right and attack McDowell's left and rear at Centreville. He sent an order to General Ewell, the ranking officer, to make the movement at once. By some means never yet accounted for, the order did not reach General Ewell. Beauregard waited for the movement to take place, until he finally heard that no order had reached Ewell, and that it was too late to make the move. He had to meet McDowell's flank movement on his left. He hurried up his forces as best he could. Colonel Evans, with Sloane's South Carolina regiment and Wheat's Louisiana Tigers, was placed at the Stone Bridge and successfully defended that place against the passage of General Tyler.
General Johnston had gotten to Manassas on the night of the 20th, and ranking Beauregard was entitled to the command, but with great generosity he told Beauregard that as he had formed the plans for the fight he might execute them. He assisted Beauregard throughout the day and gave him very efficient aid. Some of his forces from Winchester also reached Manassas on the night of the 20th. Quite a number of them - more than half - did not get there until the next day, on account of an accident on the railroad.
I will not undertake to describe in detail this Battle of Manassas. Suffice it to say that it was conducted throughout most of the day with varying fortunes. The Union force out numbered the Confederates more than two to one. The heaviest fighting was around the Henry and Robinson houses, made famous in the history of the fights. These houses were taken and retaken twice or three times during the day.
My regiment was stationed behind a piece of woods, in reserve, with Colonel Wade Hampton and his South Carolina regiment near-by. The object of this was that we might be carried to any point that was most threatened, especially to defend the Lewis ford and the Stone Bridge.
When I reached Manassas I was put into the brigade commanded by General Philip St. George Cocke. This brigade consisted of my regiment, the 8th; the 18th under Colonel Withers; the 19th under Lieutenant-Colonel Strange; the 28th under Colonel Robert Preston; but although we were brigaded we fought entirely separately during the whole of the battle.
General Cocke ordered me to take a position in reserve. I felt that I was no manner of use, and was deeply mortified that I was held in sound of the fighting and not allowed to take part. I sent word to General Cocke three times to let me go to the front. He replied that I must hold my position at all hazards; that it was a very important one. I could not see the importance of it at the time. Colonel Smith, of the 49th Regiment, rode by and when he saw me said: "What on earth are you doing here?" I replied, "Nothing in the world, and I'm exceedingly anxious to go to the front, but General Cooke won't allow me. He ordered me to stay here and hold this position at every hazard." "Well," said Colonel Smith, "General Beauregard wants you at the front." I replied, "I want to go and will be a thousand times most obliged if you will report me to General Beauregard and get him to give me orders to go to the front." He said he would do it, and off he went. At that time the Federal forces had been reinforced and had made a desperate charge to recover the plateau on which the Henry and Robinson houses stood, and were successful.
The Henry House after it was first taken by the Federal forces was defended by Rickett's Battery and Griffin's Battery and other guns besides. Rickett's Battery was probably the finest in the United States, and it was taken and retaken two or three times during the day, but when our people first took it they disabled the guns and killed the horses and it was of no use to the Federal soldiers when they recovered possession of it; but they had captured the Henry House plateau for the second or third time. Just at that time General Beauregard sent a staff officer to me and ordered me to the front at the Henry House. When I got there the Federal soldiers were in possession of the plateau in large force, but with Harper and Hampton, and a large number of others, we charged upon the Federal forces, carried the place, drove them entirely from the field, and held possession there for the balance of the day. This was my first experience under fire.
Beauregard was very much aided by Kirby Smith, who had been delayed in his passage from Winchester to Manassas by this railroad accident, but when he reached Gainesville on the 21st - which was on the same 'pike leading from Centreville to Warrenton, and through the battlefield of Manassas he made a forced march down the turnpike, and struck McDowell in his right flank, and aided very materially in winning the victory of the day.
McDowell's men never rallied after this last repulse from the Henry House. A panic spread upon them, and such a scene of confusion has never been witnessed on a battlefield. They threw down their guns, refused to obey the orders of their officers, and ran pell-mell, each man going the same route by which he came.
After I had united in this charge at the Henry House and had repulsed the enemy, I drew my men back into a ravine to protect them from stray bullets that were still flying over the battlefield, and rode up on the hill where Beauregard and several of his officers were discussing the movement of the enemy over at the Pittsylvania House, some distance from us to the north. The question they were discussing was whether it was a retreat or a movement on our right. The enemy at that point was moving in beautiful style. It was that portion of the Federal Army which had the regulars in it. They had not broken at that moment and were marching in very fine order. After discussing whether it was a movement on our right or a retreat, Beauregard said, "It is a movement on our right and I must form my lines back to the rear of my present line." He turned to me and ordered me to take my regiment at a double-quick and interpose between him and this approaching force of the enemy, and to hold it in check as long as possible until he could form his line in the read.
It was a very ugly order for one regiment of eight companies to hold that force, but I put my men at a double-quick and found the best position I could; formed my line of battle, and went to a higher point still to see what had become of this marching column. To my infinite delight I found it had broken all to pieces and was running, like the balance of McDowell's army.
I had up to that time passed with my soldiers for an exceedingly pious man, but I lost my reputation as such, then and there. After I discovered that this force that I thought I would have to fight had broken into pieces, I was extremely relieved and galloped back to my regiment, only a hundred yards off; and they said, and proved, that I proclaimed with a hearty oath that the Yankees were running like dogs. I was utterly unconscious of using an oath, but have no doubt I did. They proved it on me conclusively, and I never recovered my reputation for piety during the war.
I wished to embrace this opportunity to pay a visit, however short, to my wife and son at Brentsville, only five miles away. When I applied to Beauregard he refused positively to let me go. I said I wanted to see my wife. He said, "There are no such things as wives now; you are wedded to the Confederate cause." I applied again the next day, and he gave me four hours. I made the quickest time on record, on my splendid war horse "Morgan," and spent two hours and a half with my wife and son.
My wife's health had been very poor. She had suffered very much from disease, and still more for anxiety for her husband and her country. S he was in sound of the fighting of the 21st, and laid down and put a feather pillow over her head to keep out the sound but she heard the firing - not only the artillery but the musketry - all day long, and knew that I was in the fight. Her anxiety can be better imagined than described.
When we were down from Leesburg to the fight at Manassas, Major Norborne Berkley, afterwards Colonel of the Regiment, insisted upon taking a daguerrean saloon, an old-time photograph gallery on wheels, as my headquarters. I reluctantly agreed to it, and with four horses we got the saloon down to Manassas. After the fight was over and I moved my regiment to the little town of Manassas, I occupied the saloon as my headquarters. It rained heavily the next day after the fight, and the old saloon leaked
dreadfully. It was supposed by the victorious army of Beauregard to be an enterprise of some daguerrean artist, and hundreds of soldiers came to my headquarters to have their picture taken to be sent home to their wives, their sisters, their mothers or their sweethearts. I was very much annoyed by it, and on our return to Leesburg, the old saloon gave out and broke down about every five miles, and we had to incur a delay to repair it; but we finally got it back, to my very great relief. I never fooled with a daguerrean saloon as headquarters during the balance of the war.
There is a romance connected with the Battle of Manassas. When General Beauregard had his army at Fairfax Courthouse there were there four noted rebel girls. They were very beautiful, attractive and violent in their declarations of loyalty to the Confederacy. They could not tolerate the bare mention of a Yankee soldier. When Beauregard retired and was succeeded by the Federal army these four girls became, strange to tell, as great belles with the Yankee officers as they had been with the Confederate officers. They were Antonia Ford; Florence Brent; Dollie Waters and Miss Zimmerman of Alexandria. Before the war ended all four had married Yankee officers. They had not only forgotten to hate, but learned to love a "Yankee."
The most noted of the four was Antonia Ford. She was so much admired by the Yankee officers and had so much influence over at least one of them, that she obtained their military secrets - learned their plans and when they meant to attack Beauregard at Manassas. She was then still a "stout Rebel." She made her way through the lines and met General J. E. B. Stuart with his gallant cavalry, and disclosed to that valiant soldier the Yankee plans. General Stuart, with the gallantry that distinguished him, appointed her on his staff.
Shortly after the battle she became homesick. In attempting to pass the Federal lines she was captured and sent to the old Capitol prison as a spy. Major J. E. Willard, of the Commissary Department, saw her; fell violently in love with her, procured her release, and married her. He was rich then, and became afterward enormously wealthy. She died early, leaving one son, Joseph E. Willard, who was raised by his mother's family. He has always resided in Virginia - has become one of its bests citizens, is now Lieutenant Governor, and a candidate for Governor. He has inherited his father's immense wealth and fills with ability all the positions assigned to him.
We made our march to Leesburg, the citizens all along the road greeting the victorious soldiers with tumultuous joy, and welcoming their safe return to the County of Loudoun.
We stopped on the south side of Goose Creek, at Ball's Mill. I named my camp "Camp Berkeley." This was in compliment to four brothers: Norborne Berkeley, who was the Major of the regiment; Captain Edmund and Captain William Berkeley, and Lieutenant Charles F. Berkeley. They were four of the bravest, noblest, most patriotic and unselfish men I met in the war. They were always ready for any duty they were called upon to perform, and always did it with alacrity, courage and efficiency. I have always been thankful that the four brothers survived the war. One of them, Charles F. Berkeley, died soon after the war ended, with consumption.
After remaining at Camp Berkeley a while I moved my regiment to Claggett's field, near the town of Leesburg. We were all perfectly delighted to get back to dear old Loudoun, and the people were all delighted to see us. There were amongst the best people I ever saw. A portion of them were disloyal to the Confederacy, but these were Germans and Quakers. Their religious belief put them in opposition to the war, and finally put them on the other side in hostility to the Confederate forces. With the exception of these the people of Loudon were a unit in support of the Confederate cause, and sent as many troops, in proportion to the population, as any other part of the State.
I was then again in command of that portion of the country embracing Loudoun County and the Potomac River from Harper's Ferry to Drainesville. Not long afterward General Beauregard sent to Leesburg, under the command of General N. G. Evans (who behaved so gallantly as Colonel, in the Battle of Manassas, and for which he was promoted), the 13th, 17th and 18th Mississippi Regiments. These regiments had recently arrived at Manassas, and very many of the soldiers were laid up with the measles. They were sent to Leesburg to increase the force there, and to give the sick soldiers a chance to get well in that fine country. Evans, now General, was then in command of these Mississippi Regiments, my own regiment, a portion of cavalry, and one battery of the Richmond Howitzers.
Soon after this I was taken with a violent attack of fistula. I suffered from this trouble during the entire war, and although I was operated on several times, it never healed until after the war. I suffered intensely, and was laid up in Leesburg for some time while my regiment was six or eight miles to the west of the town. I was attended by Dr. Armistead Mott, of Leesburg. Under his advice, about the 10th of October I borrowed a spring wagon from Mrs. George Carter, of Oatlands, hitched my war horse, old “Morgan." to it, and went down to my brother's, Silas B. Hunton, at "Mt. Hope." I had to put my camp bed into this wagon, and was carried there on the bed. I found my dear wife and son, my dear mother, and my youngest sister, Mary Brent, with my brother and his wife. I was attended while there by Dr. Edgar Moss, who married my cousin Mildred Hunton, and lived two miles away, at the old Hunton residence - the residence of the first Hunton that every located in that country.
I did not get better. I suffered very severely the whole time. It was a satisfaction to be with my wife and son, and mother, brother and sisters. About the 17th or 18th of October I became satisfied that there was a movement on foot in the army, and a fight impending. I announced my determination to return to my regiment. It was violently opposed, but I felt it to be my duty to make an effort to go with the brave boys who had stood so nobly by me at Manassas. I put my bed in my wagon and took leave of them all, and lying down made my trip to Leesburg. General Evans had become afraid of a flank movement up the Aldie Turnpike, which ran from Alexandria, by Fairfax Courthouse and Aldie, to the Snickerville Gap of the Blue Ridge Mountains. To avoid the danger, as he believed, arising from this flank movement, he retreated to Carter's Mill, about five miles from Leesburg. As soon as he reported this movement to General Beauregard, Beauregard wrote him a strong letter in which he told Evans that Leesburg must be held at all hazards, and that he must return to Leesburg or send force enough there to hold the place.
I was assailed repeatedly during the day and had to fight hard to maintain the position, but it was a very strong one and a very well protected one in the edge of the woods, and when we would fight and drive them back I would retire my line of battle some twenty yards, and obtain the protection not only of the woods, but of the crest of the hill.
The fight kept up between Baker and my regiment for several hours. Lieutenant-Colonel Jennifer with his cavalry occupied a position on my left and made me feel safe against any flank movement in that direction. He did little or no fighting after I reached the ground. A Company of the Richmond Howitzers, as gallant and skillful a body of men as ever met the enemy, were of no use because we were fighting in the woods and there was no position which they could take to reach the enemy, so I had to receive the artillery fire of the enemy, without any return artillery fire from us.
E. V. White, a private in Captain Mason's company of cavalry, then on the river near Harper's Ferry, soon reported to me for any duty he could perform. I found him most valuable, intelligent, efficient and brave. He was the owner of a farm at White's Ferry, a few miles above Ball's Bluff, and knew every foot of the country intimately. I made very much use of him during the day.
About half-past two o'clock I felt certain that the enemy was being reinforced and I sent E. V. White (known to all of us as "Lige" White) to General Evans to send me reinforcements, the three Mississippi Regiments still being in the neighborhood of Edwards' Ferry. "Lige" White came back with a message from General Evans, "Tell Hunton to fight on." I did fight on, but it soon became apparent that Gorman, at Edwards' Ferry, did not mean to join the fray. He was evidently placed there to act when Baker had carried Ball's Bluff. My ammunition was getting low, and I sent Major Berkeley twice or three times to General Evans for a supply. I got none at all, and no excuse for the failure to send it. At 3:30 I again sent "Lige" White to General Evans to inform him that my ammunition was exhausted, and unless I was reinforced and supplied with ammunition I would be unable to hold my position. General Evans replied, "Tell Hunton to hold the ground till every damn man fails."
As I have stated, when I met the enemy at the edge of the woods and repulsed them on several occasions, I retired my regiment some fifteen or twenty paces for the protection of the ground and the woods. Lieutenant-Colonel Tebbs and a portion of the regiment misunderstood one of these orders and when I ordered them to retire to this protected position they thought it was an order to retreat, and Colonel Tebbs and a large portion of the regiment left the ground. I was not apprised of it. No company retreated in full - only portions of certain companies retreated. When "Lige" White was returning to me with the message from Evans to fight until "the last man fell," and with the further information that he would send me the 17th and 18th Mississippi as reinforcements, he found Colonel Tebbs and those of the 8th Regiment that had retreated with him, some four or five hundred yards in rear of the line of battle. He asked Colonel Tebbs what was the matter – if I was whipped. Colonel Tebbs said the he didn't know, but that he understood me to order a retreat. It looks a little curious that this portion of my regiment should leave the fight, and leave more than three-fourths of it behind and believe that I had ordered a retreat; but still, Colonel Tebbs was a highly honorable man; I had no reason to doubt his courage, and I determined to accept his statement.
"Lige" White immediately galloped up to me to know what was the meaning of Colonel Tebbs and these men being out there at the rear, and if I had ordered a retreat. I said, "No, go and bring them right back to the line of battle." "Lige" galloped back to Colonel Tebbs, and as soon as he convinced him that I was still fighting, and not retreating, Colonel Tebbs and a portion of the men with him returned to the line of battle. Some of them went home, but not many.
Colonel Burt, of the 18th Mississippi, came up on my right and formed his line of battle abut three hundred yards from me. Before he reached the ground I had determined to charge the enemy. Many of my soldiers were without a cartridge. I made them divide up so as to give each man one, and determined to charge and rely on the bayonet. It was a most gallant and splendid charge. We drove the enemy before us with great gallantry, and pushed them into the woods that skirted and concealed the bluff just above the bank of the river.
I halted my regiment for the purpose of giving them a chance to breathe. They had been fighting from half-past twelve o'clock till night and were nearly exhausted. In the meantime, Colonel Featherstone, of the 17th Mississippi, had formed his line of battle between me and the 18th Mississippi. The 18th Mississippi charged the enemy with great gallantry, led by Colonel Burr, one of the best men of the Mississippi regiments. They were met by a galling fire from a portion of the enemy behind a natural earthwork, and at the first fire, the 18th Mississippi Regiment suffered very heavily - indeed suffered all of its loses in that one fire. Colonel Burt himself was mortally wounded.
When I halted my regiment I found that the 17th Mississippi had formed their line of battle in the edge of the woods, and I rode back and said, "Colonel Featherstone, for God's sake charge the enemy and drive them down the bluff: He said, "I don't know the ground." I said, "I will lead you." He said, "I don't want anybody to lead us; I want a guide." "Lige" White appeared at that moment, as he always did when he was most needed, and I said, "Lige my boy, lead these men into the fight." He said, "With the greatest pleasure." He placed himself in front of the 17th Regiment, and Colonel Featherstone gave the order to charge, and they made an exceedingly gallant charge. The 17th and 18th together drove the enemy in front down the bluff, and the Fight was over. It was then nearly dark and my regiment had been fighting from half-past twelve to nearly six o'clock, after a forced march from the Burnt Bridge.
My regiment was a small one, and under orders from General Evans I left one company under the command of the gallant Wampler, to watch the Stone Bridge in case there should be any advance up the Little River Turnpike. Wampler was dreadfully mortified at not being allowed to go with us to the fight; so that my regiment consisted of only nine companies. I thought it probably that there might be another force across the river above me on my left, and I sent Captain R. H. Carter with his company, guided by the intrepid "Lige" White, to ascertain if there was any organized force to my left. This duty
was well performed and Captain Carter reported that there was no organized force on my left.
I detailed Lieutenant Charles Berkeley, with fifteen men, to guard the bluff; directed Lieutenant-Colonel Tebbs to retire the regiment to the open ground in rear of the woods in which we had fought, so that they might get some rations and rest. I had not laid eyes on General Evans from the time I passed him at Fort Evans, till the fight ended. He was not in sight of the line of battle during the day.
It may be very well understood that in my state of health, I was in no condition to stand the fatigues of the day. Afflicted as I was and scarcely able to ride, I was in the saddle or fighting line from half-past twelve to near six o'clock. I was nearly dead. Mr. Smart, from Leesburg, drove out to the battlefield with a little spring wagon, took me in his wagon and carried me to his house in Leesburg where I spent the night.
The losses in this fight were remarkably small. The 13th Mississippi was kept in front of Gorman at Edwards' Ferry, and lost none on the 21st. The 17th Mississippi Regiment lost very few. The loss of the 18th Mississippi was the largest, and that was all in the one fire from the enemy from behind this natural breastwork. It lost in killed and wounded more than any other regiment engaged. My loss was very small, owing to the protection that I gave my men behind the crest of the hill, and the woods.
The enemy's loss was much larger. In the fight the heaviest loss fell upon the 1st California Regiment. In the charge made by the 17th and 18th Mississippi, quite a number of the enemy were captured. That night "Lige" White was with Charles Berkeley picketing the bluff, and they determined that they would go down to the river bank to see what was going on. They found quite a number of men there of Baker's command, in a thoroughly disorganized condition, their transportation to and from Harrison's Island consisting of a few little boats; some of them from overcrowding had sunk, the officers deserted their men; and there was scarcely anybody but privates on the Virginia bank of the river when "Lige" White and Lieutenant Berkeley got upon the ground; but they were endeavoring to get back to Harrison's Island as fast as they could, and many of them in their efforts to return to the Island were drowned. Lieutenant Berkeley and "Lige" White concluded that a very small force could capture the whole party on that part of the river. They went back to Col. Tebbs and asked him to march his regiment down to the water's edge and capture all that were there. Col. Tebbs replied that the men had been fighting all day long, and were too much worn out to be ordered to do further duty, but that if there were any willing to volunteer he would give his consent; and thereupon fifty men volunteered.
[text missing - list of 50 names given]
They promptly volunteered to follow Lieutenant Berkeley and "Lige" White. When they reached the river bank and made a demonstration, they demanded a surrender. There was but one officer among them and he wanted to know who was in command, and Captain William N. Berkeley replied General White was in command. The officer said, "General White, what terms will you give my men?" "Lige" replied, "I will give them the terms of war." "Lige" at that time was not very much up in military technicalities. After a few moments, he accepted "Lige's" terms of war, and the whole party surrendered, and were sent into Leesburg. The prisoners thus captured numbered 325.
A very curious incident occurred during the fight. Charles B. Wildman, of Leesburg, was either permanently or temporarily upon General Evans' staff. He was a very gallant, fine fellow, but addicted to intemperance. He was quite under the influence of liquor that day. In riding around he came across a body of the enemy and mistook them for Confederate soldiers. He rode up to them and pointing out a body of Confederates in the distance he ordered them in the most peremptory manner to charge. They believing that he was a staff officer of General Baker, obeyed the order and made the charge, losing quite a number of their men in the repulse which followed. Charles Wildman escaped injury.
General Evans left Fort Evans after the fight was over and went to the hotel at Leesburg, where he was reported to be very drunk. It was said that he was drinking freely during the day. The next morning General Evans put Captain Singleton, of the 17th Mississippi, with his company, in charge of the prisoners to take them to Manassas. They were encamped at a mill below Leesburg, and next morning General Evans sent an order to Captain Singleton to tie the prisoners, and sent out three or four plow lines - not more than enough to tie a dozen. This was a very unusual and unjustifiable order, especially so far as the officers were concerned. The officers that were captured in that fight, embracing two colonels - Cogswall and Lee – were exceedingly gallant men, and were entitled to all the best usages of prisoners of war. They ought to have been paroled and marched with the other prisoners under parole as they pleased. Captain Singleton refused to obey the order to tie the prisoners, and marched them with as much humanity as he could, down to Manassas and turned them over to General Beauregard.
General Evans gave orders the next morning that we were to sleep upon the battlefield that night - that is, the night of the 22nd - and attack Gorman at Edwards' Ferry at daylight on the 23rd. I was delighted to receive this order, and I knew that the whole of Evans' force could capture with but very little loss, a force that was held up all of the 21st by one of the Mississippi regiments. To be in place to make this attack on the morning of the 23rd at daylight, as poorly as I was I went out and slept with my men on the ground. I waited impatiently for the order to march and attack this force under Gorman, and at sunrise Evans ordered a retreat. I never was so mortified in my life. We were ordered to retreat to Carter's Mill, under the delusion that he, Evans, was being flanked up the Little River Turnpike.
I shall never forget my feeling in going through the town of Leesburg. I stopped and took breakfast with Mr. Fadely and could scarcely look the ladies of the family in the face. I felt that we were cowardly giving up the people of the good town of Leesburg to the ravages of the enemy, without any sufficient justification.
Instead of retreating to Carters' Mill, six miles from Leesburg, I stopped my regiment at the Sigolin, about two miles from Leesburg, and reported to General Evans that I had camped there. There was no effort to pursue us. A most dreadful storm set in that day. It blew down almost all my tents. I sent one of my men who was familiar with the ground, to see what had become of Gorman's force at Edwards' Ferry. He reported that the river was exceedingly rough owing to this high wind storm, and that Gorman's force was trying as hard to cross the river as ever people did in the world. Their transportation was very limited, and that was comparatively useless on account of the rough condition of the water. It was thus developed that while Evans was running away from Gorman, Gorman was trying to run away from Evans, and if we had made an attack on Gorman, with Evans' whole force we would have captured his command with very little loss, and then the victory would have been complete. As far as it went, it was the most complete victory of the war, considering the numbers engaged in it. Evans had in his three regiments that participated in the fight, not over 1,500 muskets, and the enemy in killed, wounded and captured, lost fully 2,000. It is almost unexampled that a body of troops kill, wound and capture more men than they themselves number. Quite a number of these Federal soldiers were drowned. One or more floated down as far as Washington City.
The death of General Baker created a good deal of consternation in Washington. He was a great favorite with Lincoln. His body was carried to Washington and laid in state at the White House for several days. It was understood to be the design of the military authorities that if Baker had succeeded in capturing Leesburg he would have been put in very high command. It would have been a great mistake. He showed little or no military genius in the fight at Ball's Bluff. He lost his first position - which was a very fine one, and from which I could not have dislodged him if he had managed the fight properly. He was a man of fine talent; stood high in the United States Senate, and I think was a brave man. I saw him during the day attempting to lead his forces to fight.
I cannot close the account of this remarkable victory without specially mentioning E. V. White, familiarly called "Lige" White. He did not belong to any organization engaged in the fight, but happened to be there, and from early morning until late that night he was constantly occupied in carrying orders, conducting the troops and leading them in the fight. H is conduct on that occasion was so fine that his friends predicted for him a brilliant career in the war. This prediction was fulfilled. He afterwards raised a Company and was made its Captain; increased it to a Battalion, and was made its Major; increased it to a Regiment, and was made its Colonel; and if the war had lasted a few months longer it is believed he would have been a Brigadier-General, and would have really been entitled to the rank which Captain William N. Berkeley assigned to him when he demanded a surrender on the night of the 21st of October. No man in the Confederate army stood higher for bravery, dash and patriotic devotion to the cause than Colonel "Lige White."
I cannot fail to mention also, William H. F. Hummer. He was a private in the Loudoun Cavalry. On my march to First Manassas I sent him, Henry Peyton and three others as a picket on the blind road from Centreville to Sudley. When they were driven in and brought to me the report of the flank movement of General McDowell, I kept Peyton and Hummer with me during the balance of the fight. Both distinguished themselves for their courage. Peyton was taken by Beauregard on his staff, and Hummer was transferred from his company to a company in my regiment, and remained by my side after the Battle of Gettysburg. No matter how fierce the fight - no matter how much danger surrounded me - Hummer was always by my side and ready to do any service that I called upon him to perform. After I was promoted, he remained with Colonel Berkeley to the end of the war. When Cleveland was elected President, Hummer had become poor. I went to Colonel L. Q. C. Lamar, the Secretary of the Interior, and told him of the relations between Hummer and myself, and said that I would feel disgraced if I did not get Hummer some position under the Federal Government. Lamar thought so too, and put Hummer in the Patent Office. This was in 1885 and Hummer by his good conduct in the office still holds his position and is protected by civil service rules.*
- The official report of Col. Hunton on the Battle of Ball's Bluff will be
found in O. R. vol. 5 p. 367. Those of other officers, pp 289-372.
- Chapter 4 -
Sometime in the month of November, General Johnston decided to brigade his troops according to the States from which they came. With this view he sent two Mississippi Regiments to Leesburg to make, with the three already there, a Mississippi Brigade under General Evans, and ordered me to join my brigade at Centreville. This brigade was commanded by Gen. Phillip St. George Cocke and was composed of the following regiments: Eighth Virginia, Col. Eppa Hunton; Eighteenth Virginia, Col. Robt. E Withers; Nineteenth Virginia, Col. J. R. Strange; Twenty-eight Virginia, Col. Robert T. Preston.
It was a trial to me to leave the dear old county of Loudoun. I had received nothing but kindness at the hands of its people, but I had to go. I had the finest transportation that only regiment ever had in time of war. When we got ready to march I found I had 28 wagons. Some of my Captains said it would be impossible to move if they did not have more transportation. My long line of wagons created infinite amusement at Centreville. We had a royal reception when we reached Centreville. General Cocke, with the other three regiments of his brigade, marched out to receive us with military honors, and the whole army greeted us as the heroes of Ball's Bluff. I was invited that day to dine with General Cocke. While going to his tent he was in absolute silence for some distance, he then struck his forehead two heavy blows, exclaiming, "My God! My God! My country!"
I was very much astonished, and felt that his mind was a little off, which was sadly verified by his suicide a month or two later. He was a good man, a brave man, and an earnest patriot; but he was not a military man.
I still suffered intensely with my fistula. It got worse, instead of better. My friends in the Army insisted I should go to Richmond for an operation. I obtained leave of absence for that purpose, and put myself in the hands of Dr. Gibson, Assistant Surgeon-General of the Confederate States, and underwent the usual operation for fistula. The wound did not heal. I stayed in Richmond until I satisfied myself it was not healing, and then I went to my home at Brentsville, to which my wife and son had returned. I reported twice for duty at Centreville. My surgeon declared I was unfit for duty. I felt I was. Everything was quiet. The Federal Army after its repulses at Manassas and Ball's Bluff remained quiet until the spring, and I agreed to go back to Richmond. There my wound was cauterized regularly by Dr. Gibson, but still did not heal. I stayed there sometime, and then went to my home at Brentsville. In a week or ten days I reported again for duty, at Centreville. I was again pronounced unfit for duty and sent back to my home. I remained there until the evacuation of Centreville and Manassas, in March 1862. This was a trying period to me. I felt that I was not fit for duty – I feared I never would be and yet I felt anxious to render further service to the Confederate cause - but it gave me an opportunity to be with my family. My wife had suffered for a long time with neuralgia of the liver – not constant suffering, but spells of intense pain. She was attended by several eminent surgeons from the army, but was not relieved. I was very unhappy about her. She was a devoted wife and bore the hardships and sufferings and separation from me incident to the war, with real heroism. My son, Eppa, who was then nearly seven years old, was a great comfort to her. He was a manly, fine fellow, and as always been the greatest comfort to his mother, in her lifetime, and to me up to the present moment.
General Winfield Scott was physically and mentally broken down, and the old, degenerate son of Virginia, was forced to retire from the command of the Federal Army. General George B. McClellan was selected, and a most splendid commander he proved to be. Soon after the Battle of Manassas he addressed himself earnestly to the reorganization and the increase of his army. He was a cautious man - probably too cautious for a brilliant commander. He made no attempt to move after the Battle of Ball's Bluff until the spring of 1862, when he had a perfectly magnificent army - not only in discipline and equipment, but in its vast numbers.
The roads were so bad that McClellan was unable to move until sometime in March, 1862, and then instead of pursuing McDowell's route to Richmond he determined to go by Yorktown, and sent the bulk of his army by water down to Fortress Monroe and its vicinity.
General Johnston was apprised of this movement of McClellan, and determined to evacuate Centreville and Manassas. It was very sad to me, and to all of us from that country, to give it up to the invaders, but we had to do it. I was at home sick. I could not make preparations to give up my home, or to save any of my property. I moved my wife and son to Bristow, the nearest station - my wife on a bed in a wagon - where we stayed all night to take the early train the next morning. I left behind me my slaves, household and kitchen furniture, and a crop of wheat which I had just threshed, a pair of fine horses and a buggy. Of course all this property was soon swept by the Federal Army, and my horses carried away. The next morning we took the train - the last train that went out. My wife suffered intensely on the way. I feared at times that she might die on the train. My object was to locate my wife and son in Lynchburg for the war, but when we reached Gordonsville there was a train blockade, and we were kept there three days. We then went to Charlottesville, where we met another blockade. I was very anxious to get back to my regiment, and I determined I would locate them in Charlottesville. I had just made arrangements to board them with a Mrs. Sinclair, just outside of the town of Charlottesville. She was the sister of Mr. Belt, who had been one of my faithful soldiers at Leesburg, in the Cavalry. She readily agreed to board them and would have taken first rate care of them, but when I returned to Charlottesville I found that we could get to Lynchburg, and as I thought that was the safest place I determined to take them there. I located them with a Mrs. Robert Brown, who kept a female boarding school in a very large building in Lynchburg, and went back to my regiment.*
- She was the mother of Bishop William Cabell Brown of Virginia.
I met my regiment with the army in Orange County, near the Courthouse. I was received with great delight, but was not fit for duty, but I concluded that I was as fit for duty as I ever would be, and determined to stay with my regiment. After remaining a few days at Camp Taylor, on the plank road below Orange Courthouse, General Johnston started his army through Richmond to the Peninsula, to meet the army of General McClellan, below Yorktown.
It was a dreadful march. The roads were worse than I ever saw them, but we finally made the trip. The Confederate forces in the Peninsula, had been under the command of General John Bankhead Magruder, who was a very brilliant man, but unfortunately addicted to intemperance. Of course General Johnston assumed command. Magruder's line was along a small waterway that extended almost across the peninsula at its narrowest point, its left, resting on the York River at Yorktown. This was a very strong position and was not seriously assailed by McClellan. Several heavy skirmishes occurred at different points along this line, but no general engagement. General McClellan was preparing to pass his battleships up the York River, and put a large force in Johnston's flank and rear. We were not prepared to resist this movement, and General Johnston prepared to evacuate the Peninsula.
A day or two before the retreat from Yorktown the Virginia forces were reorganized under a law of Congress. All the regimental officers were elected - the field officers by the subordinate officers, and the company officers by the privates. I was elected without opposition. Major Norborne Berkeley was made Lieutenant-Colonel in place of Colonel Charles Tebbs, and Captain James Thrift was made Major.
McClellan pressed Johnston very hard on this retreat up to Williamsburg. At that historic old town Johnston was obliged to turn and give McClellan battle. I was very uneasy about the result of the fight, because of the recent reorganization of the army - so many of the old officers had been retired. The brigade was then under the command of General George E. Pickett, who was assigned to the command soon after the melancholy death of General Cocke.
General Pickett came to the brigade with a fine reputation. He was from the old army, and a graduate of West Point. Our brigade had passed through Williamsburg on the retreat. I was still suffering with my affliction and sick besides. I got permission from General Pickett to spend the night with Mrs. Tucker, in Williamsburg. She was the sister of the wife of my friend Captain William N. Berkeley. When I left I exacted a promise from General Pickett that if there was any movement in the night he was to send someone to Mrs. Tucker's and notify me, that I might take command of my regiment. Not a great while afterwards Pickett's brigade was ordered back, and Hummer was about to obey my directions and notify me. General Pickett refused to allow him. I knew nothing of the fight until the next morning.
The Battle of Williamsburg was a very hard fought battle. McClellan pressed Johnston very hard. The Confederate soldiers fought with great gallantry, and notwithstanding the recent reorganization they showed the pluck that characterized them at Manassas and Ball's Bluff. McClellan was driven back, and the next morning we leisurely pursued our retreat towards Richmond.
I was suffering very much, and was very sick, and while riding at the head of my regiment I fainted and fell off my horse. I would have been badly hurt but the soldiers walking near me caught me and broke my fall.
We continued our march until we reached a position near the Chickahominy, where we halted and General Johnston made preparations to defend Richmond from that point. I had to ask for sick furlough, and was granted an indefinite leave of absence, and went to Lynchburg where my wife and son were. At that time they were comfortably situated with Mrs. Brown, and I remained there some time.
In the meantime the Battle of Seven Pines was fought, May 31-Jun3 1, 1862. This was a hotly-contested fight. Although we held our own and drove the enemy back some distance, no substantial results followed from our victory. General Johnston, who was always in the fiercest of a fight, was wounded about dusk on the evening of May 31. The fight lasted two days. On the second it was not very severe, but on the first it was terrific, and my regiment was hotly engaged. It was under the command of my gallant Lieutenant-Colonel Norborne Berkeley, and all hands behaved, as usual, with gallantry. Major Thrift, the newly elected Major, was mortally wounded, and was afterwards succeeded by Captain Edmund Berkeley.
The next day because of the disability of General Johnston, that grandest of men, that noblest of patriots, that greatest of military chieftains, General Robert E. Lee, was assigned to the command of the army, then called the Army of Northern Virginia.
McClellan was drawing his immense army, like the coils of an anaconda, around the City of Richmond, and General Lee planned the boldest campaign known to military history to rid Richmond of the siege. The two armies were very unequal in numbers. General McClellan held his line of battle from the James River up to the little town of Mechanicsville, to the northeast of Richmond, with a large force of the Federal Army at Fredericksburg under General McDowell. The administration at Washington was afraid to allow this force to unite with McClellan for fear of a dash upon the Federal Capitol. This apprehension always weighed upon the administration at Washington and kept from our front often-times a large part of their army to defend the capital.
Jackson had won world-wide fame in the Valley of Virginia. He won three battles, over greatly superior numbers each time, in three days, and drove the enemy down towards Harper's Ferry. When General Lee determined to attack McClellan, he gave orders to Jackson to move secretly and swiftly across the Ridge and attack McClellan on his right. General Lee's general plan of battle was to cross the Chickahominy, leaving a small portion of his army (two divisions, Huger's and Magruder's on the Richmond side of the river, disperse McClellan's forces under Fitz John Porter on the north side and draw the rest of his forces from their protected position on the south side of the river. The boldness of the attack consisted in the fact that if McClellan had been equally bold when General Lee crossed the Chickahominy leaving only a small portion of his army to defend Richmond, McClellan might have marched into Richmond. But he did not.
I was still sick in Lynchburg. Dr. Taylor, my physician, came to see me on the 24th of June, 1862. I told him that I was satisfied there was a fight on hand and I was going to my regiment. He laughed at the idea and said I must not think of such a thing. The next morning he came to see me, and I had gone. At Farmville the train was delayed awhile, and two or three of my friends came out and learning I was on my way to my regiment and seeing my condition, proposed to take me by force from the train. I absolutely refused to leave, and went on.
I joined my regiment on the morning of the 26th, then camped on the Mechanicsville Turnpike. My boys, as usual, were glad to see me. The brigade had been strengthened at that time by the addition of the 56th Virginia Regiment under the command of William D. Stuart, and consisted all through the war of the 8th, 18th, 19th, 28th and 56th Regiments.
The right flank of McClellan was attacked that day at Mechanicsville by A. P. Hill's forces supported, toward the close of the action by D. H. Hill and Longstreet, and repulsed. General McClellan had taken up a very strong position at Gaines Mill - sometimes called the "Watt Farm." The first line of the enemy was in a washout made by the water in times of freshet. It was probably four feet deep and five feet wide, and made a most excellent cover for the Federal soldiers. One hundred yards back on the ground which commenced to rise from this ravine was another line fortified by cutting down and piling up logs and trees. One hundred yards further, and still higher, the ground rising rapidly, was another line fortified in the same way, and beyond this was an open field where the artillery was located.
On the 25th of June, General Lee determined to assail McClellan at Gaines' Mill. At this point, where we fought, General Brockenbrough's brigade was put in and driven out. Then General Pryor was put in, and repulsed. General Lee called on Longstreet for a brigade that could carry that point, and Longstreet ordered Pickett up. In the Brigade it was said and insisted upon that when General Lee called on Longstreet for a brigade that would carry this formidable position, Longstreet said, "I have a brigade that will carry it, but it has been in the thickest of all the fights and has lost heavily. I don't like to send it in." Lee said, "This is no time for sentiment. I must carry the place." The 8th and 18th had been put into a little body of woods to clear it of the enemy. The other three regiments were in line of battle in the field, in front of the woods, protected by the crest of the hill. From that point to the first line of McClellan some 200 to 250 yards, the ground descended very rapidly, so that there was a descent on both sides to this ravine. To make the charge, the charging column was exposed to the fire from all three of these fortified lines. It was a fearful position, chosen with great skill by General McClellan, and was defended by General Potter with a large force.
Pickett ordered the 8th and 18th Regiments to march out from the woods and when on the line with the balance of his brigade the whole line was to charge the enemy. This was done with the rebel yell. As soon as the brigade showed themselves over the crest of this hill, the three fortified lines of FitzJohn Porter, commanding the corps of McClellan's army, on the north side of the Chickahominy River, opened up on us with the most terrific fire I ever witnessed, except at Gettysburg.
By a misunderstanding of an order of Colonel Withers, of the 18th Regiment, our brigade halted, but only for a few moments. This halt came near being fatal to us. When we started in the charge, Pryor's men who had been repulsed, were running through our lines. All hands made efforts to arrest their retreat and take them back into the charge. Colonel Withers was particularly active in this work, and ordered them to halt. His regiment misunderstood the command and thought the order of Colonel Withers was to his own regiment to halt. This caused the halt of the 18th and the balance of the line. Colonel Withers saw the terrible mistake his men had made, and acted with the greatest heroism to get his men off, this galling fire in the meantime cutting down or men in great numbers. We started again in the charge, Colonel Withers with great gallantry actually leading his regiment.
In this charge down the hill the gallant Withers was fearfully, and it was believed for a long time, mortally wounded. He had nearly reached the first line when he fell still leading his men. General Pickett was also wounded, in going down the hill and our loss was fearful. The command of the brigade devolved on me as senior Colonel. Our brigade then carried the three lines in the most beautiful style I ever saw. This charge was witnessed by Colonel George W. Randolph, Secretary of War, and many others. They all said it was brilliant. General Brockenbrough said it was the most beautiful sight he ever saw.
After carrying the three lines we came upon this large body of artillery in the open field beyond the woods. Its fire had been very destructive to us. My regiment was a little in advance of the other regiments of the brigade, and I halted it a moment until they came up. We then resumed the charge, captured the artillery, and just after that, Jackson's men who had been fighting on our left, came up somewhat obliquely on our left. We were met by a charge of cavalry. I have never seen saddles emptied so fast in my life, and we soon dispersed the cavalry in our front, and the fight ended.
When the fighting was over I marched the brigade back beyond this ravine which separated the two armies, where we rested for the night. The losses on both sides were very heavy.
This was a great victory, and I think one of the hardest fights I was in, except Gettysburg. It reflected as much credit upon Pickett's Brigade as any fight of the war, except Gettysburg.
General Lee's operations against McClellan were very much aided by the march of Stuart and his cavalry around McClellan's rear. He marched entirely around McClellan, going past his right and coming out upon his left, June 12 to 15th. He destroyed immense stores of provisions at Tunstall's Station, and with the loss of but one single man (the gallant Captain Latane), returned to General Lee's lines. The information thus obtained enabled General Lee to form with more accuracy his plans of attack on McClellan, and General Stuart deserves great credit for the information thus imparted to General Lee. He was an exceedingly valuable cavalry officer.
After the loss of Gaines' Mill and the destruction of his communications at White House by Stuart, McClellan determined to change his base, make for Harrison's landing on the James River and obtain the protection of the gun boats, which could ascend James River as far as Drewry's Bluff.
General McClellan determined to seek Harrison's Landing by the Long Bridge and Quaker Roads which led from the White Oak Swamp down to the James River about Harrison's Landing. This Quaker Road was crossed nearly at right angles by several roads leading from Richmond down the peninsula. General Lee gave strict orders that the movement of McClellan should be watched, that his future plans might be developed as soon as possible. McClellan really started his movements towards Harrison's Landing on the night of the 27th. It was not communicated to General lee until the evening of the 28th. This was loss of time which would have been exceedingly valuable to General Lee. As soon as he heard that McClellan was retreating by the Quaker Road, he formed a plan for the battle of Frazier's Farm - I think the best planned battle of the war. He ordered Longstreet and A. P. Hill with their divisions to march rapidly through the southeastern outskirts of Richmond, and down one of those peninsula roads until he got on the flank of McClellan. This he accomplished at Frazier's Farm. General Huger was to march down another one of these peninsula roads, the Charles City road, and attack McClellan in the flank. General Jackson was to cross White Oak Swamp and attack General McClellan in the rear, while Holmes and Magruder attacked nearer the river.
These orders unfortunately were not carried out, or McClellan never would have reached Harrison's Landing or Malvern Hill. Longstreet reached his position in front of McClellan at Frazier's Farm. He was ordered to withhold his attack until he heard the guns of Huger. He waited from early morning to late afternoon for Huger's guns, but Huger never fired upon the enemy at all. Longstreet determined to make the attack. It was one of the most stubborn fights I was in during the war. We were reinforced by a portion of Hill's Division. We drove the enemy steadily, but slowly. We fought until nine o'clock at night, and had gained no very decided advantage except in the capture of a good deal of artillery. Huger, as I have said, never fired on the enemy at all, and Jackson for the first and only time in his life failed to do his part. He had some difficulty in crossing White Oak Swamp, and his men who had made forced marches from the Valley had been fighting for a day or two, needed, with their commander, some rest. Jackson laid down for a very short nap, his orders being to wake him at a given time. His staff, with mistaken kindness, determined to let him sleep on, and when he awoke the time for action had passed; Jackson was greatly distressed, and moved on with great rapidity, but it was too late then.
That night, which was the night of the 30th, McClellan withdrew his troops from Frazier's Farm to Malvern Hill. This was a remarkably strong position, and on the 1st of July General Lee attacked him there. The first day's fight was very destructive to our men; the enemy's artillery was splendidly posted, and did very destructive work on our advancing line. We carried McClellan's right, but it was recovered, and the battle of the day terminated then. General Lee made arrangements to renew the fight early next morning, but in the darkness McClellan withdrew, and reached Harrison's Landing, where he was protected by the gun boats. Lee decided that it would be impolitic and hazardous to attempt to dislodge McClellan, and withdrew his army back towards Richmond for rest and reorganization.
It was a marvelous campaign. General McClellan, with a large army – much larger than General Lee's - had marched up within a few miles of Richmond, creating the greatest alarm in that city, and causing a very decided sentiment to remove the capitol from Richmond. In seven days General Lee had routed the besieging army, driving it many miles from the city, restored the confidence of the inhabitants, and then rested his army for sometime. It is difficult to find in military history the parallel of this short campaign.
I suffered dreadfully from pain and physical exhaustion in these fights and more than once fell from exhaustion on the battlefield. General Longstreet, who was always kind and considerate of me, was apprised of my condition and voluntarily gave me sick-leave to repair to my family in Lynchburg and remain till I was fit for duty. I found my dear wife and dear son well but very unhappy about me. I remained some time in Lynchburg and returned in better physical condition to my command, then encamped at Roper's Mill, below Richmond. It was very trying to part from my wife and son. They did not know how soon I would die from disease, or fall on the battlefield.
McClellan reorganized his army and called upon the government at Washington for reinforce