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Chapter
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
R. E. Lee: A Biography

by Douglas Southall Freeman

published by Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York and London, 1934

The text, and illustrations except as noted, are in the public domain.


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Vol. II
p86
Chapter IX

Lee as the "King of Spades"

While Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Davis undertook to negotiate for the transfer of troops from the South Atlantic states, in order that Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jackson might invade Pennsylvania, Lee gave himself for a few days to expediting the construction of the defenses, and to improving the army's discipline and organization. It was not easy work. Many of the soldiers had never done manual labor. In many cases even privates had their body-servants to perform their menial duties about the camp.1 Scorning the shelter of fortifications as unworthy of gentlemen-at‑arms, the troops were not disposed to construct them. Much they grumbled at the orders of their engineer-general, the "King of Spades" as they dubbed him.a One element of the press was equally antagonistic. "Gen. Jackson's two maxims," carped The Richmond Examiner, 'to fight whenever it is possible,' and in fighting, to 'take at once and furiously,' are worth all the ditches and spades that Gen. Lee can display on this side of the Chickahominy."2 Lee was puzzled and provoked at this attitude. "Our people are opposed to work," he told President Davis, "our troops, officers, community and press. All ridicule and resist it. It is the very means by which McClellan has been and is advancing. Combined with valour, fortitude and boldness, of which we have our fair proportion, it should lead us to success. What carried the Roman soldiers into all Countries, but this happy combination? The evidences of their labour last to this day. There is nothing so military as labour, and nothing so important to an army as to save the lives of its soldiers."3 Thus convinced, he did not stand back because of antagonism or doubting minds. Almost daily he went out to the lines, encouraging the soldiers and complimenting them on their progress. p87 Soon they began to take pride in his praise and looked for his visits. The works began to rise satisfactorily, not a strong line compared with that which girdled Richmond in 1864 but ample for the immediate purpose.4 Fortification was continued until the eve of the battle of Mechanicsville, but after the first two weeks of June, Lee felt no further concern regarding it. The Federals at the same time were digging furiously, felling timber in front of their defenses, building bridges, and constantly watching Confederate movements from their observation balloons.5

To stiffen the discipline and improve the organization of the army was a task even more difficult. The obstacles were manifold. Perhaps if he reflected in his active life on his reading of Everett's Life of Washington in the winter of 1861‑62, Lee saw the parallel between his condition and that of Washington in 1776, as pictured by the biographer:

"The position of affairs was one of vast responsibility and peril. The country at large was highly excited, and expected that a bold stroke would be struck and decisive successes won. But the army was without organization and discipline; the troops unused to obey, the officers for the most part unaccustomed, some of them incompetent to command. A few of them only had had a limited experience in the Seven Years' War. Most of the men had rushed to the field on the first alarm of hostilities, without any enlistment; and when they were enlisted, it was only till the end of the year. There was no military chest; scarce anything that could be called a commissariat. The artillery consisted of a few old field-pieces of various sizes, served with a very few exceptions by persons wholly untrained in gunnery."6

In some of its aspects, discipline had been lax under Johnston; drunkenness had been frequent; many things were at loose ends.7 p88 Some of the regiments reported a third of the troops sick.8 Lee worked as fast as he could to improve the condition of the men. The commissary and the quartermaster's service were improved. Favoritism in granting details for service in the rear was ended.9 Before he had been two weeks in the field, a friendly Richmond newspaper noted: "Since Gen. Lee has assumed command many things had been done for the benefit of the public service and the soldier individually which have been overlooked or neglected."10 The Federals, of course, were not aware at this time of what Lee was doing toward the improvement of discipline, but later they were fully conscious of the effects. One Northern correspondent wrote after the Seven Days: "The shell . . . which wounded . . . General Johnston, although it confused the Rebels, was the saddest shot fired during the war. It changed the entire Rebel tactics. It took away incompetence, indecision and dissatisfaction and gave skilful generalship, excellent plans and good discipline. . . . Before the battle of Fair Oaks, Rebel troops were sickly, half fed and clothed, and had no hearts for their work. . . . [After Lee took command], the troops improved in appearance. Cadaverous looks became rare among prisoners. The discipline became better; they went into battles with shouts, and without being urged, and, when in, fought like tigers. . . . A more marked change for the better never was made in any body of men than that wrought in his army by the sensible actions of General Lee."11

The labors to which Federals paid tribute took many hours of the busy days of June. Lee was ceaselessly astir. Not only did he have to supervise a hundred undertakings on the line, but he had to direct, in some measure, those distant operations that had been under his care when he was assigned to field duty. The army of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Kirby Smith in Tennessee continued for some weeks to be his special charge.12

In dealing with the officers, Lee proceeded as though there was no opposition to him. The day after he took command he summoned p89 all the generals to a council of war at a place on the Nine Mile road styled "the Chimneys."13 Smith had left the army with some obscure nervous ailment.14 The other division commanders were somewhat scandalized at what they considered incaution on Lee's part in discussing a plan of operations in the presence of the brigadiers.15 They might as well have spared their feelings. Lee simply asked for opinions on the state of affairs and listened as the brigade commanders reported. One by one they took the floor. When the turn of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.W. H. C. Whiting came, his gloomy temperament displayed itself. As he was describing how McClellan's long-range guns would make it possible for him to hammer his way into Richmond, President Davis came into the room and quietly took a seat. Whiting kept on, mathematically demonstrating his thesis. "Stop, stop," said Lee, "if you go to ciphering we are whipped beforehand." Davis took heart from the warning.16 Presently Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.D. H. Hill made a humorous observation on an unmilitary remark by General Robert Toombs, and the conversation drifted into less serious channels.17 Lee at length bade his lieutenants good-day without the slightest intimation of what he intended to do.

The generals rode away none the wiser for their conference, some of them assured of Lee's ability,18 others convinced that he had simply called them together to see what manner of men they were.19 He could hardly have been disappointed in them as a group. The policy of the administration, well sustained in previous months by Johnston's persistent appeal for trained men, had put at the disposal of Lee an unusual number of professional soldiers of high intelligence. Counting those who were yet to join him, Lee was to go into the Seven Days' Battle with forty-nine general officers, whose average age was slightly over forty years. Thirty-one of these were West Point graduates, and only a handful could be accounted as "political generals" in the accepted Northern use of that unhappy term. Thirteen were to be major generals and twelve lieutenant generals. Sixteen were to be p90 killed or were to die of wounds; thirteen were to share with Lee the last dreadful hours of Appomattox. Seventeen came from Virginia, eight from North Carolina, and seven from Georgia.

In addition to Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Longstreet, A. P. Hill, and a few others who were to be in daily association with their chief, the council and the camps then contained many interesting personalities, some of them soldiers who were not to sustain the reputation they then enjoyed, others of them fated to rise to high position by valor and by skill. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Magruder has already been introduced. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Benjamin Huger, commanding a division, has been observed at Norfolk, ere its evacuation. He was comparatively an old man by the standard of that youthful army, being fifty-six. Behind him were some of the finest Huguenot traditions of South Carolina, as well as connection with the great house of Pinckney.

Among Huger's brigade generals were three unusual men. L. A. Armistead, son of a general in the War of 1812 and himself an Indian fighter of distinction, was destined to play a conspicuous part in Malvern Hill and to fall the next year in a dramatic hour at Gettysburg. William Mahone was a small, wiry man of thirty-six, who had already established his reputation as an imaginative consolidator of railroads, the Southern Harriman of his day. Ambrose R. Wright, of Georgia, was a lawyer and a "political general," but he was to justify by hard blows the confidence of his people who, when he had enlisted as a private, had forthwith elected him a colonel. He was never to be a brilliant soldier but he was to exhibit a noble fidelity.

In Magruder's conglomerate command, one division was under a stocky, bearded Georgian, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lafayette McLaws, a West Pointer and a veteran of the Mexican War, whose name was to be linked with Longstreet's until an unhappy disagreement. The most interesting of McLaws's brigadiers at this time was a magnificent South Carolinian, Joseph B. Kershaw, a lawyer, who had been chosen to lead Bonham's famous brigade.

The nervous, impetuous A. P. Hill had excellent brigadiers. One of them, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Charles W. Field, of Kentucky, then forty-two, was to be transferred to Longstreet and, at the very end of the war, was to have the honor of leading on the field of surrender the largest division that survived the last ordeal. Maxcy Gregg p91 of South Carolina, another of Hill's brigadiers, was to win an Homeric fame at Second Manassas and was to fall at Fredericksburg, cheering a wild counter-attack. Still another brigadier of this division was the small, vigorous, and soldierly Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.William D. Pender of North Carolina, a classmate of Custis Lee's and of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jeb Stuart's. He was only twenty-eight and he had won his wreath and his three stars by his able leading of the Sixth North Carolina at Seven Pines. He was to receive his mortal wound at Gettysburg, before he had attained the full measure of his potential achievements.

The brigades of Longstreet's division were well-served. At the head of one was a Virginian of thirty-seven, a romantic person, who loved to wear his hair in ringlets. He was to give his name to the most famous charge of the war — Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George E. Pickett. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Cadmus M. Wilcox, thirty-two, was a slow, meticulous, and scholarly soldier, an authority on rifle-fire. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class."Dick" Anderson, then forty-one, was the most brilliant but at the same time the most erratic of the group, a soldier all his life and one of the witnesses of the initial tragedy at Fort Sumter.

In Whiting's division was a physically magnificent brigadier of thirty-one, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.John B. Hood, who had been a lieutenant of cavalry in Lee's old regiment — a man of great activity on the field, but more sociable than diligent off it. The prince of the South Carolina planters, Wade Hampton, a powerful man of forty-four, had just been promoted brigadier general and was limping from the wound received at Seven Pines.

Busy with their commands on the lines around Richmond were a host of others whose names were to have eminence — Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.E. Porter Alexander, then acting chief of ordnance and soon to be the most brilliant of all Lee's artillerists; John B. Gordon, not yet thirty, and the diligent commander of the 6th Alabama, Samuel MacGowan, who was to be Maxcy Gregg's successor and was then the colonel of the 14th South Carolina; John R. Cooke, twenty-nine, a Harvard man, a civil engineer and commander of the 27th North Carolina, soon to win a glorious name at Sharpsburg; W. T. Wofford of the 18th Georgia, who was to develop into one of the most capable of all Lee's brigadiers — these were only a few. Young R. F. Hoke, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Stephen D. Ramseur, p92 and A. M. Scales were all of them at this time colonels of North Carolina regiments; the queer, cynical Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jubal A. Early, West Pointer by training but prosecuting attorney by impulse and choice, was absent, wounded. So was another and younger officer of much capacity, R. E. Rodes. Nearly all the men who were later to be Lee's renowned cavalry commanders were colonels at the time, and the youthful John Pelham was a captain of the horse artillery attached to Stuart.

With surprising rapidity, considering their devotion to Johnston and their secret disdain of the staff, nearly all of these officers were won over to Lee's support by his manner, his energy, and his modest but unmistakable willingness to assume the responsibilities of leadership. He neither flattered them nor dealt with them austerely, but they could not fail to see that he knew his duty and was determined to discharge it, regardless of their opinion of him. He was careful in his appointments to fill vacancies, studiously just in his judgment of qualifications, and unwilling to recommend officers of whose ability he was doubtful.20 One thing helped him greatly — the confidence imposed in him by those who knew him well. Major E. P. Alexander, for instance, chanced to be riding with Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Joseph Ives, who had been Lee's engineer in South Carolina and was now on President Davis's staff. They fell to talking of Lee. "Ives," said Alexander, "tell me this. We are here fortifying our lines, but apparently leaving the enemy all the time he needs to accumulate his superior forces, and then to move on us in the way he thinks best. Has General Lee the audacity that is going to be required for our inferior force to meet the enemy's superior force — to take the aggressive and run risks and take chances?" Ives reined in his horse, stopped, and turned to his companion. "Alexander," he said, "if there is one man in either army, Confederate or Federal, head and shoulders above every other in audacity, it is General Lee! His name might be Audacity. He will take more desperate chances, and take them quicker than any other general in this country, North or South; and you will live to see it, too."21 Such confidence begat confidence.

Before Lee had progressed far in preparing for the offensive p93 against McClellan, it became apparent that no such reinforcements as Jackson would require for the invasion of Pennsylvania could be expected from the South Atlantic seaboard. Brigadier-General A. R. Lawton had a large Georgia brigade that he was anxious to bring to Virginia and he started northward.22 But at Charleston, General Pemberton talked of the danger of an attack on his line and was so involved in disagreements with some of his officers that a movement was on foot to have him removed to another command. Large detachments from that quarter might break the morale of the Palmetto state. A proposal to send green North Carolina troops to Charleston to take the place of more seasoned regiments that might be ordered to Virginia, disclosed the fact that Governor Clark felt some resentment because Holmes's brigades had been summarily dispatched to the Richmond front.23 The War Department continued its efforts to get troops from South Carolina and from Alabama as well,24 but Lee had to abandon his project for an invasion of Pennsylvania almost as soon as he formulated it. He determined, however, to send Lawton, upon his arrival from Georgia, to reinforce Jackson. "We must aid a gallant man if we perish," said he.25 Beyond this, he had not decided what should be undertaken in the valley when, on June 8, he received an important letter from Jackson. His forces, the valley commander reported, were so disposed that if Shields attempted to advance and join Frémont, the Federal column would have to cross his front. If, Jackson went on, his command was required at Richmond, he could have part of his troops at the railroad after one day's march. "At present," he said, "I do not see that I can do much more than rest my command and devote its time to drilling."26 Lee reasoned that if this were Jackson's prospect, reinforcements would be lost on him; consequently he at once wrote Jackson to rest his men, and to be prepared to move to Richmond, but meantime "should an opportunity occur for striking the enemy a successful blow, do not let it escape you."27 The p94 date on which he might summon Jackson was left open, because the Richmond defenses were not yet completed, and Lee did not intend to undertake an offensive until the works were ready.28

The next morning, June 9, there came news that once again changed Lee's plans for the employment of Jackson: under the shadow of the Massanutton Mountain, Jackson had struck Frémont at Cross Keys and had halted him, bewildered. Ere Lee got this report, the other wing of Jackson's army had grappled furiously with Shields's advanced guard at Port Republic and had hurled it back, bloody and crippled, on the main force.29 As these twin battles of great tactical brilliance definitely gave Jackson the advantage again, Lee instantly decided to make the most of it. He ordered Lawton's brigade and a few North Carolina regiments united at once with Jackson's30 force and he began immediately to ponder the possibilities of the general situation. McClellan was working on his bridges and his fortifications, but as the roads remained impassable, there was no immediate threat of an advance. Lee still had no way of sending Jackson enough men to undertake the cherished project of a great offensive in Pennsylvania, but he had learned something from the quick recall of McDowell after Jackson had defeated Banks. He had made a discovery, in fact, that was to influence his strategy many times in the next two years and on occasion was to shape it: President Lincoln, he perceived, was easily alarmed for the safety of Washington. Any Confederate movement that threatened the Federal capital would be apt to prompt Mr. Lincoln to call troops from Virginia to its defense. This Lee had found out. Might it not be possible, then, to dispatch to Jackson a few more brigades from the Army of Northern Virginia? With these, might not Jackson undertake a short, sharp offensive that would crush the enemy in his front and so alarm the Northern President that McDowell's army would be summoned to Washington? With the valley cleared, Jackson might then move swiftly to Richmond and join in the attack on McClellan. Even if only a part of McDowell's force were recalled p95 to Washington, while the rest joined McClellan, a diversion by Jackson, followed by a quick march of his troops to Richmond, might give Lee sufficient strength to hope for a victory in the field. Such a plan involved risks, of course, but how was Richmond to be saved by a numerically inferior force without taking risks?

Rain came on the night of June 9 and continued through the 10th31 — a blessed downfall because it meant that the naturally hesitant McClellan would be chained to his positions for several days longer. As the rain poured down, Lee debated the reinforcement of Jackson and by the evening of June 10, he reached his decision: he would send Jackson eight strong regiments besides Lawton's brigade and the North Carolina detachment; with these Jackson could attack and defeat the enemy, and then, by the time the earthworks were finished, he could be near Richmond.

It doubtless was futile to hope that such a large-scale troop-movement to the valley of Virginia could be concealed from McClellan's spies in Richmond; therefore it might as well be capitalized. If the troops moved boldly away, in open daylight, Lincoln would hear of it and would be more alarmed than ever for the safety of Washington. McDowell would be less disposed to move southward, though he would be unable to reinforce the valley in time to check Jackson. McClellan would reason that if Lee could afford to send off two brigades, he was too strong to be attacked.

On June 11, Lee detached Whiting, with eight regiments of that officer's own selection,32 ordered the men through Richmond to the Richmond and Danville station, and sent a staff officer thither to create the impression that much importance was attached to the speedy departure of the reinforcements in order that an offensive might be launched in the valley.33 Lest the enemy might suspect the true nature of the ruse, he took pains to see that the Richmond newspapers said nothing, one way or the other.34 Jackson's orders were explicit: "The object," Lee wrote, "is to enable you to crush the forces opposed to you." This done, Jackson was to leave in the valley his weaker infantry units, his p96 cavalry and his artillery, in order to screen the movement and to guard the passes. With the rest of his troops, including Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ewell, Lawton, and Whiting, he was to move eastward by the Virginia Central Railroad, and was to assail McClellan's right flank while Lee attacked in front.35

As the bridges on the Virginia Central Railroad between Richmond and Hanover Junction had been burned by Federal raiders,36 Whiting moved by way of Burkeville, Lynchburg, and Charlottesville. After his departure, Lee at once turned to preparations for the offensive that was to be undertaken when Jackson arrived. The first step was to procure exact information concerning McClellan's position and line of communications. The Federal left, which was too strong to be turned, had been accurately located. It was covered by White Oak Swamp, a sluggish stream that ran into the Chickahominy through a marshy, overflowed bottom from a point two and a half miles south of Seven Pines.37 The centre, running northward to the Chickahominy, was in plain view and was also very strong. But there was some doubt how far north of the Chickahominy the Federal right extended. Communications manifestly were maintained with the White House, on the Pamunkey, via the Richmond and York River Railroad. It was suspected, moreover, that the right was being supplied by a wagon-train running northward from p97 the White House and thence by the Piping Tree road to the Old Church road and on to McClellan's lines.38 The existence of these communications needed to be established, and if they were in use, they should be destroyed or, at the least, interrupted.

To ascertain the facts, Lee determined to order a cavalry raid to the rear of McClellan's right, and for this purpose on June 11 called to headquarters Brigadier General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.J. E. B. Stuart, now at the head of the cavalry. This picturesque young officer had reached the mature age of twenty-nine. He had seen little of his old West Point superintendent during the first year of the war, and as recently as January, 1862, had privately admitted that Lee had "disappointed" him as a general;39 but now, when Lee explained what was desired, he entered joyfully into the plan for a reconnaissance in the rear of McClellan's army and confided to his chief that he believed he could ride entirely around the Federal forces.40 Lee was in no position to risk the loss of his cavalry, and after talking with Stuart, he gave him lengthy instructions written in his own hand,41 explaining the information he desired and cautioning him against too great exposure of his men. ". . . be content," said he, "to accomplish all the good you can without feeling it necessary to obtain all that might be desired."42 Enough cavalry must be left to serve the army. ". . . and remember," Lee admonished, "that one of the chief objects of your expedition is to gain intelligence for the guidance of future operations." Because of the plans he was already making to bring Jackson from the valley, Lee particularly instructed Stuart to examine the watershed of Totopotomoy Creek, down which Jackson was apt to advance. He intimated to Stuart, also, that a threat against McClellan's communications would probably lead the Federal commander to detach troops to defend them, thereby reducing his front-line strength.43

As happily as if starting on a honeymoon, young Stuart picked some 1200 men from his cavalry regiments and disappeared up Brook road with them on the 12th, pretending that he was bound for the valley to support Whiting and to reinforce Jackson. He p98 had chosen some of his best lieutenants for the honor of the great adventure — Rooney Lee, now colonel of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, Colonel Fitz Lee of the 1st, and Lieutenant Colonel W. T. Martin of the Jeff Davis Legion. A gigantic German officer of bewildering apparel, Heros von Borcke, rode as aide; Lieutenant James Breathed had a section of the horse artillery under his charge, and a sharp-visaged, wiry young man, John S. Mosby, rode along, half aide, half courier, unattached and uncommissioned, but exhibiting already some of the qualities that were to make him the most renowned of all the partisan rangers. Promising youngsters, all of them, but reckless fellows! There was no telling what they might attempt, once they were on those narrow, sandy roads of Hanover, with the Union cavalry lurking in the woods.

Other concerns now crowded Lee's mind, along with that for Stuart. There were evidences that McClellan was being reinforced. Burnside was known to have joined him, though it was not certain that any of his troops had come with Burnside from North Carolina.44 Belated word came on the 14th that Federal transports had gone up the Rappahannock to Fredericksburg and that at least one large steamer had descended the river, jammed with soldiers, bound presumably from McDowell to McClellan.45 Sickness was taking thousands of men from McClellan's lines, according to Lee's information, but the troops from McDowell and other recruits would more than balance the account.46 Besides, the fickle weather had turned Unionist again. There had been no rain since the 10th. The sun was beating down in a typical Virginia "hot spell," and the roads were drying as fast.47 This meant, of course, that McClellan would soon be able to advance his heavy guns, despite the railway battery, which was not yet ready for service. Whatever was done by Jackson in the valley must be done quickly, for every man that he could spare would soon be needed on the Richmond front.

p99 For these reasons, June 14 was a day of anxiety. Before it ended, there arrived an exhausted courier, in the person of Corporal Turner Doswell, with a message from Stuart — the first to be received from that daredevil since he had started on the reconnaissance. And what a message it was! Stuart had ridden to McClellan's rear, had destroyed a wagon-train, had captured some 165 men and more than that number of horses, with only one casualty, and had circled entirely around the rear of the Federal army, precisely as he had said he believed he could do. On reaching the Chickahominy, more than thirty miles below Richmond, he found the ford so deep and so swift that Fitz Lee had nearly lost his life in crossing it. There was no bridge and no other ford close by. Stuart was on the far side of the stream when Doswell left, and all his men were with him. He had, however, been quite confident he would get back to the Confederate lines and he had directed Doswell to request Lee to make a diversion on the Charles City road so that the Federals would not be able to send a force to cut him off as he returned to Richmond.48 A man less self-controlled than Lee would have sworn because Stuart had taken such chances and he would have resolved inwardly to bring that reckless dragoon to court-martial if he escaped with his life. As it was, Lee said nothing and could do nothing, at that hour, to relieve the raiders. He must wait until morning to make the diversion.

With the dawn of the 15th, Stuart himself rode up to headquarters. His finery was much bedraggled and even his iron frame was weary, but he was triumphant and full of information. After he had sent off Doswell, said Stuart, he had found the skeleton of a burned bridge a mile below the ford, had repaired this and had crossed the entire command. The column, undisturbed, was moving toward Richmond under Colonel Fitz Lee. Stuart had ridden ahead of it to report. During the course of the raid, Stuart went on to say, he had encountered Lee's old regiment, the 2d Cavalry, now the 5th; and his pursuers, who had easily been outdistanced, had belonged to the command of his p100 own father-in‑law, Brigadier General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Philip Saint George Cooke.


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Area between Chickahominy and Pamunkey Rivers, showing watershed (unprotected according to Stuart's report) down which Jackson was to advance.

There was much more, however, than adventure and élan about the raid. To Stuart's report of the ground and of the Federal dispositions Lee gave instant and serious ear. The roads behind the Federal lines, Stuart said, were worse than those on the Confederate front.49 That was encouraging, because it meant p101 that McClellan's movements would be slow. Secondly, Stuart reported, there was no doubt that the Federals were supplying their lines by wagon-trains from the vicinity of the White House, as well as by the railroad.50 There were no signs of any intention on McClellan's part to change his base to James River. All this indicated, of course, that if the Confederates could turn the Federal right, they might get on McClellan's line of communications. Perhaps they might even cut him off from his base. Finally, Stuart had invaluable information concerning the state of affairs on McClellan's right. Beyond the headwaters of Beaver Dam Creek, he had found no Federals on the long ridge that Lee had especially enjoined him to examine. There was nothing, so far as Stuart could see, to keep Jackson from turning Beaver Dam Creek and sweeping on down toward the White House.51 That was news, indeed! It justified all the risks that Stuart had taken.

Realizing that McClellan might be alarmed by Stuart's raid and might strengthen his right wing, Lee at once had his infantry feel out the Federal front to see if it had been weakened.52 Finding no evidence of this, Lee's hopes of a successful offensive rose, and with them his satisfaction over Stuart's exploit. He commended Stuart and his troops in general orders,53 taking good pains not to mention his son and his nephew, whom Stuart had warmly praised and had recommended for promotion.54 From that time forward, Lee trusted the discretion of Stuart. That bold young cavalry commander was to become, in more than a metaphor, the eyes of the army.


The Author's Notes:

1 Cf. Eggleston, 29‑37.

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2 June 17, 1862, p2, col. 2.

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3 Letter of June 5, 1862; Lee's Dispatches, 8.

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4 Long, 164‑67; Marshall, 79; Longstreet, 114; Richmond Whig, July 15, 1862, p1, col. 1. The Richmond Dispatch, July 9, 1862, p2, col. 1, greatly exaggerated the strength of these works.

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5 Dickert, in his History of Kershaw's Brigade, 122, told a diverting story of a South Carolina sentinel who called his officer one night and reported that the enemy was putting up a balloon. The officer insisted it was a star that the soldier had seen. "Star hell," the man answered. "I tell you, it's a balloon. Are the Yankees smart enough to catch the stars?"

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6 Everett, 112‑13.

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7 Cf. 1 R. W. C. D., 133; IV O. R., 1126‑27.

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8 History of the Fourth South Carolina Volunteers, 94.

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9 O. R., 11, part 3, pp581, 585‑86; cf. ibid., 599.

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10 Richmond Dispatch, June 13, 1862, p3, col. 1.

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11 Joel Cook: The Siege of Richmond, 246‑47. This contemporary narrative by the correspondent of The Philadelphia Press is cited hereafter as Joel Cook.

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12 O. R., 10, part 2, pp584, 590, 597; O. R., 15, 756.

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13 Marshall, 77.

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14 G. W. Smith, 193; 2 B. and L., 261; O. R., 11, part 3, pp685‑86.

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15 Longstreet, 112‑13.

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16 17 S. H. S. P., 369. For Whiting's despondency, see O. R., 5, 1092.

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17 Longstreet, 113.

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18 Pendleton, 187‑88.

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19 Longstreet, loc. cit.

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20 Lee's Dispatches, 10‑12.

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21 Alexander, 110‑11.

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22 O. R., 14, 536.

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23 O. R., 14, 528, 534, 535, 536, 538, 539, 540, 541, 548, 549, 560, 567, 569, 603, 613; O. R., 53, 247, 251.

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24 O. R., 14, 558; O. R., 51, part 2, p569.

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25 O. R., 12, part 3, p907.

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26 O. R., 12, part 3, pp906‑7. This dispatch was addressed to Johnston.

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27 Ibid., endorsement, and O. R., 12, part 3, p908.

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28 O. R., 11, part 2, p490.

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29 O. R., 12, part 1, pp710‑11; Jackson to Samuel Cooper; Jackson to Lee, June 9, 1862, MS., Chilton Papers.

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30 O. R., 11, part 3, pp584, 585.

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31 O. R., 11, part 1, p46; ibid., part 3, p224.

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32 O. R., 11, part 3, pp591, 594; N. A. Davis, 42.

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33 Marshall, 84.

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34 O. R., 11, part 3, p590.

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35 O. R., 12, part 3, p910. Few of Lee's operations have been more misunderstood than this. Nearly all the early accounts follow the misstatement of McCabe, p122, that the detachment of Whiting was altogether a ruse and that Lee planned simply to move the troops to the valley and then to bring them back at once without striking at Shields and Frémont. See, for instance, Cooke, 68; Dabney, 432; Long, 170. These narratives were all written, apparently, without knowledge of the dispatch of June 11, containing the significant sentence: "The object is to enable you to crush the force in your front." Nor did these authors know, it would seem, of Lee's dispatch of June 11, quoted below. The mistake of these biographers has been followed by most later writers, who either relied upon the previous statements or else were deceived by the fact that after explaining to Jackson that the reinforcements were to enable him to defeat the enemy in his front, Lee proceeded in the very next sentence of his dispatch of June 11 to say: "Leave your enfeebled troops to watch the country . . . and with your main body . . . move rapidly to Ashland . . . and sweep down between the Chickahominy and Pamunkey . . ." (O. R., 12, part 3, p910). President Davis, op. cit., 2, 131‑32, and Colonel Taylor in his General Lee, 60, avoided the mistake of the others but even they did not state the facts fully. The contemporary newspaper accounts are of little value. The Richmond Dispatch, July 9, 1862, p2, col. 1, was more nearly correct than the others. The facts, as here stated, are established beyond question by the dispatch of June 16, quoted on p104.

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36 C. S. Anderson, war-time conductor, in Locomotive Engineering, October, 1892, p371; November, 1892, p405. For this interesting authority, the writer is indebted to Mrs. Mary Carter Anderson Gardner.

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37 A. S. Webb: The Peninsula (cited hereafter as Webb), 118.

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38 O. R., 11, part 3, p590.

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39 John W. Thomason, Jr.: Jeb Stuart (cited hereafter as Thomason), 138.

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40 O. R., 11, part 1, p1038.

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41 H. B. McClellan, 52.

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42 O. R., 11, part 3, p590.

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43 O. R., 11, part 2, pp514, 516; part 3, pp590‑91.

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44 O. R., 12, part 3, p913. Actually, the Rhode Islander was on a visit to discuss future co-operation with McClellan.

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45 O. R., 51, part 2, p569. This movement was that of McCall's division.

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46 O. R., 12, part 3, p913.

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47 For the weather on the 11th, see O. R., 11, part 3, p223; for that of the 12th, see ibid., 225; for the 14th, see O. R., 11, part 1, p47; for the "hot spell," see O. R., 11, part 1, p1012, and Waldrop in 3 Richmond Howitzers, 39‑40. The writer has found no reference to the weather of the 13th, but McClellan's mention (O. R., 11, part 3, p229) of the "cessation of the rains a few any past" would indicate that it was clear.

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48 H. B. McClellan, 64; O. R., 11, part 1, p1039; G. W. Beale: A Lieutenant of Cavalry in Lee's Army, 24, this last a little-known but excellent account of the raid; R. L. T. Beale: History of the Ninth Virginia Cavalry (cited hereafter as R. L. T. Beale), 17 ff.

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49 O. R., 11, part 1, p1031.

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50 The Federals, in reality, were not using this road so much as Stuart believed, though they generally had a wagon-train on it. Their first advanced base was at Savage Station, on the Richmond and York River railroad, but they had developed an even larger base at Oak Orchard, or Orchard Station, between Savage Station and Fair Oaks. Joel Cook, 231, 232. The Report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, 1, 362, contains an interesting description of Oak Orchard base.

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51 Marshall, 82.

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52 O. R., 11, part 3, p601; D. H. Hill, Jr.: North Carolina in the War Between the States, From Bethel to Sharpsburg (cited hereafter as D. H. Hill), 2, 97.

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53 O. R., 11, part 1, p1042.

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54 O. R., 11, part 1, p1041.


Thayer's Note:

a Some things never change. Soldiers prefer fighting to digging ditches — and the best of generals will make them dig a lot of ditches, for very good reasons: see for example this exactly parallel passage in Plutarch's life of the Roman general Marius (102 B.C.).


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