On the 2d of September,
General McClellan was assigned to the "command of the fortifications of
Washington, and of all the troops for the defense of the Capital." Three
days later General Pope was relieved of his command, and the Army of Virginia
was merged into the Army of the Potomac. Of this army, General Sigel's
corps became the Eleventh. Between the 4th and 7th of September, General
Lee crossed the Potomac for the purpose of invading Maryland, and in Washington
an army was hastily put together to march forth and beat him. General Sigel's
corps, the Eleventh, was kept within the fortifications for the immediate
protection of the Capital City. The corps had been greatly reduced in strength
by heavy losses on the battlefield, as well as by sickness caused by the
extraordinary fatigues of the recent campaign. Now it was still further
weakened by the withdrawal of General Milroy's brigade, which was sent
to West Virginia to protect railroads and to hunt bushwhackers. General
Milroy was, if I remember rightly, an Indianian, gaunt of appearance and
strikingly Western in character and manners. When he met the enemy be would
gallop up and down his front, fiercely shaking his fist at the "rebel scoundrels
over there," and calling them all sorts of outrageous names. His favorite
word of command was: "Pitch in, boys; pitch in!" And he would "pitch in"
at the head of his men, exposing himself with the utmost recklessness.
He was a man of intense patriotism. He did not fight as one who merely
likes fighting. The cause for which he was fighting - his country, the
integrity of the Republic, the freedom of the slave was constantly present
to his mind. It was the advantage won or the injury suffered by his cause,
that made him rejoice over our victory, or mourn over our defeat. General
McDowell, in his report on the battle of the 30th of August, describes
him as he appeared when our left wing yielded to the enemy's assault, as
" Brigadier General Milroy, a gallant officer of General Sigel's corps,
who came riding up in a state of absolute frenzy, with his sword drawn,
and gesticulating at some distance off, shouting to send forward reinforcements
to save the day, to save the country," etc., etc. And in his own report
he gave vent to his feelings about the order to retreat, in these words:
"I felt that all the blood, treasure, and labor of our government and people
for the last year had been thrown away by that unfortunate order, and that
most probably the death-knell of our glorious government had been sounded
by it." His notions of military discipline were somewhat singular. He lived
on a footing of very democratic comradeship with his men. The most extraordinary
stories were told of his discussing with his subordinates that was to be
done, of his permitting them to take amazing liberties with the orders
to be executed. At the different headquarters of divisions and brigades
of the corps, "Old Milroy's" latest was always eagerly expected, and then
circulated, frequently amplified and adorned with great freedom of invention.
But he did good service, was respected and liked by all, and we saw him
depart with great regret. The gap left by the departure of this brigade
was filled by some newly levied regiments of which I may have more to say
On the 17th of September, the battle of Antietam was fought, in which McClellan might have made a victory of immense consequence, had he not, with his usual indecision and procrastination, let slip the moments when he could easily have beaten the divided enemy in detail. As it was, General Lee came near being justified in calling Antietam a " drawn battle.'' He withdrew almost unmolested from the presence of our army across the Potomac. But the battle of Antietam became one of the landmarks of human history by giving Abraham Lincoln the opportunity for doing the great act which crowned him with eternal fame. There is something singularly pathetic in the story and it is a true story that Abraham Lincoln, harassed by anxious doubts as to whether the issue of the emancipation proclamation, already once postponed, would not cause dangerous dissension among the Northern people, at last referred the portentous question to the arbitrament of heaven, and vowed in his heart to himself and " to his Maker " that the proclamation should certainly come forth, if the result of the next battle were in favor of the Union. And so, after the battle of Antietam, the great proclamation, in Lincoln's heart sanctioned by the decree of Providence, did come forth, and it made our Civil War not only a war for a political Union, but also a war against slavery before all the world.
The effect produced by the appearance of the proclamation did much to justify the previous hesitation of the President. In the first place, it did not at once bring about the confusion in the internal conditions of the Southern States that had been expected by the anti-slavery men who advised the measure. They had, indeed, not looked for nor desired a servile insurrection. But they had expected the ruling class, and with it the Confederate Government, to fear the possibility of such a calamity, and, for that reason, to withdraw a part of their forces from the fighting line to watch the negroes. They had also expected that the number of negro fugitives from the Southern country would become much larger, and that thereby the laboring force of the South necessary for the sustenance for the army would be greatly reduced. One of the most remark i able features of the history of those times is the fact that most of the slaves stayed on the plantations or farms, and did the accustomed work with quiet, and, in the case of house servants, not seldom even with affectionate fidelity, while in their heart, they yearned for freedom, and prayed for its speedy coming. Only as our armies penetrated the South, and especially when negroes were enlisted as soldiers, did they leave their former masters in large numbers and even then there was scarcely any instance of violent revenge on their part for any wrong or cruelty any of them may have suffered in slavery.
At the North the emancipation proclamation was used by Democratic politicians to denounce the administration for having turned the " War for the Union " into an " abolition war," and much seditious clamor was heard about the blood of white fellow-citizens being treacherously spilled for the sole purpose of robbing our Southern countrymen of their negro property, and all this in direct violation of the Federal Constitution and the laws. While this agitation, on the whole, affected only Democratic partisans, it served. to consolidate their organization, to turn mere opposition to the Republican administration into opposition to the prosecution of the war. On the other hand, it greatly inspired the enthusiasm of the antislavery people, and gave a new impetus to their activity. Moreover, it produced a powerful impression in Europe. It did not, indeed, convert the enemies of the American Union in England and France; but it created so commanding a public sentiment in favor of our cause that our enemies there could not prevail against it.
But the political situation at the North assumed a threatening aspect. Hundreds of thousands of Republican voters were in the army, away from home. Arbitrary arrests, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, and similar stretches of power had disquieted and even irritated many good men. But more than this-our frequent defeats in the field and the apparent fruitlessness of some of our victories, like that of Antietam, had a disheartening effect upon the people. Our many failures were largely ascribed to a lack of energy in the administration. The consequence was, that at the November elections in 1862, the Democrats achieved some startling successes, winning the States of New York and New Jersey, and a good many congressional districts in various other important States, and boastfully predicting that the next time they would obtain the control of the National House of Representatives. Many of the sincerest friends of the country's cause and of those in power became alarmed at the situation, and impulsively held the administration responsible for it. And not a few of them, to ease their minds, could think of nothing better to do than to "write to Mr. Lincoln." Listening to everybody that had the slightest claim to be heard, and kindly replying to what he was told through interviews or letters or other methods of public utterance, Mr. Lincoln had, so to speak, kept himself in constant correspondence with the people, and to " write to Mr. Lincoln " was therefore not considered by anybody an extraordinary undertaking. From this popular impression Mr. Lincoln had at times - at this time, for instance-seriously to suffer.
In Nicolay and Hay's biography of Lincoln (Vol. VII., p. 363), the situation is thus described: "In the autumn of 1862 Mr. Lincoln was exposed to the bitterest assaults and criticisms from every faction in the country. His conservative supporters reproached him with having yielded to the wishes of the radicals; the radicals denounced him for being hampered, if not corrupted, by the influence of the conservatives. On one side, he was assailed by a clamor for peace, on the other by vehement and injurious demands for a more vigorous prosecution of the war. To one friend who assailed him with peculiar candor, he made a reply which may answer as a sufficient defense to all- the radical attacks which were so rife at the time." That "friend" was I.
I had, while in the field, carried on a more or less active correspondence with my political friends to keep myself informed of what was going on in the country. I had also while stationed near Washington, visited that city and conversed with public men, among whom were Secretary Chase and Senator Sumner. The impressions I received from my letters as well as from my conversations were very gloomy. There was a discouragement in the popular mind which urgently demanded successes in the field for its relief. Such successes were indeed achieved in the West, but not in the East, where the principal theater of the war, upon which the finally decisive blows were to be struck, was supposed to be. It was observed with disquietude that reckless operations of the enemy, such, for instance, as those of Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley and the raid on Manassas Junction, which would have resulted in his destruction, if our ample means had been promptly and vigorously used, had been accomplished with astonishing success.
The apparent lack of hearty cooperation between different commands, to which Pope's disastrous discomfiture seemed in great part to have been owing, formed the subject of much anxious talk. There was a suspicion current that the enemy had spies in the Adjutant General's office in Washington who despatched intimate information about our condition and plans southward. Rumors of occasional utterances dropped at this time, no doubt, induced by the extraordinary harassment to which he was subjected from all sides.
WASHINGTON, NOV. 24, 1842.
GENERAL CARL SCHURZ:
My Dear Sir -
I have just received and read your letter of the 2Oth. The purport of it is that we lost the late elections, and the Administration is failing, because the war is unsuccessful, and that I must not flatter myself that I am not justly to blame for it. I certainly know that if the war fails, the Administration fails, and that I will be blamed for it, whether I deserve it or not. And I ought to be blamed if I could do better. You think I could do better; therefore you blame me already I think I could not do better; therefore I blame you for blaming me. I understand you now to be willing to accept the help of men who are not Republicans, provided they have "heart in it." Agreed. I want no others. But who is to be the judge of hearts, or of "heart in it?" If I must discard my own judgment, and take yours, I must also take that of others; and by the time I should reject all I should be advised to reject, I should have none left, Republicans or others-not even yourself. For be assured, my dear sir, there are men who have "heart in it" and think you are performing your part as poorly as you think I am performing mine. I certainly have been dissatisfied with the slowness of Buell and McClellan; but before I relieved them I had great fears I should not find successors to them who would do better; and I am sorry to add that I have seen little since to relieve those fears. I do not clearly see the prospect of any more rapid movements. I fear we shall at last find out that the difficulty is in our case rather than in particular generals. I wish to disparage no one-certainly not those who sympathize with me; but I must say I need success more than I need sympathy, and that I have not seen the so much greater endence of getting success from my sympathizers than from those who are denounced as the contrary. It does seem to me that in the field the two classes have been very much alike in what they have done and what they have failed to do. In sealing their faith with their blood, Baker, and Lyon, and Bohlen, and Richardson, Republicans, did all that men could do; but did they any more than lfearney, and Stevens, and Reno, and Mansfield, none of whom were Republicans, and some at least of whom have been bitterly and repeatedly denounced to me as secession sympathizers? I will not perform the ungrateful task of comparing cases of failure. In answer to your question, Has it not been publicly stated in the newspaper, and apparently proved as a fact, that from the commencement of the war the enemy was continually supplied with information by some of the confidential subordinates of as important an officer as Adjutant General Thomas? I must say " No," as far as my knowledge extends. And I add that if you can give any tangible endence upon the subject, I will thank you to come to this city and do so.
Very truly your friend,
The letter, while not incorporated in the Reminiscences by Mr. Schurz, is added here for the convenience of readers who have not read it elsewhere.
This letter was selected
by Hay and Nicolay for publication in their history as a specimen of Mr.
Lincoln's answers to his critics at that period, and, curious to relate,
more than thirty-five years later, it was used by my opponents in debate
- perhaps for want of a better argument as a weapon of attack to show that
I was an utterly impracticable person who would never be satisfied with
anything or anybody and who had even forced so good and amiable a man as
Mr. Lincoln to break off his friendly relations with him. Nothing could
have been further from the truth. In fact, I know of no instance more characteristic
of Mr. Lincoln's way of treating occasional differences with his friends.
Two or three days after Mr. Lincoln's letter had reached me, a special
messenger from him brought me another communication from him, a short note
in his own hand asking me to come to see him as soon as my duties would
permit; he wished me, if possible, to call early in the morning before
the usual crowd of visitors arrived. At once I obtained the necessary leave
from my corps commander, and the next morning at seven I reported myself
at the White House. I was promptly shown into the little room upstairs
which was at that time used for Cabinet meetings the room with the Jackson
portrait above the mantel-piece and found Mr. Lincoln seated in an arm
chair before the open grate fire, his feet in his gigantic morocco slippers.
He greeted me cordially as of old and bade me pull up a chair and sit by
his side. Then he brought his large hand with a slap down on my knee and
said with a smile: "Now tell me, young man, whether you really think that
I am as poor a fellow as you have made me out in your letter?" I must confess,
this reception disconcerted me. I looked into his face and felt something
like a big lump in my throat. After a while I gathered up my wits and after
a word of sorrow, if I had written anything that could have pained him,
I explained to him my impressions of the situation and my reasons for writing
to him as I had done, He listened with silent attention and when I stopped,
said very seriously: "Well, I know that you are a warm anti-slavery man
and a good friend to me. Now let me tell you all about it." Then he unfolded
in his peculiar way his new of the then existing state of affairs, his
hopes and his apprehensions, his troubles and embarrassments, making many
quaint remarks about men and things. I regret I cannot remember all. 'Then
he described how the criticisms coming down upon him from all sides chafed
him, and how my letter, although containing some points that were well
founded and useful, had touched him as a terse summing up of all the principal
criticisms and offered him a good chance at me for a reply. Then, slapping
my knee again, he broke out in a loud laugh and exclaimed: "Didn't I give
it to you hard in my letter? Didn't I? But it didn't hurt, did it? I did
not mean to, and therefore I wanted you to come so quickly." He laughed
again and seemed to enjoy the matter heartily. "Well," he added, "I guess
we understand one another now, and it's all right." When after a conversation
of more than an hour I left him, I asked whether he still wished that I
should write to him. "Why, certainly," he answered; " write me whenever
the spirit moves you." We parted as better friends than ever.
While Sigel's corps was camped within the defenses of Washington, events of great importance took place. A fort-night after the battle of Antietam, one of the bloodiest days of the war, which McClellan claimed as a great victory, the President visited the Army of the Potomac, which was still lying idle in Maryland. After his return to Washington the President ordered General McClellan to move forward, but McClellan procrastinated in his usual way three weeks longer, while the government as well as the Northern people fairly palpitated with impatience. When McClellan at last had crossed the Potomac and then again failed in preventing the Confederate army from crossing the Blue Ridge and placing itself between the Army of the Potomac and Richmond, the President removed him from his command and put General Burnside in his place.
The selection of Burnside for so great a responsibility was not a happy one. Burnside had, indeed, some operations on a comparatively small scale to his credit. At the battle of Antietam he had stormed a bridge which retained his name, perhaps even to this day; and storming and holding a bridge seems to have ever since Horatius " held the bridge " in the old days of Rome - a peculiar charm for the popular imagination. He was also a very patriotic man whose heart was in his work, and his sincerity, frankness, and amiability of manner made everybody like him. But he was not a great general, and he felt, himself, that the task to which he had been assigned was too heavy for his shoulders When the Army of the Potomac had crossed into Virginia, our corps was sent to Thoroughfare Gap to guard the left flank of our army, and so it happened that I was present at a little gathering of generals who met General Burnside after his promotion to congratulate him. If I remember rightly, it was at a little hamlet called New Baltimore. Burnside in his hearty way express his thanks for our friendly greeting and then, with that transparent sincerity of his nature which made everyone believe what he said, he added that he knew he was not fit for so big a command; but since it was imposed upon him, he would do his best, and he confidently hoped we all would faithfully stand by him. There was something very touching in that confession of unfitness, which was evidently quite honest, and one could not help feeling a certain tenderness for the man. But when a moment later the generals talked among themselves, it was no wonder that several shook their heads and asked how we could have confidence in the fitness of our leader if he had no such confidence in himself ? This reasoning was rather depressing. because so natural, and destined soon to be justified.
The complaint against McClellan, having been his slowness to act, Burnside resolved to act at once. The plan of campaign he conceived was to cross the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg, and thence to operate upon Richmond. His army of about 120,000 officers and men, which was then in splendid condition, he divided into three grand divisions and a reserve corps the " Right Grand Division," under General Sumner, to consist of the Second and Ninth corps, the "Center Grand Division," under General Hooker, to consist of the Third and Fifth corps, and the " Left Grand Division," to consist of the First and Sixth corps, under General Franklin. The "Reserve Corps," was to consist of the Eleventh corps and some other troops, under the command of General Sigel. The whole campaign was a series of blunders, mishaps, ill-conceived or ill-executed plans, and finally a horrible butchery, costing thousands of lives. On the 17th of November, Sumner's corps arrived at Falmouth opposite Fredericksburg, and the rest of the army followed within two days. But the pontoon trains for crossing the river did not appear until the 25th. Meanwhile General Lee had drawn his forces together and strongly fortified his position for defense. Only on the 11th of December, Burnside began laying his pontoon bridges and crossing his troops for the attack. Sigel's " Reserve Corps " remained on the left bank of the river, where we could overlook a large part of the battlefield the open ground beyond the town of Fredericksburg stretching up to Marye's Heights, from which Lee's entrenched batteries and battalions looked down. In the woods on our left, where Franklin's Grand Division had crossed and from where the main attack should have been made, the battle began December 13th, soon after sunrise, under a gray wintry sky. Standing inactive in reserve, we eagerly listened to the booming of the guns, hoping that we should hear the main attack move forward. But there was evidently no main attack, the firing was desultory and seemed to be advancing and receding in turn.. At eleven o'clock Burnside ordered the assault from Fredericksburg upon Marye's Heights, Lee's fortified position. Our men advanced with enthusiasm. A fearful fire of artillery and musketry greeted them. Now they would stop a moment, then plunge forward again. Through our glasses we saw them fall by hundreds, and their bodies dot the ground. As they approached Lee's entrenched position, sheet after sheet of flame shot forth from the heights' tearing fearful gaps in our lines. There was no running back of our men. They would sometimes stop or recoil only a little distance, but then doggedly resume the advance. A column rushing forward with charged bayonets almost seemed to reach the enemy's ramparts, but then to melt away. Here and there large numbers of our men, within easy range of the enemy's musketry, would suddenly drop like tall grass swept down with a scythe. They had thrown themselves upon the ground to let the leaden hail pass over them, and under it to advance, crawling. It was all in vain The enemy's line was so well posted and protected by a canal and a sunken road and stone walls and entrenchments skillfully thrown up, and so well defended, that it could not be carried by a front assault. The early coming of night was most welcome. A longer day would have been only a prolonged butchery. And we, of the reserve, stood there while daylight lasted, seeing it all, burning to go to the aid of our brave comrades, but knowing also that it would be useless. Hot tears of rage and of pitying sympathy ran down many a weather-beaten cheek. No more horrible and torturing spectacle could have been imagined.
Burnside, in desperation, thought of renewing the attack the next day, but his generals dissuaded him. During the following night, aided by darkness and a heavy rainstorm, the army recrossed the Rappahannock without being molested by the enemy. This was one of the instances in which even so great a general as Robert E. Lee was, failed to see his opportunity. Had he followed up his success in repelling our attack with a prompt and vigorous dash upon our shattered army immediately in front of him, right under his guns, he might have thrown our retreat into utter confusion and driven the larger part of our forces helplessly into the river. We heaved a sigh of relief at escaping such a catastrophe.
General Burnside bore himself like an honorable man. During the battle he had proposed to put himself personally at the head of his old corps, the Ninth, and to lead it in the assault. Reluctantly he desisted? yielding to the earnest protests of his generals. After the defeat he unhesitatingly shouldered the whole responsibility for the disaster. He not only did not accuse the troops of any shortcomings, but in the highest terms he praised their courage and extreme gallantry. He blamed only himself. His manly attitude found a response of the army in his ability and judgment was fatally injured.
The number of desertions increased alarmingly, and regimental officers in large numbers resigned their commissions. A little later 85,000 men appeared on the rolls of the army as absent without leave. Burnside, deeply mortified, at once resolved upon another forward movement to retrieve his failure. He intended to cross the river at one of the upper fords, but a severe rainstorm set in and made the roads absolutely impassable. The infantry floundered in liquid mud almost up to the belts of the men, and the artillery could hardly be moved at all. I remember one of my batteries being placed where we camped over night on ground which looked comparatively firm, but we found the guns the next morning sunk in sandy mud up to the axles, so that it required all the horses of the battery to pull out each piece. The country all around was fairly covered with mired wagons, ambulances, pontoons, and cannons. The scene was indescribable. " Burnside stuck in the mud" was the cry ringing all over the land. It was literally true. To say that the roads were impassable conveys but a very imperfect idea of the situation, for it might more truthfully be said that there were no roads left, or that the whole country was "road." In that part of Virginia north of the Rappahannock, where there had been, for so long a period, constant marching and countermarching, the fences had altogether disappeared, and 'the woods had, in great part, been cut down, only the stumps left standing. When the existing roads had become difficult, they were "corduroyed," that is, coveted with logs laid across close together, so as to form a sort of loose wooden pavement. So long as the weather was measurably dry, such roads, although rough, were fairly passable. But when heavy rains set in, the corduroy was soon covered with a deep slush which hid the road bed from sight. Some of the logs of the corduroy under the slush were worn out or broken through, and thus the corduroy roads became full of invisible holes, more or less deep, real pit falls, overing the most startling surprises. Foot soldiers floundering over such roads would, unexpectedly, drop into those pits up to their belts, and gun carriages and other vehicles become inextricably stuck. Of course, marching columns and artillery and wagon trains would, under these circumstances,, try their fortunes in the open fields to the right and left of the roads, but the fields then also soon became covered with the, same sort of liquid slime a foot or more deep, with innumerable invisible holes beneath. Thus the whole country gradually became "road," but road of the most bewildering and distressing kind, taxing the strength of men and horses beyond endurance. One would see large stretches of country fairly covered with guns and army wagons and ambulances stalled in a sea of black or yellow mire, and infantry standing up to their knees in the mud, shivering and swearing very hard, as hard as a thoroughly disgusted soldier can swear. I remember having passed by one of the pontoon trains that were to take the army across the Rappahannock, stuck so fast in the soft earth that the utmost exertions failed to move it. Such was "Burnside stuck in the mud."
A further advance was not to be thought of, and, as best he could, Burnside moved the army back to its camps at or near Falmouth. It was fortunate that the condition of the roads rendered Lee just as unable to move as Burnside was, for the demoralization of the Army of the Potomac had reached a point almost beyond control. The loyal people throughout the land were profoundly dejected. There seemed to be danger that the administration would utterly lose the confidence of the country. A change in the command of the Army of the Potomac was imperatively necessary, and the President chose General Hooker.
If Burnside lacked self-confidence, Hooker had an abundance of it. He had been one of the bitterest critics of McClellan and Burnside, and even of the administration, perhaps the loudest of all. He had even talked of the necessity if a military dictatorship. But he had made his mark as a division and corps commander and earned for himself the byname of " Fighting Joe." The soldiers and also some- although by no means all-of the generals had confidence in him. Lincoln, as was his character and habit, overlooked all the hard things Hooker had said of him, made him commander of the Army of the Potomac in view of the good things he expected him to do for the country, and sent him, with the commission, a letter full of kindness and wise advice. Hooker was strikingly handsome man, a clean-shaven, comely face, somewhat florid complexion, keen blue eyes, well-built, tall figure, and erect soldierly bearing. Anybody would feel like cheering when he rode by at the head of his staff. His organizing talent told at once. The sullen gloom of the camps soon disappeared, and a new spirit of pride and hope began to pervade the ranks. By the 30th of April, the Army of the Potomac attained an effective force of more than 130,000 men, with over 100 pieces of artillery, ready for duty in the field.
Hooker abolished the " Grand Divisions?" the chiefs of which were otherwise disposed of. He himself one of them, had become commander of the army. General Sumner was retired on account of old age, and General Franklin was shelved, having come out of the Burnside campaign under a cloud I think undeservedly. Sigel, having commanded the "Reserve Corps," which had passed for the fourth " Grand Division," also left the Army of the Potomac. The reasons why he did so he never discussed with me. I know. however, that his relations with his superior officers on the Eastern field of action had never been congenial. He was always regarded as a foreign intruder who had no proper place in the Army of the Potomac and whose reputation, won in the West, was to be discredited. Whenever he did anything that gave the slightest chance for criticism, he could count upon being blamed without mercy. I have seen a despatch addressed to him by General Pope during the Bull Run campaign in which he was severely censured for having given insufficient or incorrect information and made faulty dispositions. In his reply he insisted upon the correctness of his conduct, and asked, if General Pope was dissatisfied with him, to be relieved of his command General Pope did not relieve him, and it turned out that the information Sigel had given was truthful and his movements proper. General Halleck, then in chief command of the armies of the United States, seems to have persecuted him with especial bitterness, which is said to have been owing to the unauthorized and much-regretted publication of a pirate letter of General Sigel to his father-in-law in which General Halleck was severely criticized. Halleck's bitterness went so far that in one of his official utterances, he said: " Sigel ran away. He has never done anything else." The officers and men of the corps heard of General Sigel's departure with keen sorrow. General Hooker selected Major General Howard as commander of the Eleventh Corps. In various writings I have since seen it stated that General Hooker made that appointment to prevent me from remaining at the head of the corps. I had been promoted to a major-generalship on March 14, 1863, and when Sigel left, the command of the corps fell temporarily to me as the ranking officer, and Sigel strongly recommended me for the permanent command. It appeared to me perfectly natural that under existing circumstances a regular army officer of merit should be put into that place, and I therefore welcomed General Howard with sincere contentment. He was a slender, dark-bearded young man of rather prepossessing, appearance and manners; no doubt a brave soldier, having lost an arm in one of the Peninsular battles; a West Point graduate, but not a martinet, and free from professional loftiness. He did not impress me as an intellectually strong man. A certain looseness of mental operations, a marked uncertainty in forming definite conclusions became evident in his conversation. I thought, however, that he might appear better in action than in talk. Our personal relations grew quite agreeable, and even cordial, at least on my side. But it soon became apparent that the regimental officers and the rank and file did not take to him. They looked at him with dubious curiosity; not a cheer could be started when he rode along the front. And I do not know whether he liked the men he commanded better than they liked him.
There were other new-comers in the corps. The division formerly commanded by General Schenck was given to Brigadier General Charles Devens of Massachusetts. I was to meet him again fourteen years later as a fellow-member of President Hayes' cabinet, he being Attorney General and I, Secretary of the Interior; and then we became very warm friends. His appointment to the command of the First Division of the Eleventh Corps, however, was rather unfortunate, for it displaced from that command and relegated back to his ' old brigade General McLean, thus disappointing the legitimate expectations of a meritorious and popular officer; and General Devens' manners, although there was a warm and noble heart behind them, were somewhat too austere and distant to make the officers and men of the division easily forget the injustice done to General McLean. There was, therefore, some unkind feeling between the commander and the command. Another new-comer was General Francis Barlow, whose record in the war puts him on the roll of the bravest of the brave. But at that period his record was still short, and his appointment to the command of a brigade in our Second Division also had the misfortune of displacing a very brave and popular officer, Colonel Orland Smith, who was entitled to much honor and consideration.
My command remained the same the Third Division of the Eleventh Corps, but it was strengthened by the addition of some fresh regiments. There was the Eighty-second Illinois, commanded by no less a man than Colonel Friedrich Hecker, the most prominent republican leader in the Germany of 1848, now an ardent American patriot and antislavery man, no longer young, but in the full vigor of ripe manhood. Among his captains was Emil Frey, a young Swiss, who had interrupted his university studies to come over and fight for the cause of human liberty in the great American Republic. After the war he returned to his native land, and then came back to the United States as Minister of Switzerland; and he has since held some of the highest political offices in his native country. There was also the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin, mainly composed of young men of the best class of German-born inhabitants of Milwaukee. There was, finally, the One Hundred and Nineteenth New York, commanded by Colonel Elias Peissner, a professor at Union College, Schenectady. His face bore a very striking resemblance to Ludwig I., King of Bavaria, and rumor had it that he was a natural son of that eccentric monarch, who in his day cultivated art and poetry along with his amours. I have good reason for believing that, in this instance, rumor spoke the truth. Colonel Peissner was a gentleman of the highest type of character, exquisite refinement, large knowledge, and excellent qualities as a soldier. And in his lieutenant Colonel, John T. Lockman, whom I have cherished as a personal friend to this day, he had a worthy companion. Of my two brigade commanders, Schimmelfennig had been made a brigadier general, as he well deserved. Krzyzanowski was less fortunate. The President nominated him too for that rank, but the Senate failed to confirm him as was said, because there was nobody there who could pronounce his name.
I have read in print that "in the review of the Army of the Potomac by President Lincoln, in April, just before the battle of Chancellorsville, the Eleventh Corps made a most excellent appearance, and the division commanded by General Schurz impressed the presidential party as the best drilled and most soldierly of the troops that passed before them." This was too much praise, although Mr. Lincoln, to whom I paid my respects at headquarters, seemed to be of the same opinion. I was indeed very proud of my division and confidently expected to do good service with it.
By the middle of April Hooker was ready to move. His plan was excellent. Lee occupied the heights on the south side of the Rappahannock skirting the river to the right and left of Fredericksburg in skillfully fortified positions. Hooker set out to turn them by crossing the upper Rappahannock so as to enable him to gain Lee's rear. A cavalry expedition under General Stoneman, intended to turn Lee's left flank land to all upon his communications with Richmond, miscarried, but this failure, although disagreeable, did not disturb Hooker's general scheme of campaign. On the morning of April 27th, the Eleventh, Twelfth, and Fifth Corps started for Kelly's Ford, 27 miles above Fredericksburg, which they reached on the afternoon of the 28th. I remember those two days well. The army was in superb condition and animated by the highest spirits. Officers and men seemed to feel instinctively that they were engaged in an offensive movement promising great results. There was no end to the singing and merry laughter relieving the fatigue of the march. A pontoon bridge was thrown across the river, and our corps crossed before midnight. The Seventeenth Pennsylvania calvary regiment was sent ahead to clear the country immediately opposite. Something singular happened to me that night. While it was still light, one of General Howard's staff officers pointed out to me a strip of timber at some distance on the other side of the river, at the outer edge of which I was to stay until morning. Between that timber and the river there was a large tract of level, open ground, meadow or heath, perhaps three-quarters of a mile across, which I was to traverse. When I set out at the head of my division to pass the pontoon bridge, General Howard gave me a cavalryman as a guide who "knew the country perfectly." Meanwhile a dense fog had arisen over the open ground in which we could distinguish nothing a few paces ahead. With the guide who "knew the country perfectly" at my side, I marched on and on for a full hour without reaching my belt of timber, which I ought to have reached in much less than half that time. I asked my guide whether he knew where we were. He stammered that he did not. Almost at the same moment I heard a well-known voice say something emphatic a short distance ahead of me. It was Colonel Hecker, whose regiment, the Eighty-second Illinois, was, as I knew, at the tail of my column. A short investigation revealed the fact that any whole division was standing on the open ground in a large circle, and that we had been marching round and round in the fog for a considerable time. We struck matches, examined our compasses, and then easily found our way to my belt of timber, which was close by. There I halted again to ascertain my location, and seeing the glimmer of a light through the window of what I found to be a little house near at hand, I dismounted and went in, accompanied by Brigadier General Schimmelfennig, to look at our maps. We had hardly entered the lighted room when one of my orderlies rushed in, excitedly exclaiming: "There is rebel cavalry all around. They have already taken Captain Schenofsky prisoner." Captain Schenofsky, a Belgian officer, whom the government had assigned to my staff, was one of my aides whom I had ordered to look for the Pennsylvania cavalry regiment supposed to be ahead of us. The orderly had seen him "run right into a bunch of rebels," who promptly laid hold of him. As fast as we could we hurried back to our column, which we found in a curious condition. The men, having marched all day and several hours of the night, had dropped down where they stood, overwhelmed by fatigue. With the greatest effort we tried to arouse some of them to form something like out-posts, and as this was a slow and rather unsuccessful proceeding, I and my officers, as well as the brigade staffs, stood guard ourselves, revolver in hand, until day broke. Then it turned out that the Pennsylvania cavalry regiment which u-as to clear the ground and to cover our front, had gone astray we could not ascertain where-and that rebel scouting parties had been hovering closely around us. Captain Schenofsky rejoined me several months later, having spent the intermediate time in Libby Prison at Richmond until he was liberated by an exchange of prisoners.
After our two days' march up stream on the northern bank of the Rappahannock, we now had two days' march down stream on its southern side. We forded the Rapidan, and on the afternoon of April 30th, we reached the region called the Wilderness. We stopped about two miles west of Chancellorsville The following night four army-corps camped in that vicinity, the Eleventh, Twelfth, and Fifth, which had come down from Kelly's Ford, and the Second, under General Couch, which had crossed at United States Ford as soon as that ford was uncovered by our advance, - a force of 50,000 men. This flanking movement had been masked by an operation conducted by General Sedgwick, who crossed the Rappahannock a few miles below Fredericksburg with a force large enough to make Lee apprehend that the main attack would come from that quarter. This crossing accomplished, the Third Corps under Sickles joined Hooker at Chancellorsville. Until then, Thursday, April 30th, the execution of Hooker's plan had been entirely successful, and with characteristic grandiloquence the commanding general issued on that day the following general order to the Army of the Potomac: "It is with heartfelt satisfaction that the commanding general announces to the army that the operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must ingloriously fly, or come out from behind his defenses and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him the operations of the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps have been a succession of splendid achievements. "It sounded somewhat like Pope's bragging order.
The impression made upon the officers and men by this proclamation was by no means altogether favorable to its author. Of course, they were pleased to hear themselves praised for their achievements, but they did not forget that these had so far consisted only in marching, not in fighting, and that the true test was still to come. They hoped indeed that the Army of the Potomac, 130,000 strong, would prove able to beat Lee's army, only 60,000 strong. But it jarred upon their feelings as well as their good sense to hear their commanding general gasconade so boastfully of having the enemy in the hollow of his hand, that enemy being Robert E. Lee at the bead of the best infantry in the world. Still we all hoped, and we explored the map for the important strategical point we t would strike the next day. But the " next day " brought us a fearful disappointment.
On the morning of Friday, May 1st, Hooker ordered a force several divisions strong, to advance towards Fredericksburg and the enemy's communications. Our corps, too, received marching orders, and started at 12 o'clock M. But the corps was hardly on the road in marching formation when our movement was stopped and we were ordered back to the position we had occupied during the preceding night. What did this mean? General Hooker had started out to surprise the enemy by a grand flank march taking us into the enemy's rear. We had succeeded. We had surprised the enemy. But the fruits of that successful surprise could be reaped only if we followed it up with quick and vigorous action. We could not expect a general like Lee to stay surprised. He was sure to act quickly and vigorously, if we did not. And just this happened. When we stopped at Chancellorsville on the afternoon of Thursday, April 30th, we might, without difficulty, have marched a few miles farther and seized some important points, especially Bank's Ford on the Rappahannock, and some commanding positions nearer to Fredericksburg. It was then that Lee, having meanwhile divined Hooker's plan, gathered up his forces to throw them against our advance. And as soon as, on Friday, May 1st, our columns, advancing toward Fredericksburg? met the opposing enemy. Hooker recoiled and ordered his army back into a defensive position, there to await Lee's attack. Thus the offensive campaign so brilliantly opened was suddenly transformed into a defensive one. Hooker had surrendered the initiative of movement, and given to Lee the incalculable advantage of perfect freedom of action. Lee could fall back in good order upon his lines of communication with Richmond, if he wished, or he could concentrate his forces, or so much of them as he saw fit, upon any part of Hooker's defensive position which he might think most advantageous to himself to attack. As soon as it became apparent that Hooker had abandoned his plan of vigorous offensive action, and had dropped into a merely defensive attitude, the exuberant high spirits which so far had animated the officers and men of the Army of the Potomac turned into head shaking uncertainty. Their confidence in the military sagacity and dashing spirit of their chief, "Fighting Joe," was chilled with doubt. The defensive position into which the Army of the Potomac was put could hardly have been more unfortunate. It was in the heart of the "Wilderness." That name designated an extensive district of country covered by thick woods of second growth with tangled underbrush of scrub oak and scrub pine. There were several clearings of irregular shape which afforded, in spots, a limited outlook. But they were surrounded by gloomy woods, which were not dense enough to make the approach of a hostile force impossible, but almost everywhere dense enough to conceal it.
I must ask pardon for describing the position of the troops somewhat elaborately to make the tragedy which followed intelligible. It may be somewhat dull reading, but I pray the kind reader not to skip it. The western most of the clearings, or openings, in the wilderness occupied by our army was Talley's farm, crossed by the "Old Turnpike " running east and west from Fredericksburg to Orange Court-house. Along that turnpike the first division of the Eleventh Corps, under General Devens, was strung out, the first brigade of which, Colonel Gilsa's, was posted west of the clearing on the road; dense woods on all sides. To protect the right flank and rear, two of Colonel Gilsa's regiments were placed at a right angle with the road, and two pieces of artillery in the road. The rest of the brigade was on the road itself, facing south, with thickets in front, flank, and rear. The second brigade, under General McLean, also facing south, on the road, with the same thicket in its rear, the southern front protected by hastily constructed breastworks. Four pieces of artillery, Dieckmann's battery, were posted on the Talley farm, also facing south. Next came my division, partly also strung out in the road, facing south, breastworks in front and thickets in the rear, partly in reserve on a large opening containing Hawkins' farm, an old church in a little grove, and Dowdall's Tavern, a wooden house situated on the Pike, where the Corps Commander, General Howard, had his headquarters. On that clearing, near Dowdall's Tavern, another road, coming from the southwest, called the Plankroad, joined the turnpike at a sharp angle, and at that angle Dilger's battery was placed, also facing south. Connecting with Dilger's left was Colonel Buschbeel:'s brigade of the Second, Steinwehr's division, with Captain Wiedrich's battery, behind a rifle pit, also facing south, General Barlow's brigade with three batteries of reserve artillery stood near the eastern border of the opening as a general corps reserve.
Thus the Eleventh Corps formed the extreme right of the army, East of it there was another body of thick woods through which the turnpike led to the third great opening, in the eastern part of which stood the Chancellor house, in which General Hooker had established his headquarters. On the left of the Eleventh Corps, the Third (Sickles) and the Twelfth (Slocum) were posted, and further east the rest of the army in positions which I need not describe in detail.
Early on Saturday morning, May 2d, General Hooker with some members of his staff rode along his whole line and was received by the troops with enthusiastic acclamations. He inspected the position held by the Eleventh Corps and found it "quite strong."
The position might have been tolerably strong if General Lee had done General Hooker the favor of running his head against the breastworks by a front attack. But what if he did not? "Our right wing," as I said in my official report, "stood completely in the air, with nothing to lean upon, and that, too, in a forest thick enough to obstruct any free view to the front, flanks or rear, but not thick enough to prevent the approach of the enemy's troops. Our rear was at the mercy of the enemy, who was at perfect liberty to walk right around us through the large gap between Colonel Gilsa's right and the cavalry force stationed at Ely's Ford." As we were situated, an attack from the west or northwest could not be resisted without a complete change of front on our part. To such a change, especially if it was to be made in haste, the formation of our forces was exceedingly unfavorable. It was almost impossible to maneuver some of our regiments, hemmed in as they were on the old turnpike by embankments and rifle pits in front and thick woods in the rear, drawn out in long deployed lines, giving just room enough for the stacks of arms and a narrow passage; this turnpike road being at the same time the only line of communication we had between the different parts of our front. Now, the thing most to be dreaded, an attack from the west, was just the thing coming.
The firing we had heard all along the line of our army during the preceding day, May 1st, indicated that the enemy was "feeling our front" along its whole length. Toward evening the enemy threw some shells from two guns placed on an eminence opposite General Devens' left. General Schimmelfennig, the commander of my first brigade, was ordered to push forward a regiment for the purpose of capturing or at least dislodging those pieces. That regiment, after a sharp little skirmish, came back with the report that the guns had departed. The night passed quietly.
But next morning, May 2d, not long after General Hooker had examined our position, I was informed that large columns of the enemy could be seen from General Devens' headquarters moving from east to west on a road running nearly parallel with the plank-road, on a low ridge at a distance of about a mile or more. I hurried to Talley's, where I could plainly observe them as they moved on, passing gaps in the woods, infantry, artillery, and wagons. Instantly it flashed upon my mind that it was Stonewall Jackson, the "great flanker," marching towards our right, to envelop it and attack us in flank and rear. I galloped back to corps headquarters at Dowdall's Tavern, and on the way ordered Captain Dilger to look for good artillery positions fronting west, as the corps would, in all probability, have to execute a change of front. I reported promptly to General Howard what I had seen, and my impression, which amounted almost to a conviction, that Jackson was going to attack us from the west.
In our conversation I tried to persuade him that in such a contingency we could not make a fight in our cramped position facing south while being attacked from the west; that General Devens' division and a large part of mine would surely be rolled up, telescoped, and thrown into utter confusion unless the front were changed and the troops put upon practicable ground; that, in my opinion, our right should be withdrawn and the corps be formed in line of battle at a right tangle with the turn-pike, lining the church grove and the border of the woods east of the open plain with infantry, placing strong echelons behind both wings, and distributing the artillery along the front on ground most favorable for its action, especially on the eminence on the right and left of Dowdall's Tavern. In such a position, sweeping the opening before us with our artillery and musketry, and checking the enemy with occasional offensive returns, and opposing any flanking movements with our echelons, we might be able to maintain ourselves even against greatly superior forces, at least long enough to give General Hooker time to take measures in our rear, according to the exigencies of the moment.
I urged this view as earnestly as my respect for my commanding officer would permit, but General Howard would not accept it. He clung to the belief which, he said, was also entertained by General Hooker, that Lee was not going to attack our right, but was actually in full retreat toward Gordonsville. I was amazed at this belief. Was it at all reasonable to think that Lee, if he really intended to retreat, would march his column along our front instead of away from it, which he might have done with far less danger of being disturbed? But General Howard would not see this, and he closed the conversation, saying that General Hooker had a few hours before inspected the position of the Eleventh Corps and found it good. General Hooker himself, however, did not seem quite so sure of this at that moment as he had been a few hours before.
Some time before noon, General Howard told me that he was very tired and needed sleep; would I, being second in command, stay at his headquarters, open all despatches that might arrive, and wake him in case there were any of urgent importance. Shortly after, a courier arrived with a despatch from General Hooker calling General Howard's attention to the movement of the enemy toward our right flank, and instructing him to take measures to resist an attack from that quarter. At once I called up General Howard, read the despatch aloud to him and put it into his hands. We had exchanged only a few words about the matter when another courier, a young officer, arrived with a second despatch of the same tenor. At a later period I saw the document in print and recognized it clearly as the one I had read and delivered to General Howard on that eventful day. It runs thus:
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
CHANCELLORSVILLE., May 2d, 1863, 9:30 a. m.
MAJOR GENERALS SLOCUM AND HOWARD:
I am directed by the Major General commanding to say that the disposition you have made of your corps has been with a view to a front attack of the enemy. If he should throw himself upon your flank, he wished you to examine the ground and determine upon the position you will take in that vent, in order that you may be prepared for him in whatever direction he advances. He suggests that you have heavy reserves well in hand to meet this contingency. The right of your line does not appear to be strong enough. No artificial defenses worth naming have been thrown up, and there appears to be a scarcity of troops at that point, and not, in the general's opinion, as favorably posted as might be. We have good reason to suppose that the enemy is moving to our right. Please advance your pickets as far as may be safe, in order to obtain timely information of their approach.
J. H. VAN ALEN,
Brig. Gen. and Aide-de-Camp.
To my utter astonishment
I found, many years later, in a paper on "The Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville,"
written by General Howard for the Century Magazine, the following sentence:
"General Hooker's circular order to 'Slocum and Howard' neither reached
me nor, to my knowledge, Colonel Meysenburg, my adjutant general." How
he could have forgotten that I had read and delivered to him that identical
despatch I find it difficult to understand, especially as it touched so
vital a point, and its delivery was followed by another animated discussion
between us, in which I most earnestly although ineffectually endeavored
to convince him the, in case of such an attack from the west, our right,
as then posted, would be hopelessly overwhelmed.
We were standing on the porch of Dowdall's Tavern. I saw Major Whittlesey, one of General Howard's staff-officers, coming out of the woods opposite, not far from the turnpike. "General," I said, "if you draw a straight line from this point over Major Whittlesey's head, it will strike Col. Gilsa's extreme right. Do you not think it certain that the enemy, attacking from the west, will crush Gilsa's two regiments, which are to protect our right and rear, at the first onset? Is there the slightest possibility for him to resist?" All General Howard had to say was: "Well, he will have to fight," or something to that effect. I was almost desperate, rode away, and, on my own responsibility, took two regiments, the Fifty-eighth New York and the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin, from my second line facing south and placed them facing west on Hawkins' farm in the rear of Gilsa's forlorn right, with a third regiment, the Eighty-second Ohio, a little further back? so that when the attack on our flank and rear came, there should be at least a little force with a correct front. When I reported this to General Howard, he said that he did not object. This was all, literally all, that was done to meet an attack from the west, except the tracing of a shallow rifle pit, the embankment of which reached hardly up to a man's knees, running north and south, near Dowdall's Tavern, and the removal of the reserve artillery, three batteries, to the border of the woods on the east of the open ground. As for the rest, the absurdly indefensible position of the corps remained unchanged.
A little after 3 p. m. we were startled by two discharges of cannon followed by a short rattle of musketry, apparently near Gilsa's position. Could this already be Jackson's advance? I jumped upon my horse and rode with all speed to the spot from which the noise came. No, it was not Jackson's advance. I found that only a few rebel cavalrymen had shown themselves on the old turn-pike west of our right, and that the two pieces of artillery posted on the road had been fired off without orders. Evidently Jackson was still feeling our lines. But my horse was surrounded by regimental officers of Devens' division, telling me with anxious faces that their pickets had, time and again during the day, reported the presence of large bodies of rebel troops at a short distance from their right flank, and that, if an attack came from that quarter, they were not in a position to fight. What did I think? I was heartsick, for I could not tell them what I did think, for fear of producing a panic. Neither would I deceive. So I broke away from them and hurried to General Devens to try whether I could not get him to aid me in another effort to induce General Howard to order a change of front. To my surprise I found him rather unconcerned. He had reported all his information to corps headquarters, he said, and asked for instructions, and the officer carrying his message had been told there that General Lee seemed to be in full retreat. He, Devens, thought that at corps headquarters they were better informed than he was, and that he could only govern himself by the instructions received from his superior.
To corps headquarters I returned to make another effort. There General Howard met me with the news that he had just been ordered by General Hooker to send Barlow's brigade to the aid of General Sickles, who had, about noon, set out with his corps to attack and capture Stonewall Jackson's rearguard with his wagon trains and that was the meaning of the cannonading we had heard since noon. This, General Howard added, was clear proof that General Hooker did not expect us to be attacked in flank by Jackson, for, if he really expected anything of the kind, he would certainly not at that moment deprive the Eleventh Corps of its strongest brigade, the only general reserve it had. I replied that, if the rebel army were really retreating, there would be no harm in a change of front on our part, but that, if the enemy should attack us on our right, which I still anticipated, then would the withdrawal of Barlow's brigade make a change of front all the more necessary. But all my reasoning and entreating were in vain, and General Howard rode off with Barlow's brigade on what proved to be a mere wildgoose-chase, to see, as he said, that the brigade be well put in.
There we were, then. That the enemy was on our flank in very great strength had become more certain every moment. Schimmelfennig had sent out several scouting parties beyond our regular pickets. They all came back with the same tale, that they had seen great masses of rebel troops wheeling into line; that they had even heard the commands of rebel officers. The pickets and scouts of McLean and Gilsa reported the same. My artillery captain, Dilger, returned from an adventurous ride. He had made a reconnaissance of his own, had been right among the rebels in Gilsa's front, had been chased by them, had been saved from capture by the speed of his horse, had been at army headquarters at the Chancellor house where he told his experience to a major belonging to the staff, had been told by him to go to his own corps with his yarn, and had finally come back to me. In fact, almost every officer and private seemed to see the black thunder-cloud that was hanging over us, and to feel in his bones that a great disaster was coming all felt it, except the corps commander and, perhaps, General Devens, who permitted his judgment to be governed by the corps commander's opinion. Could there be better reason for this unrest? Within little more than rifle-shot of our right flank there stood Stonewall Jackson with more than 25,000 men, the most dashing general of the Confederacy with its best soldiers, forming his line of battle, which at the given word was to fold its wings around our feeble flank; and within his grasp the Eleventh Corps-originally 12,000 strong, but reduced to 9,000 men by the detachment of its strongest brigade and main reserve, and its commanding general gone away with that brigade; and, to cap the climax, hardly a Federal soldier within two miles on its left and rear, to support it in case of need, for Sickles' corps and a large part of Slocum's had moved into the woods after Jackson's wagon train and in addition to all this, the larger part of the corps so placed as to be helpless against an attack from the west. It may fairly be said that, if there had been a deliberate design, a conspiracy, to sacrifice the Eleventh Corps which, of course, there was not it could not have been more ingeniously planned. This was the situation at 5 o'clock of the afternoon.
At last the storm broke loose. I was with some of my staff at corps headquarters, waiting for General Howard to return, our horses ready at hand. It was about 5:20 when a number of deer and rabbits came bounding out of the woods bordering the opening of Hawkins' farm on the west. The animals had been started from their lairs by Jackson's advance. Ordinarily such an appearance of game might have been greeted by soldiers in the field with outbreaks of great hilarity. There was hardly anything of the kind this time. It was as if ''the men had instinctively understood the meaning of the occurrence. A little while later there burst forth a heavy roar of artillery, a continuous rattling of musketry, and the savage screech of the "rebel yell" where Gilsa stood, and then happened what every man of common sense might have foreseen. Our two cannon standing in the road threw several rapid discharges into the dense masses of the enemy before them, and then the men made an effort to escape. But the rebel infantry were already upon them, shot down the horses, and captured the pieces. Gilsa's two regiments, formed at a right angle with the turn-pike, were at once covered with a hail of bullets. They discharged three rounds-it is a wonder they discharged as many and then, being fired into from front and from both flanks at close quarters, they had either to surrender or beat a hasty retreat. They retreated through the woods, leaving many dead and wounded on the field. Some of Gilsa's men rallied behind a reserve regiment of the first division, the Seventy-fifth Ohio, whose commander, Colonel Riley, had been sensible and quick enough to change front, and to advance, without orders, to help Gilsa. But they were promptly assailed in front and flank by several rebel regiments, and completely wrecked, Colonel Riley being killed and the adjutant wounded. Meanwhile the enemy had also pounced upon the regiments of the first division, which were deployed in the turn-pike. These regiments, being hemmed in on the narrow road between dense thickets, and being attacked on three sides, many of the men being shot through their backs, were not able to fight at all. They were simply telescoped and driven down the turn-pike in utter confusion.
While this happened, a vigorous attempt was made to form a line of defense which in some way might stem the rout of our sacrificed regiments and impede the progress of the enemy. As soon as I heard the firing on our right I despatched an aide-de-camp to Colonel Krzyzanowski to turn about all his regiments and front west. For the same purpose I hurried to the point where the plank-road and the turn-pike united. There I found General Schimmelfennig already at work. Our united efforts succeeded in changing the front of several regiments, and in forming something like a line facing the attack, but not without very great difficulty. Several pieces of the artillery of the first division, as well as some wagons and ambulances, came down, the turn-pike at a full run, tearing lengthwise through the troops still deployed in line on the road. They were followed by the telescoped regiments of the first division in the utmost confusion. We had scarcely formed a regiment in line fronting west, when that rushing torrent broke through its ranks, throwing it into new disorder. Thus it could happen to General Devens to state in his report that, being carried by, wounded, he failed to see any second line behind which his dispersed troops might have rallied, while, after seeing him taken to the rear, we held that point twenty minutes. For, in spite of the terrible turmoil which almost completely wrecked two of my best veteran regiments, we did succeed, in the hurry, in forming a line, somewhat irregular and broken, to be sure, near the church-grove, consisting of the Sixty-first Ohio, One Hundred and Nineteenth New York, One Hundred and Fifty-seventh New York, and the Eighty-second Illinois, and, farther to the right, the Eighty-second Ohio, the Fifty-eighth New York, and the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin, the regiments I had placed front west earlier in the afternoon. Captain Dilger quickly moved his six guns a little distance back upon higher ground, where he could sweep the turn-pike and the plank-road. He poured shot and shell into the enemy's battalions as they advanced on the heels of the wrecked regiments of our first division. On they came, with fierce yells and a withering fire of musketry, widely overlapping our lines on both sides. At their first onset, the noble Colonel Peissner of the One Hundred and Nineteenth New York dropped dead from his horse, but Lieutenant-Colonel Lockman held his men bravely together. My old revolutionary friend, Colonel Hecker of the Eighty-second Illinois, who had grasped the colors of his regiment to lead it in a bayonet charge, was also struck down, wounded by a rebel bullet, and was taken behind the front, Major Rolshausen, who promptly took command of the regiment, met the same fate. A multitude of our dead and wounded strewed the field. But in spite of the rain of bullets coming from front, right, and left, these regiments held their ground long enough to fire from twenty to thirty rounds.
On my extreme right, separated from the line just described by a wide gap, which I had no forces to fill, things took a similar course. A short time after the first attack a good many men of Colonel Gilsa's and General McLean's wrecked regiments came in disorder out of the woods. A heavy rebel force followed them closely with triumphant yells and a rapid fire. The Fifty-eighth New York, a very small regiment, and the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin received them firmly. Captain Braun, in temporary command of the Fifty-eighth New York, was one of the first to fall, mortally wounded. The regiment, exposed to flanking fire from the left, where the enemy broke through, and most severely pressed in front, was pushed back after a desperate struggle of several minutes. The Twenty-sixth Wisconsin, a young regiment that had never been under fire, maintained the hopeless contest for a considerable time with splendid gallantry. It did not fall back until I ordered it to do so. Colonel Krzyzanowski, the brigade commander, who was with it, asked for immediate reinforcements, as the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin, being nearly enveloped on all sides, could not possibly maintain its position longer. Not having a man to send, I ordered the regiment to fall back to the edge of the woods in its rear, which it did in perfect order, facing about and firing several times as it retired.
In the meantime, the enemy completely turned my left flank, and had not the rebel general, Colquitt, who commanded a force of seventeen regiments to execute that flanking movement, made the mistake of stopping his advance for a while, believing that his right was threatened, a large part of the Eleventh Corps might have been captured before it could have reached the open ground surrounding the Chancellor house. But the Confederate force which actually did attack my left was far more than strong enough to press back the One Hundred and Nineteenth New York, and to fall upon the left of Captain Dilger's battery. Captain Dilger kept up his fire with grape and canister to the last moment, He gave the order to limber up only when the enemy's infantry was already between his pieces. His horse was shot under him, and the two wheelhorses and a leadhorse of one of his guns were killed. After an ineffectual effort to drag this piece along with the dead horses hanging in the harness, he had to abandon it to the enemy. The rest of the battery he sent to the rear, with the exception of one piece, which he kept in the road, firing against the pursuing enemy from time to time as he retreated.
The rebels were now pressing forward in overwhelming power on our right and left, and the position in and near the church-grove could no longer be held. We had to fall back upon the shallow rifle pit running north and south near Dowdall's Tavern, which had been dug when General Howard had a dawning suspicion that we might be attacked by Jackson from the west. This rifle pit was partly occupied by Colonel Buschteck's brigade of our second division. It stood on the extreme left of the corps, had ample time to change front, and was therefore in perfect order. On its left several companies of the Seventy-fourth Pennsylvania, of the Sixty-first Ohio, and the One Hundred and Nineteenth New York took position, and on its right the Eighty-second Ohio and the fray meets of other regiments. Several pieces of the reserve artillery were still firing over the heads of the infantry. It was there that I found General Howard again, who meanwhile had come back from Barlow's detached and wandering brigade and rejoined his corps about the time when Jackson's attack on our right flank began, or soon after. He was bravely engaged in an effort to rally the broken troops, and exposed himself quite freely. I did my best to assist him. So did General Schimmelfennig. But to reorganize the confused mass of men belonging to different regiments was an extremely difficult task under the constant attack of the enemy. I succeeded once in gathering a large crowd, and, placing myself at its head, led it forward with a hurrah. It followed me some distance, but was again dispersed by the enemy's fire pouring in from the front and from both flanks. One of my aides was wounded on that occasion. Two or three similar attempts had the same result. The enemy advancing on our right and left with rapidity, the artillery ceased firing and withdrew, and the rifle pit had to be given up. As I said before, it was too shallow to afford any protection to the men behind it. The infantry fell back into the woods, the density of which naturally caused renewed disorder among regiments and companies that had remained well organized, or had been successfully rallied. I joined Captain Dilger with his one gun on the road to Chancellorsville. He was protected by two companies of the Sixty-first Ohio. His grape and canister checked the enemy several times in his pursuit. When I entered the woods I looked at my watch. It was 7:15 o'clock. The fight of the 9,000 men of the Eleventh Corps, so posted as to present their unprotected flank to the enemy, against Stonewall Jackson's 25,000 veterans had, therefore, lasted, at the lowest reckoning, one and one-half hours. Not a man nor a gun came to their aid during their hopeless contest. They had to retreat a mile and a half before they met a supporting force. But when this was found, the wrecked corps was soon fully reorganized, each regiment around its colors and under its own officers before 11o'clock. Early next morning, Sunday, May 3d, we were put on the extreme left of the army. I rode to General Hooker's headquarters to ask him that we be given another opportunity for showing what we could do, after the disaster of the previous evening. He seemed to be in a very depressed state of mind, and said he would try. But we remained on the extreme left, with nothing but slight skirmishing in our front, until the army recrossed the Rappahannock on the morning of May 6th.
I must now permit myself a few remarks on the progress of the battle after the discomfiture of the Eleventh Corps. It is a curious story, full of psychological puzzles. As I have already stated, there was behind us no supporting force, within two miles. Only Birney's division of the Third Corps was near the Chancellor house, the rest of the Third Corps and the Twelfth Corps had disappeared from the ground between the Chancellor house and Dowdall's long before. Jackson's march toward our right had been observed early in the morning. It was ascertained to be a movement in great force. It could mean only one of two things: Either a retreat of Lee's army, or an attack on our right flank and rear. In either case a prompt attack, also in great force, on Jackson's flank naturally suggested itself. It was a great opportunity to interpose between Lee and Jackson and beat them in detail. Sickles was ordered, at his own request, to make an attack, but the order to move in any force was given only at noon - several hours too late - and Sickles was instructed to push on "with great caution, instead of with the utmost celerity and vigor. The result was that Sickles did not reach Jackson's line of march until Jackson, with the exception of a small rear guard, was miles away. The second result was that all the troops which might have supported the Eleventh Corps in case of a flank attack, and even the reserve brigade of that corps itself, were immersed in the woods in front, about two miles from where, as the event turned out, they were most needed. Instead of beating Lee and Jackson in their state of separation, this movement only completed the absolute isolation of the right flank of our own army.
When at last Jackson's overwhelming assault had wrecked the helpless Eleventh Corps, there was no other power of resistance between Jackson's triumphant force and the Chancellor house - the very heart of the position of the Army of the Potomac but the remnants of the Eleventh Corps in a disorganized condition, and what troops could be hastily summoned from other points. As already mentioned, Berry's division, standing north of the Chancellor house, was promptly thrown forward. Captain Best, the chief of artillery of the Twelfth Corps still on the ground, soon had his guns trained upon the advancing Confederates. The retreating batteries of the Eleventh Corps joined him. Several divisions that had been engaged in the bootless chase after Jackson's rear guard and wagon train in the woods were brought up in a hurry. But other circumstances co-operated to help us over the critical situation Although the moon shone brightly, it grew dark in the shadows of the forest, and, moreover, the first two lines of the Confederates, owing partly to the temporary resistance of the Eleventh Corps, partly to the breaking of the formations in their advance through tangled woods, had fallen into great confusion, which was increased by the murderous fire now bursting from the hastily-formed Federal front. Thus some time was consumed in restoring order in the Confederate brigades. But Jackson was still hotly intent upon pressing his advantage in getting into Hooker's rear. Then fate stepped in with an event of great portent. The victorious Confederates lost their leader. Returning from a short reconnaissance outside of his lines, Stonewall Jackson was grievously wounded by bullets coming from his own men, and died a few days later. The attack stopped for that night.
The next morning, Sunday, May 3d, found the Army of the Potomac, about 90,000 men of it under General Hooker's immediate command, strongly entrenched in the vicinity of the Chancellor house, and about 22,000 men, under General Sedgwick, near Fredericksburg, moving up to attack General Lee in his rear. Never did General Lee's genius shine more brightly than in the action that followed. He proved himself, with his 60,000 men against nearly double that number, a perfect master of that supreme art of the military leader: to appear to have superior forces at every point of decisive importance. First he flung Jackson's old corps, now under the command of General "Jeb" Stuart, against some of Hooker's breastworks in the center, carrying one line of entrenchments after another by furious assaults. Then, hearing that Sedgwick had taken Marye's Heights and was advancing from Fredericksburg, he detached from his front against Hooker a part of his force large enough to overmatch Sedgwick, and drove that general across the Rappahannock. Then he hurried back the divisions that had worsted Sedgwick to make his own forces superior to Hooker's at the point where he wished to strike. Hooker mean while seemed to be in a state of nervous collapse. On the second day of the battle, standing on the porch of the Chancellor house, he was struck by a wooden pillar as it fell, knocked down by a cannon ball. For an hour he was senseless, and then recovered. But before and after the accident his mental operations seemed to be equally loose and confused. I have spoken of some curious psychological puzzles presented by the conduct of some commanders in this battle. There was Hooker, " Fighting Joe," literally spoiling for the conflict, and having successfully initiated an emphatically offensive campaign, suddenly losing all his enterprise and dash, as soon as he came into the presence of the enemy, and dropping into a tame defensive which utterly dampened the morale of his army. On the 2d of May, he warned Slocum and Howard of Jackson's dangerous movement on our right flank, and then, on the very same evening, he indulged in the preposterous delusion that Lee and Jackson were retreating on a road parallel to our front; on the 3d of May, he permitted himself to be pounded by the Confederates wherever they chose, from one position into another, and to be literally cooped up in his entrenchments by a greatly inferior force without making any effort to bring into action some 35,000 to 40,000 men of his own who had hardly fired a shot, and stood substantially idle all the time; and finally, he knew nothing better than to recross the Rappahannock and to say that, really, he had not fought any battle because one-half of his army had not been under fire although he had lost over 17,000 men.
There has been much speculation as to whether those who accused General Hooker of having been intoxicated during the battle of Chancellorsville, were right or wrong. The weight of the testimony of competent witnesses is strongly against this theory. It is asserted, on the other hand, that he was accustomed to the consumption of a certain quantity of whiskey every day; first, during-the battle of Chancellorsville, he utterly abstained from his usual potations for fear of taking too much, inadvertently, and that his brain failed to work because he had not given it the stimulus to which it had been habituated. Which-ever theory be the correct one - certain it is that to all appearances General Hooker's mind seemed, during those days, in a remarkably torpid condition. On no similar theory can we explain General Howard's failure to foresee the coming of Jackson's attack upon our right flank - for he was a man of the soberest habits. How, in spite of the reports constantly coming in, in spite of what, without exaggeration, may be the evidence of his senses, he could finally conclude, on the 2d of May, that Jackson, instead of intending to attack, was in full retreat, I have never been able to understand, except upon the theory that his mind simply failed to draw simple conclusions from obvious facts.
Our corps remained inactive on the left flank of the army all through the 3d, 4th, and 5th of May. Eager to be led to the front again, all we could do was to listen anxiously to the sound of battle near us, straining our senses to discern whether it approached or receded. In fact, it approached, indicating that the army was giving up position after position, and that the battle was going against us. At last, on the evening of the 5th, we received orders to be ready to move at 2 o'clock the next morning. We understood it to be a general retreat across the river. During the afternoon a heavy rain began to fall, which continued into the night. Wet through to the skin, we shivered until 1:20 o'clock, when without the slightest noise, the troops were formed into line, ready to wheel into column of march. So we stood without moving from 2 until 6 o'clock. At last the order to march came. We had to withdraw from the presence of the enemy unobserved, and in this we succeeded. When we reached the large clearing at United States Ford, where the river was bridged for the army to cross, an appalling spectacle presented itself. The heavy rains had caused a sudden rise in the river, which threatened to sweep away the pontoon bridges. There were three of them' one of which was taken up to strengthen the others. General Hooker with his staff had already passed over the preceding evening. The artillery, also, except that of the corps covering the retreat, had crossed during the night. But here on that open ground on the river bank was the infantry, probably some 70,000 to 80,000 men, packed together so close that there was hardly an interval between the different organizations wide enough to permit the passage of a horse, waiting to file away in thin marching columns, regiment after regiment, over the bridges. Had the enemy known of this, and succeeded in planting one battery in a position from which it might have pitched its shells into this dense, inarticulate mass of humanity, substantially helpless in its huddled condition, the consequences would have baffled the imagination. A wild panic would have been unavoidable, and a large part of the Army of the Potomac would have perished in the swollen waters of the Rappahannock. But General Lee did not disturb our retreat, and by 4 o'clock in the afternoon the whole army was safely over. It is not too much to say that every officer and man of it greeted the northern river bank with a deep sigh of relief.
But no sooner were we settled in camp again than we of the Eleventh Corps had to meet a trial far more severe than all the dangers and fatigues of the disastrous campaign. Every newspaper that fell into our hands told the world a frightful story of the unexampled misconduct of the Eleventh Corps; how the "cowardly Dutchmen" of that corps had thrown down their arms and fled at the first fire of the enemy; how my division represented as first attacked, had led-in the disgraceful flight without firing a shot; how these cowardly " Dutch," like a herd of frightened sheep, had overrun the whole battlefield and come near stampeding other brigades or divisions; how large crowds of "Eleventh Corps Dutchmen" ran to United States Ford, tried to get away across the bridges, and were driven back by the provost guard stationed there; and how, in short' the whole failure of the Army of the Potomac was owing to the scandalous poltroonery of the Eleventh Corps. I was thunderstruck. We procured whatever newspapers we could obtain -papers from New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, Milwaukee the same story everywhere. We sought to get at the talk of officers and men in other corps of the army - the verdict of condemnation and contempt seemed to be universal. Wherever, during the night from the 2d to the 3d of May, any confusion had occurred-and there had been much - or any regiment been broken and thrown into disorder-it was all the Eleventh Corps. Only two prominent generals, Couch and Doubleday, were heard from as expressing the opinion that there might be another side to the story. All the rest, as far as we could learn, vied with one another in abusive and insulting gibes. The situation became unendurable. Would not justice raise its voice?
On the 10th of May I received a letter from General Schimmelfennig. It ran thus:
The officers and men of this brigade of your division, filled with indignation, come to me, with newspapers in their hands, and ask if such be the reward they may expect for the sufferings they have endured and the bravery they have displayed. The most infamous falsehoods have been circulated through the papers in regard to the conduct of the troops of your division in the battle of the 2d inst. It would seem as if a nest of vipers had but waited for an auspicious moment to spit out their poisonous slanders upon this heretofore honored corps. Little would I heed were these reports but emanations from the prurient imaginations of those who live by dipping their pens in the blood of the slain, instead of standing up for the country, sword and musket in hand; but they are dated, "Headquarters of General Hooker," and they are signed by responsible names.
He then went on, stating what had actually happened, and concluded as follows:
I am an old soldier. To this hour I have been proud to command the brave men in this brigade; but I am sure that unless these infamous falsehoods be retracted and reparation made, their good-will and soldierly spirit will be broken, and I shall no longer be at the head of the same brave men whom I have heretofore had the honor to lead. In the name of truth and common honesty, in the name of the good cause of our country, I ask, therefore, for satisfaction. If our superior officers be not sufficiently in possession of the facts, I demand an investigation; if they are, I demand that the miserable penny-a-liners who have slandered the division, be excluded, by a public order, from our lines, and that the names of the originators of these slanders be made known to me and my brigade, that they may be held responsible for their acts.
A. SCHIMMELFENNIG, Brigadier General.
On May 12th, I sent up
my official report. It contained a sober and scrupulously truthful recital
of the events of the 2d of May at least, scrupulously correct according
to my knowledge and information - and closed with these words: " I beg
leave to make one additional remark. The Eleventh Corps, and, by error
or malice, especially the third division, have been held up to the whole
country as a band of cowards. My division has been made responsible for
the defeat of the Eleventh Corps, and the Eleventh Corps for the failure
of the campaign. Preposterous as this is, yet we have been overwhelmed
by the army and the press with abuse and insult beyond measure. We have
borne as much as human nature can endure. I am far from saying that on
May 2d everybody did his duty to the best of his power. But one thing I
will say, because I know it: these men are not cowards. I have seen most
of them fight before this, and they fought as bravely as any. I am also
far from saying that it would have been quite impossible to do better in
the position the corps occupied on May 2d, but I have seen with my own
eyes troops who now affect to look down upon us with sovereign contempt,
behave much worse under circumstances far less trying. Being charged with
such an enormous responsibility as the failure of a campaign involves,
it would seem to me that every commander has a right to a fair investigation
of his conduct and of the circumstances surrounding him and his command
on that occasion. I would, therefore, most respectfully and most urgently
ask for permission to publish this report very statement contained therein
is strictly truthful, to the best of my knowledge and information. If I
have erred in any particular, my error can easily be corrected. But if
what I say is true, I deem it due to myself and those who serve under me,
that the country should know it."
In order to avoid every possible objection to the publication of my report, I had been studiously moderate in my description of occurrences and circumstances; I had refrained from accusing anybody of anything, I had even mentioned with the greatest mildness of statement my urgent efforts to induce General Howard to make the necessary change of front. In spite of all this, the permission to publish my report was refused. General Hooker wrote: "I hope soon to be able to transmit all the reports of the recent battles, and meanwhile I cannot approve of the publication of one isolated report."
I appealed to Mr. Stanton, the Secretary of War - of course, through the regular military channels repeating my; request that my report be published as soon as it reached the War Department, and adding that, if the publication of my report should be deemed inexpedient, I urgently asked for the calling of a court of inquiry to investigate publicly " the circumstances surrounding my command on the 2d day of May, the causes of its defeat, and my conduct on that occasion."General Howard's endorsement on this letter was as follows: "Respectfully forwarded. With reference to the court of inquiry asked for, I recommend that the request be granted. I do not know of any charges against General Schurz from any official quarter, but I do not shrink from a thorough investigation of all the circumstances connected with the disaster of May 2d. O. O. Howard, Major-General. "This could be interpreted as meaning that, as to me, a court of inquiry was not necessary, there being no official charges against me; and as to him, he did not shrink from a thorough investigation of the event, but did not ask for it. The result was that the court of inquiry was not granted. The only answer I received was from General Halleck: "Publication of partial reports not approved till the general commanding has time to make his report." The general commanding, General Hooker, never made any report; mine was simply buried in some pigeonhole. My request for a court of inquiry was not even mentioned. I could not publish my report without permission, for that would have been a breach of military discipline. So found myself completely muzzled.
While thus the official world seemed determined to take no notice of our distress, the flagrant injustice done us created much excitement among the German-born people of this country. Some prominent German-American citizens in New York called a mass-meeting so far as I know entirely without incitement or suggestion from members of the Eleventh Corps- and expressed their indignation at the scandalous treatment meted out to us. The leaders of that movement had taken steps to inform themselves from official sources, and it was easy for them to show, first, that the Eleventh Corps was not a German corps, that not one-half of its men, in fact, only a little more than one-third, belonged to that nationality; second, that it was not my division, but a division commanded by General Devens, a native Massachusetts man, that was first overthrown and put to flight; third, that it was not a German brigade that yielded "almost without firing a shot," but one composed entirely of American regiments - General McLean's - and very brave regiments, too, that made no fight because they were so placed that they positively could not fight; fourth, that regiments of my division which were not telescoped on the turnpike, as well as Buschbeck's brigade, composed mainly of Germans, did make a fight, and a stubborn one, too, detaining Jackson's overwhelming force for more than an hour; fifth, that the story of the Eleventh Corps throwing down their arms and running away like sheep was a lie cut out of the whole cloth, it being proved that after the battle only seventeen muskets were missing in Gilsa's brigade, and only fifteen in Schimmelfennig's, rather less than the average after any severe engagement; sixth, that the story about large crowds of Eleventh Corps men seeking to escape across the bridges at United States Ford was also utterly false, it being testified by General Patrick, who had charge of the provost guard at the bridges and on the roads leading to them, that the stragglers or skulkers arrested there had not been Eleventh Corps men. And so on.
But while such demonstrations and showings might make an impression upon a comparatively small number of unprejudiced persons, they did not in any perceptible degree affect our standing in the army and in the press. As a last resort, applied for a hearing before the Congressional " Committee on the conduct of the War."
But when this application, too, remained without a response, I found myself driven to the conclusion that there was, in all the official circles concerned, a powerful influence systematically seeking to prevent the disclosure of the truth; that a scapegoat was wanted for the remarkable blunders which had caused the failure of the Chancellorsville campaign, and that the Eleventh Corps could plausibly be used as such a scapegoat - the Eleventh Corps, which had always been looked at askance by the Army of the Potomac as not properly belonging to it, and which could, on account of the number of its German regiments and officers, easily be misrepresented as a corps of "foreigners," a "Dutch corps," which had few friends, and which might be abused, and slandered, and kicked with impunity. But for this, why was my demand for a court of inquiry ignored, General McDowell had been granted a court of inquiry on the ground of a hasty letter a written shortly before his death by a colonel of cavalry whose name was never publicly disclosed a letter which probably never would have become known to the public but for that court of inquiry. Not for my own sake, but in the name of thousands of my comrades I asked for nothing but a mere opportunity by a fair investigation of the facts to defend their honor, not against a mere anonymous letter, but against the most infamous slanders and insults circulated from mouth to mouth in the army, and throughout the whole country by the press; when that opportunity was denied me, was there not ample reason for the conclusion that there was a powerful influence working to suppress the truth, and that the Eleventh Army Corps, and especially the German part of it, was to be systematically sacrificed as the scapegoat?
It might have been expected that one general, at least, who knew the truth as to where the responsibility for the disaster rested, would have spoken a frank and sympathetic word to remove the stain of ignominy from the slandered troops. It would have been much to the honor of the corps commander, General O. O. Howard, had he done so promptly. He would have stood before his countrymen as Burnside did when, after the bloody defeat at Fredericksburg, he frankly shouldered the responsibility for that calamity, and exonerated his officers and men; or as, two months after the battle of Chancellorsville, General Lee did on the third day of the battle of Gettysburg when that great soldier said to his distressed men, looking up to him: "It is my fault, my men! It is my fault! "Alas, the attitude of our corps commander was different. In a council of war during the night of the 2d to the 3d of May, as was reported, he complained of the "bad conduct" of his corps. In his official report on the battle he spoke of the density of the woods preventing the whereabouts of the enemy from being discovered by scouts and patrols and reconnaissance an assertion glaringly at variance with the facts, for the scouts and patrols saw and reported the advance of Jackson. He actually spoke of a "panic produced by the enemy's reverse fire, regiments and artillery being thrown suddenly upon those in position," and of a "blind panic and a great confusion at the center and near the plank-road," about "a rout which he and his staff officers struggled to check," - but not a word about a large part of the corps being so posted that it could not fight; not a word to take the responsibility for the disaster from the troops; not a word to confess that he was warned early in the day, and repeatedly as the day advanced, of what was coming; not a word to take the stigma of cowardice from his corps.
Even twenty-three years later, when he contributed an article on the Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville to the "War Series" of the Century Magazine. he sought to sustain the impression that the troops, rather than their commander, were chargeable with the disaster. He had nothing better to say than: "We had not a very good position, it is true, but we did expect to make a good strong fight should the enemy come." Not a very good position, forsooth! As if there could be a worse and more absurd position than one presenting flank and rear unprotected to the enemy! As if anyone had a right to expect a " good strong fight "with the certainty of being telescoped and wrecked in every possible way! "Should the enemy come!" As if the general commanding had not been most pointedly warned, again and again, that the enemy most surely was coming! General Howard, in that article, said further: "General Schurz was anxious." This is true. I was anxious, indeed. And it would have been much better for the corps, for the whole army, and for himself, had General Howard been as anxious as I was. But General Howard does not say that I explained to him again and again why I was anxious, and that I most urgently warned him of the things which would come, and which actually did come. He did not emphasize that I was not only anxious, but also right. He positively denied having received General Hooker's "Howard and Slocum" despatch, warning him of the danger threatening his right, which I had personally read and delivered to him; and then he adds: " But Generals Schurz and Steinwehr, my division commanders, and myself, did precisely what we should have done, had that order come." This again is a misstatement, for, as my official report explained, I proposed entirely to with draw the corps from its exposed position fronting south, and to form it fronting west, on the eastern side of the Dowdall clearing a proposition which General Howard rejected. To justify that rejection he argues in his Century article: "In his report after the battle General Schurz says: 'Our right ought to have been drawn back towards the Rappahannock, to rest on that river at or near the mouth of the Hunting Run, the corps abandoning so much of the plank-road as to enable it to establish a solid line.' This position, which Schurz recommended in his report, was the very one into which Hooker's whole army was forced two days afterward. He was so ramped by it that he did not dare to take the offensive." I must be pardoned for saying that this is incomprehensible, for I did not recommend "this" position for the whole army, but for the Eleventh Corps not for 90,000 men, but for 12,000. It is a pity that the General insisted upon presenting, by such statements, so sorry a spectacle. I am sincerely grieved that I have to say all this. I owe it not only to myself but to the much maligned men under my command.
At the time, his attitude was a matter of very serious importance. It may well be imagined what effect the whole affair produced upon the morale of the troops. They were most painfully smarting under the terrible injustice which was being inflicted upon them. They had lost all confidence in the competency of their corps commander. It is greatly to their credit that, under circumstances so discouraging, they did not desert 'en masse.' There were, in fact, very few cases of desertion.
But what was to be done to revive the spirits of the men and to restore the efficiency of the corps? It was proposed by some to disband the corps altogether. For various reasons, however, thus suggestion was dropped. Some time before the rattle of Chancellorsville I had foreseen that General Howard and that corps would not work well together, and I had conceived a desire to be transferred with my division to some other command. Under the circumstances produced by that battle, the same desire suggested itself again, and it would probably have been accomplished, had I insisted. But upon sober consideration I rejected it. The matter became the subject of some correspondence, in which I declared that, however welcome such a transfer upon other conditions might have been, I could not consent to it now, for it might be regarded as a voluntary confession on my part that the outrageous slanders circulated about us were founded on fact, and that I accepted for my men the responsibility for the disaster. I asked, and would continue to ask, for one of two things: either the publication of my report, or a court of inquiry, so that the truth might come to light. Under then existing circumstances, I was satisfied with my command as it was and where it was, and I held it to be my duty to myself and to my men to stand with them right there until the cloud hanging over us be lifted.
The one way most surely and most quickly to restore the morale of the Eleventh Corps would have been to give it another commander whom the men could trust and respect. But that might have destroyed the myth that the "misconduct" of the soldiers of the Eleventh Corps was wholly accountable for the failure at Chancellorsville; and that the ruling influences would not permit.
The mist hanging over the Eleventh Corps and the events of the 2d of May, 1863, has at last been dissipated by historical criticism not as soon as we had hoped, but thoroughly. The best military writers notably Colonel Theodore A. Dodge of. the United States Army have, after arduous and conscientious study, conclusively shown, not only that the Chancellorsville defeat was not owing to the discomfiture of the Eleventh Corps, but that the conduct of the Eleventh Corps was as good as could be expected of any body of troops under the circumstances. The most forcible vindication of the corps, however, has come from an unexpected quarter. Dr. August Choate Hamlin, formerly Lieutenant-Colonel and Medical Inspector, United States Army, a nephew of Vice-President Hannibal Hamlin, had, in the course of the war, become acquainted with many of the officers and men of the Eleventh Corps. The frequent repetitions he heard of the old stories about the Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville not, indeed, from serious military critics, but from that class of old soldiers who were fond of vaunting their own brave deeds at the expense of others provoked him so much, that, prompted by a mere sense of justice, he undertook to investigate the happenings at Chancellorsville, so far as they touched the Eleventh Corps, to the minutest detail. He not only studied all the documents bearing upon the subject, but he visited the battlefield, inspected the positions, measured to the yard and to the inch the distances between the various points mentioned in the reports, and sought out every person, North and South, who could give him any information of consequence. In his painstaking way he has produced a book of rare historical value. After sifting his evidence with unsparing rigor, he delivered his judgments with absolute impartiality, not only sweeping away the slanders that had been heaped upon the Eleventh Corps, but also putting under merciless searchlight many of the fanciful stories told of the heroic deeds performed in the dark of night to repair the mischief done by the so-called "misconduct" of that ill-fated body of brave soldiers.
The story of the Gettysburg
campaign has so often and so elaborately been rehearsed, that it is hardly
possible to add anything of value to the familiar tale. I shall, therefore,
put down only some individual impressions and experiences which may be
of interest at least to the circle of my personal friends. On the 30th
of June, on our march through Maryland, I had the good fortune of finding
shelter in a nunnery, the St. Joseph's College at Emmitsburg, in Maryland,
a young ladies? school, carried on by a religious order. I waited upon
the Lady Superior to ask her for permission to use one of her buildings
as my headquarters for a night, suggesting, and with perfect sincerity,
that her buildings and grounds would be better protected by our presence
within than by any guards stationed without. The Lady Superior received
me very graciously, and at once put one of the houses within the enclosure
at my disposal. She even sent for the chaplain of the institution, Father
Borlando, to conduct us through the main edifice, and permitted one of
my officers, a good musician, to play on the organ in the chapel, which
he did to the edification of all who heard him. The conduct of my troops
camped around the institution was exemplary, and we enjoyed there as still
and restful a night as if the outside of the nunnery had been as peaceful
as daily life was ordinarily within it. I mention this as one Of the strange
contrasts of our existence, for at daybreak the next morning I was waked
up by a marching order, directing me to take the road to Gettysburg.
We did not know that we were marching towards the most famous battlefield of the war. In fact, we, I mean even the superior officers, had no clear conception as to where the decisive battle of the campaign was to take place. Only a few days before, General Hooker had left the command of the Army of the Potomac he had been made to resign, as rumor, had it-and General Meade had been put into his place. Such change of commanders at the critical period of a campaign would ordinarily have a disquieting effect upon officers and men, But in this case it had not, for by his boastful proclamation and his subsequent blunders and failures at Chancellorsville, General Hooker had largely forfeited the confidence on the army, while General Meade enjoyed generally the repute not of a very brilliant, but of a brave, able and reliable officer Everybody respected him. It was at once felt that he had grasped the reins with a firm hand. As was subsequently understood, neither he nor General Lee desired or expected to fight a battle at Gettysburg. Lee wished to have it at Cashtown, Meade on Pipe Creek. Both were drawn into it by the unexpected encounter of the Confederate General Heth, who hoped to find "some shoes" for his men in the town of Gettysburg, and a Federal cavalry general on reconnaissance, both instructed not to bring on a general engagement, but rather cautioned against it. When we left Emmitsburg at 7 a. m. we were advised that the First Army Corps, under General Reynolds, was ahead of us, and there was a rumor that some rebel troops were moving toward Gettysburg, but that was all. At 10:30, when my division had just passed Homer's Mills, I received an order from General Howard to hurry my command forward as quickly as possible, as the First Corps was engaged with the enemy in the neighborhood of Gettysburg This was a surprise, for we did not hear the slightest indication of artillery firing from that direction. I put the division the "double quick," and then rode ahead with my staff. Soon I met on the road fugitives from Gettysburg, men, women and children, who seemed to be in great terror. I remember especially a middle-aged woman, who tugged a small child by the hand and carried a large bundle on her back. She tried to stop me, crying out at the top of her voice:" Hard times at Gettysburg! They are shooting and killing! What will become of us !" Still I did not hear any artillery fire until I had reached the ridge of a rise of ground before me. Until then the waves of sound had passed over my head unperceived.
About 11:30 T found General Howard on an eminence east of the cemetery of Gettysburg, from which we could overlook a wide plain. Immediately before us Gettysburg, a comfortable-looking town of a few thousand inhabitants. Beyond and on both sides of it, stretching far away an open landscape dotted with little villages and farmhouses and orchards and tufts of trees and detached belts of timber; two creeks, Willoughby's Run on the left and Rock Creek on the right; radiating from the town westward and eastward, well defined roads - counting from right to left the Hanover road, the York Pike, the Gettysburg and Hanover railroad, the Hunterstown road, the Harrisburg road, the Carlisle road, the Mummasburg road, the Cashtown and Chambersburg Pike, the Hagerstown road, and behind us the roads on which our troops were coming - the Emmitsburg road, the Taneytown road, and the Baltimore road. The elevated spot from which overlooked this landscape was Cemetery Hill, being the northern end of a ridge which terminated due south in two steep, rocky knolls partly wooded, called the Round Tops - half a mile distant on our right a hill called Culp's Hill, covered with timber, and opposite our left, about a mile distant, a ridge running almost parallel with Cemetery Ridge, called Seminary Ridge, from the Lutheran Seminary buildings on its crest the whole a smiling landscape inhabited by a peaceable people wont to harvest their crops and to raise their children in quiet and prosperous contentment.
From where we stood we observed the thin lines of troops, and here and there puffy clouds of white smoke on and around Seminary Ridge, and heard the crackle of the musketry and the booming of the cannon, indicating a forward movement of our First Corps, which we knew to be a little over 8000 men strong. Of the troops themselves we could see little. I remember how small the affair appeared to me, as seen from a distance in the large frame of the surrounding open country But we were soon made painfully aware of the awful significance of it. The dead body of General Reynolds, the commander of the First Corps' was being carried away from the field. He had been too far forward in the firing-line and the bullet of a Southern sharpshooter had laid him low. So the action had begun with a great loss. He was known as an officer of superior merit, and in the opinion of many it was he that ought to have been put at the head of the Army of the Potomac. General Reynolds' death devolved the command of the First Corps upon General Doubleday, the command of all the troops then on the field upon General Howard, and the command of the Eleventh Corps upon me.
The situation before us was doubtful. We received a report from General Wadsworth, one of the division commanders of the First Corps, that he was advancing, that the enemy's forces in his front were apparently not very strong, but that he thought that the enemy was making a movement towards his right. From our point of observation we could perceive but little of the strength of the enemy, and Wadsworth's dispatch did not relieve our uncertainty. If the enemy before us was only in small force, then we had to push him as far as might seem prudent to General Meade. But if the enemy was bringing on the whole or a large part of his army, which his movement toward General Wadsworth's right might e held to indicate, then we had to look for a strong position n which to establish and maintain ourselves until reinforced or ordered back. Such a position was easily found at the first glance. It was Cemetery Hill on which we then stood and which was to play so important a part in the battle to follow. Accordingly General Howard ordered me to take the First and Third Divisions of the Eleventh Corps through the town and to place them on the right of the First Corps, while he would hold back the Second Division under General Steinwehr and the reserve artillery on Cemetery Hill and the eminence east of it, as a reserve.
About 12:30 the head of the column of the Eleventh Corps arrived. The weather being sultry, the men, who had marched several miles at a rapid pace, were streaming with perspiration and panting for breath. But they hurried through the town as best they could, and were promptly deployed on the right of the First Corps. But the deployment could not be made as originally designed by simply prolonging the First Corps' line, for in the meantime a strong Confederate force had arrived on the battlefield on the right flank of the First Corps, so that to confront it, the Eleventh had to deploy under fire at an angle with the First. General Schimmelfennig, temporarily commanding my, the Third, Division, connected with the First Corps on his left as well as he could under the. circumstances, and General Francis Barlow, commanding our First Division, formerly Devens', deployed on his right. General Barlow was still a young man, but with his beardless, smooth face looked even much younger than he was. His men at first gazed at him wondering how such a boy could be put at the head of regiments of men. But they soon discovered him to be a strict disciplinarian, and one of the coolest and bravest in action. In both respects he was inclined to carry his virtues to excess. At the very time when he moved into the firing line at Gettysburg I had to interfere by positive order in favor of the commander of one of his regiments, whom he had suspended and sent to the rear for a mere unimportant peccadillo. Having been too strict in this instance, within the next two hours he made the mistake of being too brave.
I had hardly deployed my two divisions, about 6000 men, on the north side of Gettysburg, when the action very perceptibly changed its character. Until then the First Corps had been driving before it a comparatively small force of the enemy, taking many prisoners, among them the rebel general Archer with almost his whole brigade. My line, too, advanced, but presently I received an order from General Howard to halt where I was, and to push forward only a strong force of skirmishers. This I did, and my skirmishers, too, captured prisoners in considerable number. But then the enemy began to show greater strength and tenacity. He planted two batteries on a hillside, one above the other, opposite my left, enfilading part of the First Corps. Captain Dilger, whose batter: was attached to my Third Division, answered promptly, dismounted four of the enemy's guns, as we observed through our field-glasses, and drove away two rebel regiments supporting them. In the meantime the infantry firing on my left and on the right of the First Corps grew much in volume. It became evident that the enemy's line had been heavily reinforced, and was pressing upon us with constantly increasing vigor. I went up to the roof of a house behind my skirmish line to get a better new of the situation, and observed that my right and center were not only confronted by largely superior forces, but also that my right was becoming seriously overlapped. I had ordered General Barlow to refuse his right wing, that is to place his right brigade, Colonel Gilsa's, a little in the right rear of his other brigade, in order to use it against a possible flanking movement by the enemy.
But I now noticed that Barlow, be it that he had misunderstood my order, or that he was carried away by the ardor of the conflict, had advanced his whole line and lost connection with my Third Division on his left, and in addition to this, he had, instead of refusing, pushed forward his right brigade, so that it formed a projecting angle with the rest of the line. At the same tune I saw the enemy emerging from the belt of woods on my right with one battery after another and one column of infantry after another, threatening to envelop my right flank and to cut me off from the town and the position on Cemetery Hill behind.
I immediately gave orders to the Third Division to reestablish its connection with the First, although this made still thinner a line already too thin, and hurried one staff officer after another to General Howard with the urgent request for one of his two reserve brigades to protect my right against the impending flank attack by the enemy. Our situation became critical. As far as we could judge from the reports of prisoners and from what we observed in our front, the enemy was rapidly advancing the whole force of at least two of his army - corps - A. P. Hill's, and Ewell's, against us, that is to say, 40,000 men, of whom at least 30,000 were then before us. We had 17,000, counting in the two brigades held in reserve by General Howard and not deducting the losses already suffered by the First Corps. Less than 14,000 men we had at that moment in the open field without the slightest advantage of position. We could hardly hope to hold out long against such a superiority of numbers, and there was imminent danger that, if we held out too long, the enemy would succeed in turning our right flank and in getting possession of the town of Gettysburg, through which our retreat to the defensive position on Cemetery Hill would probably have to be effected. For this reason I was so anxious to have one of the reserve brigades posted at the entrance of the town to oppose the flanking movement of the enemy which I saw going on.
But, before that brigade came, the enemy advanced to the attack along the whole line with great impetuosity. Gilsa's little brigade, in its exposed position "in the air" on Barlow's extreme right, had to suffer the first violent onset of the Confederates, and was fairly crushed by the enemy rushing on from the front and both flanks. Colonel Gilsa, one of the bravest of men and an uncommonly skillful officer, might well complain of his fate. Here, as at Chancellorsville, he was in a position in which neither he nor his men could do themselves justice, and he felt keenly the adverse whims of the fortunes of war. General Barlow, according to his habit always in the thickest of the fight, was seriously wounded, as happened to him repeatedly, and had to leave the command of the division to the commander of its second brigade, General Adelbert Ames. This brigade bravely endured an enfilading fire from two rebel batteries placed near the Harrisburg road. But it was forced back when its right flank was entirely uncovered and heavy masses of rebel infantry pressed upon it.
About four o'clock, the attack by the enemy along the whole line became general and still more vehement. Regiment stood against regiment in the open fields, near enough almost to see the white in one another's eyes, firing literally in one another's faces. The slaughter on both sides was awful. At that moment it was reported that the right wing of the First Corps, which had fought heroically all day, had been pressed back, and one of General Doubleday's aides-de-camp brought me a request for a few regiments to be sent to his assistance. Alas, I had not a man to spare, but was longing for reinforcements myself, for at the same time I received a report that my Third Division was flanked on its left, on the very spot where it should have connected with the First, General Doubleday's corps. A few minutes later, while this butchery was still going on, an order reached me from General Howard directing me to withdraw to the south side of the town and to occupy a position on and near Cemetery Hill.
While I was doing my utmost, assisted by my staff' officers, to rally and re-form what was within my reach of the First Division, for the purpose of checking the enemy's advance around my right, and to hold the edge of the town, the reserve brigade I had so urgently asked for, the First Brigade of the Second Division, Eleventh Corps, under Colonel Coster, at last arrived. It came too late for that offensive push which I had intended to make with it in order to relieve my right, if it had come half, or even quarter of an hour earlier. But I led it out of the town and ordered it to deploy on the right of the junction of the roads near the railway station, which the enemy was fast approaching. There the brigade, assisted by a battery, did good service in detaining the enemy long enough to permit the First Division to enter the town without being seriously molested, on its retreat. The Third Division was meanwhile still sustaining the murderous contest. To break off an engagement carried on at long range, is comparatively easy. But the task becomes very difficult and delicate in a fight at very close quarters. Still, the Third Division, when ordered to do so, fell back in good form, executing its retreat to the town, fighting, step by step, with great firmness. I said in my official report: " In this part of the action which was almost a hand-to-hand struggle, officers and men showed the highest courage and determination. Our loss was extremely severe. The Second Brigade, Third Division, lost all its regimental commanders; several regiments nearly half their number in killed and wounded." Among the mortally wounded was Colonel Mahler of the Seventy-fifth Pennsylvania, who had been a revolutionary comrade of mine in the German fortress of Riastatt, in 1849. Now with death on his face he reached out his hand to me on the bloody field of Gettysburg, to bid me a last farewell. I came out unscathed, but my horse had a bullet hole clean through the fatty ridge of the neck just under the mane.
It has been represented by some writers, Southerners, that the Union forces on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg were utterly routed and fled pell-mell into the town. This is far from the truth. That there were a good many stragglers hurrying to the rear in a disorderly fashion, as is always the case during and after a hot fight, will not be denied. Neither will it be denied that it was a retreat after a lost battle with the enemy in hot pursuit, But there was no element of dissolution in it. The retreat through the town was of course more or less disorderly, the streets being crowded with vehicles of every description, which offered to the passing troops exceedingly troublesome obstructions. It is also true that Eleventh Corps men complained that when they entered the town, it was already full of First Corps men, and vice versa, which really meant that the two corps became more or less mixed in passing through. It is likewise true that many officers and men, among others General Schimmelfennig' became entangled in cross streets, and alleys without thoroughfare, and were captured by the enemy pressing after them. But, after all, the fact remains that in whatever shape the troops issued from the town, they were promptly reorganized, each was under the colors of his regiment, and in as good a fighting trim as before, save that their ranks were fearfully thinned by the enormous losses suffered during the day.
As we ascended Cemetery Hill from the town of Gettysburg we met General Hancock, whom General Meade had sent forward to take command of the field. The meeting of Generals Hancock and Howard is thus described by Major E P. Halstead of the staff of the First Corps, who had been sent by General Doubleday to ask General Howard for reinforcements: "I returned to where General Howard sat, just as General Hancock approached at a swinging gallop. When near General Howard, who was then alone, he saluted, and with great animation, as if there was no time for ceremony, said General Meade had sent him forward to take command of the three Corps the First, Eleventh, and his own, the Second]. General Howard replied that he was the senior. General Hancock said: 'I am aware of that, General, but I have written orders in my pocket from General Meade, which I will show you if you wish to see them.' General Howard said: 'No; I do not doubt your word, General Hancock, but you can give no orders here while I am here.' Hancock replied: 'Very well, General Howard, I will second any order that you have to give, but General Meade has also directed me to select a field on which to fight this battle in rear of Pipe Creek.' Then casting one glance from Culp's Hill to Round Top, he continued: 'But I think this the strongest position by nature upon which to fight a battle that I ever saw, and if it meets your approbation I will select this as the battlefield.' General Howard responded: "I think this a very strong position General Hancock, a very strong position.' 'Very well, sir, I select this as the battlefield,' said General Hancock, and immediately turned away to rectify our lines."
This story is told by Major Halstead in the Century series of "Battles and Leaders," and he adds this remark: " There was no person present besides myself when the conversation took place between Howard and Hancock. A number of years since I reminded General Hancock of that fact and what I had heard pass between them. He said that what I have repeated here was true, and requested a written statement, which I subsequently furnished him."
That the appearance of Hancock as commander of the field should have sorely touched Howard's pride, is well intelligible, especially as he could hardly fail to understand it as an expression of want of confidence in him on the part of General Meade.
It was about 3:20 of the afternoon when General Buford sent a dispatch to General Meade in which he said: " In my opinion there seems to be no directing person." This was too severe on General Howard, who, in fact, had given several directions which were unquestionably correct. But it, no doubt, expressed the prevailing impression, and under these circumstances the appearance of General Hancock at the front was a most fortunate event. It gave the troops a new inspiration. They all knew him by fame, and his stalwart figure, his proud mien, and his superb soldierly bearing seemed to verify all the things that fame had told about him. His mere presence was a reinforcement, and everybody on the field felt stronger for his being there. This new inspiration of self-reliance might have become of immediate importance, had the enemy made another attack an eventuality for which we had to prepare. And in this preparation Howard, in spite of his heart-sore, cooperated so loyally with Hancock that it would have been hard to tell which of the two was the commander, and which the subordinate.
The line was soon formed. The Second Brigade, Colonel Orlando Smith's of Steinwehr's division, was already in position on the Cemetery Hill, fronting the town and occupying the nearest houses. Coster's brigade, and next the First Division, under Ames, were posted on the right, and my division, the Third, on his left on the cemetery itself. The First Corps was placed on my left, except Wadsworth's division, which was sent to the extreme right to occupy Culp's Hill. The batteries were put in proper position, and breastworks promptly constructed wherever necessary. All this was accomplished in a very short time This done, General Hancock sat down on a stone fence on the brow of the hill from which he could overlook the field, on the north and west of Gettysburg, occupied by the Confederates. I joined him there, and through our fieldglasses we eagerly watched the movements of the enemy. We saw their batteries and a large portion of their infantry columns distinctly. Some of those columns moved to and fro in a way the purpose of which we did not clearly understand. I was not ashamed to own that I felt nervous, for while our position was a strong one, the infantry line in it appeared, after the losses of the day, woefully thin. It was soothing to my pride, but by no means reassuring as to our situation, when General Hancock admitted that he felt nervous, too. Still he thought that with our artillery so advantageously posted, we might well hold out until the arrival of the Twelfth Corps, which was only a short distance behind us. So we sat watching the enemy and presently observed to our great relief that the movements of the rebel troops looked less and less like a formation for an immediate attack. Our nerves grew more and more tranquil as minute after minute lapsed, for each brought night and reinforcements nearer. When the sun went down the Twelfth Corps was on the field and the Third Corps arriving.
There has been much speculation as to whether the Confederates would not have won the battle of Gettysburg had they pressed the attack on the first day after the substantial overthrow of the First and Eleventh Corps. Southern writers are almost unanimous in the opinion that Lee would then without serious trouble have achieved a great victory. It is indeed possible that had they vigorously pushed their attack with their whole available force at the moment when the First and Eleventh Corps were entangled in the streets of the town, they might have completely annihilated those corps, possessed themselves of Cemetery Hill, and taken the heads of the Federal columns advancing toward Gettysburg at a disadvantage. But night would soon have put an end to that part of the action; that night would have given General Meade time to change his dispositions, and the main battle would in all likelihood have been fought on Pipe Creek instead of Gettysburg, in the position which General Meade had originally selected.
Nor is it quite so certain, as Southern writers seem to think, that the Confederates would have had easy work in carrying Cemetery Hill after the First and Eleventh Corps had passed through the town and occupied that position. When they speak of the two corps as having fled from the field in a state of utter demoralization, they grossly exaggerate. Those troops were indeed beaten back, but not demoralized or dispirited. Had they been in a state of rout such as Southern writers describe, they would certainly have left many of their cannon behind them. But they brought off their whole artillery save one single dismounted piece, and that artillery, as now posted, was capable of formidable work. The infantry was indeed reduced by well-nigh one-half its effective force, but all that was left, was good. Besides, the Confederates, too, had suffered severely. Their loss in killed and wounded and prisoners was very serious. Several of their brigades had become disordered during the action to such an extent that it required some time to re-form them. It is therefore at least doubtful whether they could have easily captured Cemetery Hill before the arrival of heavy reinforcements on our side. Another disputed point is whether we did not make a great mistake in continuing the bloody fight north of the town too long.
Thirty-eight years after the event I was called upon by Mr. John Codman Ropes, the eminent historian of the Civil War, who unfortunately for the country has died before finishing his work. He had then the history of the battle of Gettysburg in hand and wished to have my recollections as to certain details. In the course of our conversation I asked him what his criticism was of our conduct on the first day. He said that on the whole we fought well and were obliged to yield the field north and east of the town, but that we committed a great mistake in not retreating to our second position south and west of Gettysburg an hour and perhaps two hours earlier. The same opinion was expressed by General Doubleday in his official report. In referring to about that time of the day he says: "Upon taking a retrospect of the field it might seem, in view of the fact that we were finally forced to retreat, that this would have been the proper time to retire, but to fall back -without orders from the commanding general might have inflicted lasting disgrace upon the corps nor would I have retreated without the knowledge and approbation of General Howard, who was my superior officer. Had I done so, it would have uncovered the left flank of his corps. If circumstances required it, it was his place, not mine, to issue the order. General Howard, from his commanding position on Cemetery Hill, could overlook all the enemy's movements as well as our own, and I therefore relied much upon his superior facilities for observation to give me timely warning of any unusual danger."
That General Howard ought to have given the order to retreat at an earlier period of the action will, in the light of subsequent events, seriously be doubted. He may, in the first place, well have hesitated to retreat without orders from General Meade for reasons perhaps not quite as good, but nearly as good, as those given by General Doubleday for not having retreated without orders from General Howard.
But there was another consideration of weightier importance. Would not the enemy' if we had retreated two hours, or even one hour earlier, have been in better condition, and therefore more encouraged to make a determined attack upon the cemetery that afternoon,- and with better chance of success? The following occurrence subsequently reported, indicates that he would. Three or four companies of my regiments, led by Captain F. Irsch, became separated from the main body while retreating through the streets of Gettysburg. Hotly pressed by the pursuing enemy, they threw themselves into a block of buildings near the market place, from which they continued firing. A rebel officer approached them under a flag of truce, and summoned them to surrender. Captain Irsch defiantly refused, saying that he expected every moment to be relieved, as the Army of the Potomac was coming on. The rebel officer replied that the whole town was in the possession of the Confederates, and he offered Captain Irsch "safe conduct" if he would look for himself. The Captain accepted, and saw on the market place General Ewell on horseback, at the moment when an officer approached him (General Ewell) in hot haste, and said to him within the Captain's hearing that General Lee wished him, General Ewell, forthwith to proceed to attack the Federals on Cemetery Hill, whereupon
General Ewell replied in a low voice, but audible to Captain Irsch, that if General Lee knew the condition of his, Ewell's, troops, after their long march and the fight that had just taken place, he would not think of such an order, and that the attack could not be risked. This story, which I have from Captain Irsch himself and which is corroborated by other evidence, would seem to show that by continuing as long as we did, our fight in the afternoon, in spite of the losses we suffered, we rendered the enemy unable, or at least disinclined, to undertake a later attack upon Cemetery Hill, which might have had much more serious results. There is, therefore, very good reason for concluding that General Howard rendered valuable service in not ordering the retreat as early as General Doubleday thought he ought to have ordered it.
I remember a picturesque scene that happened that night in a lower room of the gate house of the Gettysburg Cemetery. In the center of the room a barrel set upright, with a burning tallow candle stuck in the neck of a bottle on top of it; around the walls six or seven generals accidentally gathered together, sitting some on boxes but most on the floor, listening to the accounts of those who had been in the battle of the day, then making critical comments and discussing what might have been and finally all agreeing in the hope that General Meade had decided or would decide to fight the battle of the morrow on the ground on which we then were. There was nothing of extraordinary solemnity in the "good-night" we gave one another when we parted. It was rather a commonplace, business-like "good-night,', as that of an ordinary occasion. We of the Eleventh Corps, occupying the cemetery, lay down, wrapt in our cloaks, with the troops among the grave-stones. There was profound stillness in the graveyard, broken by no sound but the breathing of men and here and there the tramp of a horse's foot, and sullen rumblings mysteriously floating on the air from a distance all around.
The sun of the 2nd of July rose brightly upon these two armies marshalling for battle. Neither of them was ready. But as we could observe the field from Cemetery Hill, the Confederates were readier than we were. The belts of timber screening their lines presented open spaces enough, in which we could see their bayonets glisten and their artillery in position, to permit us to form a rough estimate of the extent of the positions they. occupied and of the strength of their forces present. There was a rumor that Lee's army was fully as strong as ours which, however, was not the case-and from what we saw before us, we guessed that it was nearly all up and ready for action. We knew, too, that to receive the anticipated attack, our army was, although rapidly coming in, not nearly all up. It was, indeed, a comforting thought that Lee, who, as rumor had it, had wished and planned for a defensive battle, was now obliged to fight an aggressive one against our army established in a strong position. Yet we anxiously hoped that his attack would not come too early for our comfort. Thus we watched with not a little concern the dense columns of our troops as they approached at a brisk pace on the Taneytown road and the Baltimore Pike to wheel into the positions assigned to them. It was, if I remember rightly, about 8 o'clock when General Meade quietly appeared on the cemetery, on horseback, accompanied by a staff officer and an orderly. His long-bearded, haggard face, shaded by a black military felt hat the rim of which was turned down, looked careworn and tired, as if he had not slept that night. The spectacles on his nose gave him a somewhat magisterial look. There was nothing in his appearance or his bearing not a smile nor a sympathetic word addressed to those around him that might have made the hearts of the soldiers warm up to him, or that called forth a cheer. There was nothing of pose, nothing stagey, about him. His mind was evidently absorbed by a hard problem. But this simple, cold, serious soldier with his business-like air did inspire confidence. The officers and men, as much as was permitted, crowded around and looked up to him with curious eyes, and then turned away, not enthusiastic, but clearly satisfied.
With a rapid glance he examined the position of our army, which has often, and quite correctly, been likened to a fishing hook, the long shank of which was formed by Cemetery Ridge, running south from the cemetery to Round Top; the head by the cemetery itself, and the hook, receding toward the southeast, by the woods of Culp's Hill. The General nodded, seemingly with approval. After the usual salutations I asked him how many men he had on the ground. I remember his answer well. "In the course of the day I expect to have about 95,000 - enough, I guess, for this business." And then, after another sweeping glance over the field, he added, as if repeating something to himself: "Well, we may fight it out here just as well as anywhere else." Then he quietly rode away.
The Second Corps of our army had arrived about seven; two divisions of the Fifth about the same time; several brigades of the Third Corps came up about nine; the Artillery Reserve and the large ammunition train was parked in the valley between Cemetery Ridge and Culp's Hill by eleven; the Sixth Corps under Sedgwick reached Rock Creek after a march of thirty-four miles, about four of the afternoon. Thus our line was gradually filled. But the forenoon passed with-out any serious attack from the Confederates. There were only, as the two armies "felt" one another, occasional sputterings of musketry and abrupt discharges of cannon, like growling barks of chained watch-dogs when you approach them too closely. At last, between three and four, the expected attack came. Our position had its weak points. On our extreme right the Twelfth Corps under General Slocum held Culp's Hill Wadsworth's division of the First Corps joined the Twelfth Corps to the Eleventh under Howard, which occupied the cemetery, forming the bend of the fishing hook; to the left of the Eleventh on Cemetery Ridge, the " long shank," stood Doubleday's division of the First, then the Second Corps under Hancock, and on its left the Third under Sickles, which, to gain a higher and apparently more advantageous position, was moved forward on the Cemetery Ridge line to a peach orchard, hence become famous, the two divisions of the corps forming a projecting angle, provoking attack. The Round Tops on the left of the Third Corps were unoccupied. These were the weak points which General Lee's keen eyes quickly perceived. Our Fifth Corps stood in reserve, and our Sixth Corps under Sedgwick had not yet arrived. Lee's army formed a large semicircle fronting our lines Ewell's Corps on its left. facing Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill; A. P. Hill's Corps in the center, occupying Seminary Ridge and facing part of Cemetery Ridge held by the Second and the Third Corps, and Longstreet's facing our left.
It was from Longstreet's Corps, therefore, that the attack upon our weak points came. A brisk cannonade preceded it, which, to judge by the missiles which whirred over out heads, was partly directed upon Cemetery Hill, and to which the batteries near us replied at a lively rate. Then we heard a confused noise on our left, a continuous rattle of musketry, discharges of artillery now thundering with rapid vehemence; then slackening as if batteries were silenced; then breaking out again with renewed violence; and from time to time something like an echo of a Union cheer or a rebel yell. Owing to a projecting spur of Cemetery Ridge, we on the cemetery itself could not see what was happening on our extreme left nothing but the rising clouds of white smoke. Neither did the sounds we heard indicate which side had the advantage in the battle. But looking to our rear we observed how regiment after regiment was taken from our right wing to be hurried as quickly as possible toward the left of the army as reinforcement. The fire grew more furious from minute to minute, and about half after six, the roar of the battle actually seemed to indicate that our line was yielding. A moment later Captain Dilger of my artillery, who had gone to the ammunition train to get a new supply, came galloping up Cemetery Hill in great agitation with the report that the enemy had overwhelmed the Third Corps in the peach orchard and pressing after our flying troops had pierced our left center; that his musket balls were already falling into our ammunition train, and that unless the rebels were beaten back at once, they would attack us in the rear and take us prisoners in half an hour. It was a moment of most anxious suspense. But it did not last long. Loud and repeated Union cheers on our left, which could be heard above the din of battle, told us that relief had come in time and had rolled back the hostile wave. General Meade had skillfully used the advantage afforded us by the "interior line" in rapidly shifting forces from one point to another as the necessities of the moment required, and thus succeeded in meeting the assault of the enemy with superior numbers. As evening came the battle on the left sank into a lull and we were assured that, although the enemy had gained some ground, we had won a secure lodgment on the Round Tops, owing to, General Warren's keen discernment of the situation. and our line from there to Cemetery Hill was substantially restored.
In the meantime the enemy, noticing the withdrawal of some of our troops from Culp's Hill, had tried to capture that vitally important position. But there, too, although the enemy possessed himself of some of the breastworks left by the brigades that had been called away to assist in beating back the attack on our left, he was checked by our troops left in position, especially General Greene's brigade- the same General Greene who lived in New York to reach, in honor and health, the age of ninety odd years which heroically maintained itself alone until succored by reinforcements, among which were several of my regiments. A part of my First Brigade was sent to strengthen General Ames, who was hard pressed, and some of the Second Brigade pushed to the support of General Wadsworth, which they did very efficiently for which thanks were returned.
But the dangers of the day were not yet ended. It was already dark when we on Cemetery Hill were suddenly startled by a tremendous turmoil at Wiedrich's and Rickett's batteries placed on a commanding point on the right of Cemetery Hill. General Howard and I were standing together in conversation when the uproar surprised us. There could be no doubt of its meaning. The enemy was attacking the batteries on our right, and if he gained possession of them he would enfilade a large part of our line toward the south as well as the east, and command the valley between Cemetery Ridge and Culp's Hill, where the ammunition trains were parked. The fate of the battle might hang on the repulse of this attack. There was no time to wait for superior orders. With the consent of General Howard I took the two regiments nearest to me, ordered them to fix bayonets, and, headed by Colonel Krzyzanowski, they hurried to the threatened point at a double-quick. I accompanied them with my whole staff. Soon we found ourselves surrounded by a rushing crowd of stragglers from the already broken lines. We did our best, sword in hand, to drive them back as we went. Arrived at the batteries, we found an indescribable scene of melee. Some rebel infantry had scaled the breastworks and were taking possession of the guns. But the cannoneers defended themselves desperately. With rammers and fence rails, hand spikes and stones, they knocked down the intruders. In Wiedrich's battery, manned by Germans from Buffalo, a rebel officer, brandishing his sword, cried out: "This battery is ours!" Whereupon a sturdy artilleryman responded: " No, dis battery is unser," and felled him to the ground with a sponge-staff. Our infantry made a vigorous rush upon the invaders, and after a short but very spirited hand-to-hand scuffle tumbled them down the embankment. As General Hunter said in his contribution to the Century series: " The Dutchmen showed that they were in no way inferior to their Yankee comrades, who had been taunting them ever since Chancellorsville." Our line to the right, having been reinforced by Carroll's brigade of the Second Corps, which had hurried on in good time, also succeeded in driving back the assailants with a rapid fire, and the dangerous crisis was happily ended. I could say with pride in my official report that during this perilous hour my officers and men behaved splendidly. During the night the regiments that had been withdrawn from my command to give aid elsewhere, returned to their former positions.
The net result of the second day's battle was, on the whole, not encouraging to either side. The Confederates had gained some ground - the position of the Emmitsburg road on their right and some Union breastworks on Culp's Hill on their extreme left; but they had also failed in several of their attacks, and become aware how difficult it would be to break the Union lines at any point in a manner to secure a decisive result. On the other hand, our army had lost some ground, but at the same time made its position stronger by the secure occupation of the Round Tops and the rectification of its line between them and Cemetery Hill. But both armies had suffered enormous losses in killed, wounded, and prisoners, and the commander of each, as has appeared from subsequent revelations, profoundly wished he were well out of the mess, while neither could see how he could do else than continue on the line on which he had begun. A council of the corps commanders held by General Meade that night was unanimous in that decision.
At dawn of day on the 3rd of July we were roused from sleep by a fierce rattle of musketry in the woods of Culp's Hill As already mentioned, the withdrawal of several brigades from our right to assist our left in the fights of the preceding day had enabled the enemy to get possession of several breastworks abandoned by the Twelfth Corps. General Meade decided that for the security of our right flank those positions must be retaken, and the Twelfth Corps went at the task with great spirit. It was a little battle of its own, of which, owing to the woods on the field of action, we could see nothing except the columns of troops sent from the center and the left wing of our army to the assistance of the right. But the firing was incessant, both of artillery and musketry, now and then swelling into a great roar, stimulating the imagination of the distant listeners into nervous activity as to what might be happening under that cloud of white smoke hovering over Culp's Hill. About half past ten the firing ceased, and it was reported that the Twelfth, after a six hours' stubborn fight, not too bloody on our side, had retaken the positions held by the enemy during the night.
And then came that interval of perfect stillness of which most of the descriptions of the battle of Gettysburg have so much to say. That the battle should have come to a short stop would have surprised nobody. But when that stop lengthened from minute to minute, from half hour to half hour, and when it settled down into a tranquillity like the peaceful and languid repose of a warm midsummer morning in which one might expect to hear the ringing of the village church-bells, there was something ominous, something uncanny, in these strange, unexpected hours of profound silence so sharply contrasting with the bloody horrors which had preceded, and which were sure to follow them. Even the light-hearted soldiers, who would ordinarily never lose an opportunity for some outbreak of an hilarious mood, even in a short moment of respite in a fight, seemed to feel the oppression. Some sat silently on the ground munching their hard-tack, while others stretched themselves out seeking sleep, which they probably would have found more readily had the cannon been thundering at a distance. The officers stood together in little groups discussing with evident concern what this long-continued calm might mean. Could it be that Lee, whose artillery in long rows of batteries had been silently frowning at us all the morning, had given up his intention to make another great attack? If not, why had he not begun it at an earlier hour, which unquestionably would have been more advantageous to him?
Suddenly the riddle was solved. About one o'clock the long hush was broken by the booming of two guns fired in rapid succession on the enemy's right, where Longstreet's Corps stood. And at once this signal was answered by all the batteries of the Confederate army, about 130 cannon, that could be brought to bear upon Cemetery Hill and the ridge joining it to the Round Tops. Instantly about 80 pieces of our artillery as many as could usefully be posted in our line facing west and northwest took up the challenge, and one of the grandest artillery duels in the history of wars followed. All that I had ever read in battle-stories of the booming of heavy guns out-thundering the thunders of heaven, and making the earth tremble, and almost stopping one's breath by the concussions of the air-was here made real, in terrific effect. The roar was so incessant and at times so deafening that when I wished to give an order to one of my officers I had to put my hands to my mouth as a speaking trumpet and shout my words into his ear. Fortunately the enemy had aimed their artillery a little too high, so that most of its missiles passed over our heads. But enough of them struck the ground on the cemetery and exploded there, to scatter death and destruction among the men immediately around, and to shatter gravestones and blow up ammunition caissons. But as most of them flew over us, rushing, screaming, whirring, and as they burst above, and sent down their deadly fragments, they added to the hellish din a peculiarly malicious noise of their own. How would the men endure this frightful experience? One of the hardest trials of the courage and steadfastness of the soldier is to stand still and be shot at without being able to reply. This ordeal is especially severe when the soldier is under a heavy artillery fire which, although less dangerous than that of musketry, is more impressive on the nerves. It bewilders the mind of the bravest with a painful sense of helplessness as against a tremendous power, and excites to peculiar vivacity the not unnatural desire to get into a safer place out of range. As a matter of course we ordered the troops to lie down flat on the ground, so as to present the smallest possible target. But when I observed the effect of the dropping of a shell right into the midst of a regiment which caused some uneasy commotion, I thought it my duty to get upon my feet and look after it. I found that it had a very steadying and cheering effect upon the men to see me quietly walking up and down in front smoking a cigar. I could not speak to them, for the incessant roar of the cannonade would not let them hear me. But I noticed that many of them returned my smile in a sort of confidential way when I happened to catch their eyes, as if to say: "It is not jolly, but we two will not be frightened by it." Indeed it was not jolly, for I felt as if the enemy's projectiles rushing over me were so near that I might have touched them with my riding-whip held up at full length of my arm. But observing the good effect of my promenade in front, I invited, by gesture, some of the regimental officers to do likewise. They promptly obeyed, although, I suppose, they liked the stroll no more than I did.
Many years later I found in Tolstoy's great novel, "War and Peace," a description of the conduct of a Russian regiment at the battle of Borodino, which had to remain motionless under a fearful fire of French batteries, the men sitting on the ground and diverting their minds under the deadly hail by braiding the blades of grass within their reach. It reminded me vividly of what I saw on the cemetery of Gettysburg, where, while that tremendous cannonade was going on, some of the men occupied their minds by cleaning their gun-locks, others by polishing the buttons of their uniforms, still others by sewing up rents in their clothes. Evidently Tolstoy wrote from the personal experience of battles.
I had the good fortune of saving in a curious way the life of one of my aides, Captain Fritz Tiedemann, one of whose daughters more than thirty years later was to become the wife of one of my sons. During an interval between two of my of the dropping of a shell right into the midst of a regiment which caused some uneasy commotion, I thought it my duty toget 'upon my feet and look after it. I found that it had a verysteadying and cheering effect upon the men to see me quietlywalking up and down in front smoking a cigar. I could notspeak to them, for the incessant roar of the cannonade would notlet them hear me. But I noticed that many of them returned mysmile in a sort of confidential way when I happened to catchtheir eyes, as if to say: " It is not jolly, but we two will not befrightened by it.?' Indeed it was not jolly, for I felt as if theenemy's projectiles rushing over me were so near that I mighthave touched them with my riding-whip held up at full length ofmy arm. But observing the good e~ect of my promenade infront, I invited, by gesture, some of the regimental officers todo likewise. They promptly obeyed, although, I suppose, theyliked the stroll no more than I did. Many years later I found in Tolstoy's great novel, " Warand Peace," a description of the conduct of a Russian regimentat the battle of Borodino, which had to remain motionless undera fearful fire of French batteries, the men sitting on the groundand diverting their minds under the deadly hail by braiding theblades of grass within their reach. It reminded me vividly ofwhat I saw on the cemetery of Gettysburg, where, while thattremendous cannonade was going on, some of the men occupiedtheir minds by cleaning their gun-locks, others by polishing thebuttons of their uniforms, still others by sewing up rents in theirclothes. Evidently Tolstoy wrote from the personal experienceof battles.
I had the good fortune of saving in a curious way thelife of one of my aides, Captain Fritz Tiedemann, one ofwhose daughters more than thirty years later was to becomethe wife of one of my sons. During an interval between two of my front promenades I stretched myself on the ground, my aide Fritz by my side. Feeling a nagging desire to eat something, I shouted into his ear: "Fritz, go and see whether you cannot borrow a cracker for me from somebody. I am desperately hungry." Fritz had hardly moved two paces away from me when a piece of a burst shell about half as large as my hand fell upon the place on which he had been lying, and buried itself several inches in the soil. Thus the life of my son's father-in-law that was to be,was saved by the craving of my stomach.
The furious bombardment had lasted more than an hour when the excellent Chief of Artillery of the Army of the Potomac, General Hunt, passed along the line the order to "cease firing"; not all the batteries to become silent at once, but one after another. The intention, and the actual effect, was, not only to prevent the further useless expenditure of ammunition, but principally to make the enemy believe that our artillery was in great part seriously crippled and would no longer be able to offer effective resistance to a vigorous attack. In fact the actual effect of the enemy's grand bombardment of our lines had been very trifling. A few pieces had been dismounted, but they were easily replaced from the reserve artillery. A few caissons had been exploded, but there was plenty of ammunition left. Some men and some horses had been killed or wounded, but their number was astonishingly small considering the awfulness of the turmoil, and there was nothing of the terror and demoralization which the enemy, no doubt, had expected toproduce. To judge by my own command, which occupied one of the positions most exposed to the enemy's fire we had suffered very little in killed and wounded, and I did not hear of a single man that had skulked away from the ranks.
But the enemy seemed to think differently. As our batteries grew silent, so did his. And then came forth that famous scene which made the battle of Gettysburg more dramatic than any other event of the Civil War, and which more nearly approached the conception of what a battle is in the imagination of persons who have never seen one. I will describe only what we observed of it from the crest of Cemetery Hill. From a screen of woods opposite our left center emerged a long line of Confederate infantry, mounted offlcers in front and behind; and then another, and another-about 15,000 men. The alignment was perfect. The battle-flags fluttered gaily over the bayonets glittering in the sunlight. The spectacle has often been truly likened to a grand holiday parade on a festive ground. A mileof open field separated them from our line of defense. They had hardly traversed one-tenth of that distance when they became fully aware that those of them who had counted upon our artillery having been much disabled, had grievously deceived themselves. No sooner had the attacking column appeared on the open than our batteries, which had in the meantime been re-formed and well supplied with ammunition, opened upon them from the front and from the right and left, with a terrific fire.Through our field-glasses we could distinctly see the gaps torn in their ranks, and the ground dotted with dark spots-their dead and wounded. Now and then a cheer went up from our lines when our men observed some of our shells striking right among the advancing enemy and scattering death and destruction around. But the brave rebels promptly filled the gaps from behind or by closing up on their colors, and unshaken and unhesitatingly they continued their onward march. Then theConfederate artillery behind them, firing over their heads, tried to silence our batteries or at least to attract their fire so as to divert it from the infantry masses advancing in the open field. But in vain. Our cannon did not change their aim, and the number of dark spots dotting the field increased fearfully from minute to minute. So far not a musket had been discharged from behind the stone fences protecting our regiments. Now the assailants steadily marching on seemed to disappear in a depression of the ground, where they stopped for a little while to readjust their alignment. But when they emerged again, evidently with undismayed courage, and quickened their pace to make the final plunge, a roar of cannon and a rattle of musketry, so tremendous, received them that one might have thought any force coming against it would have been swept from the face of the earth. Still the attacking lines, although much thinned and losing their regularity, rushed forward with grim determination. Then we on the cemetery lost sight of them as they were concealed from our eyes by the projecting spur of the ridge I have already spoken of. Meanwhile a rebel force, consisting apparently of two or three brigades, supporting the main attack on its left, advanced against our position on Cemetery Hill. We had about thirty pieces of artillery in our front. They were ordered to load with grape and canister, and to reserve their fire until the enemy should be within four or five hundred yards. Then the word to fire was given, and when, after a few rapid discharges, the guns "ceased " and permitted the smoke to clear away, all we saw of the enemy was the backs of men hastily running away,and the ground covered with dead and wounded. Our skirmishers rushed forward, speeding the pace of fugitives and gathering in a multitude of prisoners.
But on our left the struggle, which from the cemetery we could not see, still continued. We could only hear a furious din which seemed to be stationary. Could it be that the rebels were breaking our lines? With nervous anxiety we turned our eyes upon the valley behind us. But there we saw, not fugitives or skulkers from our positions, but columns of troops hurrying to the scene of the decisive conflict. This was reassuring. At last, looking again at the field which had been traversed by the splendid host of assailants, we saw, first little driblets, then larger numbers, and finally huge swarms of men in utter disorder hurrying back the way they had come, and then, soon after, in hot pursuit, clouds of blue-coated skirmishers from our front rushing in from both sides, firing and capturing prisoners.This spectacle could have but one meaning. The great attack had failed disastrously. That magnificent column that had so proudly advanced upon us, was not only defeated, but well-nigh annihilated. A deep sigh of relief wrung itself from every breast. Then tremendous cheers arose along the Union lines, and here and there the men began to sing "John Brown's Soul." The songswept weirdly over the bloody field.
The general feeling in our ranks was that we had won a victory, and that we had now to reap its fruits. The instinct of the soldiers demanded a prompt, aggressive movement upon the enemy, and I think the instinct of the soldiers was right. The strongest of our army corps, the Fifth, kept in reserve, was substantially intact. Hardly any of the other corps had suffered so much as to be incapable of vigorous action. Their spirits were elated to genuine enthusiasm by the great event of the day. An order for a general advance seemed to be the natural outcome of the movement, and many men in the ranks fairly cried for it. But it did not come. Our skirmishers followed the retreating enemy for a certain distance, and then returned with their prisoners without having touched the positions from which the attacking force had emerged. Then two or three batteries of rebel artillery galloped forth from the belt of timber which screened the enemy's scattered forces. They advanced a short distance, unlimbered, fired a few discharges, 1imbered up again, and galloped back-probably to make us believe that the enemy, although repulsed, was still on the ground in fighting trim. (I do not remember having seen this fact stated in any of the histories of the battle of Gettysburg, but I observed it with my own eyes, and the impression is still vivid in my memory.)
Soon darkness and deep silence fell upon the battlefield. Officers and men, utterly exhausted by the fatigues and excitements of the past three days, just dropped down on the ground. In a moment my people around me were soundly asleep among the shattered gravestones. About two o'clock in the morning I was suddenly aroused by a sharp but short rattle of musketry, the sound coming clearly from the plain on the north side of the town. It lasted only a few seconds then complete stillness again. What could it mean? Only that the enemy was withdrawing his pickets, and some of our outposts sent a volley after them. This was my own opinion, and that of my offcers.The next minute we were fast asleep again, and woke up only when dayllight was upon us. Early in the morning I sent a detachment of my second brigade, under my chief of staff, Lieutenant Colonel Otto, into the town to reconnoiter. They took prisoners over 250 rebel stragglers, who remained behind while the enemy had during the night quietly evacuated Gettysburg. I at once rode in with some staff-officers and orderlies to satisfy myself whether there were any wounded men left in the houses or on the fields beyond, where my troops had been engaged on the first day of the battle. Then I enjoyed a most delightful surprise.
Of all the losses we had suffered in the first day's bloody battle, that of my old friend Schimmelfennig went nearest to my heart. He had not only been an officer of exceptional ability, but my military instructor in the old German days, and a dear personal friend. We did not know what had become of him-whether he lay dead on the field, or had been wounded, or made a prisoner by the enemy. Some of his officers had last seen him in the thickest of the fight, and how, when the order to retreat was given, he had left the field in the rear of his command. Further, their accounts did not go. Now, when early in the morning after the three-days' struggle I entered the town What should I see? In the door of one of the houses on the main street, General Schimmelfennig, alive and waving his hat to me. "Halloh!" he shouted. "I knew you would come. I have been preparing for you. You must be hungry. I found some eggs in this house and saved them for you. We shall have them fried in a few minutes. Get off your horse and let us take breakfast together." It was a jolly repast, during which he told us his story. When, during that furious fight of the first day, the order to retreat reached him, he did his best to take his command out of the fire-line in as orderly a shape as possible - a very difficult operation under any circumstances - and, therefore, left the field in the rear of his troops. But when he reached the town he found the streets crowded with a confused mass of artillery and vehicles of all sorts, and disorganized men. Somehow he was crowded into a blind lane, and suddenly ran against a high fence, barring his progress, while some rebel infantrymen, in hot pursuit, were yelling close behind him. To clear the tall fence on horseback was impossible. He therefore dismounted and climbed over it. While be was on the top rail, his pursuers came up to him, and one of them knocked him on the head with the butt of his gun. The blow did not hurt him much, but he let himself drop on the other side of the fence as if he were dead, or at least stunned. Fortunately, he wore an ordinary cavalry overcoat over his general's uniform, so that no sign of his rank was visible. The rebel soldiers, thus taking him for a mere private, then passed by him. After a little while he cautiously raised his head and discovered that he was alone in a little kitchen garden, and that within a few yards of him there was a small stable or shed that might serve him as a temporary shelter. He crawled into it, and found a litter of straw on the ground, as well as some bread crumbs and other refuse, which seemed to have been intended for pigs. Soon he heard voices all around him, and from the talk he could catch he concluded that the rebels had taken possession of the town and were making preparations for its defense.
There he lay, then, in his pig-sty, alone and helpless, surrounded on all sides by enemies who might have discovered him at any moment, but fortunately did not, and unknown to the inhabitants of the house to which the kitchen garden belonged. He had nothing to eat except the nauseous scraps he found on the ground, and nothing to drink except the few drops that were left in his field flask. And in this condition he lay from the afternoon of the 1st of July until the early morning of the 4th. But worse than hunger and thirst during those two and a half days and three nights was his feverish anxiety concerning the course of the battle. There was an ill-omened silence during the first night and the early forenoon of the second day. Had our army withdrawn? From the noises he heard he could only conclude that the enemy held the town of Gettysburg in force. But the roar of cannon and the rattle of the musketry during the afternoon assured him that our army was present in force, too. Only he could not tell which side had the advantage, or whether there was any advantage achieved by either side. And so it was on the third day, when the battle seemed to rage furiously, at different times and at different points, apparently neither advancing nor receding, until late in the afternoon the artillery became silent, and a mighty Union cheer filled the air. Then his hope rose that something favorable to us had happened. Still, he was disquieted again by the continued presence of the rebel infantry around him, until late in the night he heard something like the passing around of an order among them in a low voice, where upon they seemed quietly to slink away. Then perfect stillness. At break of day he ventured his head out of the pig-sty, and finding the kitchen garden completely deserted, he went into the house, the inhabitants of which greeted him first with some apprehension, but then, upon better knowledge of the situation, with great glee. A happy moment it was to me when I could telegraph to Mrs. Schimmelfennig, who was, with my family, at Bethlehem, Pa., that her husband, who had been reported missing after the first day's battle, had been found, sound and safe!
No contrast could have been gloomier than that between the light-hearted hilarity of our breakfast and my visit to the battlefield immediately following it. The rebels had removed many if not most of their dead, but ours lay still in ghastly array on the ground where they had fallen. There can be no more hideous sight than that of the corpses on a battlefield, after they have been exposed a day or more to the sun in warm weather the bodies swollen to monstrous size, the faces bloated and black, the eyes bulging out with a dead stare, all their features puffed out almost beyond recognition, some lying singly or in rows, others in heaps, having fallen over one another, some in attitudes of peaceful repose, others with arms raised, others in a sitting posture, others on their knees, others clawing the earth, many horribly distorted by what must have been a frightful death-struggle. Here I stood on the ground occupied by my division during that murderous conflict, around me the dead bodies of men who, but three days ago, had cheered me when I rode along their front, and whose greetings I had responded to with sincere affection, the features of some of whom I now succeeded in recognizing after a painful effort; some offlcers whom I had known well, with whom I had talked often, and who now lay here, struck down in the flower of their young manhood, now horrible to look at like the rest-and ovrer yonder, only a few paces away, some Confederate dead, whom their comrades had left on tbe field, now looking just like our men, and having in all probability died vith the same belief in the justice of their cause. Was it possible that anyof them should have been sincerely convinced of the righteousness of the cause they fought for-the cause of slavery? I had to say to myself that it was possible, and in many cases even certain; for did I not know from history that in many religious wars men had cut one another's throats vith the fierceness of fanatical conviction concerning differences of opinion on doctrina1 points which to-day would call forth from any educated person only a smile of pity? I rode away from this horrible scene in a musing state of mind, finally composing myself with the reaffirmed faith that in our struggle against slavery we could not possibly be wrong; that there was an imperative, indisputable necessity of fighting for our cause, that the belief of the rebels in the righteousness of their cause nught be ever so sincere, and that they might individually deserve ever so much credit for that sincerity, but that their error stood off ofensively in the way of justice, and that their challenge had to be met.
There were more harrowing experiences in store for me that day. To look after the wounded of my command, I visited the places where the surgeons were at work. At Bull Run, I had seen only on a very small scale what I was now to behold. At Gettysburg the wounded - many thousands of them - werecarried to the farmsteads behind our lines. The houses, the barns, the sheds, and the open barnyards were crowded with moaning and wailing human beings, and still an unceasing procession of stretchers and ambulances was coming in from all sides to augment the number of the sufferers. A heavy rain set in during the day-the usual rain after a battle-and large numbers had to remain unprotected in the open, there being no room left under roof. I saw long rows of men lying under the eaves of the buildings, the water pouring down upon their bodies in streams. Most of the operating tables were placed in the open where the light was best, some of them partially protected against the rain by tarpaulins or blankets stretched upon poles. There stood the surgeons, their sleeves rolled up to the elbows, their bare arms as well as their linen aprons smeared with blood, their knives not seldom held between their teeth, while they were helping a patient on or off the table, or had their hands otherwise occupied; around them pools of blood and amputated arms or legs in heaps, sometimes more than man-high. Antiseptic methods were still unknown at that time As a wounded man was lifted on the table, often shrieking with pain as the attendants handled him, the surgeon quickly examined the wound and resolved upon cutting off the injured limb. Some ether was administered and the body put in position in a moment. The surgeon snatched his knife from between his teeth, where it had been while his hands were busy, wiped it rapidly once or twice across his blood-stained apron, and the cutting began. The operation accomplished, the surgeon would look around with a deep sigh, and then - "Next!"
And so it went on, hour after hour, while the number of expectant patients seemed hardly to diminish. Now and then one of the wounded men would call attention to the fact that his neighbor lying on the ground had given up the ghost while waiting for his turn, and the dead body was then quietly removed. Or a surgeon, having been long at work, would put down his knife, exclaiming that his hand had grown unsteady, and that this was too much for human enduranc-not seldom hysterical tears streaming down his face. Many of the wounded men suffered with silent fortitude, fierce delermination in the knitting of their brows and the steady gaze of their bloodshot eyes. Some would even force themselves to a grim jest about their situation or about the " skedaddling of therebels." But there were, too, heart-rending groans and shrill cries of pain piercing the air, and despairing e:xclamations, "Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord!" or "Let me die!" or softer murmurings in which the words "mother " or "father" or "home" were often heard. I saw many of my command among the sufferers, whose faces I well remembered, and who greeted me with a look or even a painful smile of recognition, and usually with the question what I thought of their chances of life, or, whether I could do anything for them, sometimes, also, whether I thought the enemy were well beaten. I was sadly conscious that many of the words of cheer and encouragement I gave them were mere hollow sound, but they might be at least some solace for the moment.
There are people who speak lightly of war as a mere heroic sport. They would hardly find it in their hearts to do so, had they ever witnessed scenes like these, and thought of the untold miseries connected with them that were spread all over the land. He must be an inhuman brute or a slave of wild, unscrupulous ambition, who, having seen the horrors of war,will not admit that war brought on without the most absolute necessity, is the greatest and most unpardonable of crimes.
In the course of the day the great tidings came that General Grant had taken Vicksburg and made the whole garrison of that Confederate stronghold prisoners of war. That was a great victory-a complete victory-and great was the cheering along our lines when we heard of it. But there was also among many of the officers of the Army of the Potomac, deep-down, a depressing consciousness that ours was not, what it might have been, a complete victory. To be sure, we had fought a great battle-and fought it bravely; our losses were enormous, over twenty-five per cent of the whole force, and the losses of the enemy could hardly be less; we had disastrously repulsed a fierce attack of the Confederates and inflicted upon them a terrible blow. But now, on the day after that great event, there stood the enemy-having, indeed, withdrawn from the field fought over during the preceding three days, but only to concentrate his forces in a strong defensive position on that very Seminary Ridge from which he had been directing his offensive movements-there he stood, within sight of us, within cannonshot, grimly daring us to attack him, and we did not move. The situation seemed almost humiliating when we remembered that the day before, after the repulse of Pickett's charge, with three hours of daylight to spare, we might, by a resolute and vigorous counter-charge by our whole disposable force, have achieved a real victory over Lee's army, a victory which might have stopped this mainstay of the Confederacy of most of its power of mischief. I have always esteemed General Meade's character so highly that I am loath to join his critics on any point. But I have always understood it to be one of the first of the rules of war-which, in fact, are nothing but the rules of common sense applied to the business of war-that when you have dealt the enemy a blow which destroys his strength at some important point, and which confuses and demoralizes him so as to make him stagger-or, as the pugilists say, to render him "groggy"-you must follow up your advantage to the best of your ability, so as to reap its fruits. That we had dealt such a blow to Lee's army by the repulse of Pickett's charge we could see with our eyes. The attacking force of the rebels had not only been hurled back, but what was left of it had been turned into a disorderly and demoralized mob-that is, it had been substantially annihilated as a fighting body, much more apt to continue running than to offer effective resistance-for the time being, at least. On the other hand, we had one arny corps that had hardly been engaged at all, and several others which, in spite of the losses they had suffered, were in good fighting form and in unusually fine fighting spirits; for at that moment the Army of the Potomac-what had not often happened to it before-felt victory in its bones. In one word, the chances of success would have been decidedly and largely in our favror. It was one of those rare opportunities in war promising great results, but, to win them, demanding instant resolution. There being no instant resolution the great opportunity was lost. Lee was given ample time to rally and re-form his shattered host, and, contracting his lines, to establish himself in his strong defensive position on Seminary Ridge. There he stood-a whole day longer, like a wounded lion-wounded, but still defiant.
He gave the order to retreat across the Potomac on the afternoon of July 4th. There we had another opportunity to win great results by a vigorous pursuit. Lee's retreat was a difficult one, owing to his encumbrances and the heavy rains spoiling the roads. But our pursuit was not vigorous. We started the next day, exerted hardly any pressure at all upon his rear, marched by circuitous routes more or less paralle lwith Lee's line of retreat and when, after several days, we caught up with him in an entrenched position, we put off the attack long enough to give him time to withdraw his whole army across the river without any serious loss. Thus it happened that General Lee saved from the battlefield at Gettysburg an army still capable of giving many anxious hours to the defenders of the Union. Indeed, the political value of the results achieved at Gettysburg can hardly be overestimated. Had Lee defeated us on that battlefield, and marched with his victorious hosts upon Baltimore and Washington, there would have been complications of incalculable consequence. The lines of communication between the seat of our government and the North and West might have been seriously interrupted. A new secession movement might possibly have been started in Maryland. The disloyal partisan elements in the northern States might have been greatly encouraged to aggressive activity. New attempts might have been made in England and France to bring about the recognition of the Southern Confederacy by those powers, and eventual intervention in its favor. I am far from believing that all this would have resulted in the final breaking down of the Union cause, for the North would no doubt have risen to a supreme effort, but our situation would certainly have been beset with most perplexing troubles for a time, and the war might have been materially prolonged. On the other hand, Lee's failure at Gettysburg-if we call I tonly that-had dashed the highest hopes of the Southern people. The invasion of the North and the attempt to transplant the war upon Northern soil had so decidedly miscarried that so ambitious a plan would hardly again be thought of. The hopeof supplying the meager and constantly dwindling resources of the South with rich Northern spoil had to be given up forever. Moreover, Lee's army, which so far had thought itself invincible, and looked upon the Northern soldiers with haughty contempt, had been seriously weakened in the self-reliance which had inspired its daring in many battles. Thenceforth it felt itself on the defensive. And the defensive, although still formidable, was bound gradually to grow weaker as the Confederacy found it more and more difficult to fill the widening gaps in the ranks of its armies, and to furnish its fighting forces with the necessaries of warfare.
It has been a common saying that the capture of Vicksburg, giving us the free command of the Mississippi, and the battle of Gettysburg, forcing the best Southern army back upon Southern soil broke the backbone of the rebellion. This is substantially true. But it is equally true that, had our success at Gettysburg been so followed up as to destroy Lee's army, or at least to render it unable to keep the field, the war would probally have been a year shorter.
When General Lee had recrossed the Potomac, our army leisurely followed rather than pursued him upon the old, well trodden field of operations in Virginia. An amusing little adventure happened to me on that occasion. When we were passing through Loudoun County, Virginia, my division had the rear of the marching column, and I observed on a ridge of ground on our left, running nearly parallel with our line of march, at a distance of about two miles, groups of horsemen, who would quickly disappear again after having for a moment shown themselves. Owing to the distance we could not make out through our glasses whether they looked like Union or rebel cavalry, or guerrillas, of whom there were a good many in that part of Virginia, under their famous chief, Colonel Mosby. But it was my own opinion, as well as that of my staff officers, that they must be detachments of Union cavalry, charged with the duty of guarding the flank of the army on its march. This would have been the correct thing. Not having any cavalry to investigate the matter at a distance, I had to content myself with pushing out a little farther my infantry flanking parties and my rear guard. That night we camped at a place called Mountsville, where we were to rest two or three days. The next morning it was reported to me that Mosby's guerrillas were hovering all around us, and had already picked up some army vehicles and sutlers' wagons, as well as a number of stragglers.
At once I ordered out several strong infantry patrols to scour the country in all directions, and one of them I accompanied myself for the special purpose of establishing an outpost at a mill situated on a water-course, near which I had noticed on yesterday's march several loiterers of suspicious appearanec. I rode ahead of the patrol, accompanied by an officer of my staff, two orderlies, and my staff bugler. Light-heartedly we enjoyed the freshness of the morning.
To get to the mill we had to pass through a little defilc-a narrow, sunken road, slightly descending, and bordered on each side by an abrupt rise of ground covered with trees and underbrush. We had hardly entered this defile, when, at the lower end of it, perhaps two hundred yards ahead of us, we observed a troop of horsemen, ten or twelve of them, who advanced toward us. They looked rather ragged, and I took them for teamsters or similar folk. But one of my orderlies cried out: "There are the rebels!" And true enough, they were a band of Mosby's guerrillas. Now they came up at a gallop, and in a minute they were among us. While we whipped out our revolvers, I shouted to my bugler: "Sound the advance, double-quick!" which he did, and there was an instant "double quick" signal in response from the infantry patrol, still hidden by the bushes, but close behind us. We had a lively, but, as to my party, harmless conversation with revolvers for a few seconds, where upon the guerrillas, no doubt frightened by the shouts of the patrol coming on at a run, hastily turned tail and galloped down the road, leaving in our hands one prisoner and two horses. We sped after them, but as soon as they had cleared the defile they scattered over the fields, and were soon lost to sight in the ravines and among the timber-belts around. The infantry patrol, of course, could not overtake them, but it found in a sheltered nook, at a distance from the road, several army vehieles, two sutlers' wagons, and a lot of our stragglers that had been captured.
About ten years later, when I was a member of the Senate of the United States, I was one day passing through the greatvrotunda of the Capitol, and was stopped by an unknown person with the question: "General, do you remember me?" He was a man of middle stature, a lean, close-shaven face, and a somewhat high-pitched voice. I should have judged him to be a genuine Yankee, especially as I thought I detected in his speech something of the nasal twang usually attributed to the New Englander. I had to confess that I did not remember him. "Well," he replied; "but you surely recall a lively meeting you had with some of Mosby's men on a shady road near Mountsville, Loudoun County, Virginia, on a fine July morning in 1863! I am Colonel Mosby, and I was there. You and I were together at arm's length on that occasion. "Of course, there was a hearty handshake and a merry laugh. And we good-naturedly confessed to one another how delighted each one of us would have been to bag the other. Shortly after the close of the Civil War, Colonel Mosby, the nimble and daring marauder, who had often given us much annoyance, "accepted the situation," joined the Republiean party, and was employed by the Union Government in various capacities.During the summer weeks which followed, my command did not again come into contact with the enemy. We were occasionally shifted from one place to another, as the safety of the communications of the army required. We led, therefore, a rather dull life, but that period is especially memorable to me, because it was there that I committed a breach of discipline for which I might have been-and perhaps ought to have been-cashiered.
The case was this: A private in one of my regiments had been tried by court-martial for desertion, and, according to law, sentenced to death. I was directed to see to the execution of that sentence, for which a special day was appointed. It was reported to me that the culprit was a mere boy, who had been seduced to desert by two older men, bad characters, who succeeded in getting away, while he was caught. I was also informed that he had been in the custody of my provost-guard on the battlefield of Gettysburg, and I had an idea that if a soldier sentenced to death was brought under the fire of the enemy again, he was, according to military custom, relieved of that mortal sentence and entitled at least to some commutation of it. I went to see the poor fellow, and found him to be a young Bohemian, a remarkably handsome lad of hardly more than eighteen, who looked at me with the honest eyes of a child. He told me his side of the story of his desertion in a simple way, confirming what I had heard of his being taken with them by two much older comrades, and that he did not know how serious a thing it was, and how he had intended to come back, and how he would try to die bravely if die he must-but his mother-oh, his mother! The poor woman was a widow, and lived in.New York. She was not alone, and not destitute, but she loved him much, and would miss him dreadfully. I at once made up my mind that, in spite of my orders, I would not direct that boy to be shot, and that I would save him from being shot by anybody else if I could.
First, I tried the "regular official channels." I appealed to my immediate superior, my corps commander, General Howard, asking him for authority to put off the execution, and laying before him at the same time to be submitted to the WarDepartment my reasons for believing that the unfortunate young man should be pardoned. General Howard, with whom I talked the matter over personally, showed himself very sympathetic, but he told me that he had no power to suspend the order I was to execute. He would, however, forward my request to a higher authority, with a warm endorsement, which, no doubt, he did. The time set for the execution approached, but no answer from the War Department came. On the dreaded day I vas ordered to take my command from New Baltimore,Virginia, to some point the name of which I have forgotten, and the poor boy was to be shot at noon on the march. I was firmly resolved not to do it. I did not advise General Howard of my resolution, because I did not wish to involve him in my responsibility. We did, indeed, stop at noon, but merely to give the troops a little rest and time to cook and eat their midday meal. My poor culprit remained undisturbed. When we had gone into camp in the evening, I had him brought into my tent I told him that an effort was being made to save him, but that I did not know whether it would succeed. He expressed his gratitude with touching simplicity. He said that he expected to be shot that day, and that, when the column halted at noon, he was sure that his last moment on earth had come. But when he then heard the bugle signals, indicating that the troops were to be put in motion again, he suddenly wanted something to eat, and he felt a great joy in his heart which he was hardly able to repress; and would I permit him to write to his mother about it? It was hard for me to repeat to him that I could give him no definite assurance; but when the next morning no answer came from the War Department, I wrote to Mr. Lincoln directly again in disregard of all the rules and regulations submitting to him a full statement of the case, and asking him to pardon the boy. Then I had not long to wait for a response. The pardon came promptly, and the boy was sent back to his regiment.
The whole affair was hushed up quietly. My insubordinate conduct passed without official notice, and I never heard of the matter again until nearly forty years later, when at one of the annual banquets held by the "Eleventh Corps Association," composed of survivors of the war, an elderly man, apparently a well-to-do mechanic, was brought to me, who introduced himself as the "deserter" condemned to death, and whose life I had saved in the summer of 1863,
During these comparatively quiet weeks after such arduous campaigns the matter of the reorganization of the Army of the Potomac came naturally to the foreground. In consequence of the casualties of the war, many of the regiments had become reduced to mere skeletons. My division, for instance, which, had all the regiments composing it been up to their original number, would have been 10,000 men strong, counted after the battle of Gettysburg hardly more than 1500 muskets. And many other commands were in a similar condition. The return from the hospitals or from furlough of men who had been wounded or sick, gradually repleted the ranks somewhat, but far from sufficiently, and the few recruits who were furnished us through conscription and the lavish bounty system, were in large part of a character by no means desirable. We became familiarly acquainted with the "bounty-jumper," the fellow who pocketed considerable sums of money in selling himself for service as a soldier, and then would desert on the first favorable occasion, to play the same game again, at a different place and under a different name.
The task of army-reorgaruzation brought to the front the question what would be done with the Eleventh Corps. The conduct of the corps on the battlefield at Gettysburg should have silenced the voice of detraction which had malignantly pursued it ever since it had been made the scapegoat of the Chancellorsville disaster. To be sure, we had again had the misfortune of being opposed, on the first day, to a vastly superior force of the enemy, in an unfavorable position, and we had been beaten, together with the First Corps. But we had held our ground a considerable time in a terrible fight, which inflicted enormous losses upon us, and then, after a short but very difficult retreat through the streets of a town filled with all sorts of obstructions, we instantly re-formed our thinned ranks, ready to fight again. On the next two days our men endured the great cannonade with exemplary firmness, manfully repelled the attacks made upon them, and whenever ordered, rushed with alacrity to the points where aid was required. No troops could have done their duty better. The defamatory persecution of theEleventh Corps might then have ceased. But it did not. The "foreign legion," as it was dubbed, was to serve as a scapegoat again for the retreat of the First Corps from a battlefield which could no longer be held against overwhelnung numbers. How far this campaign of slander would go in its absolutely unscrupulous disregard of the truth, and how tenaciously the original calumny was stuck to, appears from a description of the battle of Gettysburg published by General Charles King, an officer of the regular army, over thirty years after the event.There we are told that while in the first day's battle the First Corps was making an heroic stand against the reinforced rebels, the Eleventh Corps was "losing its hold on the northward front", that "its foreign-born, foreign-bred brigadiers were giving way before the natives sweeping down upon them in those long graylines", and that, " just as at Chancellorsville, one sturdy Ohio brigade-McLean's command, now led by Ames was making stanch but futile stand against the onward rush of Early and Gordon." To characterize the cool effrontery of this tale I have only to remind my reader of the fact that at Chancellorsville McLean's brigade was at once swept away by the first onset of Jackson's attack, that the division on our extreme right at Chancellorsville, the first to be driven in, was commanded by General Devens of Massachusetts, a native, and his strongest brigade by General McLean, also a native, while only his smallest brigade had Colonel Gilsa, a foreign brigadier, at its head; that the only real fighting at Chancellorsville, which for about an hour delayed Jackson's progress, was done by" foreignbrigadiers," Schimmelfennig and Krzyzanowski of Schurz's division, and Buschbeck of Steinwehr's division; and that on the first Gettysburg day the "foreign brigadiers " did not leave the "native" Ohio brigade in the lurch, but that, on the contrary, the "foreign brigadiers" withdrew from the field even a little later than the Ohio brigade, after a valiant struggle, had found itself obliged to retreat.
The corps still continued to be used as a convenient scapegoat for all sorts of mishaps with which it had absolutely nothing to do. Officers and men still complained of being exposed to outrageous indignities. This went so far that in some instances the commanders of reinforcements that were to be attached to the corps, loudly protested against being identified with it on account of its "reputation." I had long been in favor of maintaining the identity of the corps, and of "braving it out." But the situation gradually became unendurable. Something had to be done, in justice to the officers and men-either to dissolve and distribute the corps among other organizations, or to take it in some way out of this noxious atmosphere.
I discussed the matter with Generals Howard and Meade, who both agreed that I should go to Washington to lay before General Halleck, who was then still in command of the Armies of the United States, the scheme proposed by me and recommended by them. The proposition was to attach two of the three divisions of the Eleventh Corps to other corps, and to send me with my division, to be reinforced by other troops available for that purpose, to Shenandoah Valley, to guard that important region, which had repeatedly been, and was again to be, the theater of rebel operations on the right flank and rear of theArmy of the Potomac. Introducing me, General Howard wrote to General Halleck:" In case the proposition of General Meade, which was telegraphed today, respecting the Eleventh Corps, should be acted upon as desired, General Schurz would be left with an independent division. In furtherance of his own views, which he will present in person, I wish to say that the General has been prompt, energetic, and able during the operations in which I have been associated with him. Should you see fit to occupy the Shenandoah Valley with a small force, so as to co-operate with this army and prevent its occupancy by the rebels, I believe I do not flatter him when I say that General Schurz will not fail to give complete satisfaction." In the same letter, General Howard said: "We feel sensitive under false accusations, but considering the existing prejudices in this army against the Eleventh Corps, and the great difficulty overcoming them, we regard it better for the service to make the changes. The different corps are now so small that a consolidation is advisable. Personally, it will be gratifying to me to return to the Second Corps, but I do not feel dissatisfied with the Eleventh during the present campaign, and hope the changes referred to will not be regarded as reflection upon the officers and soldiers of this command, who have worked so hard and done so much to carry out every order."
All I could obtain from General Halleck was that he would take the matter into consideration. Nothing more was heard of it. The Eleventh Corps was not dissolved. It was, however, reinforced by the assignment to it of several regiments, enough of which were added to my division to enable me to form three brigades. One of these remained under the command of Colonel Krzyzanowski. The second was given to the senior colonel after him, Colonel Hecker, and the third, the old brigade of General Schimmelfennig, who was transferred to the army besieging Charleston, to a new-comer, General Hector Tyndale.
When I first saw General Tyndale, with his proud mien, his keen eye, his severely classic features framed in a brown curly beard, it struck me that so Coriolanus might have looked. A closer acquaintance with him gradually ripened into friendship. He was a few years older than I, and had already a remarkable record behind him. He was the son of a merchant in Philadelphia, and a business man himself. Although without an academic education, his appearance and conversation were those of a man of culture. His was the natural refinement of a mind animated with high ideals, pure principles, perfect honesty of intelligence, a chivalrous sense of honor, and, added to all this, artistic instinct. He had been a warm anti-slavery man, but not an extreme abolitionist. He disapproved of John Brown'sattempt at slave-insurrection. But when John Brown's wife appeared in Philadelphia looking for an escort to accompany her on a last visit to her husband, in jail in Virginia under sentence of death, Hector Tyndale chivalrously offered his services' thus braving not only the fury of the mob surrounding John Brown's prison, but also the violent prejudice of his own neighbors. The news of the breaking out of our Civil War found him on a business journey in Europe, but he instantly, at great sacrifice, hastened home to enter the volunteer army. He was made 1 major in the Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania Regiment, and won promotion by efficient service on various fields. At Antietam he was severely wounded in the head, and obtained the rank of a brigadier-general for conspicuous bravery in action, Having recovered after long prostration, he was assigned to my division. As a strict disciplinarian, he was, as frequently happens, at first not popular with his soldiers, but they gradually perceived that his apparent sternness sprang from an overruling sense of duty and a conscientious care for their welfare, and then their respect turned into affection. It was this rigid, relentless, uncompromising sense of duty which years later, after he had returned to private life, made his fellow-citizens in Philadelphia more than once look to him when the civic situation demanded the services of men of uncompromising rectitude and indomitable moral courage. He never was a popular man, in the ordinary sense, for he would often appear haughty from his moral sensitiveness, and distant, owing to his very nature. Only his near friends enjoyed the real loveliness of his character. He was an aristocrat by taste, and a true democrat by principle and sympathy. I have known few men who so nearly approached the current conception of antique virtue and the ideal of the republican citizen. He died in 1880, not yet sixty years old.
Reminiscences, by Carl Schurz. McClure and Company, 1907