"SEVEN DAYS AROUND RICHMOND."
Reminiscences Of The Army Of Northern Virginia
By J. William Jones
Southern Historical Society Papers
Vol IX. Richmond, Va., Oct., Nov And Dec., 1881. Nos. 10, 11 & 12.
The memorable 27th day of June, 1862, found our column in motion at an early hour, and as my own regiment (the Thirteenth Virginia Infantry), under its heroic Colonel, J.A. Walker, was in the advance of Ewell's division and Jackson's corps, I had a very favorable opportunity of seeing and hearing much of interest that occurred on that bloody but glorious day.
A friend gave me a very vivid description of a meeting between Lee, Jackson and A.P. Hill on the roadside not far from Walnut Grove Church. General Lee sat on a cedar stump; Jackson and Hill stood around him; the staff officers of each gathered in groups hard by, and the three conversed in earnest undertones as Lee gave his Lieutenants their final instructions. I did not have the privilege of witnessing this scene, but I saw all three of them during the day, and could well imagine what a grand subject for the painter's brush the picture presented. I had seen General Lee only once before -- the day on which he came from Washington to Richmond to offer his stainless sword to the land that gave him birth and the State to which his first allegiance was due. Then his raven hair and mustache were only slightly silvered. Now the cares of the past twelve months had whitened his hair and full beard, and he seemed at least twenty years older. As I gazed that day upon this splendid figure, five feet eleven inches high, and weighing 175 pounds, clad in a uniform of simple gray, with only the stars which every Confederate Colonel was entitled to wear, and saw those brown hazel eyes, that beaming countenance, and the whole bearing of that "king of men," as he gracefully mounted his charger and quietly rode to the front, I was fully impressed with the idea that I had seen one every inch a soldier, who was prepared to handle with signal ability the splendid army under his command, and lead it to glorious victory.
"Old Jack" I have described before, but as I saw him that day in his dingy uniform, covered with the dust of the Valley, his faded cadet cap tilting on his nose, mounted on his old sorrel, nibbling a lemon and seeming to me to be in a very bad humor as he gave his sharp, crisp orders, and was evidently very impatient at the delay in the march of his column, I felt sure that the "foot cavalry" had bloody work before them, and that their iron chief did not mean to spare them.
I shall never forget A.P. Hill as he appeared that day. I had known him as the West Point cadet, "at home on furlough," whose bright buttons and gay uniform had attracted my boyish fancy. I had met him as the young artillery officer, whose athletic frame, handsome face, and noble bearing won the admiration of all. I had seen him in the full flush of a bridegroom's happiness, when he had just led to the altar the beautiful and accomplished sister of General John H. Morgan, and I had been one of his most enthusiastic admirers when he was Colonel of the old Thirteenth Virginia. But, as I saw him on that historic field, dressed in a fatigue jacket of gray flannel, his felt hat slouched over his noble brow, sitting his horse with easy grace, glancing with eagle eye along his column as it hurried past him into battle, and yet taking time from his pressing duties to give me a warm grasp of the hand and a cordial greeting as he inquired after "the boys of the old Thirteenth," I was more impressed than ever before with his soldierly bearing, and said to a friend, as he rode off, "Little Powell will do his full duty today." There was on Hill's staff a splendidly dressed officer who attracted my attention, and on inquiry I found that he was none other than the famous editor of the Richmond Examiner, John M. Daniel, who was destined to be wounded quite severely that day and have fresh gall added to his trenchant pen.
But the columns move on, and about 2 P.M., A.P. Hill encountered the enemy again near New Cold Harbor, and immediately formed his line of battle and "went in" with his glorious Light Division, and for about two hours bore the brunt of the battle alone and with unsurpassed heroism. Jackson had been delayed by a mistake of his guides and other causes, and Longstreet was held back until Jackson's guns should be heard. But just as General Lee had ordered Longstreet to go to Hill's relief, Jackson also got into position and the battle was joined along the whole front of Gaines' Mill and Cold Harbor. I shall not go into the details of the battle. Suffice it to say that the Federal position was a very strong one; that the intrenchments, skillfully constructed, added greatly to its natural strength; that General Fitz John Porter, who was in immediate command on the field made a most able and heroic fight, and that it was only with severe loss that we succeeded finally in carrying every position, capturing fourteen pieces of artillery and driving the enemy in great confusion from the field.
Let me now give some incidents of the battle more in accord with my design than detailed descriptions of the movements or achievements of corps or divisions.
As the head of Jackson's column was moving rapidly forward to reach its position, another column was seen moving at right angles to our line of march, and General Whiting galloped back and reported that it was the enemy; but after some delay it was ascertained that it was D.H. Hill's column, and Jackson was almost rude to Whiting as he ordered his men forward again. The guide, who was thoroughly familiar with the country, had not been sufficiently informed of Jackson's purpose, and was leading him on a road by Gaines' Mill to Cold Harbor, when Jackson discovered the mistake and counter marched so as to reach Cold Harbor by a road which would leave Gaines' Mill to the right. This consumed time, but even after Jackson got into position he delayed his attack in the hope that Hill and Longstreet would drive McClellan -- that he would retreat toward the White House, and that he would thus have opportunity of striking him in flank. But finally he saw that the enemy was not being driven, and ordered D.H. Hill and Ewell to go in, at the same time sending back orders to his other brigade commanders to move at once en echelon and engage the enemy wherever found. Unfortunately the staff officer who bore this message misunderstood its purport, and told each brigade commander that he must "wait for further orders," so that in the very crisis of the battle six brigades of his best troops (numbering some twelve thousand) were standing as idle spectators until Jackson's Adjutant General, Rev. R.L. Dabney, discovered and rectified the mistake. An eye witness reports that about an hour before sundown he found Jackson in a state of excitement such as he never saw him in before or since. He was under the impression that his last reserve brigade had gone in, and was intensely chagrined, and annoyed that the enemy had not been driven from his position. "Jeb " Stuart in his fighting jacket was near by, and Jackson proposed that he should concentrate all of his cavalry and make a grand cavalry charge, but Stuart shook his head and replied: "Too many cannon." But he called Jackson's attention to the fact that all of his artillery on the left was idle -- that none were firing save Pelham (the heroic "boy artillerist ") -- and staff officers were sent to order every battery to move into action, and to continue firing as long as the battle lasted. A message came from General Lee, and Jackson had scarcely uttered his crisp "Very well!" when he suddenly wheeled his horse and said to the gallant Captain Pendleton of his staff: "Go to the line and see all of the commanders. Tell them this thing has hung in suspense too long; sweep the field with the bayonet."
Pendleton galloped off on his perilous mission, but had hardly gotten out of sight when a ringing "rebel yell" ran along our whole line and proclaimed that our reserves had gotten fully into action -- that the enemy were being driven from the field, and that the victory was ours. Darkness closed in upon the scene, and there followed a night with the wounded, and a mourning for the gallant dead.
General McClellan speaks of our forces in this battle as embracing "overwhelming numbers," and this theory is adopted by most Northern writers on the subject. But the "field returns" of both armies, and a careful computation of the figures of the official reports on both sides show that at the beginning of the battle Lee had under his command, of all arms, 80,284 men, while the official returns of the Army of the Potomac show that General McClellan had present for duty on the 20th day of June, 1882, 115,102, but as this return included General Dix's command of over nine thousand men at Fort Monroe, it is perfectly safe to say that McClellan had before Richmond, when the battle opened, one hundred and five thousand men with which to oppose Lee's eighty thousand.
We had about fifty two thousand on the north side of the Chickahominy and twenty eight thousand in the trenches on the south side.
We have no means at hand of determining the numbers of the Army of the Potomac actually engaged at Gaines' Mill and Cold Harbor, but this much we may confidently affirm: If with a superiority of force in all of at least twenty five thousand and with his bridges secure and his communications intact, McClellan allowed his brave lieutenant, Fitz John Porter, to be "overwhelmed by superior numbers," he was guilty of a worse blunder than his bitterest critics have ever charged against him.
It must be remembered, also, that the strong positions which Porter held, his skillfully constructed intrenchments, and the able handling of his powerful artillery went a long way towards making the odds greatly in his favor. I remember that on riding over the field the next day several of the positions seemed to me well nigh impregnable, and even Jackson exclaimed when he saw the position which Hood's Texans had carried: "These men are soldiers indeed" Two years later, when Lee's veterans occupied these same positions, Grant's powerful army surged against them in vain. General Lee sent the following dispatch to Richmond the night of the battle:
Headquarters, June 27, 1862.
His Excellency, President Davis:
Mr. President; -- Profoundly grateful to Almighty God for the signal victory granted to us, it is my pleasing task to announce to you the success achieved by this army today. The enemy was this morning driven from his strong position behind Beaver Dam Creek, and pursued to that behind Powhite Creek, and finally, after a severe contest of five hours, entirely repulsed from the field. Night put an end to the contest.
I grieve to state that our loss in officers and men is great. We sleep on the field, and shall renew the contest in the morning.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully,
R. E. Lee, General.
The reception of the news of our great victory at Cold Harbor and Gaines' Mill by the people of Richmond may be better imagined than described. All day long the sound of the conflict echoed through the city, and old men, women and children crowded on the tops of the houses or on the neighboring hills where they could distinguish the smoke of the battle and hear even the rattle of the musketry. Soon the stream of wounded began to pour in, and tidings of a great victory to spread through the city and cause general rejoicing, which was only marred by mourning for the gallant dead and anxiety for the wounded, many of whom belonged to Richmond families. I can never forget the scene presented at our field hospitals that night. Our victory had been purchased at a fearful cost of life and limb, and the sight of the dead and wounded (comparatively new to us then, but alas! fearfully common afterwards) affected to tears strong men "unused to the melting mood." My own regiment (the Thirteenth Virginia) carried into that fight 301 men, and lost 157 of them killed and wounded, and I remember that when our sturdy Colonel (J.A. Walker, afterwards a distinguished General,) saw so many of his brave fellows lying dead or wounded, his frame shook with emotion and he wept like a child. I could fill columns with incidents of that fearful night. I have space for only one or two. There were in my old company (the "Louisa Blues") when we entered the service, five brothers named Trice, the sons of a widowed mother. One of them was discharged in the autumn of 1861 on account of ill health, but against his own earnest protest. He at once went to the Fifty sixth Virginia regiment, joined another Louisa company, was wounded twice at Fort Donaldson, but refused to leave the field until he was at last shot through the heart while acting with most conspicuous gallantry. At Gaines' Mill two others of the brothers were instantly killed and fell side by side. Another had been sent to the rear with some prisoners whom he had captured on the advance skirmish line, but he turned over his prisoners to someone else more willing to remain in the rear, and he himself hurried to the front. Failing to find his own regiment, and seeing the Fifty sixth Virginia about to go into the charge, he asked permission to take the place of his brother who fell at Donaldson, and went with them into the thickest of the fight where he was wounded five times and refused to leave the field until he fell insensible. This brave fellow afterwards recovered so far that, although he lost one of his eyes and was so severely wounded in the leg that he could not march on foot, he joined a cavalry company and did valiant service to the close of the war. It was a touching scene to see the fifth brother, himself severely wounded, ministering to his brother who was supposed to be mortally hurt, and preparing the bodies of his two dead brothers to send home to his widowed mother.
And I remember five other brothers in the Orange C.H. Company, two of whom were killed and one wounded in this battle, and all of whom were killed before the close of the war.
We were very illy provided with hospital stores, many of our surgeons were inexperienced, some of them utterly incompetent; and my heart bleeds afresh at the remembrance of the sufferings of our poor fellows, which might have been sooner alleviated with a better organization. And if the sufferings of our own men were great those of the large number of the wounded of the enemy who fell into our hands were necessarily greater. General Lee's orders were to "treat the whole field alike," and to care for friend and foe without distinction, and we did the best we could, but with our limited number of surgeons and scant supply of hospital stores and appliances, it was impossible to attend promptly to all, and it were too great a task on human nature not to attend to our friends first. Yet, if I had not lost afterwards the diary kept at the time I could give the names of a number of Federal soldiers to whom I ministered, and who. if now living, would remember the "rebel chaplain" who dressed their wounds, shared with them his rations, and, while seeking to give them spiritual comfort, carefully avoided speaking any word which might offend "Union" ears.
But I must hurry on with my narrative. "The situation" on the morning of the 28th of June was peculiar and somewhat problematical. McClellan still largely outnumbered Lee, and it seemed doubtful whether he would throw his whole force, by the lower bridges, to the north side of the Chickahominy and give battle again for his base at the White House -- boldly strike for the capture of Richmond by attacking the lines held by Magruder in the hope of carrying them before Lee could come to their help -- or retreat to a new base on the James.
Northern historians have severely criticised McClellan for not adopting the second plan, which they assert would have secured the capture of Richmond, and some Southern writers have concurred in this view. Even General Magruder seems to have had serious apprehensions on this point, for he says in his official report: "I considered the situation of our army as extremely critical and perilous. The larger part of it was on the opposite side of the Chickahominy, the bridges had all been destroyed, but one was rebuilt, and there were but twenty five thousand men between his -- General McClellan's -- army of one hundred thousand men and Richmond." But General Lee seems to have had no such apprehensions, as he remarked on General Magruder's report: "General Magruder is under a misapprehension as to the separation of the troops operating on the north side of the Chickahominy from those under himself and General Huger on the south side. * * * The troops on the two sides of the river were only separated until we succeeded in occupying the position near what is known as New Bridge, which occurred before 12 o'clock M. on Friday, June 27th, and before the attack on the enemy at Gaines' Mill.
From the time we reached the position referred to, I regarded communication between the two wings of our army as reestablished.
The bridge referred to, and another about three quarters of a mile above, were ordered to be repaired before noon on Friday, and the New Bridge was sufficiently rebuilt to be passed by artillery on Friday night, and the one above it was used for the passage of wagons, ambulances and troops early on Saturday morning.
Besides this, all other bridges above New Bridge, and all the fords above that point, were open to us."
The simple truth is that the works in front of Richmond, as then manned, were impregnable to direct assault, and if McClellan had tried it he would have sustained a bloodier repulse than Grant received at Cold Harbor two years later, and meantime General Lee would have so moved the victorious columns of Jackson, Longstreet, Stuart and the Hills as to have cut off all hope of a successful retreat. He acted very wisely in determining to retreat, and he certainly planned and conducted the movement with consummate ability.
I shall not enter upon any detailed description of those days of retreat, pursuit, and battle, but shall rather confine myself to several salient points, and to some incidents of those stirring scenes. The loaded train of ammunition which an engine with full steam on hurled into the Chickahominy, amid the explosion of hundreds of shells; vast camps with their burning debris; vast Federal hospitals with their thousands of wounded; stores of every description half burned; thousands of stands of small arms; abandoned cannon, wagons, pontoon trains, etc., all told of a vast army making a hasty retreat. The uncertainty of McClellan's intentions, the wooded character of the country, the ignorance of our officers of the topography and the failure of some of his subordinates to carry out his orders, all put General Lee at great disadvantage, gave McClellan twenty four hours the start, and saved his army from utter destruction.
General Jackson was delayed by the necessity of rebuilding Grapevine bridge over the Chickahominy, and did not put his column in motion until "early dawn" of the 29th. It was on this occasion that the incident occurred in which figured Captain C.R. Mason -- widely known in Virginia as "the Napoleon of railroad contractors" -- whom Jackson had attached to his staff as chief of pioneers. Anxious to build the bridge and join in the pursuit of the enemy, Jackson sent for Mason, told him his wishes, and ordered him to be ready to begin the bridge, "so soon as the engineers could prepare the plan and specifications." The veteran bridge builder at once replied: "Never mind the pictures, General! If you will just send me men enough who will wade in the water and tote poles, I will have the bridge ready by the time the engineers can prepare the pictures." Jackson cordially seconded his efforts, the bridge was ready in a marvelously short time, and the "foot cavalry " were again on the road. But the swamps of the Chickahominy were very different from the firm ground of the Shenandoah Valley. McClellan obstructed the roads by every possible device, and our progress was very slow.
Had General Lee's plans been carried out on June 30th at Frazier's farm, instead of the heroic fight which Longstreet and A.P. Hill were compelled to make against overwhelming odds, and with long doubtful result, Jackson's corps would have crossed White Oak Swamp at a point which would have planted them firmly on the enemy's flank and rear, and Malvern Hill and Harrison's Landing would never have become historic.
"Even great Homer sometimes nods," and even Stonewall Jackson was not infallible. General Wade Hampton insisted that he could force the crossing of the swamp, and the passage of Colonel Munford with his cavalry regiment across at one point and back at another proved that Hampton was right; but Jackson contented himself with a feeble effort to repair the bridge, and remained all day an idle spectator of the gallant fight by which Hill and Longstreet finally drove the enemy from this field to the much stronger position of Malvern Hill. I have heard a number of our ablest military critics speak of this, and they did not hesitate to declare that Jackson made here a great blunder. The question is so interesting that I give the explanation of Jackson's warm personal friend and chosen biographer (Rev. Dr. R.L. Dabney, who was then serving on his staff.) He says (page 466):
"On this occasion, it would appear, if the vast interests dependent on General Jackson's cooperation with the proposed attack upon the centre were considered, that he came short of that efficiency in action for which he was everywhere else noted. Surely the prowess of the Confederate infantry might have been trusted, for such a stake as Lee played for that day, to do again what it had so gloriously done, for a stake no greater, on the 27th; it might have routed the Federal infantry and artillery at once, without the assistance of its own cannon. Two columns pushed with determination across the two fords at which the cavalry of Munford passed over and returned -- the one in the center, and the other at the left -- and protected in their onset by the oblique fire of a powerful artillery, so well posted on the right, would not have failed to dislodge Franklin from a position already half lost. The list of casualties would indeed have been larger than that presented on the 30th, of one cannoneer mortally wounded. But how much shorter would have been the bloody list filled up next day at Malvern Hill? This temporary eclipse of Jackson's genius was probably to be explained by physical causes. The labor of the previous days, the sleeplessness, the wear of gigantic cares, with the drenching of the comfortless night, had sunk the elasticity of his will, and the quickness of his invention, for the once, below their wonted tension. And which of the sons of men is there so great as never to experience this? The words that fell from Jackson's lips, as he lay down that night among his staff, showed that he was conscious of depression. After dropping asleep from excessive fatigue, with his supper between his teeth, he said: 'Now, gentlemen, let us at once to bed, and rise with the dawn, and see if tomorrow we cannot do something.'"
But, alas! the golden opportunity had passed. McClellan had done something. He had concentrated on Malvern Hill his powerful artillery, and had so disposed his infantry as to make this the strongest position yet assaulted by either army.
Malvern Hill commanded all of the approaches to it and all of the surrounding country, so that while McClellan had three hundred pieces of artillery in position to belch forth their thunder and hurl missiles of destruction on every side, and his gunboats guarded his left flank and throw into our ranks immense projectiles, which our boys called "lamp- posts," the Confederates were able to use only a few guns. Still McClellan's army was dispirited by disaster and retreat, while Lee's was flushed with victory. The Commander in Chief felt confident of success, and issued orders for a general and simultaneous attack to be opened by Magruder and D.H. Hill. But Magruder was misdirected by his guide and was late getting into position. Hill mistook the signal, and, attacking alone, displayed distinguished gallantry only to meet a bloody repulse. Magruder attacked later and with the same result. Some ground was gained, mistakes were rectified, and preparations made for a more determined assault, which must have carried the position; but darkness suspended the battle, and at 10 o'clock McClellan began to withdraw and to resume his retreat to Harrison's Landing. Our loss here was about five thousand men, and though technically a Confederate victory (since we held the battlefield and buried the enemy's dead), yet there was a general feeling in the army that we did not pine after any more such victories.
But the thunders of Malvern Hill and the groans of the wounded and the dying could not deprive our people of that propensity for a practical joke which seemed inherent in the average Confederate soldier, and several very amusing incidents occurred. Jackson's chief of staff was Rev. Dr. R.L. Dabney, one of the ablest divines in the South, whose conspicuous gallantry is so well known, that he will, I am sure, pardon me for repeating a joke I heard at his expense. Soon after he came to Jackson, about the beginning of the Valley campaign, a swearing Colonel had said that he meant to go and hear that man preach as often as he could, "for," said he "he is not any more afraid of bullets than the rest of us sinners, and besides he preaches like the very dl!" And General Ewell, after hearing him preach on the heavenly rest, exclaimed, as he saw him one day conducting a battery into position under heavy fire: "Ha! it seems the prospect of getting quickly to his rest is no more cheering to him than to us reprobates." (Ewell was then a very hard swearer, but he afterwards became an earnest Christian and a devout churchman.) A few days before the battles around Richmond. Dr. Dabney preached a sermon in which he took strong Calvinistic grounds on special Providence, and told the men that they need not dodge in the battle, since every shot and shell, and bullet, sped on its way under the guidance of a special Providence, and hit just where and just whom the loving Father, who watches the fall of the sparrow, and numbers the hairs on the heads of his saints, should direct.
A distinguished officer told me that during the battle of Malvern Hill he had occasion to report to General Jackson, and after hunting for some time found him and his staff under one of the heaviest fires he had ever experienced. Soon Jackson directed those about him to dismount and shelter themselves, and Dr. Dabney found a place behind a large and very thick oak gate post, where he sat bolt upright with his back against the post. Just then there came up Major Hugh Nelson, of Ewell's staff -- a gallant gentleman and a devout churchman, who had heard Dr. Dabney's sermon, and whose theological views did not fully indorse its doctrine -- and, taking in the situation at a glance, rode direct for the gate post of "Stonewall's" Chief of Staff, and giving him the military salute coolly said: "Dr. Dabney, every shot, and shell, and bullet is directed by the God of battles, and you must pardon me for expressing my surprise that you should want to put a gate post between you and special Providence."
The good Doctor at once retorted: "No! Major, you misunderstand the doctrine I teach. And the truth is, that I regard this gate post as a special providence, under present circumstances."
Just before the opening of the battle two preachers who had come to see after friends in the army, ventured up to our front lines without realizing that they were liable to be under a heavy fire. But when the cannonade opened they discovered that they had duties in the rear, and started back in a brisk walk, which was finally quickened to a run through a wheat field, as the hurtling shells burst all around them. One of them was a very small man, and the other quite large, and as they retreated through the troops some wag of a fellow raised the cry, "Run little preacher -- the big preacher'll catch you," and the rest at once caught up the refrain and sang it to an old negro melody as long as they were in hearing --
Run little preacher,
The big preacher'll catch you."
But, perhaps, the grimmest joke of the occasion was the one which General Lee got off at the expense of General Magruder -- as gallant a gentleman as ever drew saber, and one whose courtly manners won for him the sobriquet of "Prince John." Magruder had been unfortunate the day before; his guide had misdirected him and he got up late and his attack was made at too late an hour to secure promised support. Yet he felt that his brave fellows, who had so long baffled McClellan at Yorktown, were capable of driving him from Malvern Hill, and he burned for the privilege of trying it again. Accordingly, about two o'clock in the morning, the day after the battle, he sought General Lee and said: "General, I came to submit a proposition to you. If you will allow me to charge those heights at daybreak with my whole command, I pledge you my honor as a soldier to carry them at the point of the bayonet."
General Lee replied with that quiet twinkle which always betokened something good: "I have no doubt that you could now do so, General; but I have one very serious objection to your making the attempt." "What is that? What is that" exclaimed Magruder, who hoped to remove the objection, and saw glory and honor in the present opportunity. "I am afraid," replied General Lee, "that you might hurt my little friend Major Kidder Meade; our friends, the enemy, left some time ago, and he is over there reconnoitering."
The testimony of all the army correspondents, of citizens along the route, and of the officers of the Army of the Potomac themselves, is that the retreat to Harrison's Landing was very precipitate, and that the army arrived there in a very demoralized condition.
Stuart got possession of the heights which completely commanded the camps at Westover, and which, if occupied and entrenched by infantry and artillery, would have compelled McClellen to surrender at discretion all of the men he could not hurriedly send off on transports. General Stuart's "Notes on the War," on file in the archives of the Southern Historical Society, prove this. But it may be best to show it from Federal authority.
General McClellan wrote to the Adjutant General, at Washington, on the night of the battle of Malvern Hill, as follows:
"My men are completely exhausted, and I dread the result if we are attacked today by fresh troops. If possible, I shall retire tonight to Harrison's Bar, where the gunboats can render more aid in covering our position. Permit me to urge that not an hour should be lost in sending me fresh troops. More gunboats are much needed."
The "Committee on the Conduct of the War" says in their report:
"The retreat of the army from Malvern Hill to Harrison's Bar was very precipitate. The troops, upon their arrival there, were huddled together in great confusion, the entire army being collected within a space of about three miles along the river. No orders were given the first day for occupying the height, which commanded the position. Nor were the troops so placed as to be able to resist an attack by the enemy; and nothing but a heavy rain thereby preventing the enemy from bringing up their artillery, saved the army there from destruction. The enemy did succeed in bring up some of their artillery, and threw some shells into the camp before any preparations for defense had been made."
"On the 3d of July the heights were taken possession of by our troops, and works of defence commenced, and then, and not until then, was our army secure in that position." (Extract from the ' Report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War " (United States Congress), part I, page 27.)
General Casey testified as follows:
"The enemy had come down with some artillery upon our army massed together on the river, the heights commanding the position not being in our possession. Had the enemy come down and taken possession of these heights, with a force of twenty or thirty thousand men, they would, in my opinion, have taken the whole of our army, except that small portion of it that might have got on the transports. I felt very much alarmed for the army until we had got possession of those heights and fortified them. After that it was a strong position." (Ibid, page 446.)
These heights would have been occupied and intrenched by our infantry and artillery, but Stuart -- dashing, gallant, glorious "Jeb." Stuart -- could not resist the temptation of "stirring them up," and so soon as his advance cavalry squadrons reached these heights he sent for Pelham, the heroic "boy artillerist," and a section of his horse artillery, which he ordered to open on the camps. The confusion in McClellan' camps showed how completely these hills commanded them, but it at the same time showed McClellan that he must occupy those hills or all was lost. Stuart was momentarily expecting Longstreet, and resisted the strong force sent to dislodge him until Pelham had fired his last round, and then he learned to his chagrin that Longstreet had again been misled by his guide and was six miles away. There was nothing left him but to withdraw, chuckling over the confusion he had produced in the camps of the enemy. General Lee's orders were for an unmediate attack on McClellan's position, but Jackson, who reached the field first, decided, after a careful reconnoissance, that the position was too strong to be assaulted and took the responsibility to order a halt. which General Lee reluctantly approved. Thus ended the seven days of battle. In General Lee's congratulatory order, dated July 7, 1862, he says:
"The General commanding, profoundly grateful to the only Giver of victories for the signal success with which he has blessed our arms, tenders his earnest thanks and congratulations to the army, by whose valor such splendid results have been achieved. On Thursday, June 26, the powerful and splendidly equipped army of the enemy was intrenched in works vast in extent and formidable in character, within sight of our capital. Today the remains of that confident and threatening host lie upon the banks of the James River, thirty miles from Richmond, seeking to recover, under the protection of his gun boats, from the effects of his series of disastrous defeats. * * * * * The immediate fruits of our success are the relief of Richmond from a state of siege; the rout of the great army that so long menaced its safety; many thousand prisoners, including officers of high rank, and the capture or destruction of thousands of arms, and fifty one pieces of artillery. The service rendered to the country during this short but eventful period can scarcely be estimated, and the General commanding cannot adequately express his admiration of the courage and endurance and soldiery conduct of the officers and men. These brilliant results have cost us many brave men; but while we mourn the loss of our gallant dead let us not forget that they died nobly in defence of their country's freedom and have linked their memory with an event that will live forever in the hearts of a grateful people." * * *
General McClellan's famous 4th of July order was intended to keep up the courage and spirits of his troops; but there can be but little doubt that the Army of the Potomac fully realized that their "change of base" was compulsory, not optional, and that they were just now more concerned in providing for their own safety than in the capture of Richmond. On the other hand the Army of Northern Virginia felt that they were masters of the situation.