MILITARY REMINISCENCES OF THE CIVIL WAR
BY JACOB DOLSON COX, A.M., LL.D.
Formerly Major-General commanding Twenty-Third Army Corps
APRIL 1861--NOVEMBER 1863
POPE IN COMMAND--TRANSFER TO WASHINGTON
A key position--Crook's engagement at Lewisburg--Watching and scouting--Mountain work--Pope in command--Consolidation of Departments--Suggestions of our transfer to the East--Pope's Order No. II and Address to the Army--Orders to march across the mountains--Discussion of them--Changed to route by water and rail--Ninety-mile march--Logistics--Arriving in
Washington--Two regiments reach Pope--Two sent to Manassas--Jackson captures Manassas--Railway broken--McClellan at Alexandria--Engagement at Bull Run Bridge--Ordered to Upton's Hill--Covering Washington--Listening to the Bull Run battle--Ill news travels fast.
Our retreat to Flat-top Mountain had been made without loss of material, except one baggage-wagon, which broke down irreparably, and was burned by my order. At the crossing of Blue-stone River we were beyond the junction of roads by which our flank could be turned, and we halted there as the end of the first march. As the men forded the stream, the sun broke through the clouds, which had been pretty steadily raining upon us, the brass band with the leading brigade struck up the popular tune, "Aren't you glad to get out of the wilderness?" and the soldiers, quick to see the humorous application of any such incident, greeted it with cheers and laughter. All felt that we were again masters of the situation. Next day we moved leisurely to the mountain summit, a broad undulating table-land with some cultivated farms, where our camp was perfectly hidden from sight, whilst we commanded a most extensive view of the country in front. Outposts at the crossing of the Blue-stone and at Pack's Ferry on New River, with active scouting-parties and patrols scouring the country far and wide, kept me fully informed of everything occurring near us. We had time to organize the new wagon-trains which were beginning to reach us, and, while waiting till
Fremont could plan new co-operative movements, to prepare for our part in such work.
The camp on Flat-top Mountain deserved the name of a "key point" to the country in front as well, perhaps, as that much abused phrase ever is deserved. [Footnote: Clausewitz says of the phrases "covering position," "key of the country," etc., that they are for the most part mere words without sense when they indicate only the material advantage which is given by the elevation of the land. "On War," part ii. chap. xvii.] The name of the mountain indicates its character. The northern slope is gentle, so that the approach from Raleigh C. H. is not difficult, whilst the southern declivity falls off rapidly to the Blue-stone valley. The broad ridge at the summit is broken into rounded hills which covered the camp from view, whilst they still permitted manoeuvre to meet any hostile approach. The mountain abutted on the gorge of the New River on the northeast, and stretched also southwestward into the impracticable wilderness about the headwaters of the Guyandotte and the Tug Fork of Sandy. The position was practically unassailable in front by any force less than double our own, and whilst we occupied it the enemy never ventured in force beyond the passes of East River Mountain. We built a flying-bridge ferry at Pack's, on New River, near the mouth of the Blue-stone, where a passable road up the valley of the Greenbrier connected us with Colonel Crook's position at Lewisburg. The post at Pack's Ferry was held by a detachment from Scammon's brigade in command of Major Comly of the Twenty-third Ohio. On the 6th of August a detachment of the enemy consisting of three regiments and a section of artillery under Colonel Wharton made an effort to break up the ferry by an attack from the east side, but they accomplished nothing. Major Comly was quickly supported by reinforcements from Scammon's brigade, and drove off his assailants. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. ii. p. 127; pt. iii. pp. 541, 542.]
I have not yet spoken of the movements of Colonel Crook's brigade on the Lewisburg route, because circumstances so delayed his advance that it had no immediate relation to our movements upon Pearisburg and Princeton. As the march of my own column was beginning, General Fremont, upon information of guerilla raids north of
Summersville, directed that Crook be sent into Webster County to co-operate with troops sent southward from Weston to destroy the lawless parties. This involved a march of more than seventy miles each way, and unforeseen delays of various kinds. Two of the guerillas captured were tried and convicted of murder, and Colonel Crook was obliged to remain in that region to protect the administration of justice till the execution of the murderers and the dispersion of the guerilla bands. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 127, 159.] The organization and movement of his brigade upon Lewisburg was by this means put back so far that his column could not get within supporting distance of mine. He reached Lewisburg on the day of our affair at Princeton. He had been energetic in all his movements, but the diversion of parts of his command to so distant an enterprise as that into Webster County had been fatal to co-operation. The Confederate General Heth had been able to neglect the Lewisburg route and to carry his brigade to the assistance of Marshall in his opposition to my advance. As it turned out, I should have done better to have waited at Flat-top Mountain till I knew that Crook was at Lewisburg, and then to have made a fresh combination of movements. Our experience only added another to the numerous proofs the whole campaign furnished, of the futility of such combined operations from distant bases,
Major-General Loring took command of all the Confederate forces in southwestern Virginia on the 19th or 20th of May, and Heth was already in march to oppose Crook's forward movement. On the 23d Heth, with some 3000 men, including three batteries of artillery, attacked Crook at Lewisburg, soon after daybreak in the morning. Crook met him in front of the town, and after a sharp engagement routed him, capturing four cannon, some 200 stand of arms and 100 prisoners. His own loss was 13 killed and 53 wounded, with 7 missing. He did not think it wise to follow up the retreating enemy, but held a strong position near Lewisburg, where his communications were well covered, and where he was upon the same range of highlands on which we were at Flat-top, though fifty miles of broken country intervened. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. ii. pp. 804-813.] Meanwhile Fremont had been ordered to Banks's relief, and had been obliged to telegraph me that we must be left to ourselves till the results of the Shenandoah campaign were tested. [Footnote: _Id_., pt. iii. p. 264.] Rumors were rife that after Jackson retired from Fremont's front at Franklin, Johnson's division was ordered to march into our part of West Virginia. We were thus thrown, necessarily, into an expectant attitude, awaiting the outcome of Fremont's eastward movement and the resumption of his plans. Our men were kept busy in marching and scouting by detachments, putting down guerilla bands and punishing disorders. They thus acquired a power of sustained exertion on foot which proved afterward of great value.
There was, in a way, a resemblance in our situation and in our work to that of feudal chiefs in the middle ages. We held a lofty and almost impregnable position, overlooking the country in every direction. The distant ridges of the Alleghanies rose before us, the higher peaks standing out in the blue distance, so that we seemed to watch the mountain passes fifty miles away without stirring from our post. The loyal people about us formed relations to us not unlike those of the feudal retainers of old. They worked their farms, but every man had his rifle hung upon his chimney-piece, and by day or by night was ready to shoulder it and thread his way by paths known only to the natives, to bring us news of open movement or of secret plots among the Secessionists. They were organized, also, in their own fashion, and every neighborhood could muster its company or its squad of home-guards to join in quelling seditious outbreaks or in strengthening a little column sent against any of the enemy's outposts. No considerable hostile movement was possible within a range of thirty miles without our having timely notice of it. The smoke from the camp-fires of a single troop of horse could be seen rising from the ravines, and detachments of our regiments guided by the native scouts would be on the way to reconnoitre within an hour. Officers as well as men went on foot, for they followed ridges where there was not even a bridle-path, and depended for safety, in no small degree, on their ability to take to the thickets of the forest-clad hillside if they found themselves in the presence of a body of the Confederate cavalry. Thirty miles a day was an easy march for them after they had become hardened to their work, and taking several days together they could outmarch any cavalry, especially when they could take "short cuts" over hills and away from travelled roads. They knew at what farms they could find "rations," and where were the hostile neighborhoods from which equally enterprising scouts would glide away to carry news of their movements to the enemy. At headquarters there was a constant going and coming. Groups of home-guards were nearly always about, as picturesque in their homely costume as Leather-stocking himself, and many of our officers and men were hardly less expert as woodsmen. Constant activity was the order of the day, and the whole command grew hardy and self-reliant with great rapidity.
General Pope was, on the 26th of June, assigned to command the Army of Virginia, including the forces under
McDowell and Banks as well as those in the Mountain Department. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. iii. p. 435.] Fremont was relieved from command at his own request, and the Mountain Department ceased to exist. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 437.] Pope very wisely determined to unite in one army under his own command as many as possible of the troops reporting to him, and meanwhile directed us to remain on the defensive. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 471.] I ventured on the 3d of July to suggest by telegraph that my division would make a useful reinforcement to his active army in the field, and reiterated it on the 5th, with some explanation of my views. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 451, 457.] I indicated Fayetteville and Hawk's Nest as points in front of Gauley Bridge where moderate garrisons could cover the valley defensively, as I had done in the preceding year. Getting no answer, I returned to the subject on the 13th. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 471.] Pope, however, did not issue his address upon assuming active command till the 14th, when his much ridiculed manifesto to the army appeared. [Footnote: He had announced his assignment and his headquarters at Washington on June 27 (_Id_., p. 436), but he now issued the address as he was about to take the field (_Id_., p. 473).] Since the war General Pope has himself told me that this, as well as the other orders issued at that time and which were much criticised, were drafted under the dictation, in substance, of Mr.
Stanton, the Secretary of War. He admitted that some things in them were not quite in good taste; but the feeling was that it was desirable to infuse vigor into the army by stirring words, which would by implication condemn McClellan's policy of over-caution in military matters, and over-tenderness toward rebel sympathizers and their property. The Secretary, as he said, urged such public declarations so strongly that he did not feel at liberty to resist. They were unfairly criticised, and were made the occasion of a bitter and lasting enmity toward Pope on the part of most of the officers and men of the Potomac Army. It seems that
Mr. Lincoln hesitated to approve the one relating to the arrest of disloyal persons within the lines of the army, and it was not till Pope repeated his sense of the need of it that the President yielded, on condition that it should be applied in exceptional cases only. It was probably intended more to terrify citizens from playing the part of spies than to be literally enforced, which would, indeed, have been hardly possible. No real severity was used under it, but the Confederate government made it the occasion of a sort of outlawry against Pope and his army. [Footnote: It is only fair to recollect that in the following year Halleck found it necessary to repeat in substance Pope's much abused orders, and
Meade, who then commanded the Potomac Army, issued a proclamation in accordance with them. (Official Records, vol. xxvii. pt. i. p. 102; pt. iii. p. 786.) For Pope's submission of Order No. 11 to Mr. Lincoln and the limitation placed on it, see _Id_., vol. xii. pt. iii. pp. 500, 540. For general military law on the subject, see Birkhimer's "Military Government and Martial Law," chap. viii. For the practice of the Confederates, see the treatment of the Hon. George Summers, chap. xix. _post_.] Only two days later he issued an order against pillaging or molestation of persons and dwellings, as stringent as any one could wish. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. iii. p. 573.]
On the 5th of August Pope suggested to
Halleck that I should be ordered to leave about 2500 men intrenched near Gauley Bridge, and march with the remainder of my command (say nine regiments) by way of Lewisburg, Covington, Staunton, and Harrisonburg to join him. Halleck replied that it was too much exposed, and directed him to select one more in the rear. Pope very rightly answered that there was no other route which would not make a great circuit to the rear. Halleck saw that Jackson's army near Charlottesville with a probable purpose of turning Pope's right flank might make a junction impossible for me, and stated the objection, but concluded with authority to Pope to order as he deemed best, "but with caution." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. iii. pp. 534, 540, 543.]
On the 8th of August Pope telegraphed me, accordingly, to march by way of Lewisburg, Covington, Warm Springs, and Augusta Springs to Harrisonburg, and there join him by shortest route. He indicated Winchester or
Romney as my secondary aim if I should find the junction with him barred. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 460, 462, 551.] This route avoided Staunton, but by so short a distance that it was scarcely safer, and the roads to be travelled were much harder and longer. At this time several detachments of considerable size were out, chasing guerilla parties and small bodies of Confederate troops, and assisting in the organization or enlistment of Union men. The movement ordered could not begin for several days, and I took advantage of the interval to lay before General Pope, by telegraph, the proof that the march would take fifteen days of uninterrupted travel through a mountainous region, most of it a wilderness destitute of supplies, and with the enemy upon the flank. Besides this there was the very serious question whether the Army of Virginia would be at Charlottesville when I should approach that place. On the other hand, my calculation was that we could reach Washington in ten days or less, by way of the Kanawha and Ohio rivers to Parkersburg, and thence by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to the capital. [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xiii. pt. iii. pp. 555, 559.] My dispatches were submitted to General Halleck, and on the 11th of August General Pope telegraphed a modified assent to my suggestions. He directed that 5000 men should remain in West Virginia under my command, and the remainder proceed to Washington by river and rail. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xiii. pt. iii. p. 560.] An incursion of the enemy's cavalry into Logan County on my right and rear was at the moment in progress, and we used great activity in disposing of it, so that the change in our dispositions might not be too quickly known to our adversaries nor have the appearance of retreat. [Footnote: I at one time supposed that the orders to march across the country originated with General Halleck, but the Official Records of the War fix the history of the matter as is above stated.]
It is a natural wish of every soldier to serve with the largest army in the most important campaign. The order to remain with a diminished command in West Virginia was a great disappointment to me, against which I made haste to protest. On the 13th I was rejoiced by permission to accompany my command to the East. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 567, 570.] Preliminary orders had already been given for making Fayetteville and Hawk's Nest the principal advanced posts in the contracted operations of the district, with Gauley Bridge for their common depot of supply and point of concentration in case of an advance of the enemy in force. I organized two small brigades and two batteries of artillery for the movement to Washington. Colonels Scammon and Moor, who were my senior colonels, were already in command of brigades, and Colonel Lightburn was in command of the lower valley. The arrangement already existing practically controlled. Scammon's brigade was unchanged, and in Moor's the Thirty-sixth Ohio under Crook and the Eleventh were substituted for the Thirty-seventh and Thirty-fourth. The organization therefore was as follows; namely, First Brigade, Colonel Scammon commanding, consisted of the Twelfth, Twenty-third, and Thirtieth Ohio and McMullin's Ohio Battery; Second Brigade, Colonel Moor commanding, consisted of the Eleventh, Twenty-eighth, and Thirty-sixth Ohio and Simmonds's Kentucky Battery. One troop of horse for orderlies and headquarters escort, and another for similar service, with the brigades, also accompanied us. The regiments left in the Kanawha district were the Thirty-fourth, Thirty-seventh, Forty-fourth, and Forty-seventh Ohio, the Fourth and Ninth West Virginia Infantry, the Second West Virginia Cavalry, a battery, and some incomplete local organizations. Colonel J. A. J. Lightburn of the Fourth West Virginia was in command as senior officer within the district. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. iii. pp. 567, 570; vol. li. pt. i. pp. 738, 742, 754.]
Portions of the troops were put in motion on the 14th of August, and a systematic itinerary was prepared for them in advance. [Footnote: _Id_., vol. li. pt. i. p. 738.] They marched fifty minutes, and then rested the remaining ten minutes of each hour. The day's work was divided into two stages of fifteen miles each, with a long rest at noon, and with a half day's interval between the brigades. The weather was warm, but by starting at three o'clock in the morning the heat of the day was reserved for rest, and they made their prescribed distance without distress and without straggling. They went by Raleigh C. H. and Fayetteville to Gauley Bridge, thence down the right bank of the Kanawha to Camp Piatt, thirteen miles above
Charleston. The whole distance was ninety miles, and was covered easily in the three days and a half allotted to it. [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xii. pt. iii. p. 629.] The fleet of light-draft steamboats which supplied the district with military stores was at my command, and I gave them rendezvous at Camp Piatt, where they were in readiness to meet the troops when the detachments began to arrive on the 17th. In the evening of the 14th I left the camp at Flat-top with my staff and rode to Raleigh C. H. On the 15th we completed the rest of the sixty miles to Gauley Bridge. From that point I was able to telegraph General Meigs, the Quartermaster-General at Washington, that I should reach Parkersburg, the Ohio River terminus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, on the evening of the 20th, and should need railway transportation for 5000 men, two batteries of six guns each, 1100 horses, 270 wagons, with camp equipage and regimental trains complete, according to the army regulations then in force. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. iii. pp. 577, 619, 629; vol. li. p. 754.]
At Gauley Bridge I met Colonel Lightburn, to whom I turned over the command of the district, and spent the time, whilst the troops were on the march, in completing the arrangements both for our transportation and for the best disposition of the troops which were to remain. The movement of the division was the first in which there had been a carefully prepared effort to move a considerable body of troops with wagons and animals over a long distance within a definitely fixed time, and it was made the basis of the calculations for the movement of General Hooker and his two corps from Washington to Tennessee in the next year. It thus obtained some importance in the logistics of the war. The president of the railway put the matter unreservedly into the hands of W. P. Smith, the master of transportation; Mr. P. H. Watson, Assistant Secretary of War, represented the army in the management of the transfer, and by thus concentrating responsibility and power, the business was simplified, and what was then regarded as a noteworthy success was secured. The command could have moved more rapidly, perhaps, without its wagons and animals, but a constant supply of these was needed for the eastern army, and it was wise to take them, for they were organized into trains with drivers used to their teams and feeling a personal interest in them. It turned out that our having them was a most fortunate thing, for not only were the troops of the
Army of the Potomac greatly crippled for lack of transportation on their return from the peninsula, but we were able to give rations to the Ninth Army Corps after the battle of Antietam, when the transportation of the other divisions proved entirely insufficient to keep up the supply of food.
From the head of navigation on the Kanawha to Parkersburg on the Ohio was about one hundred and fifty miles; but the rivers were so low that the steamboats proceeded slowly, delayed by various obstacles and impediments, At Letart's Falls, on the Ohio, the water was a broken rapid, up which the boats had to be warped one at a time, by means of a heavy warp-line made fast to the bank and carried to the steam-capstan on the steamer. At the foot of Blennerhassett's Island there was only two feet of water in the channel, and the boats dragged themselves over the bottom by "sparring," a process somewhat like an invalid's pushing his wheel-chair along by a pair of crutches. But everybody worked with a will, and on the 21st the advanced regiments were transferred to the railway cars at Parkersburg, according to programme, and pulled out for Washington. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. iii. pp. 619, 629.] These were the Thirty-sixth Ohio, Colonel Crook, and the Thirtieth Ohio, Colonel Ewing. They passed through Washington to Alexandria, and thence, without stopping, to Warrenton, Virginia, where they reported at General Pope's headquarters. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 636, 637, 668, 676.] The Eleventh Ohio (Lieutenant-Colonel Coleman) and Twelfth (Colonel White), with Colonel Scammon commanding brigade, left Parkersburg on the 22d, reaching Washington on the 24th. One of them passed on to Alexandria, but the other (Eleventh Ohio) was stopped in Washington by reason of a break in
Long Bridge across the Potomac, and marched to Alexandria the next day. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. iii. pp. 650, 677.] The last of the regiments (Twenty-eighth Ohio, Colonel Moor, and Twenty-third, Lieutenant-Colonel Hayes), with the artillery and cavalry followed, and on the 26th all the men had reached Washington, though the wagons and animals were a day or two later in arriving. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 698.]
In Washington I reported to the Secretary of War, and was received with a cordiality that went far to remove from my mind the impression I had got from others, that Mr. Stanton was abrupt and unpleasant to approach. Both on this occasion and later, he was as affable as could be expected of a man driven with incessant and importunate duties of state. In the intervals of my constant visits to the railway offices (for getting my troops and my wagons together was the absorbing duty) I found time for a hurried visit to
Secretary Chase, and found also my friend Governor Dennison in the city, mediating between the President and General McClellan with the good-will and diplomatic wisdom which peculiarly marked his character. I had expected to go forward with three regiments to join General Pope on the evening of the 26th; but Colonel Haupt, the military superintendent of railways at Alexandria, was unable to furnish the transportation by reason of the detention of trains at the front. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 625, 677.] Lee's flank movement against Pope's army had begun, and as the latter retreated all the railway cars which could be procured were needed to move his stores back toward Washington. On the afternoon of the 26th, however, arrangements had been made for moving the regiments at Alexandria early next morning. [Footnote: _Ibid_, and pp. 678, 679.] The wagons and animals were near at hand, and I ordered Colonel Moor with the Twenty-eighth Ohio to march with them to Manassas as soon as they should be unloaded from the railway trains. But during the night occurred a startling change in the character of the campaign which upset all our plans and gave a wholly unexpected turn to my own part in it.
About nine o'clock in the evening Colonel Haupt received at Alexandria the information that the enemy's cavalry had attacked our great depot of supplies at Manassas Junction. The telegrapher had barely time to send a message, break the connection of the wires, and hurry away to escape capture. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. iii. p. 680.] It was naturally supposed to be only a cavalry raid, but the interruption of communication with Pope in that crisis was in itself a serious mishap. The first thing to be done was to push forward any troops at hand to protect the railway bridge over
Bull Run, and by authority of the War Department Colonel Haupt was authorized to send forward, under Colonel Scammon, the Eleventh and Twelfth Ohio without waiting to communicate with me. They were started very early in the morning of the 27th, going to support a New Jersey brigade under General George W. Taylor which had been ordered to protect the Bull Run bridge. [Footnote: C. W., vol. i. pp. 379, 381.] Ignorant of all this, I was busy on Wednesday morning (27th), trying to learn the whereabouts of the trains with my wagon teams, which had not yet reached Washington, and reported the situation as to my command to the Assistant Secretary of War, Mr. Watson. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. iii. p. 698.] I then learned of Scammon's sudden movement to the front, and of the serious character of the enemy's movement upon Manassas. I marched at once with the two regiments still in Washington, expecting to follow the rest of the command by rail as soon as we should reach Alexandria. Arriving there, I hastened to the telegraph office at the railway station, where I found not only Colonel Haupt, but General McClellan, who had come from
Fortress Monroe the night before. Of the Army of the Potomac, Heintzelman's and Porter's corps were already with Pope, Franklin's was at Alexandria, and Sumner's was beginning to arrive. As soon as it was known at the War Department that McClellan was present, General Halleck's correspondence was of course with him, and we passed under his orders. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. iii. pp. 688, 689, 691.] It had already been learned that 'Stonewall' Jackson was with infantry as well as cavalry at Manassas, and that the Bull Run bridge had been burned, our troops being driven back three or four miles from it. McClellan thought it necessary to organize the two corps at Alexandria and such other troops as were there, including mine, first to cover that place and Washington in the possible contingency that Lee's whole army had interposed between General Pope and the capital, and, second, to open communication with Pope as soon as the situation of the latter could be learned. Couch's division was still at Yorktown, and orders had been issued by Halleck to ship 5000 new troops there to relieve Couch and allow his veteran division to join the Potomac Army. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 689.]
McClellan directed me to take the two regiments with me into camp with Franklin's corps at Annandale, three miles in front of Alexandria, and to obey Franklin's orders if any emergency should occur. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 692.] I found, at the post-quartermaster's office, an officer who had served in West Virginia a year before, and by his hearty and efficient good-will secured some supplies for the regiments with me during the days that were yet to pass before we got our own trains and could feel that we had an assured means of living and moving in an independent way. We bivouacked by the roadside without shelter of any sort, enveloped in dense clouds of dust from the marching columns of the Army of the Potomac, their artillery and wagons, as they passed and went into camp just in front of us. About noon, on Thursday (28th), Colonel Scammon joined me with the two regiments he had taken toward Manassas, and we learned the particulars of the sharp engagement he had at the railway bridge.
The train carrying the troops approached the bridge over Bull Run about eight o'clock in the morning on Wednesday, and Colonel Scammon immediately pushed forward the Twelfth Ohio (Colonel White) to the bridge itself and the bank of the stream. He met the New Jersey brigade of four regiments coming back in confusion and panic. The commander, General Taylor, had taken position on the west side of the creek, covering the bridge; but he had no artillery, and though his advance was made with great spirit (as Jackson recognized in his report [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. ii. p. 644.] ), his lines had been subjected to a heavy artillery fire from the batteries of A. P. Hill's and Jackson's own divisions, and broke, retreating in disorder to the eastern side of the stream. General Taylor himself fell severely wounded whilst trying to rally them. It was at this moment that Scammon reached the field with the Twelfth Ohio. He had heard the artillery fire, but little or no musketry, and was astonished at seeing the retreat. He sent his adjutant-general, Lieutenant Robert P. Kennedy, [Footnote: Member of Congress (1890), and recently Lieutenant-Governor of Ohio.] to communicate with General Taylor and to try to rally the fugitives. Meanwhile he ordered Colonel White to line the bank of the creek with his men and try to protect the bridge structure. Kennedy found General Taylor in a litter being carried to the rear, and the general, though in anguish from his wound, was in great mental distress at the rout of his men. He begged every one to rally the flying troops if possible, and sent his own adjutant-general, Captain Dunham, to turn over the general command to Scammon. All efforts to rally the panic-stricken brigade were fruitless, and Scammon resisted the advance of Hill's division through nearly a whole day with the two regiments alone. A Lieutenant Wright of the Fourth New Jersey, with ten men, reported to Colonel Scammon and begged assignment in the line. Their names are honorably enrolled in Scammon's report, [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. ii. p. 407.] and these, with Captain Dunham, did heroic service, but were all of the brigade that took any further part in the fight. Dunham succeeded in rallying a portion of the brigade later in the day, but too late to enter the engagement.
Taking advantage of the bridges near the stream, Scammon kept his men covered from the artillery fire as well as possible, driving back with his volleys every effort to pass by the bridge or to ford the stream in his front. Hill moved brigades considerably to right and left, and attempted to surround White and the Twelfth Ohio. But Coleman, with the Eleventh, had come up in support, and Scammon ordered him to charge on the enemy's right, which was passing White's left flank. Coleman did so in splendid style, driving his foe before him, and crossing the bridge to the west side. The odds, however, were far too great where a brigade could attack each regiment of ours and others pass beyond them, so that Scammon, having fully developed the enemy's force, had to limit himself to delaying their advance, retiring his little command in echelon from one ridge to another, as his wings were threatened. This he did with perfect coolness and order, maintaining the unequal struggle without assistance till about half-past three in the afternoon. The enemy's efforts now relaxed, and Scammon withdrew at leisure to a position some three miles from the bridge. Hill still showed a disposition to surround the detachment by manoeuvres, and Scammon retired toward Annandale in the night. He himself underestimated the enemy's force in infantry, which Jackson's report puts at "several brigades." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. ii. p. 644.] His loss in the two Ohio regiments was 106 in killed, wounded, and missing. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 262.] Those of the New Jersey brigade are not reported. The combat was a most instructive military lesson, teaching what audacity and skill may do with a very small force in delaying and mystifying a much larger one, which was imposed upon by its firm front and its able handling.
Some of Scammon's wounded being too badly hurt to be removed, he detailed a surgeon to remain with them and care for them till they should be exchanged or otherwise brought within our lines. This surgeon was taken to Jackson's headquarters, where he was questioned as to the troops which had held the Confederates at bay. General J. E. B. Stuart was with Jackson, and on the surgeon's stating that the fighting during most of the day had been by the two Ohio regiments alone, Stuart's racy expressions of admiration were doubly complimentary as coming from such an adversary, and, when repeated, were more prized by the officers and men than any praise from their own people. [Footnote: The history of this engagement was currently published with curious inaccuracies. Even Mr. Ropes in his "Campaign under Pope" does not seem to have seen the Official Records on our side, and supposed that Taylor's brigade was all that was engaged. See Official Records, vol. xii. pt. ii. pp. 405-411; also pt. iii. pp. 698, 699; also C. W., vol. i. pp. 379-382.]
Toward evening on Thursday, a thunderstorm and gale of wind came up, adding greatly to the wretched discomfort of the troops for the moment, but making the air clearer and laying the dust for a day or two. I found partial shelter with my staff, on the veranda of a small house which was occupied by ladies of the families of some general officers of the Potomac Army, who had seized the passing opportunity to see their husbands in the interval of the campaign. We thought ourselves fortunate in getting even the shelter of the veranda roof for the night. On Friday morning (29th), Captain Fitch, my quartermaster, was able to report his train and baggage safe at Alexandria, and we were ready for any service. Orders came from General McClellan during the forenoon to move the four regiments now with me into Forts Ramsey and Buffalo, on Upton's and
Munson's hills, covering Washington on the direct road to
Centreville by Aqueduct Bridge, Ball's Cross-Roads, and Fairfax C. H. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. iii. pp. 712, 726. For this he had Halleck's authority, in view of the danger of cavalry raids into the city. _Id_., p. 722.] General McClellan had established his headquarters on Seminary Ridge beyond the northern outskirts of Alexandria, and after putting my command in motion I rode there to get fuller instructions from him as to the duty assigned me. His tents were pitched in a high airy situation looking toward the Potomac on the east; indeed he had found them a little too airy in the thunder-squall of the previous evening which had demolished part of the canvas village. It must have been about noon when I dismounted at his tent. The distant pounding of artillery had been in our ears as we rode. It was Pope's battle with Jackson along the turnpike between Bull Run and Gainesville and on the heights above Groveton, thirty miles away.
General Franklin had ridden over from Annandale and was with McClellan receiving his parting directions under the imperative orders which Halleck had sent to push that corps out to Pope. McClellan's words I was not likely to forget. "Go," he said, "and whatever may happen, don't allow it to be said that the Army of the Potomac failed to do its utmost for the country." McClellan then explained to me the importance of the position to which I was ordered. The heights were the outer line of defence of Washington on the west, which had been held at one time, a year before, by the Confederates, who had an earthwork there, notorious for a while under the camp name of "Fort Skedaddle." From them the
unfinished dome of the Capitol was to be seen, and the rebel flag had flaunted there, easily distinguishable by the telescopes which were daily pointed at it from the city. McClellan had little expectation that Pope would escape defeat, and impressed upon me the necessity of being prepared to cover a perhaps disorderly retreat within the lines. Some heavy artillery troops (Fourth New York Heavy Artillery) were in garrison at one of the forts, and these with the forces at Falls Church were ordered to report to me. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. iii. p. 726.] Assuring me that he would soon visit me in my new quarters, McClellan dismissed me, and I galloped forward to overtake my troops.
I found the position of the forts a most commanding one, overlooking the country in every direction. Westward the ground sloped away from us toward Fairfax Court House and Centreville. Northward, in a pretty valley, lay the village of Falls Church, and beyond it a wooded ridge over which a turnpike road ran to Vienna and on to Leesburg. Behind us was the rolling country skirting the Potomac, and from Ball's Cross-Roads, a mile or two in rear, a northward road led to the chain bridge above Georgetown, whilst the principal way went directly to the city by the Aqueduct Bridge. Three knolls grouped so as to command these different directions had been crowned with forts of strong profile. The largest of these, Fort Ramsey, on Upton's Hill was armed with twenty-pounder Parrott rifles, and the heavy-artillery troops occupied this work. I had a pair of guns of the same kind and calibre in my mixed battery, and these with my other field artillery were put in the other forts. Lines of infantry trench connected the works and extended right and left, and my four regiments occupied these. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. li. pt. i. pp. 777, 779; vol. xix. pt. ii. p. 176.] A regiment of cavalry (Eighth Illinois, joined later by the Eighth Pennsylvania) was ordered to report to me, and this, with Schambeck's squadron which had come with me, made a cavalry camp in front of Falls Church and picketed and patrolled the front. [Footnote: See my order assigning garrisons to the forts. Official Records, vol. li. pt. i. p. 771.]
We pitched our headquarters tents on Upton's Hill, just in rear of Fort Ramsey, and had a sense of luxury in "setting our house in order" after the uncomfortable experience of our long journey from West Virginia. The hurry of startling events in the past few days made our late campaign in the mountains seem as far away in time as it was in space. We were now in the very centre of excitement, and had become a very small part of a great army. The isolation and the separate responsibility of the past few months seemed like another existence indefinitely far away. I lost no time in making a rapid ride about my position, studying its approaches in the gathering twilight and trying to fix in mind the leading features of the topography with their relation to the possible retreat of our army and advance of the enemy. And all the while the rapid though muffled thumping of the distant cannon was in our ears, coming from the field in front of Groveton, where Lee, having now united his whole army against Pope, was sending part of Longstreet's divisions against McDowell's corps along the Warrenton turnpike.
On Saturday the 30th ambulances began coming through our lines with wounded men, and some on foot with an arm in a sling or bandages upon the head were wearily finding their way into the city. All such were systematically questioned, their information was collated and corrected, and reports were made to General Halleck and General McClellan. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. ii. p. 405; pt. iii. pp. 748, 789; vol. xix. pt. ii. p. 170; vol. li. pt. i. p. 777.] The general impression of all undoubtedly was that the engagement of Friday had been victorious for our army, and that the enemy was probably retreating at dark. During the day the cannonade continued with occasional lulls. It seemed more distant and fainter, requiring attentive listening to hear it. This was no doubt due to some change in the condition of the atmosphere; but we naturally interpreted it according to our wishes, and believed that the success of Friday was followed by the pursuit of the enemy. About four o'clock in the afternoon the distant firing became much more rapid; at times the separate shots could not be counted. I telegraphed to McClellan the fact which indicated a crisis in the battle. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xii. pt. iii. p. 748.] It was the fierce artillery duel which preceded the decisive advance of Longstreet against Pope's left wing. This was the decisive turning-point in the engagement, and Pope was forced to retreat upon Centreville.
Early in the evening all doubt was removed about the result of the battle. Ill news travels fast, and the retreat toward us shortened the distance to be travelled. But as Sumner's and Franklin's corps had gone forward and would report to Pope at Centreville, we were assured that Pope was "out of his scrape" (to use the words of McClellan's too famous dispatch to the President [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xi. pt. i. p. 98.] ), and that the worst that could now happen would be the continuance of the retreat within our lines. The combat at Chantilly on the evening of September 1st was the last of Pope's long series of bloody engagements, and though the enemy was repulsed, the loss of Generals Kearny and Stevens made it seem to us like another disaster.