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Stonewall Jackson Free Online Books | Stonewall Jackson in Civil War | Stonewall Jackson Biography | Stonewall Jackson Obituary | Stonewall Jackson's Last Words | Stonewall Jackson Birthday | Stonewall Jackson Quotes

STONEWALL JACKSON
Chapter X
The Army of Northern Virginia

Stonewall Jackson Index | Stonewall Jackson at West Point | Stonewall Jackson and Mexican War | Stonewall Jackson Lexington | Stonewall Jackson and Secession | Stonewall Jackson and Harper's Ferry | Stonewall Jackson at Battle of Bull Run | Stonewall Jackson at Romney | Stonewall Jackson at Kernstown | Battle of McDowell | Battle of Winchester | Battle of Cross Keys and Port Republic | Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign | The Seven Days Battle | Battle of Frayser's Farm and Malvern Hill | Battle of Cedar Run | Second Battle of Bull Run | Battle of Second Bull Run Conclusion | Battle of Harper's Ferry | Battle of Sharpsburg | Battle of Fredericksburg | The Army of Northern Virginia | Stonewall Jackson's Winter Quarters | Battle of Chancellorsville | Battle of Chancellorsville Conclusion

“In war men are nothing; it is the man who is everything. The general is the head, the whole of an army. It was not the Roman army that conquered Gaul, but Cæsar; it was not the Carthaginian army that made Rome tremble in her gates, but Hannibal; it was not the Macedonian army that reached the Indus, but Alexander; it was not the French army that carried the war to the Weser and the Inn, but Turenne; it was not the Prussian army which, for seven years, defended Prussia against the three greatest Powers of Europe, but Frederick the Great.” So spoke Napoleon, reiterating a truth confirmed by the experience of successive ages, that a wise direction is of more avail than overwhelming numbers, sound strategy than the most perfect armament; a powerful will, invigorating all who come within its sphere, than the spasmodic efforts of ill-regulated valour.

Even a professional army of long standing and old traditions is what its commander makes it; its character sooner or later becomes the reflex of his own; from him the officers take their tone; his energy or his inactivity, his firmness or vacillation, are rapidly communicated even to the lower ranks; and so far-reaching is the influence of the leader, that those who record his campaigns concern themselves but little as a rule with the men who followed him. The history of famous armies is the history of great generals, for no army has ever achieved great things unless it has been well commanded. If the general be second-rate the army also will be second-rate. Mutual confidence is the basis of

THE AMERICAN SOLDIER  339

success in war, and unless the troops have implicit trust in the resolution and resources of their chief, hesitation and half-heartedness are sure to mark their actions. They may fight with their accustomed courage; but the eagerness for the conflict, the alacrity to support, the determination to conquer, will not be there. The indefinable quality which is expressed by the word moral will to some degree be affected. The history of the Army of the Potomac is a case in point.

Between the soldiers of the North and South there was little difference. Neither could claim a superiority of martial qualities. The Confederates, indeed, at the beginning of the war possessed a larger measure of technical skill; they were the better shots and the finer riders. But they were neither braver nor more enduring, and while they probably derived some advantage from the fact that they were defending their homes, the Federals, defending the integrity of their native land, were fighting in the noblest of all causes. But Northerner and Southerner were of the same race, a race proud, resolute, independent; both were inspired by the same sentiments of self-respect; noblesse oblige—the noblesse of a free people—was the motto of the one as of the other. It has been asserted that the Federal armies were very largely composed of foreigners, whose motives for enlisting were purely mercenary. At no period of the war, however, did the proportion of native Americans sink below seventy per cent.,1 and at the beginning of 1863 it was much greater. As a matter of fact, the Union army was composed of thoroughly staunch soldiers.2

1  See Note at end of chapter.
2  “Throughout New England,” wrote the Special Correspondent of an English newspaper, “you can scarcely enter a door without being aware that you are in a house of mourning. Whatever may be said of Irish and German mercenaries, I must bear witness that the best classes of Americans have bravely come forth for their country. I know of scarcely a family more than one member of which has not been or is not in the ranks of the army. The maimed and crippled youths I meet on the highroad certainly do not for the most part belong to the immigrant rabble of which the Northern regiments are said to consist; and even the present conscription is now in many splendid instances most promptly and cheerfully complied with by the wealthy people who could easily purchase exemption, but who prefer to set a good example.” Letter from Rhode Island, the Times, August 8, 1863.

NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN SOLDIERS COMPARED  340

Nor was the alien element at this time a source of weakness. Ireland and Germany supplied the greater number of those who have been called “Lincoln’s hirelings;” and, judging from the official records, the Irish regiments at least were not a whit less trustworthy than those purely American. Moreover, even if the admixture of foreigners had been greater, the Army of the Potomac, for the reason that it was always superior in numbers, contained in its ranks many more men bred in the United States than the Army of Northern Virginia.1 For the consistent ill-success of the Federals the superior marksmanship and finer horsemanship of the Confederates cannot, therefore, be accepted as sufficient explanation.

In defence the balance of endurance inclined neither to one side nor the other. Both Southerner and Northerner displayed that stubborn resolve to maintain their ground which is the peculiar attribute of the Anglo-Saxon. To claim for any one race a pre-eminence of valour is repugnant alike to good taste and to sound sense. Courage and endurance are widely distributed over the world’s surface, and political institutions, the national conception of duty, the efficiency of the corps of officers, and love of country, are the foundation of vigour and staunchness in the field. Yet it is a fact which can hardly be ignored, that from Creçy to Inkermann there have been exceedingly few instances where an English army, large or small, has been driven from a position. In the great struggle with France, neither Napoleon nor his marshals, although the armies of every other European nation had fled before them, could boast of having broken the English infantry; and no soldiers have ever received a prouder tribute than the admission of a generous enemy, “They never know when they are beaten.” In America, the characteristics of the parent race were as prominent in the Civil War as they had been in the Revolution. In 1861–65, the side that stood on the defensive, unless hopelessly outnumbered, was almost

1  John Mitchell, the Irish Nationalist, said in a letter to the Dublin Nation that there were 40,000 Irishmen in the Southern armies. The Times, February 7, 1863.

NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN SOLDIERS COMPARED  341

invariably successful, just as it had been in 1776–82. “My men,” said Jackson, “sometimes fail to drive the enemy from his position, but to hold one, never!” The Federal generals might have made the same assertion with almost equal truth. Porter had indeed been defeated at Gaines’ Mill, but he could only set 35,000 in line against 55,000; Banks had been overwhelmed at Winchester, but 6,500 men could hardly have hoped to resist more than twice their strength; and Shields’ advanced guard at Port Republic was much inferior to the force which Jackson brought against it; yet these were the only offensive victories of the ’62 campaign. But if in defence the armies were well matched, it must be conceded that the Northern attack was not pressed with the same concentrated vigour as the Southern. McClellan at Sharpsburg had more than twice as many men as Lee; Pope, on the first day of the Second Manassas, twice as many as Jackson; yet on both occasions the smaller force was victorious. But, in the first place, the Federal tactics in attack were always feeble. Lincoln, in appointing Hooker to command the Army of the Potomac, warned him “to put in all his men.” His sharp eye had detected the great fault which had characterised the operations of his generals. Their assaults had been piecemeal, like those of the Confederates at Malvern Hill, and they had been defeated in detail by the inferior numbers. The Northern soldiers were strangers to those general and combined attacks, pressed with unyielding resolution, which had won Winchester, Gaines’ Mill, and the Second Manassas, and which had nearly won Kernstown. The Northern generals invariably kept large masses in reserve, and these masses were never used. They had not yet learned, as had Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet, that superior numbers are of no avail unless they are brought into action, impelling the attack forward by sheer weight, at the decisive point. In the second place, none of the Federal leaders possessed the entire confidence either of their generals or their troops. With all its affection for McClellan, it may strongly be questioned whether his army gave him credit for dash or resolution. Pope was

THE SYSTEM OF COMMAND  342

defeated in his first action at Cedar Run. Banks at Winchester, Frémont west of Staunton, had both been out-manœuvred. Burnside had against him his feeble conduct at Sharpsburg. Hence the Federal soldiers fought most of their offensive battles under a terrible disadvantage. They were led by men who had known defeat, and who owed their defeat, in great measure, to the same fault—neglect to employ their whole force in combination. Brave and unyielding as they were, the troops went into battle mistrustful of their leader’s skill, and fearful, from the very outset, that their efforts would be unsupported; and when men begin to look over their shoulders for reinforcements, demoralisation is not far off. It would be untrue to say that a defeated general can never regain the confidence of his soldiers; but unless he has previous successes to set off against his failure, to permit him to retain his position is dangerous in the extreme. Such was the opinion of Jackson, always solicitous of the moral of his command. “To his mind nothing ever fully excused failure, and it was rarely that he gave an officer the opportunity of failing twice. ‘The service,’ he said, ‘cannot afford to keep a man who does not succeed.’ Nor was he ever restrained from a change by the fear of making matters worse. His motto was, get rid of the unsuccessful man at once, and trust to Providence for finding a better.”

Nor was the presence of discredited generals the only evil which went to neutralise the valour of the Federal soldiers. The system of command was as rotten in the Army of the Potomac as in the Armies of Northern Virginia and of the Valley it was sound; and the system of command plays a most important part in war. The natural initiative of the American, the general fearlessness of responsibility, were as conspicuous among the soldiers as in the nation at large. To those familiar with the Official Records, where the doings of regiments and even companies are preserved, it is perfectly apparent that, so soon as the officers gained experience, the smaller units were as boldly and efficiently handled as in the army of Germany under Moltke. But while Lee and Jackson, by every means in

THE SYSTEM OF COMMAND  343

their power, fostered the capacity for independent action, following therein the example of Napoleon,1 of Washington, of Nelson, and of Wellington, and aware that their strength would thus be doubled, McClellan and Pope did their best to stifle it; and in the higher ranks they succeeded. In the one case the generals were taught to wait for orders, in the other to anticipate them. In the one case, whether troops were supported or not depended on the word of the commanding general; in the other, every officer was taught that to sustain his colleagues was his first duty. It thus resulted that while the Confederate leaders were served by scores of zealous assistants, actively engaged in furthering the aim of their superiors, McClellan, Pope, and Frémont, jealous of power reduced their subordinates, with few exceptions, to the position of machines, content to obey the letter of their orders, oblivious of opportunity, and incapable of co-operation. Lee and Jackson appear to have realised the requirements of battle far more fully than their opponents. They knew that the scope of the commander is limited; that once his troops are committed to close action it is impossible for him to exert further control, for his orders can no longer reach them; that he cannot keep the whole field under observation, much less observe every fleeting opportunity. Yet it is by utilising opportunities that the enemy’s strength is sapped. For these reasons the Confederate generals were exceedingly careful not to chill the spirit of enterprise. Errors of judgment were never considered in the light of crimes; while the officer who, in default of orders, remained inactive, or who, when his orders were manifestly inapplicable to a suddenly changed situation, and there was no time to have them altered, dared not act for himself, was not long retained in responsible command. In the Army of the Potomac, on the other hand, centralisation was the rule. McClellan

1  In the opinion of the author, the charge of centralisation preferred against Napoleon can only be applied to his leading in his later campaigns. In his earlier operations he gave his generals every latitude, and be maintamed that loose but effective system of tactics, in which much was left to the individual, adopted by the French army just previous to the wars of the Revolution.

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expected blind obedience from his corps commanders, and nothing more, and Pope brought Porter to trial for using his own judgment, on occasions when Pope himself was absent, during the campaign of the Second Manassas. Thus the Federal soldiers, through no fault of their own, laboured for the first two years of the war under a disadvantage from which the wisdom of Lee and Jackson had relieved the Confederates. The Army of the Potomac was an inert mass, the Army of Northern Virginia a living organism, endowed with irresistible vigour.

It is to be noted, too, as tending to prove the equal courage of North and South, that on the Western theatre of war the Federals were the more successful. And yet the Western armies of the Confederacy were neither less brave, less hardy, nor less disciplined than those in Virginia. They were led, however, by inferior men, while, on the other hand, many of the Northern generals opposed to them possessed unquestionable ability, and understood the value of a good system of command.

We may say, then, without detracting an iota from the high reputation of the Confederate soldiers, that it was not the Army of Northern Virginia that saved Richmond in 1862, but Lee; not the Army of the Valley which won the Valley campaign, but Jackson.

It is related that a good priest, once a chaplain in Taylor’s Louisiana brigade, concluded his prayer at the unveiling of the Jackson monument in New Orleans with these remarkable words: “When in Thine inscrutable decree it was ordained that the Confederacy should fail, it became necessary for Thee to remove Thy servant Stonewall Jackson.”1 It is unnecessary, perhaps, to lay much forcible emphasis on the personal factor, but, at the same time, it is exceedingly essential that it should never be overlooked.

The Government which, either in peace or war, commits the charge of its armed forces to any other than the ablest and most experienced soldier the country can produce is but laying the foundation of national disaster. Had the

Bright Skies and Dark Shadows, p. 294. H. M. Field, D.D.

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importance of a careful selection for the higher commands been understood in the North as it was understood in the South, Lee and Jackson would have been opposed by foes more formidable than Pope and Burnside, or Banks and Frémont. The Federal Administration, confident in the courage and intelligence of their great armies, considered that any ordinary general, trained to command, and supported by an efficient staff, should be able to win victories. Mr. Davis, on the other hand, himself a soldier, who, as United States Secretary of War, had enjoyed peculiar opportunities of estimating the character of the officers of the old army, made no such mistake. He was not always, indeed, either wise or consistent; but, with few exceptions, his appointments were the best that could be made, and he was ready to accept the advice, as regarded selections for command, of his most experienced generals.

But however far-reaching may be the influence of a great leader, in estimating his capacity the temper of the weapon that he wielded can hardly be overlooked. In the first place, that temper, to a greater or less degree, must have been of his own forging, it is part of his fame. “No man,” says Napier, “can be justly called a great captain who does not know how to organise and form the character of an army, as well as to lead it when formed.” In the second place, to do much with feeble means is greater than to do more with large resources. Difficulties are inherent in all military operations, and not the least may be the constitution of the army. Nor would the story of Stonewall Jackson be more than half told without large reference to those tried soldiers, subalterns and private soldiers as they were, whom he looked upon as his comrades, whose patriotism and endurance he extolled so highly, and whose devotion to himself, next to the approval of his own conscience, was the reward that most he valued.

He is blind indeed who fails to recognise the unselfish patriotism displayed by the citizen-soldiers of America, the stern resolution with which the war was waged; the tenacity of the Northerner, ill-commanded and

THE AMERICAN SOLDIER  346

constantly defeated, fighting in a most difficult country and foiled on every line of invasion; the tenacity of the Southerner, confronting enormous odds, ill-fed, ill-armed, and ill-provided, knowing that if wounded his sufferings would be great—for drugs had been declared contraband of war, the hospitals contained no anæsthetics to relieve the pain of amputation, and the surgical instruments, which were only replaced when others were captured, were worn out with constant usage; knowing too that his women-folk and children were in want, and yet never yielding to despair nor abandoning hope of ultimate victory. Neither Federal nor Confederate deemed his life the most precious of his earthly possessions. Neither New Englander nor Virginian ever for one moment dreamt of surrendering, no matter what the struggle might cost, a single acre of the territory, a single item of the civil rights, which had been handed down to him. “I do not profess,” said Jackson, “any romantic sentiments as to the vanity of life. Certainly no man has more that should make life dear to him than I have, in the affection of my home; but I do not desire to survive the independence of my country.” And Jackson’s attitude was that of his fellow-countrymen. The words of Naboth, “Jehovah forbid that I should give to thee the inheritance of my forefathers,” were graven on the heart of both North and South; and the unknown and forgotten heroes who fought in the ranks of either army, and who fought for a principle, not on compulsion or for glory, are worthy of the highest honours that history can bestow.

Nor can a soldier withhold his tribute of praise to the capacity for making war which distinguished the American citizen. The intelligence of the rank and file played an important rôle in every phase of a campaign. As skirmishers,—and modern battles, to a very great extent, are fought out by lines of skirmishers—their work was admirable; and when the officers were struck down, or when command, by reason of the din and excitement, became impossible, the self-dependence of the individual asserted itself with the best effect.1 The same quality which the German

1  The historical student may profitably compare with the American soldier the Armies of Revolutionary France, in which education and intelligence were also conspicuous.

THE SCOUTS  347

training had sought to foster, and which, according to Moltke,1 had much to do with the victories of 1870, was born in both Northerner and Southerner. On outpost and on patrol, in seeking information and in counteracting the ruses of the enemy, the keen intelligence of the educated volunteer was of the utmost value. History has hitherto overlooked the achievements of the scouts, whose names so seldom occur in the Official Records, but whose daring was unsurpassed, and whose services were of vast importance. In the Army of Northern Virginia every commanding general had his own party of scouts, whose business it was to penetrate the enemy’s lines, to see everything and to hear everything, to visit the base of operations, to inspect the line of communications, and to note the condition and the temper of the hostile troops. Attracted by a pure love of adventure, these private soldiers did exactly the same work as did the English Intelligence officers in the Peninsula, and did it with the same thoroughness and acuteness. Wellington, deploring the capture of Captain Colquhoun Grant, declared that the gallant Highlander was worth as much to the army as a brigade of cavalry; Jackson had scouts who were more useful to him than many of his brigadiers. Again, in constructing hasty intrenchments, the soldiers needed neither assistance nor impulsion. The rough cover thrown up by the men when circumstances demanded it, on their own volition, was always adapted to the ground, and generally fulfilled the main principles of fortification. For bridge-building, for road-making, for the destruction, the repair, and even the making, of railroads, skilled labour was always forthcoming from the ranks; and the soldiers stamped the impress of their individuality on the tactics of the infantry. Modern formations, to a very large extent, had their origin on American battle-fields. The men realised very quickly the advantages of shelter; the advance by rushes from one cover to another, and the gradually working up, by this method, of the firing-line to effective range—

Official Account of the Franco-German War, vol. ii, p. 168.

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the method which all experience shows to be the true one—became the general rule.

That the troops had faults, however, due in great part to the fact that their intelligence was not thoroughly trained, and to the inexperience of their officers, it is impossible to deny.

“I agree with you,” wrote Lee in 1868, “in believing that our army would be invincible if it could be properly organised and officered. There were never such men in an army before. They will go anywhere and do anything if properly led. But there is the difficulty—proper commanders. Where can they be obtained? But they are improving—constantly improving. Rome was not built in a day, nor can we expect miracles in our favour.”1 Yet, taking them all in all, the American rank and file of 1863, with their native characteristics, supplemented by a great knowledge of war, were in advance of any soldiers of their time.

In the actual composition of the Confederate forces no marked change had taken place since the beginning of the war. But the character of the army, in many essential respects, had become sensibly modified. The men encamped on the Rappahannock were no longer the raw recruits who had blundered into victory at the First Manassas; nor were they the unmanageable divisions of the Peninsula. They were still, for the most part, volunteers, for conscripts in the Army of Northern Virginia were not numerous, but they were volunteers of a very different type from those who had fought at Kernstown or at Gaines’ Mill. Despite their protracted absence from their homes, the wealthy and well-born privates still shouldered the musket. Though many had been promoted to commissions, the majority were content to set an example of self-sacrifice and sterling patriotism, and the regiments were thus still leavened with a large admixture of educated and intelligent men. It is a significant fact that during those months of 1863 which were spent in winter quarters Latin, Greek, mathematical, and even Hebrew classes were instituted by the soldiers. But all trace of social distinction had long since vanished. Between the rich planter

1  Lee to Hood, May 21, 1863; Advance and Retreat, p. 58.

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and the small farmer or mechanic there was no difference either in aspect or habiliments. Tanned by the hot Virginia sun, thin-visaged and bright-eyed, gaunt of frame and spare of flesh, they were neither more nor less than the rank and file of the Confederate army; the product of discipline and hard service, moulded after the same pattern, with the same hopes and fears, the same needs, the same sympathies. They looked at life from a common standpoint, and that standpoint was not always elevated. Human nature claimed its rights. When his hunger was satisfied and, to use his own expression, he was full of hog and hominy, the Confederate soldier found time to discuss the operations in which he was engaged. Pipe in mouth, he could pass in review the strategy and tactics of both armies, the capacity of his generals, and the bearing of his enemies, and on each one of these questions, for he was the shrewdest of observers, his comments were always to the point. He had studied his profession in a practical school. The more delicate moves of the great game were topics of absorbing interest. He cast a comprehensive glance over the whole theatre; he would puzzle out the reasons for forced marches and sudden changes of direction; his curiosity was great, but intelligent, and the groups round the camp-fires often forecast with surprising accuracy the manœuvres that the generals were planning. But far more often the subjects of conversation were of a more immediate and personal character. The capacity of the company cook, the quality of the last consignment of boots, the merits of different bivouacs, the prospect of the supply train coming up to time, the temper of the captain and subaltern—such were the topics which the Confederate privates spent their leisure in discussing. They had long since discovered that war is never romantic and seldom exciting, but a monotonous round of tiresome duties, enlivened at rare intervals by dangerous episodes. They had become familiar with its constant accompaniment of privations—bad weather, wet bivouacs, and wretched roads, wood that would not kindle, and rations that did not satisfy. They had learned that a soldier’s worst enemy

THE MEN OF 1863  350

may be his native soil, in the form of dust or mud; that it is possible to march for months without firing a shot or seeing a foe; that a battle is an interlude which breaks in at rare intervals on the long round of digging, marching, bridge-building, and road-making; and that the time of the fiercest fire-eater is generally occupied in escorting mule-trains, in mounting guard, in dragging waggons through the mud, and in loading or unloading stores. Volunteering for perilous and onerous duties, for which hundreds had eagerly offered themselves in the early days, ere the glamour of the soldier’s life had vanished, had ceased to be popular. The men were now content to wait for orders; and as discipline crystallised into habit, they became resigned to the fact that they were no longer volunteers, masters of their own actions, but the paid servants of the State, compelled to obey and powerless to protest.

To all outward appearance, then, in the spring of 1863 the Army of Northern Virginia bore an exceedingly close resemblance to an army of professional soldiers. It is true that military etiquette was not insisted on; that more license, both in quarters and on the march, was permitted than would be the case in a regular army; that officers were not treated with the same respect; and that tact, rather than the strict enforcement of the regulations, was the key-note of command. Nevertheless, taken as a whole, the Confederate soldiers were exceedingly well-conducted. The good elements in the ranks were too strong for those who were inclined to resist authority, and the amount of misbehaviour was wonderfully small. There was little neglect of duty. Whatever the intelligence of the men told them was necessary for success, for safety, or for efficiency, was done without reluctance. The outposts were seldom caught napping. Digging and tree-felling—for the men had learned the value of making fortifications and good roads—were taken as a matter of course. Nor was the Southern soldier a grumbler. He accepted half-rations and muddy camping-grounds without remonstrance; if his boots wore out he made shift to march without

THE CONFEDERATE SOLDIER  351

them; and when his uniform fell to pieces he waited for the next victory to supply himself with a new outfit. He was enough of a philosopher to know that it is better to meet misery with a smile than with a scowl. Mark Tapley had many prototypes in the Confederate ranks, and the men were never more facetious than when things were at their worst. “The very intensity of their sufferings became a source of merriment. Instead of growling and deserting, they laughed at their own bare feet, ragged clothes, and pinched faces; and weak, hungry, cold, wet and dirty, with no hope of reward or rest, they marched cheerfully to meet the warmly clad and well-fed hosts of the enemy.”1 Indomitable indeed were the hearts that beat beneath the grey jackets, and a spirit rising superior to all misfortune,

That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine,

was a marked characteristic of the Confederate soldier. Nor was it only in camp or on the march that the temper of the troops betrayed itself in reckless gaiety.2 The stress of battle might thin their ranks, but it was powerless to check their laughter. The dry humour of the American found a fine field in the incidents of a fierce engagement. Nothing escaped without remark: the excitement of a general, the accelerated movements of the non-combatants, the vagaries of the army mule, the bad practice of the artillery—all afforded entertainment. And when the fight became hotter and the Federals pressed

Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia.
2  General Longstreet relates an amusing story: “One of the soldiers, during the investment of Suffolk (April 1863), carefully constructed and equipped a full-sized man, dressed in a new suit of improved ‘butternut’ clothing; and christening him Julius Cæsar took him to a signal platform which overlooked the works, adjusted him to a graceful position, and made him secure to the framework by strong cords. A little after sunrise ‘Julius Cæsar’ was discovered by some of the Federal battery officers, who prepared for the target so inviting to skilful practice. The new soldier sat under the hot fire with irritating indifference until the Confederates, unable to restrain their hilarity, exposed the joke by calling for ‘Three cheers for Julius Cæsar!’ The other side quickly recognised the situation, and good-naturedly added to ours their cheers for the old hero.” From Manassas to Apomattox.

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resolutely to the attack, the flow of badinage took a grim and peculiar turn. It has already been related that the Confederate armies depended, to a large degree, for their clothing and equipments on what they captured. So abundant was this source of supply, that the soldier had come to look upon his enemy as a movable magazine of creature comforts; and if he marched cheerfully to battle, it was not so much because he loved fighting, but that he hoped to renew his wardrobe. A victory was much, but the spoils of victory were more. No sooner, then, did the Federals arrive within close range, than the wild yells of the Southern infantry became mingled with fierce laughter and derisive shouts. “Take off them boots, Yank!” “Come out of them clothes; we’re gwine to have them!” “Come on, blue-bellies, we want them blankets!” “Bring them rations along! You’ve got to leave them!”—such were the cries, like the howls of half-famished wolves, that were heard along Jackson’s lines at Fredericksburg.1 And they were not raised in mockery. The battle-field was the soldier’s harvest, and as the sheaves of writhing forms, under the muzzles of their deadly rifles, increased in length and depth, the men listened with straining ears for the word to charge. The counterstroke was their opportunity. The rush with the bayonet was never so speedy but that deft fingers found time to rifle the haversacks of the fallen, and such was the eagerness for booty that it was with the greatest difficulty that the troops were dragged off from the pursuit. It is said that at Fredericksburg, some North Carolina regiments, which had

1  “During the truce on the second day of Fredericksburg,” says Captain Smith, “a tall, fine-looking Alabama soldier, who was one of the litter-bearers, picked up a new Enfield rifle on the neutral ground, examined it, tested the sights, shouldered it, and was walking back to the Confederate lines, when a young Federal officer, very handsomely dressed and mounted, peremptorily ordered him to throw it down, telling him he had no right to take it. The soldier, with the rifle on his shoulder, walked very deliberately round the officer, scanning him from head to foot, and then started again towards our lines. On this the Federal Lieutenant, drawing his little sword, galloped after him, and ordered him with an oath to throw down the rifle. The soldier halted, then walked round the officer once again, very slowly, looking him up and down, and at last said, pointing to his fine boots: ‘I shall shoot you tomorrow, and get them boots;’ then strode away to his command. The Lieutenant made no attempt to follow.”

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repulsed and followed up a Federal brigade, were hardly to be restrained from dashing into the midst of the enemy’s reserves, and when at length they were turned back their complaints were bitter. The order to halt and retire seemed to them nothing less than rank injustice. Half-crying with disappointment, they accused their generals of favouritism! “They don’t want the North Car’linians to git anything,” they whined. “They wouldn’t hev’ stopped Hood’s Texicans—they’d hev’ let them go on!”

But if they relieved their own pressing wants at the expense of their enemies, if they stripped the dead, and exchanged boots and clothing with their prisoners, seldom getting the worst of the bargain, no armies—to their lasting honour be it spoken, for no armies were so destitute—were ever less formidable to peaceful citizens, within the border or beyond it, than those of the Confederacy. It was exceedingly seldom that wanton damage was laid to the soldier’s charge. The rights of non-combatants were religiously respected, and the farmers of Pennsylvania were treated with the same courtesy and consideration as the planters of Virginia. A village was none the worse for the vicinity of a Confederate bivouac, and neither man nor woman had reason to dread the half-starved tatterdemalions who followed Lee and Jackson. As the grey columns, in the march through Maryland, swung through the streets of those towns where the Unionist sentiment was strong, the women, standing in the porches, waved the Stars and Stripes defiantly in their faces. But the only retort of “the dust brown ranks” was a volley of jests, not always unmixed with impudence. The personal attributes of their fair enemies did not escape observation. The damsel whose locks were of conspicuous hue was addressed as “bricktop” until she screamed with rage, and threatened to fire into the ranks; while the maiden of sour visage and uncertain years was saluted as “Ole Miss Vinegar” by a whole division of infantry. But this was the limit of the soldier’s resentment. At the same time, when in the midst of plenty he was not impeccable. For highway robbery and housebreaking he had no inclination, but he was by

THE CONFEDERATE SOLDIER  354

no means above petty larceny. Pigs and poultry, fruit, corn, vegetables and fence-rails, he looked upon as his lawful perquisites.

He was the most cunning of foragers, and neither stringent orders nor armed guards availed to protect a field of maize or a patch of potatoes; the traditional negro was not more skilful in looting a fowl-house;1 he had an unerring scent for whisky or “apple-jack;” and the address he displayed in compassing the destruction of the unsuspecting porker was only equalled, when he was caught flagrante delicto, by the ingenuity of his excuses. According to the Confederate private, the most inoffensive animals, in the districts through which the armies marched, developed a strange pugnacity, and if bullet and bayonet were used against them, it was solely in self-defence.

But such venial faults, common to every army, and almost justified by the deficiencies of the Southern commissariat, were more than atoned for when the enemy was met. Of the prowess of Lee’s veterans sufficient has been said. Their deeds speak for themselves. But it was not the battle-field alone that bore witness to their fortitude. German soldiers have told us that in the war of 1870, when their armies, marching on Paris, found, to their astonishment, the great city strongly garrisoned, and hosts gathering in every quarter for its relief, a singular apathy took possession of the troops. The explanation offered by a great military writer is that “after a certain period even the victor becomes tired of war;” and “the more civilised,” he adds, “a people is, the more quickly will this weakness become apparent.”2 Whether this explanation be adequate is not easy to decide. The fact remains, however, that the Confederate volunteer was able to overcome that longing for home which chilled the enthusiasm of the German conscript. And this is the more remarkable, inasmuch as his career was not one of unchequered victory. In the spring of 1863, the Army of the Potomac, more numerous than ever, was still before

1  Despite Lee’s proclamations against indiscriminate foraging, “the hens,” he said, “had to roost mighty high when the Texans were about.”
The Conduct of War. Von der Goltz.

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him, firmly established on Virginian soil; hope of foreign intervention, despite the assurances of the politicians, was gradually fading, and it was but too evident that the war was far from over. Yet at no time during their two years of service had the soldiers shown the slightest sign of that discouragement which seized the Germans after two months. And who shall dare to say that the Southerner was less highly civilised than the Prussian or the Bavarian? Political liberty, freedom of speech and action, are the real elements of civilisation, and not merely education. But let the difference in the constitution of the two armies be borne in mind. The Confederates, with few exceptions, were volunteers, who had become soldiers of their own choice, who had assumed arms deliberately and without compulsion, and who by their own votes were responsible that war had been declared. The Germans were conscripts, a dumb, powerless, irresponsible multitude, animated, no doubt, by hereditary hatred of the enemy, but without that sense of moral obligation which exists in the volunteer. We may be permitted, then, to believe that this sense of moral obligation was one reason why the spirit of the Southerners rose superior to human weakness, and that the old adage, which declares that one volunteer is better than three pressed men, is not yet out of date. Nor is it an unfair inference that the armies of the Confederacy, allied by the “crimson thread of kinship” to those of Wellington, of Raglan, and of Clyde, owed much of their enduring fortitude to “the rock whence they were hewn.”

And yet, with all their admirable qualities, the Southern soldiers had not yet got rid of their original defects. Temperate, obedient, and well-conducted, small as was the percentage of bad characters and habitual misdoers, their discipline was still capable of improvement. The assertion, at first sight, seems a contradiction in terms. How could troops, it may be asked, who so seldom infringed the regulations be other than well-disciplined? For the simple reason that discipline in quarters is an absolutely different quality from discipline in battle. No large body of

THE CONFEDERATE DISCIPLINE  356

intelligent men, assembled in a just cause and of good character, is likely to break out into excesses, or, if obedience is manifestly necessary, to rebel against authority. Subordination to the law is the distinguishing mark of all civilised society. But such subordination, however praiseworthy, is not the discipline of the soldier, though it is often confounded with it. A regiment of volunteers, billeted in some country town, would probably show a smaller list of misdemeanours than a regiment of regulars. Yet the latter might be exceedingly well-disciplined, and the former have no real discipline whatever. Self-respect—for that is the discipline of the volunteer—is not battle discipline, the discipline of the cloth, of habit, of tradition, of constant association and of mutual confidence. Self-respect, excellent in itself, and by no means unknown amongst regular soldiers, does not carry with it a mechanical obedience to command, nor does it merge the individual in the mass, and give the tremendous power of unity to the efforts of large numbers.

It will not be pretended that the discipline of regular troops always rises superior to privation and defeat. It is a notorious fact that the number of deserters from Wellington’s army in Spain and Portugal, men who wilfully absented themselves from the colours and wandered over the country, was by no means inconsiderable; while the behaviour of the French regulars in 1870, and even of the Germans, when they rushed back in panic through the village of Gravelotte, deaf to the threats and entreaties of their aged sovereign, was hardly in accordance with military tradition. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to show that the Southerners fell somewhat short of the highest standard. They were certainly not incapable of keeping their ranks under a hot fire, or of holding their ground to the last extremity. Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg is one of the most splendid examples of disciplined valour in the annals of war, and the endurance of Lee’s army at Sharpsburg has seldom been surpassed. Nor was the disorder into which the attacking lines were sooner or later thrown a proof of inferior training. Even in the

THE CONFEDERATE DISCIPLINE  357

days of flint-lock muskets, the admixture of not only companies and battalions, but even of brigades and divisions, was a constant feature of fierce assaults over broken ground. If, under such conditions, the troops still press forward, and if, when success has been achieved, order is rapidly restored, then discipline is good; and in neither respect did the Confederates fail. But to be proof against disorder is not everything in battle. It is not sufficient that the men should be capable of fighting fiercely; to reap the full benefit of their weapons and their training they must be obedient to command. The rifle is a far less formidable weapon when every man uses it at his own discretion than when the fire of a large body of troops is directed by a single will. Precision of movement, too, is necessary for the quick concentration of superior forces at the decisive point, for rapid support, and for effective combination. But neither was the fire of the Confederate infantry under the complete control of their officers, nor were their movements always characterised by order and regularity. It was seldom that the men could be induced to refrain from answering shot with shot; there was an extraordinary waste of ammunition, there was much unnecessary noise, and the regiments were very apt to get out of hand. It is needless to bring forward specific proof; the admissions of superior officers are quite sufficient. General D. H. Hill, in an interesting description of the Southern soldier, speaks very frankly of his shortcomings. “Self-reliant always, obedient when he chose to be, impatient of drill and discipline. He was unsurpassed as a scout or on the skirmish line. Of the shoulder-to-shoulder courage, bred of drill and discipline, he knew nothing and cared less. Hence, on the battle-field, he was more of a free lance than a machine. Who ever saw a Confederate line advancing that was not crooked as a ram’s horn? Each ragged rebel yelling on his own hook and aligning on himself! But there is as much need of the machine-made soldier as of the self-reliant soldier, and the concentrated blow is always the most effective blow. The erratic effort of the Confederate, heroic though it was, yet failed to

THE CONFEDERATE DISCIPLINE  358

achieve the maximum result just because it was erratic. Moreover, two serious evils attended that excessive egotism and individuality which came to the Confederate through his training, association, and habits. He knew when a movement was false and a position untenable, and he was too little of a machine to give in such cases the wholehearted service which might have redeemed the blunder. The other evil was an ever-growing one. His disregard of discipline and independence of character made him often a straggler, and by straggling the fruit of many a victory was lost.1

General Lee was not less outspoken. A circular issued to his troops during the last months of the war is virtually a criticism on their conduct. “Many opportunities,” he wrote, “have been lost and hundreds of valuable lives uselessly sacrificed for want of a strict observance of discipline. Its object is to enable an army to bring promptly into action the largest possible number of men in good order, and under the control of their officers. Its effects are visible in all military history, which records the triumph of discipline and courage far more frequently than that of numbers and resources. The importance and utility of thorough discipline should be impressed on officers and men on all occasions by illustrations taken from the experience of the instructor or from other sources of information. They should be made to understand that discipline contributes no less to their safety than to their efficiency. Disastrous surprises and those sudden panics which lead to defeat and the greatest loss of life are of rare occurrence among disciplined troops. It is well known that the greatest number of casualties occur when men become scattered, and especially when they retreat in confusion, as the fire of the enemy is then more deliberate and fatal. The experience of every officer shows that those troops suffer least who attack most vigorously, and that a few men, retaining their organisation and acting in concert, accomplish far more with smaller loss than a larger number scattered and disorganised.

Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. xiii, p. 261.

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“The appearance of a steady, unbroken line is more formidable to the enemy, and renders his aim less accurate and his fire less effective. Orders can be readily transmitted, advantage can be promptly taken of every opportunity, and all efforts being directed to a common end, the combat will be briefer and success more certain.

“Let officers and men be made to feel that they will most effectually secure their safety by remaining steadily at their posts, preserving order, and fighting with coolness and vigour. . . . Impress upon the officers that discipline cannot be attained without constant watchfulness on their part. They must attend to the smallest particulars of detail. Men must be habituated to obey or they cannot be controlled in battle, and the neglect of the least important order impairs the proper influence of the officer.”1

That such a circular was considered necessary after the troops had been nearly four years under arms establishes beyond all question that the discipline of the Confederate army was not that of the regular troops with whom General Lee had served under the Stars and Stripes; but it is not to be understood that he attributed the deficiencies of his soldiers to any spirit of resistance on their part to the demands of subordination. Elsewhere he says: “The greatest difficulty I find is in causing orders and regulations to be obeyed. This arises not from a spirit of disobedience, but from ignorance.”2 And here, with his usual perspicacity, he goes straight to the root of the evil. When the men in the ranks understand all that discipline involves, safety, health, efficiency, victory, it is easily maintained; and it is because experience and tradition have taught them this that veteran armies are so amenable to control. “Soldiers,” says Sir Charles Napier, “must obey in all things. They may and do laugh at foolish orders, but they nevertheless obey, not because they are blindly obedient, but because they know that to disobey is to break the backbone of their profession.”

Memoirs of General Robert E. Lee. By A. L. Long, Military Secretary and Brigadier-General, pp. 685–6.
Memoirs, etc., p. 619. Letter dated March 21, 1863.

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Such knowledge, however, is long in coming, even to the regular, and it may be questioned whether it ever really came home to the Confederates.

In fact, the Southern soldier, ignorant, at the outset, of what may be accomplished by discipline, never quite got rid of the belief that the enthusiasm of the individual, his goodwill and his native courage, was a more than sufficient substitute. “The spirit which animates our soldiers,” wrote Lee, “and the natural courage with which they are so liberally endowed, have led to a reliance upon those good qualities, to the neglect of measures which would increase their efficiency and contribute to their safety.”1 Yet the soldier was hardly to blame. Neither he nor his regimental officers had any previous knowledge of war when they were suddenly launched against the enemy, and there was no time to instil into them the habits of discipline. There was no regular army to set them an example; no historic force whose traditions they would unconsciously have adopted; the exigencies of the service forbade the retention of the men in camps of instruction, and trained instructors could not be spared from more important duties.

Such ignorance, however, as that which prevailed in the Southern ranks is not always excusable. It would be well if those who pose as the friends of the private soldier, as his protectors from injustice, realised the mischief they may do by injudicious sympathy. The process of being broken to discipline is undoubtedly gaffing to the instincts of free men, and it is beyond question that among a multitude of superiors, some will be found who are neither just nor considerate. Instances of hardship must inevitably occur. But men and officers—for discipline presses as hardly on the officers as on the men—must obey, no matter at what cost to their feelings, for obedience to orders, instant and unhesitating, is not only the life-blood of armies but the security of States; and the doctrine that under any conditions whatever deliberate disobedience can be justified is treason to the commonwealth. It is to be remembered that the

Memoirs, etc., p. 684. By A. L. Long.

THE “THINKING BAYONET”  361

end of the soldier’s existence is not merely to conduct himself as a respectable citizen and earn his wages, but to face peril and privations, not of his own free will, but at the bidding of others; and, in circumstances where his natural instincts assert themselves most strongly, to make a complete surrender of mind and body. If he has been in the habit of weighing the justice or the wisdom of orders before obeying them, if he has been taught that disobedience may be a pardonable crime, he will probably question the justice of the order that apparently sends him to certain death; if he once begins to think; if he once contemplates the possibility of disobedience; if he permits a single idea to enter his head beyond the necessity of instant compliance, it is unlikely that he will rise superior to the promptings of his weaker nature. “Men must be habituated to obey or they cannot be controlled in battle;” and the slightest interference with the habit of subordination is fraught, therefore, with the very greatest danger to the efficiency of an army.

It has been asserted, and it would appear that the idea is widespread, that patriotism and intelligence are of vastly more importance than the habit of obedience, and it was certainly a very general opinion in America before the war. This idea should have been effectually dissipated, at all events in the North, by the battle of Bull Run. Nevertheless, throughout the conflict a predilection existed in favour of what was called the “thinking bayonet;” and the very term “machine-made soldier,” employed by General D. H. Hill, proves that the strict discipline of regular armies was not held in high esteem.

It is certainly true that the “thinking bayonet” is by no means to be decried. A man can no more be a good soldier without intelligence and aptitude for his profession than he can be a successful poacher or a skilful jockey. But it is possible, in considering the value of an armed force, to rate too highly the natural qualities of the individual in the ranks. In certain circumstances, especially in irregular warfare, where each man fights for his own hand, they doubtless play a

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conspicuous part. A thousand skilled riflemen, familiar with the “moving accidents by flood and field,” even if they have no regular training and are incapable of precise manœuvres, may prove more than a match for the same number of professional soldiers. But when large numbers are in question, when the concentration of superior force at a single point, and the close co-operation of the three arms, infantry, artillery, and cavalry, decide the issue, then the force that can manœuvre, that moves like a machine at the mandate of a single will, has a marked advantage; and the power of manœuvring and of combination is conferred by discipline alone. “Two Mamelukes,” said Napoleon, “can defeat three French horsemen, because they are better armed, better mounted, and more skilful. A hundred French horse have nothing to fear from a hundred Mamelukes, three hundred would defeat a similar number, and a thousand French would defeat fifteen hundred Mamelukes. So great is the influence of tactics, order, and the power of manœuvring.”

It may be said, moreover, that whatever may have been the case in past times, the training of the regular soldier to-day neither aims at producing mere machines nor has it that effect. As much attention is given to the development of self-reliance in the rank and file as to making them subordinate. It has long been recognised that there are many occasions in war when even the private must use his wits; on outpost, or patrol, as a scout, an orderly, or when his immediate superiors have fallen, momentous issues may hang on his judgment and initiative; and in a good army these qualities are sedulously fostered by constant instruction in field duties. Nor is the fear justified that the strict enforcement of exact obedience, whenever a superior is present, impairs, under this system of training, the capacity for independent action when such action becomes necessary. In the old days, to drill and discipline the soldier into a machine was undoubtedly the end of all his training. To-day his officers have the more difficult task of stimulating his intelligence, while, at the same time, they instil the habits of subordination; and that such task

BATTLE DISCIPLINE  363

may be successfully accomplished we have practical proof. The regiments of the Light Brigade, trained by Sir John Moore nearly a century ago on the system of to-day, proved their superiority in the field over all others. As skirmishers, on the outpost, and in independent fighting, they were exceedingly efficient; and yet, when they marched shoulder to shoulder, no troops in Wellington’s army showed a more solid front, manœuvred with greater precision, or were more completely under the control of their officers.

Mechanical obedience, then, is perfectly compatible with the freest exercise of the intelligence, provided that the men are so trained that they know instinctively when to give the one and to use the other; and the Confederates, had their officers and non-commissioned officers been trained soldiers, might easily have acquired this highest form of discipline. As it was, and as it always will be with improvised troops, the discipline of battle was to a great degree purely personal. The men followed those officers whom they knew, and in whom they had confidence; but they did not always obey simply because the officer had the right to command; and they were not easily handled when the wisdom of an order or the necessity of a movement was not apparent. The only way, it was said by an Englishman in the Confederacy, in which an officer could acquire influence over the Southern soldiers was by his personal conduct under fire. “Every ounce of authority,” was his expression, “had to be purchased by a drop of my blood.”1 Such being the case, it is manifest that Jackson’s methods of discipline were well adapted to the peculiar constitution of the army in which he served. With the officers he was exceedingly strict. He looked to them to set an example of unhesitating obedience and the precise performance of duty. He demanded, too—and in this respect his own conduct was a model—that the rank and file should be treated with tact and consideration. He remembered that his citizen soldiers were utterly unfamiliar with the forms and customs of military life, that what to the regular would

Three Months in the Southern States. General Sir Arthur Fremantle, G.C.B.

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be a mere matter of course, might seem a gross outrage to the man who had never acknowledged a superior. In his selection of officers, therefore, for posts upon his staff, and in his recommendations for promotion, he considered personal characteristics rather than professional ability. He preferred men who would win the confidence of others—men not only strong, but possessing warm sympathies and broad minds—to mere martinets, ruling by regulation, and treating the soldier as a machine. But, at the same time, he was by no means disposed to condone misconduct in the volunteers. Never was there a more striking contrast than between Jackson the general and Jackson off duty. During his sojourn at Moss Neck, Mr. Corbin’s little daughter, a child of six years old, became a special favourite. “Her pretty face and winsome ways were so charming that he requested her mother that she might visit him every afternoon, when the day’s labours were over. He had always some little treat in store for her—an orange or an apple—but one afternoon he found that his supply of good things was exhausted. Glancing round the room he eye fell on a new uniform cap, ornamented with a gold band. Taking his knife, he ripped off the braid, and fastened it among the curls of his little playfellow.” A little later the child was taken ill, and after his removal from Moss Neck he heard that she had died. “The general,” writes his aide-de-camp, “wept freely when I brought him the sad news.” Yet in the administration of discipline Jackson was far sterner than General Lee, or indeed than any other of the generals in Virginia. “Once on the march, fearing lest his men might stray from the ranks and commit acts of pillage, he had issued an order that the soldiers should not enter private dwellings. Disregarding the order, a soldier entered a house, and even used insulting language to the women of the family. This was reported to Jackson, who had the man arrested, tried by drum-head court-martial, and shot in twenty minutes.”1 He never failed to confirm the sentences of death passed by courts-martial on deserters. It was in vain that his oldest

Bright Skies and Dark Shadows. Rev. H. M. Field, D.D., p. 286.

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friends, or even the chaplains, appealed for a mitigation of the extreme penalty. “While he was in command at Winchester, in December 1861, a soldier who was charged with striking his captain was tried by court-martial and sentenced to be shot. Knowing that the breach of discipline had been attended with many extenuating circumstances, some of us endeavoured to secure his pardon. Possessing ourselves of all the facts, we waited upon the general, who evinced the deepest interest in the object of our visit, and listened with evident sympathy to our plea. There was moisture in his eyes when we repeated the poor fellow’s pitiful appeal that he be allowed to die for his country as a soldier on the field of battle, and not as a dog by the muskets of his own comrades. Such solicitude for the success of our efforts did he manifest that he even suggested some things to be done which we had not thought of. At the same time he warned us not to be too hopeful. He said: ‘It is unquestionably a case of great hardship, but a pardon at this juncture might work greater hardship. Resistance to lawful authority is a grave offence in a soldier. To pardon this man would be to encourage insubordination throughout the army, and so ruin our cause. Still,’ he added, ‘I will review the whole case, and no man will be happier than myself if I can reach the same conclusions as you have done.’ The soldier was shot.”1

On another occasion four men were to be executed for desertion to the enemy. The firing party had been ordered to parade at four o’clock in the afternoon, and shortly before the hour a chaplain, not noted for his tact, made his way to the general’s tent, and petitioned earnestly that the prisoners might even now be released. Jackson, whom he found pacing backwards and forwards, in evident agitation, watch in hand, listened courteously to his arguments, but made no reply, until at length the worthy minister, in his most impressive manner, said, “General, consider your responsibility before the Lord. You are sending these men’s souls to hell!” With a look of intense

1  Communicated by the Rev. Dr. Graham.

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disgust at such empty cant, Jackson made one stride forward, took the astonished divine by his shoulders, and saying, in his severest tones, “That, sir, is my business—do you do yours!” thrust him forcibly from the tent.

His severity as regards the more serious offences did not, however, alienate in the smallest degree the confidence and affection of his soldiers. They had full faith in his justice. They were well aware that to order the execution of some unfortunate wretch gave him intense pain. But they recognised, as clearly as he did himself, that it was sometimes expedient that individuals should suffer. They knew that not all men, nor even the greater part, are heroes, and that if the worthless element had once reason to believe that they might escape the legitimate consequences of their crimes, desertion and insubordination would destroy the army. By some of the senior officers, however, his rigorous ideas of discipline were less favourably considered. They were by no means disposed to quarrel with the fact that the sentences of courts-martial in the Second Army Corps were almost invariably confirmed; but they objected strongly to the same measure which they meted out to the men being consistently applied to themselves. They could not be brought to see that neglect of duty, however trivial, on the part of a colonel or brigadier was just as serious a fault as desertion or insubordination on the part of the men; and the conflict of opinion, in certain cases, had unfortunate results.

To those whose conduct he approved he was more than considerate. General Lane, who was under him as a cadet at Lexington, writes as follows:—

“When in camp at Bunker Hill, after the battle of Sharpsburg, where the gallant Branch was killed, I, as colonel commanding the brigade, was directed by General A. P. Hill to hold my command in readiness, with three days’ rations, for detached service, and to report to General Jackson for further orders. That was all the information that Hill could give me. I had been in Jackson’s corps since the battles round Richmond, and had been very derelict in not paying my respects to my old professor.

DISCIPLINE  367

As I rode to his headquarters I wondered if he would recognise me. I certainly expected to receive his orders in a few terse sentences, and to be promptly dismissed with a military salute. He knew me as soon as I entered his tent, though we had not met for years. He rose quickly, with a smile on his face, took my hand in both of his in the warmest manner, expressed his pleasure at seeing me, chided me for not having been to see him, and bade me be seated. His kind words, the tones of his voice, his familiarly calling me Lane, whereas it had always been Mr. Lane at the Institute, put me completely at my ease. Then, for the first time, I began to love that reserved man whom I had always honoured and respected as my professor, and whom I greatly admired as my general.

“After a very pleasant and somewhat protracted conversation, he ordered me to move at once, and as rapidly as possible, to North Mountain Depôt, tear up the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and put myself in communication with General Hampton (commanding cavalry brigade), who would cover my operations. While we were there General Jackson sent a member of his staff to see how we were progressing. That night I received orders to move at once and quickly to Martinsburg, as there had been heavy skirmishing near Kerneysville. Next morning, when I reported to General Jackson, he received me in the same cordial, warm-hearted manner, complimented me on the thoroughness of my work, told me that he had recommended me for promotion to take permanent charge of Branch’s brigade, and that as I was the only person recommended through military channels, I would be appointed in spite of the two aspirants who were trying to bring political influence to bear in Richmond in their behalf. When I rose to go he took my hand in both of his, looked me steadily in the face, and in the words and tones of friendly warmth, which can never be forgotten, again expressed his confidence in my promotion, and bade me good-bye, with a ‘God bless you, Lane!’ ”1

On the other hand, Jackson’s treatment of those who

Memoirs, pp. 536–7.

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failed to obey his orders was very different. No matter how high the rank of the offender, Jackson never sought to screen the crime.1 No thought that the public rebuke of his principal subordinates might impair their authority or destroy their cordial relations with himself ever stayed his hand; and it may well be questioned whether his disregard of consequences was not too absolutely uncompromising. Men who live in constant dread of their chief’s anger are not likely to render loyal and efficient service, and the least friction in the higher ranks is felt throughout the whole command. When the troops begin taking sides and unanimity disappears, the power of energetic combination at once deteriorates. That Jackson was perfectly just is not denied; the misconduct of his subordinates was sometimes flagrant; but it may well be questioned whether to keep officers under arrest for weeks, or even months, marching without their swords in rear of the column, was wholly wise. There is but one public punishment for a senior officer who is guilty of serious misbehaviour, and that is instant dismissal. If he is suffered to remain in the army his presence will always be a source of weakness. But the question will arise, Is it possible to replace him? If he is trusted by his men they will resent his removal, and give but halfhearted support to his successor; so in dealing with those in high places tact and consideration are essential. Even Dr. Dabney admits that in this respect Jackson’s conduct is open to criticism.

As already related, he looked on the blunders of his officers, if those blunders were honest, and due simply to misconception of the situation, with a tolerant eye. He knew too much of war and its difficulties to expect that their judgment would be unerring. He never made the mistake of reprehending the man who had done his best to succeed, and contented himself with pointing out, quietly and courteously, how failure might have been avoided. “But if he believed,” says his chief of the

1  The five regimental commanders of the Stonewall Brigade were once placed under arrest at the same time for permitting their men to burn fence-rails; they were not released until they had compensated the farmer.

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staff, “that his subordinates were self-indulgent or contumacious, he became a stern and exacting master; . . . and during his career a causeless friction was produced in the working of his government over several gallant and meritorious officers who served under him. This was almost the sole fault of his military character: that by this jealousy of intentional inefficiency he diminished the sympathy between himself and the general officers next his person by whom his orders were to be executed. Had he been able to exercise the same energetic authority, through the medium of a zealous personal affection, he would have been a more perfect leader of armies.”1

This system of command was in all probability the outcome of deliberate calculation. No officer, placed in permanent charge of a considerable force, least of all a man who never acted except upon reflection, and who had a wise regard for human nature, could fail to lay down for himself certain principles of conduct towards both officers and men. It may be, then, that Jackson considered the course he pursued the best adapted to maintain discipline amongst a number of ambitious young generals, some of whom had been senior to himself in the old service, and all of whom had been raised suddenly, with probably some disturbance to their self-possession, to high rank. It is to be remembered, too, that during the campaigns of 1862 his pre-eminent ability was only by degrees made clear. It was not everyone who, like General Lee, discerned the great qualities of the silent and unassuming instructor of cadets, and other leaders, of more dashing exterior, with a well-deserved reputation for brilliant courage, may well have doubted whether his capacity was superior to their own.

Such soaring spirits possibly needed a tight hand; and, in any case, Jackson had much cause for irritation. With Wolfe and Sherman he shared the distinguished honour of being considered crazy by hundreds of self-sufficient mediocrities. It was impossible that he should have been ignorant, although not one word of complaint ever passed

1  Dabney, vol. II, pp. 519–520.

THE DEVOTION OF HIS SOLDIERS  370

his lips, how grossly he was misrepresented, how he was caricatured in the press, and credited with the most extravagant and foolhardy ideas of war. Nor did his subordinates, in very many instances, give him that loyal and ungrudging support which he conceived was the due of the commanding general. More than one of his enterprises fell short of the full measure of success owing to the shortcomings of others; and these shortcomings, such as Loring’s insubordination at Romney, Steuart’s refusal to pursue Banks after Winchester, Garnett’s retreat at Kernstown, A. P. Hill’s tardiness at Cedar Run, might all be traced to the same cause—disdain of his capacity, and a misconception of their own position. In such circumstances it is hardly to be wondered at if his wrath blazed to a white heat. He was not of a forgiving nature. Once roused, resentment took possession of his whole being, and it may be questioned whether it was ever really appeased. At the same time, the fact that Jackson lacked the fascination which, allied to lofty intellect, wins the hearts of men most readily, and is pre-eminently the characteristic of the very greatest warriors, can hardly be denied. His influence with men was a plant of slow growth. Yet the glamour of his great deeds, the gradual recognition of his unfailing sympathy, his modesty and his truth, produced in the end the same result as the personal charm of Napoleon, of Nelson, and of Lee. His hold on the devotion of his troops was very sure: “God knows,” said his adjutant-general, weeping the tears of a brave man, “I would have died for him!” and few commanders have been followed with more implicit confidence or have inspired a deeper and more abiding affection. Long years after the war a bronze statue, in his habit as he lived, was erected on his grave at Lexington. Thither, when the figure was unveiled, came the survivors of the Second Army Corps, the men of Manassas and of Sharpsburg, of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and of many another hard-fought field; and the younger generation looked on the relics of an army whose peer the world has seldom seen. When the guns had fired a salute, the wild rebel yell, the music which the great Virginian had

THE DEVOTION OF HIS SOLDIERS  371

loved so well, rang loud above his grave, and as the last reverberations died away across the hill, the grey-haired ranks stood still and silent. “See how they loved him!” said one, and it was spoken with deepest reverence. Two well-known officers, who had served under Jackson, were sitting near each other on their horses. Each remarked the silence of the other, and each saw that the other was in tears. “I’m not ashamed of it, Snowden!” “Nor I, old boy,” replied the other, as he tried to smile.

When, after the unveiling, the columns marched past the monument, the old fellows looked up, and then bowed their uncovered heads and passed on. But one tall, gaunt soldier of the Stonewall Brigade, as he passed out of the cemetery, looked back for a moment at the life-like figure of his general, and waving his old grey hat towards it, cried out, “Good-bye, old man, good-bye; we’ve done all we could for you; good-bye!”

It is not always easy to discern why one general is worshipped, even by men who have never seen him, while another, of equal or even superior capacity, fails to awaken the least spark of affection, except in his chosen friends. Grant was undoubtedly a greater soldier than McClellan, and the genius of Wellington was not less than that of Nelson. And yet, while Nelson and McClellan won all hearts, not one single private had either for Wellington or Grant any warmer sentiment than respect. It would be as unfair, however, to attribute selfishness or want of sympathy to either Wellington or Grant, as to insinuate that Nelson and McClellan were deliberate bidders for popularity. It may be that in the two former the very strength of their patriotism was at fault. To them the State was everything, the individual nothing. To fight for their country was merely a question of duty, into which the idea of glory or recompense hardly entered, and, indifferent themselves either to praise or blame, they considered that the victory of the national arms was a sufficient reward for the soldier’s toils. Both were generous and open-handed, exerting themselves incessantly to provide for the comfort and well-being of their troops.

NAPOLEON  372

Neither was insensible to suffering, and both were just as capable of self-sacrifice as either Nelson or McClellan. But the standpoint from which they looked at war was too exalted. Nelson and McClellan, on the other hand, recognised that they commanded men, not stoics. Sharing with Napoleon the rare quality of captivating others, a quality which comes by nature or comes not at all, they made allowance for human nature, and identified themselves with those beneath them in the closest camaraderie. And herein, to a great extent, lay the secret of the enthusiastic devotion which they inspired.

If the pitiless dissectors of character are right we ought to see in Napoleon the most selfish of tyrants, the coldest end most crafty of charlatans. It is difficult, however, to believe that the hearts of a generation of hardy warriors were conquered merely by ringing phrases and skilful flattery. It should be remembered that from a mercenary force, degraded and despised, he transformed the Grand Army into the terror of Europe and the pride of France. During the years of his glory, when the legions controlled the destinies of their country, none was more honoured than the soldier. His interests were always the first to be considered. The highest ranks in the peerage, the highest offices of State, were held by men who had carried the knapsack, and when thrones were going begging their claims were preferred before all others. The Emperor, with all his greatness, was always “the Little Corporal” to his grenadiers. His career was their own. As they shared his glory, so they shared his reward. Every upward step he made towards supreme power he took them with him, and their relations were always of the most cordial and familiar character. He was never happier than when, on the eve of some great battle, he made his bivouac within a square of the Guard; never more at ease than when exchanging rough compliments with the veterans of Rivoli or Jena. He was the representative of the army rather than of the nation. The men knew that no civilian would be preferred before them; that their gallant deeds were certain of his recognition; that their claims to the cross, to

NAPOLEON  373

pension, and to promotion, would be as carefully considered as the claims of their generals. They loved Napoleon and they trusted him; and whatever may have been his faults, he was “the Little Corporal,” the friend and comrade of his soldiers, to the end. It was by the same hooks of steel that Stonewall Jackson grappled the hearts of the Second Army Corps to his own. His men loved him, not merely because he was the bravest man they had ever known, the strongest, and the most resolute, not because he had given them glory, and had made them heroes whose fame was known beyond the confines of the South, but because he was one of themselves, with no interests apart from their interests; because he raised them to his own level, respecting them not merely as soldiers, but as comrades, the tried comrades of many a hard fight and weary march. Although he ruled them with a rod of iron, he made no secret, either officially or privately, of his deep and abiding admiration for their self-sacrificing valour. His very dispatches showed that he regarded his own skill and courage as small indeed when compared with theirs. Like Napoleon’s, his congratulatory orders were conspicuous for the absence of all reference to himself; it was always “we, ” not “I, ” and he was among the first to recognise the worth of the rank and file. “One day, ” says Dr. McGuire, “early in the war, when the Second Virginia Regiment marched by, I said to General Johnston, “If these men will not fight, you have no troops that will. ” He expressed the prevalent opinion of the day in his reply, saying, “I would not give one company of regulars for the whole regiment. ” When I returned to Jackson I had occasion to quote General Johnston’s opinion. “Did he say that? ” he asked, “and of those splendid men? ” And then he added: “The patriot volunteer, fighting for his country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier upon earth. ” And his veterans knew more than that their general believed them to be heroes. They knew that thia great, valiant man, beside whom all others, save Lee himself, seemed small and feeble, this mighty captain, who held the hosts of the enemy in the hollow of his hand, was the

JACKSON SUPPORTS HIS OFFICERS AND MEN  374

kindest and the most considerate of human beings. To them he was “Old Jack” in the same affectionate sense as he had been “Old Jack” to his class-mates at West Point. They followed him willingly, for they knew that the path he trod was the way to victory; but they loved him as children do their parents, because they were his first thought and his last.

In season and out of season he laboured for their welfare. To his transport and commissariat officers he was a hard master. The unfortunate wight who had neglected to bring up supplies, or who ventured to make difficulties, discovered, to his cost, that his quiet commander could be very terrible; but those officers who did their duty, in whatever branch of the service they might be serving, found that their zeal was more than appreciated. For himself he asked nothing; on behalf of his subordinates he was a constant and persistent suitor. He was not only ready to support the claims to promotion of those who deserved it, but in the case of those who displayed special merit he took the initiative himself: and he was not content with one refusal. His only difference with General Lee, if difference it can be called, was on a question of this nature. The Commander-in-Chief, it appears, soon after the battle of Fredericksburg, had proposed to appoint officers to the Second Army Corps who had served elsewhere. After some correspondence Jackson wrote as follows:—“My rule has been to recommend such as were, in my opinion, best qualified for filling vacancies. The application of this rule has prevented me from even recommending for the command of my old brigade one of its officers, because I did not regard any of them as competent as another of whose qualifications I had a higher opinion. This rule has led me to recommend Colonel Bradley T. Johnson for the command of Taliaferro’s brigade. . . . I desire the interest of the service, and no other interest, to determine who shall be selected to fill the vacancies. Guided by this principle, I cannot go outside of my command for persons to fill vacancies in it, unless by so doing a more competent officer is secured. This same principle leads me to oppose

JACKSON SUPPORTS HIS OFFICERS AND MEN  375

having officers who have never served with me, and of whose qualifications I have no knowledge, forced upon me by promoting them to fill vacancies in my command, and advancing them over meritorious officers well qualified for the positions, and of whose qualifications I have had ample opportunities of judging from their having served with me.

“In my opinion, the interest of the service would be injured if I should quietly consent to see officers with whose qualifications I am not acquainted promoted into my command to fill vacancies, regardless of the merits of my own officers who are well qualified for the positions. The same principle leads me, when selections have to be made outside of my command, to recommend those (if there be such) whose former service with me proved them well qualified for filling the vacancies. This induced me to recommend Captain Chew, who does not belong to this army corps, but whose well-earned reputation when with me has not been forgotten.”

And as he studied the wishes of his officers, working quietly and persistently for their advancement, so he studied the wishes of the private soldiers. It is well known that artillerymen come, after a time, to feel a personal affection for their guns, especially those which they have used in battle. When in camp near Fredericksburg Jackson was asked to transfer certain field-pieces, which had belonged to his old division, to another portion of the command. The men were exasperated, and the demand elicited the following letter:—

“December 3, 1862.

“General R. E. LEE,
“Commanding Army of Northern Virginia.

“General,—Your letter of this date, recommending that I distribute the rifle and Napoleon guns ‘so as to give General D. H. Hill a fair proportion’ has been received. I respectfully request, if any such distribution is to be made, that you will direct your chief of artillery or some other officer to do it; but I hope that none of the guns which belonged to the Army of the Valley before it became part of the Army of Northern Virginia, after the battle of Cedar Run,

THE PEOPLE OF THE VALLEY  376

will be taken from it. If since that time any artillery has improperly come into my command, I trust that it will be taken away, and the person in whose possession it may be found punished, if his conduct requires it. So careful was I to prevent an improper distribution of the artillery and other public property captured at Harper’s Ferry, that I issued a written order directing my staff officers to turn over to the proper chiefs of staff of the Army of Northern Virginia all captured stores. A copy of the order is herewith enclosed.

“General D. H. Hill’s artillery wants existed at the time he was assigned to my command, and it is hoped that the artillery which belonged to the Army of the Valley will not be taken to supply his wants.

“I am, General, your obedient servant,

“T. J. JACKSON, Lieutenant-General.

No further correspondence is to be found on the subject, so it may be presumed that the protest was successful.

Jackson’s relations with the rank and file have already been referred to, and although he was now commander of an army corps, and universally acknowledged as one of the foremost generals of the Confederacy, his rise in rank and reputation had brought no increase of dignity. He still treated the humblest privates with the same courtesy that he treated the Commander-in-Chief. He never repelled their advances, nor refused, if he could, to satisfy their curiosity; and although he seldom went out of his way to speak to them, if any soldier addressed him, especially if he belonged to a regiment recruited from the Valley, he seldom omitted to make some inquiry after those he had left at home. Never, it was said, was his tone more gentle or his smile more winning than when he was speaking to some ragged representative of his old brigade. How his heart went out to them may be inferred from the following. Writing to a friend at Richmond he said: “Though I have been relieved from command in the Valley, and may never again be assigned to that important trust, yet I feel deeply when I see the patriotic people of that region under the heel of a

THE PEOPLE OF THE VALLEY  377

hateful military despotism. There are all the hopes of those who have been with me from the commencement of the war in Virginia, who have repeatedly left their homes and families in the hands of the enemy, to brave the dangers of battle and disease; and there are those who have so devotedly laboured for the relief of our suffering sick and wounded.”

  378

NOTE

Table showing the Nationality and Average Measurements of 346,744 Federal Soldiers examined for Military Service after March 6, 1863.

 

Number

 

Height
ft.     in. 

Chest at
Inspiration
in.

United States
    (69 per cent.)
Germany
Ireland
Candada
England
France
Scotland
Other nationalities including
    Wales and five
    British Colonies

237, 391

35,935
32,473
15,507
11,479
2,630
2,127

9,202
————

   

5    7.40

5    5.54
5    5.54
5    5.51
5    6.02
5    5.81
5    6.13

35.61

35.88
35.24
35.42
35.41
35.29
35.97

 

346,744


Report of the Provost Marshal General, 1866, p. 698.

The Roll of the 35th Massachusetts, which may be taken as a typical Northern regiment, shows clearly enough at what period the great influx of foreigners took place. Of 104 officers the names of all but four—and these four joined in 1864—are pure English. Of the 964 rank and file of which the regiment was originally composed, only 50 bore foreign names. In 1864, however, 495 recruits were received, and of these over 400 were German immigrants.—History of the 35th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers, 1862–65.

 

 

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