A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE.
BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE.
"Duty is the sublimest word in our language."
"Human virtue should be equal to human calamity." LEE. 1876
THE WAR ADVANCES NORTHWARD.
III. Lee advances from the Rapidan
General Lee, it will thus be seen, had proceeded in his military manoeuvres with the utmost caution, determined to give his adversaries no advantage, and remain in front of the capital until it was free from all danger. But for the daring assault upon General McClellan, on the Chickahominy, his critics would no doubt have charged him with weakness and indecision now; but, under any circumstances, it is certain that he would have proceeded in the same manner, conducting operations in the method which his judgment approved.
At length the necessity of caution had disappeared.
General Burnside had gone to
reinforce General Pope, and a portion of McClellan's army was believed to have followed. "It therefore seemed," says General Lee, "that active operations on the James were no longer contemplated," and he wisely concluded that "the most effectual way to relieve Richmond from any danger of attack from that quarter would be to reenforce General Jackson, and advance upon General Pope." In commenting upon these words, an able writer of the North exclaims: "Veracious prophecy, showing that _insight_ which is one of the highest marks of generalship!" The movement, indeed, was the right proceeding, as the event showed; and good generalship may be defined to be the power of seeing what is the proper course, and the decision of character which leads to its adoption.
General Lee exhibited throughout his career this mingled good judgment and daring, and his cautious inactivity was now succeeded by one of those offensive movements which, if we may judge him, by his subsequent career, seemed to be the natural bent of his character. With the bulk of his army, he marched in the direction of General Pope; the rest were speedily ordered to follow, and active operations began for driving the newly-formed Federal "Army of Virginia" back toward Washington.
We have presented Lee's order for the attack on General McClellan, and here quote his order of march for the advance against General Pope, together with a note addressed to Stuart, commanding his cavalry, for that officer's guidance.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
_August_ 19, 1862.
SPECIAL ORDER No. 185.
I. General Longstreet's command, constituting the right wing of the army, will cross the Rapidan at Raccoon Ford, and move in the direction of Culpepper Court-House. General Jackson's command, constituting the left wing, will cross at Summerville Ford, and move in the same direction, keeping on the left of General Longstreet. General Anderson's division will cross at Summerville Ford, follow the route of General Jackson, and act in reserve. The battalion of light artillery, under Colonel S.D. Lee, will take the same route. The cavalry, under General Stuart, will cross at Morton's Ford, pursue the route by Stevensburg to Rappahannock Station, destroy the railroad bridge, cut the enemy's communications, telegraph line, and, operating toward Culpepper Court-House, will take position on General Longstreet's right.
II. The commanders of each wing will designate the reserve for their commands. Medical and ammunition wagons will alone follow the troops across the Rapidan. The baggage and supply trains will be parked under their respective officers, in secure positions on the south side, so as not to embarrass the different roads.
III. Cooked rations for three days will be carried in the haversacks of the men, and provision must be made for foraging the animals. Straggling from the ranks is strictly prohibited, and commanders will make arrangements to secure and punish the offenders.
IV. The movements herein directed will commence to-morrow, 20th instant, at dawn of day.
By command of General R.E. Lee:
A.P. MASON, _A.A. G_.
HEADQUARTERS CRENSHAW'S FARM,} _August_ 19, 1862.}
_General J.E.B. Stuart, commanding Cavalry_:
General: I desire you to rest your men to-day, refresh your horses, prepare rations and every thing for the march to-morrow. Get what information you can of fords, roads, and position of the enemy, so that your march can be made understandingly and with vigor. I send to you Captain Mason, an experienced bridge-builder, etc., whom I think will be able to aid you in the destruction of the bridge, etc. When that is accomplished, or when in train of execution, as circumstances permit, I wish you to operate back toward Culpepper Court-House, creating such confusion and consternation as you can, without unnecessarily exposing your men, till you feel Longstreet's right. Take position there on his right, and hold yourself in reserve, and act as circumstances may require. I wish to know during the day how you proceed in your preparations. They will require the personal attention of all your officers. The last reports from the signal-stations yesterday evening were, that the enemy was breaking up his principal encampments, and moving in direction of Culpepper Court-House.
Very respectfully, etc., R.E. LEE, _General_.
These orders indicate General Lee's design--to reach the left flank of the enemy, prevent his retreat by destroying the bridges on the Rappahannock, and bring him to battle in the neighborhood of Culpepper Court-House. The plan failed in consequence of a delay of two days, which took place in its execution--a delay, attributed at that time, we know not with what justice, to the unnecessarily deliberate movements of the corps commanded by General Longstreet. This delay enabled the enemy to gain information of the intended movement; and when General Lee advanced on the 20th of August, instead of on the 18th, as he had at first determined to do, it was found that General Pope had broken up his camps, and was in rapid retreat. Lee followed, and reached the Rappahannock only to find that the Federal army had passed that stream. General Pope, who had promised to conduct none but offensive operations, and never look to the rear, had thus hastened to interpose the waters of the Rappahannock between himself and his adversary, and, when General Lee approached, he found every crossing of the river heavily defended by the Federal infantry and artillery.
In face of this large force occupying a commanding position on the heights, General Lee made no effort to cross. He determined, he says, "not to attempt the passage of the river at that point with the army," but to "seek a more favorable place to cross, higher up the river, and thus gain the enemy's right." This manoeuvre was intrusted to Jackson, whose corps formed the Confederate left wing. Jackson advanced promptly to the Warrenton Springs Ford, which had been selected as the point of crossing, drove away a force of the enemy posted at the place, and immediately began to pass the river with his troops. The movement was however interrupted by a severe rain-storm, which swelled the waters of the Rappahannock, and rendered a further prosecution of it impracticable. General Lee was thus compelled to give up that plan, and ordered Jackson to withdraw the force which had crossed. This was done, and General Lee was now called upon to adopt some other method of attack; or to remain inactive in face of the enemy.
But to remain inactive was impossible. The army must either advance or retire; information which had just reached the Confederate general rendered one of these two proceedings indispensable. The information referred to had been obtained by General Stuart. The activity and energy of this officer, especially in gaining intelligence, now proved, as they proved often afterward, of the utmost importance to Lee. Stuart had been directed by General Lee to make an attack, with a cavalry force, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, in the enemy's rear; he had promptly carried out his orders by striking the Federal communications at Catlett's Station, had destroyed there all that he found, and torn up the railroad, but, better than all, had captured a box containing official papers belonging to General Pope. These papers, which Stuart hastened--marching day and night, through storm and flood--to convey to General Lee, presented the clearest evidence of the enemy's movements and designs. Troops were hastening from every direction to reenforce General Pope, the entire force on James River especially was to be brought rapidly north of the Rappahannock, and any delay in the operations of the Confederates would thus expose them to attack from the Federal forces concentrated from all quarters in their front.