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.
V. Lee follows
The contest of generalship had now fully begun, and the brain of General Lee was matched against the brain of
General Pope. It is no part of the design of the writer of this volume to exalt unduly the reputation of Lee, and detract from the credit due his adversaries. Justice has been sought to be done to General McClellan; the same measure of justice will be dealt out to his successors on the Federal side; nor is it calculated to elevate the fame of Lee, to show that his opponents were incapable and inefficient. Of General Pope, however, it must be said that he suffered himself to be outgeneralled in every particular; and the pithy comment of General Lee, that he "did not appear to be aware of his situation," sums up the whole subject.
It is beyond our purpose to enter upon any thing resembling a detailed narrative of the confused and complicated movements of the various corps of the army under General Pope. These have been the subject of the severest criticism by his own followers. We shall simply notice the naked events. Jackson reached Manassas on the night of August 26th, took it, and on the next day destroyed the great depot. General Pope was hastening to protect it, but was delayed by Ewell at Bristoe, and a force sent up from Washington, under the brave General Taylor, was driven off with loss. Then, having achieved his aim, Jackson fell back toward Sudley.
If the reader will look at the map, he will now understand the exact condition of affairs. Jackson had burned the Federal depot of supplies, and retired before the great force hastening to rescue them. He had with him about twenty thousand men, and General Pope's force was probably triple that number. Thus, the point was to hold General Pope at arm's-length until the arrival of Lee; and, to accomplish this great end, Jackson fell back beyond Groveton. There he formed line of battle, and waited.
It is obvious that, under these circumstances, the true policy of General Pope was to obstruct Thoroughfare Gap, the only road by which Lee could approach promptly, and then crush Jackson. On the night of the 27th,
General McDowell was accordingly sent thither with forty thousand men; but General Pope ordered him, on the next morning, to Manassas, where he hoped to "bag the whole crowd," he said--that is to say, the force under Jackson. This was the fatal mistake made by General Pope. Thoroughfare Gap was comparatively undefended. While General Pope was marching to attack Jackson, who had disappeared, it was the next thing to a certainty that General Lee would attack _him_.
All parties were thus moving to and fro; but the Confederates enjoyed the very great advantage over General Pope of knowing precisely how affairs stood, and of having determined upon their own plan of operations. Jackson, with his back to the mountain, was waiting for Lee. Lee was approaching rapidly, to unite the two halves of his army. General Pope, meanwhile, was marching and countermarching, apparently ignorant of the whereabouts of Jackson,
General Lee, in personal command of Longstreet's corps, reached the western end of Thoroughfare Gap about sunset, on the 28th, and the sound of artillery from the direction of Groveton indicated that Jackson and General Pope had come in collision. Jackson had himself brought on this engagement by attacking the flank of one of General Pope's various columns, as it marched across his front, over the Warrenton road, and this was the origin of the sound wafted to General Lee's ears as he came in sight of Thoroughfare. It was certainly calculated to excite his nerves if they were capable of being excited. Jackson was evidently engaged, and the disproportion between his forces and those of General Pope rendered such an engagement extremely critical. Lee accordingly pressed forward, reached the Gap, and the advance force suddenly halted: the Gap was defended. The Federal force posted here, at the eastern opening of the Gap, was small, and wholly inadequate for the purpose; but this was as yet unknown to General Lee. His anxiety under these circumstances must have been great. Jackson might be crushed before his arrival. He rode up to the summit of the commanding hill which rises just west of the Gap, and dismounting directed his field-glass toward the shaggy defile in front.
[Footnote 1: "Not knowing at the time where was the enemy."--_General Porter_.] and undecided what course to pursue.
[Illustration: Lee Reconnoitring at Throughfare Gap.]
The writer of these pages chanced to be near the Confederate commander at this moment, and was vividly impressed by the air of unmoved calmness which marked his countenance and demeanor. Nothing in the expression of his face, and no hurried movement, indicated excitement or anxiety. Here, as on many other occasions, Lee impressed the writer as an individual gifted with the most surprising faculty of remaining cool and unaffected in the midst of circumstances calculated to arouse the most phlegmatic. After reconnoitring for some moments without moving, he closed his glass slowly, as though he were buried in reflection, and deliberating at his leisure, and, walking back slowly to his horse, mounted and rode down the hill.
The attack was not delayed, and flanking columns were sent to cross north of the Gap and assail the enemy's rear. But the assault in front was successful. The small force of the enemy at the eastern opening of the Gap retired, and, by nine o'clock at night, General Longstreet's corps was passing through.
All the next morning (August 29th), Longstreet's troops were coming into position on the right of Jackson, under the personal supervision of Lee. By noon the line of battle was formed. Lee's army was once more united. General Pope had not been able to crush less than one-half that army, for twenty-four hours nearly in his clutches, and it did not seem probable that he would meet with greater success, now that the whole was concentrated and held in the firm hand of Lee.
[Footnote 1: The hour of Longstreet's arrival has been strangely
a subject of discussion. The truth is stated in the reports of
Lee, Longstreet, Jones, and other officers. But General Pope was
ignorant of Longstreet's presence _at five in the evening_; and
General Porter, his subordinate, was dismissed from the army for
not at that hour attacking Jackson's right, declared by General
Pope to be undefended. Longstreet was in line of battle by