Friday, August 10, 2012

August 9, 1862

August 9, 1862:

Battle of Cedar Mountain

Eastern Theater, Second Bull Run Campaign
U.S. Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks (8,030)
C.S. Maj. Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (16,868)

Due to a mix-up in verbal orders, Gen. Banks II Corps of Pope’s Army of Virginia moves forward to Gen. Crawford’s position (whose brigade has been the point of the spear for several days) and deploys by itself just north of the flank of Cedar Mountain, skirmishers deployed, to intercept Jackson and to attack the Rebel force if Jackson began to deploy for an attack. Missing is Sigel’s I Corps, which is intended to protect Banks’ flank and attack with him, as well as an additional division under Gen. Ricketts, and other supporting troops. Banks prepares to be attacked. Jackson arrives and immediately deploys Ewell’s division–Early’s brigade to the left, and the rest of the division to the right, deployed on the northeastern slope of the mountain. Jackson places his artillery in the center, and the Union guns answer in a cannon duel. Gen. Winder’s division comes up, but A.P. Hill’s division (more than half of Jackson’s total force) is somehow behind the Confederate wagon train back on the road, and is coming forward slowly, having to go around the wagons. Jackson realizes that Banks is alone, and decides to attack: Winder will go left, in contact with Early’s troops, to envelope the Federal right; Ewell and his remaining three brigades (Thomas, Forno, and Trimble) will strike the Federal left, and try to bend the enemy flank back. The Southern artillery begins to prevail over the Northern guns (a rare occurrence), and Gen. Winder is personally directing the fire of the batteries when a Federal shell explodes, tearing off his arm and wounding him mortally: he would die a few hours later. Meanwhile, Gen. Banks follows his orders: seeing the Rebel attack coming, he forms up an attack and as he hits the Rebels, Winder’s line begins to crumble, as does Early’s. Lacking orders, Winder’s troops begin to falter, and the Southern line falls back. Crawford’s Union brigade especially performs well, and breaks the famous Stonewall Brigade. Jackson grabs a battle flag and begins to ride forward, rallying his men and leading them forward. The Rebels rally (as a panicky aide leads Jackson back to safety) and push back at the Federal line. The Stonewall Brigade pushes back Crawford’s bluecoats, and drive them so far that they end up behind the rest of the Yankee line. At that moment, Hill finally arrives in the nick of time, and Jackson orders Hill’s first two brigades into the fight. Hill’s men hit the Federals while they are still advancing. Ewell, on Hill’s right, strikes the Federal flank, and Banks’ attack falters and then breaks, fleeing to the rear. Gen. Pope arrives at the battlefield in time to see Banks’ men retreat—and in fact are surprised and almost captured by the victorious advancing Confederates. Ricketts’ Federals arrive at dusk, but only skirmish with Hill’s men a little. Confederate Victory.

Losses:              Killed         Wounded        Captured        Total
Union                  314                 1,445                 622                 2,381
Confederate      223                1,060                    31                 1,314


—Information from scouts and a lost etter written by Gov. Isham Harris of Tennessee (which was found by Federal soldiers) indicate to Gen. Buell that the Confederates under Bragg and Kirby-Smith in eastern Tennessee are planning a move northward soon. He sends this information on to Gen. Halleck in Washington.

—George Michael Neese, a Confederate artilleryman in Chew’s Battery (Va.), serving with Stonewall Jackson’s corps, writes his impressions of the Battle of Cedar Moutain, and his scorn of Gen. Pope, with good humor—and then shares some horrifying reflections in on the bloodshed:
About three o’clock this afternoon we sighted the enemy nine miles from Culpeper Court House. Jackson’s batteries were ordered to the immediate front, took position and opened fire on the enemy right away. I think this initiatory fire was for the sole purpose of inducing this great and pompous man, Pope (who is just from the West, and boasts that he has never seen anything of the Rebels but their backs), to disclose his intentions and feel his front. The enemy was prompt in replying to Jackson’s batteries, and the cannonading soon after became general along the front, and opened the battle of Cedar Mountain.

From the way the trains were running last night and bringing troops from the direction of Richmond, and from the bustle and stir in the infantry camps, I thought that Jackson was fixing to butcher, but I had no idea that the eventful sword measuring that of the mighty Pope would be drawn so soon. I have no idea what kind of timber is in the make-up of this military giant from the West who has been feeding on eagle meat, but unless he is awfully superior to the Yankee generals that operated in the Shenandoah Valley a few months ago and butted up against old Stonewall, he will find that by the time he bumps against the sticking qualities of Jackson’s bayonets, and receives a few practical object lessons in flanking from the master of that art, he will be ready to soar to Washington and whisper to the Secretary of War that he (Pope) believes and is under the serious impression that he has had a peep at something of the Rebels on the fields of Virginia that did not exactly look altogether like their backs. . . .

The Federal dead lay all around our bivouac, and I heard the pitiful groans of the wounded and the low weakly murmurs of the dying. When I lay down on blood-stained sod to snatch a few hours of sleep it was then two hours after midnight, and the desultory artillery fire that was kept up in the fore part of the night had fully died away and the dogs of war were silent once more.

The sudden and abrupt vicissitudes of sanguinary war rush a man rough-shod from one end of the scale of human experience to the other. Last night I was lulled to sleep, as it were, by the enlivening and inspiring strains of a band playing "Home, Sweet Home"; to-day I heard the hideous roar of battle, and to-night I am kept awake by the constant and pitiful murmur of the wounded and groans of the dying without any "Sweet Home " in it.

If this cruel war lasts seventy-five years, and the, Yanks don’t kill me before it ends, I hope that I will never be compelled to bivouac on another fresh battlefield.
—Lieutenant William H. H. (Harry) Lewis, of the 16th Mississippi Infantry in Gen. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, writes home to his mother, with an articulate and heartfelt—although cliched—expression of Southern patriotism:

Camp of 16th Regiment Miss. Vol. Aug. 9th 1862

Dear Mother

It has been over two weeks since I received a letter from you and a longer period since I wrote last. Your last was the longest I ever had the pleasure of reading being full four pages of fools [?]; and it was as interesting as lengthy. I have no valid excuse for not writing soon; but plead the time worn and effete palliation of want of news and idle and lazy procrastination.

My duties are such as occupy the golden parts of those hot, sultry, summer days – that is from day light to 11 o’clock a.m. and again from 4 o’clock to sundown in the evening. The remainder of the day is pretty much my own; though I am frequently called upon to moove [sic] about and make out reports while the fierce sun is beaming down in all its strength. I occupy the idle time at my disposal in reading and chatting and now another napping, which you know is a very dull and listless way of killing time. In fact, the life of a soldier is in my estimation one of the meanest and laziest imaginable. And were not if for the cause we are battling for I would not follow it a single hour longer. As a profession and a voluntary mode of livelyhood I would deride the idea and not allow it to engage my thoughts a moment.

But as it is, I joyfully embrace it as a means of repelling a dastardly, plundering, oppressive and cowardly foe from our homes and borders. I grasp it as the only means of preserving all that is near and dear to me – home, family, friends and country. And cheerfully I determine never to lay down my rifle as long as a Yankee remains on Southern soil – as long as the cry of subjugation and extermination is raised by the "best Government the world even saw" against a people of the same language and manners whose only offence is a desire of seperation. Every day that passes strengthens the resolution of every Southern patriot.

He sees the invader overrunning a portion of his country and burning the houses of the most conspicuous Southern men and confiscating their property, compelling the old men and families to flee for their lives to the Southern lines. He realises that wherever the track of invader is, there every thing Southern in sentiment is is a perfect desolate waste. He sees the storm coming and sallies forth to disperse it or turn its course; and resolved is he either to accomplish this or perish in the noble attempt.

And this spirit will ultimately prevail – yes! The North may railse her volunteers and draft – her conscripts by the hundred thousand and lavish her wealth by the hundred million, but to no avail. She may by her inexhaustible recourses carry on the war for years and overrun the greater portion of Southern territory, still right will prevail, and in the end the Southern people – those that survive – will raise the triumphant shout of Freedom! Freedom!! as the monstrous old decaying edifice of Union undermined by debts and her own blind folly collapses and forever settles into oblivion. But enough of this I tire you with my ranting. . . .

We are encamped in what was once an old corn field in a very warm situation but tolerably healthy. We have an abundance of flies and tents and by placing sheds built of bushes in front and rear of our domiciles manage to thwart the rays of the sun right effectually. There is no complaint about rations now as we generally get plenty of flour and beef and now and then sugar and rice. There is an inexhaustible supply of huckleberries near here covering the country for miles and as apples are plentiful we live on huckleberry pie occasionally relieved by the more acid apple. Mack prides himself on his pastry and I expect will vie with Aunt Alsy[?] when he returns home. Besides we have the Richmond papers daily which contributes to relieve monotony.

Last night the moon was full and as bright, soft and mellow as I ever beheld, even, in our own Woodville. It was a beautiful night. . . . Day before yesterday about 2 o’clock our whole division was ordered under arms in 20 minutes. The sun was distressingly hot and not a breath of air stiring. We formed and then started down the road to Malvern Hill at double quick and proceeded 5 miles to a point where our men were throwing up fortifications, which was 3 miles blow Drewry’s Bluff and the same distance from Malvern Hill. Here we halted and learned the Hill was in possession of the enemy having driven our pickets off of it; and we waited expecting to be ordered forward to meet the foe, but the order came not. We remained there two days and returned to camp after we learned the enemy had retired within their works. They thought we had no force here and thought to catch us napping but could not come it. We have sent reinforcements to Stonewall Jackson from this point and large numbers of troops coming from the more southern states have recently joined here. Swelling his force to 50,000 men with which army we confidently expect him to defeat Pope who is oppressing and trammelling the loyal people of Virginia in as base and unsoldierly a manner as Brute Butler tyranizes over the good people of New Orleans. The war is fast verging into a regular war of extermination, the repeated hanging and shooting of our citizens for trivial offences and for protecting their homes has at length called forth a proclamation of Pres. Davis who in a manly tone says that if the murder of our citizens isn’t stopped he will retalliate upon their commissioned officers. Now it only remains for the Yankees to cease their outrages or enter on a war of no quarter – or a war to the knife. It is awful to contemplate such a state of things. Still we are ready for the alternative. Dear Mother, I am getting to hate the Yankees in earnest. Their treatment of prisoners is scandalous and insufferable. Although we have taken prisoners time and again I have never seen one mistreated. On the contrary I have seen our foot sore, starving boys living on 4 crackers and a slice of bacon a day through their only cracker to a crowd of begging Yankee prisoners who greedily played the game of grab. And I have noticed at other times our men ministering to wounded Yankees and voluntaryly carrying cool water, and seldom ever saying anything annoying to them as they passed by in squads to the rear. Yet these Yankees insult our boys when prisoners and if they attempt to answer we resent it. . . .

McClellan is in his same old position at Turkey bend which he took and fortified after the battles were over. No telling what he is about, but no doubt reorganizing and strengthening his army and probably awaiting the 300,000 recruits from Yankee Land. If he ever attempts to take Richmond again it is thought he will advance on the south side of the James, where we are throwing up fortifications for defence, if necessary. I hardly think he will make the attempt before next spring. Though, he may make advances before that time. Recruiting seems to be at a stand still in most of the Northern States.
Your son Harry Lewis

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