Pictures and Illustrations.
In and Around Richmond.
PROFESSOR CREASY has described what he termed the "Six Decisive Battles of the World." His difficulty seems to have been to find out: first, what constitutes a decisive battle; and, second, which, out of many famous combats, deserved the character. The difference among them is obviously one of degree. All battles, great or small, decide something; and the greatest of them are but expressions of the results prepared by slow-working influences and conditions. The word event, applied with just precision by those masters of the exact sciences, the French savans and the English betting-ring, to a horse-race or a revolution, meets the question. Battles are events. They follow rather than originate. The fate of Rome was settled long before Actium, and that of Napoleon before Waterloo. The going off of Cleopatra or the coming up of the Prussians did not settle the establishment of the Roman or the fall of the French empire. Cromwell's "crowning mercy" of Worcester, as he used to call it, crowned Charles II. if it crowned any one. It afforded the latter person a few more years of leisure for the culture of wild oats, and for forgetting the blunders which had brought his father to the block. That brief interval past, the bones of the victor were on the gibbet, and the vanquished was on the throne of England.
All wondered why Bull Run was not decisive. Johnston could have made it so, it was the custom to allege, if he had had more ammunition, more cavalry, more knowledge of the state of things in Washington, and, above all, more audacity. It is now seen that, had the advantages of that day been pushed to the utmost and Washington been captured, the result of the war, though it might have been postponed, would hardly have been altered. Steadier
410and deeper causes were beneath the fortunes of battle. Accidents had their effect in both directions, on both sides. The discovery of gold in the Rocky Mountains and of mineral oil in Pennsylvania furnished an unlooked for substitute for cotton in the commercial and financial systems of the North. The unaccountable panic which followed the repulse at Manassas gave the South time to organize and develop her military resources. But things like these are but pebbles or reefs which slightly divert or temporarily obstruct the current of events without stopping or materially retarding its progress to the assured end. To the contemporary observer they are apt to appear all-controlling; but as the present fades into the past, they lose their apparent importance with every year till they are assigned their true value by finished history, if history can ever be called finished.
The London Times, in the true spirit of that criticism which settles every thing with a phrase, termed the combats of the war "gigantic skirmishes," mere military demonstrations — that is, as indeterminate in their immediate issue as in their bearing on the general struggle. That designation might as well be applied to nearly all Wellington's European battles, save his last, and even to that so far as his own army was concerned. The topography of our battlefields generally combined with the stubborn character of the troops on both sides to prevent a crushing rout. On a vast plain, mostly covered with wood, a reliable reconnoissance was very difficult, and the manoeuvring of large armies with energy and effect correspondingly so. Perhaps the best means of comparison between American and European campaigns were furnished in the Valley of Virginia. The country is open and undulating, with bold streams and few or no swamps. Operations there were rapid, sweeping, and effective. From Harper's Ferry to Winchester, Cedar Creek, Port Republic, M'Dowell, and New Hope collisions were battles and reverses defeats. It was the grave of armies and of military reputations. Patterson, Miles, Shields, Fremont, Banks, Milroy, Early, are among the unburied shades that stalk along the Styx of the Shenandoah. To the commanders in that district are peculiarly applicable the classic epitaph on the cow, who lived in clover and "died all over." There gun-boats were unheard of and iron-clads a myth. Warfare was wholly terrestrial. A "change of base" was unknown, because no base existed except what generalship created. Till Sheridan's torch erased it from the military map that once beautiful and always historic vale was the Flanders of the South, ever fought for but never conquered. The only fragment of mountain territory that adhered in spirit to the Confederacy, its record serves to show how seriously the contest might have been prolonged had all the upland nominally included within the limits of the latter proved as stanch to its fortunes. Save along the skirts of the Blue Ridge the Confederacy existed only on the plains that border the sea. It fell, like that other edifice that was built upon the sand.
We propose, in this paper, to play neither the military nor the philosophic, historian. That task is for other pens, present or to come. We feel qualified neither for its Frolssart — the racy raconteur of feats he saw — nor for its cold and passionless Guizot, mercilessly picking to pieces its springs and movements and calmly solving the cui bono. We are very sure that abler hands will eliminate from the bloody story all the lessons it contains for America and the world. Our intention is only to sketch a portion of its theatre — to follow, in a slight and desultory way, the furor of the cannon-shot as it deepened toward Richmond, making the pencil supplement the pen in delineating some of the most notable scenes as they now appear.
Nothing can be more simply described than the profile of the country near the falls of the James. It is naturally a smooth plain, sloping very gradually toward the east. What are called hills are only the intervals of the original surface left by the washing of the water-courses. It has but two levels, say one hundred feet apart One is the top of the hills, and the other the bed of the streams. The Chickahominy, the James and all the other rivers, run southeast, their short affluents coming in, generally from the north, at regular intervals, forming, with the "hills" between, so many intrenchments and wet ditches. M'Clellan used them, along the Chickahominy, rather as traverses, protecting his flanks while his front pressed westward. For Lee, in 1864-5, they were, on the north side of the James, front defenses, looking to the southeast.
The conformation of the ground thus requiring an army moving on Richmond to approach it diagonally along the crests of the water-sheds, unless strong enough to despise any opposition in crossing the rivers, M'Clellan and Grant advanced in directions precisely opposite and both obliquely to the city. Both found after ricochetting against Lee's lines on the Chickahominy, that nature had fixed their line of retreat for them. It did not lead to the White House, as both seem at first to have imagined. Neither did it lead down the Peninsula; for after the abandonment of the Coal Harbor lines, the Confederate cavalry had tolerably free sweep on the left bank of the true Chicahominy to its mouth. It led to Westover and its neighborhood necessarily. Thus, by favor of nature the Federal armies of invasion drifted, and by favor of Lee were driven, into the true channel of advance on Richmond — the same followed by Phillips and Cornwallis eighty odd years before. The rediscovery of this fossil fact showed the fallacy of the Manassas, the Rapidan, the Fredericksburg, and the Peninsular plans. M'Clellan, in his meditations at Harrison's Landing, had a glimpse of it; but it remained for Grant to bring the old idea to practice. Instead, of continuing his echelon
411movement to the mouth of the Chesapeake and giving tip his objective point, he turned at right angles from the northwest and southeast line and placed himself in the path of 1781, at Petersburg.
So it is that the battle-fields of the Richmond campaigns arrange themselves into two clusters, or strings, one extending from the upper Rappahannock to Malvern Hill, and the other from City Point to Five Forks. Subsidiary to the latter is the line joining the two, from Fort Harrison to Port Walthall. This was merely subsidiary. The Butler movement, as a movement on Richmond, was a failure from the first. It did very well up to the head of gun-boat navigation. There it stopped. It was aquatic, or nothing; and head-quarters were very appropriately located on the steamboat Greyhound. The Richmond and Petersburg railroad continued to be used regularly by the Confederate army, government, and citizens, throughout its whole length, and in sight of the Bermuda Hundred lines, up to the night of the evacuation.
We do not mean, in this paper, to ape Jomini, to discuss gravely either maps or marches, or to be polemic in any way. It is our purpose simply to glance, in discursive fashion, and from an inside point of view, at leading or illustrative events, places, and incidents in the region we have sketched.
The merry month of May, 1862, in and around Richmond, came fully up to the requirements of the poets. It was lovely indeed, in city and field. The fine elms of the Capitol Square drooped their spring foliage over flashing fountains, soft sward, and walks thronged with "fair women and brave men." The gay bustle of military preparation brightened the streets. New regiments, with full ranks, from the South, marched every day through a gauntlet of cheers and waving of white handkerchiefs in whiter hands. Outside the city, the farms, undreaming of devastation, smiled with springing grain and happy labor.
"From his sweet banquet, mid the perfumed clover,
The robin soared and sung."
On the ninth day of the month came a line from Stonewall Jackson: "God blessed us with victory at M'Dowell to-day!" A few days later came something in the opposite vein — Norfolk was evacuated, and the Merrimac blown up. The former was expected; but nobody could realize the latter. That a captain selected for his daring, in an invulnerable ship, at a post it was of the last consequence to hold, should have destroyed her without attacking or being attacked was simply incredible. But, a morning or two after, a procession of two hundred sturdy tars, bearing at their head a flag torn by shot and shell, came from the Petersburg train and filed down Maine Street on their way to Drewry's Bluff. M'Clellan's aspiration had been gratified. His way was open. The Merrimac was neutralized. Nothing sadder had the war yet brought to the Confederate capital than that reinforcement from the sea. As it passed along manly eyes for a moment filled, and firm lips gave way to ill-forebodings.
As the month neared its close Jackson again turned the scale. Banks was on the trot; and that gray old border town, Winchester, the aerie of the young Washington, was recovered. The place has quite a history of its own, as its good people were always fond of telling you. That history has been much enlarged by the war; since it was the outpost of the Confederacy, as it was that of the Colonies in 1755, and in the four years changed hands seventy-six times. Of all these military vicissitudes, however, none will be so long remembered as the occasion whereon Banks's army, struck at once in front, on right and left, and in rear, staggered back, a mass of mere chaos, through the narrow limestone streets, and streamed over the northeastern hills in hopeless rout.
Shade, however, followed light closely again. Indeed in those latter days of May their alternations were so rapid that twilight may be said to have for a while prevailed. The news of the evacuation of Corinth, and Fitz-John Porter's severe treatment of Branch's North Carolinians, around Ashland and the crossing of the
412South Anna, were discouraging. The day after the latter affair a train loaded with wounded of both armies came in on the Fredericksburg road. This was perhaps the first installment of visitors from the besieging army; and though they had all the attention and consideration men in their condition could receive any where, there was still visible, among the lookers-on, a feeling very different from that which had greeted previous Federal prisoners, and in which pity had almost predominated over satisfaction. The besieged were called on to welcome the besiegers, and did it, naturally, with an ill grace, though with no demonstrations whatever.
These North Carolinians were, in great part, perfectly new troops. The bulk of the reinforcements to Lee's army at this period came from that State. Her men were larger, and there were more of them. The solecisms of manners and language resulting from the rustic and secluded life of a people almost devoid of towns made them somewhat of a butt in the army. Yet they fought well. This same brigade of Branch was one of the three which came up from Harper's Ferry at the close of the battle of Antietam and checked the advance of the Federal left. Its leader fell in that struggle about the same time with his opponent Rodman. The new troops were nearly all volunteers, the rush of conscripts having barely sot in. Camp Lee, "that word of fear," was but donning its terrors.
Both sides, at this juncture, seemed, to use a homely expression, tolerably comfortable. M'Clellan was, in his own words, "quietly closing in upon the enemy, preparatory to the last struggle." The people of the beleaguered city, on the other hand, were making little pleasure excursions, on foot, on horseback, or in buggies, to the picket lines, "to see the Yankees." Four miles and a half out, on the Mechanicsville turnpike, Cobb's Georgians supported the videttes. Standing on the brow of a gentle slope, and looking directly down the road across the open valley of the Chickahominy, you saw, at point-blank cannon-shot, M'Clellan's men. A mile to the right, down stream, the reconnoitring balloon, that so fully taught the Federal commander that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, hovered calmly above the woods. Few troops were visible on either side. Nothing suggested the presence of two hundred thousand soldiers. It was a placid and cozy scene for a. summer evening's drive. On the afternoon of the last day of the month a less fashionable turnpike was more densely thronged with far less cheerful surroundings. On the Williamsburg road, for five miles, the flow and ebb of the living tide was unbroken. Every hack, omnibus, or private carriage the city contained was on duty, either voluntarily or under impressment, to bear the wounded of the Seven Pines. Besides these a long train of ambulances and army wagons contributed their freight of misery. Hundreds of soldiers, not too badly hurt to walk, dragged themselves cityward. The road, at many points, was yet flooded for one or two hundred yards by the storm of the preceding day, which had brought on the battle. Here and there it was blocked up by an overturned or broken vehicle, and extempore paths were worn back and forth into the fields across the ditches which bordered it, causing new pangs to the sufferers. Thus it was all through the weary night. The wounded who were left upon the field till next day probably fared better in most cases than those who were dragged off in the darkness to the hospital.
The Confederate loss in killed and wounded approached seven thousand, making this probably the bloodiest engagement of the war to their side. The loss of the Federals was also serious, though not so heavy. And yet the
413battle-field is a dead level, a great part of it at that time under water; and very little artillery could be used. In the dense swampy thickets which cover much of the surface many wounded of both sides died undiscovered, and remained for a year or more unburied. The tangled undergrowth may still furnish his only sepulture to more than one of the nameless brave.
The scene of the first great battle of the sanguinary campaign of 1862 offers little now to the eye or the pencil. South of the York River Railway the whole country between the James and the Chickahominy possesses little more variety than that between a dry flat and a wet flat. In its heart are the vast recesses of the White Oak Swamp, wherein M'Clellan's army of ninety thousand men were so wholly swallowed up that linger, with guides "to the manner born," could not find it, and — more extraordinary still — Jackson could not get within striking distance. So far as the battle-fields in this nook of the seat of war have any marked topography they are but reproductions, on a feeble scale, of those to the northward. A gentle slope of open ground, with a belt of timber, a shallow declivity, and a swamp, more or less wide in front, is the uniform description. The field of Coal Harbor, or Gaines's Mill, is the general type, with more prononce features than those south of the river. Ellerson's Mill, on the Beaver Dam Creek, is the scene of the hardest fighting on June 26, 1862, the first of the "Seven Days."
In the hush of June, commonly the month of battles, the sword now seemed to participate. Richmond forgot, in the care of the wounded, the army at her gates. The city became, as it remained throughout the year, one vast hospital. Her blockade-smitten shops, warehouses, and tobacco factories, with many private dwellings, were filled with the sick and wounded. As the passenger threaded Main Street, and glanced in the open doors of the fashionable dry-goods establishments, he saw, instead of silks and laces, long rows of cots, each with its pale and languid occupant. The elegant habituees of the realms of brocade were
414still there, but in plainer garb; their mission now to minister — not to their own taste for beauty or show, but — to the solace and relief of men who had been stricken down in their defense. A large proportion of the ladies had left the city at the time of the naval attack on Drewry's Bluff. But many came from other parts of Virginia and the South to look after relatives of whom they had heard in the list of casualties or could not hear at all. At the railway termini, receiving the haggard travelers of the sick train, cooling the parched throat, fanning the fevered brow, or easing the clotted bandage; passing with silent step from pillow to pillow through the often noisome hospital; or lavishing on as many invalids the resources of her own home, woman was what woman alway is.
A little military episode transpired the 11th of June. Whiting's small division, of two brigades and four thousand men, marched into the city and took the Danville cars. They were going, it was given out, to reinforce Jackson for a tramp down the Valley. That commander had a day or two before, it was known, repulsed Fremont and Shields. But his force was so much smaller than theirs united that an addition to his strength was thought a very reasonable thing. The soldiers themselves had perhaps as clear a knowledge of their destination as had their officers, which may be safely set down at nothing. But they were delighted at the prospect of action, and set off in great glee. Hood's Texans, who constituted the pith of the command, were especially enthusiastic. Many of them were Virginians, some from the Valley; and they liked this mode of revisiting home and relatives. Their tone was one of pleasure in so far that it was leisurely enough. They dawdled along on the railway, reaching Staunton on the 18th. Here, very suddenly, the trip to the mountains terminated. Next day, instead of pushing on to join Jackson, the division started back. Jackson was true to his reputation for turning up in the rear of every body who went after him.
It is wonderful with what unanimity both friends and enemies were at this juncture eager in inquiring as to his whereabouts. Both were deceived. The Richmond public were designedly misled by the Confederate War Department, and through them dust was thrown in the eyes of the hostile commander. On the 20th that officer had "no doubt that Jackson has been reinforced from here." On the 24th he was very suspicious of a deserter's statement that "Jackson, Ewell, and Whiting were at Gordonsville on the 21st; that they were moving to Frederickshall, and that it was intended to attack my rear on the 28th." He, therefore, telegraphs to Washington for "exact information" as to the position and movements of Jackson. This was not to be had. One account, said the reply, gave him 40,000 men "nine days ago." Another located him with 10,000 at Gordonsville; "others, that his force is at Port Republic, Harrisonburg, and Luray. Fremont yesterday (24th) reported that Western Virginia was threatened; and General Kelly, that Ewell was advancing to New Creek," about 200 miles from his real locale. Banks, again, said his "pickets were strong in advance at Luray. The people decline to give any information of his whereabouts." On the whole, Mr. Stanton was induced to "suspect that Jackson's real movement is now toward Richmond."
This is one of the most remarkable instances of "mysterious disappearance" recorded in military history. An army confronted, threatened, and expected by three other armies on its front and both flanks, and but a few days before in actual conflict with one of them, was variously located, by conjecture and reconnoissance, at different points over a space of two hundred miles! General Banks judged his informants, or non-informants, too hastily. They were no better informed than he. It was Jackson's habit to do every thing in his power to mystify and mislead all. Sometimes, when he had nothing else to do, he would hurry his men at double-quick through the towns of the Valley to meet an imaginary foe or attain an indefinite position. The popular expression, on these occasions, was that he "had gone into his hole." In the present instance, he had organized his army into a society of Know-Nothings. They knew not their destination, and were formally instructed to say so in reply to all questions — to know nothing whatever, in brief. Some odd incidents resulted on the march. The General one day observed a straggler executing a flank movement with a tempting cherry-tree for his objective point.
"Where are you going, Sir?" demanded he
"I don't know, Sir."
"Where is your regiment?"
"I don't know, Sir."
"To what brigade do you belong?"
"I don't know, Sir."
The consistent disciple of Sam was rapidly getting into trouble, when a comrade explained:
"You see, Sir, old Stonewall issued orders to us not to know any thing; and we're going to do it."
Thanks to Porter, Jackson had but small assistance from the railroad in this movement. His command, numbering seventeen thousand, whereof nine thousand had fought at Port Republic, and Lawton's brigade (3500) and Hood's division had joined him from Lee's army, traveled on the "ride and tie" system, on foot and by steam. At midnight, on Monday the 23d, unknown to all but an aid who accompanied him, and two or three others of his staff, the General left his head-quarters at Frederickshall and rode to Richmond, forty-five miles. At eight the next morning he was back, having ridden ninety miles and concerted with Lee the grand attack within eight hours. Of course he had relays of horses. How, on the 25th, his command was at Ashland, and on the 27th at Coal Harbor, where the long-mooted question
415of Jackson's whereabouts was solved, we need not describe.
But the path from the mountains which Jackson then traced was not destined to continue one of Confederate triumph. As the Confederate cavalry from want of horses, equipments, and discipline, declined in efficiency, and that of the other side, from opposite causes, improved, the unhappy counties to the northwest of Richmond learned to measure time by raids. — Custer, Kilpatrick, Dahlgren, and Sheridan were the astronomers who reformed their calendar. Nor were these scientific innovators entirely without difficulties to overcome. Up to March, 1864, their efforts were of trifling result. Confidence was a plant of slow growth in the bosoms of Burnside's, Hooker's, and Meade's troopers. A battalion of invalids or a squadron of patrols, as at Gordonsville, more than once nipped very promising enterprises in the bud. The demonstration of Kilpatrick, at the time referred to, was executed with more spirit. It simply failed in entering Richmond, as incomparably larger forces had failed before. On the west and north they approached within cannon-shot of the city. The night, rencontre between the western column and the battalion of clerks had its ludicrous features. The "Armory Battalion," composed of operatives in the Government work-shops, fell back in very bad order. The assailants then moved on, in almost perfect darkness and at a slow pace, against the second line. To get at this it was necessary to enter the field in which it was drawn up, by pulling down some panels of fence. The knights of the quill, many of whom had been under fire before, rose from the ground as the cavalry became dimly visible on a slight elevation "darkly painted on the" evening sky. After a brief interchange of shots, the attacking party retired, quite in the dark as to how many brigades they had encountered, greatly to the relief and surprise of their clerical antagonists. They traced their departure by a distant crash from the railfence, which was ridden into by the retreating cavalcade. One trooper was found the next morning in the pit of an old icehouse, having ridden into it in the darkness.
The appearance of the expedition on the Brooke turnpike was more imposing. The sight-seers who carried their muskets out on that occasion, deposed to a sight of Kilpatrick on a fine iron-gray. But he was merely the Columbus of this field of military discovery. He failed, and left 304 prisoners. Those who came after him were the settlers. Sheridan's large column, in May 1864, played sad havoc with the farmers of Louisa and Hanover counties, and maintained for twenty-four hours a fight which cost the Confederacy Stuart and Gordon, two of its best cavalry officers.
The wits of the farmers, sharpened by experience, were sorely tried by the counter-experience of the raiders. One old gentleman gathered up his live-stock and retired to a "sequestered spot" in the pines, two miles from his house. A servant who went back and forth, and in whose discretion he put implicit faith, inadvertently betrayed him, and the little colony was surprised and stripped. Little distinction of color was made on this occasion of plunder. Negroes suffered with their masters. One fellow, seeing the tendency of things, bethought him of saving at least his spare funds and his Sunday suit. With the former in his boots and the latter on his person, he blandly received the volunteer inspectors of his cabin. But one soldier expressed an interest in his stove-pipe hat; another had never seen any thing more-attractive than his black broadcloth; and a third was enamored of his plethoric boots. All had to go. The plucked proprietor was left, nearly in the national costume of his ancestors, to mourn over a ruin more thorough than even his master's.
Here and there the explorers found a self-styled "Union" man, generally of the stamp of him who, finding himself stripped despite his protestations of loyalty, burst out into an agonized aspiration for the advent of "Stonewall Jackson and our army!"
Near Hanover Junction — "Saxton's Junction" as it has been called, incomprehensibly to us, until we saw that on one of the common maps the name of a trifling stream happens to align with "Junction" — three rivers come together to form the Pamunky. This tends to complicate military movements. Here,
416accordingly, there was a brief pause in the mighty wrestle that began on the Rapidan and ended at Appomattox Court House. In this tangle of rivers the two foes, writhing southward in mortal hug, were for a space torn apart, and glared silently at each other.
Of course so fine a field for the exhibition, of the highest powers of combination and the promptest mental resources was not lost on two such commanders. The adroitness with which Lee lured Grant, with only the trifling sacrifice of ten or fifteen hundred men, to the south side of the North Anna, then and there politely presenting to him the apex of an obtuse >, as a spear-head wherewith to pitch him back into the river, has a handsome set-off in the facility with which the latter "saw the point." "Bock agen" was his response, like that of Sawney when found on the wrong side of the orchard-hedge, and asked his destination by the proprietor. Down the north side of the river to its mouth, and down the Pamunky to a point where the Little River and South Anna ceased from troubling, and rest was within reach at the "White House, made a little glance of twenty-five miles. Then the map of 1862 was to be resurveyed. Coal Harbor and Mechanicsville rose again into notice. M'Clellan's works, confined in this quarter to the isolated positions of Mechanicsville, Beaver Dam Creek, and Turkey Hill, were now replaced by parallel intrenchments twelve miles long, lying generally a mile north of the line they mark, and braced at intervals, on the Federal side at least, with redoubts more massive than any of them. The remains of these enormous field-works, the creation of a few days, and mementoes of a struggle of less than a fortnight — for Grant reached the position on the 30th of May and left it the 10th of June — will long excite the wonder of the tourist. The labyrinth, deep, high, and intricate, will baffle the plow for years. Many a goodly field, prolific of old of sweet-potatoes, black-eyed pease, and water-melons, will show no growth but palisades, gabions, and abatis. On a ravine near Gaines's Mill the epidemic of ditching attained its most malignant type. Seven or eight distinct lines, each of them a Gibraltar of dirt, wind in and out, interlace and chassez with each other, in such bewildering and incomprehensible fashion that it must have required the constant exercise of the soldier's mental faculties to realize which side he was on.
To a bird's-eye view, however, all things are clear. Right and left over the plain, obscured here and there by woods, now rushing boldly and closely at each other, and now as coquettishly retiring, now scolloped into a salient, or "aggravated" (see etymology of that word according to Gunter — not Webster, for Webster foolishly says ad and gravis, while his rival hath the correct root, agger) into a ganglion of redoubts, covered ways, and rifle-pits, stretches the long, yellow, double line, like the diabolic father of fighting and all other evil, " many a rood," or rather like Macaulay's Armada, "heaving many a mile." As every thing has a centre and climax, however, we find one here close by the very old, small, and classic village of New Coal Harbor. To do a little more in the etymological line while we are about it, we shall explain our substitution of Coal for the common Tendering of Cold by reference to an authority of two centuries old. In "Samuel Pepys his Diary" allusion is made by that model of an old-time placeman to his search for certain state-papers, which he extended through the Tower, even looking into the "coal-harbor," i.e., the receptacle of the winter's fuel. The name must have been applied to Old Coal Harbor, a mile north of this place, from its remote and desolate inland situation. New Coal Harbor consists of one house and the decayed relics of another, separated by a field and orchard some three hundred yards wide, and joined by a road coming from the direction of the Paraunky and passing southeastwardly to the Chickahominy at New Bridge, and thence "on to Richmond." From this straight and level route each house boasts its own road branching off toward Turkey Hill, the battleground of July 27, 1862, three quarters of a mile distant. These two cross-roads unite at the swampy little stream the Confederate stormers found it so hard to cross in face of M'Clellan's sharp-shooters behind their log breastworks.
The most northerly house appears, by virtue of being inhabited, to represent the village, though its cross-road is deserted now for that of its more ancient rival. It was Lee's headquarters for some hours at the battle of 1862, and is bored, ripped, and threaded by Grant's balls of 1864. Along the main road by its side was drawn the Confederate battle-line in the former year. Follow the road a thousand yards northward and you strike the trenches of 1864, coming from your right and crossing at an acute angle. At the point of intersection a powerful salient reinforces Grant's works, commanding the straight and level track in both directions, and frowning contemptuously on the feeble ditch of his antagonist. A little in front of it, under a pine that far o'ertops the forest, Breckinridge's line was stormed and held for a while in the attack of June, 1864. Here happened the most sanguinary part of the charge of June 3. For some cause, it will be remembered, the Federal commander left many of his dead on the field when he moved southward on the 10th. Lee did not think the request for a truce to bury sufficiently supplicatory, and his opponent would not amend it. Hundreds of Federal soldiers consequently lay above-ground until the following spring.
Across this strip of intrenchment, so desperately contested two years later, the mass of Jackson's force moved to turn M'Clellan's right, at M'Gee's house, a mile to the cast, and in full view of where we stand, but for the shallow woods which veil the front of that position. Let us pass thither by the little hostelry, the Haye Sainte of a brace of Waterloos, which has survived in better plight than that of Europe the cross-fire of twice as many men. Winding by a very gentle descent of forty or fifty feet from the general level to the banks of the little stream, fringed with fern and starred with the cardinal flower, we find the opposite rise more abrupt. Ascending it we emerge from the woods, within two hundred yards, upon an open field, which rises gradually, for three or four times that distance, to the elevation of perhaps a hundred feet. On the left we see Porter's main works, running up the hill, at right angles nearly to his line, facing the woods which skirt the northern edge of the field. Through these woods came Jackson's left, flanking the position, at the same time that two of his regiments — the Fourth Texas and Eighteenth Georgia, or rather, fragments of them — succeeded finally, after the bloody repulse of several brigades, in carrying the front. These regiments, after rushing across three hundred yards of open space, found shelter under the bank of a trifling rivulet which seams the field diagonally, flowing
418from the north. After a breathing space, here they sprang forward, capturing nine guns of the fourteen that had been so troublesome — repulsing, en passant, a charge of the skeleton Fifth United States Cavalry, and finishing off with the infantry on the crest, who of course were already in trouble on the right. Here was the key of the combat, so to speak. The ridge stretches a mile and a half to the south, where it overlooks the Chickahominy; and the fight was brisk along the whole extent. But where we now stand was decided the fate of the advance on Richmond of 1862, just as on the spot we just left was settled that of 1864.
Looking southward, the everlasting horizon of pines hangs above the not very divergent paths which both campaigns followed to other fields. Frazier's Farm, Savage Station, and Malvern Hill, though grave and bloody actions, were, like the affairs at White Tavern and Fort Harrison — in the former of which the Confederate Generals Chamblis and Girardy were killed, and in the latter the inland citadel of the Chaffin's Farm works was stormed — of quite secondary import as regards the final issue of the campaign. That was, in both cases, decided elsewhere. M'Clellan's success at Malvern Hill only somewhat facilitated his retreat to Berkeley and Westover. Grant's shuttle-cock movements across Butler's narrow bailiewick to and from the north side, were but by-play to the great struggle on the south side of the Appomattox. The surprise of Fort Harrison at first produced some dismay in Richmond, as a dangerous blow at the hitherto invulnerable water defenses of the city. But in a few days it was so thoroughly overawed by the guns of a new line that it became, and remained to the end of the war, perfectly inefficient. And had its capture led to the fall of Chaffin's, the position gained would still have rested under the point-blank fire of Drewry's Bluff, and could not have materially extended the domain of the Monitors. It is very little, by-the-way, that the iron-clads on either side accomplished in this part of the seat of war. They never encountered each other, singly or in squadron, and never ventured far beyond the protection of their respective shore batteries. The unsuccessful
419attack, in May, 1862, on a three-gun battery at Drewry's, and the quite effective support of M'Clellan's left at Malvern Hill, are nearly the measure of their achievements on the Federal side; while the Confederate rams Virginia, Fredericksburg, and Richmond did nothing to gratify the high expectations of Mr. Mallory and his friends. Their formidable prows never plunged into anything more solid than the mud that received them at launching. On the 20th of June, 1864, they undertook to hurry Grant's movement to the South, but after reaching the neighborhood of Dutch Gap, and tossing a few shot toward where the next bend of the river was supposed by the imaginative gunners to be, returned. They aided somewhat in contributing to the discomfort of Butler's sand-martins in the burrows at the south end of the canal.
The Virginia having an armor of eight inches on her bows, and being otherwise a superior craft, was expected by the sanguine to carry the terrors of the Confederate marine as far as City Point. She was made the flag-ship. One after another commodores most noted for bravery and enterprise were placed in command; but none could exorcise the demon of ill-luck that held the Farrar's Island bend stoutly against both navies. On one occasion of high water a spirited move was made. The Virginia grounded on the obstructions, and retired with some loss. A wooden satellite, of one gun, also struck, and was blown up. Only the Fredericksburg passed, and she concluded that seven or eight Monitors and unlimited earth-works and torpedoes were too much to assail in vindication of Secretary Mallory, and retraced her steps.
Want of adequate steam-power was the failing of these vessels. The engines were small and bad. The smoke-stacks could stand but a few shots, and then what little steam had been started with was pretty sure to be lost. The timbers were, of course, green. In the Fredericksburg they were put together without a keel, the vessel on the stocks having the form of a kaleidoscope, the upper half split off for a short distance at each end. The guns were no match for the 15-inch smooth-bores of the Monitors. A heavier class was in process of perfection at the Tredegar Works when the catastrophe came, but, like many other achievements of the Confederate Navy Department, they were just in time to be too late. As it was, these craft and their armament were certainly notable results of skill and energy under difficulties. Had the South evinced, as developed, the same aptitude for manufacturing industry before as during the war it would probably never have occurred.
When Grant crossed the Chickahominy on his way to a new base, one week after his great assault of the 3d of June, we consider that the last leaguer of Richmond, as a fortified place, was at an end. That open town of forty thousand souls, seated on a sandy flat, washed by an estuary possessed by the most powerful navy in the world, never provisioned for more than a fortnight, and devoid of permanent works, remained a maiden fortress. Three hundred thousand men, with every appliance of modern warfare, had sat down before it, and opened trenches witthin sight and shot of its spires. A greater number had at different times, distant three or four days march, engaged the only army that could be mustered for its defense — that army averaging from fifty to sixty thousand, and never but once, and then for a few weeks only, reaching eighty thousand effectives.
Sebastopol's one year of triumph, ended by storm, was nothing to Richmond's four. In disparity of force and resources there can be no comparison. Nature, time, and all the strength of a vast empire backed Todtleben. All these fought against Lee. Engineer, strategist, drill-master, generalissimo, the moral mainstay of a new, poor, and divided nation, with the evils of a bad civil administration to contend with, and a commissariat that made no contracts and depended wholly on impressment, he accomplished what we have seen — what has never been seen before. Richmond ultimately fell, when Lee's army, ten leagues distant, without bayonets and without the hope of reinforcements or of food, was flanked, by three times its number, out of lines twice as long and not half as strong by nature as those
420of Sebastopol or Torres Vedras, and having no base at all. She fell with all her works intact and all her guns in position. Of the disaster which befell Richmond after her fall we will not speak; nor attempt to decide upon whom the blame should rest. The few sketches given will indicate in a measure how great was the ruin.
Wide and bright is the fame of Grant and his brother soldiers. Pen and pencil in a thousand hands crowd to its illustration. But those brave men will not contest the merits of an antagonist any more than Pelissier or Della Marmora would extinguish Mouravieff or Todtleben. We are not viewing the scene from a distance, but on the spot. And at Richmond, as at Sebastopol, the story oftenest told will be the story of the besieged. You will be shown the place where Stuart fell of a pistol ball; the smooth upland where Hood's Texans met the Zouaves; the grove where Jackson rested after the Seven Days; the spot where a staff-officer, who came the night before the march for Cedar Run and Manassas the Second to tell him that the red-tape people had failed to clothe, alone of all his corps, the Stonewall Brigade, found him lying on his stomach reading the Bible, and went away with a scribbled line that started every man at daylight next morning newly clad.