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Hood: Advance and Retreat
Chapter 2b


On the 20th of August my division, acting as an advanced guard of Longstreet's Corps, moved against General Pope's Army, then lying a short distance south of the Rappahannock, crossed the Rapidan at Raccoon Ford, and marched in the wake of Jackson's Corps, which was pushing forward rapidly with the design to secure a position on the flank or in rear of the Federals. This manœuvre resulted in one of those bold and dazzling achievements which not only won my unbounded admiration, but deservedly earned for Jackson the highest appreciation and encomiums of the civilized world. Whilst he was hastening forward with a determination to allow no obstacle to hinder the accomplishment of his object, his train was attacked by the enemy near Welford's Ford, on Hazel river; nevertheless, true to the inspiration of his genius, he pushed onward, leaving Trimble's brigade to protect his baggage against this assault. General Trimble gallantly repulsed the Federals, as my division moved forward to his support.

Longstreet's Corps continued to threaten the enemy, while Jackson turned his right flank and cut his communications with Washington.wtjHe finally stood at bay near Manassas, whilst Longstreet, by a forced march from the Rappahannock, pushed forward, and reached about mid-day, on the 28th, Thoroughfare Gap, which was guarded by a strong force of the enemy.

My command had marched nearly the whole previous night. About 2 a. m., after passing through a valley amid darkness which was greatly increased by a dense wood, the troops were allowed to file off, stack arms, and bivouac on a slope, and around a knoll upon which some of our cavalrymen had been stationed on picket duty. The fatigue of the men was so excessive that they dropped down in line, and fell asleep almost the instant they touched the ground. Amid the stillness and darkness which reigned in the encampment, some of the officers, who had dismounted upon the summit of the hillock, kicked over an empty barrel which had been used by the cavalrymen as a receptacle for forage, and it came rolling and bounding down the slope over the bushes, toward the Texans who were then in a sound sleep. Just at this moment a favorite animal of one of the regiments, " the old grey mare," loaded with kettles, tin cups and frying pans, dashed up the hill from the forest below with a rattling noise. Some one gave the alarm, crying with a loud voice, " Look out!" and the brave men who had fought so nobly at Cold Harbor sprang to their feet, deserted their colors and guns, and ran down the slope over a well-constructed fence, which was soon levelled to the ground, and had continued their flight several hundred yards before they awoke sufficiently to recover their wits, and boldly march back, convulsed with laughter. This incident is the origin of the brigade song, the burden of which ran, "The old Grey Mare came tearing out of the Wilderness." The truth is, in time of war, a cap explodes much louder at night than in the day.

Late in the afternoon of the 28th my division was instructed to unite with General D. R. Jones's Division and gain possession of Thoroughfare Gap, a narrow mountain defile, protected, as it were, by a wall of stone on either side. At the same time General Lee sent a force to the left to threaten the Federals in rear, whilst a portion of my command passed through the Gap under a heavy fire of artillery, and my main force crossed over the ridge upon the immediate left of the Gap. The enemy was thus forced to retire, and my division bivouacked for the night beyond this stronghold. At early dawn on the morning of the 29th I put my troops in motion, and, in accordance with instructions from General Longstreet, formed his advanced guard in the direction of Manassas. I placed Lieutenant Colonel Upton, of the Fifth Texas, in command of about one hundred and fifty picked men, from the Texas brigade, to act as skirmishers, and instructed him to rapidly push the Federals in his front. I impressed upon him the importance of hastening to the support of General Jackson, and assured him I would keep the division in readiness to render him prompt assistance, if requisite. Here was achieved by this advanced guard of the advanced guard one of those military feats which is entitled to the admiration of every soldier. Although the Federals opposed us with the different arms of the service, Colonel Upton drove them before him with such rapidity that General Longstreet sent me orders, two or three times, to halt, since the Army was unable to keep within supporting distance of my forces. The gallant Upton was, indeed, pre-eminent in his sphere as an outpost officer.

I joined General Jackson on the Groveton pike, upon the field of Manassas, about 10.30 a. m., when he rode forward and extended me a hearty welcome. He was then keeping at bay the entire Federal Army, commanded by Major General Pope. My division was formed without delay across the pike; the Texas brigade was posted on the right, and that of Law on the left. Between my left and Jackson's right, which rested about one mile south of Groveton, a gap of a few hundred yards existed; it was afterwards filled by artillery, under the direction of Colonel Walton. Longstreet's Corps, as it arrived upon the field, formed on my right, thus constituting my division the centre of the Confederate Army. I was instructed to obey the orders of either Lee, Jackson, or Longstreet. We remained, till a late hour in the afternoon, spectators of the heavy engagement of Jackson's troops with the enemy, who was thwarted in his attempt to turn our left flank. Major B. W. Frobel, whom I had previously assigned to the command of my artillery, was sent to our right with his battalion to oppose a column of the enemy, advancing to attack Longstreet whilst he was establishing his line . He speedily repulsed the Federals, and returned to his former position.

In the meantime our opponents had been massing their forces in our front. Just before sunset I received orders from General Longstreet to advance, and scarcely had I given the word of command, when the enemy moved forward and began a general attack along my line. Law's brigade of Alabamians, Mississippians and Carolinians dashed forward with the Texans, Georgians and Geary's Legion, upon their immediate right; each seemed to vie with the other in efforts to plunge the deeper into the ranks of the enemy. Onward they charged, driving the foe through field and forest, from position after position, till long after darkness had closed in upon the scene of conflict. Law had captured one piece of artillery," and I beheld with pride the work done by my men, who had forced back the Federals a distance of over one mile.

I now discovered that my line was in the midst of the enemy; the obscurity of the night, which was deepened by a thick wood, made it almost impossible to distinguish friend from foe, and for the same reason I was unable to select a position and form upon it for action next morning. The Confederates and Federals were so intermingled that commanders of both armies gave orders for allignment, in some instances, to the troops of their opponents. Colonel Work, of the First Texas, was struck in the head with an inverted musket in the hands of a Federal, and several stands of colors were snatched from their bearers by my troops, and borne off as mementos of this night encounter of clubs and fists.

In view of this condition of affairs I determined to ride to the rear, inform Generals Lee and Longstreet of the facts, and to recommend that I retire and resume the line from which I had advanced just before sunset. I found them about two miles off , in an open field, and, after a brief interview, we received orders to act in accordance with my suggestion. The troops were therefore withdrawn from the immediate presence of the enemy, back to their original position across the Groveton pike, about 2 a. m. on the 30th of August. As I was prepared to lie down and rest for the few remaining hours before dawn, one of my officers informed me that General Richard Anderson's Division was bivouacked in mass just in my front. Knowing that some thirty or forty pieces of artillery bore directly upon his troops, I mounted my horse, rode off in search of his quarters, and urged him to hasten his withdrawal, as the Federal artillery would assuredly, at daylight, open upon his men thus massed, and greatly cripple his division. Anderson had been marching all day, in order to join General Lee, and did not halt until he found himself in the midst of Federal and Confederate wounded. Upon my warning, he promptly aroused his men and, just after daybreak, marched to the rear of my line of battle. The pike was dry, and his division, as it moved back, left a cloud of dust in its wake, which circumstance, I have always thought, induced General Pope to send his celebrated despatch to Washington to the effect that General Lee was in full retreat.

My troops remained stationary a greater part of the 30th, quietly awaiting orders to again advance. About 3.30 p. m. a furious assault was made upon Jackson, within full view of my position. Line after line was hurled against his brave men, posted in a railroad cut, from which they stubbornly resisted every attack. I sent for a battery (Reiley's, if I mistake not), and ordered it to open upon the flank of the enemy's attacking column, whilst Colonel S. D. Lee's artillery, together with the remainder of Major Frobel's batteries, ploughed deep furrows through the Federal masses, as they advanced to and recoiled before the " Stonewall" upon my left. So desperate was the assault of Pope, and so fixed the determination of this commander, or some of his officers, to force the troops to fight that a line was, apparently, stationed in rear to fire upon those who, impelled by fear or despair, sought refuge from the battlefield..

Thus raged this fierce contest, when about 4 p. m. I received an order, through one of Longstreet's staff officers, to advance. A few minutes after my division moved forward, a messenger from Longstreet summoned me, and, at the full speed of my horse, I joined him from a quarter to a half of a mile in rear. He instructed me not to allow my division to move so far forward as to throw itself beyond the prompt support of the troops he had ordered to the front. Notwithstanding I rode at as rapid a course as my favorite horse could bear me to rejoin my two brigades, I did not overtake them till I had crossed the creek, about four hundred yards south of the Chinn House, and the Texas brigade had captured a battery, routed the Federal Zouaves—literally strewing the ground with their dead and wounded—and Law, upon the left, had accomplished equally important results in his front. The field, where lay the dead and dying zouaves in their gay uniforms, amid the tall green grass, presented indeed a singular appearance, as I passed down the slope and across the creek. I here sent orders to my troops to halt and adjust their allignment, and discovered, at the same time, upon a ridge a short distance beyond, another battery together with large masses of Federal infantry in the vicinity of the Chinn House. Soon, Colonel Means, mounted and in command of General Evans's brigade, reported to me for directions. I instructed him to take the battery which was then within sixty yards of us. His men boldly dashed forward, and he, a few moments later, fell dead to the ground pierced by a ball.

I moved a little to the right, and about this juncture D. R. Jones's Division arrived upon the scene of action; it was soon followed by the remainder of Longstreet's Corps. General Jones rode up to me, and desired to know at which point he could most effectually strike the enemy. I recommended that he at once assail the heavy lines in rear of the Chinn House. He promptly accepted the suggestion, in concert with several other commanders, and they moved to the attack, as did the whole line from right to left. Thus the splendid corps of Longstreet moved forward in a grand charge out upon the high and open ground in that vicinity. Onward it swept toward Bull Run, driving the enemy at a rapid pace before it, and presenting to the view the most beautiful battle scene I have ever beheld. I was in conference, near the Chinn House, with General Jones and other commanders, as they arrived upon the field, when the Fifth Texas—after Colonel Robertson had been wounded in the faithful discharge of his duty, and the gallant, noble Upton had been killed—slipped the bridle and rushed forward, breaking loose from its brigade. When night approached, and the battle was over, I found it far to the front, in the vicinity of the Sudley Ford road.

Whilst I lost many valuable officers and men, as shown by the official reports, my two brigades, true to their teaching, captured five guns in addition to fourteen stands of colors, which they bore off as trophies of war and proof of the noble work they had accomplished. During this engagement Major W. H. Sellers, my Adjutant General, led the Texas brigade. I had ordered him to assume direction when General Longstreet sent for me at the beginning of the movement forward. This distinguished soldier not only deserves great credit for his conduct in this battle, but proved himself, as I expressed my conviction in my official report, competent to command a brigade at that early period of the war. Toward the close of the battle I pushed forward some of my reliable Texas scouts, and captured a number of new Federal ambulances, with a view to better the outfit of my troops. After nightfall I reassembled my division, and rode back to the headquarters of General Lee.

I found him in an open field, near a camp-fire of boards kindled for the purpose of reading despatches; he was in high spirits, doubtless on account of the brilliant and complete victory just achieved by his Army. He met me in his usual manner, and asked what had become of the enemy. I replied that our forces had driven him almost at a double-quick, to and across Bull Run, and that it was a beautiful sight to see our little battle-flags dancing after the Federals, as they ran in full retreat. He instantly exclaimed, "God forbid I should ever live to see our colors moving in the opposite direction!"

The ambulances I had captured were destined to cause me somewhat of annoyance, which I had nowise anticipated at the time I assigned them to my troops for the use of their sick and wounded. After the burial of the dead on the following day, and the march had been resumed, with orders to follow Jackson's Corps in the direction of Maryland, I was instructed by Major General Evans to turn over these ambulances to his Carolina troops. Whereas I would cheerfully have obeyed directions to deliver them to General Lee's Quarter Master for the use of the Army, I did not consider it just that I should be required to yield them to another brigade of the division, which was in no manner entitled to them. I regarded the command, which had captured them, as the rightful owners in this instance, and therefore refused to obey the order. I was, in consequence, placed in arrest, and, on the march to Frederick, Maryland, was ordered by General Longstreet to proceed to the rear to Culpepper Court House, if I remember correctly, and there await the assembly of a Court Martial for my trial. General Lee, however, became apprised of the matter, and at once sent instructions that I should remain with my command, though he did not release me from arrest. Longstreet's Corps was finally massed near Hagerstown, and by this time my division had become restive and somewhat inclined to insubordination on account of my suspension. I repressed all demonstrations of feeling by assurances to the officers that the affair would soon be settled, and I shortly restored to command.

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