Showing posts with label Thomas L Rosser. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thomas L Rosser. Show all posts

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: Sunday, February 7, 1864

 The tocsin is sounding at 9 A.M. It appears that Gen. Butler is marching up the Peninsula (I have not heard the estimated number of his army) toward Richmond. But, being in the Secretary's room for a moment, I heard him say to Gen. Elzey that the “local defense men” must be relied on to defend Richmond. These men are mainly clerks and employees of the departments, who have just been insulted by the government, being informed that no increased compensation will be allowed them because they are able to bear arms. In other words, they must famish for subsistence, and their families with them, because they happen to be of fighting age, and have been patriotic enough to volunteer for the defense of the government, and have drilled, and paraded, and marched, until they are pronounced good soldiers. Under these circumstances, the Secretary of War says they must be relied upon to defend the government. In my opinion, many of them are not reliable. Why were they appointed contrary to law? Who is to blame but the Secretaries themselves? Ah! but the Secretaries had pets and relatives of fighting age they must provide for; and these, although not dependent on their salaries, will get the increased compensation, and will also be exempted from aiding in the defense of the city—at least such has been the practice heretofore. These things being known to the proscribed local troops (clerks, etc.), I repeat my doubts of their reliability at any critical moment.

We have good news from the Rappahannock. It is said Gen. Rosser yesterday captured several hundred prisoners, 1200 beeves, 350 mules, wagons of stores, etc. etc.

Nevertheless, there is some uneasiness felt in the city, there being nearly 12,000 prisoners here, and all the veteran troops of Gen. Elzey's division are being sent to North Carolina.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 144-5

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: November 28, 1863

It rained last night. To-day there is an expectation of a battle near Chancellorville, the battle-ground of June last. Meade is certainly advancing, and Pickett's division, on the south side of the James River, at Chaffin's Farm, is ordered to march toward Lee, guarding the railroad, and the local defense men are ordered out.

My son Custis goes with his battalion to Chaffin's Farm in the morning.

There are rumors of six or eight thousand of the enemy marching up the line of the James River against Petersburg, etc. We have also a rumor of Gen. Rosser having captured the wagon train of two divisions of the enemy in Culpepper County.

From Bragg not a word since his dispatch from Ringgold, Ga., and nothing from Longstreet.

Gen. Whiting writes that a large number of Jews and others with gold, having put in substitutes, and made their fortunes, are applying for passage out of the country. They fear their substitutes will no longer keep them out of the army. Gen. W. says they have passports from Richmond, and that the spy who published in the North an account of the defenses of Wilmington, had a passport from Richmond. The government will never realize the injury of the loose passport system until it is ruined.

Never have I known such confusion. On the 26th inst. the Secretary ordered Gen. Pickett, whose headquarters were at Petersburg, to send a portion of his division to Hanover Junction, it being apprehended that a raid might be made in Lee's rear. Gen. P. telegraphs that the French steam frigate was coming up the river (what for?), and that two Federal regiments and three companies of cavalry menaced our lines on the south side of the river. The Secretary sent this to Gen. Elzey, on this side of the river, asking if his pickets and scouts could not get information of the movements of the enemy. To-day Gen. E. sends back the paper, saying his scouts could not cross the river and get within the enemy's lines. So the government is in a fog—and if the enemy knew it, and it may, the whole government might be taken before any dispositions for defense could be made. Incompetency in Richmond will some day lose it.

Three o'clock P.M. The weather is clear, and Lee and Meade may fight, and it may be a decisive battle.

I met Mr. Foote, of Tennessee, to-day. He asked me if I did not think our affairs were in a desperate condition. I replied that I did not know that they were not, and that when one in my position did not know, they must be bad enough.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 107-8

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Diary of Captain Luman Harris Tenney: December 22, 1864

Up at 4. Rain froze as it fell. Awfully cold. At 5:30 “To horse” sounded. Soon a yell went up near the 2nd Brig., then a few shots. We were ordered to mount immediately — did it. A line could be seen on a distant hill. A few men came up within a few rods of camp. We moved to the flank, came front into line, my Batt. 1st in advance. Threw out skirmishers. Firing commenced immediately and we advanced, firing. Rebs run. Captured two and killed two. The command proved to be Rosser's Div. which came in from the back road and from the flank. Charged the 2nd Brig. and drove it. Passed to the rear and captured several ambulance horses. Result was 30 men killed, wounded and missing on our side. 22 men captured from rebs and 10 killed. One of H Co. sabre cut, and one horse killed. Moved back and camped at Woodstock. 2nd on picket. Small force of the enemy followed. Skirmished till dark.

SOURCE: Frances Andrews Tenney, War Diary Of Luman Harris Tenney, p. 138

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Diary of 2nd Lieutenant Luman Harris Tenney: Saturday, November 12, 1864

Gen. Rosser attacked 1st Conn. on reconnoissance. 2nd Ohio charged to help them. Both driven back after several charges, in some confusion. Brigade out and drove rebs back — at Shells — hand-to-hand encounter — charge after charge. Col. Hull killed. Drove rebs over the creek, four miles. Rebel brigade came in rear and picked up many stragglers. 2nd Ohio lost 20. Had my horse wounded. Early's whole army at Middletown.

SOURCE: Frances Andrews Tenney, War Diary Of Luman Harris Tenney, p. 135

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Diary of Judith Brockenbrough McGuire: December 24, 1864

Savannah has been evacuated, without loss to us, except of some stores, which could not be removed. The city was surrendered by its mayor, Arnold by name, and he seems to be worthy of the traitorous name. Our troops marched towards Charleston. Savannah was of little use to us for a year past, it has been so closely blockaded, and its surrender relieves troops which were there for its defence, which may be more useful elsewhere; but the moral effect of its fall is dreadful. The enemy are encouraged, and our people depressed. I never saw them more so.

On the 22d General Rosser beat a division of the enemy near Harrisonburg, and on the 23d General Lomax repulsed and severely punished another, near Gordonsville.

To-morrow is Christmas-day. Our girls and B. have gone to Cedar Hill to spend a week. Our office has suspended its labours, and I am anticipating very quiet holidays. A Christmas present has just been handed me from my sweet young friend S. W. — a box filled with all manner of working materials, which are now so scarce and expensive, with a beautiful mat for my toilet at the bottom of it. Christmas will come on the Sabbath. The “Colonel” is gone, but J. and C. will take their usual Sunday dinner, and I have gotten up a little dessert, because Christmas would not be Christmas without something better than usual; but it is a sad season to me. On last Christmasday our dear R. T. C. was buried; and yesterday I saw my sweet young cousin E. M. die, and to-morrow expect to attend her funeral. Full of brightness and animation, full of Christian hope and charity, she was the life of her father's house, the solace and comfort of her already afflicted mother, one of the many mothers whose first-born has fallen a sacrifice to the war. This interesting girl, with scarcely a warning, has passed into heaven, leaving a blank in the hearts of her family never to be filled.

SOURCE: Judith W. McGuire, Diary of a Southern Refugee, During the War, p. 322-3

Friday, March 25, 2016

Diary of Judith Brockenbrough McGuire: October 12, 1864

The armies around Richmond remain quiet. Butler is digging the canal at “Dutch Gap,” and Grant is fortifying “Fort Harrison” most vigorously. General Rosser has had a little reverse in the Valley, losing some guns. He had a cavalry fight, overcame the enemy, and drove them for miles; but encountering a body of infantry which was too much for him, he had to retreat, leaving his guns to the enemy.

The hospitals are full of the wounded; my afternoons are very much engaged, nursing them. I was very sorry yesterday to find R. S. painfully wounded.

SOURCE: Judith W. McGuire, Diary of a Southern Refugee, During the War, p. 310-1

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Francis H. Wigfall to Louise Wigfall, October 24, 1862

Camp, near Winchester, October 24, 1862

I had a very pleasant visit to Rosser's Camp where I spent the night. On my way down I met Genl. Stuart and stopped and had some conversation. He was in as high spirits as ever, and told me particularly to tell you, when I wrote, that in his recent raid into Pennsylvania he got nothing but “Apple butter” and “Dry water.” You know he is a “Total Abstinence Man” in practice. The next day I rode down to Shepherdstown about eight miles from Camp with Rosser and through the town to the river bank (the Potomac) where our cavalry pickets are stationed. The Yankees who still picket entirely with infantry have their lines on the opposite bank. While I was in that neighborhood Jackson's Corps, and McLaw's Division from this Corps, were hard at work destroying the B. & O. R. R. They have also torn up the track of the road between Winchester and Harper's Ferry and it will be a long time befor these roads can be repaired. I put my last postage stamp on this letter and I understand there are none in Winchester.

SOURCE: Louise Wigfall Wright, A Southern Girl in ’61, p. 95-6

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Colonel Charles Russell Lowell to Josephine Shaw Lowell, Sunday, October 10, 1864 – 12 p.m.

Near Strasburg, Monday, Oct. 10.

It's just noon, and we have gone into camp for the day in a lovely green field with plenty of forage, and lots of rails to burn, — and I've just had a bath, soaped from head to heel. It's still cold (frost and ice this A. M. and I had to lie out with nothing but my overcoat) and I have two or three slight colds in the head, — but it's splendid October and very exhilarating.

Enos found Sergeant Wakefield's horse yesterday and I rode him all day, and he didn't get hit, though his saddle did, and our Brigade chased two Rebel brigades more than ten miles, and took a battle-flag and four guns and caissons and wagons, &c., &c, so my disinclination for “fight” yesterday morning was a presentiment that came to naught.1

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

I've said (to the Doctor and others) again and again that, if I was taken, I didn't want any special exchange, and wanted that understood, and I guess that's the way you feel too, in spite of your “concluding” that you did approve of special exchanges. It would be very hard, but I don't believe that I should be ill there, or should suffer even my share, and you would know just what the risk was. There's not one chance in a great many, however, that I shall be taken, — that's consoling.

1 Sheridan, who witnessed the spectacle from a hill, thus describes the Battle of Tom's Brook, nicknamed “Woodstock Races”: —

“Oct. 9th. About 7 in the morning, Custer's division encountered Rosser himself with three brigades, and while the stirring sounds of the resulting artillery duel were reverberating through the valley, Merritt moved briskly to the front, and fell upon Generals Lomax and Johnson on the Valley pike. . . . The two divisions moved forward together, under Torbert's direction. . . . The engagement soon became general across the Valley, both- sides fighting mainly mounted. For about two hours the contending lines struggled with each other along Tom's Brook, the charges and countercharges at many points being plainly visible from . . . Round Top, where I had my headquarters. The open country permitting a sabre fight, both sides seemed bent on using that arm. In the centre, the Confederates maintained their position with much stubbornness, . . . but at last they began to give way on both flanks, and, as these receded, Merritt and Custer went at the wavering ranks in a charge along their whole front. The result was a general smash-up of the entire Confederate line, the retreat quickly degenerating into a rout. . . . For twenty-six miles this wild stampede kept up, with our troopers close to the enemy's heels.”

In a report to General Grant next day, Sheridan wrote: —

“The number of prisoners captured will be about 330. The enemy, after being charged by our gallant cavalry, were broken, and ran. They were followed by our men on the jump twenty-six miles, through Mount Jackson and across the North Fork of the Shenandoah.”

And on the 11th of October he wrote again, from Cedar Creek: —

I have seen no signs of the enemy since the brilliant engagement of the 9th instant. It was a square cavalry fight, in which the enemy was routed beyond my power to describe. He lost everything carried on wheels, except one piece of artillery; and when last seen, it was passing over Rude's Hill, near New Market, on the keen run, twenty-six miles from the battlefield, to which point the pursuit was kept up.”

General Torbert, in his report, spoke of this cavalry fight and victory as “the most decisive the country has ever witnessed. Brigadier-Generals Merritt and Custer, and Colonels Lowell and Pennington, commanding brigades, particularly distinguished themselves; in fact, no men could have rendered more valuable services and deserve higher honour from the hands of 'the Government. My losses will not exceed 60 killed and wounded, which is astonishing, compared with the results.”

General Early, who had not failed in courage or persistency, reported to Lee his new defeat: —

“This is very distressing to me, and God knows I have done all in my power to avert the disasters which have befallen this command; but the fact is, that the enemy's cavalry is so much superior to ours, both in numbers and equipment, and the country is so favourable to the operations of cavalry, that it is impossible for ours to compete with his. Lomax's cavalry is armed entirely with rifles, and has no sabres; and the consequence is, that they cannot fight on horseback, and, in this open country, they cannot successfully fight on foot against large bodies of cavalry: besides, the command has been demoralized all the time. It would be better if they could be all put in the infantry; but, if that were tried, I am afraid they would all run off.”

The Southerners, as a rule, did not believe in the sabre. Mosby ridicules it; and, indeed, for his kind of work, the revolver and carbine sufficed. But in the Valley, the furious combined rush of horses ridden by men, with three feet of bright steel, at close quarters, seems often to have been very effective.

SOURCE: Edward Waldo Emerson, Life and Letters of Charles Russell Lowell, p. 355-6, 470-2

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Colonel Charles Russell Lowell to Josephine Shaw Lowell, Sunday, October 9, 1864 – 7 a.m.

Near Strasburg, Sunday, 7 A. M., Oct. 9.

Our boys haven't been able to find any water for us this morning and we haven't washed our faces, — the first time that I remember in the “history of the war.” It's jolly cold however, so we don't mind so much. We actually had snow flurries yesterday, and to-day promises worse.

We had a skirmish yesterday with their cavalry.1 Lieutenant Tucker wounded and Sergeant Wakefield; — the roan horse killed, and to-day I shall have to ride the gray unless I can find Sergeant Wakefield's horse. Enos has been looking for him for two hours. We are expecting another brush with their cavalry today, as we are ordered to advance again. I should like to have Sundays quiet.

1 October 8. The Reserve Brigade was sent back to reconnoitre, and met a superior force of Rebel cavalry. The Second Brigade (Devin's) was sent to reenforce Lowell, who attacked. There was a hard fight till dark, with some loss.

This annoyance of his rear by General Rosser, who had been eagerly looked for to deliver the Valley from the Yankees, caused Sheridan, that night, to order his chief of cavalry, Torbert, to go in and whip Rosser next morning, or get whipped himself.

SOURCE: Edward Waldo Emerson, Life and Letters of Charles Russell Lowell, p. 355, 470

Monday, July 20, 2015

Colonel Charles Russell Lowell to Josephine Shaw Lowell, October 5, 1864

Near Mt. Crawford, Oct. 5, 1864.

I have reveillé about one hour before daybreak, — am always awake, but never get up now, unless there are Rebs round.

Did you see the new moon last night within a quarter of an inch of the evening star, and turning her back on him? They must have been close together an hour before I could see them; for an hour after, they were still less than an inch apart. They looked very strangely calm and peaceful and almost reproachful in the West last night, — with the whole North and East, far and near, lighted up by burning barns and houses. Lieutenant Meigs was shot by a guerrilla, and by order the village of Dayton and everything for several miles around was burned.1 I am very glad my Brigade had no hand in it. Though if it will help end bushwhacking, I approve it, and I would cheerfully assist in making this whole Valley a desert from Staunton northward, — for that would have, I am sure, an important effect on the campaign of the Spring,— but in partial burnings I see less justice and less propriety. I was sorry enough the other day that my Brigade should have had a part in the hanging and shooting of some of Mosby's men who were taken, — I believe that some punishment was deserved, — but I hardly think we were within the laws of war, and any violation of them opens the door for all sorts of barbarity, — it was all by order of the Division Commander, however. The war in this part of the country is becoming very unpleasant to an officer's feelings.

We have moved camp once every day since Saturday, but only for short distances; so the date is still the same.

I think [the mail-carrier] is miserably timid about guerrillas, — he won't come unless he has at least a brigade for escort, — perhaps he is right, however; important despatches from General Grant to Sheridan were taken, day before yesterday, by guerrillas, — provoking enough when we are hoping to hear that Petersburg is taken, or perhaps to get the orders which instruct us how to cooperate in taking it.2

I think that we shall move soon. As we are foraging our horses entirely upon the country, we have to move frequently, but lately we have done a little too much of it. This is a very scrubby letter and written before breakfast, too.

I do wish this war was over!  . . . Never mind. I'm doing all I can to end it. Good-bye.

1 General Sheridan, in a despatch to General Grant, said, “Lieutenant John R. Meigs, my engineer officer, was murdered beyond Harrisburg.  . . . For this atrocious act, all the houses within an area of five miles were burned. Since I came into the Valley from Harper's Ferry, every train, every small party, and every straggler has been bushwhacked by people, many of whom have protection papers from commanders who have been hitherto in that Valley.” It was asserted at the time that the murderer was disguised in the United States uniform. Mr. George E. Pond, associate editor of the Army and Navy Journal, in his book on the Campaign in the Shenandoah Valley (1883), says, “It was ascertained, after the war, that this gallant youth [Lieutenant Meigs], a soldier of brilliant gifts and promise, the son of the Quartermaster-General, fell at the hands of an enlisted Confederate soldier of Wickham's brigade, engaged in scouting.”

2 In 1864, the evils of guerrilla warfare rose to high-water mark. The sure demoralization which such a system wrought in those engaged in it, reached such a pitch that even the Confederate authorities could not ignore it. Matters worked in a vicious circle. Murderous marauding drove the Union commanders to devastating the places known to harbour these men. The devastation naturally enraged the inhabitants, and led them even to private bushwhacking. In the late autumn of 1864, bitter retaliations began on both sides. As early as January, 1864, the Confederate General Rosser, who had had opportunity while serving in the Valley to judge the value of “irregular bodies of troops known as partisans,” etc., wrote to General Lee: “I am prompted by no other feeling than a desire to serve my country, to inform you that they are a nuisance and an evil to the service. Without discipline, order, or organization, they roam broadcast over the country, — a band of thieves, stealing, pillaging, plundering, and doing every manner of mischief and crime. They are a terror to the citizens and an injury to the cause.”

He gives the following reasons for his protest: that it keeps men on this service away “from the field of battle, when the life or death of our country is the issue;” that their latitude and many privileges cause dissatisfaction among the regular troops; this encourages desertion.

He says he finds it almost impossible to manage the companies of his brigade that come from the region occupied by Mosby. “They see these men living at their ease and enjoying the comforts of home, allowed to possess all that they capture, and their duties mere pastime pleasures compared with their own arduous ones; and it is a natural consequence in the nature of man that he should become dissatisfied under these circumstances.” He recommends abolishing this “partisan” service, with its privileges. “If it is necessary for troops to operate within the lines of the enemy, then require the commanding officer to keep them in an organized condition, to rendezvous within our lines, and move upon the enemy when opportunity is offered.

“Major Mosby is of inestimable service to the Yankee army, in keeping their men from straggling. He is a gallant officer, and is one that I have great respect for; yet the interest I feel in my own command and the good of the service coerces me to bring this matter before you, in order that this partisan system, which I think is a bad one, may be corrected.” General Rosser says that General Early and General Fitzhugh Lee can testify to these evils.

On General Rosser's communication, General J. E. B. Stuart, the friend and admirer of Mosby, indorses: Major Mosby's command is the only efficient band of rangers I know of, and he usually operates with only one fourth of his nominal strength. Such organizations, as a rule, are detrimental to the best interests of the army at large.”

The above communication was referred by General Lee to the government at Richmond, with this comment: “As far as my knowledge and experience extend, there is much truth in the statement of General Rosser. The evils resulting from their organization more than counterbalance the good they accomplish.'” Miles, the chairman of the Confederate Military Committee, on February 14, 1864, returns this document to the Secretary of War, saying the House of Representatives has passed a bill abolishing Partisan Rangers.

Yet, in spite of Lee's indorsement of Rosser's communication, he wrote to the Secretary of War, C. S. A., asking that Mosby be made a lieutenant-colonel, and wishing to show him that “his services have been appreciated, and to encourage him to still greater activity and zeal.” (Rebellion Record, vol. xxxiii.)

In April, Lee enumerated to his government the bands of “partisan rangers,” recommending bringing them under the rules and regulations of the regular cavalry, disbanding most of them as organizations, but keeping the men; and adds, with regard to Mosby's battalion, the recommendation that, if they cannot be mustered into the regular service, “they be retained as partisans at present,” expressing his belief that their discipline and conduct is better than that of the other bands.

Mosby's and McNeill's commands were retained as partisan rangers.

But the evil went on increasing through 1864. Two days after General Sheridan's report of the killing of his Lieutenant Meigs, he sends another: Lieutenant-Colonel Tolles, my Chief Quartermaster, and Assistant Surgeon Emil Oelenschlager, Medical Inspector on my Staff, were both mortally wounded by guerrillas to-day, on their way to join me from Winchester.  . . . The refugees from Early's army, cavalry and infantry, are organizing guerrilla parties, and are becoming very formidable.  . . . I know of no way to exterminate them except to burn out the whole country, and let the people go North or South.”

Yet, bushwhacking aside, Mosby had done great military service to the Confederacy — to quote his own words as to his kind of warfare — “by the heavy details it compels the enemy to make in order to guard his communications, and, to that extent, diminish his aggressive strength.” In August, when Sheridan with his army had gone up the Valley, Mosby with a small force made a dash upon one of his supply-trains proceeding to the front, dispersed a large force of “hundred-days men,” and ran off three hundred and fifty mules, and burned the wagons and what spoil they could not carry off. In October, Colonel Stevenson wrote to Secretary Stanton, that a supply-train of five hundred and sixty-one wagons, which he was despatching to Sheridan's army, would have a guard of two thousand men unless this should be too few.”

Throughout the campaign, Early was most anxious to keep the rail communications of the Union Army broken, and Mosby harassed the working parties that tried to keep them open. Major John Scott, in his Partisan Life with Mosby, gives the following edifying anecdote. It should be remembered that these trains were used by the local inhabitants: Knowing that the only way to prevent the progress of the work on the road was to keep the force stirred up from below, on the 9th of October he (Mosby) sent a detachment under a lieutenant to throw off the track a train of cars, as it passed between Salem and the Plains. This duty was successfully performed, and many on board were killed and many severely wounded. In retaliation, the Yankees resorted to the inhuman experiment of arresting prominent citizens of the Southern type residing in Fauquier and Alexandria, and making them ride on every train which ran on the Manassas Gap Railroad. In addition, some of the captured prisoners were sent along. But, with the spirit of an old Roman, Mosby declared, ‘If my wife and children were on board, I would still throw off the cars.’”

SOURCE: Edward Waldo Emerson, Life and Letters of Charles Russell Lowell, p. 352-4, 465-70

Friday, June 5, 2015

Colonel Charles Russell Lowell to John M. Forbes, February 24, 1864

Giesboro' Point, Feb. 24, '64.

 I left Vienna, not from choice, but because I had to. I am sent over here to straighten out the Cavalry Depot, — the Depot which supplies all the Eastern Departments. There has been no head here, and there was a sad want of system. They say at the War Department, at the Cavalry Bureau, and at General Augur's Headquarters, that I should only be here two or three months, — in that case I shall not object. There is a great deal of work to be done, and I am getting interested in it, — but shall leave when I get the machine fairly running. The command of 16,000 to 25,000 indifferent (or worse) horses is not much for glory.1

About going into active service I cannot tell: I wrote to General Gregg and got answer that he would apply to Pleasanton for the Regiment and could probably get it, — I have heard nothing more.2

1 The official documents show the activity of the brigade during the later months of 1863, scouting parties and counter raids and picket attacks, of which I mention a few specimens: —

October 13. Colonel Lowell reports a scouting expedition he had made through Thornton, Herndon Station, Frying Pan, to Gum Spring, — nothing found. Reports Captain Rumery's (Second Cavalry) encounter with White's men, capturing one man and three horses from them.

October 22. Colonel Baker (under Colonel Lowell's orders) reports that a detachment of his command, and one from the Californians in the Second Massachusetts, met some of Mosby's men near Fairfax; killed one, and captured “the three celebrated guerrillas, Jack Barns, Edwin Stratton, and Bill Hanover,” whom he forwarded to the Old Capitol Prison.

October 19. Mosby reports to Stuart a very successful raid on an army-train near Annandale; that he captured over one hundred horses and mules, wagons with stores, seventy-five to one hundred prisoners, arms, etc., with no loss. Then comes a rumour of another great invasion by Lee and Longstreet about to occur, and General Pleasanton sends General Gregg to operate with Colonel Lowell at Fairfax. General Corcoran reports to Washington that Lowell is scouring the country. It proves that there is no invasion.

October 27. Mosby reports that, the night before, he attacked the centre of a long wagon-train hauling supplies for the army to Warrenton. His men unhitched the teams from more than forty wagons, and ran off one hundred and forty-five horses and mules and “thirty negroes and Yankees.” “I had forty men.”

November 5. Mosby reports that he has killed Kilpatrick's division commissary, and captured an adjutant, five men, six horses, etc.

November 17. Colonel Lowell reports one sergeant and three men of the Thirteenth New York Cavalry captured by rebels — twenty or thirty, in Union overcoats, advancing to the sentries with a pretended pass, — wounded one man.

November 22. Mosby reports that, since November 5, he has captured seventy-five cavalrymen, over one hundred horses and mules, six wagons, etc.

Each of these raids, at a new place, in a wide region, was followed by a pursuit; but the freebooters had scattered in every direction, having no camp, only to muster again when ordered.

November 26. Colonel Lowell reports a reconnoissance by one of his captains, with twenty-five mounted and seventy-five dismounted men (the latter concealed as far as possible, and marching chiefly by night), towards the Blue Ridge; Yankee Davis and Binns (a rebel deserter) as guides. Colonel Lowell, later, with one hundred mounted men, joins these at Middleburg.

December 13. Colonel Lowell reports: This morning, at about three o'clock, the picket at Germantown were surprised by a party of guerrillas, dismounted, some twenty strong. They crawled up and shot (without any warning), mortally wounding two men and capturing five horses and their equipments.”

December 20. Colonel Lowell reports a reconnoissance led by him, on the 18th, on the trail of Rosser's and White's large force, which had cut telegraph lines and burned bridges, and gone farther. On his way back he chased some of Mosby's men, and brought in two prisoners and sixteen horses.

December 21. Colonel Lowell reports twenty to thirty guerrillas near his camp the night before, who attacked one of his picket stations, got four horses and wounded two men. The same night they attacked an officer and his escort on Fairfax Road, and wounded two. “One of the wounded men, near Hunter's Mill, was shot a second time through the body by a guerrilla, after he had surrendered and given up his pistol. Party sent in pursuit, but to no purpose.”

December 27. Colonel Lowell reports a scout to Leesburg by fifty men of the Thirteenth New York Cavalry, guided by Binns, who had deserted the Confederates. They searched houses, and brought in eight prisoners, “among them Pettingall (a notorious scout), Joe White, Bridges (one of Mosby's men), and Beavers, with other suspicious citizens pointed out by Binns.” Had a few shots at distant parties.

December 31. Colonel Lowell reports the return of his parties sent on extensive scouting expeditions to Hopewell's Gap, White Plains, Middleburg, Upperville, Philomont, Dranesville, etc. It was supposed that clothing was to be issued to the rebels, but they did not appear at the place specified. A party fell in with some of Mosby's men and some Virginia cavalry; captured one captain, one lieutenant, seventeen privates, forage contractor, and ten suspicious citizens, most of whom were thought to be recruits or conscripts.

The above reports, taken from the Rebellion Record, show how constant and exacting was the service of holding the guerrilla bands in check.

The views of the General-in-Chief on the “Partisans,” as tried by the standard of military ethics, is shown in the following extracts from an official letter of Major-General Halleck: —

washington, Oct. 28, 1863.

Most of the difficulties are caused by the conduct of the pretended non-combatant inhabitants of the country. They pretend to act the part of neutrals, but do not. They give aid, shelter, and concealment to guerrilla and other bands, like that of Mosby, who are continually destroying our roads, burning our bridges, and capturing wagon-trains. If these men carried on a legitimate warfare, no complaint would be made. On the contrary, they fight in citizen's dress, and are aided in all their rascalities by the people of the country. As soon as they are likely to be caught they go home, put out their horses, hide their arms, and pretend to be quiet and non-combatant farmers.  . . . It is not surprising that our people get exasperated at such men and shoot them down when they can. Moreover, men who act in this manner in disguise and within our lines have, under the laws of civilized warfare, forfeited their lives. (Rebellion Record, xxix, ii, 347.)

General Stoneman, in a letter from the Cavalry Bureau to Colonel Kelton, A. A. G., written Oct. 30, 1863, tells of the enormous numbers of sick, disabled, and unserviceable horses there, and of the wilful or necessary neglect of them, and their misuse or overuse in the field and camp.

The average issue per month to the Army of the Potomac was 6000. In the details of the number of horses he lately issued to different commands, were only one hundred to Colonel Lowell, against much larger numbers to others. [Yet the guerrilla-hunting service was very destructive to horses.] General Stoneman writes : —

“There are 223 regiments of cavalry in the service. Of these, 36 are in the Army of the Potomac. At the rate horses are used up in that army, it would require 435,000 a year to keep the cavalry of that army up.”

2 Colonel Lowell's letters during the winter and spring are very few, because his wife was now with him in camp, and his military duties were many. He still commanded the brigade, with headquarters at Vienna. Of his own regiment, the battalions commanded by Major Forbes and Captain Read were there; Major Thompson with his battalion being stationed on the Maryland side of the Potomac, guarding that approach to Washington. From Vienna, picketing and scouting parties went out against the ever-active foe.

On Feb. 4, 1864, a painful incident — desertion to the enemy by a private of the Second Massachusetts Cavalry — occurred. I tell the story as told to me by Mrs. Lowell and some of the officers. There was in the regiment, as has been said, besides the Californians and the better class of the Massachusetts contingent, unfortunately a bad element of would-be bounty-jumpers and roughs still present, and desertions had been frequent. An example of severe punishment was needed for the good of the service, yet deserters had been pardoned by the President. One night a picket-guard deserted off post,” taking his horse, arms, and accoutrements with him. Very soon after, a scouting party of the regiment returning from Aldie were attacked in rear by Mosby's men. Making a counter-charge, the soldiers recognized the renegade among the enemy. A rush was made for him, and he was run down and taken. Colonel Lowell at once summoned a “drumhead court-martial,” which sat all night, and condemned the man to be shot at ten o'clock the next morning. It was done with all the attendant circumstances usual at military executions, to make the incident an impressive one to the brigade. The regiments were drawn up, forming three sides of a hollow square on the drill-ground, and the prisoner, guarded, and accompanied by the chaplain, and preceded by his coffin and the firing-party, was marched slowly, to solemn military music, around the inside of the square, so that each man could see his face, and then shot.

It not being warranted by the Army Regulations for a subordinate officer to call a “Drumhead Court-martial” and execute its sentence, except in case of emergency, when too far away to communicate with his superiors, and Colonel Lowell being in daily communication with headquarters at Washington, he expected, on reporting the matter that afternoon, to receive at least a severe reprimand. On the contrary, no mention was made of it at all. The fact probably was that General Augur, and Mr. Stanton, who would naturally be consulted in such a case, were both pleased at Colonel Lowell's action, for if the case had been referred to Washington, the President would probably have pardoned the man, who was young and infatuated of a Southern girl; but they could not commend Colonel Lowell for going beyond the authority of the regulations, therefore deemed silence the best means of expressing their approval.

Feb. 20. A severe disaster befell the regiment. A large party, under Captain Read of California, a much valued officer, on their return from a two-days scout, were ambuscaded and routed by Mosby, the captain and nine men were killed, many were wounded, and two officers and fifty-five men were taken, — more than half the command.

March 8. The First Battalion ordered to relieve the Second Battalion in Maryland, the latter rejoined the regiment. Several officers of the Second Massachusetts were commissioned in the Fourth and Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry — a serious loss to the regiment.

April 8. Colonel Lowell returned and resumed command of the Brigade, and, soon after, three expeditions were made into the neighbouring counties, resulting in the capture of thirty-five officers and men of Mosby's command, and of twenty-five thousand dollars' worth of cotton, wool, blockade-run goods, and Mosby's papers were found in one of his hiding places.

April 18. Major Forbes brought in six prisoners, taken when on the point of burning some bridges.

April 19. Colonel Lowell reports to Washington on the enemy's forces and the amount of corn in Loudoun County, and brings in eleven prisoners.

April 23. Colonel Lowell reports an attack on his pickets. His truthfulness in giving evidence, even against his command, and his absence of all brag, make all his reports remarkable, in contrast to many others of officers on both sides.

April 26. General Tyler writes to General Augur, now commanding the Department, about some expedition about to start from Washington: “With Colonel Lowell in command of the cavalry, I have no fear of trouble.”

Early in May, the regiment furnished a patrol for the Orange and Alexandria R. R.

May 18. Major Forbes conducted a successful night expedition to Rectortown with two hundred men, and returned with ten guerrillas and thirty horses.

June. Early in the month, a large part of the regiment went with ambulances, to help bring in the wounded left in the Wilderness after the battle.

July 6. The regiment suffered another severe disaster, largely due, like that of Captain Read, to the party's being ordered to remain out for a considerable time, visiting certain towns, which allowed time for the hostile inhabitants to send word to Mosby of the exact number of men in the command, and to direct him where to find them. Colonel Lowell reported that he had sent Major Forbes, with one hundred and fifty men, on a three-days scout towards the gaps in the Blue Ridge, with orders to visit Leesburg on two days. Major Forbes found all quiet, and on the second day learned that Mosby was absent on a raid north of the Potomac; next day he returned to Leesburg, found all quiet, and, in accordance with his orders, began his return march towards Vienna. Meanwhile Mosby, returning from his raid, had been notified of the strength and probable whereabouts of the command, and with a force of two hundred men or more, and a gun, came suddenly upon them at Zion's Church, near Aldie, and opened fire with his gun. The result was a victory for the Partisan force, who killed forty men of the Second Massachusetts and Thirteenth New York Cavalry, wounded many, and took about one hundred horses. From the accounts of officers there engaged, I add the following. While Major Forbes was feeding and resting his command in a field on the edge of some woods, his vedettes brought in word of Mosby's force being close at hand. He had hastily mounted and formed his squadrons, when the large guerrilla force appeared before them and sent a shell among them. This was an absolutely novel experience to men and horses, who till then had never faced artillery, and made them very unsteady, especially the new squadrons. The obvious and necessary move was an instant charge with the sabre, but a stiff fence before them rendered this impracticable without moving the command. The first squadron behaved well as long as they faced the enemy, but the moment Major Forbes gave the order “Fours right,” to shift to a possible charging ground, the spell was broken, and the men began to break away from the rear. Mosby's men, who had taken down a panel or two of the fence meantime, under cover of the gun, “got the yell” on their opponents, rushed in on their flank with the revolver, and, in spite of efforts of their officers to rally them, the greater part of the command fled. Many were shot in close pursuit. Major Forbes, with a few of the best soldiers, charged and fought gallantly, but these were overpowered or killed. The major ran his sabre into the shoulder of a Captain Richards, and it flew from his hands. At that moment Colonel Mosby shot at him at close range, but the ball fortunately was stopped by the head of his horse thrown up at that minute. The horse fell dead, pinioning Major Forbes to the ground, and helpless, with half a dozen pistols at his temples, he had to surrender. Lieutenant Amory was taken with him. They were at once robbed of part of their clothing and their boots, but when their captors undertook to search Major Forbes's pockets, he is reported to have said they might have his brains, but he meant to keep what money he had, and ordered them to carry him to their officers. Some one of these prevented any further outrage, but the officers had to walk “stocking foot” on the first day's march towards a Southern prison.

Years after, Colonel Mosby, in a newspaper article, said: “One of the regiments I most frequently encountered was from about Boston, the Second Massachusetts Cavalry, Colonel Lowell. I once met a detachment of it under command of a Major Forbes of Boston, and although our encounter resulted in his overthrow, he bore himself with conspicuous gallantry, and I saw him wound one of my best men with his sabre.”

The day after the fight, Rev. Charles A. Humphreys, the chaplain of the Second Cavalry, who was with the expedition and had bravely stayed by a mortally wounded private until his death, was, while burying the body, in spite of his cloth, captured and robbed by a young guerrilla, and sent to join Forbes and Amory in prison.

SOURCE: Edward Waldo Emerson, Life and Letters of Charles Russell Lowell, p. 315-6, 445-55

Monday, June 9, 2014

Lieutenant-General James Longstreet to General Robert E. Lee, March 20, 1865

March 20, 1865.
General R. E. LEE,

GENERAL: I presume that the enemy's next move will be to raid against the Danville railroad, and think that it would be well if we begin at once to make our arrangements to meet it. In order that we may get the troops that may be necessary to meet such a move I would suggest that we  collect all the dismounted men of Generals Fitz Lee, Rosser, and Lomax and put them behind our strongest lines, and draw out a corps of infantry and hold it in readiness for the raid. General W. H. F. Lee's dismounts might also be used behind our works to great advantage, with a cavalry force of 2,000 or 3,000 men to hold the enemy in check. I think that our infantry may be able to overtake the raiding column. If we can get a large cavalry three I think that we would surely be able to destroy the raiding force.

I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

SOURCES: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 46, Part 3 (Serial No. 97), p. 1329; James Longstreet, From Manassas to Appomattox, p. 650

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

General Robert E. Lee to John C. Breckinridge, April 1, 1865

April 1, 1865.

SIR: After my dispatch of last night I received a report from General Pickett, who with three of his own brigades and two of General Johnston's supported the cavalry under Gen. Fitz Lee near Five Forks on the Road from Dinwiddie Court House to the Southside road. After considerable difficulty, and meeting resistance from the enemy at all points, General Pickett forced his way to within less than a mile of Dinwiddie Court House. By this time it was too dark for further operations, and General Pickett resolved to return to Five Forks to protect his communications with the railroad. He inflicted considerable damage upon the enemy, and took some prisoners. His own loss was severe, including a good many officers. General Terry had his horse killed by a shell, and was disabled himself. Gen. Fitz Lee's and Rosser's divisions were heavily engaged, but their loss was slight. Gen. W. H. F. Lee lost some valuable officers. General Pickett did not retire from the vicinity of Dinwiddie Court House until early this morning, when his left flank being threatened by a heavy force, he withdrew to Five Forks, where he took position with Gen. W. H. F. Lee on his right, Fitz Lee and Rosser on his left, with Robert's brigade on the White Oak road, connecting with General Anderson.

 The enemy attacked General Roberts with a large force of cavalry, and after being once repulsed drove him back across Hatcher's Run.

 A large force of infantry, believed to be the Fifteenth Corps with other troops, turned General Pickett's left, and drove him back on the White Oak road, separating him from Gen. Fitz Lee, who was compelled to fall back across Hatcher's Run. General Pickett's present position is not known. Gen. Fitz Lee reports that the enemy is massing his infantry heavily behind the cavalry in his front. The infantry that engaged General Anderson yesterday has moved from his front toward our right, and is supposed to participate in the operations above described. Prisoners have been taken today from the Twenty-fourth Corps, and it is believed that most of the corps is now south of the James. Our loss today is not known. A report from Staunton represents that the Eighth Corps passed over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from the 20th to the 25th ult. General Hancock is at Harper's Ferry with 2,000 men. One division of the Tenth Corps is at Winchester with about 1,000 cavalry. The infantry at Winchester have marching orders, and all these troops are said to be destined for General Grant's army.

The enemy is also reported to have withdrawn all his troops from Wolf Run Shoals and Fairfax Station, and to have concentrated them at Winchester.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
SOURCE: John William Jones, Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee: Soldier and Man, p. 362-3

Sunday, May 4, 2014

General Robert E. Lee to John C. Breckinridge, March 17, 1865


Sec. of War, Richmond, Va.

SIR: A dispatch from Lieutenant-General Taylor at Meridian on the 12th inst. states that he had returned that morning from West Point; that Thomas was reported to be moving with the Fourth Army Corps and about 12,000 cavalry; that General Maury reports enemy, some 30,000 strong, moving with fleet and by land from Pensacola on Mobile; that about 30,000 bales of cotton in Mobile will be burned as soon as the city is invested; that he has provided for these movements as fully as his resources permitted, but that he had received no aid from Mississippi or Alabama, yet hoped to embarrass the enemy in his efforts to take those States. If the estimate of the enemy's strength is correct, I see little prospect of preserving Mobile, and had previously informed him that he could not rely upon the return of the Army of Tennessee to relieve that city, and suggested the propriety of withdrawing from it, and endeavor to beat the enemy in the field. I hope this course will meet with the approbation of the Department.

General Johnston on the 16th, from Smithfield, reports the Federal army south of the Cape Fear, but near Fayetteville. He had ordered 1,000 wagons of the Tennessee army to be used in filling gaps in railroads and 100 wagons to collect supplies in South Carolina for this army. I hope this will furnish some relief.

General Echols at Wytheville, on the 12th, reports that a portion of the troops in East Tennessee had removed south of Knoxville, destination not known, and that the engineer corps which had commenced to repair the Tennessee Railroad from Knoxville east had been withdrawn and sent to Chattanooga for the purpose, it was thought, of repairing the road toward Atlanta. He also states that an intelligent scout just from Kentucky reports Burbridge's force had been taken to Nashville, and that considerable bodies of troops were passing up the Ohio on their way to Grant. He believed all these reports may be relied on.

The enemy seems still to be collecting a force in the Shenandoah Valley, which indicates another movement as soon as the weather will permit. Rosser's scouts report that there is some cavalry and infantry now at Winchester, and that Hancock has a portion of his corps at Hall Town. I think these troops are intended to supply the place of those under General Sheridan, which it is plain General Grant has brought to his army. The addition of these three mounted divisions will give such strength to his cavalry, already numerically superior to ours, that it will enable him, I fear, to keep our communications to Richmond broken. Had we been able to use the supplies which Sheridan has destroyed in his late expedition in maintaining our troops in the Valley in a body, if his march could not have been arrested it would at least have been rendered comparatively harmless, and we should have been spared the mortification that has attended it. Now, I do not see how we can sustain even our small force of cavalry around Richmond. I have had this morning to send Gen. William H. F. Lee's division back to Stony Creek, whence I had called it in the last few days, because I cannot provide it with forage. I regret to have to report these difficulties, but think you ought to be apprised of them, in order if there is any remedy it should be applied.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,

SOURCE: John William Jones, Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee: Soldier and Man, p. 360-2

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

General Robert E. Lee to Lieutenant General Jubal A. Early, September 27, 1864


GEN. J. A. EARLY, Commanding Valley.

GENERAL: Your letter of the 25th instant is received. I very much regret the reverses that have occurred to the army in the Valley, but trust they can be remedied. The arrival of Kershaw will add greatly to your strength, and I have such confidence in the men and officers that I am sure all will unite in the defenses of the country. It will require that every one should exert all his energies and strength to meet the emergency. One victory will put all things to rights.

You must do all in your power to invigorate your army. Get back all absentees — maneuver so, if you can, as to keep the enemy in check until you can strike him with all strength. As far as I can judge at this distance, you have operated more with divisions than with your concentrated strength. Circumstances may have rendered it necessary, but such a course is to be avoided if possible. It will require the greatest watchfulness, the greatest promptness, and the most untiring energy on your part to arrest the progress of the enemy in his present tide of success. All the reserves in the Valley have been ordered to you. Breckinridge will join you or cooperate as circumstances will permit with all his force. Rosser left this morning for Burkeville (intersection of Danville and Southside Railroads), whence he will shape his course as you direct. I have given you all I can. You must use the resources you have so as to gain success. The enemy must be defeated, and I rely upon you to do it. I will endeavor to have shoes, arms, and ammunition supplied you. Set all your officers to work bravely and hopefully, and all will go well. As regards the Western cavalry I think for the present the best thing you can do is to separate it. Perhaps there is a lack of confidence between officers and men. If you will attach one brigade to Rosser, making him a division, and one to Fitz Lee's division under Wickham, Lomax will be able, I hope, to bring out the rest. The men are all good, and only require instruction and discipline. The enemy's force cannot be so greatly superior to yours. His effective infantry I do not think exceeds 12,000 men. We are obliged to fight against great odds. A kind Providence will yet overrule everything for our good. If Colonel Carter's wound incapacitates him for duty, you must select a good chief of artillery for the present.

Wishing you every prosperity and success,

I am very truly yours,
R. E. LEE,

SOURCE: John William Jones, Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee: Soldier and Man, p. 340-1

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones, December 25, 1864

Christmas ! — Clear and pleasant — white frost.

All quiet below. But it is believed on the street that Savannah has been evacuated, some days ago. I have not yet seen any official admission of the fact.

We have quite a merry Christmas in the family; and a compact that no unpleasant word shall be uttered, and no scramble for anything. The family were baking cakes and pies until late last night, and to-day we shall have full rations. I have found enough celery in the little garden for dinner.

Last night and this morning the boys have been firing Christmas guns incessantly — no doubt pilfering from their fathers' cartridge-boxes. There is much jollity and some drunkenness in the streets, notwithstanding the enemy's pickets are within an hour's march of the city.

A large number of the croaking inhabitants censure the President for our many misfortunes, and openly declare in favor of Lee as Dictator. Another month, and he may be unfortunate or unpopular. His son, Gen. Custis Lee, has mortally offended the clerks by putting them in the trenches yesterday, and some of them may desert.

Many members of Congress have gone home. But it is still said they invested the President with extraordinary powers, in secret session. I am not quite sure this is so.

I append the following dispatches:

December 23d, 1864.


On the 20th, Gen. Early reported one division of the enemy's cavalry, under Gen. Custer, coming up the valley, and two divisions, under Gen. Torbert, moving through Chester Gap, with four pieces of artillery and thirty wagons.

On the 22d, Rosser attacked Custer's division, nine miles from Harrisonburg, and drove it back, capturing forty prisoners.

This morning, Torbert attacked Lomax near Gordonsville, and was repulsed and severely punished. He is retreating, and Lomax preparing to follow.

R. E. LEE.

DUBLIN, December 20th, 1864.

A dispatch from Gen. Breckinridge to-day, dated at Mount Airy, sixteen miles west of Wytheville, says he had fought the enemy for two days, successfully, near Marion. The enemy had retired from his front; but whether they were retreating to East Tennessee or not, he had not ascertained.

CHARLESTON, December 22d, 1864.


On the 16th inst, the enemy, 800 strong, occupied Pollard. After burning the government and railroad buildings, they retired in the direction they came.

They were pursued thirty miles, losing a portion of their transportation, baggage, and supplies, and leaving many dead negro troops on the road.

Our force, commanded by Gen. Liddell, acted with spirit and gallantry.

G. T. BEAUREGARD, General.

OUR INDIAN TROOPS.—Gen. Stand Watie, commanding our Indian troops in the trans-Mississippi Department, has fully clothed and armed all his men, and is in the vicinity of Fort Smith, attacking and destroying Yankee wagon trains.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2, p. 364-6