FIRST REGIMENT VIRGINIA INFANTRY.
THIS camp for location, excepting in one particular, was all that could be desired. Clean, rolling, grassy meadow, with sufficient shade for the comfort and health of the men, good drill-grounds not far off, and woods in the neighborhoods to supply fuel for cooking purposes, but was too close to Washington City for the good of some of the officers prone to gayety and sport.
On the 30th of June the regiment was mustered for inspection and received two months' pay. Remained at this camp until July 8. The blackberries were in abundance and of the finest quality. Compared with these the Ohio Valley berries are not worthy of the name, and it was astonishing the quantity of this wholesome fruit the men consumed. On the 4th there was a grand salute in honor of the day from the forts on Arlington Heights and Munson's Hill, - the big guns making a tremendous noise. On the day named removed camp about half a mile, close to fine water and with pleasant surroundings. The men continued to improve in health, drill, and discipline. On the 16th they received two months' pay, which, it may be noted, was twenty-six dollars for the private soldier, - thirteen dollars per month. In connection with pay it should be recorded that Colonels Jacob Hornbrook and William Alexander, aides to the governor, were usually on hand on the pay-day of the several Virginia regiments to receive the men's money, conveying it to their families or friends, accounting for every dollar they were intrusted with. Colonel Hornbrook was always the custodian of the funds of the First, and the writer feels that the men will be pleased at this acknowledgment of their feeling of indebtedness to him, entertaining as they do the warmest feeling and highest respect for his valuable services, and the deepest feelings of gratitude for his many kind and disinterested acts in their behalf.
On Sunday, 20th, was inspection and review by Colonel Carroll. What became of the other brigade of Shields's division was not known. The First and Second were never seen again as brigades, although some of the regiments composing them were seen afterwards. It is probable they were absorbed in other commands, and afterwards became a part of the Army of the Potomac.
A pleasing incident may be noted here. On the 21st there was a general review of the several commands encamped near Alexandria, the Fourth Brigade being one of them. The review-ground was near Fairfax Seminary, - the reviewing officers being Generals Sturgis and Cook. Ten thousand men, embracing the three arms of the service, passed in review, and the grounds being admirably adapted to military evolutions, the troops looked well and drilled very satisfactorily, pleasing the assembled crowd very much. Among the spectators were some ladies from Wheeling, the sight of whom gladdened the men recognizing them.
On the 24th marching orders were received, the weather at this time being very warm. On the 25th the men loaded the cars, which, like the ones used in transporting them hither, were ordinary box freight and cattle cars, some of which it was evident had very recently been used in legitimate business; but even this was better than always marching. The wagons were started on the road to catch up when they could, all the baggage and camp equipage accompanying the men; the wagons were lightly loaded with camp subsistence stores and forage. The men and material were unloaded near Warrenton at five P.M., and at eight A.M. the next day were on the march again, passing through the town named and bivouacking near the Sulphur Springs. The brigade remained here until August 1, when, having turned over all camp equipage, marched at noon to a point about four miles beyond the Springs. It was understood that the regiment, or more properly the brigade, was now in the command of General McDowell, which comprised part of General Pope's army; the last-named general having been brought from the West, where he had been fortunate in securing one or more important successes to the Union cause, and where, to judge from what followed his assuming chief command in Virginia, he ought to have remained.
On the 4th there was another inspection of the brigade, this time by General McDowell, a fine-looking officer and an excellent man, though unfortunate as a commander.
This is a fine country for campaigning, provided an army carries its own supplies; in the dry months, however, the water becomes scarce, many of the springs and branches becoming dried up. The men occasionally obtained apples at this time, which besides being a change for them in the way of food, being added as a dessert, is doubtless an excellent anti-scorbutic, - very valuable to men confined almost to salted meats. The usual mode of preparing them for household use being too much trouble was departed from, and the probability is the plan adopted will not commend itself to the fastidious. The chief feature of the entire preparation being like the Frenchman's rabbit, "first catch your rabbit," which in this instance means first find the orchard, then secure the apples, which, as may be supposed, is hard to do after a brigade has stopped for even fifteen minutes near it. After obtaining them they dumped them into the camp-kettle, little or no attention being paid to their condition; bearing in mind that this same camp-kettle has been used for boiling beans, pork, beef, or coffee, and probably on the march has been filled with soap, or a pair of boots, or something equally savory, and never was thoroughly cleaned since it came from the hands of the maker. After boiling or stewing to suit the ideas of the manipulator, it is taken off the fire and all present invited to "dip in." The mess, complimented with the name of "sass," had somewhat the appearance of soft soap mixed with black, scaly particles, the latter ingredient having scaled off the kettle, and contained enough grease, left from the numerous pork compounds, to make it smooth to the palate. This mixture was highly relished by these primitive cooks, and a dainty man was he who couldn't enjoy it.
This day the brigade was attached to General Rickett's Division, which was composed chiefly of Eastern troops. On the 6th, at the end of the day's march, bivouacked within two miles of Culpeper Court House, a pleasant little town of probably eight hundred inhabitants. General Ricketts's wife, a very attractive lady in person and manner, accompanied the command on horseback a greater part of the day. The Fourth Brigade appeared to interest her more than any other part of the column, and the First came in for its full share of this interest. She shared with some of the men of the regiment some milk she had succeeded in obtaining somewhere. Of course, the men had seen no milk for many months. This lady, by her kind manner and graceful attentions, in such striking contrast to everything connected with the business of war, was highly regarded by the men.
On the 8th there was evidence that the enemy was near. The men fell into line and marched at one P.M. towards the town, expecting an attack, the pickets being driven in, and advanced to two miles south of the town. On the 9th there was heavy cannonading in the advance all day, several batteries of the Union forces being hotly engaged, supported by a portion of the infantry. Ricketts's command was not called on until late in the afternoon, when, at about six P.M., his division was ordered forward, arriving on the field at about ten P.M., and when in position a brigade broke under the artillery fire, - it was said to be Duryea's, - causing fearful disorder, which extended to the ammunition-wagons accompanying the division, and in turn to the quartermaster's teams, the whole rushing on the way to the town panic-stricken, blocking up the road and rendering the drivers almost frantic in their efforts to get away. Finally, by throwing a body of men across the road, the panic was stayed and order restored before much damage was done. The brigade, in taking position on the field, was led by the First, the drum corps in the advance playing their most stirring air and the men marching to the music most gallantly, while the enemy was in strong force certainly not more than two hundred yards distant. Why he did not fire at this time will probably ever remain a mystery. Major Duval, in placing the pickets that night, was accosted by an officer, who ordered him to place the men in such positions that they were screened and protected from the Union forces and not from the enemy; the officer then passed on. Major Duval grasped the situation at once: the officer referred to was an enemy, and supposed Major Duval was of his command. The pickets, as may be supposed, were not placed according to his directions.
The Fourth Brigade was supporting Hall's battery, which occupied a little higher ground a few yards to the rear. Two of the regiments of the brigade under the heavy artillery fire became demoralized and broken up badly. All the men thought that the First was left alone in the position, but before long a line of dark forms approached, and the cheering voices of comrades announced, "First Virginia, the Seventh Indiana is always with you," attesting that they were comrades indeed worthy of the occasion. During this time the enemy's artillery, just on top of the hill, - rather a gentle rise about two hundred yards distant, or possibly not so far, - was exceedingly active. Fortunately, their guns were not sufficiently depressed, as their shot and shells went over the heads of the men, who were hugging the ground very closely. Presently Hall's battery opened its fire, and if ever guns were well served these were on this occasion, as it did not take them long to silence the enemy's battery that had been so annoying. By midnight all was silent save suspicions noises like the movement of wheels in front. The next morning the Union artillery opened again, but there was no response from the enemy. The men stood to their arms the next day and advanced in the afternoon, but the enemy had retreated. During the day Jackson, by flag of truce, asked permission to bury his dead, which was given him, there being plenty of this kind of work to be done.
The enemy's battery that had been in front of the Fourth Brigade appeared to have suffered severely; wheels of gun-carriages and caissons, knapsacks, caps, and dead horses were lying on the ground that had been occupied by this battery. The dead were lying in the road, fields, and woods, and a cornfield in which rose a singular sugar-loaf-shaped knob was well spotted with the bodies of men and animals. The enemy had carried off most of his wounded. As the day advanced and the sun became hot, the sense of smell as well as sight was shocked. The enemy made no attempt to bury his dead; his burying-parties would simply drag a lot together, usually heads all one way, and partially cover them with the light soil, indifferent, it appeared, whether they were decently covered or not. Many of the dead had turned black in the face, and their hair had dropped off. Was this owing to what they ate, or was it because of the absence of salt in their rations? This we cannot solve, but must leave it to the scientific for solution. An iron breastplate was found on the field which had been perforated by a piece of shell. Such a protection as this might have proved valuable against a ball from the old flint-lock musket or an ordinary sabre blow, but was wholly useless as a defence against a conical musket-ball or piece of shell, as doubtless the wearer had discovered. This was called the battle of Cedar, or Slaughter, Mountain. It is not known what the loss of the regiment was here; very slight, however, and was in prisoners only, - taken on the picket line.
In explanation of this it may be stated that the engagement followed the falling back of General McClellan's army, already mentioned. General Lee being relieved of the presence of the Union army about Richmond by the repulse of McClellan, had turned his attention to the army that was being concentrated by General Pope in his rear, which army was advancing in detachments under Generals Banks, Ricketts, and Sigel with the design of concentrating at or near Culpeper Court-House, within easy march of the fords of the Rapidan, closing that entrance of the enemy's to the Warrenton and Manassas country. Genera1 Jackson, with the divisions of Ewell, Winder, and A. P. Hill, crossed the Rapidan at Burnett's Ford, threatening the Union forces on the left: Sigel on the right, Banks in the centre, and on the left Ricketts's division, with Crawford's brigade of Bank's division. The last-mentioned brigade on the evening of the 8th was thrown forward in support of the Cavalry. Banks with his command was at Culpeper, and Sigel bivouacked at Hazel River bridge. On the 9th the two forces advanced towards each other. Sigel very slowly made his way towards Culpeper, while Banks pushed forward towards Cedar Mountain, followed by Ricketts. Banks joined Crawford on the heights taken by the latter near Cedar, or S1aughter, Mountain in anticipation of an attack. Three roads approaching from the south converge and join not far from the position taken by Banks's command. Jackson attacked with Ewell's division, and after an obstinate fight the latter was driven back in disorder. Winder's division coming up restored the fight, but Ewell's men could not be forced to advance, and the Union forces breaking the centre of Winder, got possession of several of his guns. The enemy upon this fell back in disorder, and was only saved from a rout by the timely arrival of Hill's division, when the fighting was renewed. The enemy's force greatly outnumbering the Union force engaged, Banks was compelled to fall back a short distance, taking a new position, which was held. The delay in pushing Ricketts forward saved Jackson from disaster, with a river in his rear to add to the danger of his situation. The enemy, as stated, slipped away in the night after sustaining this costly check. The enemy had a force of fifteen or sixteen thousand engaged, Banks had less than eight thousand. Jackson recrossed the Rapidan, leaving the ground in possession of his enemy. The Union forces, therefore, had just grounds for claiming the victory. The enemy's loss at this battle was heavier than that of the Union forces. The movements covered considerable ground, the artillery playing an important part in the engagement. General Winder, commanding a division of the enemy, was killed, his loss being greatly regretted by the enemy. This initial fight of General Pope's gave promise that something important would follow his assuming the command in Virginia.
Operations throughout the country may be summarized as follows: Admiral Farragut had steamed up the Mississippi River with a squadron of war ships; Natchez had surrendered to him in May. The Union forces occupied Corinth, Mississippi, after the most careful advance of the war, under the orders of General Halleck, at Washington. These events, in addition to those in Virginia, here recorded, comprised the important operations in May, excepting the battle of Fair Oaks on the 31st, in which the Union forces met a reverse. About this time General Joseph Johnston, commanding the enemy's forces in Virginia, was wounded, and General Robert E. Lee was placed in command of the Army of Northern Virginia, which command he retained until the close of the war. On the 1st of June the battle of Fair Oaks was renewed, the enemy being worsted, and sustaining a heavy loss. This temporary success, however, was not obtained without great loss to the Union forces. Memphis, Tennessee, was taken possession of with some gunboats by the Union forces, the navy assisting materially. Again there were active operations before Richmond, which continued at times during the month, the Union army being pushed back to Harrison's Landing, on the James River, as the result of these operations. July 1, was the battle of Malvern Hill, ending the six days' fight between General McClellan and General Lee, the latter suffering a bloody relapse. This day the President issued a call for six hundred thousand volunteers. During the month General Curtis, commanding the Union trans-Mississippi army, defeated General Pike at Bayou Cache, Arkansas. General Halleck was appointed commander-in-chief of the United States armies. The Southern forces captured Murfreesborough, Tennessee, with a large amount of stores and many prisoners. General John Morgan with a troop of cavalry crossed the Ohio River and invaded Indiana, doing a small amount of damage only. The rebellion prospered during this month, the advantages gained being mostly with the enemy. Much gloom in consequence throughout the North, which unconsciously was preparing the people for a measure which, if the Union arms had been successful, they would have felt disposed to resist the enforcement of. In August a draft was ordered for three hundred thousand men to serve for nine months.