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   Chapter 38 CEDAR RUN

The Long Roll By Mary Johnston Characters: 25574

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

The Seven Days brought a sterner temper into this war. The two sides grew to know each other better; each saw how determined was the other, and either foe, to match the other, raised the bronze in himself to iron. The great army, still under McClellan, at Harrison's Landing, became the Army of the Potomac. The great army guarding Richmond under Lee, became the Army of Northern Virginia. President Lincoln called upon the Governors of the Northern States for three hundred thousand men, and offered bounties. President Davis called upon the Governors of the Southern States for conscripts, and obtained no great number, for the mass of the men had volunteered. The world at large looked on, now and henceforth, with an absorbed regard. The struggle promised to be Homeric, memorable. The South was a fortress beleaguered; seven hundred thousand square miles of territory lost and inland as the steppes of Tartary, for all her ports were blocked by Northern men-of-war. Little news from the fortress escaped; the world had a sense of gigantic grey figures moving here and there behind a great battle veil, of a push against the fortress, a push from all sides, with approved battering rams, scaling ladders, hooks, grapples, mines, of blue figures, all known and described in heroic terms by the Northern public prints, a push repelled by the voiceless, printless, dimly-discerned grey figures. Not that the grey, too, were not described to the nations in the prints above. They were. The wonder was that the creatures could fight-even, it appeared, fight to effect. Around and over the wide-flung fortress the battle smoke rolled and eddied. Drums were distantly heard, now rallying, now muffled. A red flag with a blue cross rose and fell and rose again; grey names emerged, floated, wraith-like, over the sea, not to be stopped by blue men-of-war, names and picturesque nicknames, loved of soldiers. It grew to be allowed that there must be courage in the fortress, and a gift of leadership. All was seen confusedly, but with a mounting, mounting interest. The world gaped at the far-borne clang and smoke and roar. Military men in clubs demonstrated to a nicety just how long the fortress might hold out, and just how it must be taken at last. Schoolboys fought over again in the schoolyards the battles with the heathenish names. The Emperor of the French and the King of Prussia and the Queen of Spain and the Queen of England and the Czar and the Sultan and the Pope at Rome asked each morning for the war news, and so did gaunt cotton-spinners staring in mill towns at tall smokeless chimneys.

Early in June Halleck was appointed commander-in-chief of all the armies of the United States. What to do with McClellan, at present summering on the James twenty-five miles below Richmond, came upon the board. McClellan claimed, quite rightly, that here and now, with his army on both sides of the James, he held the key position, and that with sufficient reinforcements he could force the evacuation of Richmond. Only give him reinforcements with which to face Lee's "not less than two hundred thousand!" Recall the Army of the Potomac, and it might be some time before it again saw Richmond! Halleck deliberated. General Pope had come out of the west to take concentrated command of the old forces of Banks, Sigel, Frémont, and McDowell. He had an attitude, had Pope, at the head of his forty thousand men behind the Rappahannock! The armies were too widely separated, McClellan's location notoriously unhealthy. Impossible to furnish reinforcements to the tune asked for, Washington might, at any moment, be in peril. It was understood that Stonewall Jackson had left Richmond on the thirteenth, marching toward Gordonsville.

The James River might be somewhat unhealthy for strangers that summer, and Stonewall Jackson had marched toward Gordonsville. The desire at the moment most at the heart of General Robert Edward Lee was that General McClellan should be recalled. Therefore he guarded Richmond with something less than sixty thousand men, and he made rumours to spread of gunboats building, and he sent Major-General T. J. Jackson northward with twelve thousand men.

In this July month there was an effect of suspense. The fortress was taking muster, telling its strength, soldering its flag to the staff and the staff to the keep. The besiegers were gathering; the world was watching, expectant of the grimmer struggle. There came a roar and clang from the outer walls, from the Mississippi above Vicksburg, from the Georgian coast, from Murfreesboro in Tennessee, from Arkansas, from Morgan's raids in Kentucky. There was fire and sound enough, but the battles that were to tell were looked for on Virginia soil. Hot and still were the July days, hot and still was the air, and charged with a certain sentiment. Thunderbolts were forging; all concerned knew that, and very subtly life and death and the blue sky and the green leaves came freshlier across the senses. Jackson, arriving at Gordonsville the nineteenth of July, found Pope before him with forty-seven thousand men. He asked for reinforcements and Lee, detaching yet another twelve thousand from the army at Richmond, sent him A. P. Hill and the Light Division. Hill arrived on the second of August, splendid fighter, in his hunting shirt, with his red beard! That evening in Jackson's quarters, some one showed him a captured copy of Pope's Orders, numbers 12 and 75. He read, crumpled the papers and tossed them aside, then turned to Jackson sitting sucking a lemon. "Well, general, here's a new candidate for your attention!"

Jackson looked up. "Yes, sir. By God's blessing he shall have it." He sucked on, studying a map of the country between Slaughter Mountain and Manassas which Hotchkiss had made him. In a letter to his wife from Richmond he had spoken of "fever and debility" attending him during his stay in that section of the country. If it were so he had apparently left them in the rear when he came up here. He sat now tranquil as a stone wall, in sight of the mountains, sucking his lemon and studying his maps.

This was the second. On the sixth of August Pope began to cross the Rappahannock. On the afternoon of the seventh the grey army was in motion. All the eighth it was in column, the heat intense, the dust stifling, an entanglement of trains and a misunderstanding of orders on the part of Hill and Ewell resulting in a confused and retarded march. Night fell, hot and breathless. Twenty-three thousand grey soldiers, moving toward Orange Court House, made the dark road vocal with statements as to the reeking heat, the dust, the condition of their shoes and the impertinence of the cavalry. The latter was more irritating than were the flapping soles, the dust in the throat, and the sweat pouring into the eyes. The infantry swore, swerving again and again to one side of the narrow road to let small bodies of horsemen go by. It was dark, the road going through an interminable hot, close wood. Officers and men were liberal in their vituperation. "Thank the Lord, it ain't my arm!"-"Here you fellows-damn you! look where you are going! Trampling innocent bystanders that way!-Why in hell didn't you stay back where you belong?"-"Of course if you've positively got to get to the front and can't find any other road it's our place to give you this one!-Just wait a moment and we'll ask the colonel if we can't lie down. It'll be easier to ride over us that way.-Oh, go to hell!"

The parties passed, the ranks of the infantry straightened out again on the dark road, the column wound on through the hot, midnight wood. More hoof-beats-another party of cavalry to be let by! They passed the infantry in the darkness, pushing the broken line into the ditch and scrub. In the pitchy blackness an impatient command lost at this juncture its temper. The men swore, an officer called out to the horsemen a savage "Halt!" The party pressed on. The officer furious, caught a bridle rein. "Halt, damn you! Stop them, men! Now you cavalry have got to learn a thing or two! One is, that the infantry is the important thing in war! It's the aristocracy, damn you! The other is that we were on this road first anyhow! Now you just turn out into the woods yourself, and the next time I tell you to halt, damn you, halt!"

"This, sir," said a voice, "is General Jackson and his staff."

The officer stammered forth apologies. "It is all right, sir," said the voice in the darkness. "The cavalry must be more careful, but colonel, true aristocrats do not curse and swear."

An hour later the column halted in open country. A pleasant farmhouse with a cool, grassy yard surrounded by an ornamental fence, white paling gleaming in the waved lights, flung wide its doors to Stonewall Jackson. The troops bivouacked around, in field and meadow. A rain came up, a chilly downpour. An aide appeared before the brigade encamped immediately about the farmhouse. "The general says, sir, that the men may take the rail fence over there, but the regimental officers are to see that under no circumstances is the fence about Mrs. Wilson's yard to be touched."

The night passed. Officers had had a hard day; they slept perhaps somewhat soundly, wrapped in their oilcloths, in the chilly rain, by the smallest of sputtering camp-fires. The rain stopped at three o'clock; the August dawn came up gloriously with a cool freshness. Reveille sounded. Stonewall Jackson came from the farmhouse, looked about him and then walked across the grassy yard. A little later five colonels of five regiments found themselves ordered to report to the general commanding the brigade.

"Gentlemen, as you came by did you notice the condition of the ornamental fence about the yard?"

"Not especially, sir."

"I did, sir. One panel is gone. I suppose the men were tempted. It was a confounded cold rain."

The brigadier pursed his lips. "Well, colonel, you heard the order. All of you heard the order. I regret to say, so did I. Dog-gone tiredness and profound slumber are no excuse. You ought-we ought-to have heard them at the palings. General Jackson has ordered you all under arrest."

"Five of us, sir?"

"Five of you. Damn it, sir, six of us!"

The five colonels looked at one another and looked at their brigadier. "What would you advise, sir?"

The brigadier was very red. "I have sent one of my staff to Mrs. Wilson, gentlemen, to enquire the cost of the entire ornamental fence! I'd advise that we pay, and-if we've got any-pay in gold."

By eight o'clock the column was in motion-a fair day and a fair country, with all the harvest fields and the deep wooded hills and the August sky. After the rain the roads were just pleasantly wet; dewdrops hung on the corn blades, blackberries were ripening, ox-eye daisies fringed the banks of red earth. The head of the column, coming to a by-road, found awaiting it there an old, plain country woman in a faded sunbonnet and faded check apron. She had a basket on her arm, and she stepped into the middle of the road before Little Sorrel. "Air this General Jackson?"

Stonewall Jackson checked the horse. The staff and a division general or two stopped likewise. Behind them came on the infantry advance, long and jingling. "Yes, madam, I am General Jackson. What can I do for you?"

The old woman put down her basket and wiped her hands on her apron. "General, my son John air in your company. An' I've brought him some socks an' two shirts an' a chicken, an' a pot of apple butter. An' ef you'll call John I'll be obleeged to you, sir."

A young man in the group of horsemen laughed, but stopped abruptly as Jackson looked round. The latter turned to the old woman with the gentlest blue eyes, and the kindliest slow smile. "I've got a great many companies, ma'am. They are all along the road from Gordonsville. I don't believe I know your son."

But the old woman would not have that. "My lan', general! I reckon you all know John! I reckon John wuz the first man to jine the army. He wuz chopping down the big gum by the crick, an' the news come, an' he chopped on twel the gum wuz down, an' he says, says he, 'I'll cut it up for you, Maw, an' then I'm goin'.' An' he went.-He's about your make an' he has light hair an' eyes an' he wuz wearing butternut-"

"What is his last name, ma'am?"

"His middle name's Henry an' his last name's Simpson."

"In whose brigade is he, and in what regiment?"

But the old woman shook her head. She knew only that he was in General Jackson's company. "We never larned to write, John an' me. He wuz powerful good to me-en I reckon he's been in all the battles 'cause he wuz born that way. Some socks, and two shirts an' something to eat-an' he hez a scar over his eye where a s

etting hen pecked him when he was little-an' won't you please find him for me, sir?" The old voice quavered toward tears.

Stonewall Jackson dismounted, and looked toward the on-coming column. The advance was now but a few hundred yards away; the whole army to the last wagon train had its orders for expedition. He sent for his adjutant. "Companies from Orange County, sir? Yes, there are a number in different regiments and brigades."

"Well, you will go, colonel, and halt the advance. See if there is an Orange company and a private named John Simpson."

There was not. The woman with the basket was old and tired. She sat down on the earth beneath a sign post and threw her apron over her head. Jackson sent an aide back three miles to the main body. "Captain, find the Orange companies and a private named John Simpson. Bring him here. Tall, light-haired, light eyes, with a scar over one eye. If he is not in the main column go on to the rear."

The aide spurred his horse. Jackson explained matters. "You'll have to wait a while, Mrs. Simpson. If your son's in the army he'll be brought to you. I'll leave one of my aides with you!" He spoke to Little Sorrel and put his hand on the saddle bow. Mrs. Simpson's apron came down. "Please, general, don't you go! Please, sir, you stay! They won't know him like you will! They'll just come back an' say they can't find him!-An' I got to see John-I just got to!-Don't go, please, sir! Ef 't was your mother-"

Stonewall Jackson and his army waited for half an hour while John Simpson was looked for. At the end of that time the cross roads saw him coming, riding behind the aide. Tall and lank, in butternut still, and red as a beet, he slipped from the horse, and saluted the general, then, almost crying, gathered up the checked apron and the sunbonnet and the basket and the old woman. "Maw, Maw! jes' look what you have done! Danged ef you haven't stopped the whole army! Everybody cryin' out 'John Simpson'!"

On went the column through the bright August forenoon. The day grew hot and the dust whirled up, and the cavalry skirmished at intervals with detached blue clouds of horsemen. On the horizon appeared at some distance a conical mountain. "What's that sugar loaf over there?" "That's Slaughter's Mountain south of Culpeper. Cedar Run's beyond."

The day wore on. Slaughter Mountain grew larger. The country between was lovely, green and rolling; despite the heat and the dust and the delay the troops were in spirits. They were going against Major-General John Pope and they liked the job. The old Army of the Valley, now a part of the Army of Northern Virginia, rather admired Shields, had no especial objection to McDowell, and felt a real gratitude toward Mr. Commissary Banks, but it was prepared to fight Pope with a vigour born of detestation. A man of the old Army, marching with Ewell, began to sing:-

"Pope told a flattering tale

Which proved to be bravado,

About the streams that spout like ale

On the Llano Estacado!

"That's the Staked Plains, you know. Awful hot out there! Pretty hot here, too. Look at them lovely roasting ears! Can't touch 'em. Old Jack says so. Pope may live on the country, but we mayn't." "That mountain is getting pretty big." "Hello! Just a cavalry scrimmage-Hello! hello! Artillery's more serious!" "Boys, boys! we've struck Headquarters-in-the-saddle!-What's that awful noise?-Old Jack's coming-Old Jack's coming to the front!-Mercy! didn't know even we could cheer like that!-Yaaaih! Yaaaaaaihhh! Stonewall Jackson! Stonewall Jackson! Yaaaaaaiiiihhh!"

As the day declined the battle swelled in smoke and thunder. The blue batteries were well placed, and against them thundered twenty-six grey rifled guns: two Parrotts of Rockbridge with a gun of Carpenter's appeared at the top of the hill, tore down the long slope and came into battery in an open field, skirted by a wood. Behind was the Stonewall Brigade in column of regiments. The guns were placed en échelon, the horses taken away, the ball opened with canister. Immediately the Federal guns answered, got the range of the grey, and began to do deadly mischief. All around young trees were cut off short. The shells came, thick, black, and screaming. The place proved fatal to officers. Carpenter was struck in the head by a piece of shell-mortally wounded. The chief of artillery, Major Snowden Andrews fell, desperately injured, then Captain Caskie was hurt, then Lieutenant Graham. The gunners worked like mad. The guns thundered, recoiled, thundered again. The blue shells arrived in a deadly stream. All was smoke, whistling limbs of trees, glare and roar. General Winder came up on foot. Standing by a grey Parrott he tried with his field glass to make out the Federal batteries. Lowering the glass he shouted some direction to the men about the gun below him. The noise was hideous, deafening. Seeing that he was not understood he raised his arm and hollowed his hand above his mouth. A shell passed beneath his arm, through his side. He fell stiffly back, mangled and dying.

There was a thick piece of woods, deep and dark, stretching westward. The left of Jackson's division rested here. Ewell's brigades and batteries were on the mountain slope; the Light Division, A. P. Hill in his red battle shirt at its head, not yet up; Jubal Early forming a line of battle in the rolling fields. An aide came to "Old Jube." "General Jackson's compliments to General Early, and he says you will advance on the enemy, and General Winder's troops will support you." Early had a thin, high, drawling voice. "My compliments to General Jackson, and tell him I will do it."

The Stonewall Brigade, drawn up in the rear of the Artillery, stood waiting its orders from Winder. There came a rumor. "The general is killed! General Winder is killed!" The Stonewall chose to be incredulous. "It is not so! We don't believe it."

The 65th, cut to pieces at White Oak Swamp, had renewed itself. Recruits-boys and elderly men-a few melancholy conscripts, a number of transferals from full commands had closed its ranks. The 65th, smaller now, of diluted quality, but even so, dogged and promising well,-the 65th, waiting on the edge of a wheat field, looked across it to Taliaferro's and Campbell's brigades and the dark wood in front. Billy Maydew was sergeant now and Matthew Coffin was first lieutenant of Company A. The two had some talk under a big walnut tree.

"Artillery's been shouting for two hours," said Coffin. "They've got a hell lot of cavalry, too, but if there's any infantry I can't see it."

"There air a message gone to Campbell and Taliaferro. I heard Old Jack send it. 'Look well to your left,' he says, says he. That thar wood's the left," said Billy. "It looks lonesomer than lonesome, but thar! when lonesome things do blaze out they blaze out the worst!"

The colonel of the 65th-Colonel Erskine-came along the front. "It's too true, men. We've lost General Winder. Well, we'll avenge him!-Look! there is Jubal Early advancing!"

Early's line of battle was a beautiful sight. It moved through the fields and up a gentle hillside, and pushed before it bright clusters of Federal cavalry. When the grey lines came to the hilltop the Federal batteries opened fiercely. Early posted Dement and Brown and loudly answered. To the left rolled great wheat fields, the yellow grain standing in shocks. Here gathered the beautiful blue cavalry, many and gallant. Ewell with Trimble's South Carolinians and Harry Hayes's Louisianians held the slope of the mountain, and from these heights bellowed Latimer's guns. Over hill and vale the Light Division was seen coming, ten thousand men in grey led by A. P. Hill.

"It surely air a sight to see," said Billy. "I never even dreamed it, back thar on Thunder Run."

"There the Yankees come!" cried Coffin. "There! a stream of them-up that narrow valley!-Now-now-now Early has touched them!-Damn you, Billy! What's the matter?"

"It's the wood," answered Billy. "Thar's something coming out of the lonesome wood."

On the left the 1st and 42d Virginia were the advance regiments. Out of the forest, startling, unexpected, burst a long blue battle line. Banks, a brave man if not a wise one, interpreted Pope's orders somewhat to suit himself, and attacked without waiting for Sigel or McDowell. In this instance valor seemed likely to prove the better part of discretion. Of the grey generals, Hill was not up, Early was hotly engaged, the artillery fire, grey and blue alike, sweeping the defile before Ewell kept him on the mountain side. Bayonets fixed, bright colours tossing, skirmishers advanced, on with verve and determination came Banks's attack. As it crossed the yellow stubble field Taliaferro and Campbell, startled by the apparition but steady, poured in a withering fire. But the blue came on, swung its right and partly surrounded the 1st Virginia. Amid a hell of shots, bayonet work, shouts, and cries 1st Virginia broke; fell back upon the 42d, that in its turn was overwhelmed. Down came the blue wave on Taliaferro's flank. The wheat field filled with uproar. Taliaferro broke, Campbell broke.

The Stonewall stirred like leaves in autumn. Ronald, colonel of the 2d, commanding in Winder's place, made with despatch a line of battle. The smoke was everywhere, rolling and thick. Out of it came abruptly a voice. "I have always depended upon this brigade. Forward!"

Billy had an impression of wheat stubble beneath his feet, wheat stubble thick strewn with men, silent or lamentably crying out, and about his ears a whistling storm of minies. There was, too, a whirl of grey forms. There was no alignment-regiments were dashed to pieces-everybody was mixed up. It was like an overturned beehive. Then in the swirling smoke, in the swarm and shouting and grey rout, he saw Little Sorrel, and Stonewall Jackson standing in his stirrups. He had drawn his sabre; it flashed above his head like a gleam from the sinking sun. Billy spoke aloud. "I've been with him from the first, and this air the first time I ever saw him do that." As he spoke he caught hold of a fleeing grey soldier. "Stand still and fight! Thar ain't nothing in the rear but damned safety!"

The grey surge hung poised, the tide one moment between ebb and flow. The noise was hellish; sounds of triumph, sounds of panic, of anger, encouragement, appeal, despair, woe and pain, with the callous roar of musketry and the loud indifference of the guns. Above it all the man on the quaint war horse made himself heard. From the blue line of steel above his head, from the eyes below the forage cap, from the bearded lips, from the whole man there poured a magic control. He shouted and his voice mastered the storm. "Rally, brave men! Rally and follow me! I will lead you. Jackson will lead you. Rally! Rally!"

Billy saw the 21st Virginia, what was left of it, swing suddenly around, give the Confederate yell, and dash itself against the blue. Taliaferro rallied, Campbell rallied, the Stonewall itself under Ronald rallied. The first of the Light Division, Branch's North Carolinians came on with a shout, and Thomas's Georgians and Lane and Archer and Pender. Early was up, Ewell sweeping down from the mountain. Jackson came along the restored front. The soldiers greeted him with a shout that tore the welkin. He touched the forage cap. "Give them the bayonet! Give them the bayonet! Forward, and drive them!"

The cavalry with Banks was fine and staunch. At this moment it undertook a charge useless but magnificent. With clarion sound, with tossing colours, with huzzas and waving sabres, a glorious and fearful sight, the cavalry rushed diagonally across the trampled field, its flank exposed to the North Carolinians. These opened a blasting fire while Taliaferro's brigade met it full, and the 13th Virginia, couched behind a grey zigzag of fence, gave volley after volley. Little more than half of those horsemen returned.

Dusk fell and the blue were in full retreat. After them swept the grey-the Light Division, Jubal Early, Ewell, Jackson's own. In the corn fields, in the wheat fields, in the forest thick, thick! lay the dead and wounded, three thousand men, grey and blue, fallen in that fight of an hour and a half. The blue crossed Cedar Run, the grey crossed it after them. The moon, just past the full, rose above the hilltops. On the whole the summer night was light enough. Stonewall Jackson brought up two fresh brigades and with Pegram's battery pressed on by moonlight. That dauntless artillerist, a boy in years, an old wise man in command, found the general on Little Sorrel pounding beside him for some time through the moonlit night. Jackson spoke but once. "Delightful excitement," he said.

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