ALL up and down Wilderness Run, all over the tilled fields of the Lacy farm and the old, gullied, pine and brier-tufted ones uplifting east of the run, little fires are blinking as they burn low. Some are those of batteries, some of trains, and some, at the top of the ridge, those of the hospitals of the Fifth Corps, where the surgeons, with rolled-up sleeves, are at their humane tasks in the operating tents; instruments by them which they handle with skill and mercy, as one after another the mutilated and perforated bodies of the boys who had been willing to risk their lives for the country were brought in and laid on the table before them, their anxious eyes scrutinizing the surgeon’s face for a sign of hope as he examined their wounds and felt their fluttering pulses. Heaven bless their memory, all of them, and wherever the dust of one of them lies, I know the feeling mother earth holds it tenderly.
Aides were still coming and going to the Lacy house and to army headquarters, in quest of or carrying instructions of one kind or another. For before Hancock’s attack on Hill had ceased, Grant through Meade had ordered that the battle be renewed all along the line at 4.30 the next morning. These orders were issued at 8 P. M., and formations, ammunition, and everything, had to be got ready. Meade, in transmitting them to his corps commanders, directed them to send their train-guards to their troops; that every man who could shoulder a musket must be in the ranks by daylight; adding that staff officers should be sent at once to his headquarters to learn from the chiefs of departments the location of their special trains and conduct the guards to the front. This order took a deal of hard night-riding to fulfill, and some of those who carried it did not get back to their respective headquarters till long after midnight; for the main trains were scattered about Chancellorsville and along the Ely’s Ford Road wherever they could haul off into an opening, and on account of the darkness were hard to find.
Meade had asked his corps commanders to come and see him in reference to the movement in the morning; and, having had quite a conference with them, at half-past ten he sent Lyman over with this message to Grant: “ After conversing with my corps commanders, I am led to believe that it will be difficult, owing to the dense thicket in which their commands are located, the fatigued condition of the men rendering it difficult to rouse them early enough, and the necessity of some daylight, to properly put in reinforcements. All these considerations induce me to suggest the attack should not be made till six o’clock instead of 4.30.” Grant had retired, was aroused, and changed it to five; and says in his memoirs that he was sorry that he made the change, and I am sure that he was right. In view of the fact that the sun rose in a clear sky at 4.47 that morning, and, as every one knows, dawn at that season begins at latest by four o’clock, — I remember its coming on, scattering light like the sower it is, at every step; for we breakfasted early that morning; the mist that had gathered during the night was lifting and all but a few of the stars had faded and gone, — I have always wondered why Meade made this request that the attack should be postponed until the sun was well above the treetops. But Colonel Lyman’s notes, I think, disclose the reason.
It will be recalled that Burnside unfortunately had a separate command; his Ninth Corps was independent of Meade, and all his orders had therefore to emanate from Grant. Accordingly Grant sent his orders for the morning’s attack to him direct through Colonel Comstock of the engineers, one of my instructors at West Point, a tall, sedate man, and Grant’s most modest, able, and confidential aide. They were in these terms: —
Armies of the United States,
Near Wilderness Tavern,
May 5, 1864, 8 P. M.
Lieutenant-General Grant desires that you start your two divisions at 2 A. M. tomorrow, punctually, for this place. You will put them in position between the Germanna plank road and the road leading from this place to Parker’s Store, so as to close the gap between Warren and Hancock, connecting both. You will move from this position on the enemy beyond at 4.30 A. M., the time at which the Army of the Potomac moves.
C. B. COMSTOCK,
Lt.-Col. & Aide-de-camp.
It seems that Burnside came to Grant’s headquarters after the receipt of this order, and then joined Meade. At the close of his interview with Meade and the other corps commanders, he said, as he rose, “ Well, then, my troops shall break camp by half-past two.” He had a very wise, oracular air. After he was out of hearing Duane, Chief of Engineers with Meade, who had been with the Army of the Potomac since its formation, said. “ He won’t be up — I know him well! ” — I can see Duane’s face, hear his quiet voice, see his hands slowly stroking his full, long, rusty beard, as he says, “He won’t be up—I know him well! ” — And apparently that was the opinion of them all, that he would n’t be up by 4.30 — for they all knew him well, too, and recognized what Lyman says of him, that he “ had a genius for slowness.” Moreover, each one felt the importance of his joining them before they tackled Lee again, for they had had about all they could do to hold their own that afternoon. So, fresh troops being very desirable, and knowing Burnside as they did, they wanted to make sure of them by allowing him an extra hour and a half. And I suspect that, as they did not feel at liberty to go to Grant, almost a stranger to all of them, and give him their individual opinions of Burnside — they were too good soldiers for that, — they made use of thickets and want of daylight, instead of his “ genius for slowness.” It turned out just as they had predicted.
Burnside belonged to the well-formed, handsome, California-peach class of men, — affable, with lots of small talk, and dignified good-humor, most admirably fitted for a military attaché at a foreign embassy, or for the head of a banquet, but utterly brainless on a battle-field,— yet could and did look wonderfully wise. He was affectionately called “ Old Burn,” and died with hosts and hosts of friends.
Roebling at 11.30 rode to Grant’s headquarters to confer with Comstock in relation to Burnside’s movements in the morning, and prepared to meet him at four o’clock and lead his troops to carry the Chewning Ridge, considerably to the right of Wadsworth, which he and Comstock had decided was the best thing to do.
And now, reader, it is drawing late. Great, majestic, and magnanimous Night has come down, covering the Wilderness and us all in pervading, mysterious silence. Let us take a couple of these folding camp-chairs and go out and sit in the starlight on the lawn of the old Lacy house. Here is my tobacco-pouch; fill your pipe, and I’ll try to tell you the situation at this hour on the field, and then we will turn in. There are one or two incidents that I’d like to tell you also, and it’ I forget to mention them as I go along, I wish, before I get through, that you would jog my memory.
Meade’s commodious living tents are pitched on the east side of the Germanna Road, directly opposite the knoll which he and Grant have occupied all day. Grant’s are at the foot of the knoll, and a big, swelling-topped cottonwood or poplar waves over the spot still. They are about two hundred yards apart, and Caton’s little Warrior Run is between them. Their headquarters tents, flaps thrown back, are indicated by colored lanterns on poles in front of them; and in them a candle or lamp is burning, and on a camp-chair before them, or writing at a table within, is an adjutant-general on duty for the night. Couriers are standing about with their horses saddled, and out where the Germanna Road meets the Pike, is a mounted orderly to point the way to aides coming in from the lines, who have occasion to visit headquarters. And let us hope that Sleep, which knows no battle-front, but wings noiselessly in from a land of softer fields, found her way without the aid of the sentinel at the Pike to the tents of both Meade and Grant.
There is no moon, the stars are dim, and all is hushed. The night air is permeated with the odor of freshly-burnt-over woods, for the fire spread widely and is still slumbering and smoking in chunks and fallen trees. Here and there it has climbed up the loose bark of a yet standing dead trunk, and aloft throws out little tremulous torch-like flames from their scragglylimbed tops, now here, now there, over the dark woods. Single ambulances are still coming and going, and now and then one is making its way slowly and carefully with its suffering load across the dark fields.
Up the Pike, barely visible by the light that falls from the starry maze, from those lamps that are hung to show our minds the way to another’s headquarters far, far above Grant’s and Meade’s, both armies are lying behind their newly-thrown-up breastworks, which stretch from Flat Run well across the Pike toward Chewning’s, and are more or less parallel and close. On Sedgwick’s and some of Warren’s front they are within pistol-shot of one another, and all along between them are many dead and wounded, whose cries and moans can be heard, but cannot be relieved, so persistent is the firing. Sedgwick’s headquarters are on the Flat Run Road not far from where it joins the Germanna. Upton, Brown, Russell, Shuler, Morris, and Seymour of his corps, like Griffin, Ayres, Robinson, and Bartlett of Warren’s, are up in the woods close behind their troops, blessed, I hope, with refreshing sleep.
Ewell has his headquarters bivouac on the Pike, and I suppose his flea-bitten gray, Rifle, that Major Stiles claimed resembled him,—if so, Rifle must have been a lank, serious-looking horse, with a high broad forehead, rather bony eyesockets, and lean, scooped-out cheeks, for such were the prominent features of Ewell’s face, — Rifle, more or less visible on account of his chalky color, is not far away, tied to a sapling; and, as his rider has lost a leg, he, out of sympathy or weariness, is probably resting one hind leg on its toe and dreaming. Ewell’s general hospital, his surgeons as busy as our own, is back near Locust Grove, whence at an early hour in the evening a batch of our prisoners, about twelve hundred in number, most of them from Warren’s corps, had set out for Orange Court House. In the middle of the night they met Ramseur and Mahone hurrying toward the front. Had I been one of the unfortunate prisoners I know that I should have wished over and over again, as I trudged along that night, that I was lying dead back on the field with my fellows, rather than about to face a long term in Confederate prisons, so greatly did I dread them after seeing the wrecks that came down the James from Richmond when I first went to Fort Monroe.
Hancock is bivouacked on the Plank Road a short way east from the Junction, and he may or may not be asleep, for, at his interview with Meade, the latter cautioned him to keep a strict lookout for his left in the morning — hinting at the possibility of Longstreet’s striking him in the Stonewall Jackson way.
The situation along his front at the close of the fighting has been referred to, and it may be assumed that his lines, as well as those of the enemy, are fairly straightened out bv this time, and that Birney and Wheaton have been told to lead in the morning. Sheridan is at Chancellorsville; Wilson and Gregg are so encamped as to cover the roads that come in at Todd’s Tavern.
On the Widow Tapp field, that is dimly lit by the faint shadowy starlight and is silent, save that now and then a traveling cry from the wounded in the woods passes over it there, Lee, Hill, and Wilcox are camped close up to their well-fought, tired troops, and their headquarters are not far apart. Hill is described as sitting alone at a late hour before a little fire, made of a few round, crossed-over sticks, near one of the guns whose right wheel is just on the edge of the road, facing Birney. Wilcox has been to see Hill and asked for permission to withdraw his lines so as to reform them, and the little, punctilious man, who is not very well, has told him to let the men rest.
The reason why Wilcox made this request is explained by the adjutant of the Eighteenth North Carolina in his account of the Wilderness. It seems that when Miles or Brooks struck Lane’s brigade, the Eighteenth was badly shattered, and, breaking, disappeared in the darkness. The adjutant, while seeking it, got lost, suddenly found himself within our lines, and, cautiously making his way to avoid this body of men and then another in the woods, all at once struck the Plank Road, knew where he was, followed it up to our pickets, and then, staking his life against captivity, dashed ahead through them. On reaching the edge of the woods he saw a white horse standing out in the Tapp field and, going closer, recognized it as General Wilcox’s. He sought the general and told him that there was nothing, absolutely nothing, between his lines and ours. Wilcox was cross, and would not listen to him, dismissing him sharply with an aside that there was a brigade in front of his line. The adjutant at last found his regiment, told his fellow officers his story, and they, in view of the danger, went to Wilcox and assured him of their adjutant’s truthfulness and good judgment. Thereupon Wilcox made his visit to Hill. Later he tells us that he went to see Lee in reference to the same matter. When he entered Lee’s tent, Lee broke into compliments on the conduct of Wilcox’s and Heth’s men and said, in effect, holding up a note, that Anderson had just sent him word that he had bivouacked at Verdierville, and that he had instructed him and Longstreet to move forward, and that the divisions which had been so actively engaged would be relieved.
Longstreet at that hour was bivouacking at Richard’s shop on the Catharpin Road. When we first entered Richmond the following April, the diary of an officer of his corps was picked up in the street by some one of our men, and in it is this entry: —
“ Thursday, May 5th. Marched at three o’clock this morning. Rested after marching thirteen miles, and cooked some rations. After resting a while resumed march, marched 20 miles and camped at dark five miles from the battlefield.” That made a total of thirty-three miles, and as the day was exceedingly hot, especially in the woods, the men must have been very tired.
Lee’s orders to Longstreet were to move at 2 A. M., the same hour as that Grant had set for Burnside. Longstreet had a mile or two farther to march, but, unfortunately for us, he had not, on this occasion at least, “ a genius for slowness,” and was on the very nick of time. Some of his men, who had marched thirtythree miles the day before, and five already on the 6th, came the last mile or two at the double quick. As heretofore told, Ramseur and Mahone are on their way to reinforce Lee’s lines, and Ferrero, my old West Point dancing-master, is tiptoeing along with his colored division to reach Germanna Ford and swell Burnside’s Ninth Corps.
And that now is the story of the night.
But you have not told me,” exclaims the smoker, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, “ of the personal incidents you asked to be reminded of.” Well, do not fill your pipe again, I’ll promise not to be long. There is the body of a young officer lying alone in the woods pretty well south of the Plank Road. It is that of Colonel Alford B. Chapman, age twentyeight years, of the Fifty-seventh New York. There is a liltle pocket note-book beside his lifeless hand, and on one of the open leaves he has written his father’s name and address and these words: ” Dear Father: I am mortally wounded. Do not grieve for me. My dearest love to all. Alford.” I do not know, but I doubt if Death anywhere in the Wilderness has met more steady eyes than those of this dying, family-remembering young man. He was brigade officer of the day, and his duties had called him into the engagement very early; and when, toward sunset, his regiment advanced to fill a gap on account of the lines being extended southward to meet the overlapping of Lane’s big North Carolina brigade, it came across Chapman’s body, the first it knew of his fate.
And while we are on this part of the line let me refer to Hays, and, if ever you go along the Brock Road, you will come to a cast-iron gun standing upright on a granite base and surrounded by an iron picket fence. It marks the near-by spot where he fell, and is on the right-hand side of the road about where the swampy head of Wilderness Run crosses it, a little this side of the Junction. He was a very gallant officer, and his lonely monument will appeal to you. There is something illustrative of the man, and mysteriously prophetic, in a letter he wrote the morning of the day he was killed: “ This morning was beautiful,” said the letter, “ for
As if the morn was a jocund one.
Although we were anticipating to march at 8 o’clock, it might have been an appropriate harbinger of the day of regeneration of mankind; but it only brought to remembrance, through the throats of bugles, that duty enjoined upon each one, perhaps before the setting sun, to lay down a life for his country.”
It was a translation worthy of the prophets of old that he gave to the notes of the bugles; and the reverential, kindly mood —and to think it was his last! — hailing the sun as the harbinger of the day of regeneration of mankind! Oh! the sanity and spread of the primary emotions!
The other incidents are these, one of which was referred to early in the narrative, namely, the relief of one of our men by a Confederate officer. The circumstances were as follows: the Confederate, touched by the cries of our men, — he had been trying to sleep, — crawled over the works on hands and knees in the darkness, till he reached a wounded man, who turned out to be a lieutenant of a western regiment, and asked what he could do for him. “ I am very, very thirsty, and I am shot so that I cannot move.” The good Samaritan crawled to the liltle brook, — it wimples still across the old Pike, — filled a canteen and came back with it, and, after propping the wounded man’s head, went his way. A little while afterwards another Confederate came prowling toward the wounded man and, thinking he was dead, began to feel for his watch. The lieutenant remonstrated, but the hard-hearted creature took the watch, saying, “ You will be dead before long, and will not need it.” Here we have the extremes of our natures. I know the name of the prowler; but of the other, the noble fellow, I do not. If I did, it should appear on this page and live as long as I could make it live. This story I got from my friend, Mr. Jennings of the Wilderness, who had it from the lips of the western lieutenant himself, who, a few years ago, came back to the old battlefield, and the first place he visited was the little brook; and I have no doubt it murmured sweetly all through that night, full of a native happiness at seeing once more its acquaintance of other days.
The other incident is found in the diary of Captain Robert E. Park, Company F, Twelfth Alabama, Rode’s Division. “ Crawled over the works with two canteens of water to relieve some of the wounded, groaning and calling aloud in front of the line. Night dark, no moon and few stars, and as I crawled to the first man and offered him a drink of water, he declined; and, in reply to my inquiries, told me that he was shot through the leg and body and was sure he was bleeding internally. I told him that I feared he would not live till morning, and asked him whether he was making any preparation for leaving this world. His reply was that he had not given it a thought, as his life had not been one of sin, and that he was content. He was about twenty years of age, and from a northwestern state.” Guides of the upper world! I have only one request to make, that you point out to me that boy; for I should like these earthly eyes to rest upon the calm depths of his heroic and innocent face; and I have no doubt his kind benefactor. Captain Park, will be there too.
And now it is near midnight, and all is very, very still. “ Hark, what is that I hear ? ” you ask. It is some staff officer’s horse at a brigade headquarters up in the woods just back of the lines, neighing for an absent companion. Let us turn in.
Knowing that at 5 o’clock battle was to be renewed by vigorous attack all along the line, every one was up early, while some of the stars were still glowing in the sky. The little colony of orderlies, cooks, and teamsters, were already astir, and belated detachments from the trainguards were still coming on to the field on their way to their respective commands, moving through the disappearing mist that had stolen into the Wilderness, and, as we would fain believe, to moisten the cheeks and eyelashes of its living and dead as they slept, and to wrap the latter in its cool, gray shrouds. Up near the woods, dimly visible, were a couple of brigades — the Marylanders among them — which Warren had had assembled there during the night as a reserve behind Griffin, to whom, as on the day before, the initiative of the serious work was entrusted. The places of these troops in line had been made good by closing Crawford to the right and abreast of Griffin, on the assumption that Burnside would be up and take the ground he had occupied, that is, across the Parker’s Store road near where it leaves Wilderness Run for the rolling plateau of the Chewning farm.
Kitching’s brigade of heavy artillery had just arrived from Chancellorsville, and the men were resting near the Lacy house, most of them between the run and the road. It was a big, fresh brigade, over twenty-two hundred strong, and while its regiments were preparing for the night march — their orders were to move at 1 A. M. — the Colonel and a score or two of his men held a little service, and all kneeling, he led them in prayer. Around the kneeling group were the shallow graves of those who had been killed the year before; and the one who narrates the circumstance says that solitude’s dreariest choir, the whip-poor-wills, of which there were hundreds, and maybe thousands, were repeating their nightlong mournful chant. Possibly the earnest student of the battle would have preferred to have been told why they were serving as infantry, — they were three battalion regiments, — their order of march, and exactly the distance they had to make; but I wonder which is the more enduring and significant fact, the young colonel with palm to palm pouring out his heart to God under the starlight, or whether Blank’s battalion moved first and kept its distance, or how Major Thunderbolt’s voice rang down the line,
Keep closed up! Don’t let it happen again! ” Thunderbolt, you are a gallant old fellow, and I’ve heard you more than once, “ Eyes right! Eyes left! As you were! ” Military and soldier critics, don’t apply this as a reflection on the profession; it is only meant to renew your memories pleasantly of the Thunderbolts you and I have met in the service, and to suggest how all mere military detail of battle fades away as we lift on the tides of the heart. Student of war, let me suggest that once in a while you take Imagination’s offered hand; she will lend you through simple height-gaining paths till at last fife and drum die away and lo! you are in a blessed company charged to convert what is earthly into what is spiritual.
But to return to the morning: day was coming on fast; bodies of woods, solitary trees on the ridges, and vacant distances sky-arched, were stealing into view as we hastily breakfasted. Our horses were saddled and ready, and those of us who had had a kind word for the colored cooks and waiters found in our saddle-bags a snack of one kind or other wrapped up in bits of paper. Nowhere in this world does it pay better to show consideration for the low in estate, and above all to those of the colored race, than on a campaign. They will look after you faithfully and, if you should be sick or wounded, will stand by you to the last.
Although a great many years lie between now and then, yet across them all I can see Warren mounting his heavy dappled iron-gray, and wearing his yellow sash. His saddle-blanket was scarlet, and a few days afterward at Spottsylvania, when this horse was shot, I waited near him while saddle and blanket were stripped from him by an orderly. The shot that hit him was aimed at Warren, and possibly fired by the same sharpshooter who the next morning at almost the identical spot killed Sedgwick. Warren was watching Robinson’s men, who were briskly engaged along and to the right of the Spottsylvania road, trying to carry the enemy’s position at the old scattered orchard of the Spindle farm. I was directly behind him. We had been there but a short time before I heard the ping of a passing shot. From the same direction soon another went directly over our heads, and in a little while another, and this time so much nearer that I said, “ General, that man is getting the range on you.”The sharpshooter was in the woods beyond the rather wide and deep ravine that makes northeastward from the Sedgwick monument. Warren said nothing but shortly started to move to the right, when down went the horse.
The first duty I had after breakfast was to go lo the intersection of the Pike and Germanna Ford roads and wait there till Burnside should arrive, and then offer to show him the way up the Parker’s Store road to his position. My assignment happened in this way: Roebling at half-past eleven the night before had been called in conference with Comstock of Grant’s staff, in relation to the position Burnside’s corps should take. In his notes he says, " Two opinions presented themselves, either to go and join Wadsworth by daylight, or else obtain possession of the heights at Chewning’s and fall upon the enemy’s rear by that route. If successful in carrying the heights, the latter plan promised the greatest results; if not, it would fail altogether. Then again it was thought that when Wadsworth joined the Second Corps, the two together would be sufficient to drive the enemy. General Grant then decided that the Ninth Corps should go to Chewning’s, and I prepared to accompany them at 4 o’clock in the morning.”Accordingly, at that hour, he and Cope went to the Pike and waited for Burnside. I suspect that Warren, the hour for attack coming on, and Burnside not appearing, and feeling the need of both Roebling and Cope, who really were his right-hand men, sent me to take their places and wait for Burnside. They both hurried off to join Wadsworth.
On my way to the Pike I passed the engineer battalion marching in column of fours to report to Griffin. It was the first time in all their history when, as a body, this aristocracy of the rank and file of the army was called on to take a hand as infantry, as common “dough-boys ” in the actual fighting. I knew all the officers well: they were the ones I had dined with when I announced my readiness to take command of the Army of the Potomac. Their duties hitherto had been confined to the dangerous business of laying the pontoon bridges, and at other times to repairing roads or to selecting and laying out field works — the officers meanwhile familiarizing themselves with the lines and all the natural features of the scene of operations. But we all recognized the grind of fighting as infantry, and broad grins were exchanged as I rode by them. Fortunately, they were not called on to assault, but were put to throwing a new line of entrenchments across the Pike in rear of Griffin.
The head of Burnside’s leading division, Potter’s, came on the field about half-past five, and Duane’s oracular observation of the night before, “He won’t be up, I know him well,” had been verified. The head of his column should have been at this point at least an hour and a half earlier if they were to be on time to move to the attack with Hancock and Wadsworth. Meade and the corps commanders had reckoned just about right in allowing him till six to be on hand. As a matter of fact, Burnside himself did n’t get up to the Pike, let alone to the ground Crawford had occupied, till after six. When he came, accompanied by a large staff, I rode up to him and told him my instructions. He was mounted on a bobtailed horse and wore a drooping army hat with a large gold cord around it. Like the Sphinx, he made no reply, halted, and began to look with a most leaden countenance in the direction he was to go.
It was the first time I had ever seen him,—he had commanded our old Army of the Potomac, he was a famous man, I was young, — and my eyes rested on his face with natural interest. After awhile he started off calmly toward the Lacy house, not indicating that my services were needed, — he probably was thinking of something that was of vastly more importance. I concluded that I was n’t wanted, and was about to go my own way, when I caught sight of Babcock of Grant’s staff coming at great speed just the other side of the run. He had been out with Hancock, and as he approached, I called, “ What’s the news, Babcock ? Without halting he replied, his kindly, open face gleaming, “Hancock has driven them a mile and We are going to have a great victory,” or words to that effect. I do not believe my heart was ever more suddenly relieved or beat freer, for somehow or other from my youth the forebodings of the worst happenings have always presented themselves first. And now to know we were gaining a victory! I went back to the Lacy house happy, very happy indeed.
Shortly after arriving there, Meade’s instruction through Warren for Wadsworth to report for orders to Hancock while detached from the Fifth Corps, was given me to deliver. And with an orderly I started with it. We rode first up Parker’s Store road, encumbered with Burnside’s troops moving sluggishly into position. By this time it was about 8 o’clock. The General had passed through them to the front where Potter was deploying, but he had no sooner arrived there than his big staff caught the eye of a Confederate battery somewhere away off on the right of Ewell’s line, and it opened on them, making it so uncomfortable that they had to edge away. When I came about where the uppermost eastern branch comes in, I set off through the woods in the direction of the firing, and had not gone a great way when my orderly, a German, riding behind me, said, “ Lieutenant, you are bearing too much to the right, you will run into the rebel lines.” I sheared off a little to the left; here and there were wounded, and at a point alongside the run, propped against a beech tree, his head resting on his right shoulder, his cap on the ground beside him, was a dead fair-faced boy, eighteen or nineteen years old, holding in his bloodless hand a few violets which he had picked. A shot had struck him in the arm, or the leg, I have forgotten which, and he had slowly bled to death. I fancy that, as he held the little familiar wild-flowers in his hand, his unsullied eyes glazed as he looked down into them, and his mind was way off at home. After passing him, the orderly again cautioned me, but this time I paid no attention to him and went on.
The woods were very thick, and unknowingly we were approaching quite a little rise, when suddenly came the command, “Get off that horse and come in.” I lowered my head to the left, and there along the ridge within a few rods stood a heavy skirmish line with uplifted guns. It did not take me one second to decide. I suspect I did not think at all. I gave my horse a sudden jerk to the right, then the spur, and as he bounded they all let drive at us. A shot, I suppose it was one from their 58-calibre Enficlds, grazing my sabre belt, struck the brass “ D ” buckle on my left side and tore the belt apart. My Colt’s pistol in its holster began to fall and I grabbed it with my left hand. Just then a limb knocked off my hat and with my right hand I caught it as it was passing my right boot-top. Meanwhile the horse was tearing his way along the course we had come. The orderly disappeared instantly, and that was the last I saw of him till the next morning, just after I had returned Grant’s despatches. When I met him — he was one of Meade’s headquarter couriers — with unfeigned surprise he exclaimed, “ Why, my God! lieutenant, I thought sure you were killed up there yesterday.” I hardly know why he should have thought so unless he concluded I was falling when I was reaching for my hat. His judgment was better than mine, and had I followed it neither of us would have had such a close call.
Well, as soon as I could get control of my horse and both of us could breathe a bit easier, for the dear old fellow was no more anxious to go to Richmond that way than I, I struck off more to the left, and in a little while ran into lots of stragglers, and pretty soon met a little group falling back under some discipline. Upon inquiring, I found that they belonged to Cutler’s brigade; they told me that the division had been driven with heavy losses and was all disorganized. I gave to the officer who said he was going back to the open ground, that is, to the Parker Store road or the Lacy fields, the following despatch, which will be found in the War Records. By mistake it is dated the 5th, instead of the 6th, —
8.30 A. M.
GENERAL WARREN: -
The Rebel skirmish line is about 1 mile from the field. I think they have tried Wadsworth’s left. I will bear down to the left until I find him.
Lieutenant of Ordnance.
He either delivered it in person or sent it by some one to Warren’s headquarters, for the news it contained was given in a despatch to Humphreys dated 9.05. Soon after parting with him, I fell in with Cutler himself, leading back fragments of his broken command. There may have been seven or eight hundred of them, and possibly twice that number, for they were scattered all through the woods. He was rather an oldish, thin, earnest-looking Round-head sort of a man, his light stubby beard and hair turning gray. He was bleeding from a wound across his upper lip, and looked ghastly, and I have no doubt felt worse; for he was a gallant man, and to lead his men back, every little while coming to him and them the volleys of their comrades still facing the enemy, must have been hard for him. On my asking him where Wadsworth was, he said, “I think he is dead;” and one or two of his officers said, “ Yes, we saw him fall.”
Relying on what they told me, I started back for Meade’s headquarters with the news. When I reached there and reported what I had seen and heard, no one could believe it; but just then Cutler’s men began to pour out of the woods in full view on the ridge east of the Lacy house, and the seriousness of the situation at once appeared to all. As to Wadsworth’s death, Cutler and his officers were mistaken; he was not mortally wounded until about two hours later, but some of them maintained, as will be seen by their valuable contributions to the Loyal Legion papers, that he was killed before nine o’clock. It is highly probable that the general they saw fall was Getty, who was badly wounded about that time.
My despatch and Cutler’s appearance verifying it brought alarm which found expression in the following despatch sent at once to Warren: —
The Major General commanding directs that you suspend your operations on the right, and send some force to prevent the enemy from pushing past your left, near your headquarters. They have driven in Cutler in disorder and are following him.
A. A. HUMPHREYS,<BR/> Major General & Chief of Staff.
In harmony with the spirit of the above,, the immediate front of Meade’s headquarters suddenly bristled, as battery after battery came into position “ action front ” where the little chapel now stands. The cannoneers stepped blithely to their places and, boldly expectant, men and guns stood facing toward where Cutler’s men came straggling out of the woods. But, as a matter of fact, the enemy had not broken our lines seriously, and were not following Cutler.
About this time too, word was sent in from Hancock’s headquarters that a column was reported coming up the Brock Road deploying skirmishers. This lowering news on the heels of Cutler’s appearance was translated by Grant in the light of its premonitory look. He called for his horse and set out to join Hancock where, if at all, the crisis would break. By the time he reached him, 9.50, Hancock had filled the gap Cutler’s withdrawal had made, and within a few minutes Gibbon, who had been in a blue funk all the morning over Longstreet’s mythical advance up the Catharpin Road, sent word back that the column reported approaching his front was not the enemy but some convalescents on their way to rejoin their comrades.
So much then for my attempt to reach Wadsworth, and events with which it had more or less connection.
(To be continued.)