History, including that of the Civil War, has a tendency to focus on the extremes of human behavior. Battle histories are filled with accounts of heroes leading the charge and cowards shirking in the rear. Often lost, however, are the stories of those who just wanted to get by, survive the war, and return to their life as it once was.
When war came to Virginia in early 1861, nineteen-year-old Arthur Senseny Markell left behind his studies at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia and returned to his home in Winchester. There, on April 18, he enlisted in a local militia unit, the Marion Rifles. Within days Markell and his company marched to Harper’s Ferry, where they were enrolled for active service and soon became Company A of the Fifth Virginia Infantry. Markell, finding himself elected a First Lieutenant, moved east in July with his regiment to Manassas, where they won immortal fame standing like a stone wall.1
Markell’s military career, however, was to be short-lived. He was placed under arrest near the end of 1861 and cashiered by a court martial on January 29, 1862, although his service record does not detail the charges against him. He had been granted a sick furlough and was absent from the regiment as of late October, so it is possible he overstayed his furlough.2
Expelled from military service, Markell spent the next month in Winchester in disgrace while his former comrades camped nearby. On March 5, 1862, he fled north to Charlestown where he presented himself as a deserter to the Union forces under General Banks. Markell was sent to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, DC, where he freely provided all the information he had on the state of Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley. On or around March 21, he swore an oath of allegiance to the United States and was released from custody.3
Markell made his way further north, stopping for a time in Baltimore before making his way to Pennsylvania. There, he enrolled at a small college, seeking to complete his education. The school was a Lutheran institution like his former Roanoke College, making it a natural choice for Markell to complete his interrupted studies. Markell settled down once again to the quiet life of a student, confident that he could pass the rest of the war in safety in the sleepy college town of Gettysburg.4
Markell’s academic pursuits were again interrupted in June 1863 as Confederate forces marched north into Maryland. Classes at Gettysburg College were cancelled on June 17 and all but nineteen of the students left to join militia groups or return to their homes. With nowhere else to go, Markell remained at the school, likely hoping that the Confederate army would pass him by. On June 26, as General Jubal Early’s gray-clad column approached Gettysburg, several Gettysburg citizens acquitted with Markell urged him to flee lest he be seized by the Confederates as a deserter and executed.5
He fled south towards Emmitsburg but as soon overtaken by a Union lieutenant. Suspicious of this Virginian’s dubious story claiming to be a local student who just happened to be in the path of the rebel invasion, the lieutenant arrested Markell and marched him to the rear under guard. The hapless Markell soon found himself back in Baltimore, where he was imprisoned at Fort McHenry. Once there, he tried desperately to explain his situation to military authorities, protesting that he had remained within Union lines since his desertion and had done nothing to break his oath of loyalty to the United States.6
The luckless former lieutenant, however, had a problem. His interrogators asked him to produce a copy of his signed oath of allegiance from the previous year. Unfortunately for Markell, however, he had never received a copy of his oath and was unable to prove his questionable story. In desperation he wrote a letter to General Robert Schenck, the Union Commander of the Middle Military District, to explain his situation and to request his release. Having learned of Markell’s plight, several prominent Gettysburg citizens drafted their own letter to General Schenck, vouching for the former student’s loyalty and calling for his release from prison. The letters ultimately proved effective, as Markell was permitted to sign another oath of allegiance and was released in early August.7
Markell never returned to Gettysburg College. He died on July 11, 1912, at Parish Farm in Frederick County, Maryland.8
The following muster roll of the the Fourth Virginia Infantry, Company D “The Smyth Blues”, was written by a former member of the company, John Samuel Apperson, for the ‘Times-Dispatch’ on June 4, 1905. It was published in the Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 34, pages 359-362. It is presented here with minimal edits.
“SMYTH BLUES.” Muster Roll Company D, Fourth Virginia Infantry.
Editor of the Times-Dispatch:
Sir,—No part of your excellent paper is more interesting to the remnant of old Confederate soldiers now living than that portion you have so kindly dedicated to them and the stories they tell; for after all, it is the man behind the guns who knew best the fierceness of the conflict while it raged around him, and the story he tells brings us nearer the scene of action and impresses it in detail upon our minds more effectually than general history will ever do. Since arranging and sending to Major Robert W. Hunter a duplicate of the enclosed list of members of Company “D,” Fourth Virginia Infantry (Stonewall Brigade), it has occurred to me to send it to you and ask you to, some time or another, give it a place in the Confederate column of your paper. Its publication is desired not alone because it gives the names enrolled on Orderly Sergeant’s book, but because it embraces information of some who are dead and others living, which will be intensely interesting to many widely scattered since the parting at Appomattox in 1865.
Marion, Va., 1902.
Jno. S. Apperson.
A. G. Pendleton, captain; major 1862; resigned; died in Roanoke, Va., 1902.
James W. Kennedy, first lieutenant; retired 1862; died in Tennessee after the war.
A. E. Gibson, second lieutenant; captain 1862; killed near Groveton, Second Manassas.
J. J. Bishop, first sergeant; died from wounds Second Manassas.
J. M. Fuller, second sergeant; wounded Gettysburg.
F. W. Rider, third sergeant; died after war.
J. M. Thomas, fourth sergeant; promoted captain.
D. B. Kootz, first corporal; wounded Kernstown.
I. M. Lampie, second corporal; wounded Spotsylvania Courthouse; died since war.
H. T. Killinger, third corporal.
T. A. Oury, fourth corporal; wounded First Manassas; dead.
Adam Allen, killed Chancellorsville.
Benjamin Allen, wounded Winchester; lost an eye; dead.
I. G. Anderson, lost leg, Sharpsburg; dead.
John S. Apperson, commissioned hospital steward 1862; assigned duty with Field Infirmary, Second Corps, A. N. V. (Surgeon Black).
B. F. Bates.
William Barbour; dead.
Alex Bear, promoted lieutenant 1862.
W. P. Bell, died from wounds, Second Manassas.
Randolph Bradley, killed below Richmond.
Isaac Brown, killed Sharpsburg.
W. H. Bolton.
Cleophas ——, wounded.
John A. Buchanan, Judge Court of Appeals, Virginia.
George C. Bridgeman.
Samuel A. Byars, wounded Chancellorsville; lame for life.
J. S. Campbell.
Thomas P. Campbell, promoted lieutenant; wounded Wilderness, 1864.
W. B. Carder, promoted lieutenant; died since war.
W. H. Cleaver, killed Cedar Creek, 1864.
George W. Cullop, lost leg at Chancellorsville; died since war.
J. R. Cullop.
John J. Dix, died from wounds received, Chancellorsville.
Adam Dutton, died after war.
James A. Dutton.
G. M. Dudley.
C. O. Davis.
James W. Duncan.
W. P. Francis.
G. H. Fudge, lieutenant; wounded, Fredericksburg; Judge of County Court, Smyth.
John W. Fudge.
Edward Falkie, wounded.
Robert Green, wounded First Manassas.
Henry Goodman, killed, May 12th, Spotsylvania.
Ambrose Griffith, color-bearer; wounded at Chancellorsville and before Petersburg.
James J. Gill, lost leg at Gettysburg.
J. F. Harris, died since war.
William Henegar, killed, Cedar Creek, 1864.
W. R. Henegar.
Henry Henderlite; died since war.
Ephriam, died from wounds received at Chancellorsville.
John N. Hull.
Abram Hutton, died after war.
John Hutton, died from wounds at Chancellorsville.
A. J. Isenhower, killed, Sharpsburg.
M. T. James, died in prison.
S. E. James, killed in battle.
E. M. James.
B. F. Jones, died from wounds, Second Manassas.
H. B. Jones, died in hospital.
T. L. Jones, died in hospital.
B. F. Leonard, wounded First Manassas; died after war.
Joseph H. Lampie, killed battle Kernstown.
Albert Lambert, dead.
W. A. Mays, wounded on picket duty.
W. H. Magruder.
F. B. Magruder, wounded at Chancellorsville.
B. F. Maiden.
Edward McCready, killed First Manassas.
H. H. McCready, lieutenant; wounded at Chancellorsville; killed Payne’s farm.
Robert McCready; died from wounds Wilderness, 1864.
W. F. Moore, killed Spotsylvania, 1864.
J. M. Morris; dead;
Samuel Neff, killed Kernstown.
T. C. Oaks.
John Parrish, killed at Payne’s farm.
J. T. Palmer; dead.
Matthew Prater; dead.
Martin Roane, lost two fingers at Chancellorsville; dead.
James Roark; dead.
J. H. Romans, killed First Manassas.
A. O. Sanders, wounded below Richmond.
A. T. Sanders; died since the war.
William Sanders, died during the war.
Benjamin Sexton, died from wounds, Second Manassas.
F. H. Sexton, died in prison.
M. Sexton, killed Gettysburg.
C. C. Snider, died from wounds.
T. C. Sexton.
A. J. Staley.
R. S. Stephens, died since war.
J. H. Sayers.
T. E. Schwartz.
W. B. Skeffey, died at Elmira prison.
Henry Tibbs, died during the war.
B. Umbarger, lost arm at Gettysburg.
William Umbarger, wounded Chancellorsville; died since the war.
Ephriam Umbarger, died since the war.
D. W. Venable.
R. C. Vaughan, promoted captain; died after war.
W. D. Willmore, wounded in front of Richmond, 1864.
Thomas J. Wolf, died from wounds received at Chancellorsville.
Sampson H. Wolf, killed First Manassas.
Joseph Wolf; dead.
A. I. Wygal.
T. J. Wygal; dead.
S. J. Wolf, died after war.
Theodore Wallace, died after war.
Henry Webb, died from wounds received at Chancellorsville.
John M. Williams, promoted captain; wounded at Sharpsburg.
B. P. Walker, wounded Kernstown.
J. M. Wilburn, killed in skirmish near Shepherdstown.
Edward Harrison, died from wounds received at Chancellorsville.
The following is excerpted from Fredrick Todd’s classic reference work, American Military Equipage, 1851-1872, Volume II – State Forces, Chapter 56 – Virginia. Todd does not detail the specific sources behind each datapoint he presents, but his work draws heavily on the annual reports of the Adjutant General of Virginia, as well as the expertise of the Virginia Historical Society and Museum of the Confederacy (now the Museum of the American Civil War). The portions of Chapter 56 dealing with units of the Stonewall Brigade are presented below with minimal edits.
2nd Regt Vols (Jefferson County) 1860-1861; Become 2nd Vol Inf Regt (1st Regt, Stonewall Brig; Allen’s) 1861-1865 (Included Jefferson Guards and Cadets, Hamtramck Guard, Botts Grays, etc.)
1861: Companies largely clothed in gray uniforms; some companies wore blue or red shirts; most had knapsacks; percussion musket. Regiment carried state flag until late November 1861, when given Army of Northern Virginia [ANV] battle flag [Editor’s Note: The flag presented to the 2nd Virginia, as well as all other Virginia regiments, in November 1861 was actually a Virginia state flag rather than the ANV battle flag, which did not enter wide production until summer 1862].
4th Regt (Preston’s) 1861-1865 Liberty Hall Volunteers: gray shirt and pants, trimmed presumably with blue. Grayson Dare Devils: “flaming red shirt and carried Harper’s Ferry rifles with sword bayonet. Regiment carried ANV battle flag, 1861-1865.
Augusta County Regt Vols (Baylor’s) 1861; Became 5th Vol Inf Regt (3rd Regt, Stonewall Brig) 1861-1865 (Included West Augusta Guard, Southern Guard, Augusta Rifles, Staunton Artillery, etc.)
Regimental band 1861 included members of Staunton Mountain Sax Horn Band organized in 1855; officially designated Stonewall Brigade Band 1863; reorganized 1865 as Stonewall Brigade Band and still exists. 1861: West Augusta Guard wore state regimental blue dress; Rifles adopted “French Zouave drill.”
27th Regt (Gordon’s; also called 6th Vol Regt in state service) 1861-1865 [Editor’s Note: Todd includes no further information on the 27th Virginia]
33rd Regt (Cummings’) 1861: armed largely with converted and flintlock smoothbore muskets.
The following list of battles in which the Stonewall Brigade fought was published in the ‘Rockingham Register’ on November 10, 1895. It was published in the Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 23, pages 56-57. It is presented here with minimal edits, although it omits some engagements, such as Fort Stedman, and includes some in which the brigade played little role, such as McDowell.
BATTLES OF THE STONEWALL BRIGADE.
An old soldier, a few days ago, found an old war memorandum book and in it was recorded the list of battles and skirmishes that the Stonewall Brigade was engaged in from the First Manassas to Appomattox Court house. We publish it for the benefit of the old soldiers that are fond of fighting their old battles over again.
A scorching sun beat down on the men of the Stonewall Brigade as they made their way along the dusty roads towards Spotsylvania Court House on May 8th, 1864. They had spent the previous three days fighting in the tangled undergrowth of the Wilderness, as the Army of Northern Virginia challenged the opening moves of Grant’s spring offensive. After several days of bloodletting, Grant’s columns pulled back from their breastworks late in the day of May 7th and set off on a night march to the east and south, aiming to seize the key crossroads at Spotsylvania Court House. Lee, however, quickly learned of the move and rushed his men to intercept Grant and foil the effort to turn the Confederate flank.
The roughly 900 men of the Stonewall Brigade pressed steadily on throughout the day, their step quickened by the booming guns of the Confederate and Union advance guards clashing in the distance.1 Sergeant Joseph McMurran of the Fourth Virginia would later write in his diary that “The weather was very hot, water scarce & the road thro’ the Wilderness thick set with undergrowth which had been set on fire & was so warm that the troops almost suffocated.”2 The exhausted troops pushed on until, late in the afternoon, they approached the rear of the Confederate positions at Laurel Hill, just to the west of the Court House. As more and more Federal troops arrived, they threatened to overlap and turn the Confederate right flank. Confederate Lieutenant General Richard Ewell rushed the newly arrived troops of his Second Corps to extend the Confederate line.
Ewell rode up to Brigadier General James A. Walker, the current commander of the celebrated Stonewall Brigade, and ordered him to advance his command at the double quick step. Although Walker’s men had already been on a grueling, rapid march for 16-18 hours, they responded to the orders with a yell and surged forward. Amidst exploding shells and the whine of minie balls, the Stonewall Brigade moved quickly into line on the right of the North Carolinians of Brigadier General Stephen D. Ramseur’s brigade. Behind and to the right of the Stonewall Brigade, the rest of the brigades of Johnson’s Division moved into position, checking the Federal advance as darkness brought an end to the day’s fighting.3
Worked Like Beavers
With the sound of muskets and cannons fading away in the dusk, Walker surveyed his position and disliked what he found. On the left of his line, the Second, Twenty-Seventh, and Thirty-Third Virginia regiments were on top of a dry, chalky hill, while the Fourth and Fifth Virginia were in line at the bottom of this ridge in an angle-deep swamp. On his own initiative Walker, just before midnight, ordered his men to adjust their lines to take advantage of better terrain. While Walker endured a sharp rebuke from Ewell for moving without orders, the Stonewall Brigade began to entrench in a more defensible position.4
Walker’s line was anchored on its left by the Second Virginia, under the command of Major Charles H. Stewart, which formed the junction between Johnson’s Division and Rodes’ Division to their left. Both the Second Virginia and the Thirty-Third Virginia, led by Lieutenant Colonel George W. Huston, were posted in the middle of an open field, without natural cover but with open fields of fire to their front up until dense second growth pines some distance away. To their right, the Fifth and Twenty-Seventh Virginia, under Colonel John H. S. Funk and Lieutenant Colonel Charles L. Haynes respectively, were posted at the edge of a stand of oaks. They also had open fields in front of them, while the distant pines to their front began to thin and were farther from the Brigade’s lines. The Fourth Virginia, led by Colonel William B. Terry, held the right flank of the Brigade and, like the Second and Thirty-Third, were in line on open ground.5
Beyond the right flank of the Stonewall Brigade, the remainder of Johnson’s Division curved northeast before turning to the southeast, forming a salient which would become forever known as the Mule Shoe. While not an ideal tactical position, Ewell judged such exposed lines were necessary so that he could occupy high ground at the tip of the salient which, if left unoccupied, would have allowed Federal artillery to command his lines.6 The Louisianans of Brigadier General Harry T. Hays’ command lay to the right of the Stonewall Brigade, incorporating both Hays’ own brigade and the men of Stafford’s Brigade, whose commander had been killed on May 5th. Next in line was Jones’ Brigade, led by Colonel William Witcher since Brigadier General J. M. Jones had also fallen at the Wilderness. The division’s lines bent back at a sharp angle near the right of Jones’ Brigade, where the right flank of the division was held by Brigadier General George H. Steuart’s brigade. The pines that ran along the Stonewall Brigade’s front fell away in front of Hays’ position, leaving a broad, open plateau of 600-800 yards in front of Hays’ and Jones’ Brigades.7
Despite their long day of marching, the men of the Stonewall Brigade got little rest that first night at Spotsylvania. Axes, picks, and shovels were sent for and, “Profiting by their experience of the last few days in the Wilderness, the men went to work with great alacrity (in spite of their broken-down condition),” wrote Lieutenant J. S. Doyle of the Thirty-Third Virginia.8 Walker would later describe how his men, “Worked like beavers, and the crash of falling trees, the ring of axes, and the sound of the spade and shovel were heard.”9Only when the work was complete did the men finally collapse, with Doyle writing that, “By daylight [the men] were sleeping comfortably behind a strong breast-work of rails and earth”10
With Great Swiftness and Determination
Thankfully for the exhausted men, May 9th was largely quiet as the two armies jockeyed for position and the men of both sides improved their fortifications. The Stonewall Brigade’s skirmishers remained positioned in the pines at the brigade’s front to limit the harassing fire of Federal skirmishers. Despite this precaution, by the afternoon of May 10th Union skirmishers in front and to the left of the Stonewall Brigade became increasingly active.11 These included Federal sharpshooters “whose practice was so excellent as to render it a very hazardous undertaking to go for a canteen of water without availing oneself of the shelter of the woods which extended to the rear of some portion of the line,” according to a member of the Thirty-Third Virginia.12
Suddenly and with little warning, at around six in the evening, a dense column of Union infantry erupted from the pines in front of Doles’ Brigade of Georgians immediately to the left of the Stonewall Brigade. In an innovative tactic, Union Colonel Emory Upton led the attack of twelve regiments in a tight mass forward in a rush at the Confederate breastworks without pausing to fire, gambling that the defenders could only get off a few shots before the attack was upon them.
Watching from the Stonewall Brigade’s lines, Lieutenant Doyle described how Upton’s men, “advanced with great swiftness and determination… coming on at a double-quick in excellent order, with their muskets at the trail they ran over [the Confederate] skirmishers in their pits and surging over the main line, found… men sitting along the works, many with their accouterments off, and all totally unprepared for resistance.”13 One of the Stonewall Brigade’s staff officers recounted how the Federal attack overran the Georgians so quickly that many of the defenders were still seated around their cook fires when they were captured.14 Although some of Doles’ men managed a volley, the attack was on top of them before they could reload and, after a brief melee, Upton’s force drove back the shattered defenders with a cheer.15
Just to the left of the attack, the Second and Thirty-Third Virginia had fired obliquely into the left flank of Upton’s dense attacking column. With Federal troops now overrunning the Confederate defenses and threatening to sweep down the line, the two regiments hurriedly fell back in disorder into the woods behind their sister regiments. General Walker rode into the midst of the fleeing men and rallied them, preventing a full rout. With the line reformed at a right angle to their original position, these elements of the Stonewall Brigade poured what Walker characterized as a “murderous fire” across the open field into Upton’s flank.16
With his lines breached, Ewell rushed additional troops to contain and repel the attack. With the Stonewall Brigade hitting Upton’s left flank, Steuart’s Brigade and Battle’s Brigade hit the Federal incursion head on and R. D. Johnston’s Brigade, along with rallied remnants of Doles’ Brigade and the right portion of Daniel’s Brigade, struck Upton’s right flank. With Confederates swarming at them from three directions, after about fifteen minutes Upton’s men began to give ground. They pulled back to Doles’ earthworks and held the position until an hour after dark. As the Federals retreated across the field and back into the safety of the pine forest, Confederate troops poured fire into their rear from the newly recaptured entrenchments.17
Beating back the attack had cost the Confederates around 650 men, including 350 men of Doles’ Brigade taken prisoner. Among those who fell mortally wounded was Private Thomas J. Campbell of the Fifth Virginia, Company E. His comrade William F. Brand wrote soon after the battle, “poor fellow I went and talked to him & tryed to cheer him, He said oh Bill I can not be cheerfull my wound is to painfull he was soon moved of & I couldnt get to say much to him.” Campbell would be dead before the next day dawned.18 Roughly 100 Union soldiers lay dead within the Confederate works.19 The attack had shown a potential vulnerability to the Confederate position, as Upton’s rapid attack without stopping to fire in the advance had prevented the defenders from massing their fire. To help counter such an attack, after nightfall on the 10th, members of the Thirty-Third Virginia volunteered to go forward in the darkness and chop down pine trees to create an abatis to slow any future attack.20
Waiting and Wishing for the Enemy
May 11th dawned dark and dreary, with a hard rain which continued throughout the day. At around mid-morning, Federal troops launched a minor probing attack on Johnson’s lines. With the help of their new abatis, the Stonewall Brigade assisted in easily repelling the attack. At the height of the firing, General Walker turned to Colonel Terry of the Fourth Virginia and triumphantly proclaimed, “If this be war, may it be eternal!”21 The attack repelled, Walker set his men to work digging a line of rifle pits between the brigade’s line and the McCoull House to their rear.22 Should an attack breach their entrenchments as Upton’s attack had done to Doles’ men the previous day, the Stonewall Brigade would have a strong position upon which to retire and hold the enemy until reinforcements could be brought up.
With the completion of the rifle pits, the Stonewall Brigade’s fortifications were complete, with Walker describing them as, “One of the very best lines of temporary ﬁeld works I ever saw. It was apparently impregnable”.23 The finished position was roughly 100 yards long and had ten traverses to prevent a Federal force that breached a portion of the line from firing down its length.24 The abatis in front of the line would slow any attack to allow the men additional time to fire. Behind the main entrenchments the secondary line of rifle pits provided a fallback position in case the enemy seized the main fortifications. Lieutenant Doyle later wrote how, once their line was complete, the men of the Stonewall Brigade “lay waiting and wishing for the enemy.”25
The day’s steady rain “continued all night making the trenches a most uncomfortable place,” wrote Lieutenant Doyle, “but thanks to the excellent tent-flies so abundantly supplied by the 6th Federal Corps in the Wilderness, the men were able to keep tolerably dry.”26 A third of the men were permitted to get some sleep, resting on their arms while the remainder remained at the breastworks.27
From the darkness, however, came ominous sounds. The metallic jingling of canteens and the sound of tramping feet suggested movement along the front of Johnson’s Division. Colonel Terry reported hearing the talk of massed Union troops and one Confederate staff officer claimed the noises from the darkness sounded like “distant falling water or machinery”.28 Soon after midnight on May 12th, Major General Edward Johnson sent word back to General Ewell that enemy forces were massing on his front for an attack. Preparations were quickly made to rush the Second Corps’ artillery, which had been withdrawn that evening in anticipation of potential movements by Grant, back into its positions supporting the infantry in their breastworks.29
The Wrecks of their Commands
A bit after four in the morning, the steady rain slowed to a light drizzle and then a heavy mist. Dense fog coated the battlefield, limiting visibility as the earliest dawn began to creep over the horizon.30 While still too dark to firmly make out objects, the sound of rapid shots suddenly burst from the woods where Johnson’s skirmishers were posted. In an instant the skirmishers quickly fell back to the fortifications, shooting as they retired and yelling out warnings that a heavy column of Federal troops was advancing. Chasing quickly on their heels came the heavy tramping sound of a large body of infantry and the sharp words of shouted commands for unseen battle lines to advance.31 Stonewall Brigade staff officer Captain Randolph Barton was sleeping when a courier sprinted up to Walker’s headquarters breathlessly shouting “General! They are coming!” A half-clothed General Walker ran from his tent yelling for his men to fall in and man the works.32
Walker rushed to the right flank of his brigade where the Fourth Virginia was posted. From the breastworks looking down the lines of Hays’ and Jones’ Brigades, he saw through a sudden break in the fog the 15,000 Federal soldiers of Major General Winfield S. Hancock’s II Corps, aligned in columns of brigades. The Federals were already a third of the distance across the open field. Seeing the impressive Confederate fortifications through the heavy mist for the first time, the blue-clad mass hesitated 400-500 yards from the Confederate lines.
Walker heard the officers of Hays’ Brigade call for their men to aim and then the order to fire rang down the line. However, “the searching damp had disarmed them,” reported Walker, “and instead of the leaping line of ﬁre and the sharp crack of the muskets came the pop! pop! pop! of exploding caps as the hammer fell upon them.”33 Sparred the deadly volley they had feared, Hancock’s ranks surged forward, tearing their way through the abatis and falling upon Hays’ men. To their right, the men of Jones’ Brigade managed a series of volleys, briefly checking the Federal advance on their position. But as Hays’ command melted away, the surging Union troops took Jones’ Brigade in the flank and rear. In the span of just minutes, the salient of Johnson’s position had melted away.34
The Stonewall Brigade quickly opened fire, directing their muskets at an oblique angle to fire into Hancock’s advance. Captain Barton described how, “A heavy mist overhung everything and through it we could hardly see one hundred yards. But succeeding the cheers, we, little by little perceived the advancing line, rather a broken line, but still an ugly rush. Our men opened a vigorous fire, and all along the line from our left and centre up to the right, where the fatal salient stood, some three hundred yards distant, the crack of musketry kept up.”35
While the Stonewall Brigade stood its ground, the roar of fire to their right intensified and began to work its way around towards the brigade’s rear. Lieutenant Doyle described how, “The noise and tumult of battle came nearer and nearer and balls commenced coming into the works…. The atmosphere was obscured by a thick fog which was increased in density by the smoke of the battle that, in the absence of any breeze, hung in heavy masses in the wood. The scene was terrible. The figures of the men seen dimly through the smoke and fog seemed almost gigantic, while the woods were lighted by the flashing of the guns and the sparkling of the musketry. The din was tremendous and increasing every instant. Men in crowds with bleeding limbs, and pale, pain-stricken faces, were hurrying to the rear, and, mingled with these could be seen many unwounded who had escaped from the wrecks of their commands.”36
Terrific Beyond Any Description
With the trenches to their right in enemy hands, Colonel Terry quickly ordered his regiment to reposition itself at a right angle to protect the brigade’s flank. As Hancock’s battle lines came surging forward, the Fourth Virginia opened fire. General Walker, on horseback, rode up and down behind his men, rallying them and urging them to keep up their fire. He paused for a moment on the traverse beside the right-most gun of Carrington’s Battery, where he could observe both his only lines and the advancing Federals. As Walker spoke with Captain Carrington, a minie ball smashed into Walker’s left arm, completely shattering his elbow and knocking him from his horse. Incapacitated by the wound, Walker was taken from the field.37
The men of the Stonewall Brigade fought on despite the loss of their general as their position became increasingly desperate. Private James McCown had joined the Fifth Virginia just over a month before the battle, having previously served as a provost guard in Staunton. “We were ordered to reserve our fire until near enough to tell on them with effect,” he later wrote, “then how warmly we gave it to them… It was terrific beyond any description. Every twig seemed cut down.”38 A member of the Fifth Virginia described how, “No sooner would a flag fall than another carrier who picked it up would be shot or bayoneted. Men were so close their heads were at the end of gun muzzles as they shot each other. When ammunition ran out or got wet they crushed each other’s skulls with gun butts.”39
Lieutenant Oliver H. Kite of the Thirty-Third Virginia, Company H claimed the mud-soaked fighting in the dense fog was the “most desperate of the war.”40 Private James Gaither of the Thirty-Third Virginia was struck in the eye by a ball and immediately fell dead among his comrades.41 Colonel Terry was wounded twice as his regiment tried to prevent the blue masses from sweeping down the line of the brigade.42 Lieutenant Doyle wrote how each traverse became “an Aceldema [field of blood], and the heaps of the Enemy’s dead told how stubborn had been the resistance to this fierce attack…. All that human courage and endurance would effect was done by these men on this frightful morning, but all was to no avail.”43
The flood was too much for the Stonewall Brigade to stem and the best they could do was buy precious time for the rest of Lee’s army to respond. Soon waves of Federals were striking the brigade’s front, right, and rear. In the melee, Major J. W. Welch of the 19th Maine Volunteers seized hold of the Thirty-Third Virginia’s battle flag and carried it from the field, despite being severely wounded himself.44 The Fifth Virginia was soon overrun. “We continued desperately,” recounted Private McCown, “not dreaming of capture until we were completely surrounded by overwhelming odds. The color bearer said they should not have our colors, so he tore it off and stuffed it in his bosom. As we were brought to the rear [as prisoners] we walked over their dead. They lie so thick in our front.”45
With large numbers of the brigade falling into enemy hands, the shattered remnants of the brigade began streaming for the rear. One member of the Thirty-Third Virginia recounted that all those who escaped at Spotsylvania “had to run for it” to survive.46 Much of the Fourth, Fifth, Twenty-Seventh, and Thirty-Third Virginia were trapped, while those who could fled with the Second Virginia.47
“Colonel Funk then told us if we did not get out of thare we would be all captured,” wrote William Brand in a letter penned to his future wife a few days after the battle. “Then we commenced retreating to our second line of works. & while I was crossing the field I was wounded [in the shoulder] I am very thankfull to the great & good God that I came out so well the air seemed filled with the laden mesangers of death.” Brand made his way to a field hospital to have his wound dressed. A few hours later he and the other wounded men were ordered to withdraw to Louisa Court House some thirty miles away. “I beged them to let me stay until the fight was [over] but they said I could be of no use & would just be in the way.”48
Not Worth a Cent
With the shattered remnants of the Stonewall Brigade and Johnson’s Division streaming for the rear, Lee rushed reinforcements in to seal off the breach and beat back the Federal tide. Confederate troops fought desperately to regain and hold the Mule Shoe entrenchments. Desperate combat raged throughout the day while Confederate engineers franticly constructed a new line of entrenchments across the base of the salient. Just after midnight on May 13th, the fighting mercifully ceased. The battered Confederate forces withdrew to their new line. The Union attackers had lost 9,000 men, while Confederate casualties were around 8,000 men killed, wounded, or captured. Fighting around Spotsylvania Courthouse would continue through May 19th, but the battle’s climax had passed. Grant’s attack had failed and Lee’s army was battered, bruised, but still defiant.
No part of Lee’s command was more battered than Johnson’s Division. Just a few weeks prior, the division had numbered over six thousand men. Over a third of the command were now prisoners of war and the division’s leadership was so devastated that Lee’s headquarters struggled to identify the ranking officer to assume command of the unit.49 “Our division has lost heavily in prisoners & wounded,” wrote Private Brand of the shattered command, “When we commenced fighting we had four Brigadeer Generals & one Maj Gen. now we have none able to command.”50 Johnson and Steuart had fallen into enemy hands early in the fighting, while Stafford and Jones were both killed, and Walker was badly wounded.
Walker’s command was just as decimated as the rest of the division. The brigade had numbered 3,000 strong at its peak several years prior. Of the roughly 900 men who marched to Spotsylvania Court House on May 8th, on May 13th only somewhere only around 200 were present to answer roll call.51 Of the brigade’s five regimental commanders, only Colonel Funk of the Fifth Virginia, who took command of the remnants of the brigade, and Major Stewart of the Second Virginia escaped unscathed. Colonel Terry of the Fourth and Lieutenant Colonel Huston of the Thirty-Third were both wounded, while the Twenty-Seventh Virginia’s Lieutenant Colonel Haynes was a Union prisoner.52
William Brand recounted the grim impact of the battle on his own Fifth Virginia, Company E: James Trusler and William Gardner had both been killed, Privates Newton Bare and Thomas Campbell had both died of their wounds, John Pilson had had his leg amputated above the knee, Private Samuel Lighter was wounded in the right hand, Private James Mays had been hit in the left side, Private Henry Hight had been shot in the right shoulder, Private William Abney had had his left ear shot away, Corporal James Trotter took a ball in the left thigh, and Corporal David Greaver had a painful wound in the foot. Another half dozen men were also wounded, while Sergeant James Vines, Private George Kelley, and a soldier named Sayton had fallen into enemy hands. Twenty-three members of his company were missing and likely prisoners. “The Yanks have fought with more desperation than they ever fought before,” he wrote, “Sometimes I can but cry. oh Lord, what demon has taken possession of the people that they are so thirsty for blood. Lord ease thare apatites.”53
A significant portion of the brigade were now prisoners of war. In Hancock’s official report of his corps’ attack he claimed that “the celebrated Stonewall Brigade was captured nearly entire.”54 Three months after the battle, the remnants of the Stonewall Brigade could muster just barely 300 men present, but over 1,900 remained on their rolls – large numbers of these missing men were in Federal prison camps after Spotsylvania Court House.55 Lieutenant Doyle was among those captured. He would later write of being marched from the trenches to a hollow a half mile to the rear. There, officers were separated from the enlisted men. The Confederate prisoners were guarded by a regiment of dismounted cavalry from Vermont, backed up by an artillery battery pointed directly at the prisoners. The Confederates were informed the cannons were double-shotted with canister, which “had a most wonderful effect in reconciling them to their miserable condition.”56 The captives would soon be marched farther to the rear and sent to northern prison camps, where most would remain for the rest of the war.
Two days after the disaster of May 12th, Lee’s headquarters issued Special Orders No. 126, officially consolidating the remnants of the Stonewall Brigade, Jones’ Brigade, and the Tenth, Twenty-Third, and Thirty-Seventh Virginia of Steuart’s Brigade into a single command.57 The new brigade numbered roughly 600 men, even after men who had been detailed as musicians, wagoneers, and pioneers were returned to the ranks.58 On May 21st, William Terry, still hampered by his wounds from the fierce fighting in the Mule Shoe, was promoted to brigadier general and placed in command of the unified brigade, which was assigned to the division led by Brigadier General John B. Gordon.59 Colonel Funk remained in command of the remnants of the Stonewall Brigade, which operated as one of three de facto regiments in Terry’s Brigade for the remainder of the war.
As the tattered remnants of the Stonewall Brigade marched away from Spotsylvania Court House, they passed a Georgian soldier who passed judgement on the once proud brigade; “The Stonewall Brigade is played out – not worth a cent.”60 The men of the command would fight on for almost another full year but, as General Walker later wrote, “On the 12th of May, 1864, in the Bloody Angle, the old brigade was annihilated, and its name faded from the rolls of the Army of Northern Virginia, but it will ever live on the rolls of fame, and history will record its deeds of glory.”61
As living historians, no tidbit of historical minutia is too insignificant to escape our attention. We work hard to present an impression of the past with as many details backed up by research as possible. From the construction of buttons and the inspection markings on our weapons, to the tiny details of drill and the dye of the fabrics of our uniforms, all the little details matter. For some aspects of the life of a Civil War soldier, we have piles of historical records and information upon which to base our impressions. But there is a whole world of information so insignificant and common place at the time that no one ever thought to record it or mark it down for posterity. This forces us sometimes to make interpretations based off limited evidence or guess entirely to fill in gaps in the historical record.
And sometimes we can find little tidbits of information that can help fill in some of those gaps. Think of something as common place as what a soldier carried in his pockets everyday. The keys, wallet, and cell phone that many of us carry everyday all serve a purpose and so, by working back from the purposes a Civil War soldier may have needed each day, we can guess at what he might have stuffed in his pockets. But at the end of the day, this is just a guess unless we can test it with some data.
That’s why the following except from the diary of Captain Michael Shuler is so fascinating for a Civil War reenactor. Captain Shuler commanded Company H of the 33rd Virginia Infantry from March 1862 until his death in May 1864 leading the company during the Battle of the Wilderness. He was only 18 when he took command of the unit. His diary covers June-December 1862 and is a fascinating day-by-day account of life in the Stonewall Brigade that is well worth a read in full.
In the middle of the entries for November 22nd, Shuler left a blank page and then used a page in his diary to record the examination of the personal effects of one Private John Decker, a member of Shuler’s company found murdered near the Stonewall Brigade’s camp on November 18th. While the entry has no details regarding the murder, Captain Shuler was evidently involved in the investigation and recorded the items Decker had on him when his body was discovered. The following is this examination (slightly edited for legibility), which provides a rare glimpse into the pockets of a Civil War soldier. While irrelevant for most historians, for the dedicated reenactor, this sort of information can help improve our impression of soldiers like Decker.
“Examination of Body of John Decker Nov. 19, 1862 Examined his pants pockets and found nothing but penknife, pocket comb, screw driver, pencil, small piece of tobacco, and leather string. When his shirt pockets, found the left pocket torn, which it seems had been buttoned up, and the right pocket was still buttons [sic] and contained a teaspoon, small piece of soap, and little paper with two buckles in it. The right side of his head seemed to be [the entry abruptly ends]”
The diary of Captain Shuler was transcribed by Robert H. Moore, II and is available via Archive.org.
At 3:45 on the morning of 9 June 1862, the 27th Virginia Volunteer Infantry slowly crossed a makeshift footbridge over the South Branch of the Shenandoah and marched through the quiet village of Port Republic. Under the command of Colonel Andrew J. Grigsby, the 27th formed part of the Stonewall Brigade then commanded General Charles S. Winder. Having defeated one Federal force the previous day at Cross Keys, General Thomas J. Jackson was impatient to engage Federal forces under General James Shields and directed Winder to begin the attack without waiting for reinforcements. With the 33rd Virginia detached for picket duty the previous night, Winder ordered the 5th and 27th Virginia to advance across an open wheat field, nearly a mile and a half long, flanked by the river to the left and ending in a low wooded ridge where Indiana and Ohio regiments waited. The undersized 27th, which numbered only 150 men at the time of the battle, advanced to the right of the 5th Virginia.
Many articles have appeared in The Camp Chase Gazette concerning the usage of “correct” drill manuals by reenactment groups. These articles have down-played the importance, and even the utilization, of William Gilham’s Manual of Instruction for the Volunteers and Militia of the United States [Confederate States]. I remember being asked once, when filming the movie Gettysburg, if we ever had any concrete evidence that Gilham, instead of William Hardee’s Infantry Tactics, was used by the “Stonewall Brigade.” I was forced to reply in the negative, but it prompted me to start searching, what follows is some evidence that certainly suggests that we chose wisely.
The first account I came upon was found in Henry Kyd Douglas’ I Rode With Stonewall. Interestingly enough, his mention of the use of Gilham involves Jackson. The incident occurred around August 1861 when Douglas, as a junior lieutenant in the 2nd Virginia, was officer of the guard on a dark and wet night. Jackson had been stopped by the guard and asked the countersign, which he refused to give. He asked Douglas under whose authority he was acting, and Douglas replied: “My authority was Gilham’s Manual. He told me to quietly and apparently without any annoyance to reinstruct the sentinel and bring Gilham to his tent the next morning. I did both and he was very cordial in the morning reception, admitted Gilham’s authority, but had a copy of his order given to me.”
Although Jackson may not have been completely familiar with Gilham’s content, he obviously recognized its use among his troops. While Douglas’ mention places Gilham in use by the 2nd Virginia, it does appear that some of the other regiments of the Brigade were also deferring to his authority. Gilham’s Manual was written with the militia in mind, thus it is quite possible that some of the prewar Virginia units may have secured copies in the short period between its publishing and the commencement of hostilities. The 5th Virginia was composed of some of the finest militia units in the Shenandoah Valley, one of which was commanded by Captain John H.S. Funk. In the summer of 1861, Captain Funk sent his brother, Sergeant Jefferson W.O. Funk, on recruiting detail to Winchester. In an undated letter to his brother, Captain Funk requested that his brother: “Go to Leiut. Mesmer’s house & tell his wife that Bud Newton said send him Gilums [sic] drill book.” Lieut. John R. Mesmer was a member of Company K, 5th Virginia, while Capt. James W. Newton commanded Company E in the summer of 1861. The fact that Capt. Newton had a copy of Gilham’s Manual at his home would indicate that he may have acquired it while in the militia prior to the war.
While some in the 5th Virginia may have obtained their copies in the prewar Virginia military, the officers in the 33rd Virginia apparently had to wait to purchase their manuals from the Confederate publishers. Although Virginia had commissioned Gilham to author the drill manual, upon its completion they found it too large and too expensive for their uses. The prewar edition was published by Charles Desilver of Philadelphia, but upon Virginia’s secession, they were now unavailable. Nonetheless, the enterprising Richmond publishing firm West & Johnston decided to print their own edition which appeared for sale in the beginning of August 1861. In order to acquire copies of the manuals, the Virginia officers were forced to purchase their own, thus was the case with the 33rd Virginia. Captain Frederick W.M. Holliday of Company E apparently made a trip to Richmond around August 1861 and took orders for Gilham’s Manual, as well as Army Regulations – 2nd Edition. In his collected papers at Duke University is the list he made of 33rd officers wishing copies of Est & Johnson’s edition of Gilham’s Manual. The names listed are John Gatewood Co. C, George W. Allen Co. F, David H. Walton Co. K, and Lieut. Martin Strickler Co. B. Unfortunately, General Jackson is also listed, but he declined a copy of Gilham yet needed a copy of Army Regulations.
The above documentation indicates that at least during the first year of the war, the “Stonewall” Brigade used Gilham’s Manual. What many reenactors do not understand is that it made very little difference what manual the different companies and regiments used. For the Confederacy, there was only one manual that went beyond the battalion level, Winifield Scott’s Infantry Tactics. The third volume of Scott addresses the “Evolutions of the Line,” which might explain why Francis B. Jones, AAG to Colonel Jackson, wrote to his mother on June 4, 1861: “Do tell Sue not to allow any book of tactics to go out of my house to any body who ever it may be . . . . let her send me a copy of the “Militia Law”, the 3d Vol. Of Scotts Tactic’s.” So it might be perfectly reasonable for different regiments within the same brigade to be using different battalion manuals, yet all adhering to Scott’s “Evolution of the Line.” But for our impression, it appears that we have chosen correctly with regards to Gilham’s Manual.
. Henry Kyd Douglas. I Rode with Stonewall. Chapel Hill:The University of North Carolina Press. 1968. P. 14.
. Undated letter of J.H.S. Fund to J.W.O. Funk. Typescript in Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania NMP.
. Undated inventory of F.W.M. Holliday. Special Collections Library. Duke University. Thanks to Brian Swidal of “Co. E, 33rd VA” for discovering this information.
. Margaretta Barton Colt. Defend the Valley: A Shenandoah Family in the Civil War. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. 1994. p. 70.
Few holidays have the emotional resonance in American society as Christmas—it is a cherished time to be among friends and family. For four long years, the men of the Stonewall Brigade’s 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th, and 33rd Virginia regiments celebrated Christmas apart from their families. Their letters and diaries covering each holiday season are poignant, hopeful, and occasionally humorous. How they lived and what they thought of during these periods sheds some light on how they endured the titanic ordeal of the American Civil War.
1861 For many of the men of the Stonewall Brigade, December 1861 brought the first Christmas they had spent away from home. They were not far from home, however, as the Brigade had been shifted from Centerville to Winchester in early November, giving those men from the lower valley the hope of visiting friends and family. General Jackson, however, kept them busy. The Brigade was dispatched on a mid-December expedition west of Williamsport to destroy Dam No. 5, capturing eight Federal soldiers and suffering only one wounded. The weather was already cold enough for sleeping in tents to be uncomfortable; the men were without even that protection and were forbidden to make fires, but Sergeant John Garibaldi of the 27th Virginia (Company C) reported that they had good overcoats and ample blankets to keep from freezing.
A second expedition resulted in the death of Joshua Parks from the 27h Virginia’s Rockbridge Rifles, although Thomas Smiley of the 5th Virginia (Company D though it was strange that more men did not fall, as “bombs were bursting around us the whole time some of our company picked up peices of shell that fell close to them… after we had been in the dam an hour I went to the top to look around and in the moonlight they could see me when they opened fire upon us the first balls whistled over my head and after that I got out of the way when they opened a perfect shower of balls upon us but we were prety well protected and fortunately no one was hurt.” The bombardment had been fierce enough, however, to convince William Brand of the 5th Virginia (Company E) to renounce cards, although he assured his sister that “it was very seldom that I ever played; when I played it was for mear amusement.” Sergeant Garibaldi informed his wife that the shooting was constant, but that it was not similar to the large battle the Brigade had fought at Manassas: “those that wanted to fight could go and take up a position on this side of the river and fire away as much as they wanted. The general came by one evening and… said pitch in boys it is a free fight. We killed a good many Yankees and they only killed one of us.”
Christmas day in the Shenandoah Valley was beautiful in the opinion of Private Smiley. He was in high spirits, as a package from his sister had just arrived with food and warm clothes. In his return letter, Smiley enclosed a Christmas gift of his own; a button he had taken off the coat of a dead Union soldier at the First Battle of Manassas. The turkey dinner consumed by Private Brand’s unit must have taken some time to cook, as he assured his sister that she would laugh if she say the men cooking for “everyone must have something to say how such & such a thing ought to be done.”
The celebration in the 27th Virginia was livelier, as Sergeant Garibaldi recounted: We have had right merry Christmas, we had plenty to eat such as it was and plenty to drink, pretty near the whole of Holloway’s company was drunk. The Captain bought about 10 or 15 gallons of liquor and gave it to the company, he was right merry himself. The whole of the 27 regiment was almost drunk even the Colonels, they were drunk too.”
Christmas was particularly difficult for Major Elisha Paxton of the 27th Virginia. He received news on December 12th that his wife had given birth to a son. His application for a leave of absence, however, was declined and he longed to “give a kiss and a greeting to the little fellow who has such strong claims upon my love and care.” He cautioned his wife to not be startled if she heard a knock at the door, for it would signal his return rather than a burglar breaking in. He wrote:
“I hope you all may have a happy Christmas, and wish I had the means of sending some nuts and candy for Matthew and Galla. Many who spent last Christmas with wife and children at home will be missing this time — perhaps to join the happy group in merry Christmas never again. But let us be hopeful — at least share the effort to merit fulfilment and fruition of the hopes we cherish so fondly. Now, dearest, good-bye till I see you again, or write. A kiss to the children as my Christmas gift.”
On New Year’s Day, Jackson directed his forces to march towards the town of Bath. The campaign was short, but the men fought frigid temperatures, mountainous roads, and several inches of snow. Private Smiley wrote to his sister that “we marched on a solid sheet of ice the wagons runing on the road packed down the snow and it got so icy a person could hardly stand on his feet the horses falling down wagons sliding off the road and breaking to pieces there was several men slipped down and broke their legs and arms there was a great many horses killed and crippled.” Private James McCutchan of Company D, 5th Virginia, judged the toils of the campaign not worth the prize. “There are a few pretty girls there,” he wrote, “some of were very kind to me & others were more ‘union than secesh’ I think.” The land the Brigade had crossed was extremely mountainous and McCuthcan joked that “the people of some places can look up the chimney & see the sheep & goats on the hill side above. There are some children out there that never saw the sun.”
Looking forward to the next year, Major Paxton was not optimistic. He felt that many men would not reenlist and saw no enthusiastic volunteers to take their place. He successfully predicted the Confederacy’s eventual decision to resort to conscription, but he stated “My judgment dictates to me to pursue the path which I believe to be right, and to trust that the good deed may meet with its just reward. Nothing else could induce me to bear this sad separation from my darling wife and dear little children.” In another letter drafted after New Years, he wrote “The storm may pass away, and, living happily together in after years, it will be a source of pride and happiness to us that the duty patriotism exacts of me now has been faithfully discharged, and the pleasure and comfort of home for the time foregone.”
1862 The Stonewall Brigade was only lightly engaged at the Battle of Fredericksburg in early December 1862, with only 74 causalities out of 1100 men present for duty (four killed, 69 wounded, one missing). The Brigade formed a second line behind Gregg’s Brigade of A.P. Hill’s Division and to the left of Ewell’s Division. Union troops under General George Meade exploited some boggy woods to the front Confederate soldiers during the Bath-RomneyCampaign of Greg’s Brigade to pierce the Confederate line and newly promoted Brigade commander General Elisha Paxton ordered the Brigade forward to fill the gap. The 2nd Virginia, on the right flank of the Brigade, came under fire as they advanced. By the time other units of the Brigade could be maneuvered to support the regiment, the fire of the 2nd Virginia, commanded by Captain John Nadenbusch, had repulsed the enemy’s assault. In Nadenbusch’s report, he was happy to state that his men had done “their duty as only veterans know how” and that “there were but few men in the regiment who disgraced the name of soldier.” After the battle General Paxton applauded the men’s conduct in battle, proclaiming “Your line, as it moved after long hours of weary suspense to the support of your comrades in front, exhibiting the spirit and determination of soldiers resolved to conquer or die.”
Following the battle, the Brigade moved approximately fifteen miles below Fredericksburg to the winter quarters, where they began building shanties. The weather was cold and supplies were short. Paxton wrote to his wife that “Everything in camp stopped except the axes, which run all night and all day, Sunday included. With the soldiers it is, ‘Keep the axes going or freeze.’ They are the substitutes for tents, blankets, shoes, and everything once regarded as necessary for comfort. The misfortune is that even axes are scarce; the army is short of everything, and I fear soon to be destitute of everything.” Thomas Smiley had completed his quarters by January 4th, reporting that “We are now fixed upp prety well having a little tent fixed upp & a chimney in it in which we do our cooking.” Spirits were high and wood plentiful, although William Brand of the 5th Virginia (Company E) informed his wife that the water was bad. He reported high morale, however and stated “the picture of our confederacy is brightning and I hope before long we will be a free and independant people.” Sergeant Garibaldi agreed with Brand’s predictions for victory; “There is a heap talk of peace now in the north, but I wouldn’t put no dependence in them. But after [a]while I think they’ll get tire[d] to get whipt and they will then give us up for a bad joke but that may not be for a good while.”
Thomas Smiley told his sister that Christmas 1862 was a quiet one for the Brigade. “We had a great variety on the table for our christmas dinner, the breakfast consisted of beeff steak & bread, dinner was bread & Roast Beef, & supper out of what was left at breakfast.” Treats such as gingerbread cakes, dried apple pies, and sausages could be had, but for a steep price. Those hoping for liquid celebration were disappointed, with Smiley noting that “there was but few of the men that could afford to get drunk this Christmas as Whiskey is selling at fifteen dollars a quart.”
General Paxton issued a General Order on the first of January, naming the Brigade’s winter quarters Camp Winder in honor of the Brigade commander lost that year at Cedar Mountain. He noted that the Brigade had lost 1220 men killed and wounded in 1862 –more men than were currently present for duty. Of the fifteen field officers elected in the spring, only four remained unscathed. “The eye moistens with an unbidden tear to find that many of the officers whom your free choice had appointed to lead you, of the messmates and comrades you loved, are missing now,” he wrote. In a letter home, Paxton wished his wife and children a happy Christmas and noted that “To many, in summing up and looking over their bereavements for the year, it will be sad enough. We have been more blessed, and should feel grateful for it. To the future I look, not in gloom and despondency, but with the calmness and composure of one who feels that his own destiny in a sea of troubles like this is not in any way under his control.” Paxton would not live to see another Christmas, as he would fall leading his men during the battle of Chancellorsville.
Shot and shell ushered in December 1863 for the Stonewall Brigade. The Battle of Mine Run (Payne’s Farm) does not rank among the great battles of the war, but was a fierce contest to the men who fought in it. Alexander Baird of the 2nd Virginia (Company G) wrote home that “our division was the only one engaged but we whipped a whole corps of Yankees.” After Union skirmishers ambushed the Confederate column, “General Walker immediately sent our regiment out as skirmishers and put us along a fence and told us that we must hold that ground at all hazards,” recounted Baird. “We fought them from twelve o’clock until night when the fighting ceased and a part of Rode’s Division relieved us.” Sergeant Garibaldi simply said “They found out that they couldn’t whip us and they went back over the river.” Among the dead that day was Corporal Samuel Lucas, described by his Sergeant, Thomas Smiley, as one of the best men in the unit. “He was shot in the mouth and killed instantly,” wrote Smiley, “At the time he was struck he was laughing, had his mouth open the ball entered without cutting his lips and ranged upwards.”
The Brigade soon settled into Camp Stonewall Brigade along the Rapidan River near Orange Court House and the men began the construction of winter quarters. Baird informed his mother that “we get tolerable good rations now and I do not think there is any danger of our starving” although these rations were further reduced in January. Daily rations were 18 ounces of flour and a quarter pound of bacon or three quarters of a pound of beef, with occasional issues of sugar, rice, coffee, and dried fruit. Sergeant Garibaldi wrote home requesting warm clothes and a pair of socks from his wife, as he reported just after Christmas that he had not had a pair for two months. He was barefoot as well, but hoped to be able to draw a pair of shoes soon. The men were promised six months of back pay the week or so after Christmas, but the prospect of furloughs home was slim, with only one man out of fifty being allowed to leave. Earl “Carson” Andis, 1st Lieutenant of Company F in the 4th Virginia, informed his wife that he spent a cold and lonesome Christmas, as he was on picket detail on Christmas day. He reported that construction of winter quarters was progressing, however, and that “we will have a snug place when we get it fixed up.”
In the summer of 1863, the prisoner exchange system that had previously meant relatively short confinement for captives had broken down due to Confederate refusal to exchange captured African-American troops. Some of the Brigade’s members therefore spent Christmas 1863 in northern prisons. One such prisoner was Marylander Henry Kyd Douglas, formerly of the 2nd Virginia (Company B) and then Jackson’s staff, who was captured at Gettysburg and sent to Johnson’s Island Prison in Ohio. He recounts Christmas 1863 as follows:
“There came a carload of boxes for the prisoners about Christmas which after reasonable inspection, they were allowed to receive. My box contained more cause for merriment and speculation as to its contents than satisfaction. It had received rough treatment on its way, and a bottle of catsup had broken and its contents very generally distributed through the box. Mince pie and fruit cake saturated with tomato catsup was about as palatable as “embalmed beef” of the Cuban memory; but there were other things. Then, too, a friend had sent me in a package a bottle of old brandy. On Christmas morning I quietly called several comrades up to my bunk to taste the precious fluid of…DISAPPOINTMENT! The bottle had been opened outside, the brandy taken and replaced with water, adroitly recorded, and sent in. I hope the Yankee who played that practical joke lived to repent it and was shot before the war ended.”
By Christmas 1864, the Stonewall Brigade was officially no longer in existence, having been decimated during the desperate fight for the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania and then consolidated with other under-strength units to form Terry’s Brigade, which numbered 1291 men in December. But the remaining men still clung to their identity as one of the Confederacy’s most celebrated units; Private John Dull of the Fifth Virginia (Company D), instructed his wife in December 1864 to direct her letters to the camp of the Stonewall Brigade, Gordon’s Division. The Brigade shifted position in early December to man the trenches south of Petersburg in Dinwiddie County protecting the Southside Railroad. They briefly occupied winter quarters constructed by other Confederate troops who had been ordered farther west, but by December 22nd, Dull informed his wife that they had moved their camp and were building cabins of their own upon pine timbered land belonging to B.F. Hurt along the Boydton Plank Road. The weather was cold and snow had already begun to fall, and, as Dull noted, “a good shelter would be very acceptable.” The work was slowed by lack of axes and tools, but was nearly complete soon after Christmas.
An inspector’s report from December noted that the condition of clothing for Terry’s Brigade was poor, with the exception of the former men of the Stonewall Brigade, who had received recent issues of “excellent clothing” as well as shoes and blankets. These were likely imported uniforms from England, as George Slifer of the 2nd Virginia (Company G) reassured his uncle that he had just drawn “a new inglish suit, so you can see I want nothing but piece and our independence.” Surprisingly, the Brigade was mostly armed with .69 caliber smoothbores during this period, with only some rifled muskets in the command. Not until the end of January had all of the smoothbores been replaced.
A lucky member of Company D was preparing to return home on furlough and Dull asked his wife to give the man food to bring back with him. Acknowledging the shortages plaguing the home front as well as the army, Dull instructed his wife to “send me some meet and flour some dried frute then I can have some pies made hear also some dry [y]east to make raised bred and what ever elce you think best also you may send me twenty or thirty Dollars in money I now it will bee trubblesom to you to send this barrel but it will bee good to me.” He closed his letter with the following line: “Well I must stop for this time hoping the Lord may bless you with a happy Chrismas though I am not with you.” Dull must have passed a pleasant holiday, since his next letter home, dated January 11th, informed his wife that Dull and his five messmates had more food than they could eat, including ham, cabbage, potatoes, beans, dried and fresh apples, flour, cornmeal, pies, cheese, bread, cakes, sausages, dried beef, chicken, dried cherries, jam, butter, molasses, onions… as he said “evrey thing that house ceepers generaley have excep[t] wimon an[d] children .” Although the South’s fortunes were dwindling, Dull remained optimistic. Peace, he wrote, would not come unless the South surrendered and the South would never surrender so long as they maintained an army in the field.
Much of the Brigade celebrated Christmas that year from within Union prison camps. Thomas Read, of the 33rd Virginia’s Company I, wrote to his father a few days before Christmas. He and the other prisoners at Point Lookout were doing well and receiving regular rations. Vegetables, though, were in short supply, and Read requested that his father send money as even just fifty or seventy-five cents would be helpful. But the prisoners otherwise passed their time well and Read mentioned that he spent much of his time reading from his company’s library. Read received a late present near the end of January; the difficulty of passing mail between the lines meant that he received letters his wife had written back in October and November only on January 25th. But she had enclosed in one a lock of her hair, something Read must have cherished as a reminder of those he had left behind and to whom he hoped to soon return.
Douglas, Henry Kyd. I Rode With Stonewall: Being Chiefly the War Experiences of the Youngest Member of Jackson’s Staff from John Brown’s Raid to the Hanging of Mrs. Surratt (Durham: University of NorthCarolina Press, 1968).
Memoir and Memorials: Elisha Franklin Paxton, Brigadier-General, C.S.A.; Composed of his Letters from Camp and Field While an Officer in the Confederate Army, with an Introductory and Connecting Narrative Collected and Arranged by his Son, John Gallatin Paxton (Available fromhttp://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/paxton/paxton.html).
Records of the Adjutant & Inspector General’s Department, NARA, microcopy M935 (Available from http://www.blueandgraymarching.com/second-corps/terrys-brigade-va.html and http://www.blueandgraymarching.com/second-corps/gordons-division.html).
“Report of Brig. Gen. B. F. Paxton, commanding First (Paxton’s) Brigade”, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Chapter XXXIII, No. 328.
“Report of Capt. J. Q. A. Nadenbousch, Second Virginia Infantry,” The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Chapter XXXIII, No. 330.
Transcript of Alexander S. Baird Letter to his Mother, December 14, 1863 (Available from http://www.stonewallbrigade.com/paynesfarm_history_csa_person_accounts.html).
Transcript of Earl Carson Andis Letter to his wife, December 25, 1863 (Available from http://www.stonewallbrigade.com/wythegrays/history_2.html).
Transcript of James Beard Diary (Available from http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/papers/AD1008).
Transcript of James R. McCutchan Letter to Rachel Ann McCutchan, January 28, 1862 (Available from http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/papers/A0308).
Transcript of John P. Dull letter to Giney Dull, January 11, 1865. (Available from http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/papers/A6131).
Transcript of John P. Dull letter to Giney Dull, December 1, 1864. (Available from http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/papers/A6127).
Transcript of John P. Dull letter to Giney Dull, December 12, 1864. (Available from http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/papers/A6128).
Transcript of John P. Dull letter to Giney Dull, December 22, 1864. (Available from http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/papers/A6129).
Transcript of John Garibaldi Letter to Sarah Poor, December 30, 1861 (Available from http://www.vmi.edu/archives.aspx?id=5153).
Transcript of John Garibaldi Letter to Sarah Garibaldi, January 4, 1863 (Available from http://www.vmi.edu/archives.aspx?id=5153).
Transcript of John Garibaldi Letter to Sarah Garibaldi, December 5, 1863 (Available from http://www.vmi.edu/archives.aspx?id=5153).
Transcript of John Garibaldi Letter to Sarah Garibaldi, December 16, 1863 (Available from http://www.vmi.edu/archives.aspx?id=5153).
Transcript of John Garibaldi Letter to Sarah Garibaldi, January 9, 1863 (Available from http://www.vmi.edu/archives.aspx?id=5153).
Transcript of George L. Slifer Letter to his Uncle, January 7, 1865 (Available from http://www.stonewallbrigade.com/articles_english_supply.html).
Transcript of Thomas Griffin Read letter to Thomas Read, December 19, 1864. (Available from http://www.rarebooks.nd.edu/digital/civil_war/letters/read/5015-28.shtml).
Transcript of Thomas Griffin Read letter to Martha White Read, January 25, 1865. (Available from http://www.rarebooks.nd.edu/digital/civil_war/letters/read/5015-30.shtml).
Transcript of Thomas M. Smiley Letter to His Sister, December 26, 1861 (Available fromhttp://valley.lib.virginia.edu/papers/A6066).
Transcript of Thomas M. Smiley Letter to His Sister, January 10, 1862 (Available from http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/papers/A6028).
Transcript of Thomas M. Smiley Letter to His Sister, January 4, 1863 (Available from http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/papers/A6069).
Transcript of Thomas M. Smiley letter to His Aunt, December 8, 1863. (Available from http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/papers/A6078).
Transcript of William Francis Brand letter to his wife, January 2, 1863. (Available from http://etext.virginia.edu/civilwar/brand/trans.html).
The following requisitions were found in the Compiled Service Records (CSR) of Major Jacob R. Braithwaite, member of 33rd Virginia Infantry who served as Quartermaster for the “Stonewall” Brigade during Brigadier General James A. Walker’s tenure, 1863-1864.
Sept 1st 1863
For, (2) Two Wall Tents + fly For the Stonewall Brigade
One of the tents is required for the men of the Field + Staff of the 1st La. Regt Nichols Brigade
I certify that the above requisition is correct, and that the articles specified are absolutely requisite for the public service, rendered so by the following circumstances: there is no tent at Regt Hd Qrs 4 Va Inft.
J.R. Braithewaite, Maj. Q.M.
Approved J.A. Walker, Brig. Genl.
Sept 12th 1863
For, 28) Twenty Eight Fly tents and 2) Two Wall Tents + Flies. For the use of Stonewall Brigade. The Wall tents are for the use of H Qrs of 5th + 27th Va Inft
I certify that the above Requisition is correct, and that the articles specified are absolutely requisite for the public service, rendered so by the following circumstances: some of the men + officers are without shelter
J.R. Braithewaite, Maj. Q.M.
Approved J.A. Walker , Brig. Gen.
Food For Thought Reprinted from “The Wythe Grays Chronicle” Issue 4, May 1997
The newest trend in reenacting seems to be the “Campaigner” impression. The belief being that everything must fit on one’s back and camping entails as little tentage as possible. This has given rise to many discussions, and a few arguments, on Confederate usage of tents. Did Lee’ men use tents? Where did they get them? Did they appreciate them, or consider them a nuisance? What follows are some accounts by men from the “Stonewall” Brigade concerning their usage of, and views on, tentage.
When we envision the early months of the war, we often perceive the camps of both North and South as being sprawling cities of canvas. Photographs of the camps around Washington certainly bear this out for the Federals, but was it true within the Confederate lines? As a member of Company L, 4th Virginia Infantry, William Kinzer found himself near Mt. Jackson, Virginia in March of 1862, In his diary entry for March 20m Kinzer notes that with the orders to move:
“The few wagons were loaded with a few mess stores and the blankets, all the tents were piled up, a good many mess boxes, cooking utensils &c were piled up, with the expectation of burning them if the wagons did not return.”
The burning of tents for lack of transportation is very perplexing. Are the tents too large to be carried in the men’s knapsacks, thus necessitating the use of wagons? Preparing to burn the tents would suggest that they weren’t considered of the utmost importance, is this because the men can live without them, or because they can be easily replaced? Regardless, the fact that the men had tents would be something they would longingly remember before the year was out.
At the beginning of the Second Manassas Campaign, the “Stonewall” Brigade, as well as Jackson’s entire command, would have to make do without tents or excess baggage. Colonel William Allen, Jackson’s Chief of Ordnance, stated in a post-war essay that during the 1862 summer campaign, the:
“men had been compelled to store their knapsacks, I think at Harrisonburg, and it was some months before they saw them again.”
Apparently, some of the men never saw their knapsacks or tents again, for as late as October 29, 1862 James B. McCutchan of Co. D, 5th Virginia was complaining that:
“The nights are pretty cold, cold enough to have tent, don’t know whether we are going to gent any or not.”
The men wouldn’t have long to wait, as they were shortly involved in the Fredericksburg Campaign and then settled into winter camp.
At the end of April 1863, Lee’s men were roused from their winter camps by Joseph Hooker’s move into the Wilderness around Chancellorsville. The soldiers of the “Stonewall” Brigade would not be heavily engaged until May 3 when they, along with Jackson’s entire corps now commanded by J.E.B. Stuart, attacked the Union artillery drawn up on an elevation called Hazel Grove. The Yankee cannoneers were forced to retreat quickly, saving most of their guns but losing many a caisson and limber. Following the battle, Captain Jacob Golladay of Co. B, 33rd Virginia wrote his brother that:
“We are encamped in the woods without shelter. We captured an immense quantity of gun shrouds which we use in the place of tents. They are a very good substitute by splicing them together.”
These large canvas tarps, designed to cover the Union cannon, seemed to work in a pinch. Improvisation seemed to grow from necessity, Exactly a year later the men of the “Stonewall” Brigade would have reason to thank the Yankee foe for being well supplied.
As had happened in 1863, Lee’s army was aroused from their winter camps in 1864 by the movements of the Army of the Potomac into the Wilderness. Becoming engaged on May 5, the soldiers of the “Stonewall” Brigade held their ground until the Yankees left their front two days later. When the Yankees departed, they also left many of their blankets, gum cloths, and tents. A few days later, on the eve of their near destruction, the men of the “Stonewall” Brigade were in the trenches of the “Mule Shoe” salient near Spotsylvania Court House. Lieutenant Thomas Doyle of Co. E, 33rd Virginia wrote in his memoirs that:
“About 12 P.M. it commenced to rain and continued all night making the trenches a most uncomfortable place, but thanks to the excellent tent-flies so abundantly supplied by the 6th Federal Corps in the Wilderness, the men were able to keep tolerably dry.”
Unfortunately for the men of the “Stonewall” Brigade, the tents did little to keep their powder dry. The next day, May 12, the Virginians” position would be overrun and the “Stonewall” Brigade would cease to exist as an independent unit.
It seems that the “Stonewall” Brigade dealt with the same inconsistent supply system as did the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia. The fact that the lack of, or usage of, tents would make it into letters, diaries, and memoirs of these men would certainly suggest that shelter was constantly on their minds. Whether supplied by their government, picked up from the Yankees, or fashioned out of canvas gun covers, tenets were important to these men and if they had an option, they would use them.
 Typescript of Diary of William T. Kinzer, West Virginia Collection, West Virginia University Library, Morgantown, WV.
 Colonel William Allen. “Reminiscences of Field Ordnance Service with the Army of Northern Virginia – 1863-‘5”. Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XIV (1886), p. 141.
 Typescript of James B. McCutchan Letter, October 29, 1862. Rockbridge County Historical Society, Lexington, VA.
 Typescript of Jacob Golladay Jr. Letter, May 8m 1863. Hadley Library, Winchester, VA.
 Typescript Memoir of Thomas S. Doyle. Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania NMP.