Page images

a field of some hundreds of acres where the road crossed the centre of his line. In this well-selected position he repulsed the enemy with signal loss, and broke the combination to intercept Jackson's retreat. At the close of the action, the order of march of Gen. Fremont was found on a staff-officer who had been taken prisoner. It showed seven brigades of infantry, besides numerous cavalry. Ewell bad had only three small brigades during the greater part of the action, and no cavalry at any time.*

At Port Republic Gen. Jackson finally carried the day by taking a commanding position crowned by the enemy's artillery; but previous to this assault there had been a crisis in which the enemy had nearly pierced the centre of Jackson's feeble line, and the timely arrival of Ewell made a saving diversion, his impetuous advance and fierce action recovering the field when it was to all appearances lost. When Gen. Ewell, crossing the South River, hurried to the front, he found Winder forced back, and two brigades of the enemy advancing through the Confederate centre. He at once launched against the flank of the attacking column two regiments—the 44th and 58th Virginia—and poured in a galling fire, driving the enemy back for the first time that day, and enabling Winder's scattered infantry to reform, while the batteries of Chew, Brockenborough, Courtenay and Rains reinstated the battle.

These services of Ewell in the Valley campaign were of the last importance, and it is easily seen how much Gen. Jackson was indebted to them, especially in the extrication of his army. In his official account of the campaign, Gen. Ewell makes a generous remark, which should not be omitted here, as it contains a tribute to the Maryland soldiers in his command, who, there is reason to believe, never obtained their just dues of praise in the war. It is undeniable that they were often grudgingly mentioned by the officers from other States who commanded these noble expatriated men, who, defeated and embarrassed in the organization of a “Maryland Line," and mixed in other commands, had but little opportunity to illustrate the gallantry of their State. Gen. Ewell said: “The history of the Maryland regiment, gallantly commanded by Colonel Bradley T. Johnson during the campaign of the Valley, would be the history of every action from Front Royal to Cross Keys. On the 6th June, 1862, near Harrisonburg, the 58th Virginia regiment was engaged with the Pennsylvania “Bucktails,” the fighting being close and bloody. Colonel Johnson came up with his regiment in the hottest period of the affair, and, by a dashing charge in flank, drove the enemy off with heavy loss, capturing the lieutenant-colonel (Kane) commanding. In commemoration of their gallant conduct, I ordered one of the captured bucktails to be appended as a trophy to their flag. The gallantry of the regiment on this occasion is worthy of acknowledgment from a higher source, more particularly as they avenged the death of the gallant Gen. Ashby, who fell at the same time. Two colour-bearers were shot down in succession, but each time the colours were caught before reaching the ground, and were finally borne by Corporal Shanks to the close of the action.”

* Mr. John Esten Cooke, in one of his admirable sketches of the war, thus writes of "Cross Keys" and its hero.

"It was one of the neatest' fights of the war. It may be said of the soldier who commanded the Southerners there that he thought that war meant fight, and that fight meant kill.' He threw forward his right, drove the enemy half a mile, brought up his left, was about to push forward, when, just at nightfall, Jackson sent him an order to withdraw, with the main body of his command, to Port Republic.

"Ewell obeyed, and put his column in motion, leaving only a small force to observe the enemy. He was the last to leave the field, and was seen helping the wounded to mount upon horseback. To those too badly hurt to be moved from the ground, he gave money for their necessities out of his own pocket.

“ Health to you, Generall wherever you may be. A heart of steel beat in your breast in old days, but at Cross Keys the groans of the wounded melted it."

At Cedar Run, Gen. Ewell was again conspicuously coöperating with Stonewall Jackson, and won additional laurels on that field. He thence marched towards Manassas; and in the battle of Groveton that preceded the severer conflicts on these historic plains, he was shot down and desperately wounded. A rifle-ball struck his knee, and the joint was so shattered that amputation was necessary to save his life. During the remainder of Jackson's career Ewell was unable to return to the field and fight by the side of the great commander who had honoured him with all of his confidence, and openly and officially credited him with a large share of the victories ascribed to himself.

On the 29th May, 1863, Ewell was able to rejoin the Army of Northern Virginia at Hamilton's Crossing, near Fredericksburg. He had been made a Lieutenant-General, and had now command

of one of the three large corps (Jackson's old corps incorporated with him) into which Lee's army had been divided. It was eminently fit that he should succeed to the command of his great guide and friend; and the presence of the maimed body of the determined commander strapped on his horse, or moving with difficulty on crutches when dismounted, was an inspiration to the troops, in which it was not difficult to imagine a visitation of the dead warriour to his former comrades. The newspapers described him as a re-animate Jackson, when, leading the van of Lee's army into Pennsylvania, he burst into the Valley of the Shenandoah, and reënacted part of the old drama there in capturing Winchester, and paralyzing the enemy as by an apparition from the dead. He had succeeded to much of Jackson's spirit in other things than the quickness and ardour of his strokes in battle. To the influence and Christian conversation of this leader Gen. Ewell is said to have owed, under God, his remarkable conversion from the reckless and profane habits of the camp to a life of great piety and close communion with the Church.

In the Pennsylvania campaign, and in the hardest battles of 1864, Ewell's corps was generally in advance, and always in conspicuous positions, making a record of honour, and identifying its name with the most brilliant passages of the war. In the Wilderness, more than a thousand of the enemy's dead lay immediately in front of his lines, testifying his bloody work on that field. At Spottsylvania Court-House, be was posted in the Confederate centre; and although the division of Gen. Edward Johnson was discomfited, the remainder of the corps held its ground, and covered its front with the enemy's slain. In Gen. Lee's retrograde from this position, several affairs occurred with the enemy, in one of which Gen. Ewell bad his horse shot under him, and received a severe fall. He tried the next day to reach his saddle, but his maimed body and shattered constitution were plainly unequal to further tasks of the field, and he was compelled to relinquish his command. His last record in the war was that of commander of the Department of Henrico, having charge of the immediate defence of Richmond.

In the last months of the war, the people of the city were familiar with the spectacle of a worn and mutilated man looking prematurely old, mounted on a white horse that had often snuffed

the battle with defiance, but was now scarcely more than a halting, crippled skeleton. Sometimes the veteran drove through the streets in a dilapidated sulky. It was a sorrowful picture; but a nearer view disclosed a man remarkable even in the ruin of health and constitution, whose gray eye was as sharp and fierce as ever, and whose precise conversation showed that the vigour of his mind was as yet untouched. His defence of the capital was never put to the test; but he was to the last equal to everything required of him. Some malicious or thoughtless accusations were, indeed, made that Gen. Ewell unnecessarily fired Richmond when he was ordered to join Gen. Lee's final retreat; but explanations since furnished showed that he acted under the imperative command of his superiours, without choice or discretion to save this great calamity. In the retreat towards Appomattox Court-House, he was captured in the affair of Sailor's Creek; and, for reasons never known, he was cruelly imprisoned for several months in Fort Warren. On bis release, in August, 1865, from a confinement which was fast destroying what remained of his physical constitution, he removed to his wife's home in Tennessee, and has since remained there in studious retirement, and, it is to be hoped, in well-deserved and honoured ease.

« PreviousContinue »