Page images
PDF
EPUB

a report that he has, and has fallen back to Tunnel Hill. Under this report I am entirely convinced that our only safety is in making the assault upon the enemy's position to-morrow at daylight, and it is the more important that I should have the entire support and coöperation of the officers in this connection. I do hope and trust that I may have your entire support and all of the force you may be possessed of in the execution of my views. It is a great mistake to suppose that there is any safety for us in going to Virginia if Gen. Bragg has been defeated, for we leave him at the mercy of his victors; and, with his army destroyed, our own had better be also, for we will not only be destroyed but disgraced.

There is neither safety nor honour in any other course than the one I have chosen and ordered.

Very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,

J. LONGSTREET,

Lieut.-General commanding. Maj.-Gen. L. McLAWS.

The assault must be made at the time appointed, and must be made with a determination which will insure success.

J. L.

The plan of attack arranged by Gen. McLaws was: a regiment from Humphrey's Mississippi brigade, and one from Wofford's Georgia brigade to lead the assault; Wofford's regiment to lead the column composed of Wofford's brigade assaulting from the left, and Humphrey's regiment the column assaulting from the right, composed of two regiments of Humphrey's brigade, and three of Bryan's following close on Humphrey as a reserve-"the assault to be made with fixed bayonets, and without firing a gun."

He had been previously impressed by Gen. Alexander, Chief of Artillery of Gen. Longstreet's staff, that there was no ditch at the north-west angle of Fort Saunders, that offered any obstacle to an assault. Gen. Longstreet himself had declared that there would be no difficulty in taking the work, so far as the ditch was concerned; that he had seen a man walk down the parapet, across the ditch, and up on the outside, without jumping and without apparent difficulty; and as there could be no difficulty in running up

the exteriour slope of the earthwork, he saw nothing in the way of the men getting into the work and completing a successful assault.*

Gen. McLaws did not consider that ladders or fascines or any

work; none certainly to cross the ditch (which had been declared to be no obstacle in the way of an assault) and to ascend parapets sloping at an angle of forty-five degrees. And even if he had thought so, he had no time, or materials, or tools, or means of any kind wherewith to make anything.' The commands were with:

quartermaster stores were at London, left there by orders of Gen. Longstreet.t

* We quote here the words of Gen. (then Colonel) Alexander, before the general court-martial assembled in East Tennessee to try Gen. McLaws :

QUESTION 8-Did you not state after your reconnoissance that there was no ditch opposite the bastion at north-west angle. That there was some fresh dirt at that point, and that there had only been a little scratching there. Did you communicate this to Generals Longstreet and McLaws.

ANSWER-I never stated that there was no ditch at that point, but I stated that the ditch was of such small dimensions as to be no obstacle to an assault, and of such shape (see fig. 3) as to be no obstacle in the way of an assault. I communicated it to both repeatedly, and advised the attack on this point. On one occasion I took Gen. Longstreet to a point where he could see it, and showed him a man crossing the ditch.

Gen. Longstreet in his testimony before the same court says: “I made several very careful examinations of the Fort myself, before it was attacked, on all sides as near as I could get to it. I think I got within four hundred yards of it on the north side.” * * * “I remember particularly to have seen a soldier march out of the Fort, down the ditch, and up to the other side, outside of the ditch, on the west side, from the north side. The cut in the ditch on the west side seemed to have been made more for the purpose of getting dirt than for obstructions. In passing over the ditch more than half of the person of the soldier could be seen on the west side; in passing down the ditch he seemed to walk and not jump; he seemed to find no difficulty in getting out of the ditch on the outside. I was told by some officers that dogs were seen to pass over the same ditch. These circumstances led me to believe that the ditch on the west side was a slight obstacle.”

Again Col. Alexander testifies:
QUESTION--Did you advise ladders for the attack ?

ANSWER-I did not; I did not consider them essential. Something was said about fascines, and I said they might be useful to protect the men from bullets in their approach ; but I did not consider them essential in crossing the ditch,

+ Capt. J. J. Middleton, acting division quartermaster of McLaw's Division, thus testifies :

“From the time we left London, 15th November, 1863, until some days after the Of the conduct of the assault Gen. McLaws says in his official report: “Before four o'clock on morning of the 29th November I went around with my staff to superintend the execution of my orders for the assault. It was evident to me that the enemy were aware tbat one was intended, and I think it probable they knew where it was to be made; for while I was talking to Colonel Ruff on the railroad, the enemy threw a shell which bursted over the woods just in rear of us, through which Col. Ruff's command (Wofford's brigade) was passing, assembling by regiments for the assault. I have since heard that the enemy were informed, and that during the night of the 28th they had been employed in pouring buckets of water over the parapets, to render it difficult of ascent, the night being very cold, and the water freezing rapidly.

“The commands being in position and in readiness, and the sharpshooters having been directed to open fire all along their lines, so soon as it was light enough to aim, I distributed my staff officers along the line, and rode over to Major Leyden's battery, and to Gen. Kershaw's line, and found Major Leyden waiting until it was light enough to see his elevators, and Kershaw's line ready. I gave Major Leyden orders to open while I was there, and rode toward the assaulting column. As I went, they could be seen advancing in fine style. I rode straight to Wofford's brigade on the left, and as I approached the work, found the men falling back; the officers reporting that it was impossible to mount the parapet, and that the brigade commander, Col. Ruff, and his next in command, Col. Thomas, had been killed, and the next in rank wounded. I rallied the brigade about four hundred yards from the work, reformed the regiments in the order they went to the assault, notified them who was their brigade commander, and the regiments who commanded them, and then consulting with Gen. Humphreys and Gen. Bryan, and finding it was useless to attempt to take the work, I reported to Gen. Longstreet, and asked

assault on the 29th November, we were without trains, carpenter's tools, blacksmiths, etc.; had no appliances for the manufacture of ladders, and had no lumber out of which they could have been made properly. Had an order for such articles been issued, it would have been necessary to call for large details, and for said details to have found their own tools. Communication with London was very uncertain, owing to the miserable condition of the roads, and the division to which I was attached might have been termed self-supporting, so entirely was it dependent on its own exertions for almost everything that was effected.”

authority to withdraw my command. Permission was given, and the main body was withdrawn.”

The failure of the assault appears to have been due to imperfect reconnoissances and to the state of the weather. It had rained on the night of the 27th, and, the weather then turning very cold, the parapet was hard frozen, and a heavy ice crop was formed by the moisture from the bank, which prevented the men from obtaining a foothold. Ladders would not have been of material assistance, unless they had been furnished in great numbers and had been at least twenty feet long. As it was, the men of McLaw's command did all that human resolution could do, and despaired only in the face of impossibilities, on the brink of an impassable ditch into which as a huge grave they piled their dead.

We have been thus particular in giving to the reader the story of Knoxville, because it excited a sharp interest during the war, and was the subject of severe recriminations, in which an attempt was made to diminish the hard-earned military reputation of Gen. McLaws. That attempt failed. The record of Gen. McLaws remained at the end of the war undimmed, honourable, and worthy of a conspicuous place in the historical memories of the times that tried men's souls.

There was one remarkable peculiarity in his career. There were few men, particularly military men, who were prompted less by a love of fame than he was. The reputation which he acquired was not sought by him, but followed the deeds which he achieved in discharging the duties of his position. He had as little selfishness as falls to the lot of most human beings, and envy and jealousy found no lodgment in his bosom. Extraordinary firmness and determination to do his duty, regardless of all selfish aspirations; a heart feelingly alive to the sufferings of the sick and afflicted soldiers of his command; and love for his sovereign State and country, were some of the prominent characteristics of his nature. Such men live more for human nature and their country than themselves.

MAJ.-GEN. CADMUS M. WILCOX.

CHAPTER XLIV.

Military services in Mexico.--His gallantry at Chapultepec.—Subsequent services in

the United States Army. His first command in the Confederate States Army.-Heroic conduct of his brigade in the battles around Richmond, 1862.-At Gaines' Mills.-At Frazier's Farm.--An incident on the second field of Manassas.Battle of Salem Church.-Important action of Wilcox' Brigade on the second day of Gettysburg. --A narrow chance of victory.-Why the supports failed. Amusing anecdote of Gen. Wilcox and a chicken-thief.-Promoted Major-General. Record of services in the campaign of 1864-5.-Heroic story of Fort Gregg.Last scenes of the surrender.

CADMUS M. Wilcox was born in Greene county, North Carolina, but was taken at the age of two years to Tennessee, of which State he has since been accounted a citizen. In 1842 he was appointed a cadet at the West Point Academy, from the Memphis District. He graduated in 1846, and joined the Fourth United States infantry as brevet second-lieutenent at Monterey, Mexico, a few days after the battle. He was afterwards appointed aidde-camp to Major-Gen. John A. Quitman, and in that capacity saw some brilliant service in the Mexican war, and was in all the battles in which Quitman's division participated.

The part borne by this gallant command at Chapultepec, Garita de Belin, and the City of Mexico is well known to history. At the battle of Chapultepec, Lieut. Wilcox gave the order to the storming party to advance to the attack, and went at their head. There were two columns of attack; one led by Quitman and the other by Pillow. From Chapultepec to the city of Mexico, a distance of two miles in a direct line, were two roads, the direct one leading through the Garita de Belin, and the longer

« PreviousContinue »