FROM Valley Mountain I was sent with the sick of our brigade to a place named Edrai where a number of our troops were encamped. I think it was about sixteen miles distant, but on account of the condition of the roads, I was fully three days in making the trip. I had given up my horse to Lieutenant Van Leer and I was busy each day of the march administering to the wants of the sick, several of whom died on the way. A cup of strong coffee was made for me by the sergeant in command of our escort, (we had coffee in those days, later our ingenuity was taxed to discover substitutes for it), which was the only thing that refreshed me on the march. Instead of a coffee mill, a hatchet handle was used to beat up the grains which were then boiled in a tin cup. I was a long time drinking that cup of coffee.
The last day of the journey I felt myself breaking down and determined to reach Edrai as soon as possible. Accordingly I took the middle of the road, not avoiding the holes which were abundant, and walked through slush and mud, reaching Edrai just in the gloaming. There was one brick house in the place, to which I made my way. To my delight I found there Major Looney of my regiment, who received me with great cordiality. I was so exhausted that I was obliged to support myself in my chair, and the Major, seeing how greatly prostrated I was, gave me a large drink of brandy. It produced not the slightest effect on me, and so in fifteen minutes more he repeated the dose, and "Richard was himself again." I went out at once, borrowed a horse of a friend who was a Lieutenant in a Virginia Regiment, and rode back to meet my sick train. The next day I officiated at the burial of those who had died en route.
Shortly after this, General Lee ordered us to reinforce General John B. Floyd, who was strongly intrenched at Big Sewell Mountain, facing the Federal Army under General Rosecrans and only a mile distant. I passed through the Hot Springs on the way to Big Sewell Mountain; and from there, making our way was very gradual, for rains had been destructive of the roads. In some places every trace of the road had been so completely washed away that no one would dream that any had ever been where were then gullies eight or ten feet or even fifteen feet deep. Fences, bridges and even houses had been washed away, farms ruined, and at White Sulphur Springs the guests had to be taken from the lower story of the hotel. Major Looney, Captain Foster and myself were detained at this point for several days, and I went back and forth to hold services and to visit the sick.
At Big Sewell Mountain I was brought into very pleasant relations with General Lee. At White Sulphur Springs, Mrs. Lee had entrusted me with a parcel to deliver to the General at my first opportunity. Upon my arrival I at once called upon him and spent several hours with him in most delightful intercourse. From his headquarters we could see the whole Federal encampment. With the audacity of ignorance, I said to him: "Why, General, there are the Federals! why don't we attack them?" In his gentle voice, he replied; "Ah, it is sometimes better to wait until you are attacked."
From the camp at Big Sewell Mountain I was sent, in the latter part of October to accompany a detachment of our sick men to the hospitals at White Sulphur and Hot Springs, Virginia. When I reached the latter place, being only fifteen miles from a railroad, I determined to run down to Staunton to get, if possible, some clean clothing. My visit was timely, for a few hours after my arrival in Staunton I received by train two boxes, - one from Rome, Georgia, and one from Nashville. In the latter box were two pairs of heavy winter boots, a pair of winter pants, flannel under-clothing and a great variety of useful articles, and my wardrobe was now so generally well supplied that I could help along some who were in worse condition than I was in.
My visit to Staunton was otherwise a rich treat. Somehow or other everybody seemed to have heard of me or to know me, and all extended to me the most overflowing cordiality and hospitality. I was first the guest of the Rev. Mr. Latané and afterwards of Dr. Stribling, the Superintendent of the Insane Asylum. Mrs. Stribling and her daughter sent by me two trunks filled with things for our regiment, and a lady met me on the street and handed me ten dollars for the use of the sick.
About the middle of November I received orders from General Loring to proceed from Huntersville to the Lewisburg line and to transport all the sick and convalescent belonging to his division to the hospitals at Warm, Hot and Bath Alum Springs. I accordingly left General Loring's headquarters one Friday at noon, and crossing the Greenbrier Bridge, six miles above Huntersville, took the road to Hillsboro, a little hamlet ten miles distant, where I spent the night very pleasantly, without charge, at the home of Mr. Baird. Thence I rode to the residence of Mr. Renick, sixteen miles, and found three of our regiment who had been sick for some weeks but were then greatly improved and glad to get away under my protection. On Sunday morning I rode five miles to the town of Frankford and my name (and fame) having preceded me, I was urged to have services in the Presbyterian Church. Of course I was very glad to do so and had a good and very attentive congregation.
At Frankford there lived a Dr. Renick who had been extremely kind to all of our Tennessee soldiers. He turned his home into a hospital and he and his wife devoted themselves most assiduously to the welfare of the sick, refusing any remuneration. I stopped at his house and at his request baptized his youngest child, a little girl about eighteen months old, born on Easter Sunday. The parents were quite unacquainted with the ecclesiastical calendar, yet the father said: "I'm going to give her a good Episcopal name, Doctor," and so he had me give her in baptism the name of "Margaret Easter Sunday." I was glad she was not born on Quinquagesima Sunday for I might in that case have had to give her that name.
The following day I went to Lewisburg and thence to White Sulphur Springs, hoping to be in part relieved by one of the surgeons, whom I ordered to join his regiment with the sick men belonging to it. There were more than one thousand patients at White Sulphur Springs and there had been forty deaths within the past thirteen days.
I shall never forget the dinner we had in camp one Sunday about the last of November. It was the best of the season. Beef, venison, preserved peaches, raspberries and plums, rice, fine old Madeira, currant wine and many other things, - most of which had been sent by Dr. Stribling, - made a real feast quite in contrast with our usual camp fare. At that time the boys were going into winter quarters and were building very snug, roofed cabins.
One Sunday early in December, after having service in the camp near Huntersville, with a pass from General Loring to go to Richmond and return at the public charge, I started first for Staunton to look after the interests of a young man from Maury County, Tennessee, who while in a state of intoxication, killed another man by the accidental discharge of his pistol. That I arrived safely in Staunton I felt to be a matter of special congratulation on account of the roads I had to travel. The mud was from two to three feet deep.
The young prisoner was a noble fellow to whom I had become very much attached, and was clear of any intentional wrong, I was sure. After calling upon him in Staunton and consulting with his lawyer, we concluded to engage the services of the Hon. Alexander H. Stuart, formerly Secretary of the Interior under President Fillmore, and I went to Richmond to see that eminent man. On my return to Staunton I had the trial put off until the January term of court. When it was finally held, I was called upon to testify to the good character of the accused and I am glad to say that the verdict of the jury was in the end: "not guilty."
Our regiment's stay at Big Sewell was not long. There was a good deal of marching to and fro, and Rosecrans finally escaped Lee and Jackson. From Big Sewell, General Loring, to whose division we were attached, was invited to join General Thomas J. Jackson at Winchester. There for the first time I met that distinguished General and I was very cordially received by the Rev. Mr. Meredith, the rector of the parish, and was made to feel quite at home in the rectory.
This was the beginning of a severe and disastrous campaign. The weather was bitterly cold and during the second night of our encampment a severe snowstorm arose. I can never forget the appearance of the troops as they arose the next morning from their snowy couches. It suggested thoughts of the Resurrection morn. In spite of it all, the troops were very cheerful, and as they shook the snow from their uniforms, began singing a song, the chorus of which was:
"So let the wide world wag as it will,
We'll be gay and happy still!"
After some delay we began our march against Bath on New Year's day 1862. It was one of the coldest winters known to the oldest inhabitant. Snow, sleet and rain came down upon us in all their wrath. We had a skirmish on the march. General Jackson wished to drive the enemy's forces from the gap in Capon Mountain opposite Bath where they were posted. I begged him to allow me to bring up the First Tennessee regiment. They were some distance in the rear, but I brought them forward in short time. As they passed by in double-quick, the General said to me: "What a splendid regiment!"
In his report of the engagement, General Jackson said: "The order to drive the enemy from the hill was undertaken with a patriotic enthusiasm which entitles the First Tennessee and its commander to special praise." It was here that Captain Bullock issued his unique command: "Here, you boys, just separate three or four yards, and pie-root!" (pirouette). They did pirouette and made the enemy dance as well.
As the Federal troops retreated through the gap in the mountain, they came face to face with a brigade of the Virginia Militia. Each fired a volley and fled as fast as legs could carry them, in opposite directions. To the boys looking down upon the scene from the mountain, it was a comical sight. As the infantry put the Federals to flight on Capon Mountain, Captain Turner Ashby drove the Federal cavalry along the highway in the valley like leaves before the wind.
We reached Romney without further obstruction. On Sunday I officiated in a church which was crowded to its utmost capacity. I shall never forget the grave attention which "Stonewall" Jackson paid to my discourse. The text from which I preached was: "Be sure your sin will find you out."
The march from Winchester to Romney was one of great hardship and was utterly fruitless of military results. The situation in our camp in the latter part of January 1862, was rather disturbed. The two Generals, Stonewall Jackson and Loring, did not work well together. Their commands were separate. Jackson commanded the Army of the Valley District; Loring the Army of the North West. The former had written begging the Secretary of War to send Loring and all his forces to co-operate with him (Jackson), in that section and expressing the opinion that the two could drive the enemy from the whole region. The Secretary of War enclosed Jackson's letter to Loring, leaving the movement to his (Loring's) discretion, but at the same time expressing his opinion and that of the President, as decidedly in favor of it.
Accordingly Loring went expecting some prompt and decided work. But no sooner had he arrived in Winchester, than General Jackson began to work to merge the two armies into one and to take General Loring's command under his control. Jackson had but one brigade, while Loring had three under his control. The troops of the latter, from the highest officer to the lowest private, were perfectly devoted to their General. Of course a vast amount of ill feeling was stirred up, and the affair reached a climax when an order was issued for our troops to build winter quarters in Romney, while Jackson's brigade marched back to ease and comfort at Winchester.
I cannot begin to tell all that our troops suffered through the stupidity and want of forethought, (as I then thought it), of Major-General Jackson. It is enough to say that we were subjected to the severest trials that human nature could endure. We left Winchester with 2,700 men in General Anderson's Brigade of Tennesseeans. That number was reduced to 1,100. When we reached the position opposite the town of Hancock, Maryland, the First Regiment numbered 680. In Romney, it mustered only 230 men fit for duty. I felt that General Loring ought to demand that he might be allowed to withdraw his forces from the command of Major-General Jackson.
So far as the personal staff of General Loring (including myself) was concerned, it was comfortably situated in a very pleasant new house. But no one could possibly imagine the horrible condition of affairs at Romney among the troops; and when Stonewall Jackson took his command back to Winchester, the men of Loring's command shouted to them: "There go your F. F. V.'s!" The "pet lambs" of the Stonewall Brigade were comfortably housed at Winchester while the troops of Loring's command were left behind in Romney to endure the bitter, biting weather.
This movement on the part of Jackson was the subject of much bitter comment. A report thereof was taken to Richmond and laid before the Secretary of War. He was greatly surprised that Jackson should have withdrawn his forces to Winchester, leaving the reinforcing column behind, - or as it was expressed at the time, "leaving the guests, - the invited guests, - out in the cold." As a result of the controversy that ensued, General Jackson was required by the Secretary of War to direct General Loring to return with his command to Winchester. This we did on the 1st of February, and while in Winchester I was called to officiate at the funerals of a number of our men who had died from sickness and exposure. And it was while there that we received the news of the fall of Fort Donelson.
Although Jackson complied with the order of the Secretary of War, he regarded it as a case of interference with his command and took umbrage. It was by the exercise of great tact on the part of General Joseph E. Johnston, Commander-in-Chief of the Department, and of Governor John Letcher, of Virginia, that Jackson was prevailed upon to withhold his resignation, and his valuable services were preserved to the army of the Confederacy.
On the 10th of February, 1862, the First and Third Regiments, Tennessee Volunteers, with a Georgia Regiment, were by the command of the Secretary of War, ordered to proceed to Knoxville, Tennessee, and to report for duty to General Albert Sidney Johnston. A different disposition was made of the Seventh and Fourteenth Tennessee Volunteers and of an Arkansas Regiment, and all the remainder of the command of Brigadier-General Loring was to proceed to Manassas, Virginia, to report for duty to General Joseph E. Johnston. It was with a sad heart that "the boys" of the First Tennessee bade farewell, on the 7th of February, to the Seventh and Fourteenth Regiments and to their warm-hearted and hospitable Virginia friends.
During the march against Romney, General Loring had me commissioned by the Secretary of War as his aide-de-camp. I was very strongly opposed to holding such a commission, and declined to accept, but I could not leave General Loring in the troubles and anxieties that distressed him, and so as a member of his staff I travelled around considerably at that time, going from camp to camp, attending the trial of my friend at Staunton, and going to Richmond on military business. To get from Romney to Staunton on one occasion I had to take a horse-back ride of forty-three miles to Winchester, then to go by stage eighteen miles to Strasburg, and thence by rail via Manassas and Gordonsville. This was a roundabout way but was preferable at the time to a much shorter route down the valley from Winchester.
On the 21st of February, I went with General Loring to Norfolk, to which point he had been ordered, instead, as I had hoped, to Georgia, where I would have been nearer my family. At this time he was promoted to Major-General. We went, of course, by way of Richmond where I called with him on President Jefferson Davis and was very agreeably disappointed in his personal appearance and bearing. I might have witnessed the ceremonies of his inauguration, but as the day set for that function proved very inclement, I was glad that I chose to spend it on the cars between Richmond and Norfolk. On that day General Loring had a very severe chill followed by congestion of the right lung, which was the precursor of an attack of pneumonia affecting both lungs. I watched by his bedside in Norfolk through all his illness, which prolonged my visit in that city for several weeks.