In Their Own Words
May 22, 1884
It was the custom during the war for all the gentlemen who from age or other
disabilities were not in the army to visit any soldiers who came to their neighborhood
wounded, or in distress of any kind and to minister to their wants as far as possible.
Old Colonel L., of one of our eastern counties, was one of the most attentive
men in his county to calls of this nature. We can see the venerable old gentleman
now driving his old gray horse Dan with one hand and thoughtfully stroking his long
white beard with the other, with a basket filled with something good, a small bundle
of sugar, and a little “real coffee” or something of the sort, for some poor fellow who
was at home sick or wounded; or maybe to comfort some soldier’s wife who was
in trouble with her husband away.
Mr. Bill Tucker lived in the piney woods not far from Col. L.’s plantation. He
was wounded in the arm at Fredericksburg, Virginia, and came home on
furlough; as usual, Col. L., no sooner heard that Bill was at home and wounded
than old Dan was hitched up to the buggy and a basket of “something good”
prepared by Mrs. L. Bill was not much hurt and intensely flattered at Col. L.’s
visit. It happened to be Sunday and several of the neighbors had dropped in,
so Mr. Bill Tucker laid himself out to entertain the company.
For some time the conversation consisted of inquiries after the absent boys.
Finally, during a lull in the conversation, Col. L. said, “Well, William, tell us
how you got hurt.” “We-e-ll, Colonel, I’ll tell you”, said Bill. “You see, our
brigade (those who have never heard the North Carolina muflin pronounce the
word brigade can form no idea of the accent, and those who have must supply
it for themselves, ink and paper won’t do it), was on them big rollin’ hills I was
tellin’ you about, and just before the day in the mornin’, Gineral Lee, he come
up, he did, and he said ‘whar is Gineral Hoke’, he says, ‘here I is, Gineral’.
Gineral Lee, he says ‘Gineral Hoke, who is the bravest man you have got in
your brigade?’, and Gineral Hoke, he says ‘Gineral, Mr. Bill Tucker is the
bravest man I ever see’ and he says, ‘call him here’; and Gineral Hoke says,
‘come here Mr. Tucker, if you please’. I come, I did, and I tuck off my cap
polite-like and said ‘good mornin’, Gineral Lee; good mornin’, Gineral Hoke’
and they both say, ‘good mornin’, Mr. Tucker’ and Gineral Lee, he says, says
he, ‘Mr. Tucker, them Yankees is comin’ after me agin’, and I says, ‘Gineral,
I am powerful sorry, for somebody’s bound to git hurt’ and he says, says he,
‘Mr. Tucker, they tell me you is a brave man; here is a brand new Belgium rifle
and a box of exploshum-balls and I want you to git out yonder behind that thar
wall and don’t you let ‘em come on me, Mr. Tucker.’ I said ‘Gineral, it is a hard
task, but I will do my best; but, Gineral, don’t you let ‘em flank me.’ The Gineral,
he says, ‘Mr. Tucker, I will do my best and I will tell Stonewall Jackson to look
out for you.’ Well, I went out and I laid down behind that thar stone wall and
bimeby, about sunrise, Gineral Hoke, he bellowed out and he says ‘look out
Bill, they’s a-comin’ I tell you; and bimeby, and here they come; and I laid
there all day and I shot ‘em with that Belgium rifle and them sploshum balls
a-goin’ an’ a comin’. I tell you; and bimeby, way long yonder just before night,
one great long high Yankee got up and he said ‘great Godalmighty, Mr. Tucker,
is you gwine to kill us all?’ and while I was a foolin’ talking’ with him, they crope
up on me and shot me in the arm, and then I war bore from the field and
somebody’s regiment tuck my place.”
In the Wilderness
Mr. Tucker returned to his command and he was again placed upon the skirmish
line in the Wilderness. He was ordered to ascend a large poplar tree as a lookout
where he was amusing himself picking off officers. But let him tell his tale for himself.
“And Gineral Early, (old Jubal, you know), he says, ‘Bill, by granny, stay with
‘em like you did at Fredericksburg’ so I swarmed up the tree, I did and I sot
thar on a big limb a havin’ of a fine time all by myself and first thing I know I see
a whole Yankee corps a-comin’ and next thing thar they was with their guns all
a-pintin’ up in the tree and some big officer, he says ‘come out of thar, dad-rat
your hide, you cussed Rebel’ and I thought I better do like he says, and when I
got down he tuck his siggar our of his mouth and he looked at me and he says
‘who is you, anyhow?’ and I says ‘I am Bill Tucker—who is you?’ and he never
said nuthin’ but he jest looked at me a while and he says ‘is you the man who
fought so at Fredericksburg?’ and I said “I’se the man, who is you?’ and he says
‘Mr. Tucker, I am Gineral Grant; what’s you doin’ up that tree, anyhow?’ and I said
‘Gineral I’m a shootin’ everything I see’ and he says ‘Mr. Tucker, you is too brave
a man to starve in prison, go home to your folks and don’t you shoot at my folks
no more. But afore you go won’t you take a drink?’ So I drunk with him and I told
him and his crowd good-bye.”
We are glad to be able to say that Mr. Tucker escaped the dangers of war and
came home to re-tell many more adventures; if the spirit moves, we may give
the readers of the Register more of them. While Mr. Tucker’s narratives lack
the weighty style of the historian, he is a living man, and he gives us an
amusing side in the character of a North Carolina muflin.
In Their Own Words
High Private’s Reminiscences
At the Time of The Wilderness He Was In The Brigade of Junius Daniel
Ewell’s Corps, Rodes’ Division
32nd, 43rd, 45th, 53rd Regiments & 2nd Battalion N.C. Infantry
In the Wilderness
The Stampede at Fisher’s Hill (Battle of Winchester)
Old Sounds, Old Forms Recalled (Funeral of Col. D.G. Cowand)
At Cedar Creek
Spottsylvania Court House & Death of Major James Johnston Iredell
The Salient & the death of General Junius Daniel
The Salient Again
In the Valley
Wednesday, May 21, 1884
In The Wilderness
Upon re-occupying our lines on the right of the old pike on the evening of the 5th,
after supporting Gordon’s flank attack, our brigade began to throw up breastworks,
and by the morning of the 6th, were pretty well protected from a front attack.
General A.P. Hill’s corps had been ordered, so we were told, to connect with our
right, but the order had not been obeyed, and all the day of the 6th, Burnside’s Corps
was diligent in insinuating itself in the gap between our right and Hill’s left. Generals
Ewell, Rodes and Daniel were busily engaged all the next morning in protecting that
exposed flank. But it looked like a hopeless task until about 3:00 in the afternoon,
Ramseur’s Brigade of North Carolina troops, that that had been ordered to guard the
fords of the Rapidan in our rear, came up at double quick and took position on our left.
It is hard for a private to give his recollections of the war and not insensibly drift into
the old beaten track of telling what the generals did. A private’s reminiscences are
but secondarily connected with the movements of brigades and divisions—he is the
leaflet that is blown about in the cyclone.
Our line of battle ran through the barnyard of one of the dwellers in the Wilderness.
He and his family stayed in their house during the fight and for a time, on the fifth,
were between the two lines and exposed to the fire of both sides. During the quiet
which prevailed on the morning of the sixth, the old gentleman, who turned out to be
a great Baptist, came to the spring for water. Generals Rodes and Daniel were there.
Daniel’s headquarters were near the spring and they commenced to ask him questions
concerning the lay of the country, the direction of the roads, etc. Finally it came out
that he had witnessed the fight of the day before and he was questioned as to what
he had seen. He gave a very interesting account of all that he saw and heard. He
told of having lost a very favorite bay mare the year before during the Chancellorsville
campaign; of a Yankee officer taking the mare out of the stable, pushing his daughter
who tried to prevent him, and how on the fifth of May, a year afterwards, while the fight
was hottest around the house, his daughter, who was peeping through the cracks in
the log house, called out to him, “Father, yonder is the man that stole Maggie last
year and he is riding her now.” The words were hardly out of her mouth before the
officer fell dead in the yard, pierced by a bullet. The intrepid girl dashed out and caught
Maggie by the bridle. Thus, after twelve months, retribution sure, if not swift, met that
The mare was in her old stall in the stable on the morning of the sixth when the old
man told this story at General Daniel’s headquarters. On this day a Yankee sharp
shooter perched himself in an enormous poplar tree for the purpose of picking off our
officers; but his innocent amusement did not last long, for our skirmishers made a dash
and before Mr. Yank had time to descend from his elevated perch, he was, like Mr. Bill
Tucker, “surrounded by a whole corps, by granny”, and invited down. Down he came
and a courier was ordered to take him to the line of battle. Mr. Yankee was soon
relieved of his Yankee canteen which was taken to replace that of a recent enlistment,
a Confederate canteen, known in the army as a “conscript canteen”, which it was a
point of honor for all recruits to discard as soon as possible, no man being considered
a veteran soldier by his comrades so long as he carried this unmistakable proof of
With the exception of a brush with Burnside’s corps that evening, which, along with
Ramseur’s command, we drove back, and established a connection with A.P. Hill, all
was quiet on our front; but we plainly heard the heavy firing up on our right, where
Longstreet was driving them and where the Texas brigade immortalized itself by ordering
“Lee to the rear”.
On the night of the seventh, we were moved to the right down the breastworks, and,
as usual, rumors were rife as to what was up. About midnight, we were camped in
the rear of A.P. Hill’s corps and soon found that the troops in front were Tar Heels.
Here we heard of Tom Wright’s wound and Charley Haigh sat an hour with us,
exchanging experiences, news, etc. It was the last time we ever met; he was shot
the next week while gallantly leading his company on the twelfth, at Spottsylvania.
At daylight, we continued our march to the right; and soon we came to Longstreet’s
battlefield of two days before. An awful sight it was—the woods had caught on fire
and were still burning; hundreds of dead men were scattered over the ground, very
many of whom had been wounded and afterwards burned to death before succor could
reach them. Our people had held the field, and to their credit be it said that every effort
had been made to relive the wounded and save them from the flames. Through it all we
passed on to Spottsylvania Court House, where we arrived in the afternoon of the 8th
inst., in time to take our position and save the army from being flanked.
The heart grows sick to recall all the horrors of the next four or five days. Our brigade
was almost destroyed. One of our regiments was on detached duty. Of those remaining
we lost of the staff our brigadier and adjutant general; of field officers we lost eight out of
nine for duty when this awful carnage commenced. In the rank and file we lost over 800
killed and wounded, out of 2,000 who had been in the fight. Volumes have been written
filled with the humors of the war and the wit of the Confederate soldiers; but it is a note
worthy fact that all of the phase of the war is of early date. In later days, the struggle
was too stern for such frivolities, even the private soldier felt and realized it; and from
thenceforth until the end of the war was developed the true heroism of the war; and as
a concurrent circumstance the true poetry of the war was written from 1863 to 1867—
within that period was the heart of the nation stirred to its depths. But this is no talk for
A severe attack of illness ended the campaign at this point for the recruit. When he again
reported for duty, the brigade was under Early in the Valley fighting; next to Lee’s the
greatest campaign of the war. Old Jubal, it is true, was whipped and stampeded; but
before you blame, Mr. Critic, study the history of the campaign, and after you have read
of the manner in which with only 9,000 infantry, he kept 40,000 in check, then you will
be able to say how it could have been better done. One thing is certain, General Lee
never lost confidence in him; and if he did use cuss words once to this courier who was
looking for milk in a still house near New Market, he was and is a grand old man for all
The Raleigh Register
Wednesday, April 30, 1884
The Stampede From Fisher’s Hill
Everyone is familiar with the grand movements of General Lee’s army and with its many
battles; but the story of General Early’s stampedes has not been told except in a very
general manner—probably because the chief actors are unwilling to tell the tale. Be that
as it may, it seems to be a fit subject for a private soldier’s recollections of the war.
Therefore, at the risk of being charged with egotism, I am going to tell it; and as the story
is all about how I ran away, the first person pronoun, singular number, shall be used.
The battle at Winchester was fought on September 19, 1864, and by noon of September
20, the Army of the Valley was drawn up on the heights at Fisher’s Hill, a position which
up to that time had been deemed impregnable; but alas! What position is impregnable
unless its defense makes it so? Here we rested, recovering from the fatigue of babble,
until the morning of September 22, when it became apparent that Sheridan was going to
Our division was on the left of the infantry, in a position naturally strong and made more so
by the earth works and artillery. Our left was covered by the cavalry on the back road,
reinforced by a heavy skirmish line of infantry from our division. About midday, heavy
columns of the enemy could be plainly seen massing on our left, and in front of the cavalry.
The general in command of the cavalry was asked if his troops could stand a charge of that
infantry. (It must be borne in mind that this cavalry had been dismounted and was deployed
behind the breastworks as infantry, their horses being held some three fourths of a mile in the
rear.) He replied, yes, I hope your infantry skirmishers will not run in too soon.
When we were in the line of battle, expecting a fight, it was the custom of our staff (I was a
courier) to send one of the couriers to the wagon yard for rations, the mail, etc. Our
Commissary took excellent care of us, for on such occasions officers and couriers messed
together. About three o’clock, General ---------- (transcriber’s note, some names are not given
in this article, the author just leaves a blank line, use your imagination) ordered me to go to
the wagon yard for rations, to get the mail, and to ride his horse and have him shod.
The wagon yard was about four miles in the rear. I arrived there in due time, had the general’s
horse shod, got the cooks to work, wrote a letter home, told the heroes of the wagon yard the
news from the front, and was reading the Richmond papers when Major --------------, our
Commissary, called me to him and said he did not like what I had said about the situation at
the front, he wanted a more particular account, and began to put questions to me. He
presently said “I don’t like the looks of things; you had better hurry back to the front” and
ordered the servant to saddle his horse and began to pack up saying “we will have to move
out before morning.” The words were hardly out of his mouth before we heard the most infernal
din that ever greeted my ears, and looking north, in the direction of the lines, we saw the reserve
artillery and ordnance train moving in full gallop up the valley pike. The rations were only half
cooked, but there was no time to lose; so underdone bread and half raw meat were bundled
promiscuously in the big basket and with a heavy and much beating heart I started to the front.
Major ------- added to me zeal when we parted by saying “take care of yourself, I think you will
see the devil of a time tonight.” And with this benediction we bade farewell.
As soon as I got clear of the noise and confusion of the wagon train, I could hear all the familiar
sounds of a battle and as usual began to think about home and the blessings of peace. Pretty
soon I began to meet stragglers coming wild with fear and giving awful accounts of the fight.
These made little or no impression on me, for every old soldier knows the reliance to be placed
in what a straggler tells. Just in the edge of a piece of woods, however, I met the adjutant
general of our division, Major -----------, with an irregular line of about 150 men from the different
brigades, falling back in disorder and firing. I asked him to tell me where my command was.
He replied “All captured, the last time I saw General ------------- (my brigadier), he was surrounded
by Yankees, with the greater portion of his brigade, and they are all captured.” I asked him
where was the line of battle. He said he did not know. I asked what I must do. He said “You
had better take care of yourself, you damned fool; look at that line of Yankees” and there they
were within 200 yards, advancing, and no one even making a show of fight, except the handful
spoken of above. Major called out at the top of his voice “Boys you had better scatter to the
mountains and try to rally at Mount Jackson tomorrow.”
Suddenly I became impressed with the responsibility of taking care of the general’s horse and
for fear that he might get hurt, I started for the mountain at a brisk gallop; and let me here remark,
that the most horrible thing in an unkind world is the retreat of a panic stricken wagon train—men
who are brave under fire become the truest of cowards, yell, shout, gesticulate, and ride through
wounded men, unheeding every feeling of manhood. This was my condition that night, along with
hundreds of others.
Upon reaching the turnpike, I chanced to meet Captain ------------, an officer on the staff of one of
our brigades; I told him of my situation and how I came to be riding my general’s horse so far in
the rear. He kindly consented to keep me with him so as to enable me to pass any provost
guard which might be thrown out to arrest stragglers.
We kept our course up the valley; not in the pike, that was soon filled with wagons, but in the
open fields. The confusion was terrific. Imagine two or three thousand wagons, the teams at
full gallop, drivers shouting, bomb-shells exploding overhead and the cries of the wounded in the
ambulances and you can form some conception of a stampeded army.
To add to the horrors of the scene, the saddle mule of one of the teams fell down and threw its
rider under the wheels of a passing wagon. No one thought of stopping to assist the poor fellow,
and his cries and groans mingled with the screams of his mule as they were trampled to death,
rose high over every other sound. Captain ------------- remarked that Sir Walter Scott must have
witnessed such a scene when he wrote the lines:
“In the lost battle, borne down by the flying
Where mingles war’s rattle with the groans of the dying.”
For thirty miles was the fearful race kept up. Just before day, as we neared Mount Jackson, a
cavalry picket informed us that the army would rally north of the Shenandoah River. We found a
large hay stack nearby and, after a hearty meal from my bucket, we lay down to sleep and let
our tired horses eat.
Just here occurred the only humorous incident of the stampede that I saw. Among the stragglers
whom I met before Major --------- turned me back, was an officer of considerable rank, wounded in
the ankle, limping along. He asked me where the field hospital was. I told him I did not know.
The next time we met was at that hay stack at Mount Jackson and he said he had walked the
entire distance. He was asleep when we got to the stack, and on the far side of it, having beaten
the horse about twenty feet, the width of the stack, in the thirty mile race.
The army rallied and our command retrieved its reputation at Petersburg the following winter and
After twenty years, there is no need asking what command caused the stampede. No matter
who started it, the seed fell in good ground, and, to use a piece of old war slang, it was “legs
help body” with the entire army that night.
The Raleigh Register
Wednesday, May 7, 1884
Old Sounds, Old Forms Recalled
The old Jacobite who is represented by Aytotin(?) as repeating the poem of “Killiecrankie” to his
grandchild, is made by the poet to say to the child:
“Oh! Sounds are ringing in my ears
Old forms march trooping past.”
The funeral of Col. D.G. Cowand of the 32nd N.C. Regiment and who commanded Grime’s Brigade
at Appomattox, which took place on Sunday last, in this city, has set “old sounds” to ringing in
many ears, and many an old familiar form, forgotten for long years, in the “struggle for power and
the scramble for pelf”, has risen in memory’s halls of the old soldiers who performed the last sad
duties of friendship to the departed. It is a little singular that, almost by accident, Col. Cowand
should have been borne to his grave by members of his old brigade. They were: Col. Kenan,
R.H. Battle, Sgt. Major, Lt. L.L. Polk and T.P. Devereaux, private, of the 43rd Regiment; B.F.
Park and Thomas Strahan, privates and Stanley Bigsbee, sergeant of the 32nd Regiment, of his
old brigade. There were others, who were all from the old division, except Capt. Octavias Coke,
of the 32nd Virginia Regiment.
A notice of Col. Cowan has so lately appeared that it would be hardly in place here, but the old
sounds of twenty years ago are ringing too loudly not to be heard. Just twenty years ago today,
heavens, how time does fly, and what changes in twenty years ; the great campaign opened in
the Wilderness. One can almost hear the guns of Stuart’s artillery booming now at Germanna
Ford; he can see General Daniel’s manly form now as he issues from his tent, and orders a
courier to go for the horses that have been sent out to graze, saying at the time to his staff
that “This is the opening of the campaign, we shall receive orders to move before long.” General
Rodes’ courier, Buck Adams, (what has become of Buck?) gallops us with orders to move at
once and occupy the old works to the left of the pike at Mine Run.
In an hour, winter quarters are broken up, the few tents taken down; the huts deserted, and the
brigade marching down the old pike—some to a soldier’s grave, and some, by far the lesser
number, to witness the abomination of desolation at Appomattox Court House.
We broke camp about 10:00 in the morning, and that afternoon one of the couriers was sent back
for something that had been left. The change wrought by even a few hours was striking; the
inhabitants of the surrounding country had already begun to plunder the camp. This may seem
an odd term to apply to the camp of Confederate soldiers, but still it is correct; even an army
as badly equipped as General Lee’s had something to lose, and it was wonderful to see the
collection of old blankets, canteens, cooking utensils, etc., that the people had collected.
That night the command camped at Locust Grove, two miles in advance of the lines at Mine
Run, and the next morning moved slowly in the direction of the battle field of Chancellorsville;
about noon , Rodes’ Division and some other troops of Ewell’s Corps opened the campaign
that is now so famous in history, which is a model of tactical warfare for the military student,
and which has been said by those competent to judge, excels the retreat on Paris in 1814.
But this branch of the subject is too big for a private; he only knows and can only tell of seeing
the poor country people fleeing from the wrath to come.
“Aged folks on crutches
And women great with child,
And mothers sobbing over babes
Who clung to them and smiled,”
As they came into our lines, and hear their tales of woe. Then we moved in; a halt was ordered; for
the first time he sees men preparing for battle; skirmishers are sent to the front; a staff officer
gallops up in hot haste. “Form your lines, for they are coming”. “Forward; guide center”, bang,
bang, go the skirmishers; the bullets begin to hiss past; a few wounded skirmishers came out:
“look boys, there they are!” Then the deadly roar of a line of battle volley: “forward, charge”; the
wild Rebel yell; and for the first time he is wrapped in the smoke and confused by the noise of battle.
After twenty years, all that is remembered of the first day’s fight in the Wilderness is confusion and
shouting and hurrah and smoke. After a while, we are ordered to halt on the hill above the old
Wilderness Run; Daniel and Gordon shake hands; the troops cheer and the recruit learns for the first
time that we have driven the enemy two miles, captured thirteen hundred prisoners and two pieces
of artillery, and killed and wounded many hundred; our loss being almost nothing. That afternoon
we were moved to the extreme left to support Gordon in his flank movement and at night returned to
our original position and slept on the battle field.
And thus closed the first scene in the closing act of the great drama.
Raleigh Register, Wednesday, May 28, 1884
At Cedar Creek
As the fortunes of the Confederacy began to wane, our leaders were forced to desperate measures
to retrieve, if possible, the tremendous losses we were constantly sustaining. The detachment of
General Early from Lee’s army in front of Richmond, his defense of Lynchburg and subsequent
advance into Maryland and assault on Washington City, was: One Grand Forlorn Hope.
The country did not understand it; the men engaged in it knew not what they were doing, and hence
many of the unjust, and in many instances, untrue criticisms on Early and his strategy. The truth
is, that old Jubal, by his pluck and activity, kept the authorities at Washington in a state of
constant alarm, and thereby forced them to keep a large army in and around Washington, which
would otherwise have been in front of Petersburg. The stampedes from Winchester, Fisher’s Hill
and Cedar Creek were awful catastrophes, and showed up very badly for some who now claim and
enjoy high reputation for their war records, and General Early has but few friends who take up for
him. But when the world knows that with but 9,000 Confederates, ill fed, ill armed (except with
captured material), ill clad and unpaid for months, he kept Sheridan, with his 30,000 troops,
abundantly supplied with all that soldiers need, at bay; constantly offering battle and never
separated from his pickets by a day’s march; always ready to fight, actually delivering battle
when he was outnumbered nearly four to one, and this on more than one occasion, the Valley
Campaign of 1864 will be differently considered and old Jubal receive his merited reward.
Few save the participants know anything of the fight at Cedar Creek, and of the flank march
made by the Second Corps, Ewell’s, then commanded by Gordon, the night before. About
sunset on the evening of October 18, the three divisions composing the old Second Corps took
up their line of march down the Valley Pike in the direction of Strasburg. Upon reaching the foot
of Fisher’s Hill, we filed to the right down a creek, the name of which is forgotten, and after
marching about half a mile, we halted, and strict orders were given to the men not to make the
slightest noise; canteens were ordered to be taken off and placed in the care of a detail, and the
officers wrapped their handkerchiefs around their scabbards to prevent them from rattling. The
recruit will remember wrapping General Grimes’ with a wisp of straw.
We were then told that we had been selected to perform an arduous and dangerous service, which
if successful would destroy the enemy; all straggling was strictly forbidden for any cause, and a
detail told to arrest anyone who should leave the ranks.
As soon as it was dark, we recommenced our march down the valley of the creek above referred to.
Soon we struck the foot of Massanutter Mountain, which we ascended by a cow path winding up the
face of a cliff, with Cedar Creek rushing over rocks and boiling at its base. The almost full
moon had risen and as we pursued our stealthy march along the face of the cliff, we could plainly
see the Yankee pickets in open meadow on the other side of the creek and hear their sentries
challenge the grand rounds as they passed. All orders to our people were given in whispers and
not a sound was heard, and although three divisions of infantry and a brigade of cavalry passed
within a few yards of the enemy’s out posts, no alarm was given.
Descending the other or eastern side of the mountain, we came to a bed of the old Manassas Gap
Railroad, along which we marched for a mile or more, until, when near the Shenandoah River, we
were halted and massed behind in a thick wood to allow the cavalry to pass us. Here we found out,
for the first time, where we were and what was expected of us. We had marched completely around
Sheridan’s flank, even as Jackson did at Chancellorsville, and were not in his rear waiting for
daybreak, when we would ford the river and charge him.
Pretty soon the first pale flush of dawn was seen, and we were ordered forward still observing
dead silence. The sound of our footsteps were drowned in the roar of the river. As we neared the
river, we saw the cavalry (Rosser’s, if memory fails not) rush into the ford and up the opposite
bank: Bang! Bang! Bang! Off went a few rounds, into the river dash the infantry, up to their arm
pits. As we climb up the bank we meet the Yankee picket, which has been captured and is
going to the rear. Before we are all across, a staff officer gallops up with orders to form a line,
for the alarm had been given. In less time than it takes to tell it, we form a line of battle and
charge up south, up the Valley, having marched completely to the rear of Sheridan’s army.
The long roll of the Yankee drums, the reveille of their bugles, and the shouts of the men as they
broke the stillness of that October dawn made an impression never to be forgotten. We charged
right into the camp of a battalion of artillery and the fierce Rebel yell, accompanied by a volley of
muskets, was the first news some of them got. As we charged through the amp, we saw many
men lying dead in their night dress and in one tent that had been overturned we saw a man shot
dead in his bed. So perfect had been the surprise, many artillery horses were still tied to the
picket rope and all the guns were in park.
On we swept, and soon, on rising a hill, came in sight of Kershaw’s and Wharton’s divisions, who
had marched down the Pike and charged the position in front simultaneously with our flank attack.
Then we changed direction and drove the infantry out of their camps and for a time had it all our
own way. The sight of the rich booty was too much for many of our men, and despite all the efforts
of our officers, many left the ranks, thereby laying the foundation of the disaster which befell us
that afternoon. It was a gross breach of discipline thus to leave the ranks, but who can blame the
poor fellows, ragged and half starved (we had not had a ration of salt in any shape for two or three
months, nothing but fresh meat and flour and not enough of that, suddenly to have a profusion
of everything which they did not have laid at their feet: think of it! Sutlers’ tents and sutlers’
wagons overturned and their contents, fruits, vegetables, meat, break, cakes, whiskey, tobacco
and cigars, spread in tempting confusion at their naked feet; to say nothing of the commissary
stores which in some places covered the ground in wild profusion. Those who did resist the
temptation to straggle continued in the charge until ordered to halt near the village of Newtown.
This was about 10:00 in the morning; but just before the halt, one of our staff had his horse wounded
and sent the recruit to the rear for another. The wagon yard was many miles away and he just got
back in time to see the splendid victory of the morning lost by the arrival of the Sixth Yankee Corps,
10,000 strong, stronger by 1,000 than our army was at the opening of the fight, fresh and vigorous,
while our people were weakened by straggling and fatigued with the all night march and all day’s
battle; 9,000 had marched all night, fought and whipped twenty five or thirty thousand all day, and
were only driven back themselves by more fresh men than they took into the fight. But the stampede
was awful and the defeat one from which the Army of the Valley District never recovered.
An amusing incident occurred to one of our brigade buglers at the opening of the fight. As will be
remembered, the direction of our first charge was to the south. Before we changed direction, the
drum corps started as they thought, to the rear, to report for duty as nurses at the field hospital.
Their way led them through the camp of the artillery we had captured; this scattered them, and
after supplying themselves with such plunder as they could lay their hands on, singly and in small
groups, they continued their way to the hospital. One of them, we will call him Jake, met one of the
division staff whose horse had been killed, and who was making his way to the rear in search of a
remount; he recognized Jake, who undertook to conduct him to the ambulance train where the
horses were. As they made their way through the thicket, they came suddenly upon a Yankee
straggler squatting down and evidently unarmed. Jake, anxious to distinguish himself before the
major, rushed upon the fellow and ordered him to surrender. “You are my prisoner, sir!” But lo!
Mr. Yank had two companions, who were behind a giant chestnut tree with guns in their hands.
As they stepped to the front, the change in Jake’s manner was sudden and complete. He dropped
a large rock which he had picked up, and raising his hands began to mark time after the most
approved style, saying at the same time in his German brogue, “I pegs your bardon shentlemens,
I make mishtake, you ish nod my brisoner, I ish your brisoner, unt so ish dot man” pointing to the
major. They were soon rescued, however and Jake lived to rue the day on which he captured the
Yankee. The last seen of old Jake was at Appomattox Court House, when the brigade disbanded;
some one called to Jake to know if he had any prisoners this morning to which Jake gave his
stereotyped answer: “You shust go to hell if you want any brisoners.”
Jake, old comrade, should this meet your eye, pardon the liberty which is taken. After twenty years,
you, too, can laugh over that which in time past made you lose your religion.
June 18, 1884
Spottsylvania Court House
As has already been stated in these sketches, Ewell’s Corps reached Spottsylvania Court House
in the afternoon of May 8. We were double quicked for a mile, thrown into line of battle, and dashed
upon the enemy just in time to protect General Anderson’s flank which was threatened. After a brisk
little skirmish, we drove them back and established our line.
It was the good fortune of the recruit to overhear the discussion between our generals as to the policy
of occupying the hill which formed the apex of that far-famed salient. There seems to be but one
opinion now on the subject, and that is that the line never should have been extended to that point,
but should have been run where it was subsequently established after the bloody battle of May 12.
The matter was discussed at General Daniel’s camp fire. General Rodes and he were opposed to
it from the first, but other counsels prevailed. During the discussion, one of them (which one is now
forgotten) said with great earnestness “It is a shambles, a slaughter pen; it will cost this army ten
thousand men.” Five days from that time, when General Daniel was dying in his tent, the words
came back to the recruit as he sat by the side of the wounded man, and he has never forgotten
The night of the eighth and day of the ninth were spent in fortifying our position. There is no duty that
a soldier more cheerfully performs than loosening up earth with his bayonet and pitching it on the
breastwork with his hands; thorns and rocks are at a discount for once. On the tenth, Grant began
to “feel our position” with his skirmishers, at an early hour in the day, and about the middle of the
morning began to send in lines of battle with the intent to drive in our skirmish line.
Our brigade skirmishers held their position (by the way, we were holding the left face of the salient),
but the troops on our right were driven in to within a few yards of the line of battle, which exposed us
all to the fire of the Yankee pickets. This soon became very troublesome and a great many good
men were killed. The failure of that skirmish line to hold its own laid the foundation of much of the
future trouble, for just at dark a heavy column of the enemy massed under cover of the fire of their
skirmishers close to the apex of the angle, and at the word, dashed up to and over our breastworks,
scattering the troops that held them and taking the right wing of Daniel’s force in reverse so completely
that while the 32nd N.C. Regiment, which was at our right, was hotly engaged with the enemy in front,
a line of battle covered their rear; and the first intimation they had of the line on their right having been
broken was a volley fired in their backs at a distance of forty paces. Nearly the entire regiment was
killed or captured; the few who escaped did so by leaping over the works and running down the line in
front of them.
General Daniel and his staff were near the center of the brigade, listening to the firing on the right, which
had not continued more than two or three minutes when one of the staff who had been with the right wing
ran up out of breath and said “the lines are broken. The 32nd is destroyed.”
Daniel’s first remark was “I don’t believe it”, but instantly casting his eyes to the right he saw the enemy
advancing, shouting and driving a handful of our men before them down the line from the right. Quick as
thought his voice rang out like a bugle, giving the command to break ground to the rear. Quicker than it
takes to tell it, the brigade dashed off at a run, the men knowing what was necessary to be done, and
not waiting for the word of command. In a moment, we had a line of battle in front of the advancing, and,
it seemed, triumphant enemy, but weakened as we were by the loss of the 32nd Regiment, our own thin
line was no match for them.
So on they surged, shouting in anticipation of certain victory. Our boys fought like Tar Heels, though,
and contested every inch of the ground. How well they contested it can be judged from the fact that on
the ground over which we fought, we buried over 800 men the next morning. The lines were not more
than twenty yards apart; we could distinctly hear their words of command, and the colonel of one of
their regiments was heard to say “Surrender, you damned Rebels, don’t fire another shot”. As the words
left his mouth, he fell shot in the throat, so his words were literally cast in his teeth.
Generals Ewell, Rodes and Daniel were all there, exerting their utmost authority, both by command and
example, to keep the men together and make a stand, but we were being slowly pushed back and the
center of the army was almost broken. Darkness fell and added to the confusion.
At this moment, occurred one of those incidents which showed General Lee’s wonderful power over his
men and the enthusiasm which his mere presence excited. General Daniel had seen one of his men
going to the rear in rather un-soldier-like way (not to call it by any harsher name), and had stopped him
and was using some pretty plain language in good, strong Anglo Saxon to him, when General Lee rode
up on his old gray horse, Traveler, unattended by a single staff officer, not even a courier. In the midst of
General Daniel’s abjurations, he spoke in a voice as unruffled as though he were sitting by his fire side.
“Don’t get excited, general, your troops are behaving admirably under the circumstances; there is no
cause for alarm, the hills on the other side of the ravine are being crowned with a battalion of artillery.
Your right flank will be protected by General Harris in five minutes”. The men did not know it was he
until then, and at once could be heard, going up and down the line, “Boys, it won’t do to fall back any
more, here’s Uncle Robert come to see us fight”; and they did not fall back twenty yards further.
General Lee remained on the line not more than a minute or two, just long enough to have a few words
with Rodes and Daniel, and did not say a word to any one except those two, but the mere knowledge
of his presence was enough.
In a few moments, the troops moved in on our flank and in less time than it has taken to tell it, the
fight in the salient was over, our lines retaken and a thousand Yankees dead upon the field. The loss
fell mainly upon the brigade that first gave way, but our loss was fearful. Among the dead we numbered
Major James Iredell, who was so close to the men who shot him that his clothes were scorched.
General Bryan Grimes, then colonel of the 4th North Carolina, came over that night and buried him.
More eminent men gave their lives for the Confederacy, but no truer patriot or braver soldier fills a bloody
grave than James Johnston Iredell.
The Raleigh Register
Wednesday, July 2, 1884
Of all the things in the world, the day after a battle is the most miserable and forlorn. Depression is the
natural result of the reaction from any strong excitement, and as “battle’s magnificent array” produces the
strongest excitement, so does the reaction bring the deepest gloom; deepened and intensified by the
horrible surroundings. In the wild rush of battle, men see the closest friend stricken down, and give hardly
a passing sigh, the next moment it is forgotten; but when the “next day” comes, men lie about in a listless,
forlorn state of inexpressible blues and brood over and mourn for the dead.
Such was the condition of the army the morning of May 11, 1864; but we were soon awakened from this
lethargy. About the middle of the morning, Grant opened a fierce fire of artillery on our lines, which he kept
up all day, doing no great harm, however, for the men kept pretty close behind the breast works. Every
now and then, however, one could see the litter bearers scurry across the open field in our rear, bearing
to the field hospital some poor fellow who had been mangled by a shell.
As night came on, the firing ceased; and a little later we could hear the rumbling of the artillery which was
being moved from Allegheny Johnson’s line in the horse shoe. At first it was thought that the army was
falling back, and that the salient was to be abandoned; but such was not the case.
Between midnight and day, General Daniel and his staff were awakened by a messenger from the skirmish
lines, who reported that they could plainly hear the enemy massing in front and on our right (that is, in
front of the salient). This information was at once transmitted to General Rodes, and soon the brigade
was ordered to hold itself in readiness to move. As we sat around our camp fire, we could distinctly hear
the dull sound of the tramp, tramp, tramp of the enemy as division after division, corps after corps, silently
took position in our front preparing to begin the bloody work when dawn should come.
About two or three o’clock all became quiet, except the splash of rain, which had set in cold and chilly
from the northeast, and the random report of a musket from the skirmish line. It was the calm that precedes
After a while, we were ordered forward to General Johnson’s support; but just as we were half way between
the two sides of the angle, and about half way also between the apex and the base (where a second line
had been partially thrown up); we heard a muffled sound that seemed to proceed from the bowels of the
earth; then the huzza of the enemy, the Rebel yell, and the roar of a volley of musketry broke the
stillness of the morning, and in a few seconds, we could see through the dawning light, the remnant
of Johnson’s Division totally disorganized, flying to the rear, closely followed by the triumphant Yankees.
Owing to the configuration of the ground, one flank of the advancing enemy was nearer to the second
line of works above spoken of than we were, and it was a foot race for its possession; fortunately our
men got there first, and Colonel Cowand with the 32nd Regiment dashed over and into the works not
more than twenty yards ahead of the Yankees. The men at once poured a volley into them which
staggered them for a moment and that moment was enough to enable the balance of the brigade to
come up and fill the works. It was a near thing; for the next moment the Yankee artillery opened upon
us and a tremendous column moved to the attack. It was an awful and at the same time splendid sight.
The enemy seemed to be six or seven lines deep, and came on with steady tread and in good order.
In the imperfect, misty light, they seemed to loom up. When they arrived at about seventy yards from
our front (not a shot had been fired on either side except the artillery), we could distinctly hear the order
“forward, charge!” Then our line opened and for an hour those men tried and tried again to approach our
line; but they never got there. The nearest they ever came was about fifty yards. At that point stood a
large sycamore tree. A standard bearer rushed out in front of his line waving his comrades on, but it
was more than men could stand. They had to halt the line and lie down. As the color bearer was in
the act of sticking his flag staff in the ground, he was shot. Another and another and another tried in
turn to raise that flag, but in quick succession every one was killed. Then their line gave way and
The next morning some of our people went out to that sycamore tree and counted twenty five dead
men under it and ten in one spot, lying across one another just as they fell in attempting to raise that
stand of colors. This sycamore tree is not very far from the post oak, as large as a man’s body, that
was cut down by Minnie bullets on that day and which is now preserved in the War Department in
Soon troops began to pour in to our relief; Ramseur with his splendid brigade came up on our right.
But it was too extensive a task to attempt to write the events of that day from memory after the
lapse of twenty years. The result is shown to history.
It was here that our brigade lost its commander, the lion hearted Daniel. He was shot through the
body early in the day and taken to the hospital, where he lingered in great pain until the morning of
the 14th, when he breathed his last. North Carolina mourns the death of many a true son and noble
patriot, “who crossed over the river and rested under the shade of the trees” during the war. When
all did their duty, any comparison would be invidious; but if the South’s great Roll of Honor is ever
made out, high up amidst that splendid throng of heroes, close beside Lee and Jackson and Sidney
Johnston, will be found the name of Junius Daniel. His men in admiration of his sterling qualities had
nicknamed him the “Block House” and, in deed, a tower of strength went down with his fall.
The Raleigh Register
Wednesday, July 9, 1884
The Salient Again
General Daniel, as was told in a former reminiscence, was wounded early on the morning of the 12th
May. He was in the rear of the 45th Regiment when shot. General Rodes was but a short distance
off, and seeing him fall, he galloped to the spot and sent word at once to Col. Owens of the 53rd
Regiment (who was the next officer in rank) to take command, which he did, and started across the
field to general Rodes for the purpose of asking instructions. He had not gone many steps when he
was struck in the side and disabled for many a day. He did not return to his command until August
and on the day of the fight at Snicker’s Gap, poor fellow, he reported for duty in the morning and was
killed about mid-day.
But to return. For about an hour after General Daniel was killed, the Yankees kept up their efforts
to break our line, but signally failed. Then Ramseur’s and some other troops took them in flank and
relieved the pressure upon us. The Yankees fell back to the apex of the angle, the point where they
broke over, closely pressed by two or three other brigades, Ramseur’s among them, our brigade being
left to hold the second line of works and to act as a support.
There is little doubt that some of the hardest fighting of the war was done by those brigades that
drove the enemy from the Salient. From about nine in the morning until night, if the recruit recollects
correctly, they were closed in a fierce death struggle, neither side giving back an inch, and in some
places the lines were literally but a few feet apart for hours and the fire of musketry was a continuous
roar. Many bayonet wounds were given and received. The recruit did not see these things, but had
them from participants at the time. Such was the fury of the musketry fire that a tough sound post
oak, some twelve inches or more in diameter, was cut down by Minnie balls. The stump was seen
by thousands of men on the battlefield and is now preserved in the War Department at Washington.
It was on exhibition in the government building at the Centennial in Philadelphia.
In addition to the fire of the infantry we were exposed to the fire of about 100 pieces of artillery, which
was particularly galling to our men who were lying in the works in reserve and inactive. There can be
no more trying situation to troops than to have to lie still under a heavy shelling; and we lay under it
from morning until night. Our condition was almost unbearable, drenched with rain, the breast works
full of mud, and we forced to sit under it all day with no action or excitement to keep us up.
At first, the shells did little or no harm, but later in the day they got our range and afterwards almost
every shell exploded but a few feet from the works and many men were hurt. The air seemed full of
fragments of shell and the noise was awful. When any orders were sent we would run down the time
keeping half bent so as to get as much protection from the works as possible. While running in this
way down the line, the recruit met with a right laughable accident. A young pine about the size of a
man’s leg stood near the works. Just as the recruit passed it, or rather just before he got to it, a
shell cut off about fifteen feet of the top, and exploded as the recruit ran under the tree. Not looking
up to see what was going on, the top fell on him, mashing him into the mud. Encumbered as he
was with a long and very wet overcoat, it took him a minute or so to get out and he could hear the
men in the works say “Poor fellow, he is gone; the recruit is killed!” But when he crawled out
covered from head to foot with mud and said “no, they haven’t got me yet”, he was greeted with a
cheer that made him feel good.
As night came on, the fighting in our front gradually ceased, but the fire of artillery was kept up late
into the night. Just before day, we were moved back to a new and shorter line, which had been thrown
up where Rodes and Daniel wanted it in the first instance, and many thousands poor mangled soldiers
gave hideous proof of the correctness of that prediction made on the night of the 8th: “It is a shambles,
About 9:00 the recruit gave out and was sent to the field hospital for a few days and should these lines
ever reach the eyes of Dr. Godwin, of the 2nd Battalion, let him again accept the thanks of the recruit
for the cup of hot coffee, piece of bread and hunk of butter which he gave him; no such delicious food
ever tempted the appetite or tickled the palate of an epicure. Then he prescribed a big drink of hospital
whiskey, and put the recruit into a bed in a warm, dry tent. In two minutes he was asleep. After a rest
of a day or two, he returned to duty in time to be in the big flank attack, when we almost captured Grant’s
The Raleigh Register
Wednesday, August 13, 1884
In The Valley
General Jubal Early’s campaign in the Valley of Virginia in 1864 was a desperate effort on the part of
General Lee to relieve the pressure of the Federal army in front of Richmond and Petersburg, In fact,
it was a forlorn hope sent off by the besieged, and as from the very nature of the enterprise, desperate
odds were to be taken, so must the commander be judged not by the measure of his successes, but
by the odds against which he contended and judged by this standard, “Old Jubal” may well and safely
leave his cause to the dispassionate judgment of the future.
he famed and somewhat fabled 300 at Thermopylae stand out ahead of all the world as self-sacrificing
heroes and patriots; their trial was of short duration: General Early and his 9,000 unpaid, unclad and
unfed Confederates, not in a mountain pass, but in an open plain, for six months, stood up before five
times their number of well appointed troops, and thereby upheld the sinking fortunes of the Confederacy;
for if the forty thousand infantry which were kept during the summer and fall of 1864 in front of Early in
the Valley for the protection of Washington City had been in front of Petersburg, where it would have
been but for Early, the tale of Lee’s surrender would have been told, in all human probability, in the fall
When the Spartan boy told his mother that his sword was too short, he was told to “add a step to it”.
Old Jubal and his forlorn hope were told to make up the lack of number by activity and dare-devil pluck.
As a consequence, there was not a period of 36 consecutive hours from June to November in which the
forty thousand Federals could not have got a fight out of the nine thousand Confederates if they had
desired; and sometimes when they were not looking for one. The recruit maintains that in spite of
Winchester and Fisher’s Hill that old Jubal proved himself a man in 1864.
Nothing succeeds like success and among all the sad “might have beens” of the war, let us speculate
what might have been the result if Breckenridge’s Division had held its line, covering the left of the army,
for one short hour longer on September 19, 1864. The signal station on Round Top had already reported
that Sheridan’s reserve artillery and wagon train was moving out in the direction of Berryville and that
everything as far as seen of his movement indicated a speedy and precipitous retreat. However, such
speculations as these are beyond the scope of a private’s recollections. We know that we were
whipped like smoke not only at Winchester but at Appomattox.
Among the many brilliant and risky moves made by General Early during that eventful period, was his
advance upon Halltown and Harpers Ferry in August of that year. In a nutshell, the Valley campaign
was thus: Early had a small army threatening the upper ford of the Potomac and Washington city; the
Federals had a large army in front of him to cover these points.
The Federals desired to send re-enforcements to Grant. Early was under orders to do his best to
prevent him; therefore, whenever Sheridan would make a move that looked towards retiring any
considerable number of troops out of the Valley, Early would make some bold move to the front, and
thereby check him and cause the recall of these troops.
This was the case when he moved upon Halltown with Rodes’ and Ramseur’s divisions of infantry, six
or seven batteries of artillery and a brigade of two of cavalry. On and about noon on the 20th, came up
with a force of the enemy posted on some commanding hills with a creek of some considerable size in
front of them, and well served with artillery. We were on the old Smithfield Pike and the rest of the army
was on the Berryville Pike, the direct road from Winchester to Harper’s Ferry.
Our orders were to amuse them with skirmishers until the main body could take them in flank. Grimes’
brigade happened to be in front, and our first corps of sharpshooters was soon deployed and sent up to
the front. Pretty soon they were so hard pressed as to be forced to call for help, and the second corps
of sharp shooters were sent to their support. These also soon made it known that they must be
reinforced and that the Yankees were fighting with a line of battle.
Then, first one regiment of our brigade and then another and another were deployed as skirmishers and
sent in until at last our entire brigade was engaged and a hot fight kept up for several hours. Then it
began to leak out somehow or other, as things will in an army, that Kershaw and Anderson were slow
in coming up from Berryville and about night we were definitely told that through some mistake there
had been a want of cooperation and that the main body would not be up on the Berryville Pike until
morning. In the meantime we were ordered to hold our line on the creek above spoken of.
As night came on, the Federals seemed to be determined to force us back, and the fight waxed warm.
Our loss was severe and at one time there was a great shortness of ammunition, so much so that at
one time a part of the line actually ceased firing, but held their line, determined to meet a charge with
the bayonet. All night long a hot fire was kept up until just at day; when it ceased suddenly.
Soon orders were received from General Early that Kershaw was in position and to advance. Ten
regiments of our division were called in from the skirmish line and formed in column in a road as a
support for the skirmishers. As the advance began, we were moved forward and kept in supporting
distance, being halted every now and then to give the advance time to develop the position of the
During one of these halts, just on the edge of Charlestown (famous for being the place of John
Brown’s hanging), an old lady, accompanied by her daughter, came to the head of the column and
invited General Grimes and his staff for breakfast at her house which was about two hundred yards
from the road.
They went off and left the recruit at the head of the column to transmit any order that might be received.
After they had been gone about half an hour, orders came for our troops to advance, and the recruit
galloped over to the house to let the staff know. They were sitting where they could see him, and
knowing what was the matter, jumped up from the table and ran for their horses, which were tied
at the front gate.
In the meantime, a pretty sharp skirmish had broken out in front. All was hurry as each member
of the staff sought his horse. The ladies of the house came out and the gray haired matron, looking
at the recruit, said to General Grimes “you have all eaten, let him come in and eat something”. The
general said he could not spare him. The kind old lady said “hold on one moment, my child” and
dashed in the house. In a moment she raced out with a slice of bread with apple butter spread over
it, only as such could be found in the Valley. “God bless you, my boy, eat this and if you get lost
come to me” was all she had time to say and the recruit galloped after the staff. Before he got
through eating the bread, he was in the skirmish line, and the rest of that bread was divided with a
couple of skirmishers who, for a while, diverted their attention between Mr. Recruit and the Yankees
who were retreating over the hill and through the streets of Charlestown, on their march for Harper’s
Two days before that, Sheridan had moved a corps of infantry across the mountains in the direction
of Manassas, but our demonstration brought them back; and after maneuvering for several days we
resumed our old position at Darksville, of which more anon, if the spirit moves.
NOTE: This was the last I could find of Bill Tucker’s reminiscences
Transcribed by Christine Spencer, June 2008
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