Tales of Glory
“War does not determine who is right - only who is left.”
Brig. Gen. Joseph Eggleston Johnston was no stranger to war. He had spent the greater part of his life serving in the army. He’d served with distinction in the Mexican-American and Seminole wars and been in the army since his graduation from the US Military Academy, also known as West Point, in 1829.
Yet there was something different about this battle near Manassas, Virginia. It was not the familiar blue of the United States that he now wore upon his back, but instead the gray adopted as the uniform of the Confederacy. The Virginia native was now leading a large force, against the Federal army to which he had pledged his loyalty to for over 3 decades prior to this.
He sat upon his steed well behind the front line, conversing with his fellow general P.G.T Beauregard with whom he shared his command in this battle. Beauregard was 11 years younger then Johnston himself, with no beard but in its place, a long thick mustache. Pierre, for this is what the‘P’ in P.G.T stood for, was a Louisiana native whose command strategy differed greatly from Johnston’s own.
Johnston took a conservative approach to battle, believing that it is better to accept the gains that one makes rather then push the advantage to far and loose it all. Beauregard on the other hand was aggressive in battle, pushing his luck until there was no more luck to push.
Johnston noticed someone riding up in the distance from the opposite direction of the battle. Upon closer inspection it was realized the rider was none other then Confederate President Jefferson Davis, here to watch his loyal soldiers in action apparently.
“Hello Mr. President” Johnston said saluting the tall, clean shaven man. Beauregard saluted as well, offering his own greeting to the president.
“Greetings generals, how goes the battle?” came the reply from Davis.
Johnston and Beauregard both began answering him at once then stopped, grinning. Beauregard nodded to Johnston indicating his elder would be answering the question.
“It goes well sir. Simply put we are winning. Col.Thomas J. Jackson's Virginia brigade had been a quite pleasant surprise, holding its position on Henry’s House Hill despite heavy Union assaults. I personally would recommend him for promotion at the next available opportunity and I feel my colleague would agree with me. He is quite the commander.”
“What will our actions be upon victory? I feel we must press our advantage to the full,” the President questioned of his generals.
This time Johnston allowed Beauregard the right to answer. “Sir I agree with you completely, we are within nearly 50 miles of Washington. If we were to take the Union capital the war would be ours.”
Johnston though otherwise though and had to exert great effort not to interrupt his fellow general. “Sir the troops are tired, we’ve been fighting since nearly 5 in the morning. We cannot expect them to trek all the way to Washington.”
An argument ensued for quite a time. Johnston had trouble trying to pay attention to the ongoing battle as well. Finally, though no agreement had been reached, Davis revealed that he must leave for the time being though he would be back soon.
Johnston pulled out his pocket watch; it was nigh 4 PM. He could feel in his blood that the battle was nearing its end. He wondered to himself what would happen at the end of this battle. He felt that pressing on to Washington was both dangerous and foolish. Yet he forced this to the back of his mind, returning his attention to the battle.
Johnston watched as the Union forces began to crumble. Then he’d heard the sound he’d been waiting for, ever since the battle had begun, the Union retreat signal, they had won the battle. A rush of euphoria hit him as he raced forward to get a closer look, the rush of euphoria was suddenly replaced with a rush of pain.
Johnston looked down at his stomach to see blood gushing from it all over his hands, which were now covering the wound to no avail. He felt dizzy and the world seemed to be spinning around him. He felt himself collapse off his horse and heard screams calling for a medic. Yet the 54 year old general had seen many the wound like this in his long days in the army, and he knew any medical treatment would be to no avail.
Representative William Augustus Hall awoke suddenly to the sound of heavy knocking on the door to the apartment he rented in Washington DC. Looking around the moderately sized room most anyone could tell it had only been recently occupied. Box’s littered the floor still full of possessions. This could only be expected as Hall had only lived there for just over a week, having been elected to Missouri’s 3rd Congressional District as a replacement for John Bullock Clark who had been dismissed for taking up arms against the Union.
“Hold on,” he said groggily to whoever was knocking so loudly at his door. He stumbled out of his iron-framed bed towards the door. Upon unlocking and opening the door he was met with the sight of a hardy looking man in full military garb.
“Hello sir, I’m Sgt. Jack Goldstein. We have orders from General McDowell to evacuate Washington of all government personnel. It seems the Confederates are planning an assault on Washington, beyond that I know nothing of the details,” the sergeant spoke surprisingly calmly. He looked to be in his 40s and, judging by his calmness had probably seen action before.
“Very well, let me grab some essentials before we head out.” Hall turned back into the room, gathering up several loose papers and stuffing them into a briefcase. He threw on an overcoat and headed out the door following the sergeant.
Chaos greeted them as they stepped out into the streets of Washington. Apparently the news of a Confederate offensive approaching Washington had spread quickly. Everyone seemed to be trying to get out of the city as swiftly as possible.
They had quite the time fighting threw the crowd just to get to the other side of the street. There a stagecoach awaited them. They got in quickly sitting on one side. Across from them wasLyman Trumbull, representative of Illinois’ 3rd district that Goldstein had apparently already brought out here before Hall.
The stagecoach lurched forward as it began moving but struggled to pick up any speed, despite Goldstein sticking his head out the window to shout at pedestrians clogging the streets.
“So Sgt. Goldstein, you served in war before?” William Hall asked in an attempt to pass time.
“Yes sir,” came the reply. “I myself was in the whole entire Mexican-American war back in 1846. Afterward I decided the army life suited me better den life back home and I’ve been serving in the armed forces ever since.”
“Where you from, sergeant?” Hall inquired, noticing for the first time the Southern twang in the man’s accent.
“I come from Tennessee originally sir, we gots a farmhouse some miles outside‘o Nashville,” came the reply. The conversation carried on like this for some time until the stagecoach came to a stop outside a large train station. They proceeded to leave the stagecoach and head into the station.
Upon arrival in the station a locomotive sat waiting for Hall and the other congressman and government officials. By the looks of things he was one of the last to arrive at the station. He bid farewell to Sergeant Goldstein and hurried towards the train.
If an average man were to have walked onto the train at that time they would likely have been amused. There was almost every powerful many in the country, from the Secretary of State, to the Speaker of the House all sitting in an ordinary train as though there was nothing special or different about them whatsoever. The only man missing was Lincoln himself who Hall assumed had other, safer, transport.
Hall sat down next to several other Democratic congressmen, for he was a
Democrat himself. They spoke amongst themselves for quite a while, wondering
what was going on and whether or not the Union could hold Washington, in its
current state, against the Confederates. They continued to converse among
themselves until the train lurched into motion. Soon after a soldier approached
them telling indicating he had news on the situation.
“The Confederates are pressing their advantage to the full and are marching quickly towards Washington. Our garrison there is relatively small and is unlikely to hold up in a full-scale assault from the rebels. This is why we have chosen to pull all government officials out of Washington. We are now in route to Philadelphia wear the government will temporarily reside,” concluded the lieutenant.
Swanson walked off towards the next group, leaving Hall and the others to contemplate the news they had just received. What would the Union do if Washington fell to the Confederacy? This was bad news, bad news indeed.
Pvt. James Hickory marched proudly to the sounds of drums and fifes as he approached the city limits of Washington DC. Today, July 25, 1861 was a great day to be a Confederate. Today was the day when the Union capital was to come under the rule of the CSA and James Hickory felt strongly that the rest of the nation would soon follow.
The 6’1” 176 pound Hickory, with his Blond hair, blue eyes, and freshly cleaned uniform, marched in time alongside his fellow infantry men. He couldn’t stop ginning the entire time as thought to himself how confident the Yankees had been when the war had broken out and how quickly the Confederates had taken their capital.
It seemed to be a perfect day to be alive, especially in comparison to the bloody battle of Manassas and the hard days of marching to reach Washington following it. The sun was bright and his ego was massive. James Hickory was confident that nothing could stop either the Confederate army or himself for that matter.
Then he heard a massive explosion and could feel the heat up against his cheeks. He heard the screams of the wounded and, looking to his left, saw them as well. The feelings of euphoria and triumph were quickly replaced with fear and anger. A dozen soldiers lay sprawled on the ground, victims of a powerful bomb, which had, apparently, been planted on the side of the rode upon which they were parading.
He was aware that several soldiers had begun to fire into the crowd, whether they hit the bomber or not was none of their concern. To them it was the Yankees as a whole that had attacked them and they would make the Yankees as a whole pay for it.
The crowd had turned to panic as pedestrians ran left, right, forward, and back trying to find a way to escape the southern gunfire. Hickory was now aware that it was not just those around himself that were firing upon the crowd. It appeared as though throughout the entire Confederate parade line northerners were paying for the bomb they had planted.
General Beauregard rode up and down the Confederate line attempting to take control back of his troops. Hickory gazed at him with a general dismay, why can he not just let as take care of business? We’ll make them sorry for ever daring to challenge the Confederacy.
Before he was even aware he was doing so, James Hickory himself was firing into the crowd. Then he was fixing his bayonet upon his rifle and charging into the crowd. He knew there were others charging with him, but they seemed invisible, this was his chance to get revenge upon as many yanks as possible and he sure as hell was going to take this chance.
It went on like this for what seemed like an eternity. Screams and cries for mercy from the crowd were unheeded by the confederate soldiers. After all, Hickory thought to himself, if they were so desperate for mercy why had they not simply left the Confederacy alone? This whole war was their fault in the first place.
Finally by mid afternoon the riotous killing had ended. It took a while but looking around it began to dawn upon James what he had done. Everywhere innocent civilians, women and children, lay dead, strewn in the streets of what had once been their capital. Along with the realization of what had been done came a sense of immense guilt that swept over him.
Many Confederate soldiers headed to the bars and taverns of Washington, hoping to drown the memories out of their heads. By nightfall it seemed as though every last drop of alcohol in Washington may be gone by the time the sun rose again.
That night was a brutal night, by morning Hickory would become aware that multiple soldiers had become so grief stricken they had taken their own live. Yet what seemed much more outrageous to the young private was those who didn’t seem to feel any guilt from the massacre, who spent the night celebrating the victory in Washington. Yet Hickory let these thoughts slip away and sleep over take him.
He awoke the next morning to see his friend Pvt. Samuel Orange looking sadly down at a newspaper in his hands. By the looks of it, it was a Northern paper as well; Hickory wondered to himself how on earth his friend had gotten a hold of it.
Seeing he was now awake Orange solemnly handed the paper over to Hickory, pointing at the front-page article. There, in large bold print, read the title of the article “Washington Massacre.” James’ eyes quickly darted down and he began to read the rest of the article.
“Today the Confederate rebels, our sworn enemies proved their barbarity,” the article began. Hickory continued to read. “As the enemy troops marched through our nations capital something seemed to have possessed a portion of their army. As they were in the midst of Washington, the Confederates lowered their guns and, unprovoked, opened fire upon the innocent civilians of Washington DC.” This particular statement angered Hickory greatly, for it was nothing more then a blatant lie in his eyes. Yet he couldn’t help himself and he continued on with the article.
“The slaughter continued throughout much of the day,” the article continued. “We here at the Philadelphia Enquirer are unable to know the true number of civilian casualties but preliminary reports put the number in the thousands.”
“If the Confederates thought they could intimidate us with this act they were wrong,” the article claimed. “Their plan has backfired, for instead of intimidating us they have ensured that we will work forever, day and night, to enact our vengeance against them. I, as the writer of this article, have complete confidence that we here in the United States of America will never give up.
“We will continue to fight until there are no longer any rebels left to fight. Then we will do onto you as Rome did onto Carthage. We will burn your cities. We will destroy your farms. Then we will sow your fields with salt so that never again will there be any reason to inhabit those lands.”
Harley Dodd glanced at himself in mirror on the wall opposite his desk in the city hall. Looking back at him was a short plump man with untamed snow-white hair. Thick round glasses lay upon a wide nose of the suit-adorned mayor of Carondelet, a small city just south of St. Louis. 1,265 citizens lived in the young city, incorporated in 1851, as of the latest census.
The mayor thought to himself of the rapid change of opinion lately among his constituents concerning the war. His small town had always been pro-north, partially due to the presence of only 28 slaves in the entire city. Yet when news had reached them of the fall of Washington one could sense the feeling of despair in the air, pressing down on the citizens like a humid summer day.
Then came the news of the now infamous Washington Massacre, now 11 days news. Now support of the Union had become somewhat of a fanaticism in the small town. The whole town seemed to shine with the red white and blue of the American flag.
Along with this passionate support came growing tensions with their northern brothers in St. Louis, whom had already seen pro-confederate riots rip through their city. Now confrontations between the citizens of the two nearby cities were on the rise, something that worried Dodd, who had no illusions about the size differential between St. Louis and Carondelet.
Dodd, a somewhat radical unionist himself, was also keenly aware of the growing presence of the Wide Awakes growing membership in St. Louis and, more prominently his own town. In fact Harley Dodd, along with his son Benjamin, had been an important factor in the growth of the pro-north paramilitary group.
Of course most of the country was aware of them now, ever since their‘campaign’ in St. Louis following news of the Washington Massacre. That night they had marched through St. Louis by torch light, igniting all the Confederate flags and memorabilia in their path. This had led to riots and counter-demonstrations by the pro-south young hickories, nearly landing St. Louis in a state of anarchy.
Ever since then the St. Louis had outlawed both organizations, which had given Dodd his chance to make himself the national celebrity he now was. Seizing the opportunity he had promised shelter to members of the Wide Awakes. Many pro-northern newspapers had framed his move as heroic, refusing to give in to his much bigger neighbor and standing up for the USA. Dodd grinned as he thought about how much some of those articles had praised him. A frantic knock on the door of his office abruptly interrupted his thoughts.
“Come in,” he said wondering for what reason the knocks upon his door seemed so frantic. Eric Daly, the local police chief stood on the other side looking exasperated and sad, very sad.
“Sir, I am sorry but it is my duty to inform you that, well,” Daly began searching for the right words.
“Get on with it,” Dodd urged. Daly was usually a very pleasant, happy sort of man and Dodd wondered what could have got him into this mood.
“Well, sir I don’t know how to say this so I’ll just say it straight. Confederate paramilitaries raided and burned your house. Everyone’s dead,” finished Daly his voice cracking.
Dodd started at him in disbelief. His wife, Emily, his two boys, Benjamin and Jake, how could they be dead? It couldn’t be true. Yet he knew it was, he knew he’d never see them again. and he knew they were dead, all of them. He felt an intense rush of mixed emotions; anger and grief welled up inside him. He decided to go with anger; it was easier, especially when Daniel Taylor, St. Louis’ mayor, was supposed to be suppressing these groups.
“Get a hold of Dan Taylor for me if you would, I want a word with him,” Dodd asked of the officer through gritted teeth. He’d be damned if he didn’t give that s-o-b a peace of his mind before the day ended. Yet as Daly left the room Dood broke down into tears.
To Pvt. William‘Willy’ McBride the marching seemed to go on forever. From Pittsburgh, where they had begun their march, they had marched almost directly south into West Virginia before sweeping towards the east. Although they had no official word about this, or where they were supposed to be ending up, McBride felt he had a pretty good idea.
The fact that McClellan himself was leading the force, combined with the sheer number of troops and the general direction in which they were headed McBride assumed they were moving in to cut off Washington from reinforcements and supplies. It seemed like a good idea, as an army without supplies is hardly an army at all.
Finally they stopped the march for the day. McBride, with a sigh of relief slumped onto a nearby stump, wondering how much farther they were going to have to march before they reached Washington. It couldn’t be that much farther, although he had been telling himself the same thing for several days now.
He pulled a tattered book with the word‘journal’ scrawled over the cover out of his uniform pocket and began to write:
“September 16, 1861” the entry began. “Yet another day of marching… and marching… and marching. I don’t think I can take much more of this. I have no idea where we are, but I assume somewhere in Northern Virginia. We passed a pleasant looking little town called Stanardsville just before we arrived here. No more then a few hundred lived their most likely. If it wasn’t in damn Virginia it looked like it might be a nice place to settle down in.”
The entry was short and simple, just like most of them in Willy’s journal. There wasn’t much interesting to write about a day of marching, especially when one was exhausted and in no mood to be elaborate or detailed. He was just closing his journal when a loud bang erupted in the distance, followed soon after by a nearby explosion. This bang was soon followed by a dozen more and by screams from the less battle tested soldiers.
Officers screamed in an attempt to be heard over the roar of artillery fire, some of which was falling not far from where McBride sat. If this wasn’t a successful ambush he didn’t know what to call. In the back of his mind he wondered how they had managed to get positions close enough for cannon fire without being spotted. But he quickly pushed this to the back of his mind, following the orders to retreat.
Once McBride got his thoughts together, it didn’t take him long to realize where they were planning to regroup. Stanardsville lay about 2 miles northwest of where they had stopped, the exact direction they were headed. Sure enough, after about 20 minutes of running they arrived in the city.
McBride was one of the first to arrive and quickly noticed his platoon’s sergeant standing on a bench. Listening closely to hear over the commotion he got wind that it was the 30-man group’s job to hold the small chapel in the center of the town, an important strategic position.
Luckily the chapel, which happened to be catholic in its denomination, was empty when the men arrived. Lt. Sanders, the head of their platoon, quickly assigned positions within the church. McBride, along with 14 others headed to the stain glass windows that adorned the house of worship, smashing them with the butts of their guns, they needed a place to shoot out after all.
Simultaneously the other 15 men in the platoon ripped pews out of the floor, which were thankfully relatively small and loosely fastened. They pilled the pews near the entryways as cover for those who would be defending them.
Other platoons took similar actions in buildings around the town. It quickly became obvious that there were not going to be enough buildings to house the tens of thousands of troops in McClellan’s army. Some took cover in the streets of the city using items from local stores and houses as cover, among them pews from the church were dragged out. Most though were reorganized and sent either Northeast or Southwest of the city, at least as far as McBride could tell.
It also quickly became obvious that Stanardsville would be the center of the fighting. The first sound Willy heard was the infamous rebel yell, soon followed by the massive roar of gunfire, unlike anything he’d ever heard before. He had been in a few skirmishes since the war had begun but upon hearing that sound he realized this was the proverbial ‘real deal,’ this was a major battle.
Willy leaned out one of the church’s now shattered windows, doing his best to pick off as many southerners as possible. The battle was intense, bullets flew everywhere, men fell and officers scrambled around, informing their men of the plans. But most of all there was the noise, the deafening roar, a mixture of gunshots and the bloodcurdling screams of dieing men.
The Union troops were killing their fair share of confederates, but it seemed that no matter how many they killed wave after wave came to replace them. McBride soon realized the sad truth. While the north had spread their forces evenly to avoid being flanked, the south had thrown nearly all their force in one massive attack at the center.
McBride continued to fight, then suddenly he felt like he was floating, no longer limited to his own body. The world spun around him, he could hear his own heart beat and screams rang out from somewhere close by. Then he realized they were his own screams.
He pulled his hands off his chin to discover them covered in blood. A bullet hole now stretched through his jaw, he was bleeding immensely. Finally, at 19:16 army time, William McBride drew his final breath. It had been slow and obscene.
To be continued...