Accounts of three men who served with the elite Virginia infantry regiments
Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade by John O. Casler, Sketches of the Life of Captain Hugh White of Stonewall’s Brigade by His Father & A Sketch of the Life of Randolf Fairfax by Philip Slaughter
No student of the American Civil War can be unaware of the inspirational figure of the Confederate General Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. His was a superb military mind and an accidental arm wound was such a severe blow to his cause that it prompted the Confederate military commander, Robert E. Lee, to declare: ‘He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right.’ In fact, more tragically for Lee and the South, the wound proved fatal. Jackson was an inspirational leader of the first rank and the men of his ‘foot cavalry’ justifiably thought highly of their own reputations and demonstrated their prowess repeatedly on campaign and battlefield. This unique Leonaur edition concerns the service of three of ‘Jackson’s Men’. The first and largest account by Casler is well known and highly regarded. It tells the story of a confederate soldier at war with few holds barred, for Casler boldly demonstrates that to survive he had to be as much a rogue as he was a rebel. Also included in this book are two smaller accounts concerning two other members of the Stonewall Brigade, Hugh White and Randolf Fairfax, which would have been unlikely to have been republished individually. The Casler edition in this book contains the expanded text of the second edition, published in 1906. This Leonaur edition contains the illustrations which accompanied both versions of Casler’s text.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
On the 11th there was some skirmishing and heavy artillery firing from both sides, and everyone who had to be near the front had a hole dug to get into. Our line in front of our corps was crescent shaped—our division in the centre, Hill’s and Longstreet’s to the right and left. We were exposed to shells from two directions and shells from one direction would drop in behind the works from the opposite angle. Therefore, on part of the line we had to throw dirt on each side of the ditch.
While making a ditch of this kind on the 11th they opened on us with artillery. Most of the pioneers ran to another ditch, which was already completed, for protection. Several of them, myself included, remained where we were working, and among the number was one great, big cowardly fellow named Ayleshire, of the 10th Virginia, who always carried a big knapsack and wore a No. 13 shoe. He was six feet high and could take half a plug of tobacco at one chew. At the first fire he fell flat to the ground. As the shells passed over, he would attempt to rise to run to the works, but by the time he would get on his hands and knees another shell would pass over, when he would fall flat and stretch out as before. He would then attempt to rise again, but never did get on his feet to run. He kept up that motion while the shelling lasted, which was about half an hour. He had nearly pumped himself to death, and had the ground all pawed up with his feet—the balance of us laughing at him and hallooing to him to “Run Ayleshire! run Ayleshire!” If I had known I would be killed for it the next minute I could not have helped laughing at him, it was so ridiculous. I was wishing a shell would take his knapsack off without hurting him. If one had I believe he would have died right there from fright.
On the night of the 11th every preparation was made for a big battle, as both armies lay close together. The space between the two lines was thick with underbrush and little jack oaks, which stood so close that we could not see twenty steps in advance. The artillery was posted behind the works with the muzzles pointing over and the horses were all taken to the rear. The cannoneers themselves had pits dug to shield them. The ambulance corps, the bands and musicians, with the pioneers, all had pits to get into, as at times the shells would fairly rain over us.
As the army had been marching, fighting, or working, night and day ever since the morning of the 4th, with but little sleep, one-third of the men were allowed to sleep at a time, on their arms. The others had to keep on the lookout for an attack. We had a skirmish line a little in front of the works and a line of videttes on top of the works. A detail of pioneers was sent back to the rear to cook rations and bring them up before daylight.
But just at daylight on the morning of the 12th, it being so foggy that a man could not be seen ten feet away, and having massed their troops in front of our corps, and in front of the crescent, or horseshoe, the enemy made a charge, and before the men knew it, they were coming over the works in front of the second brigade of our division in solid column. They filed out to the right and left, firing at us behind our breastworks.
The result was they got possession of that part of the works held by our division, captured sixteen pieces of our artillery, and about two-thirds of our division, together with our Division Commander, General Ed. Johnson, wounded our brigadier, General Walker, and demoralised the balance of the division. All that escaped had to “run for it” some distance, but were soon rallied by General Gordon, who took command and formed into line. The troops from the right and left of our line closed in and checked the enemy until Hill’s and Longstreet’s corps came up, when the enemy were driven back, and part of the works regained, but the battle raged with great fury at that point from daylight until dark; bullets rained and shells shrieked, but we never did recover all our lines, nor our artillery.
The enemy had the key to our position, and if they had not been checked there by the most desperate fighting on record, the whole of Lee’s army would have been routed, and General Lee knew it. He came dashing up to take the head of the troops in a charge, knowing full well that the men would follow him any place he went; but the soldiers caught him and held him back, when General Gordon rode up and made him go back, saying: “General Lee, you must go to the rear; we are Virginians and Georgians, and we will recover your lines, won’t we, boys?” They answered with a yell, when Gordon took them to the front, and General Lee was forced to the rear.
As there has been some controversy in regard to what troops took General Lee to the rear, I will here explain and settle that controversy. The Texas Brigade took General Lee to the rear on the 6th of May, at the Battle of the Wilderness. Under similar circumstances the Georgians and Virginians took him to the rear on the 12th of May at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, or “Bloody Angle.”
Sergeant Will Montgomery and John Tharp were captured, and James Gaither, after getting out some distance, as he turned around to look at the enemy, was struck by a ball in the eye and fell dead. That was three more of Company A gone, which left but two in ranks, William Sivells and myself.
I was going to the front that morning with rations, but the fight opened before we got there. The firing with small arms was kept up during the whole night, and we had to form a new line across the Angle and work all night through a thicket of pines. Some were building breastworks, cutting down trees, which fell in every direction, some carrying them and piling them up, others with picks, shovels, bayonets and tin-cups throwing up earth on top of the logs, it being at the same time so dark we could not see each other, and we so sleepy