|PAPER No. 5- Improvised
To Appomattox Courthouse.
Sunday, April 2d, 1865, found Cutshaw's battalion of artillery
occupying the earthworks at Fort Clifton, on the Appomattox, about two
miles below Petersburg, Virginia. The command was composed of the Second
company Richmond Howitzers, Captain Lorraine F. Jones, Garber's battery,
Fry's battery and remnants of five other batteries (saved from the battle
of Spotsylvania Courthouse, May 12, 1864), and had present for duty nearly
five hundred men, with a total muster roll, including the men in prison,
of one thousand and eighty.
The place-the old "Clifton House"-was well fortified,
and had the additional protection of the river along the entire front of
perhaps a mile. The works extended from the Appomattox on the right to
Swift creek on the left. There were some guns of heavy calibre, mounted
and ready for action, and in addition to these some field-pieces disposed
along the line at suitable points. The enemy had formidable works opposite,
but had not used their guns to disturb the quiet routine of the camp. The
river bank was picketed by details from the artillery armed as infantry,
but without the usual equipments. The guard duty was so heavy that half
the men were always on guard.
The huts, built by the troops who had formerly occupied
the place, were located, with a view to protection from
the enemy's fire, under the hills on the sides of the
ravines or gullies which divided them, and were underground to
the eaves of the roof. Consequently, the soil being sandy,
there was constant filtering of sand through the cracks,
and in spite of the greatest care the grit found its
way into the flour and meal, struck to the greasy frying-pan and even filled
the hair of the men as they slept in their bunks.
At this time rations were reduced to the minimum of quantity
and quality, being generally worm-eaten peas,
sour or rancid messpork and unbolted corn meal, relieved
occasionally with a small supply of luscious canned beef imported from
England, good flour (half-rations), a little coffee and sugar, and, once,
apple brandy for all hands. Ragged, barefooted and even bareheaded men
were so common that they did not excite notice or comment, and did not
expect or seem to feel the want of sympathy. And yet there was scarcely
a complaint or murmur of dissatisfaction and not the slightest indication
of fear or doubt. The spirit of the men was as good as ever and the possibility
of immediate disaster had not cast its shadow there.
Several incidents occurred during the stay of the battalion
at Fort Clifton which will serve to illustrate everyday life
on the lines. It occurred to a man picketing the river
bank that it would be amusing to take careful aim at the man on the other
side doing the same duty for the enemy, fire, laugh to see the fellow jump
and dodge, and then try again. He fired, laughed, dropped his musket to
reload, and while smiling with satisfaction heard the "thud" of a bullet
felt an agonizing pain in his arm. His musket fell to
the ground and he walked back to camp with his arm swinging heavily at
this side. The surgeon soon relieved him of it altogether. The poor fellow
learned a lesson. The "Yank" had beat him at his own game.
The ground-house was a two-story framed building about
twelve feet square, having two rooms, one above the other. The detail for
guard duty was required to stay in the guard-house; those who wished to
sleep going up stairs, while others just relieved or about to go on duty
clustered around the fire in the lower room. One night, when the upper
floor was covered with sleeping men, and improvised infantryman who had
been relieved from duty walked in, and preparatory to taking his stand
at the fire, threw his musket carelessly in the corner. A loud report of
the guard, noticing the direction of the ball, hurried up stairs, and to
the disgust of the sleepy fellows, ordered all hands to "turn out". Grumbling,
growling, stretching and rubbing their eyes, the men got up. Some one inquired,
"where's Pryor?" His chum, who had been sleeping by his side, replied
"there he is asleep-shake him!" His blanket was drawn
aside, and with a shake he was commanded to "get up!" But there was no
motion, no reply. The ball had passed through his heart, and he had passed
without a groan or a sigh from deep sleep to death. The man who was killed
and the man who was sleeping by his side, under the same
blanket, were members of the Second company Richmond Howitzers. The careless
man who made the trouble was also an artilleryman, from one of the other
Shortly after this accident, after a quiet day, the men
retired to their huts and the whole camp was still as
a country church-yard. The pickets on the river's edge
could hear those on the opposite side asking the corporal
of the guard the hour and complaining that they had not
been promptly relived. Suddenly a terrific bombardment commenced and the
earth fairly trembled. The men, suddenly awakened, heard the roar of the
guns, the rush
of the shots and the explosion of the shells. To a man
only half awake the shells seemed to pass very near and
in every direction. In a moment all were rushing out
their houses, and soon the hillsides and bluffs were
covered with an excited crowd, gazing awestruck
the sight. The firing was away to the right, and there
was not the slightest danger. Having realized this fact, the interest
was intense. The shells from the opposite lines met and passed in mid air-their
burning fusses forming an arch of fire which paled occasionally as a shell
burst, illuminating the heavens with its blaze. The uproar, even at such
a distance, was terrible. The officers, fearing that fire would be opened
along the whole line, ordered the cannoneers to their posts; men were sent
down into the magazine with lanterns to arrange the ammunition for the
heavy guns; the lids of the limbers of the fieldpieces were thrown up;
the cannoneers were counted off at their posts; the brush which had been
piled before the embrasures was torn away, and with implements in hand
all stood at attention till the last shot was fired,-the heavens were dark
again and silence reigned. Soon all hands were as sound asleep as though
nothing had occurred.
The next morning an artilleryman came walking leisurely
towards the camp, and being recognized as belonging
to a battery which was in position on that part of the
line where the firing of the last night occurred, was plied with questions
as to the loss on our side, who was hurt, &c., &c. Smiling at the
anxious faces and eager questions, he replied: "When? Last night? Nobody!"
It was astounding, but nevertheless true.
On another occasion some scattering shots were heard up
the river, and after awhile a body came floating down the stream. It was
hauled on shore and buried in the sand a little above highwater mark. It
was a poor Confederate
who had attempted to desert to the enemy but was shot
while swimming for the opposite bank of the river. His grave was the centre
of the beat of one of the picket posts on the river bank, and there were
few men so indifferent
to the presence of the dead as not to prefer some other
And so while there had been no fighting there was always
incidents to remind the soldier the danger lurked around, and that he could
not long avoid his share. The camp was not as joyous as it had been, and
all felt that the time was near which would try the courage of the stoutest.
The struggles of the troops on the right with overwhelming numbers and
reports of adversities, caused a general expectation that the troops lying
so idly at the Clifton house would be ordered to the point of danger.
They had not long to wait.
Sunday came and went as many a Sunday had. There was nothing
unusual apparent, unless, perhaps, the dull and listless attitudes of the
men and the monotonous call of those on guard were more oppressive than
usual. The sun went down, the hills and valleys and the river were veiled
in darkness. Here and there twinkling lights were visible. On the other
side of the river could be heard a low rumbling which experienced men said
was the movement of artillery and ammunition trains bound to the enemy's
left to press the already broken right of the Confederate line.
Some had actually gone to sleep for the night. Others
were huddled around the fires in the little huts, and a few sat out on
the hillside discussing the probabilities of the near future. A most peaceful
scene-a most peaceful spot. Hymns were sung and prayers were made, though
no preacher was there. Memory reverted fondly to the past, to home and
friends. The spirit of the soldier soared away to other scenes and left
him to sit blankly down, gaze at the stars and feel unspeakable longings
for undefined joys, and weep, for very tenderness of heart, at his own
At 10 P. M. some man, mounted on horseback, rode up to
one of the huts and said the battalion had orders to move. It was so dark
that his face was scarcely visible. In a few minutes orders were received
to destroy what could be destroyed without noise or fire. This was promptly
done. Then the companies were formed, the roll was called and the battalion
marched slowly and solemnly away. No one doubted that the command would
march at once to the
assistance of the troops at or near Five Forks. It was
thought that before morning every man would have his musket and his supply
of ammunition, and the crack of
day would see the battalion rushing intobattle in regular
infantry style, whooping and yelling like demons. But they got no arms
that night. The march was steady till broad
day of Monday the 3d of April. Of course the men left
mortified at having to leave the guns, but there was no
help for it, as the battery horses which had been sent
away to winter had nor returned. It was evident that
the battalion had bid farewell to artillery and commenced a
new career as infantry.
As the night wore on the men learned that the command
was not going to any point on the lines. That being determined, no one
could guess its destination. Later in
the night, probably as day approached, the sky in the
direction of Richmond was lit with the red glare of distant conflagration,
and at short intervals there were deep, growling explosions as of magazines.
The roads were
filled with other troops, all hurrying in the same direction.
There was no sign of panic or fear, but the very wheels
seemed turning with unusual energy. The men wore the look of determination,
haste and eagerness. One could feel the energy which surrounded him and
animated the men and things which moved so steadilyon, on, on!! There was
no laughing, singing or talking. Nothing but the steady tread of the column
and the surly rumbling of the trains.
As morning dawned, the battalion struck the main road
leading from Richmond. Refugees told the story of the evacuation and informed
the boys from the city that it
was in the hands of the enemy and burning, and the chances
were that not one house would b left standing. Here it became clearly understood
that the whole army
was in full retreat. From this point the men began to
as they marched, that it was easier to march away than
it would be to get back, but that they expected and hoped to flight their
way back if they had no contest every inch. Some even regretted the celerity
of the march, for, they said, "the further we march the more difficult
it will be to win our way back". Little did they know of the immense pressure
at the rear and the earnest push of the enemy on the flank as he strove
to reach and overlap the advance
of his hitherto defiant but now retreating foe.
A detail had been left at Fort Clifton with orders to
spike the guns, blow up the magazine, destroy everything which would be
of value to the enemy, and rejoin the command. The order was obeyed, and
every man of the detail resumed his place in the ranks.
From this point to Appomattox, the march was almost continuous,
day and night, and it is with the greatest difficulty that a private in
the ranks can recall with
accuracy the dates and places on the march. Night was
day,-day was night. There was no stated time to sleep,
eat or rest, and the events of morning became strangely
intermingled with the events of evening. Breakfast, dinner and supper were
merged into "something to eat" whenever and whenever it could he had. The
incidents of the march, however, loss none of their significance on this
account, and, so far as possible, they will be given in the order in which
they occurred and they day and hour fixed as accurately as they can be
by those who witnessed and participated in its dangers and hardships.
Monday the 3d the column was pushed along without ceremony
at a rapid pace until night, when a halt was ordered and the battalion
laid down in a piece of pine woods to rest. There was some "desultory"
eating in this camp, but so little of it that there was no lasting effect.
At early dawn of Tuesday the 4th, the men struggled to their feet, and
with empty stomachs and brave hearts resumed their places in the ranks,
and struggled on with the column as it marched steadily in the direction
of Moore's church,
in Amelia county, where it arrived in the night. The
men laid down under the shelter of a fine grove, and friend divided with
friend the little supplies of raw and bread picked up on the day's march.
The men were scarcely stretched on the ground and ready for a good nap,
when the orderly of the Howitzers commenced bawling, "Detail
for guard!! Detail for guard!! Fall in here, fall in!!"
The followed the names of the detail. Four men answered to their names,
but declared they could not keep awake if placed on guard. Their remonstrance
was in vain. They were marched off to picket a road leading to camp, and
when they were relieved said they had slept soundly on their posts. No
one blamed them.
While it was yet night, all hands were roused from profound
sleep, the battalion was formed and away they went, stumbling, bumping
against each other, and sleeping as they walked. Whenever the column halted
for a moment, as it did frequently during the night, the men dropped heavily
to the ground and were instantly asleep. Then the officers would commence:
"Forward! column forward!!" Those first on their feet stumbling on over
their prostrate comrades, who would in turn be awakened, and again the
column was in motion, and nothing heard but
the monotonous tread of the weary feet, the ringing and
rattling of the trappings of the horses and the never ending cry of
"Close up men, close up!!"
Through the long, weary night there was no rest.
The alternate halting and hurrying was terribly trying and taxed the endurance
of the most determined men to the very utmost; and yet on the morning of
Wednesday the 5th, when the battalion reached the neighborhood of "Scott's
Shops", every man was in place and ready for duty. From this point,
after some ineffectual efforts to get a breakfast, the column pushed
on in the direction of Amelia Courthouse, at which point Colonel Cutshaw
was ordered to report to General James A. Walker, and the battalion was
a part of Walker's division. The 5th was spent at or near the Courthouse
-how, it is difficult to remember; but the day was marked by several incidents
worthy of record.
About two hundred and twenty-five muskets (not enough
to arm all the men), cartridges and caps were issued to
the battalion: simply the muskets and ammunition. Not
a cartridge box, cap box, belt or any other convenience
ornamented the persons of these newborn infantrymen. They stored their
ammunition in their pockets along with their corn, salt, pipes and tobacco.
When application was made for rations, it was found
that the last morsel belonging to the division had been
issued to the command, and the battalion was again
thrown on its own resources, to wit: corn on the cob
intended for the horses. Two ears were issued to each
man. It was parched in the coals, mixed with salt, stored
in the pockets and eaten on the road. Chewing the corn
was hard work. It made the jaws ache and the guns and teeth so sore as
to cause almost unendurable pain.
After the muskets were issued a line of battle was
formed with Cutshaw on the right. For what purpose the
line was formed the men could not tell. A short distance from the right
of the line there was a grove which concealed an ammunition train which
had been sent from Richmond to meet the army. The ammunition had been piled
up ready for destruction. An occasion musket ball passed over near enough
and often to produce a realizing sense of the proximity of the enemy and
solemnize the occasion. Towards evening the muskets were
stacked, artillery style of course, the men were lying around, chatting
and eating raw bacon, and there was general
quiet, when suddenly the earth shook with a tremendous
explosion and an immense column of smoke rushed up
into the air to a great height. For a moment there
was the greatest consternation. Whole regiments broke and fled in wild
confusion. Cutshaw's men stood up, seized their muskets and stood at attention
till it was known that the ammunition had been purposely fired and no enemy
was threatening the line. Then, what laughter and hilarity prevailed, for
awhile, among these famishing men!
Order having been restored, the march was resumed,
and moving by way of Amelia springs, the column
arrived near Deatonsville about ten o'clock the morning
of Thursday the 6th. The march, though not a long one,
was exceedingly tiresome, as the main roads being
crowded condition, and crowded with troops and trains.
That the night was spent in the most trying manner, may
be best learned from the fact when morning dawned the
column was only six or seven miles from the starting
point of the evening before.
This delay was fatal. The whole army-trains and all-left
Amelia Courthouse in advance of Walker's division,
which was left to cover the retreat-Cutshaw's battalion
being the last to leave the Courthouse, thus bringing up
the rear of the whole army, and being in constant view
of the enemy's hovering cavalry. The movement of the
division was regulated to suit the movements of the wagon trains, which
should have been destroyed on the spot,
and the column allowed to make its best time, as owing
to the delay it occasioned the army lost the time it
had gained on the enemy in the start, and was overtaken the next day.
At Deatonsville another effort to cook was made, but before
the simplest articles of food could be prepared,
the order to march was given, and the battalion took
the road once more.
A shot while after passing Deatonsville, the column was
formed in line of battle-Cutshaw's battalion near the road and in an old
filed with woods in front and rear. The officers, anticipating an immediate
attack, ordered the
men to do what they could for their protection. The immediately
scattered along the fence on the roadside,
and taking down the rails stalked back to their position
in line, laid the rails on the ground and returned for
another load. This they continued to do until the whole of the
fence was removed. Behind this slim defence they
silently awaited the advance of the enemy.
Soon it was decided that this was not the place to make
a stand. The first detachment of the Second company of Richmond Howitzers,
and twenty men each from Garber and Fry, under the command of Lieutenant
Henry Jones, were left behind the fence-rail work, with orders to resist
and retard the advance of the enemy while the column continued its march.
This little band was composed of true spirits-the best
material in the battalion. Right well did they do their
duty. Left alone to face the advance of the immense
host eagerly pursuing the worn remnant of the invincible
army, they waited until the enemy's skirmishers appeared in the field,
when, with perfect deliberation, they command their fire. Though greatly
outnumbered and flanked right and left, they stubbornly held on till the
line of battle following the skirmishers broke from the woods and advancing
rapidly, poured into them a murderous volley. And yet, so unused were they
to running, they moved not till the infantry skirmishers had retired and
the word of command was heard. Then stubbornly contesting the ground, they
fought their way back through the woods. The gallant Lieutenant Jones fell
mortally wounded, having held control of his little band to the moment
he fell. His friend K - refused to leave him, and they were captured together,
but immediately separated by the enemy. P -
was pierced through and through by a musket ball as he
was hurrying through the woods, and feel heavily to the ground. B - was
severely wounded, but managed to
escape. H - was killed outright.
The battalion had left this point but a short time, marching
in column of fours with the division, and had reached the brow of a gently
sloping hill, perfectly open for perhaps a mile, with a broad valley on
the left, and beyond it a range of hills partly wooded. In an open on this
range the enemy placed a battery in position, and in anticipation of doing
great slaughter from a safe distance, opened a rapid fire on the exposed
and helpless column. The shells came hurtling over the valley, exploding
in front, rear and overhead, and tearing up the road ground in every direction.
Ah! how it grieved those artillerymen to stand, musket in hand, and receive
that shower of insolence. How they longed for the old friends they had
left at Fort Clifton. They know how
those rascals on the other side of the valley were enjoying
the sport. They could hear in imagination the shots of the cannoneers as
they saw their shells bursting so prettily, and rammed home another shot.
There was some impediment ahead, and there the column
stood, a fair mark for these rascals. There was no help near, and all that
could be done was to stand firm and wait orders; but help was coming!
A could of dust was approaching form the rear of
the column. All eyes were strained to see what it might mean. Presently
the artillerymen recognized the well known sound. A battery was coming
in full gallop, the drivers lashing their horses, and yelling like madmen.
The guns bounded along as though they would outrun the horses,
and with rush, roar and rattle they approached the front
of the battalion. Some fellow in the Second company Howitzers sung out
"Old Henry Carter!!! Hurah! for the Third company!! Give it to 'em, boys!!"
It was indeed the Third company of Howitzers, long separated from the Second,
with their gallant captain at their head!
Not a moment was lost. The guns were in battery, and the
smoke of the first shot was curling about the heads of the men in the column
in marvelously quick time. Friends and comrades in the column called to
the men at the guns, and they, as they stepped in and out, responded with
cheerful, ringing voices: "Hello Bill!" "How are you Joe?" Bang!! "Pretty-Bang!!-"well,
I thank you". Bang!! "Oh! we're giving it to 'em now". Bang!!!
As the battalion moved on, the gallant boys of the Third
company finished their work. The disappointed enemy limbered up, slipped
into the woods and departed. Cheered by this fortunate meeting with old
comrades and with the pleasant order of the smoke lingering around them,
these hitherto bereft and mournful artillerymen pushed on, laughing cheerily
at the discomfiture of the enemy, and feeling that though deprived of their
guns by the misfortunes of war, there was still left at least one battery
worthy to represent the artillery of the army.
As the column marched slowly along, some sharp-eyed man
discovered three of the enemy's skirmishers in a
field away on the left. More for amusement than anything
else, it was proposed to fire at them. A group of men gathered on the roadside,
a volley was fired, and to the amazement of the marksmen, for the distance
was great, one of the skirmishers fell. One of his comrades started on
a run to his assistance, and he, too, was stopped. The third man then scampered
away as fast as his legs could carry him. The battalion applauded the good
shots and marched on.
At Sailor's creek the detachment which had been left at
Deatonsville behind the fence rails to watch and retard the approach of
the enemy, having slowly retired before their advance, rejoined the command.
Indeed, their resistance and retreat was the beginning of and ended in
of Sailor's creek.
The line of battle was formed on Locket's hill, which
sloped gently down from the line to the creek, about one hundred and fifty
or two hundred yards in rear of and running nearly parallel with the line
of the battle. A road divided the battalion near the centre. The Howitzers
were on the left of this road and in the woods; Garber's men were
on the right of the Howitzers, on the opposite side
of the road, in a field; Fry's men on the extreme left.
To cross the road dividing the line was a hazardous experiment, as they
enemy, thinking it an important avenue, swept it which musketry.
It was amusing to see the men hauling out of their pockets
a mixture of corn, slat, caps an cartridge, and, selecting
the material needed, loading. They were getting ready
to stand. They did not except to run, and did not until
ordered to do so.
The enemy's skirmishers advanced confidently and in rather
free and easy style, but suddenly met a volley which drove them to cover.
Again they advanced in better order, and again the improvised infantry
forced them back. Then came their line of battle, with overwhelming numbers;
but the battalion stubbornly resisted their advanced. The men, not accustomed
to the orderly manner of infantry, dodged about from tree to tree, and
with the deliberation of huntsmen picked off here and there a man. When
a shot "told", the marksman hurrahed! all to himself. There was an evident
desire to press forward and drive the advancing foe. Several of the men
were so enthusiastic that they had pushed ahead of the line, and several
yards in advance they could be seen loading and firing as deliberately
as though practicing at a mark.
Colonel Cutshaw received a wound which so shattered
his leg that he had to be lifted from his horse into
an ambulance. He was near being captured, but by hurrying away the ambulance
at a gallop, he escaped to a house a short distance in the rear, where
he fell into the hands of the enemy. The same night he suffered amputation
leg. Captain Garber was struck, and called for the ambulance
corps, but on examination found the ball in
his pocket. It had lodged against the rowel of a spur
which he found the day before and dropped in his pocket.
At last the enemy appeared in strong force on both flanks,
while he pushed hard in front. It was useless to attempt
a further stand. The voice of Captain Jones, of the Howitzers,
rang out loud and clear: "Boys, take care of yourselves!" Saying this,
he planted himself against a pine, and as his men rushed by him, emptied
every chamber of his revolver at the enemy, and then reluctantly made his
way, in company with several privates, down the hill to
At the foot of the hill a group of perhaps a dozen men
gathered around Lieutenant McRae. He was indignant.
He proposed another stand, and his comrades agreed.
They stood in the road facing the gentle slope of the
hill from which they had been ordered to retire. The enemy's skirmishers
were already on the brow of hill, dodging
about among the tress and shouting to those behind to
hurry up. Their favorite expressions were-"Come along, boys; here are the
damned Rebel wagons!" "Damn 'em, shoot 'em down!"
In a few moments their line of battle, in beautiful order,
stepped out of the woods with colors flying, and for a moment halted. In
front of the centre of that portion of
the line which was visible-probably a full regimental
front-marched the colors and color guard. McRae saw
his opportunity. He ordered his squad to rise and fire
on the colors. His order was promptly obeyed. The color-bearer
pitched forward and fell, with his colors, heavily to the ground. The guard
of two men on either
side shared the same fate, or else feigned it. Immediately
the line of battle broke into disorder and came swarming down the hill,
firing, yelling and cursing as they came.
An officer, mounted, rode his horse close to the fence
on the roadside, and with the most superb insolence mocked McRae and his
squad, as, he thought, hopelessly intermingled with the enemy. McRae, in
his rage, swore back at him, and in the hearing of the man called on a
man near him to shoot "that - -, "calling him a fearfully hard name. But
the private's gun was not in working order,
and the fellow escaped-for the time. Before he reached
the woods, whither he was going to hurry up the "boys",
a Howitzers let fly at him, and at the shock of the bullet's
stroke, he threw his arms up in the air and his horse bore him into the
woods a corpse.
A little to the left, where the road crossed the creek,
the crack of pistols and the "bang" of muskets was continuous. The enemy
had surrounded the wagons and were mercilessly shooting down the unarmed
and helpless drivers, some of whom, however, managed to cut the traces,
mount and escape.
In order to escape from the right of the line, it was
necessary to follow the road, which was along the foot
of the hill, some distance to the left. The enemy seeing
this, were pushing their man rapidly at a right oblique
to gain the road and cut off retreat. Consequently, those
who attempted escape in that direction had to run the
gauntlet of a constant fusilade from a mass of troops near enough to select
individuals, curse them and command them to thrown down their arms or be
Most of McRae's squad, in spite of the difficulties surrounding
them, gained the creek, plunged in, and
began a race for life up the long, open hillside of plowed
ground, fired upon at every step by the swarm of men behind, and, before
they reached the top, by a battery
in close proximity, which poured down a shower of cannister.
The race to the top of the long hill was exceedingly trying
to men already exhausted by continual marching, hunger, thirst and loss
of sleep. They ran, panting for breath, like chased animals, fairly staggering
as they went.
On the top of this long hill there was a skirmish line
of cavalry posted with orders to stop all men with arms in their hands
and from a new line; but the view down the
hill to the creek and beyond revealed such a host of
the enemy, and the men retiring before them were so few,
that the order was disregarded and the fleeing band
allowed to pass through.
The men's faces were black with powder. They had
bitten cartridge until there was a deep black circle
around their mouths. The burnt powder from the
ramrods had blackened their bands, and in their efforts to remove the perspiration
from their faces they had completed the coloring from the roots of the
hair to the chin. Here was
no place for rest, however, as the enemy's battery behind
the creek on the opposite hills, having gotten the range,
was pouring in a lively fire. Soon after passing the
of the hill, darkness came on. Groups of men from the
battalion halted on the roadside, near a farmed building
of some sort, and commenced shouting, "Fall in Howitzers!!"
"This way Garber's men!" "Fry's battery!!" "Fall in!!" "Cutshaw's battalion
fall in here!!" Thus of
their own accord trying to recover the organization from
its disorder. Quite a number of the battalion got together,
and in spite of hunger, thirst, defeat and dreadful weariness, pushed on
to the High bridge. So anxious were the men to escape and the insinuation
of desertion that when threatened with shooting by the rear guard, if they
did not move on, they scarcely turned to see who spoke: but the simple
announcement "the Yankees are coming!" gave them a little new strength,
and again they struggled painfully along, dropping in the road sound asleep,
however, at the slightest halt of the column.
At the bridge there was quite a halt, and in the darkness
the men commenced calling to each other by name-the rascally
infantry around, still ready for fun-answering for every name. Brother
called brother, comrade called comrade, friend called friend; and there
were many happy reunions there that night. Some, alas! of the best and
bravest did not answer the cry of anxious friends.
Before the dawn of day the column was again in motion.
What strange sensations the men had as they marched slowly across the High
bridge. They knew its great height, but the night was so dark that they
could not see the abyss on either side. Arrived on the other side,the worn-out
soldiers fell to the ground and slept, more dead than alive. Some had slept
as they marched across the bridge, and declared that they had no distinct
recollection of when
they left it, or how long they were upon it.
Early on the morning of the 7th, the march was resumed
and continued through Farmville, across the bridge and to Cumberland heights,
overlooking the town. Here, on the bare hillside, a line of battle was
formed, for what purpose the men did not know-the Howitzers occupying a
central place in the line, and standing with their feet in the midst
of a number of the graves of soldiers who had perished
in the hospitals in the town.
While standing thus in line a detail was sent into the
town to- hunt up some rations. They found a pierce of bacon surrounded
by a ravenous crowd, fighting and quarreling. The man on duty guarding
the bacon was quickly overpowered, and the bacon distributed to the crowd.
The detail secured a piece and marched back triumphantly to their waiting
After considerable delay the line broke into column and
marched away in the direction of Curdsville. It was on
this march that Cutshaw's battalion showed itself proof
against the demoralization which was appearing, and received, almost from
the lips of the Commander-in-Chief, a compliment of which any regiment
in the army might
All along the line of march the enemy's cavalry followed
close on the flanks of the column, and whenever on opportunity offered
swooped down upon the trains. Whenever this occurred the battalion, with
the division, was faced towards the advancing cavalry and marched in line
to meet them, generally repulsing them with ease. In one of these attacks
the cavalry approached so near the column that a dash was made at them,
and the infantry returned to the road with General Gregg, of the enemy's
cavalry, a prisoner. He was splendidly equipped and
greatly admired by the ragged crowd around him. He was
or pretended to be greatly surprised at this capture. When the column had
reached a point two or three miles beyond Farmville, it was found that
the enemy was driving in the force which was protecting the marching column
and trains. The troops hurrying back were panic striken, all efforts to
rally them were vain, and the enemy was almost upon the
column. General Gordon ordered General Walker to form
his division and drive the enemy back from the road. The division advanced
gallanty, and conspicuous in the charge was Cutshaw's battalion. When the
line was formed, the battalion occupied rising ground on the right. The
line was visible for a considerable distance. In rear of the battalion
three was a group of unarmed men under command of
Sergeant Ellett, of the Howitzers. In the distribution
of muskets of Amelia Courthouse the supply feel short of
the demand and this squad had made the trip so far unarmed.
Some, too, had been compelled to ground their arms at Sailor's creek. A
few yards to the left and rear of the battalion, in the road, was General
by a number of officers, gazing eagerly about him. An
occasional musket ball whistled over, but there was no enemy in sight.
In the midst of this quiet a general officer*,
(Brigadier-General Lewis, who was thought to be
mortally wounded, but recovered.)at the left and rear of the battalion,
feel from his horse, severely wounded. A messenger was sent from the group
in the road to ask the extent of his injury. After a short while the enemy
appeared, and the stampeded troops came rushing by. Cutshaw's battalion
stood firmly and quietly, as if on parade, waiting orders. General officers
galloped about, begging the fleeing men to halt, but in vain. Several of
the fugitives, as they passed the battalion, were collared by
the disarmed squad, relieved of their muskets and ammunition,
and with a kick allowed to proceed to the
rear. There was now between the groupin the road and
the enemy only the battalion of improvised infantry. There they stood,
on the crest of the hill, in sharp relief. Not a man moved from his place.
Did they knew the Great Commander was watching them? Some one said "forward",
the cry passed from lip to lip and with cheers the battalion moved rapidly
to meet the enemy, while the field was full of the stampeded troops making
to the rear.
A courier came out with orders to stop the advance, but
they heeded him not. Again he came, but on the went. Following the line
was the unarmed squad, unable to do more than swell the volume of the wild
shouts of the comrades. Following them also was the commissary department,
consisting of two men, with a piece of bacon swung on a pole between them,
yelling and hurrahing. As the line advanced, the blue-jackets sprang up
and ran through the broom-straw like hares, followed by a shower of balls.
Finally an officer-some say General Gordon, and others and said of Longstreet's
-rode out to the front of
the battalion, ordered a halt, and in the name of General
Lee thanked the men for their gallant conduct and complimented them in
handsome style. His words
were greeted with loud cheers, and the battalion marched
back to the road carrying several prisoners and having retaken two pieces
of artillery which had been abandoned to the enemy. After the enemy was
driven back out of reach of our trains and column of march and the troops
were in line of battle, General Lee in person rode up in rear
of the division, and addressing himself directly to the
men in ranks (a thing very unusual with him), used language to this effect:
"That is right men; that is all I want you to do. Just keep those people
back awhile. I do not wish you to expose yourselves to unnecessary danger".
Mahone's division them coming up, took the place of Walker's and the march
was resumed. The battalion passed on, the men cutting slices from their
piece of bacon and eagerly devouring them. As night came on the signs of
At several places whole trains were standing in the road
abandoned, artillery, chopped down and burning, blocked the way, and wagon
loads of ammunition were dumped
out in the road and trampled under foot. There were abundant
signs of disaster. So many muskets were dropped on the road that Cutshaw's
unarmed squad armed itself with abandoned muskets, ammunition and equipments.
There was a halt during the night in a piece of stunted woods. 'The land
was low and sobby.In the road passing through the woods stood several batteries,
chopped down and deserted. There was a little flour on hand, which had
been picked up on the road. An oil-cloth was spread, the flour placed on
it, water was found, and the dough mixed. The some clean partition boards
were knocked out of a limber chest, the dough was spread on them and held
near the fire till partially cooked. Then, with what delight, it
At daybreak Saturday the march was resumed and continued
almost without interruption during the whole day-the men, those whose gums
and teeth were not
already too sure, crunching parched corn and raw bacon
as they trudged along. Saturday night the battalion rested
near Appomattox Courthouse in a pine woods. Sunday morning, April 9th,
after a short march, the column
entered the village of Appomattox Courthouse, marching
by what seemed to be the main road. Several dead men,
dressed in the uniform of United States regular artillery, were lying on
the roadside, their faces turned up to the blaze of the sun. On had a ghastly
wound in the breast, which must have been made by grape or canister.
On through the village without halting marched the
column. "Whitworth" shots went hurtling through the air
every few minutes, indicating very clearly that the enemy was ahead of
the column and awaiting its arrival. On the outskirts of the village the
line of battle was formed. Indeed, there seemed to be two lines-one slightly
in advance of the other. Wagons passed along the line dropping boxes of
cartridges, which the men were ordered to knock open and supply themselves
with forty rounds each. They filled their breeches' pockets to the
brim. The general officers galloped up and down the line, apparently hurrying
everything as much as possible. The shots from a battery in advance were
continually passing over the line, going in the direction of the village,
but without harm to any one. The more experienced men predicted a severe
struggle. It was supposed that this was to be an attack
with the whole army in mass, for the purpose of breaking
through the enemy's line and making one more effort to move on.
Finally the order "forward!" ran along the line, and as
it advanced the chiefs of detachments, gunners and commissioned
officers marched in rear, keeping up a continual cry of "Close-up men,
close up!" "Go ahead
now, don't lag!" "Keep up!" Thus marching, the line entered
a body of woods, proceed some distance, changed direction to the left,
and emerging from the woods, halted in a large open field, beyond which
was another body of woods which concealed further view in front.
After some delay, a detail for skirmish duty was ordered.
Captain Jones detailed four men,-Fry and Garber the same number. Lieutenant
McRae was placed in command. The infantry detailed skirmishers and entered
the woods. They had advanced but a short distance, when they encountered
a strong line of picket-posts. Firing and cheering they rushed on the surprise
men, who scampered away, leaving all their little conveniences behind them,
and drove them for about a mile. From this point large bodies of the enemy
were visible, crowding the hilltops like a blue or black cloud. It was
not many minutes before a strong line of dismounted cavalry, followed by
mounted men, deployed from this mass to cover the retreat of their fleeing
brethren and restore the picket line. They came down the hills and across
the fields, firing as they came. On looking around to
see what were the chances for making a stand, Lieutenant McRae found that
the infantry skirmishers had been withdrawn. The officer who had commanded
them could be seen galloping away in the distance. The little squad, knowing
they were alone, kept up a brisk fire on
the advancing enemy, till he was close up in front and
well to the rear of both flanks. On the left, not more
than two hundred yards, a column of cavalry, marching by twos, had crossed
the line and were still marching, as unconcernedly as possible, to the
rear of McRae. Seeing this, McRae ordered his squad to retire, saying at
same time, "But don't let them see you running, boys!"
So they retired, slowly, stubbornly and returning shot
for shot with the enemy, who came on at a trot, cheering valiantly, as
they pursued four men and a lieutenant. The men dragged the butts of their
old muskets behind them, loading as they walked. All loaded, they turned,
halted, fired, received a shower of balls in return, and then again moved
doggedly to the rear. A little lieutenant of infantry, who had been on
the skirmish line, joined the squad. He was armed with a revolver
and had his sword by his side. Stopping behind the corner of a corn-crib
he swore he would not go any further to the rear. The squall moved on and
left him standing there, pistol in hand, waiting for the enemy, who were
now jumping the fences and coming across the field, running at the top
of their speed. What become of this singular man on one knows. He was,
he said, "determined to make a stand". A little further
on the squad found a single piece of artillery, manned by a lieutenant
and two or three men. They were selecting individuals in the enemy's skirmish
line and firing at them with solid shot! Lieutenant McRae laughed at the
ridiculous sight, remonstrated with the officer and offered his squad to
serve the gun, if there was any canister in the limber chest. The offer
was refused, and again the squad moved on. Passing a cowshed about this
time, the squad halted to look with horror upon several dead and wounded
Confederate who lay there upon the manure pile. They
had suffered wounds and death upon this the last day
of their country's struggle. Their wounds had received no attention and
those living were famished and burning with fever.
Lieutenant McRae, noticing a number of wagons and guns
parked in a field near, by surprised at what he considered great carelessness
in the immediate presence of the enemy, approached an officer on horseback
and said, in his usual impressive manner, "I say there! what does this
mean?" The man took his hand and quietly said: "We have surrendered". "I
don't believe it, sir!" replied McRae, strutting around as mad as a hornet;
"you mustn't talk so, sir! you will demoralize my men!" He was soon convinced,
however, by seeing Yankee cavalrymen walking their horse around as composedly
as though the Army of Northern Virginia had never existed. To say that
McRae was surprised, disgusted, indignant and incredulous is a mild way
of expressing his state of mind as he turned to his squad and said: "Well,
boys, it must be so, but it's very strange behavior. Let's move on and
see about it". As though dreaming, the squall and the disgusted officer
Learning that the army had gone into camp, the skirmishers
went on in the direction of the village and found the battalion in the
woods near the main road. Fires were burning and those who had been
fortunate enough to find anything eatable were cooking. Federal troops
were riding up and down the road and loafing about the camps trying
to be familiar. They seemed to think that "How are you,
Johnny?" spoken in condescending style, was sufficient introduction.
During the day a line of men came single file over the
hill near the camp, each bearing on his shoulder a box of "hard-tack" or
crackers. Behind these came a beef, driven by soldiers. The crackers and
beef were present from the Federal troops near, who, knowing the famishing
condition of the surrounded army, had contributed their day's rations for
its relief. All honor to them. It was a soldierly act which was thoroughly
The beef was immediately shot and butchered, and before
the animal heat had left the meat, it was impaled in little stirps on sticks,
bayonets, swords and pocket knives, roasting over the fires.
Though numbers of the enemy visited the camps and
plied the men with all sorts of questions, seeming very
curious and inquisitive, not an unkind word was said on either side that
day. When the skirmishers under McRae entered the camp of the battalion,
their enthusiastic descriptions of driving the enemy and being driven in
turn failed to produce any effect. Many of the men were
sobbing and crying, like children recovering from convulsions of grief
after a severe whipping. They were sorely grieved, mortified and humiliated.
Of course they had not the slightest conception of the numbers of the enemy
who surrounded them.
Other man fairly raved with indignation, and declared
their desire to escape or die in the attempt; but not
a man was heard to blame General Lee. On the contrary, all expressed the
greatest sympathy for him and declared their willingness to submit at once,
or fight to the last man, as
he ordered. At no period of the war was he held in higher
veneration or regarded with more sincere affection, than
on that sad and tearful day.
In the afternoon of Tuesday the 11th, the little remnant
of the army remaining was massed in a field. General
Gordon spoke to them most eloquently, and bid them farewell. General Walker
addressed his division, to which Cutshaw's battalion was attached, bidding
In the course of his remarks he denounced fiercely the
men who had thrown down their arms on the march, and
called upon the true men before him to go home and tell their wives, mothers,
sisters and sweethearts how shamefully these cowards had behaved.
General Henry A. Wise also spoke, sitting on his horse
and bending forward over the pommel of his saddle. Referring
to the surrender, he said: "I would rather have embraced the tabernacle
There were many heaving bosoms and tear-stained faces
during the speaking. A tall, manly fellow, with this colors pressed to
his side, stood near General Gordon, convulsed with grief.
The speaking over, the assembly dispersed and once
more the campfires burned brightly. Night brought long-needed
rest. The heroes of many hard-fought battles, the conquerors of human nature's
cravings, the brave old army, fell asleep-securely guarded by the encircling
of the enemy. Who will write the history of that march?
Who will be able to tell the story? Alas! how many heroes fell!!
The paroles, which were distributed on Tuesday the
11th, were printed on paper about the size of an ordinary
bank check, with blank spaces for the date, name of the prisoner, company
and regiment, and signature of the commandant of the company or regiment.
They were signed by the Confederate officers themselves, and were
as much respected by all picket officers, patrols, &c.,
of the Federal army as though they bore the signature of
U. S. Grant. The following is a copy of one of these
paroles, recently made from the original:
APPOMATTOX COURTHOUSE, VIRGINIA,
April 10th, 1865.
The bearer, Private - -, of Second company Howitzers,
Cutshaw's battalion, a paroled prisoners of the Army of Northern Virginia,
has permission to go to his home and there remain undisturbed.
L. F. JONES,
Captain Commanding Second Company Howitzers.
The "guidon", or color bearer, of the Howitzers had concealed
the battle flag of the company about his person, and before the final separation
cut in into pieces of about four by six inches, giving each man present
a piece. Many of these scraps of faded silk are still preserved, and will
be handed down the future generations. Captain Fry, who commanded after
Colonel Cutshaw was wounded, assembled the battalion, thanked the men for
their faithfulness, bid them farewell, and read the following:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
APPOMATTOX COURTHOUSE, April 10th, 1865.
GENERAL ORDER No. 9.
After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed
courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled
to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.
I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard-
fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last,
that I have consented to this result from no distrust
of them; but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that
would compensate for the loss that must have attended a continuance of
the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those past
services have endeared them to their countrymen.
By the terms of agreement, officers and men can return
to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will
take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the
consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a
merciful God will extend to you his blessing
With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion
to your country, and a grateful remembrance
of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I
bid you all an affectionate farewell.
R. E. LEE.
This grand farewell from the man who had in the past personified
the glory of his army and now bore its grief
in his own great heart, was the signal for tearful partings.
Comrades wept as they gazed upon each other, and with chocking voices said,
farewell! And so, -they pared. Little groups of two or three or four, without
food, without money, but with "the satisfaction that proceeds from the
consciousness of duty faithfully performed", were soon plodding their way
Taken from the Southern Historical Society Papers
Volume VI, November 1878 Pages 193 - 214
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