Our Best Men: Stephen Dodson Ramseur

General Stephen Dodson RamseurThe American Civil War is filled with stories of promising men who had their lives cut short. One such man was Maj. Gen. Stephen Dodson Ramseur of North Carolina. At one point, he was the youngest general in the Confederate Army.

Dodson Ramseur (he rarely used his given name) was born on May 31, 1837 in Lincolnton, North Carolina. He came from a somewhat prosperous family. He began his studies at Davidson College under future Confederate general Daniel Harvey Hill. He continued them at West Point, graduating in 1860. Commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the artillery, his career in the U.S. Army was short-lived.

Ramseur resigned his commission and joined the Confederate Army in Alabama. He quickly transferred to the 10th North Carolina Militia. He became the lieutenant colonel of the 3rd North Carolina Infantry on May 27, 1861. He was injured with a broken collarbone while being thrown from his horse in July and was out of service until the following spring.

At the start of the Peninsula Campaign Ramseur was assigned to the artillery in Brig. Gen. John B. Magruder‘s division, but he was elected colonel of the 49th North Carolina Infantry on April 12, 1862. Ramseur saw significant action at the Battle of Malvern Hill where he led a futile charge against the strong Union defenses.

He was severely wounded in the arm which was paralyzed. He would not return until after the Battle of Antietam when he was given command of a brigade of four North Carolina regiments in Brig. Gen. Robert E. Rodes‘ division.

 Ramseur was promoted to brigadier general in November 1862 even though he has missed a number of battle. Robert E. Lee had been impressed by his aggressive performance at Malvern Hill and wanted to reward him.

At Chancellorsville, Ramseur’s was the lead brigade on Jackson’s famous flank march on May 2, 1863. After Jackson was mortally wounded, J.E.B. Stuart ordered three cheers for the brigade’s aggressive assault and recommended that Ramseur be promoted to major general.

Actually, Ramseur’s brigade was too aggressive and moved out in front of the other brigades too quickly. They became too exposed and ran out of ammunition. This required reinforcements from the other brigades to help them consolidate their gains. The brigade suffered more than 50% casualties; by far higher than any other Confederate brigade. The following day Ramseur was wounded once again and came to Robert E. Lee’s attention:

I consider its brigade and regimental commanders as among the best of their respective grades in the army, and in the battle of Chancellorsville, where the brigade was much distinguished and suffered severely, General Ramseur was among those whose conduct was especially commended to my notice by Lieutenant General Jackson, in a message sent to me after he was wounded.

— Robert E. Lee, Official Report on Chancellorsville

Ramseur’s brigade was only engage on the first day at Gettysburg. Initially, they were in reserve but when the attack against the right flank of the Union I Corps began to peter out Rodes ordered them to attack the attack the Union positions in the rear. Ramseur was ordered to halt the pursuit at the foot of Cemetery Hill. This was their last action in the battle.

After Gettysburg, Ramseur returned home to marry Ellen E. “Nellie” Richmond and they spent three months together in the Confederate army winter encampment.

At the start of the Battle of the Wilderness, Ramseur’s brigade was once more held in reserve. On May 7, 1864, his brigade was called forward and smashed into Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside‘s IX Corps, which was attempting to outflank Ewell’s Corps. Both Lee and corps commander Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell wrote in admiration of his gallant attack, which drove Burnside’s troops back over a half mile.

At Spotsylvania Court House, his brigade was involved in intense combat against Winfield Scott Hancock’s II Corps when they attacked the Mule Shoe Salient at the “Bloody Angle.” The fighting lasted 20 hours and Ramseur was wounded once again in the arm. Despite being shot from his horse, he refused to leave the field.

After Spotsylvania, Ramseur was promoted to major general and given command of Jubal Early’s division when he took over for the wounded Ewell. He thus became the youngest West Point graduate to ever be promoted to major general in the Confederate Army. Following that accomplishment, he led his division at Cold Harbor where they thwarted Ulysses S. Grant’s attempt to take Petersburg.

In late June of 1864, Lee dispatched Early’s Corps to the Shenandoah Valley. Their objective was to draw off Union forces from the siege at Petersburg and also secure supplies in the Valley needed by the Confederate Army to survive the Union siege. Early’s Corps conducted a series of successful raids down thew Valley, into Maryland and to the outer defenses of Washington itself.

Grant responded by sending one of his favorites Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan to the Valley. Sheridan met Early’s Corps on September 19, 1864 at at the Battle of Opequon, also known as the Third Battle of Winchester. The Confederates were outnumbered by more than 3-to-1 and were suffered severe casualties, although the Union Army suffered more.

Ramseur’s division was routed by a strong Union assault near Stephenson’s Depot. Ramseur allegedly wept openly and immaturely blamed his men for the retreat. His former commander Robert Rodes was mortally wounded. Early’s Corps was forced into a headlong retreat. The Battle of Opequon marked a turning point in the Shenandoah Valley in favor of the North. Early’s army for the most part remained intact but suffered further defeats at Fisher’s Hill and Tom’s Brook.

One moth after the Battle of Opequon, the two armies met at Cedar Creek. Outnumbered 3-to-2, Early devised an aggressive plan. They hoped to catch the Union soldiers when they least expected it, in the very early morning. To complicate matters, Sheridan had gone to Washington and had intended to send his Cavalry Corps to raid the Virginia Central Railroad.

But Early outsmarted himself when he sent signals that Lt. Gen James Longstreet’s Corps was on the way to reinforce him. Sheridan recalled the infantry that he had sent back to Petersburg and the cavalry. He himself was at Winchester awaiting events.

Early’s initial attack was a complete surprise. Most of the Union troops were routed and fled north but a few isolated units held the field. The Union corps commanders regrouped their commands and held off the Confederate attacks.

The hungry Confederate troops stopped to eat the Union soldiers’ breakfasts and pillage their tents. This slowed down the entire momentum of the attack. Ramseur managed to corral a few hundred soldiers out of his division and stood with them in the center of the line as Sheridan counterattacked. They held off the Union assault for an hour and a half.

Ramseur displayed great bravery in rallying his troops, but he was mounted conspicuously on horseback and drew continuous fire. He was wounded in the arm and his horse was shot out from under him. A second horse was also killed. On his third horse, he was struck through both lungs and fell, later to be captured by Union soldiers of the 1st Vermont Cavalry.

The mortally-wounded Confederate was taken to Union headquarters at Belle Grove. He found out the day before the battle that his wife had given birth to his baby daughter. At Belle Grove Dodson Ramseur was comforted by his former classmates from West Point: George A. Custer, Wesley Merritt and Henry DuPont, as he lay dying. He died the following day at 10:20 AM. His last words were, “Bear this message to my precious wife—I die a Christian and hope to meet her in heaven.”

Jubal Early summed up Stephen Dodson Ramseur in his report to General Lee:

Major-General Ramseur fell into the hands of the enemy mortally wounded, and in him not only my command, but the country suffered a heavy loss. He was a most gallant and energetic officer whom no disaster appalled, but his courage and energy seemed to gain new strength in the midst of confusion and disorder. He fell at his post fighting like a lion at bay, and his native State has reason to be proud of his memory.

— Jubal Early, Official Report from Cedar Creek

Nellie Ramseur never remarried; she remained with her family at Woodside, and wore black mourning clothes for the rest of her life.

You can read more about Dodson Ramseur in Gary Gallagher’s book: Stephen Dodson Ramseur: Lee’s Gallant General


John Brown Gordon: From the Battlefield to the State House

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Confederate Generals Officers

General John Brown GordonIf the Union had Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of Maine, then the Confederacy’s version was John Brown Gordon of Georgia. These two famous generals followed parallel paths and in the post-war period actually became acquainted. In the end both would help to foster the reconciliation of the two sides.

John Brown Gordon was born on his father’s plantation in Upson County, Georgia in February of 1832. An outstanding student at the University of Georgia, he left before graduating to read law at an Atlanta law firm. He passed the bar examination and began to practice law. Gordon was a many of many parts and he invested in a number of coal mines in Tennessee and Georgia with his father.

Gordon’s Civil War Service: 1861-1863

At the start of the war, Gordon who lacked any military education or experience was elected captain of a company of mountaineers. He quickly rose to brigadier general in November 1862 and then to major general in May 1864. Gordon was an aggressive general as a brigade commander and then a division commander. He was highly valued by Robert E. Lee who described him as being one of his best brigadiers, “characterized by splendid audacity” in a letter to President Jefferson Davis.

Gordon was wounded eight times in the service of the Confederacy including an incredible five times in the Sunken Road at Antietam. He was wounded at Malvern Hill in the eyes while fearlessly leading his brigade. During the campaign, Gordon strode fearlessly among his men, enemy bullets shattered the handle of his pistol, pierced his canteen, and tore away part of the front of his coat.

At Antietam, he commanded the troops that held the Sunken Road in the center of the Confederate line. It was during this battle that Gordon was wounded an incredible five times. First, a Minié ball passed through his calf. Then, a second ball hit him higher in the same leg. A third ball went through his left arm.

He continued to lead his men despite the fact that the muscles and tendons in his arm were mangled, and a small artery was severed by this ball. A fourth ball hit him in his shoulder. Despite pleas that he go to the rear, he continued to lead his men. He was finally stopped by a ball that hit him in the face, passing through his left cheek and out his jaw. He fell with his face in his cap and might have drowned in his own blood if it had not drained out through a bullet hole in the cap.

After months of recuperation, Gordon led a brigade of Georgians in Jubal Early’s division at Gettysburg. During the assault on Barlow’s Knoll, he stopped to aid the wounded enemy division commander, Francis Barlow.

This incident led to a story considered apocryphal by many historians that the two men met after the war in Washington and Gordon asked if he was related to the Barlow who was killed at Gettysburg.

Seated at Clarkson Potter’s table, I asked Barlow: “General, are you related to the Barlow who was killed at Gettysburg?” He replied: “Why, I am the man, sir. Are you related to the Gordon who killed me?” “I am the man, sir,” I responded. No words of mine can convey any conception of the emotions awakened by those startling announcements. Nothing short of an actual resurrection from the dead could have amazed either of us more. Thenceforward, until his untimely death in 1896, the friendship between us which was born amidst the thunders of Gettysburg was greatly cherished by both.

 The story was told by Barlow and by Gordon and was published in newspapers and in Gordon’s book.

The irony of this incident is that Francis Barlow led the 61st New York and the 63rd New York at Antietam. His combined units flanked the Sunken Road and created the famous pictures of the dead Confederates in the road, many commanded by Gordon. My own second great grandfather, Sgt. Michael Patrick Murphy, was among the Union troops who caused the carnage. In a later affidavit, he wrote how they forded the creek, organized themselves and proceeded to the attack. “We had it hot for some time.”

Gordon’s Civil War Service: 1864-1865

Gordon proposed a flanking attack at the start of the Overland Campaign at the Wilderness but his commander Jubal Early would not allow it. After the Wilderness Gordon was given command of Early’s Division when he was promoted. At Spotsylvania Court House his unit turned back the massive Union attack at the ‘Bloody Angle’ and prevented a Confederate rout. During the battle he was promoted to major general.

It was at the latter battle that Gordon found General Robert E. Lee riding his horse Traveller to the center of the line, preparing to join a charge. Gordon shouted, “General Lee, this is no place for you. These men behind you are Georgians and Virginians. They have never failed you and will not fail you here. Will you boys?” Gordon’s men yelled, “No, no, we’ll not fail him.” He then had two of his men escort General Lee to the rear and safety.

Gordon went with Early to the Valley when the latter was given command of the Army of the Valley. He  was wounded August 25, 1864, at Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The incident was described by Confederate cartographer Jedediah Hotchkiss in his official report, “Quite a lively skirmish ensued, in which Gordon was wounded in the head, but he gallantly dashed on, the blood streaming over him.”

After the Confederate defeat Battle of Cedar Creek, Gordon returned to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia where he was given command of the Second Corps which he led until the surrender at Appomattox. His corps defended the line during the Siege of Petersburg. commanded the attack on Fort Stedman on March 25, 1865 where he was wounded again, in the leg.

At Appomattox Court House, he led his men in the last charge of the Army of Northern Virginia, capturing the entrenchments and several pieces of artillery in his front just before the surrender.

It was at the surrender ceremony that Maj. Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain ordered a salute that at first startled Gordon who led the Southern infantry. Here is Chamberlain’s poignant account of the surrender ceremony.

My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;—was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured? Instructions had been given; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier’s salutation, from the “order arms” to the old “carry”—the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual,—honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead! 

Gordon’s Postwar Career

Appomattox was not the end of John Brown Gordon’s career but the beginning of its next phase. He was a firm opponent of Reconstruction and endorsed measures to preserve white-dominated society, including restrictions on freedmen and the use of violence. It was thought that he was the titular head of the Georgia Ku Klux Klan, a charge that he denied. He did acknowledge he was associated with a secret “peace police” organization whose sole purpose was the “preservation of peace.”

He ran for governor in 1868 but was defeated. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1873 and in 1879 became the first ex-Confederate to preside of that august body.The day after he became President Pro Tem of the Senate he obtained a promise from President Ulysses S. Grant to remove Federal officials in Georgia who had gained their positions through fraud or corruption.

John Gordon was a strong supporter of the “New South” and industrialization. Gordon resigned from the Senate in May 1880 to promote a venture for the Georgia Pacific Railway. He was elected Governor of Georgia in 1886 and returned to the U.S. Senate from 1891 to 1897.

In 1903 Gordon published an account of his Civil War service entitled Reminiscences of the Civil War. He engaged in a series of popular speaking engagements throughout the country.

John Gordon was the first Commander-in-Chief of the United Confederate Veterans when the group was organized in 1890 and held this position until his death in 1904. He died while visiting one of his sons in Miami, Florida on January 9, 1904 at the age of 71. It was reported that 75,000 people attended his funeral in Atlanta where he was buried.

Gordon was a proponent of the ‘Lost Cause’ myth that sprang up after the war. Those who contributed to the movement tended to portray the Confederacy’s cause as noble and most of its leaders as exemplars of old-fashioned chivalry, defeated by the Union armies through overwhelming force rather than martial skill.

Gordon often spoke at veteran’s gatherings. At one gathering of veterans from both armies, Gordon spoke after his friend, Joshua Chamberlain. He turned to Chamberlain, saying: “You were right but so were we.”



March 9, 1864: The Day the Union Won the War

This entry is part 12 of 17 in the series Union General Officers

Lt Gen Ulysses S. GrantThere are differing opinions on the turning point or points of the American Civil War. The arguments will probably go one as long as people remember the events that took place from 1861 until 1865.

Many historians say that Gettysburg was the turning point. of war. It marked the first time that Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia was soundly defeated by the Army of the Potomac.

Others will point to the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in American history. It wasn’t so much the battle but what came after with the Emancipation Proclamation and the eventual dismissal of George McClellan. These two events set the Union government on a new course. The war became more than a fight over states’ rights and saving the Union. It became a struggle to free 4,000,000 slaves from bondage.

Those who favor the Western Theater and its impact on the eventual outcome of the war point to the siege and surrender of Vicksburg. Coupled with the surrender of Port Hudson, these two events split the Confederacy for as Jefferson Davis had said: “Vicksburg is the nail head that holds the South’s two halves together.” President Lincoln announced, “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.”

Professor Gary Gallagher of the University of Virginia feels very strongly that the Battle of Seven Pines was a turning point in the struggle. The battle which took place on May 31 to June 1, 1862 saw the severe wounding of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and his replacement in command of the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee’s superior ability as a field command would extend the Confederate effort for almost three more years.

But March 9, 1864 was a significant day in the Union war effort for it was on that day that Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to Lieutenant General and appointed General-in-Chief of all of the Union armies. Grant was only the third lieutenant general in the United States Army, following in the footsteps of George Washington and Winfield Scott.

It was the appointment that counted but what Grant did with it. As General-in-Chief with the overall command of five armies, Grant strategy was one that the Confederacy could not overcome. He knew that the South could neither match the North’s industrial capacity nor its manpower advantage.

He proposed a coordinated series of offensives in all theaters of combat. They would begin about May 1st and continue until the Confederacy surrendered. The Confederacy would be unable to move forces from one theater to the other in order to reinforce their forces under attack. His strategy would negate the Southern advantage of having interior lines.

The only exception would be Lee’s dispatch of General Jubal A. Early to the Shenandoah Valley where he outmatched every Union commander until Grant sent General Philip Sheridan to lead the Union effort in the Valley. He eventually defeated Early and deprived Lee’s army of the provisions from this breadbasket of the Confederacy.

Grant realized a fundamental truth. In order to win the war he needed to defeat Lee’s army. Once the South was deprived of the veteran army which was led by their national hero, they would surrender and end the war.

Grant traveled with the Army of the Potomac which was commanded by General George Gordon Meade. Grant set the strategy and Meade mostly carried out the tactics. After the bloody three-day Battle of the Wilderness, the troops expected to withdraw across the Rapidan as “Fighting Joe” Hooker had done after the Battle Chancellorsville.

But Grant had ordered that the pontoon bridges across Germanna Ford on the Rapidan and Lee knew it. Here is how Noah Andre Trudeau in Bloody Roads South relates what occurred at about 8:30 PM on May 7th.

Generals Grant and Meade, with their staffs and escort…started out by the Brock Road, along which Hancock’s men were lying behind the works in which they had been fighting so hard.

A Second Corps soldier recalled later: Shortly after dark a loud cheer suddenly uprose on the right, and was taken up by regiment after regiment, as Generals Grant and Meade, with their staffs, moved toward the left in the direction of Spotsylvania Court House.

A soldier from the 19th Maine was uncertain of the time but he vividly described the scene:

…while the Regiment was resting by the roadside and awaiting developments, Generals Grant and Meade, accompanied by their staffs, rode along and halted at General Hancock’s headquarters…The burning woods lighted up the scene, and when the faces of the commanders were recognized, wild cheers echoed through the forest.”

For two years the Union Army of the Potomac had turned back, retreated and withdrew. No more. One Ninth Corps artilleryman summed up the feelings of many of his fellow Union soldiers:

The rank and file of the army wanted no more retreating, and from the moment when we…continued straight on towards Spotsylvania. I never had a doubt that General Grant would lead us on to final victory.

Neither did Abraham Lincoln. After all, after the Battle of Shiloh when the criticism of Grant’s leadership was called into question, the President said: I can’t spare this man; he fights.


The Gettysburg Address

This entry is part 27 of 27 in the series The Gettysburg Campaign

Lincoln at GettysburgToday is the 150th Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The President’s was advertised as a few appropriate remarks but it has come to be one of the most famous speeches in American history. The main speaker that day was Edward Everett who delivered a two-hour oration.

Click to enlarge.

The occasion for the speech was the dedication of the cemetery at the site of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg. The official title of the event was the Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg.

Everett was considered one of the finest orators in the country and on that day his two-hour speech was considered a masterpiece. Everett’s two-hour oration that was slated to be the “Gettysburg address” that day.

His now seldom-read 13,607-word oration began:

“Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature. But the duty to which you have called me must be performed; — grant me, I pray you, your indulgence and your sympathy.”

And ended two hours later with:

“But they, I am sure, will join us in saying, as we bid farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes, that wheresoever throughout the civilized world the accounts of this great warfare are read, and down to the latest period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates the Battles of Gettysburg.”

After Everett finished speaking Lincoln rose to deliver his few appropriate remarks. In them he was able to sum up the war in just ten sentences. There are more than a few versions of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. But this version, known as the Bliss Version, is the only one that the President signed.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Each of the five known manuscript copies of the Gettysburg Address is named for the associated person who received it from Lincoln. Lincoln gave a copy to each of his private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay.  Both of these drafts were written around the time of his November 19 address, while the other three copies of the address, the Everett, Bancroft, and Bliss copies, were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes well after November 19. In part because Lincoln provided a title and signed and dated the Bliss copy, it has become the standard text of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

The reaction to Lincoln’s remarks was mixed. In 1931, the printed recollections of 87-year-old Mrs. Sarah A. Cooke Myers, who was 19 when she attended the ceremony, suggest a dignified silence followed Lincoln’s speech: “I was close to the President and heard all of the Address, but it seemed short. Then there was an impressive silence like our Menallen Friends Meeting. There was no applause when he stopped speaking.”

On the other hand In contrast, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin maintained, “He pronounced that speech in a voice that all the multitude heard. The crowd was hushed into silence because the President stood before them…It was so Impressive! It was the common remark of everybody. Such a speech, as they said it was!”

Public reaction was divided along partisan lines with one Republican newspaper praising it as “a perfect gem” that was “deep in feeling, compact in thought and expression, and tasteful and elegant in every word and comma.” On the other hand the Democrat-leaning Chicago Times said: “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States.”

Perhaps the best compliment that Lincoln received was from Edward Everett who wrote the President: “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” Lincoln replied that he was glad to know the speech was not a “total failure”. One hundred and fifty years later we can attest to that fact.


The Wounding of James Longstreet

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Command Decisions

The Wounding of James LonstreetEvery Civil War enthusiast knows about the wounding and death of General Stonewall Jackson. Many can recite every detail including his dying words, “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” But how many know the details or even the fact that Lt. Gen. James Longstreet almost suffered the same fate?

After the death of Jackson, Longstreet became the general officer that Robert E. Lee relied upon. At Gettysburg, it was Longstreet who Lee delegated to command the grand assault on July 3rd. This was despite the fact that two of the three units in the attack, Isaac Trimble’s and Johnston Pettigrew’s division, were from Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill’s Corps.

Proponents of the “Lost Cause” movement have blamed Longstreet for the defeat at Gettysburg, even though he advised Lee against the attack. He claimed to have told Lee:

General, I have been a soldier all my life. I have been with soldiers engaged in fights by couples, by squads, companies, regiments, divisions, and armies, and should know, as well as any one, what soldiers can do. It is my opinion that no fifteen thousand men ever arrayed for battle can take that position.

After Gettysburg, Longstreet’s Corps was transferred to the Western Theater at his own request while the Army of Northern Virginia was on the defensive. He saw it as an opportunity to show his ability apart from Lee. His corps arrived at the start of the Battle of Chickamauga and made a significant contribution.

Longstreet was one of the officers who disagreed with the army commander Braxton Bragg. A number of the commanders were dissatisfied with Bragg’s leadership and abrasive personality. Jefferson Davis sided with Bragg and the general purged his critics from the Army of Tennessee. Longstreet eventually returned to Virginia after the failure of his second independent campaign.

Upon his return to Virginia he was confronted by his old friend Ulysses Grant, who was now the general-in-chief of all of the Union armies. He advised the other Confederate generals that “he will fight us every day and every hour until the end of the war.” Longstreet had a complete understanding of their opponent.

True to Longstreet’s prediction, Grant ordered all of the Union armies to begin offensive actions in May 1864. The General-in-Chief accompanied the Army of the Potomac while he directed the overall Union strategy. At the start of the Overland Campaign the two sides clashed in the Wilderness on May 5-7, 1864.

The Wilderness of Virginia was a densely-packed forest along the south side of the Rappahannock River. The topography of the Wilderness—dense woods and thick undergrowth broken up by a number of small clearings—made the maneuvering of large armies particularly difficult and the experience of fighting claustrophobic.

The armies had met there almost exactly one year before at the Battle of Chancellorsville. It was here that Stonewall Jackson was severely wounded by his own troops while scouting in the dark after his successful flank attack. History would repeat itself with an eerily similar mistaken shooting.

Longstreet helped save the Confederate Army from defeat when he launched a powerful flanking attack along the Orange Plank Road against the Union II Corps and nearly drove it from the field. He used innovative tactics to deal with difficult terrain, ordering the advance of six brigades by heavy skirmish lines, which allowed his men to deliver a continuous fire into the enemy, while proving to be elusive targets themselves.

Some Union regiments were hit on three sides and dissolved under the attacks. The Union troops retreated in disorder when their entire front collapsed. At the Plank Road, the Southerners stopped to reorder their ranks. General Longstreet was at the front directing his units into battle. While his troops prepared for a second flanking attack against the Union front along the Brock Road, Longstreet decided to ride down Plank Road to the front.

With Longstreet were several of his staff officers, including Moxley Sorrel. He was also accompanied by Generals Charles Field, Joseph Kershaw, Micah Jenkins and a number of their aides. This large party of officers filled the narrow road.

The 12th Virginia, one of William Mahone’s regiments, had crossed the road and crossed into the woods. When their colonel realized that his unit was isolated he ordered them back across the road. Their comrades on the other side of the road mistook them for advancing Union troops and triggered a volley of musket fire. Longstreet’s party was in between the two.

Kershaw attempted to stop the initial fire by yelling “Friends!” but it was already too late. The gunfire hit and killed Captain Alfred E. Doby and orderly Marcus Baum of Kershaw’s staff.Another bullet struck General Micah Jenkins in the skull and he lay in the road while his life bled away.

Longstreet remained on his horse but he was severely wounded. He right arm was hanging limply by his side. He had been struck in the throat by a bullet that passed through his shoulder and severed nerves.

Helped from the saddle by his aides, he was placed under a nearby tree. It was later reported that he “bled profusely.” His voice was reduced to a whisper and he blew blood out as he instructed his aides to inform General Lee. He relinquished command to Charles Field and described the proposed flank attack.

His surgeon arrived and stopped the bleeding. Longstreet was placed on a stretcher and someone put his hat over his face leading his troops to think that he was dead. When he removed the hat, they responded with cheers. As the ambulance proceeded to the rear Longstreet’s troops’ morale plummeted.

The flank attack was delayed due to Longstreet’s wounding by General Lee who realized that the lines were too entangled to carry out a successful attack. By the time that the Confederates moved forward at 4:00 PM, the Union Army had reorganized and brought up additional troops. Despite the Confederate’s spirited attack, they could not pierce the Union defensive line.

Longstreet missed the rest of the 1864 spring and summer campaign, where Lee sorely missed his skill in handling the army. He was treated in Lynchburg, Virginia, and recuperated in Augusta, Georgia, with his niece, Emma Eve Longstreet Sibley, the daughter of his brother Gilbert. He rejoined the army in October 1864, with his right arm paralyzed and in a sling, initially unable to ride a horse. He had taught himself to write with his left hand; by periodically pulling on his arm, as advised by doctors, he was able to regain use of his right hand in later years.

E.P. Alexander called the removal of Longstreet the critical juncture of the battle: “I have always believed that, but for Longstreet’s fall, the panic which was fairly underway in Hancock’s [II] Corps would have been extended & have resulted in Grant’s being forced to retreat back across the Rapidan.”

Full disclosure: General Longstreet and I are related. He is my sixth cousin. His grandmother and my several times great grandfather were siblings. Despite his Confederate allegiance and my being a descendent of Union soldiers, I have a soft spot in my heart for this fine commander.




The Decision to Attack the North in 1863

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Command Decisions

General James LongstreetThe 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg has begun a new round of scholarship and discussion about every facet of the most written-about battle in American history. Thousands of books have been written on the subject, covering every aspect of the famous battle.

One area that has come under some scrutiny is the command decision by Robert E. Lee to fight at the little Pennsylvania town. Just why did the Southern army converge on Gettysburg? Was it the oft-told story about the search for shoes or was it something else? Was it pure chance that led to the greatest battle on American soil?

After the mortal wounding and death of Lt. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson after the Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, Lee increasingly looked to his other corps commander Lt. Gen. James Longstreet for advice. Lee and Longstreet traveled together in the time from Chancellorsville to Gettysburg. Lee felt most comfortable with his old “warhorse”.

After Chancellorsville, Lee saw an opportunity to invade the North for a second time. His home state of Virginia had suffered greatly with the majority of fighting in the Eastern Theater taking place on Virginia soil. By 1863 much of the farmland in the Shenandoah Valley was ruined. Both sides had freely availed themselves of livestock, horses and mules.

After the smashing victory at Chancellorsville Lee thought that his army was invincible. Their morale was high and anything that they lacked in supplies they made up in confidence. The time to drive North and end the war was now.

Longstreet was also confident and concurred with Lee’s overall strategy to march North and engage the Union Army on ground of the Confederate’s choosing. In the American Civil War both armies constantly maneuvered to gain a terrain advantage. Even the smallest ridge gave one army or the other a distinct advantage. Commanders on both sides were always looking to defend “lovely” ground.

In order to understand the decision for a northern offensive by the Army of Northern Virginia, one must understand the context that it was made in. Ulysses S. Grant and his army group was besieging the fortified city of Vicksburg. Jefferson Davis understood the importance of the city when he said, “Vicksburg is the nail head that holds the South’s two halves together…” The loss of the city would be a body blow to the Confederacy and coupled with the loss of Port Hudson, Louisiana would split the Confederacy in two.

There was much discussion about sending two divisions to the Western Theater in order to relieve the Union pressure on Vicksburg. However, Lee wished to take advantage of his recent victory and invade the North. Longstreet would have agreed with a division of the army only if there was no prospect of a Northern invasion.

In fact, Longstreet in a letter to his confidant, Senator Louis Wigfall, wrote, “If we could cross the Potomac with one hundred & fifty thousand men, I think we could demand Lincoln to declare his purpose. If it is a christian purpose enough blood has been shed to satisfy any principle.”

Longstreet felt that after a victory in the North, the Confederacy could demand a peace treaty with the United States which would allow the South their own country. However, the two top commanders had different ideas about how to go about doing this.

Like many generals in the Eastern Theater, Longstreet never looked beyond the Appalachian Mountains or understood that Grant’s Army of the Tennessee also thought of themselves as invincible. The Union armies in the Western Theater were simply eviscerating the Confederacy from the inside.

The two generals discussed their plans over a three day period in May. Lee wanted a large-scale offensive into Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, his subordinate was concerned that in time that it would take to plan and execute Vicksburg would fall. Lee would not be swayed and Longstreet realized that further resistance was futile.

Longstreet then went to a fallback position. He asked for a strategy that used defensive tactics. Longstreet argued that the army march into Pennsylvania, take up good defensive positions between the Union Army and Washington and force the enemy to attack them. He envisioned a battle similar to that which was fought at Fredericksburg.

Despite Longstreet’s post-war assertion that Lee had agreed to a defensive stance, Lee said in April 1868 that “the idea was absurd. He (Lee) had never made any such promise, and had never thought of doing any such thing.”

However, Walter Taylor of Lee’s staff said that the expectation of the staff was that the Confederate Army would choose a favorable time and place in which the Union Army would be compelled to attack. In his own post-battle report Lee wrote, “It had not been intended to fight a general battle at such a distance from our base, unless attacked by the enemy.”

Lee’s operational plan for the Pennsylvania campaign included avoiding an offensive battle, if at all possible. This seemed to mollify Longstreet’ concerns. He expected the Confederates to maneuver the Union Army into a position that forced them to be the attacker. As a competent commander, Longstreet understood that circumstances on the ground sometimes dictated command decisions.

Longstreet was a realist who looked at Chancellorsville as a barren victory. Despite the brilliant tactics of Lee and Jackson, the Army of Northern Virginia lost 21% of its strength to the Union Army’s loss of 15%. The defensive battles of Second Manassas and Fredericksburg should have been the model upon which the Confederacy fought the balance of the war.

In a post-war article Longstreet wrote, “One mistake of the Confederacy was pitting force against force. The only hope we had was to outgeneral the Federals…Our purpose should have been to impair the morale of the Federal army and shake Northern confidence in the Federal leaders.”

Instead the Confederacy dashed any hopes of ultimate victory on the hostile rocks of Gettysburg’s ridges where they suffered over 23,000 casualties, over 1/3 of their army.



Command Decisions

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Command Decisions

Civil War MontageThe American Civil War like most wars had a variety of ways the opposing armies met in battle. In this series we will be examining the command decisions that went into the planning and execution of key battles of the war.

In some cases they met in what is called meeting engagements. The opposing forces simply collided into each other without a well-thought out plan. Many battles despite the best planning started by accident with elements of each army clashing before the commanders planned that they would.

In some respects, the pivotal battle at Gettysburg was a meeting engagement. Despite the extensive planning of General Robert E. Lee and his chief subordinate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, once the two sides collided all planning was out the window.

The Battle of Chancellorsville was another hybrid-type battle that was extensively planned-out by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker and his subordinate commanders. But once across the Rappahannock and enmeshed in the confining Wilderness of Virginia all of Hooker’s planning was for naught.

Other battles were instigated by one side or the other. The First Battle of Fredericksburg was a fight that the Union army instigated when it crossed the Rappahannock River. In the Western Theater the bloody clash at Shiloh (alternately known as Pittsburg Landing) was started when the Confederate Army of Mississippi attacked the encamped Union Army of the Tennessee.

During the American Civil War command decisions were based on human intelligence. Both armies utilized forward scouts and spies to seek out the locations of their opponents. Perhaps, the best known of these was Henry Thomas Harrison who was employed by General Longstreet before and during the Gettysburg campaign.

Both armies also used their cavalry in scouting role. General Lee described J.E.B. Stuart‘s cavalry as the “eyes and ears” of the Army of Northern Virginia. When Stuart was out of touch with his commander before the Battle of Gettysburg the Confederate Army was blinded to the Union Army’s positions.

There were also a fair number of spies in both sides’ capital cities. They were able to elicit confidential information using a variety of methods. They would then smuggle the information to their side. All of this took a great deal of time and sometimes the information was of no use when it finally arrived at its destination.

Despite all of the information that was gleaned from this variety of sources, the commanders had to sift through the rumors, hearsay and sketchy reports. In some cases lost or captured orders were deemed to have been planted to cause confusion and were not properly utilized by commanders.

Many orders were sketchy and imprecise causing confusion for subordinate commanders. Lee’s imprecise order to Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell is one of the best known. Lee ordered Ewell to assault Cemetery Ridge “if practicable.” Ewell given such a wide latitude felt that his corps was too tired to carry the Union positions.

As we go through some of the major command decisions made by both Confederate and Union commanders the methods that they used to decide where and how to fight will become clearer.



What If Ewell Had Taken Cemetery Ridge

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Counterfactuals of the Civil War

General Richard S. EwellHere’s another what-if scenario from the Battle of Gettysburg.This one involves Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell and Robert E. Lee’s imprecise orders to him. Many historians point out the wide latitude that Lee allowed his subordinates and the fact that he employed fewer staff officers than his Union counterparts.

Lee employed several staff officers during his command of the Army of Northern Virginia. The most well-known members of his immediate staff were Lt. Col. Robert Hall Chilton, Maj. Walter H. Taylor, Maj. Charles S. Venable and Maj. Charles Marshall. There were several others who assisted General Lee but these four were his principal aides.

Lee’s General Staff had additional officers with responsibilities that included the artillery, quartermasters, the medical corps, commissary, ordinance and judge advocate general. However, Lee wrote or dictated orders himself and at Gettysburg his orders to Ewell were imprecise at best.

Richard S. Ewell was 46-years old at the time of Gettysburg. A native of Georgetown in the District of Columbia, he had been raised near Manassas in Prince, William County, Virginia. He had graduated from West Point in 1840 and was assigned to the dragoons. He served with distinction during the Mexican War where he was promoted to captain. Until the beginning of the Civil War Ewell was stationed in the Far West in New Mexico and Arizona.

Ewell resigned his commission and joined the Virginia Provisional Army in May 1861. He was appointed a colonel of cavalry on May 9 and was one of the first senior officers wounded in the war, at a May 31 skirmish at Fairfax Court House. He was promoted to brigadier general in the Confederate States Army on June 17 and commanded a brigade in the (Confederate) Army of the Potomac at the First Battle of Bull Run, but saw little action.

Ewell proposed to President Jefferson Davis that the slaves be freed immediately and that he was willing to lead them in battle. Davis considered it an impossibility and he never spoke to Ewell about it again. Only Ewell and General Patrick Cleburne ever proposed freeing the slaves in order to use them in combat. Both realized that the South was outnumbered.

Ewell was promoted to major general and assigned to the Shenandoah Valley under the command of “Stonewall” Jackson. Although they got along well together, the two men could not have been more different. Jackson was stern and pious, whereas Ewell was witty and extremely profane. Jackson was flexible and intuitive on the battlefield, while Ewell, although brave and effective, required precise instructions to function effectively. This failing would have tragic results at Culp’s Hill.

Ewell was under Jackson’s command throughout the Valley Campaign and the Seven Days’ Battles. Ewell was the victor at the the Battle of Cedar Mountain but at Groveton he was severely wounded and lost his left leg below the knee.

Ewell had a long recovery and didn’t return to the Army of Northern Virginia until after the Battle of Chancellorsville. Jackson had been mortally wounded and subsequently died in early May. Up until this point the Confederate Army had consisted of two corps commanded by James Longstreet and Jackson. Lee created a third corps with divisions from the first two. Jackson’s command was given to Ewell and the new Third Corps was given to Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill.

At the start of the Gettysburg Campaign, Ewell’s corps performed superbly at the Second Battle of Winchester where they captured 4,000 Union troops and 23 cannon. His corps led the invasion of Pennsylvania, almost reaching Harrisburg before being recalled to Gettysburg by Lee. His initial assaults smashed the Union XI Corps and part of the I Corps, driving them back through the town and forcing them to take up defensive positions on Cemetery Hill south of town.

Then both Lee and Ewell made mistakes that would have a fatal impact to the Confederates’ fortunes at Gettysburg. Lee, always known for allowing his commanders wide latitude, gave Ewell an order that he did not have to obey.

Arriving on the field, Lee realized that the Union position on Cemetery Hill was the key to the battlefield. He sent discretionary orders to Ewell that Cemetery Hill be taken “if practicable.” Historian James M. McPherson wrote, “Had Jackson still lived, he undoubtedly would have found it Gettysburg Overview July 1 1863practicable. But Ewell was not Jackson.” Ewell chose not to attempt the assault.

Click Map to Enlarge

Lee’s orders were imprecise at best. He ordered Ewell “to carry the hill occupied by the enemy, if he found it practicable, but to avoid a general engagement until the arrival of the other divisions of the army.” He also refused the aid Ewell had requested in the form of troops from A.P. Hill. Ewell’s men were tired from their long march and strenuous fighting in the July heat.

Discretionary orders were customary for General Lee because Jackson and James Longstreet, his other principal subordinate, usually reacted to them very well and could use their initiative to respond to conditions and achieve the desired results. Ewell’s critics have noted that this failure of action on his part, whether justified or not, in all likelihood cost the Confederates the battle. Others say that Lee was responsible as the overall commander.

By the time Ewell’s corps attacked on July 2nd and 3rd, the Union positions had been heavily reinforced because General George Meade and his commanders could read a map as well as General Lee. Ewell was heavily criticized by Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early, one of his subordinate commanders and Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble, who had been assigned to Ewell’s staff during the battle. Both were proponents of the lost cause movement and sought to deflect criticism from Lee.

If Ewell’s forces had taken Cemetery Ridge, the Union Army’s position would have been totally disconnected. The position guarded the Union right flank and kept the Confederates from taking their army in the rear. A successful assault by Ewell’s forces would have probably ended the battle after the first day with a Union defeat.

It is doubtful that the larger Union Army could have been completely smashed. More than likely they would have withdrawn to a the East and set up defensive positions at another location.



The Importance of Buford’s Stand at Gettysburg

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Counterfactuals of the Civil War

General John BufordThe Battle of Gettysburg is filled with what-ifs. The first what-if concerns Brig. Gen. John Buford‘s cavalry division and their stand on July 1st. Buford’s determination to hold up the advancing Confederates allowed the following infantry from the I Corps to reinforce his outnumbered unit.

Buford is credited with selecting the field of battle at Gettysburg. In doing it so well,  John Buford selected the very best field for his Union Army comrades to defend. He was acutely aware of the importance of holding the tactically important high ground about Gettysburg and so he did, beginning one of the most iconic battles in American military history.

John Buford was a 37-year old career soldier. A native of Kentucky, he had graduated from West Point 16th of 38 in the class of 1848. He served in Texas and against the Sioux, served on peacekeeping duty in Bleeding Kansas, and in the Utah War in 1858. He was stationed at Fort Crittenden, Utah, from 1859 to 1861.

At the start of the war, Buford remained loyal to the Union and gradually worked his way up the chain of command. In July 1862, he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers. Before Chancellorsville, he was given the Reserve Brigade of the Cavalry Corps and before the Gettysburg Campaign he was promoted to division command.

On June 30th, he rode with his command into the small town of Gettysburg. Realizing that he was facing a superior enemy force, Buford set about building a defense to thwart their advance. He dismounted his troopers and with their horse artillery he delayed the Confederate advance fora crucial three hours until Maj. Gen. John Reynolds’ I Corps could arrive.

Anticipating that the Confederates would march on Gettysburg from the west on the morning of July 1, Buford laid out his defenses on three ridges west of the town: Herr Ridge, McPherson Ridge, and Seminary Ridge. These were appropriate terrain for a delaying action by his small cavalry division against superior Confederate infantry forces.

It was meant to buy time awaiting the arrival of Union infantrymen who could occupy the strong defensive positions south of town at Cemetery HillCemetery Ridge, and Culp’s Hill. Buford understood that if the Confederates could gain control of these heights, Meade’s army would have difficulty dislodging them. By selecting the field and holding it until he was relieved, Buford set the stage for the eventual Union victory.

But what if Buford’s outnumbered force was overwhelmed and forced to retreat through the town of Gettysburg? The Union Army would have been unable to prepare defensive positions south of the town when the inevitable Confederate advance began. They would have more than likely been routed and destroyed in detail.

A Union defeat at Gettysburg may have meant a negotiated peace and the division of the country. Gettysburg may have been the last opportunity for the Confederate Army to win the war on the field. After Gettysburg the South’s last hope was war weariness from the Northern public and Lincoln’s defeat in the 1864 election.

Unfortunately, John Buford would not see the Union victory that he so ably helped with. He died at 2 p.m., December 16, 1863, while his aide Captain Myles Keogh held him in his arms. His final reported words were “Put guards on all the roads, and don’t let the men run to the rear.”

Buford was buried at West Point alongside fellow Gettysburg hero Lt. Alonzo Cushing, who had died defending the “high ground” (Cemetery Ridge) that Buford had chosen.

The hero at Oak Ridge was John Buford… he not only showed the rarest tenacity, but his personal capacity made his cavalry accomplish marvels, and rival infantry in their steadfastness… Glorious John Buford! — Maj. Gen. John Watts de Peyster on Buford’s Dragoon tactics



Confederate Spies: Henry Thomas Harrison

This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series Spies of North and South

Henry Thomas HarrisonPerhaps, the best known Confederate field spy was Henry Thomas Harrison. Due to the book The Killer Angels and the movie Gettysburg, based on that book, Harrison has become known throughout the land as General James Longstreet’s field spy. However, he preferred to be called a scout. Many historians credit him with giving Longstreet the information that convinced Lee to converge on Gettysburg.

Henry Thomas Harrison was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1832. He was an actor who did not get many important parts because of small stature. At the start of the war he joined the 12th Mississippi Infantry at Corinth as a private.

By September, Harrison had become a scout/spy for General Earl Van Dorn near Manassas, Virginia. On April 30, 1862 Harrison was back in Corinth where he requested equipment for service there from a General Gordon (probably George Washington Gordon). In January 1863, Harrison was sending reports from Holly Springs, Mississippi to Maj. Gen. William W. Loring about the movements of Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee.

On February 20, 1863 Harrison reported to Secretary of War, James Seddon, for service as a secret agent. On March 7th, he was assigned to General Longstreet, he is dispatched to spy for General D. H. Hill in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Almost immediately Harrison was arrested by Union troops near New Bern, North Carolina and accused of spying. He was jailed for about a month until Harrison convinced them that he was an innocent civilian who was only trying to avoid conscription.

Released from jail, he immediately reported to General Longstreet who was in Franklin, Virginia. Longstreet sent Harrison to Washington in order to track the movements of the Army of the Potomac. This was to begin the most impactful phase of Harrison’s service.

Tracking the Union Army progress in their pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia, Harrison was able to gather information on the size and routes of the enemy army. On June 28th, Harrison made his report to Longstreet at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. By then the large Union Army was around Frederick, Maryland and marching North. He also reported that Joe Hooker had been replaced by Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade.

Harrison’s information was plausible enough for Lee to halt his entire army. Harrison reported that the Union had left Frederick, Maryland, and was moving northward, which was true. Longstreet’s chief of staff, Moxley Sorrel, said that Harrison “always brought true information.”

As a result of Harrison’s information, Lee told all of his troops to concentrate in the vicinity of Cashtown, PA, eight miles from Gettysburg, thereby triggering the events that led to the Battle of Gettysburg. Lee even said after hearing the news from Harrison, “A battle thus became, in a measure, unavoidable.”

Harrison’s service to the Confederacy after Gettysburg never matched the importance of his reports before the famous battle. He operated mostly in the North, gathering intelligence in Washington and New York. In September 1863, Harrison married Laura Broders in Washington.

After the war Harrison moved to Mexico with his wife and their daughter but after some marital problems he moved to Montana alone, prospecting for gold. Between 1867 and 1892, his exact whereabouts are unknown. His wife believing that he was dead, remarried in 1893.

In 1893, Harrison moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1901, Harrison got a job in Cincinnati as a detective for the Municipal Reform League. In 1912, he moved to Covington, Kentucky and applied for a Confederate pension. On October 28, 1923, Harrison died in Covington at the age of 91. He is buried at Highland Cemetery in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky.

Henry Thomas Harrison never attempted to capitalize on his Confederate service. In his pension application there was no mention of his service as General Longstreet’s field spy/scout. He simply referred to himself as a Confederate veteran soldier.

Sorrel knew nothing about Harrison’s identity and no one on Longstreet’s staff even knew his first name.  Longstreet must have known because he obtained a photograph of Harrison for his published memoirs, From Manassas to Appomattox. But Longstreet continued to maintain his secrecy in this matter.

As a tribute to Harrison’s espionage, Longstreet wrote in an 1887 article for Century Magazine that Harrison provided him “with information more accurate than a force of cavalry could have secured.”