Monday, April 8, 2013

150-years-ago -- An English Picture of Confederate Headquarters.

Robert E. Lee

The  Richmond Daily Dispatch
April 27, 1863
          In visiting the headquarters of the Confederate Generals, but particularly those of General Lee, any one accustomed to see European armies in the field cannot help to be struck with the great absence of all the pomp and circumstance of war in and around their encampments. Lee's headquarters consisted of about seven or eight pole tents pitched with their backs to a stake fence, upon a place of ground so rocky that it was unpleasant to ride over it, its only recommendation being a little stream of good water which flowed close by the General's tent. In front of the tents were some three four wheeled wagons drawn up without any regularity, and a number of horses roamed loose about the field. The savants, who were of course slaves, and the mounted soldiers, called "couriers" who always accompany each General of Division in the field, were unprovided with tents and slept in or under the wagons. Wagons tents, and some of the horses, were marked U. S., showing that part of that huge debt in the North has gone to furnishing even the Confederate Generals with camp equipments. No guard or sentries were to be seen in the vicinity; no crowd of aids-de-camp loitering about, making themselves agreeable to visitors, and endeavoring to save their Generals from receiving those who have no particular business.
          A large farm house stands close by, which, in any other army, would have been the General's residence pro tens, but, as no liberties are allowed to be taken with personal property in Lee's army, he is particular in setting a good example himself. His staff are crowded together two or three in a tent; none are allowed to carry more baggage than a small box each, and his own kit 14 but very little larger. Every one who approaches him does so with marked respect although there is none of that bowing and flourishing of forage caps which occurs in the presence of European Generals; and, while all honor him and place implicit faith in his courage and ability those with whom he is most intimate feel for him the affection of sons to a father. Old General Scott was correct in saying that when Lee joined the Southern cause it was worth as much as the accession of 20,000 men to the "rebels." Since then every injury that it was possible to inflict the Northerners have heaped upon him. His house on the Pamunkey river was burnt to the ground and the slaves carried away — many of them by force — while his residence on the Arlington Heights was not only gutted of its furniture, but even the very relics of George Washington were stolen from it and paraded in triumph in the saloons of New York and Boston. Notwithstanding all these personal losses, however, when speaking of the Yankees, he neither evinced any bitterness of feeling, nor gave utterance to a single violent expression, but alluded to many of his former friends and companions among them in the kindest terms. He spoke as a man proud of the victories won by his country and confident of ultimate success, under the blessings of the Almighty, whom he glow fled for past successes, and whose aid he invoked for all future operations. He regretted that his limited supply of tents and available accommodation would prevent him from putting us up, but he kindly placed at our disposal horses or a two house wagon, if we preferred it, to drive about in.
          Upon leaving him we drove to Rucker Hill, six miles nearer Martinsburg, at which place "Stonewall" Jackson, now of world-wide celebrity, had his headquarters. With him we spent a most pleasant hour, and were agreeably surprised to find him very affable, having been led to expect that he was silent and almost morose. Dressed in his gray uniform, he looks the hero that he is; and his thin, compressed lips and calm glance, which meats yours unflinchingly, give evidence of that firmness and declining of character for which he is no famous. He has a broad open forehead from which the hair is wed brushed back; a shapely nose straight and rather long; thin, colorize cheeks with only a very small allowance of whiskers; a cleanly shaven upper lip and chin; and a pair of fine greyish-blue eyes rather sunken, with ever hanging brown which intensify the keenness of his gaze, but without imparting any fierceness to it. Such are the general characteristics of his face, and I have only to add that a smile seems always lurking about his mouth when he speaks, and that though his voice partakes slightly of that harshness which Europeans unjustly attributes to all Americans, there is much unmistakable cordiality in his manner; and to us he talked most affectionately of England and of his brief but enjoyable adjourn there. The religious pedant seems strongly developed to him and though his conversation is perfectly free from all Puritanical cant, it is evident that he is a person who never loses sight of the fact that there is omnipresent duty ever presiding over the minutest occurrence of life as well as over the most important. As one of his soldiers said to me in talking of him "he is a glorious fellow!" and after him I felt that I had at last solved the mystery of "'Stonewall Brigade," and discovered why it was that it had accomplished such almost miraculous feats. With such a leader men would go anywhere and face any amount of difficulties; and for myself, I believe that, inspired by the presence of such a man, I should be perfectly insensible to fatigue, and reckon upon success as a moral certainty.
        While General Lee is regarded in the light of infallible Love, a man to be reverenced, Jackson is loved and adored with all that childlike and trustful affection which the ancients are said to have lavished upon the particular deity presiding over their affairs. The feeling of the soldiers for General Lee resembles that which Wellington's troops entertained for him — namely, a fixed and unshaken faith in all he did, and a calm confidence of victory when serving under him, but Jackson, like Napoleon is idolized with that intense fervor which, consisting of mingled personal attachment and devoted loyalty, causes them to meet death for his sake and bless him when dying.

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