Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 27, 1863: Arthur Fremantle meets James Longstreet

Lieutenant General James Longstreet, C.S. Army.

27th June (Saturday).—Lawley was so ill this morning that he couldn't possibly ride; I therefore mounted his horse a little before daybreak, and started in search of the generals. After riding eight miles, I came up with General Longstreet, at 6.30 a.m., and was only just in time, as he was on the point of moving. Both he and his Staff were most kind, when I introduced myself and stated my difficulties; he arranged that an ambulance should fetch Lawley, and he immediately invited me to join his mess during the campaign; he told me (which I did not know) that we were now in Pennsylvania, the enemy's country—Maryland being only ten miles broad at this point; he declared that Bushwhackers exist in the woods, who shoot unsuspecting stragglers, and it would therefore be unsafe that Lawley and I should travel alone. General Longstreet is an Alabamian—a thickset, determined-looking man, forty-three years of age: he was an infantry major in the old army, and now commands the 1st corps d'armée: he is never far from General Lee, who relies very much upon his judgment. By the soldiers he is invariably spoken of as "the best fighter in the whole army." Whilst speaking of entering upon the enemy's soil, he said to me that although it might be fair, in just retaliation, to apply the torch, yet that doing so would demoralise the army and ruin its now excellent discipline. Private property is therefore to be rigidly protected.

At 7 a.m. I returned with an orderly (or courier, as they are called) to the farmhouse in which I had left Lawley; and after seeing all arranged satisfactorily about the ambulance, I rode slowly on to rejoin General Longstreet, near Chambersburg, which is a Pennsylvanian town, distant twenty-two miles from Hagerstown. I was with M'Laws's division, and observed that the moment they entered Pennsylvania the troops opened the fences and enlarged the road about twenty yards on each side, which enabled the waggons and themselves to proceed together: this is the only damage I saw done by the Confederates. This part of Pennsylvania is very flourishing, highly cultivated, and, in comparison with the Southern States, thickly peopled. But all the cattle and horses having been seized by Ewell, farm-labour had now come to a complete stand-still.

In passing through Greencastle we found all the houses and windows shut up, the natives in their Sunday clothes standing at their doors regarding the troops in a very unfriendly manner. I saw no straggling into the houses, nor were any of the inhabitants disturbed or annoyed by the soldiers. Sentries were placed at the doors of many of the best houses, to prevent any officer or soldier from getting in on any pretence.

I entered Chambersburg at 6 p.m. This is a town of some size and importance: all its houses were shut up; but the natives were in the streets, or at the upper windows, looking in a scowling and bewildered manner at the Confederate troops, who were marching gaily past to the tune of Dixie's Land. The women (many of whom were pretty and well dressed) were particularly sour and disagreeable in their remarks. I heard one of them say, "Look at Pharaoh's army going to the Red Sea." Others were pointing and laughing at Hood's ragged Jacks, who were passing at the time. This division, well known for its fighting qualities, is composed of Texans, Alabamians, and Arkansians, and they certainly are a queer lot to look at. They carry less than any other troops; many of them have only got an old piece of carpet or rug as baggage; many have discarded their shoes in the mud; all are ragged and dirty, but full of good-humour and confidence in themselves and in their general, Hood. They answered the numerous taunts of the Chambersburg ladies with cheers and laughter. One female had seen fit to adorn her ample bosom with a huge Yankee flag, and she stood at the door of her house, her countenance expressing the greatest contempt for the barefooted Rebs; several companies passed her without taking any notice; but at length a Texan gravely remarked, "Take care, madam, for Hood's boys are great at storming breastworks when the Yankee colours is on them." After this speech the patriotic lady beat a precipitate retreat.

Sentries were placed at the doors of all the principal houses, and the town was cleared of all but the military passing through or on duty. Some of the troops marched straight through the town, and bivouacked on the Carlisle road. Others turned off to the right, and occupied the Gettysburg turnpike. I found Generals Lee and Longstreet encamped on the latter road, three-quarters of a mile from the town.

General Longstreet and his Staff at once received me into their mess, and I was introduced to Major Fairfax, Major Latrobe, and Captain Rogers of his personal Staff; also to Major Moses, the Chief Commissary, whose tent I am to share. He is the most jovial, amusing, and clever son of Israel I ever had the good fortune to meet. The other officers on Longstreet's Headquarter Staff are Colonel Sorrell, Lieutenant-Colonel Manning (ordnance officer), Major Walton, Captain Goree, and Major Clark, all excellent good fellows, and most hospitable.

Lawley is to live with three doctors on the Headquarter Staff: their names are Cullen, Barksdale, and Maury; they form a jolly trio, and live much more luxuriously than their generals.

Major Moses tells me that his orders are to open the stores in Chambersburg by force, and seize all that is wanted for the army in a regular and official manner, giving in return its value in Confederate money on a receipt. The storekeepers have doubtless sent away their most valuable goods on the approach of the Confederate army. Much also has been already seized by Ewell, who passed through nearly a week ago. But Moses was much elated at having already discovered a large supply of excellent felt hats, hidden away in a cellar, which he "annexed" at once.

I was told this evening the numbers which have crossed the Potomac, and also the number of pieces of artillery. There is a large train of ammunition; for if the army advances any deeper into the enemy's country, General Lee cannot expect to keep his communications open to the rear; and as the Staff officers say, "In every battle we fight we must capture as much ammunition as we use." This necessity, however, does not seem to disturb them, as it has hitherto been their regular style of doing business.

Ewell, after the capture of Winchester, had advanced rapidly into Pennsylvania, and has already sent back great quantities of horses, mules, waggons, beeves, and other necessaries; he is now at or beyond Carlisle, laying the country under contribution, and making Pennsylvania support the war, instead of poor, used-up, and worn-out Virginia. The corps of Generals A.P. Hill and Longstreet are now near this place, all full of confidence and in high spirits.

No comments: