Maryland in the Civil War
Marylanders in 1862 Under General Robert E. Lee
Source: Confederate Military History, Vol. 2
After Cross Keys and Port Republic, when Fremont and Shields were sent whirling down the valley, Jackson made a feint of pursuit, and pushed his cavalry some marches after them. He ordered the First Maryland to Staunton to recruit, where, during the next ten days, Company I was mustered out on June 17th, its time having expired. These men left the regiment with the respect of the whole command and the love of their colonel. Their captain, Michael Stone Robertson, belonged to an historic family in Charles county and was a descendant of Col. John H. Stone, colonel of the First regiment of the Maryland Line of the Revolution. His words as he fell were, "Go on, boys, don't mind me," and he died at his next breath. Lieut. Nicholas Snowden, of Company D, who died at the same time, had been captain of a cavalry company in Prince George's in 1860-61, and had joined Captain Herbert, his cousin, at Harper's Ferry, early in May, 1861. He was as honest, gallant and high-minded a gentleman as ever lived. The blood that Maryland poured out on that evening of June 6th was as precious and as glorious as any she has ever given in all her history, at Long Island, at Monterey, or in the army of Northern Virginia.
At Staunton the regiment was reinforced with a new company under Capt. John H. Barry, which was designated Company G. About June 24th Jackson made a sudden disappearance from the front of Fremont, and reappeared on Lee's left on the Chickahominy. He picked up the First Maryland at Staunton, and moved by train. On the 25th he reached Ashland on the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac railroad, fifteen miles north of Richmond, and at daylight of the 26th moved east toward Lee's left. By three o'clock he got in touch with the enemy's pickets at Pole Green church in Hanover county, and the First Maryland was ordered forward (they held the right of Jackson's column) to drive them in. This was done, and they forced them back to Beaver Dam creek, on the farther side of which they made a stand and the Marylanders could not move them. General Jackson, riding up, asked Johnson, "Colonel, what have you stopped for? "I can't get those fellows there out of the woods!" "Give them some shell!" and the colonel ordered up the Baltimore light artillery, which soon quieted the fire on the other side. It was then dark and the command lay down in line of battle. At daylight they moved forward toward Old Cold Harbor, and by noon were ordered to support artillery. They remained in this position until nearly sundown. The battle had been raging for hours on the :right. The roll of musketry surged on like the surf of the ocean--until it breaks and then recedes. The battle on the right made no progress.
All the infantry had been sent in until the Maryland regiment was left alone with the batteries. General Jackson, riding by, said, "Colonel, take your command in." "What shall I do with the batteries?" "The cavalry must take care of them." "General, when I park them, which way shall I move?" "That way!" said Jackson, swinging his right arm to the right. Colonel Johnson immediately obeyed the order and moved forward by the right flank, until bursting shell and whizzing balls and wounded, limping men showed that they were approaching the point at issue. Just at the edge of a ditch they were halted, fronted and dressed carefully. The ground was impassable and the horses of the field officers and staff were sent back. The colonel said, "Men, we alone represent Maryland here. We are few in number, and for that reason our duty to our State is greater. We must do her honor." The command moved as quickly as a deep morass and heavy under. growth would permit, and, emerging on open ground, reformed and lay down until every man got over. They were just then near the crest of a hill, on the side of a wide field, with no obstruction in front for nearly half a mile. The farther side was covered with a thick curtain of smoke, rolling backward and forward, in which only incessant, lurid flashes could be seen. Occasionally a small group would emerge, bearing a wounded man, or a frightened soldier would run back. Some distance to the left a large battery was sweeping the plateau. From the front came an incessant rain of bullets. Directly to the left the most tremendous roar of small arms announced a desperate struggle. "Up, men!" was the order. "Shoulder arms, right-shoulder-shift arms. Forward march!" The regiment moved forward as it never moved on drill, as steady and straight as a line. On it went, over that dreadful plain, strewed with dead and dying, every officer in place; the hospital detail, with the surgeons, Drs. Johnson and Latimer, thirty paces in rear. Shot and shell tore through the ranks. Not a man fell out. The wounded men were picked up by the hospital detail and attended to on the spot by our gallant medical officers, who in every action were as close to us as the line of field officers. Wishing to change direction, the order was given, "Battalion right wheel!" and it swung round like an arm. Coming to a small rise which would shelter the men, they were halted, brought to a "shoulder," then an "order," then "lie down." Colonel Johnson went forward to reconnoiter, and returning quickly commanded, "Up, men, and forward!"
Just then Capt. McHenry Howard of General Winder's staff rode up and said, "General Winder thinks you are not strong enough to take those batteries. He directs that you wait until he can bring up the Stonewall brigade to your support!" In a minute the Stonewall brigade was found on the right, and General Winder directed Colonel Johnson to take direction of the line and charge. As they rose the crest, the batteries became visible near the McGee house, the orchard and sunken road between us and the McGee house being filled with Yankees, who were covered by the road and a breastwork of knapsacks. Just then a disorderly crowd, composed of parts of some regiments broken in this desperate charge, recoiled past the Stonewall brigade and Marylanders. "Steady, men! Steady!" were the words with which the line was held firm. Then while the canister screamed above them, they were reformed and put through the manual of arms by Colonel Johnson as deliberately as if on dress parade. His object was to distract the attention of the men from the terrible fire and death around them, and make them look alone toward their commanding officer.
The charge was now made with the old-time cheer. Over everything they went, pell-mell into the road, over the fence, through the orchard, by the house. But the batteries were gone. They found two guns in the road that night. No further stand was made by the enemy, and the battle of Cold Harbor was won. It is proper- to put on record a contemporaneous account of the manual of arms, written that night by Orderly-Sergeant Robert Cushing, of the First Maryland regiment. He was killed at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863.
"Friday, June 27th (1862), battle of Cold Harbor. Our regiment on reserve marched and countermarched all day; about half-past five moved forward, got under enemy's fire before six. Shells flew thick and fast--got where the minie-balls occasionally would reach. Colonel Johnson got blood up, said, ' Men, I have offered to lead forward the line that never yet broke--never can be broken. Forward, quick march, guide center!' The old regiment marched proudly forward. 'Halt, order arms!' and the lines were dressed, and guns ordered like on dress parade. Other regiments were brought forward, and formed on us at last. ' Forward march,' and on the line of battle moved until with a yell, we charged, and took the field, sleeping on it. Our regiment has reason to be proud of its action and of its colonel."
The next morning Ewell moved rapidly to Dispatch Station on the York River railroad in McClellan's rear, the First Maryland on the right. It was sent forward to drive off the picket at the Station, and McClellan was cut off from his base on York river at West Point. For a day or two Ewell's division remained at Dispatch Station until on McClellan's retiring toward James river it rejoined the army and pressed on in pursuit. It was not engaged until Malvern Hill, where the First Maryland lay all the afternoon under the fire of McClellan's seventy guns on his right and his gun boats on his left. After dark, the Maryland regiment joined General Winder, who had the fragment of the Stonewall brigade, which had been badly cut up. Winder ordered Colonel Johnson forward to cover and hold as much of the field as possible until daylight while he supported him. This was done satisfactorily, and the next morning Lee followed McClellan to Westover, where he left him, satisfied that any forward movement by the beaten Federal commander was improbable.
After Westover the Marylanders were sent to Charlottesville to recruit, where they remained a month, and were then ordered to Gordonsville to guard the depot of supplies and the railroad junction there. They were in camp while Jackson moved swiftly by and on August 9th sprang on Pope at Cedar Mountain in Culpeper.
On August 16th a special order from the adjutant-general of the Confederate States to the colonel of the First Maryland was received by him, ordering him to muster the regiment out of service without delay. The regiment could not parade more than two hundred and fifty rifles for duty, but its officers were as efficient, gallant, well-instructed a set of young soldiers as were in either army. They were in this summary manner dismissed from the service, without charges, without notice and without a hearing. This extraordinary proceeding was heard of with regret by the army and with acute anger by the regiment itself. Colonel Johnson mustered them out on the 17th, the men presented their flag and their bucktail to Mrs. Johnson and then dispersed, grieved and offended. Generals Jackson and Ewell sent Colonel Johnson letters of regard and sympathy and also recommendations to the President of the Confederate States, that he be made brigadier-general. Colonel Johnson declined to go to Richmond, or become an applicant for a place he had won by hard service, and Jackson assigned him to command the Second brigade, Jackson's division, Second corps--Jackson's own.
A new regiment was soon brought together, of which James R. Herbert became lieutenant-colonel, and William W. Goldsborough, major. But the disbanding of the gallant First regiment, although another was so soon formed, was attended by some unfortunate results.
It will be noted that when the army crossed the Potomac in September, 1862, after the second battle of Manassas, it carried with it no Maryland regiment bearing the Maryland flag, and thus there was no nucleus on which recruits could rally. The First Maryland artillery, under the gallant Dement, and the Baltimore light artillery, with Griffin, were there, but detached batteries operating in different commands gave no points of rendezvous for raw recruits seeking an association in an army. General Lee and the Confederacy were much disappointed at the failure of Maryland to rise, but this disappointment was without adequate reason. Lee crossed the Potomac on September 5th and the next day, the 6th, camped around Frederick. The population of that section of Maryland was strongly Union, fully one-half of it being adherents of that side. On September 10th Lee moved from Frederick to Hagerstown and the next week was taken up in operations which culminated in the battle of Sharpsburg on September 17th. McClellan moved from Washington on the 6th, his columns covering the whole country between Lee's army and southern Maryland, where the chief strength of the Confederates lay. So Lee was only stationary four days, and at no time was the country open for Confederate sympathizers to join him. He issued this proclamation:
"Headquarters Army N. Va.
Near Fredericktown, September 8, 1862.
To the People of Maryland:
It is right that you should know the purpose that has brought the army under my command within the limits of your State, so far as that purpose concerns yourselves.
The people of the Confederate States have long watched with the deepest sympathy the wrongs and outrages that have been inflicted upon the citizens of a commonwealth, allied to the States of the South by the strongest social, political and commercial ties. They have seen with profound indignation their sister State deprived of every right, and reduced to the position of a conquered province. Under the pretense of supporting the Constitution, but in violation of its most valuable provisions, your citizens have been arrested and imprisoned upon no charge and contrary to all forms of law. The faithful and manly protest against this outrage made by the venerable and illustrious Marylander, to whom in better days no citizen appealed for right in vain, was treated with scorn and contempt. The government of your chief city has been usurped by armed strangers: your legislature has been dissolved by the unlawful arrest of its members: freedom of the press and of speech has been suppressed: words have been declared offenses by an arbitrary decree of the Federal executive, and citizens ordered to be tried by a military commission for what they may dare to speak
Believing that the people of Maryland possessed a spirit too lofty to submit to such a government, the people of the South have long wished to aid you in throwing off the foreign yoke, to enable you again to enjoy the inalienable rights of freemen and restore independence and sovereignty to your State.
In obedience to this wish, our army has come among you, and is prepared to assist you with the power of its arms, in regaining the rights, of which you have been despoiled.
This, citizens of Maryland, is our mission so far as you are concerned: no restraint on your free will is intended: no intimidation will be allowed. Within the limits of this army at least, Marylanders shall once more enjoy their ancient freedom of thought and speech. We know no enemies among you and will protect all, of every opinion. It is for you to decide your destiny, freely and without constraint. This army will respect your choice, whatever it may be, and while the Southern people will rejoice to welcome you to your natural position among them, they will only welcome you when you come of your own free will.
R. E. LEE,
Colonel Johnson, whose Second brigade was camped at the barracks on the suburbs of the town, and who had policed the town with Capt. Lewis N. Randolph, of the Irish battalion, as provost marshal, sent out the following appeal:
"To the People of Maryland:
After sixteen months of oppression more galling than the Austrian tyranny, the victorious army of the South brings freedom to your doors. Its standards now wave from the Potomac to Mason and Dixon's line. The men of Maryland, who during the last long months have been crushed under the heel of this terrible despotism, now have the opportunity for working out their own redemption, for which they have so long waited and suffered and hoped. The government of the Confederate States is pledged by the unanimous vote of its Congress; by the distinct declaration of its President, the soldier and statesman Davis, never to cease this war until Maryland has the opportunity to decide for herself, her own fate, untrammeled and free from Federal bayonets. The people of the South, with unanimity unparalleled, have given their hearts to our native State, and hundreds of thousands of her sons have sworn with arms in their hands that you shall be free.
You must now do your part. We have the arms here for you. I am authorized immediately to muster in for the war, companies and regiments, the companies of one hundred men each, and the regiments of ten companies. Come, all who wish to strike for their liberties and homes! Let each man provide himself with a stout pair of shoes, a good blanket and a tin cup. Jackson's men have no baggage.
Officers are in Frederick to receive recruits, and all companies formed will be armed as soon as mustered in. Rise at once. Remember the cells of Fort McHenry! Remember the dungeons of Fort Lafayette and Fort Warren! the insults to your wives and daughters! the arrest! the midnight searches of your houses! Remember these wrongs! and rise at once in arms, and strike for liberty and right.
BRADLEY T. JOHNSON,
Colonel C. S. A."
Frederick, September 8, 1862.
A few companies reported to Colonel Johnson under this call. Just at the time, Gen. J. R. Jones, who had been wounded in battle before Richmond, came up and reported for duty and resumed command of the Second brigade, and Johnson had no location in the army. He rode with Jackson's staff, but it was impossible to-care for green volunteers in the rapid evolutions of the army of Northern Virginia from September 10 to 18, 1862. The new recruits merely followed along after the army and dispersed after the battle of Sharpsburg. It is probable that if a strong regiment of Marylanders under the Maryland flag had marched with Lee at that time it might have been made the rallying point of a new division.
RETURN TO MARYLAND IN THE CIVIL WAR INTRO PAGE
ON TO MARYLAND IN THE CIVIL WAR, CHAPTER VIII