January - December 1863
In spite of the dampness and chill, life in winter quarters during January 1863 was most pleasant for the Texans in Lee's Army. Except for an occasional scouting assignment, foraging for food, or picket duty along the Rappahannock, the men did little more than engage in routine camp duties. These duties included roll call, drill, dress parade, preparing meals, and policing the camp. The ease of army life at this time was reflected in the name given to the camp by the Texas Brigade -- ``Camp Hope.''
During their stay around Fredericksburg, the Texans added to their reputation as experts in the unauthorized procurement of life's ``necessities.'' Although a direct rail line existed between the Army of Northern Virginia and the commissaries in Richmond, the Texans craved a little variety in the daily issue of beef, bacon, and biscuits. Rabbits, guinea hens, chickens, and shoats were particularly popular among the foragers. Chickens and pigs, being domesticated, were relatively easy to procure, but appropriation of these palate pleasers had to be done stealthily. Generals Hood and Lee soon received complaints from the region's civilians about the depredations of the Texans. When hearing Gen. Hood's defense of the Texans, Lee responded, ``Oh, General Hood, when you Texans come about, the chickens have to roost mighty high.''
One irate farmer stamped into the tent of one of Hood's regimental commanders demanding that he discipline the men that had shot and taken one of his largest hogs. ``I heard a shot, followed by a loud squeal,'' related the farmer, ``and when I went out on the porch to investigate I noticed two soldiers carrying the hog away and they were headed for this area.'' When the colonel asked the man if he was sure that he heard a shot and then a squeal, the farmer responded affirmatively. The colonel then informed the farmer that he must be in the wrong camp, ``for when a Texan shoots a hog he don't squeal.''
Gambling was another favorite pasttime among the men in Lee's Army, and again the Texans developed a formidable reputation. The Fourth Texas was the spawning ground for the most successful poker player's in Hood's Division. One evening, a particularly successful Texan was leading a horse he had won from one of Gen. Stuart's cavalrymen down the line to his regiment. As he passed by Bill George of Company B, Fourth Texas, George offered him $1000 for the horse. The poker player responded, ``You are a fool. I've just paid $1800 to get him curried.''
Throughout the day and night of January 28, a heavy snow fell in the Rappahannock Valley and settled into drifts up to several feet deep. At mid-morning of January 29, a large group of First and Fourth Texans pelted the huts of their neighbors, the Fifth Texas with ice balls made from tightly packed wet snow. The outnumbered Fifth Texas managed to drive their assailants back into their camps. There the unified Texans planned a snowball attack on the unsuspecting Third Arkansas. The Arkansans were caught unaware and quickly surrendered their entire encampment to the Texans. Inspired by their success, the Arkansans joined the Texans and plotted to attack the camp of Gen. ``Tige'' Anderson's Georgia Brigade, situated on a hill three-quarters of a mile away across the Massaponax stream. With haversacks full of snowballs, officers in front, battleflags unfurled, and drums and bugles sounding, the 1500-man Texas Brigade moved against the Georgians.
The Georgians, forewarned of the impending attack, were ready for the fray. The battle up and down the hillside raged for over an hour. Groans were heard as rocks disguised as snowballs hit their marks. Finally, the Georgians, with both superior numbers and position, drove back the Texans and Arkansans. The Texas Brigade, boosted by reinforcements, rallied and drove the Georgians into their camps, where they gallantly surrendered their forces. The two brigades then combined forces to march against Gen. Lafayette McLaws' Division. Soon 9000 veterans of the Army of Northern Virginia were engaged in a snowball battle royal. Thousands of snowballs were tossed back and forth. At the close of the prolonged struggle, Hood's Division emerged victorious. Thus ended the ``Great Snowball Fight of 1863.''
The Confederate high command was not pleased with the outing. Although only two men were severely injured during the fracas (no doubt the victims of rock-centered snowballs), many soldiers were temporarily laid up with ``black eyes, bloody noses, ragged ears and sadly disfigured physiognomies.'' More important, the noise and mass movement during the fight had caused quite a commotion in the Federal camps across the Rappahannock. Union cavalry, fearing an attack, had become active along the river. Shortly after the fight, Gen. Longstreet issued an order ``prohibiting general snowballing'' in his corps.
The Great Snowball Fight of 1863 was not the only activity that attracted the attention of the Federals during the winter of 1863. Being separated by a river only a few hundred feet wide, pickets from both armies routinely engaged in conversation and arranged ``no firing'' truces among themselves. These friendly arrangements soon led to the illicit trading of tobacco and coffee. Trading was primarily done through the use of small boats, but the men would occasionally ferry themselves across the river to barter in person. The regimental bands on one side of the Rappahannock would often serenade the troops posted on the other bank. Occasionally the musicians of both sides would combine their talents and give a joint rendition of ``Home, Sweet Home.''
The relatively tranquillity of army life along the Rappahannock was broken on February 15, when General Lee received orders from Secretary of War John Seddon to prepare troops for possible reinforcement of the Richmond defenses. This order was in response to the dispatch of the Federal Ninth Corps to Newport News on the Peninsula. To stave off the potential threat to the capital, Lee ordered Hood's and Pickett's Divisions to Hanover Junction, twenty miles north of Richmond. Pickett's Division was to move immediately, followed by Hood's command.
The Texas Brigade under Gen. Jerome B. Robertson left its winter quarters on February 17 and at 5 pm headed south in the midst of a raging blizzard. The roads were a quagmire of frozen mud and slush, and the streams were swollen to several times their normal size. On February 18, Lee received more alarming news about Federal movements and dispatched Gen. Longstreet himself to take command of the two marching divisions. Hood was ordered to march to Atlee's Station, eight miles north of Richmond, where he would await supplies and further orders. The march toward Richmond was one of the hardest yet endured by the Texas Brigade. Many men straggled; others fell by the roadside and slept in the mud. Pvt. J. M. Polk of the Fourth Texas later wrote, ``Snow fell during the entire march to Richmond,'' and ``some of the men were almost barefooted and as they traveled they left blood in their tracks.''
On February 21, the Texas Brigade entered the environs of Richmond after a total march of 69 miles through snow and rain. Being the first troops seen in Richmond since the battles of Second Manassas, Antietam, and Fredericksburg, Longstreet's men received a tumultuous welcome. The Texas Brigade put on quite a show for the citizens as they marched through the city. The bands of the Fourth Texas and Third Arkansas led Robertson's rowdy men down Broad Street to the tunes of ``Dixie'' and the ``Marseillaise Hymn.'' The Texans bantered with spectators as they passed and made sport of the ladies wearing large hats by requesting that they ``get down out of them hats.''
The Texas Brigade marched through the capital, crossed the lower (Mayo's) bridge over the James River, and continued south for three miles. Here Robertson's men bivouacked in snow 18 inches deep for several days. It was the first time the Texans had camped south of the James. On February 27, the brigade was ordered several miles farther south to Falling Creek. The men camped on the south bank of the creek about 100 yards from the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad. Every day, two officers and two men from Hood's regiments were permitted to visit Richmond. ``Hood's Division,'' wrote one citizen, ``vomiting forth a motley crew into the streets of what was once the pride and boast of Virginia.'' Men who remained in camp often robbed nearby civilians.
Being camped 100 yards from the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, the Texas Brigade enjoyed easy access to both the streets of Richmond and the Confederate supply depots. Nevertheless, hats were always in short supply. Their bareheaded condition caused the men great consternation, as a good hat was almost as important to an infantryman as his rifle. Being creative foragers, the Texans devised a scheme to net them the necessary headgear. Those needing hats cut long pine switches and laid them alongside the tracks of the Richmond and Petersburg. The hatless Texans and Arkansans hid themselves amidst the brush and pines of the steep railroad embankment. As trains full of politicians and contractors slowly approached their position, the hidden men fired their muskets and sounded the Rebel Yell. The startled passengers raised the windows of the cars and stuck out their heads to see what all the commotion was about. When the greatest number of heads protruded from the windows, the soldiers sprang from their positions with switches in hand and began knocking off hats from the heads of the unsuspecting passengers. Seizing the grounded headgear, the men quickly dashed down the tracks toward their camps. This ambush was staged several times until much of the brigade was outfitted with fine civilian hats and until a guard detail was stationed at the site of the crimes.
As in the winter of 1861--1862, officers and men from the companies of the Texas Brigade were detached back to their home counties in search of men to fill the depleted ranks. As of March 9, 1863, the strength of the Texas Brigade was 3030 men, only half of which were fit and present for duty. Unlike the previous winter however, the recruiting drives were not successful. The number of available men back home had dwindled considerably, and those whose remained were not eager to participate in the bloodbaths that Civil War battles usually produced. When Lt. Tom Selman and Pvts. Sam Billingsley and Dave Deckard of Co. E, Fourth Texas returned from McLennan County, they brought with them just one new man, John C. West of Waco -- ``a Texan in search of a fight.'' Although manpower was not forthcoming, support for the men fighting in Virginia was still strong. On March 10, the Ladies Aid Society of Austin donated their $925.30 profit from a recent tableaux to the Texas Brigade. With the inflated prices of goods in the Richmond area, that sum would hardly buy a cup of coffee per man.
On March 16, Gen. Longstreet received word from Gen. Lee that Maj. Gen. Joe Hooker, who was now commanding the Union Army of the Potomac, appeared ready to move south across the Rappahannock. Lee wanted Hood's men alerted for a return to the Fredericksburg area. When Federal cavalry crossed the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford on March 17, Lee requested the return of Hood's Division. On March 18, the Texas Brigade struck their tents and forced marched northward along the Richmond and Petersburg. A mile below Richmond, Hood foolishly informed the men that they were to rejoin Lee, then cautioned them not to spread the word. Advancing quickly through Richmond, the brigade left the city on the Brook Turnpike and headed toward Ashland. As they marched through Richmond, diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut noted that the men had poor footwear and had ``tin pans and pots tied to their waists, bread and bacon stuck on the ends of their bayonets [and] anything that could be spiked was bayoneted and held aloft.''
The men marched all day on March 18 under threatening skies. When the van of the column was within a few miles of Ashland, the orders to join Lee were cancelled. That night, the troops bivouacked along the turnpike and suffered through a cold, driving blizzard. On March 19, the Texans shook the snow from their thin blankets and headed back toward Richmond. As they passed through the city, the men flocked to the bars that lined Broad Street. Gen. Jerome B. Robertson, commanding the Texas Brigade, reacted angrily to his ever-thinning column before being calmed by Gen. Hood himself. Hood reportedly said to Robertson, ``Let 'em go, General -- let 'em go; they deserve a little indulgence, and you'll get them back in time for the next battle.'' On March 20, a cold, wet, and bedaggled Texas Brigade arrived back at its recently abandoned camp along Falling Creek. Here it remained for the remainder of the month.
When it became clear that a Federal advance on Richmond from the southeast was not planned, Gen. Lee changed the mission of Gen. Longstreet's two divisions posted south of the James. Hood's and Pickett's men were now to join Confederate forces in southern Virginia and pin down the Federal garrison at Suffolk, Virginia, near the Great Dismal Swamp. Afterwards, Longstreet's men were to relieve Lee's supply crisis on the Rappahannock by conducting a grand foraging expedition in the relatively untouched farm land west and south of Suffolk.
On April 2, the Texas Brigade abandoned its camp at Falling Creek and marched toward Petersburg. The men reached Petersburg on April 4, and bivouacked there for several days. On April 8, Gen. Robertson resumed the march southward. The brigade passed through Jerusalem and crossed the Blackwater River on a pontoon bridge at Franklin, 20 miles west of Suffolk. (A temporary depot was established at Franklin for storage of excessive personal equipment and supplies.) On the march, the men were harassed by Federal cavalry patrols and then by infantry skirmishers as they approached Suffolk. Hood's Division reached Suffolk on April 11, and immediately entrenched on the west bank of the Nansemond River, north of the town.
Suffolk was well fortified and occupied by 25,000 to 30,000 troops under Federal commander, Maj. Gen. John J. Peck. A flotilla of Union gunboats patrolled the Nansemond. Longstreet's 20,000 men entrenched along a 15-mile line around the town, from the Nansemond in the north to the Great Dismal Swamp in the south. Hood's Division occupied the left or northern wing. Law's Brigade and the Texas Brigade occupied the leftmost positions near the Nansemond. The commander of Co. G, Fourth Texas, reported that his unit was ``engaged in action with 3 gunboats on the Nansemond River on the 14th and 15th of April.'' With his left flank vulnerable to attack, Longstreet ordered Hood to ``burn and destroy all of the wharves and landings on the Nansemond and also on the James that [he could] reach.'' Given their proximity to these areas, the job probably was done by Law's and Robertson's Brigades.
To protect his vulnerable flank, Gen. Robertson formed a special battalion of Texas sharpshooters under the command of the popular and charismatic Captain Ike Turner of Co. K, Fifth Texas. At 22 years old, Turner was the youngest captain in the Texas Brigade, and one of the most promising. On April 14, Turner was hit by a Federal sharpshooter while standing atop the parapet of Fort Huger, a Confederate fortification on Hill's Point close to the confluence of the Western Branch and the Nansemond. He died the next morning. His death was lamented by the whole brigade, particularly by Gen. Hood.
In response to the Turner tragedy, an unknown member of the Fourth Texas swam the river toward the tall grass on the opposite bank that concealed the Yankee sharpshooters. After reaching the bank with a box of matches elevated over his head, the Texan ignited the bulrushes and drove out the sharpshooters. He then swam back to the Confederate bank completely unharmed. John W. Gordon of Co. C, Second North Carolina Cavalry wrote that the Yankees were driven away ``by the most daring deed [he had] ever witnessed.'' He also wrote, ``If ever a man deserved promotion for gallantry and a niche in the Temple of Fame, this Texan did.'' Unfortunately, this Fourth Texan's name is lost to history.
On April 19, a successful Federal assault was made against Fort Huger. The Texas Brigade was alerted for a night assault to recapture the fort and moved via Norfleet's House to the area. Reconnaissance by Gen. Hood and others soon showed that the undertaking was not worth the cost and confusion of a night assault. By the morning of April 20, the Federals had abandoned the fort, taking with them five guns, seven officers, and 130 men as prisoners.
The Confederate entrenchments around Suffolk were the most extensive and sophisticated yet seen in the Civil War. Three to five parallel lines of formidable works were formed. Rifle pits extended to within 200 yards of the Federal works. These advanced positions were manned by volunteers, since the no man's land between the lines was dominated by Federal sharpshooters. The primary purpose of these riflemen was to harass the enemy's artillery crews and force their sharpshooters under cover. J. M. Polk of Co. I, Fourth Texas, volunteered twice for duty in the rifle pits, but after losing part of his hat brim on one occasion and the top of his tight ear on another to Yankee sharpshooters, he decided to do only what he ``was ordered to do after that.''
Throughout the siege of Suffolk, Longstreet impressed the men of Hood's and Pickett's Divisions into the service of foraging. This operation, conducted in the Tidewater region along the Virginia and North Carolina border, was the largest embarked upon by the South during the entire war. Scouring the regions east of the Blackwater and Chowan Rivers, the Confederates not only gathered food and other items essential for the sustenance of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, but also denied the occupying Federals the fruits of the surrounding territory. To haul the supplies back to the Rappahannock, Longstreet's men were forced to confiscate both food, wagons, and horses from area farmers. The men had little sympathy for the locals, as many of them had hitherto been profitting handsomely by overcharging both Confederate and Federal troops for their produce.
The procurement program was called to an abrupt halt on April 30, when Adj. Gen. Samuel Cooper ordered Longstreet to move his command ``without delay'' and to ``effect a junction with General Lee.'' This terse order was prompted by a southward advance by the Army of the Potomac across the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers. Union General Joe Hooker's spring offensive was underway. With much of his force scattered throughout the Tidewater region, Longstreet had to inform Cooper of an inevitable delay in getting his command mobilized. It was necessary to withdraw the forage trains before the troops left the Suffolk area, lest the trains fall into Federal hands. Lee would have fight without Longstreet, Hood, and Pickett in the impending campaign.
By May 2, all the Confederate forage wagons had been sent north of the Blackwater River. Gen. Longstreet issued orders to his commanders to leave the Suffolk area and proceed without delay to rejoin the main body of the army near Fredericksburg. Hood's Division -- the last to leave the Suffolk trenches -- was ordered to march west on the Blackwater road after dark on May 3. After crossing the Blackwater, Hood's men dismantled the pontoon bridge at Franklin to slow the advance of the pursuing Federals. The Texas Brigade assumed its usual position as the rear guard of Longstreet's command. During the morning of May 4, Gen. Robertson's men skirmished with the lead elements of the Federal troops in pursuit. On May 5, the brigade continued north to Ivor Station on the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad, and boarded the cars for Petersburg and Richmond.
By the time Longstreet's command had left the Blackwater region, Gen. Lee had fought and won the Battle of Chancellorsville. As Longstreet's presence was no longer urgently needed, Lee ordered Longstreet on May 7 to proceed north at a normal marching pace. The Texas Brigade reached Richmond on May 8, and was given a handkerchief-waving welcome by the ladies of the capital city. From Richmond, the brigade headed northward through Frederick Hall and Louisa Court House, reaching Orange Court House on May 16. The brigade then marched to the vicinity of Somerville and Raccoon fords on the Rapidan River and went into camp. The campsite was about a mile west of the river in a large grove of chestnut trees on a range of low hills. Despite not having tents, the men were quite satisfied with their new camp. Here the Texans and the rest of the army reaped the rewards of their vast haul of food and supplies from the Suffolk campaign.
During the early weeks of May, the Confederate high command was urged by Gen. Longstreet to mount the Texas Brigade. The efficiency of Hood's men in procuring and impressing horses during the Suffolk campaign had convinced Longstreet that the continuation of such service would well benefit Lee's army. The Texas regiments buzzed with excitement over the prospect, especially after several companies of the Third Arkansas received mounts on May 6 or 7. This excitement, though, was tempered by the news on May 10 that Gen. ``Stonewall'' Jackson had succumbed to pneumonia contracted after his severe wounding by friendly fire near the end of battle at Chancellorsville. To fill the enormous void left in his high command, Lee again reorganized the Army of Northern Virginia by appointing Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell as commander of Jackson's Second Corps and by creating a Third Corps under the command of Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill. This reorganization did not affect the Texas Brigade, which remained in Longstreet's First Corps.
On May 26, Gen. Hood ordered a review of his division before the civilians of the surrounding countryside. The review was held in a clearing a mile from Hood's headquarters. Hood's seasoned brigades marched by a cheering public in the following order: Anderson's, Law's, Robertson's (Texas Brigade), and Benning's. Dan Collins' band from the Fourth Texas was part of the ensemble that played the marching tunes for the troops as they passed by Hood and his staff. Major M. W. Henry's artillery battery added realism to the spectacle by firing blank charges. After the formal review, Hood's brigades were ordered to fix bayonets, sound the rebel yell, and charge the cheering spectators. Pvt. John C. West, who had just joined Co. E of the Fourth Texas, wrote home, ``Sure enough I heard and joined in the regular Texas war hoop.'' He also wrote, ``One day's observation has led me to believe that no army on earth can whip these men. They may be cut to pieces and killed, but routed and whipped, never.''
The Texans spent the remainder of the month cleaning their rifles, foraging for chickens, and picketing along the Rapidan. On May 28, several men from Cos. E and F of the Fourth Texas cut willow branches and headed for Raccoon Ford to supplement their locally procured chickens with a fish or two. Squads of men spent their day on the river fishing, playing poker, swimming and bathing, and washing their ``rags.'' They took full advantage of this leisure time along the Rapidan; they knew that, as summer drew near, opportunities like this would soon be few.
The two weeks of relaxation ended on May 31, when Gen. Robertson received orders to move the Texas Brigade in the direction of Fredericksburg. That day, the brigade marched 14 miles though thick dust, went into bivouac, stacked arms, and remained on alert through the night.
On June 1, Gen. Robertson received orders to return to return to the brigade's camp near Raccoon Ford. Whether this aborted movement was a response to a Federal feint at crossing the Rappahannock or merely a training maneuver is not clear. Whatever the reason, the 28-mile forced march with full packs though choking dust under the hot sun was trying on recruit John C. West of the Fourth Texas. West later complained that he was ``pretty tired and [his] feet [were] very much blistered.''
On June 3, Gen. Lee commenced his second great invasion of the North by withdrawing his army from the Rapidan-Rappahannock line and moving it toward the Shenandoah Valley. The Texas Brigade received orders to cook three days' rations and be prepared to move to Culpeper Court House by the next morning. Robertson's men waded across the Rapidan at Raccoon Ford early on June 4, marched 15 miles, and went into camp one mile south of Culpeper.
On June 5, Union cavalry commander Gen. John Buford reported to Maj. Gen. Joe Hooker that he had received reliable information that ``800 Texans from Hood's command have been recently mounted on horses from Richmond.'' By June 8, the growing rumor that ``Lee has mounted the whole of Hood's infantry division'' was sent to Washington by Gen. Robert H. Milroy, commander of the Federal forces at Winchester. Although the prospect struck fear in the hearts of their enemies, the Texas Brigade's hopes of being mounted never materialized. Their destiny as foot soldiers became plain on June 1, when the few mounted companies of the Third Arkansas had their cherished horses taken away and given to the artillery.
On June 6, the Texas Brigade received orders to pack up and march by noon. At 1 pm, the men left their camp near Culpeper and headed northeast in a driving rain toward Rappahannock Station. The Texans and Arkansans slogged through mud until 10 pm, when, exhausted and wet, they bivouacked by the side of the road. At dawn on June 7, the brigade ate a cold and soggy breakfast from their haversacks, formed ranks, and marched back over the muddy roads to their Culpeper campsite. Lee had used Longstreet's brigades to feign a movement east of the Blue Ridge Mountains toward Washington and screen the Second Corps' movement toward the Shenandoah Valley.
On June 8, cavalry brigade commander Gen. Fitzhugh Lee invited Gen. Hood ``to bring any of [his] people'' to attend a grand review of Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry command at Brandy Station. Although Lee probably intended for Hood to bring only his staff, Hood went to the affair accompanied by his whole division. Fearful that Hood's Texans might use the occasion to mock the cavalrymen as they paraded by, Lee warned Hood not to allow his men to yell, ``Here's your mule!'' Gen. Wade Hampton also warned Hood that his command would charge any disrespectful Texans. Exercising unprecedented restraint, the Texans behaved like gentlemen throughout the dandy occasion.
The next day, June 9, Stuart's cavalry was surprised by a Federal reconnaissance in force under Union Gen. Alfred Pleasanton. The ensuing Battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle ever fought in North America. When it was learned that Union infantry were supporting the cavalry, the Texas Brigade was started toward the battlefront. By the time the Texans arrived, however, the Federals had withdrawn back across the Rappahannock. Although he left the field to Stuart, Pleasanton had accomplished his mission by discovering that the Army of Northern Virginia was heading north.
On June 13, the Texas Brigade received orders to move from Culpeper. This action began a general northward movement by Longstreet's Corps east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This movement was designed to protect the passes of the Blue Ridge as Richard Ewell's and A. P. Hill's Corps marched up the Shenandoah Valley and into Maryland. Longstreet's movement also served to confuse the Army of the Potomac (now concentrated at Centreville) as to Lee's true objective -- Washington or Pennsylvania. The Texas Brigade marched five miles west of Culpeper and bivouacked on the now familiar Cedar Mountain battlefield. Several men took to opportunity to walk over the battlefield. According to John C. West of Co. E, Fourth Texas,
There were a great many unburied skeletons, presenting a very ghastly appearance. There were 49 skulls in one little ditch the bodies were torn to pieces and scattered about, having been taken from their shallow graves by hogs and other animals. A hand or foot might be seen protruding from the earth here and there...
On June 15, the Texas Brigade marched north from its Cedar Mountain camp toward Ashby's Gap. It was a hot, sticky march conducted, as Pvt. West said, ``by that unmerciful driver, our beloved General Hood, who simply strikes up a trot and is satisfied that the Texas Brigade at least will camp with him at nightfall.'' Hood's Division marched 25 miles that day to Gaines' Cross Roads, but hundreds of men fell by the wayside as victims of exhaustion and sunstroke. A few died.
On June 16, the brigade marched another 20 miles to Markham Station on the Manassas Gap Railroad. The next day, the march continued for another 14 miles until the the men were ordered to stop for the night about a mile from Upperville. On June 18, the Texas Brigade passed through the Blue Ridge at Ashby's Gap, crossed to the west side of the Shenandoah, and bivouacked near Millwood. The Shenandoah was deep and cold, and the Texans had to carry their rifles and cartridge boxes above their heads during the precarious crossing. The next day, the brigade moved north along the river to Berryville, crossed to the east side of the Shenandoah, and occupied a position on a mountain near Snicker's Gap. Robertson's command quickly constructed stone breastworks and remained on the windy, cloud-enshrouded mountaintop for three days. On June 23, the brigade withdrew from the mountain, crossed the Shenandoah yet again, and returned to its camp near Millwood.
On June 24, The Texas Brigade marched north from Millwood, passing through Berryville and Martinsburg. Reaching Williamsport in the rain about noon on June 26, the brigade crossed the Potomac into Maryland. With the pontoon bridge clogged with artillery and wagons, most the the men removed their clothes, held their guns and accoutrements aloft, and invaded the north in a semi-naked state to the patriotic tunes of the brigade's regimental bands. After the whole brigade had crossed the river, Gen. Robertson marched the men a short distance into Maryland, had them stack rifles, and permitted them to cook their rations. The Texans were in high spirits, and were looking forward to sampling the bounty of Northern territory.
During this break for lunch, each Texan was rewarded by Gen. Hood with one gill of whiskey from several barrels recently confiscated near Hagerstown. (A gill is one-quarter of a pint.) Those men who did not drink passed their ration to a more thirsty messmate. The combination of whiskey, empty stomachs, and the excitement of being in Yankeedom proved disastrous. Hood's order of one gill per man was often ignored. Pvt. J. M. Polk of Co. I, Fourth Texas, saw several of the barrels rolled out on a hill, the heads knocked out, and the whiskey ``issued to the men by the cupful.'' Polk added, ``I don't suppose the oldest man living in America ever saw so many men drunk at any one time.'' J. B. Polley of the Fourth Texas wrote that the amount of whiskey ``was amply sufficient to put fully half the Brigade not only in a boisterously good humor, but in such physical condition that the breadth of the road over which they marched that evening was more of an obstacle to rapid progress than its length.'' John C. West recalled that one-third of the men ``got pretty tight and that many of them slipped down and rolled in the mud.''
When some semblance of order was restored, the Texas Brigade straggled across the narrow neck of Maryland to the vicinity of Greencastle, Pennsylvania. That day, June 26, 1863, Hood's men performed a feat never again matched by any division in the war. They had breakfast in Virginia, lunch in Maryland, supper in Pennsylvania, and slept in a state of intoxication -- four states in 24 hours. That evening the Hood's Division went into camp near Greencastle. Hood himself precipitated some of the most intense foraging yet done by the Texas Brigade when he reportedly said to his headquarter's guard, ``Boys, you are now on the enemy's soil; stack your arms and pretty much do as you please...stay close by and prevent any stranger from coming here to kill me, and establish your camp here by my tent.''
The next morning, June 27, the Texans resumed their march north, passing through Greencastle up the Cumberland Valley toward Chambersburg. The country was beautiful, the roads macadamized, and the buildings impressive. John C. West wrote home that he had ``not seen a barn in the last three days but what was more substantially and carefully built and fitted out than any house...in the country of Texas. The barns were positively more tastily bult than two-thirds of the houses in Waco.'' The brigade entered Chambersburg that afternoon. Lt. Col. James Freemantle, a British observer who accompanied Gen. Lee into Pennsylvania, commented in his diary that ``Hood's Ragged Jacks'' were a ``queer lot to look at. They carry less than 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 humor and confidence in themselves...''
As the men passed through the streets of Chambersburg, many of the townsfolk wore patriotic banners and made derisive remarks about the ragged Confederates. One woman wore a large American flag draped across her ample bosom until a Texan hollered out, ``Take care, Madam, for Hood's boys are great at storming breastworks when the Yankee colors is on them!'' Lt. Col. Freemantle noted that the women beat a ``precipitate retreat.''
After passing through Chambersburg, the Texas Brigade camped in a grove of trees about a mile north of town. Here they rested and foraged until June 30. The foraging was largely in violation of Lee's General Order No. 73, dated June 27, which warned the men to abstain from wanton injury to private property and non-combatants. Lee also ordered that all confiscated goods were to be paid for in Confederate promissory notes or script. This order was also frequently ignored by the Texans, who took full advantage of the bountiful and prosperous area around Chambersburg to supplement their meager rations.
On June 29, the Fourth Texas superpassed the Fifth Texas' grand reputation for unauthorized procurement by executing one of the greatest foraging operations of the war. In one evening, the ``Hell Roaring Fourth'' had stripped a sizeable sector of the Cumberland Valley. When J. B. Polley awoke the next morning, he witnessed ``a wonderful and marvelous sight:''
Every square foot of an acre of ground not occupied by a sleeping or standing soldier was covered with choice food for the hungry. Chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese squawked, gobbled, cackled, quacked and hissed in harmonious unison as deft and energetic hands seized them for slaughter and, scarcely waiting for them to die, sent their feathers flying in all directions. Scattered around in bewildering confusion and gratifying profusion appeared immense loaves of bread and chunks of corned beef, hams, and sides of bacon, cheeses, crocks of applebutter, jelly, jams, pickles, and preserves, bowls of yellow butter, demijohns of buttermilk, and other eatables too numerous to mention.
Polley noted that the those whose were still sleeping were the foragers of the night before, while those standing were the men who had remained in camp as guards. Polley described the comic sight:
Jack Sutherland's head pillowed itself on a loaf of bread, and one arm was wound caressingly half-around a juicy-looking ham. Bob Murray, fearful that his captives would take to their wings or be purloined, had wound a string, which bound half a dozen frying chickens around his right big toe; one of Brahan's wide-spread legs was embraced by two over-lapping crocks of apple-butter and jam, while a tough old gander, gray with age, squawked noisily at his head without in the least disturbing his slumber, Dick Skinner lay flat on his back -- with his right hand holding to the legs of three fat chickens and a duck, and his left, to those of a large turkey -- fast asleep and snoring in a rasping bass that chimed in well with the music of the fowls.
According to Polley, ``The daylight hours of June 30 were devoted exclusively to gormandizing until at 3 p.m. marching orders came and leaving more provisions than carried, the Texans moved lazily...into line'' -- bound for Cashtown and Gettysburg. Hood's Division left the Chambersburg area in the wake of Gen. Lafayette McLaws' Division. The Texas Brigade reached Fayetteville that evening and there went into bivouac.
Early in the morning of July 1, the Texas Brigade left its bivouac at Fayettesville and resumed its march along the Chambersburg Pike toward Cashtown, which lay 12 miles to the east. The movement of Longstreet's column was delayed several hours when Gen. Edward Johnson's Division of Ewell's Second Corps cut across its line of march. (Johnson's Division was ordered from Carlisle to Cashtown while Ewell's other divisions under Robert Rodes and Jubal Early advanced on Gettysburg directly.) J. B. Polley of the Fourth Texas wrote that the column would advance ``a hundred yards or so, and then stop and stand still, [the men] not daring to sit down, for five, ten, or twenty minutes at a time.''
The Texas Brigade finally reached Cashtown at 2 am on July 2. There the men were permitted to stack arms and rest. Word of the Confederate victory on July 1 in the fields north and west of Gettysburg must have reached them by this time. The men had rested but two hours when they received orders to resume their march toward Gettysburg, which was 8 miles further east along the pike. The Texas Brigade reached Gen. Lee's headquarters, just west of the town and south of the pike, an hour after sunrise of July 2. After a short delay, the Texans moved about a mile southwest to the valley of Willoughby Run behind Seminary Ridge. Here the brigade cooked breakfast and rested.
Those Texans who remained awake after their all-night march witnessed an historic gathering of Generals Lee, Longstreet, A. P. Hill, and Hood. During this meeting, Lee outlined his plan for attacking the Federal Army of the Potomac, which was now under the command of Maj. Gen. George Meade. The Federals had been beaten back in the previous day's fight, but had assumed a strong defensive position on Cemetery Ridge, Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill, south and east of Gettysburg. Lee wanted an echelon attack against the Federal left flank by Hood's and McLaws' Divisions of Longstreet's Corps and by Richard Anderson's Division of A. P. Hill's Corps. Longstreet opposed Lee's plan and advocated maneuvering around the Federal right flank, placing the Army of Northern Virginia between the Army of the Potomac and Baltimore, and receiving a Federal attack on ground of their own choosing. Lee viewed Longstreet's plan as impractical and risky, and ordered the attack against the Federal left to begin as soon as practicable. Lee then left Seminary Ridge to confer with Ewell, whom Lee wished to create a diversion against the Federal right on Cemetery and Culp's Hills. It was about 9 am.
Longstreet, reluctant to launch an attack without Pickett's Division (which had not yet arrived from Cashtown) or Law's Brigade (which was guarding the Confederate rear at New Guilford in the Cumberland Valley), delayed some three hours before beginning to deploy his corps on the Confederate right. When Law's Brigade rejoined the corps about noon, Longstreet started McLaws' and Hood's Divisions south toward their destinations near the Wheatfield and the Emmitsburg Road. McLaws' Division, which was positioned in the woods along Herr's Ridge, led the way. After marching a short distance along Black Horse Tavern Road, McLaws realized that his column was exposed to the view of a Federal signal station posted on the crest of Little Round Top, located about two miles to the east. After consulting Longstreet, McLaws ordered a countermarch back to Herr's Ridge, from which an alternate approach could be launched. By this time, Hood's van had overlapped McLaws' rear. Instead of allowing Hood to assume the lead, Longstreet gave in to McLaws' protests and allowed him to countermarch past Hood. This complication only served to delay further Lee's planned attack.
McLaws led his Division east to the Fairfield Road and then south along a road paralleling Willoughby Run. Angered by the slowness of the march, Longstreet ultimately ordered Hood to double the column alongside McLaws and go into position. Hood quickly responded and soon had his division on the Confederate right in search of the enemy's left flank. The Texas Brigade led the way, following their advance party of scouts and pioneers.
By 4 pm, McLaws and Hood finally had their divisions in place for the attack. Hood's Division deployed in two lines of two brigades astride the Emmitsburg Road about 2 3/4 miles south of the Lutheran Seminary. The Texas Brigade was on the left of the forward line and Law's Brigade was on its right. From left to right were deployed the Third Arkansas, First Texas, Fourth Texas, and Fifth Texas. Despite efforts to conceal their arrival, a hail of hot iron from Federal batteries in the Peach Orchard and Devil's Den made it plain that the Federal's knew their position.
Soon after reaching his assigned position, Hood received word from Law's scouts that the Federal left flank extended no further south than the Round Tops. Hood was convinced that turning the Round Tops would permit an easy attack of the enemy's rear. He petitioned Longstreet via courier to allow him to make the maneuver, but Longstreet denied the request by quoting Gen. Lee's orders to advance up the Emmitsburg Road. Hood petitioned twice more -- the last time in person -- further stating that the rocky terrain to his front precluded an unbroken advance on the enemy position. Hood's petitions were each denied by Longstreet, and Hood formally protested the attack.
By this time, the Federal artillery was taken its toll on Hood's idle brigades. Gen. Robertson had ordered the Texas Brigade to move to a less vulnerable position and lie down to minimize casualties. With deadly accuracy, a shell burst in the midst of the Fourth Texas, killing or wounding 15 men. John C. West of Co. E and several of his comrades were spattered with blood when a solid shot decapitated a soldier and cut another in two a few feet from them. West wrote, ``the infernal machines came tearing and whirring through the ranks with a most demoralizing tendency.''
Captain P. J. Barziza of Co. C, Fourth Texas wrote:
The enemy's shells screamed and bursted around us, inflicting considerable damage. It is very trying upon men to remain still and in ranks under a severe cannonading. One has time to reflect upon the danger, and there being no wild excitement as in a charge, he is more reminded of the utter helplessness of his present condition. The men are all flat on the ground, keeping their places in the ranks, and as a shell is heard, generally try to sink themselves into the earth. Nearly every face is overspread with a serious, thoughtful air; and what thoughts, vivid and burning, come trooping up from the inner chambers of memory, the soldier can only realize.
While they waited, Lt. Mat Beasley of Co. I, Fourth Texas learned that he was to command his company during the upcoming assault. This company had developed a reputation for losing officers in battle. His men consoled him over his unenviable position, but Beasley would later have the distinction of being the only commander of Co. I to survive a fight.
Having received his orders from Longstreet to execute Lee's plan, Hood ordered his brigades to attack. It was just after 4 pm. Hood, on horseback in front of the Texas Brigade, commanded, ``Forward-Steady-Forward!'' Hood ordered Robertson to keep his brigade in contact with the Emmitsburg Road on the left and Law's Brigade on its right. Law's Alabamians, who received a head start in the attack, soon outpaced the Texas Brigade, and Robertson's men had to break into a trot just to keep contact on their right. Robertson quickly realized that he would have to violate Hood's order by either losing contact with the Law or the road. Robertson and Col. Van Manning of the Third Arkansas opted to break from the road rather than split the division.
Because of the rapid advance and the heat of the day, many of the Texans discarded their knapsacks, blankets, and other cumbersome non-essential battle equipment during the charge. John C. West of the Fourth Texas threw away everything except his socks, a flannel shirt, his gun, and his cartridge box.
Soon after crossing the Emmitsburg Road, Hood left Robertson and rode to the center of the division. While there, a shell exploded above his head, and one of its fragments tore into his left arm. Hood reeled in the saddle from shock, and his staff and comrades lowered him to the ground. Stretcher bearers carried him from the fight that had barely begun. Col. Evander Law then assumed command of Hood's Division.
As the Texas Brigade continued its advance across open fields into woods and rocky terrain, a large gap developed between the First and Fourth Texas. As Robertson tried to close the gap, Federal fire from woods on the left forced the Third Arkansas and the First Texas to veer further left to answer the attack. Unable to close the gap from the left, Robertson sent a staff officer to order the Fourth and Fifth Texas to close from the right. The regiments could not be found. Fortunately, the breach in the brigade was not exploited by the Federals and was soon plugged by the Forty-fourth and Forty-eighth Alabama, which had been diverted from Law's right to silence Capt. James Smith's Fourth New York Battery firing from Devil's Den. Except for Co. I of the Fourth Texas (which had drifted left along with the First Texas), the Fourth and Fifth Texas now effectively fought as part of Law's Brigade.
The Fourth and Fifth Texas advanced by the Bushman and Slyder farmyards, splashed through Plum Run, and entered the woods on the western slope of Big Round Top. As the Fourth Texas advanced toward a stone wall, riflemen from the Second U.S. Sharpshooters posted behind it poured a detructive fire into the regiment's flank. Here, Lt. Joe C. Smith was killed, and Col. John C. G. Key and Lt. Col. Benjamin F. Carter (the former captain of Co. B) were wounded. Carter died a few days later in Federal hands. To the Fourth's right, the Fifth Texas and Fourth Alabama cleared the sharpshooters from the wall and drove them back. The three regiments then pressed on through thick woods and boulders to the saddle between the Big and Little Round Tops.
When the Fourth Texas passed to the east of Devil's Den, the men on its left could see the fight for Smith's Battery being waged. Cpl. Miles V. Smith of Co. D assembled several of his fellow Fourth Texans and sniped at the cannoneers from the boulders on Big Round Top. Smith was rewarded by the sight of the First Texas and the Twentieth Georgia of Benning's Brigade capturing the battery. When Federal troops attempted to recapture the guns, Smith's detail fired into the Federal flank. When the fight ended, he found the Fourth Texas halfway up the slope of Little Round Top.
When the Fourth Alabama and the Fourth and Fifth Texas emerged from the saddle between the Round Tops, they were staggered by the sight of Little Round Top's rocky slope directly to their front. The skirmishers and sharpshooters they had just expelled were scrambling up the rocky slope to join a well entrenched line of 1,000 men in Col. Strong Vincent's Brigade of the Union Fifth Corps. The three regiments dressed their line and advanced up the slope in pursuit. Col. Robert Powell of the Fifth Texas wrote that the ``ascent was so difficult as to forbid the use of arms.'' Large boulders forced the Texans to break ranks and file through them. On the left, the Fourth Texas went in yelling and whooping. John C. West wrote, ``Round the rude rock the ragged rascal ran.'' A ledge of large boulders and a hail of Federal lead stopped the advance. At this time, Col. Powell and Lt. Col. King Bryan of the Fifth Texas went down wounded.
The two Texas regiments retreated back down the slope of Little Round Top. Ordered forward, they advanced a second time. By this point, the Texas and Alabama regiments were attacking in only loose coordination at best. With most of their company officers dead or wounded, the men attacked through the boulders as squads instead of regiments. Men were everywhere trying to take cover behind the boulders. Inevitably, the second assault ended just as the first. Joined by the Fourty-eighth Alabama on their left, the Fourth and Fifth Texas attempted a third assault. With darkness falling over the field, it was now or never.
As the Texans and Alabamians advanced, the Sixteenth Michigan, on the right of Vincent's line, began to break. Vincent ordered the Forty-fourth New York to fire into the advancing Texans. Col. Stephen Weed also ordered the 140th New York to reinforce the wavering Michiganders. Bullets whizzed around so thickly that ``a man could hold out a hat and catch it full.'' Pvt. Val C. Giles of Co. B, Fourth Texas fired his rifle so many times that the ramrod became stuck in the barrel. He pounded the ramrod against a boulder and pulled the trigger, which sent the rifle flying from his hands, striking another Texan in the ear. The Federal fire ultimately was enough to stop the Confederate assault, but not before Co. K of the Fifth Texas came within 20 yards of the Union line. Finally, at someone's order the Texas regiments pulled back and reformed on the shoulder of Big Round Top southeast of Devil's Den.
As darkness descended, the noise of the battle faded into quiet. Night, however, brought little relief to the Texans wounded or stranded behind the boulders and in the crevices of Little Round Top. Scouting parties from both sides retrieved the wounded or captured prisoners. Federals and Confederates alike hastily built stone walls in anticipation of renewed battle in the morning.
At daylight on July 3, the scattered remnants of Robertson's Brigade were unified and occupied a sector along Plum Run between Devil's Den and Big Round Top. This would become part of the main Confederate defense line thoughout the day. While Lee was launching ``Pickett's Charge'' against the Union center, the Confederate right was relatively quiet. Sniper fire persisted throughout the day, and occasionally a shell would explode amidst the sparse ranks of the Texans. Federal cavalry twice appeared on the flank and rear of the Confederate right, but each time the horsemen were driven off by Law's artillery and infantry. The First Texas was the only regiment of the Texas Brigade engaged in these operations. Late in the afternoon, Hood's Division withdrew from its forward position to a line near the Emmitsburg Road. Here they remained through July 4, awaiting a Federal attack that never came. The Battle of Gettysburg was over.
The Texas Brigade suffered the second highest brigade loss in Hood's Division -- 84 killed, 393 wounded, and 120 missing. Heavy casualties were suffered in the top officer ranks: Gen. Robertson, Cols. Manning, Key, and Powell, and Lt. Cols. King Bryan and Benjamin Carter were all wounded, the last fatally.
The Texas Brigade moved from its position just west of the Emmitsburg Road during the night of July 4. The march was slowed by heavy rains, high winds, and rutted roads. The brigade continued its retreat southwestward through Maryland, reaching Hagerstown late on the afternoon of July 6. There the Texans camped southeast of town on the Sharpsburg Road. The Texas Brigade rested in camp until July 10. John C. West wrote that during the first six days in July, he ``never took off [his] accouterments, night or day'' and was ``without meat and had little bread.''
The heavy rains of the previous few days had partially detroyed the Confederate pontoon bridge left at Falling Waters and had rendered the Potomac at Williamsport unfordable. The Army of Northern Virginia formed a perimeter of defense around the crossing point, but the overcautious Meade left Lee's army unbothered while it rebuilt its pontoon bridge. Finally on the night of July 13 and the morning of July 14, Lee's army crossed safely into Virginia. Lee sat astride Traveller and watched the passage of his troops. As Hood's old brigade passed him at dawn on the 14th, ``each soldier bared his head. There was no salute, no cheer and no word was spoken as the men marched silently by.'' The Texas Brigade then marched eight miles to Martinsburg, where it bivouacked for the night.
On July 15, the Texas Brigade continued its march south through the Shenandoah Valley, tramping 12 miles to Darkesville. The next day the men reached Bunker Hill. Here they remained for four days. After finding several barrels of whiskey in a nearby haystack, the men of the Fifth Texas were heard singing a parody on ``Maryland, My Maryland:''
Old Bob Lee's heel is on thy shore,
Pennsylvane, My Pennsylvane;
His hand is at thy stable door,
Pennsylvane, My Pennsylvane.
You won't see you old hoss no more,
We'll ride him till his back is sore,
An' then come back and git some more,
Pennsylvane, My Pennsylvane.
Robertson's command left Bunker Hill on July 20 and marched down the western bank of the Shenandoah, passing through Millwood on July 21. The brigade continued south through Stone Bridge and Cedarville, and, after a difficult crossing of both forks of the Shenandoah at Front Royal, bivouacked that evening near Chester Gap. On July 22, Texan scouts had a brush with Federal cavalry as they passed though the gap to the east side of the Blue Ridge. While crossing the gap, Capt. J. R. Woodward of the First Texas suddenly collapsed from a small bullet wound in his upper thigh. No one heard a shot or saw smoke. Woodward died a few days later, an apparent victim of a long-range sharpshooter. From Chester Gap the Texans marched directly south to Washington, Virginia, where they camped for the night. The Texas Brigade reached Culpeper Court House late on July 24, after a forced march of 27 miles.
The Texas brigade remained at Culpeper until July 31. Here they drew rations, supplies, and equipment, and wrote home of their great adventure into Pennsylvania. John C. West of the Fourth Texas wrote that he had not changed his clothes since the Battle of Gettysburg and that he had to throw away his undershirt as it ``had become a harbor of innumerable body lice.'' While at Culpeper, another member of the Fourth Texas was convicted of an offense for which he had to wear a ball and chain under guard. Some 25 members of the Fourth considered the punishment ``a disgrace to [the] regiment and the State of Texas'' and rushed the guard in an attempt to free the felon. Charges of mutiny were proferred against the 25 men, but later the charges were dropped ``through the influence of General Lee.'' Afterward no member of the Texas Brigade was ever recorded to have been punished with the ball and chain.
On July 31, Longstreet's Corps left Culpeper bound for Fredericksburg to counter a Federal move in that direction.
On August 4, the Texas Brigade reached Rapidan Station after a leisurely march of 21 miles in four days. Word was then received that Gen. Meade was approaching the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg, so the pace of Longstreet's march eastward quickened. Hood's Division marched from Rapidan Station to Fredericksburg, a distance of 32 miles, in 36 hours. The Texans arrived in Fredericksburg on August 6 only an hour before the advanced units of the Federal army appeared on the opposite bank of the Rappahannock.
The Texas Brigade remained in the vicinity of Fredericksburg for nearly a month, relaxing, drawing supplies, and guarding the fords of the Rappahannock. Hood's Division picketed a twelve mile stretch of the river between the United States Ford above Fredericksburg to a point a mile below the town. Expecting a lengthy stay, Gen. Robertson's command established a semi-permanent camp just below the town. The men ate well, were in fine spirits, and received new uniforms from the Richmond Depot and new shoes from England that had been run through the Union blockade.
While in camp at Fredericksburg, many wild rumors circulated regarding the conditions in the army and back in Texas. Pvt. John C. West of the Fourth Texas wrote home that Gen. Hood had been promoted to lieutenant general of cavalry. This caused great excitement among the rank and file, as West said that ``Hood would endeavor to mount our brigade.'' Zack Landrum of the Fourth Texas wrote to his mother that ``a report was in circulation [in the army] that Texas and La. and Ark. had seceded from the Southern Confederacy and placed themselves under the protection from France.'' Landrum ``was in hopes that it was so, [for] when a nation can't protect the states that form it they [the states] ought to protect themselves in the best way they can. If it comes to the worst, I would rather the French should rule us than any nation on the globe.''
While Hood's Division enjoyed relative peace on the right of Lee's line, Jeb Stuart's, A. P. Hill's and Ewell's commands up river were subjected to frequent attacks by Union cavalry and occasional sorties by infantry. One Texan, disgruntled by the lack of support given Longstreet's Corps at Gettysburg said ``Let em fight, let em fight. It's high time they were doin' it, durn 'em. If the cavalry had kept its place on our right and Hill's and Ewell's men had come halfway up to scratch over yonder at Gettysburg, we'd be feasting today on brotherly love at Philadelphia, or on terrapins and canvasback ducks in Baltimore instead of here in Old Virginia nibbling carefully at our rations lest they run short. Let 'em fight, it is not our funeral.''
On September 2, Gen. Evander Law, commanding the division for the injured Gen. Hood, ordered Gen. Robertson to move the Texas Brigade about 20 miles below Fredericksburg to Rappahannock Academy near Port Royal. Robertson was instructed to post pickets at all river crossings and report any attempted crossing by the Federals, a sizeable number of whom had recently been spotted in the area.
The Texas Brigade remained near Port Royal until September 7, when it received orders to break camp and march to Milford Station. Once there, the brigade (minus Reilly's North Carolina Battery) was to board the cars of the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad bound for the Confederate capital. This order was part of a grand movement to send Hood's and McLaws' Divisions west to Tennessee to join Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee, which opposed a Federal army under Gen. William S. Rosecrans near Chattanooga. The goal of this movement, inspired by Gen. Longstreet, was to launch a counteroffensive in Tennessee, threaten Ohio, and relieve pressure on Gen. Lee in Virginia and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in Mississippi.
The Texas Brigade arrived in Richmond on September 9, the same day that the top-secret movement was leaked and printed with great detail in the New York Herald. Many of the men took their time journeying south through the city to the depot of the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad. On the way, many visited the now familiar taverns and became quite drunk. Fortunately, enough men remained sober enough to heard the drunkards onto the railroad cars headed south. While in Richmond, the Texans implored Gen. Hood (who had been in Richmond recuperating from his Gettysburg wound and wooing the Richmond socialite Sally ``Buck'' Preston) to accompany them to Georgia. Although he had the use of only one arm, Hood agreed and boarded the train with his favorite horse, a roan named ``Jeff Davis.''
Because part of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad -- the direct route from the Richmond area to Chattanooga -- had recently been seized by Federal forces under Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, Longstreet's divisions were forced to take a much longer and more circuitous route through the Carolinas and Georgia to reach Bragg's army. Adding to the hardship was the fact that the railroads along the way were of different gauges, which required much unloading and reloading of troops onto rickety rolling stock.
Over the next eight days, the Texas Brigade was transported by rail through Weldon, Wilmington, and Florence, North Carolina, to Kingsville, South Carolina, and then through Augusta, Atlanta, and Dalton, Georgia to Catoosa Station, the railway stop for Ringgold, Georgia. The route was 775 miles in length, some 235 longer than the direct route lost to Burnside just days before the start of Longstreet's movement. At every stop, the men were greated with cheers, kisses, food, and clothing. The more ragged the soldier, the greater the benefits bestowed upon him, for, according to Pvt. John C. West of the Fourth Texas, ``rags and dirt seemed to be a recommendation [for favors] where gilt and brass failed to excite attention.''
While in Wilmington, North Carolina, the Texas Brigade made its presence known in the unsavory waterfront section known as ``Paddy's Hollow.'' Having had several rounds of John Barleycorn, Robertson's men soon became boisterous and obnoxious. When a local police force was summoned to expel the revellers, the Texans mistook the officers in their blue uniforms for Yankees, formed a battle line, and staggered to a charge. One constable in his late fifties was badly beaten about the face, another was knocked down by a shillelagh blow to the ear, and a third officer suffered two knife wounds in his side. The policemen withdrew, leaving the waterfront to the mercy of the rowdy Texans.
At Sumter, South Carolina, a spread of food was prepared expressly for Hood's Texas Brigade. The train stopped just 15 minutes to allow Robertson's men to feast, according to Val Giles of Co. B, Fourth Texas, ``at long tables spread with goodies.'' J. M. Polk of the Fourth Texas remarked, ``All were happy lords, yet knowing at the same time that we were going into another big killing and that many of us would go to our long homes.''
The Texas Brigade reached Catoosa Station, Georgia, on September 17. The men unloaded their equipment, prepared supper, and bivouacked for the night at nearby Ringgold. The brigade was the first of Hood's men to reach Ringgold, the rendezvous point in northwestern Georgia for the reinforcements coming from Lee and Johnston. At 5 am on September 18, the Texas Brigade was incorporated into Gen. Bushrod R. Johnson's Provisional Division, left Ringgold, and started northwest to a large stream called the Chickamauga, an Indian name meaning ``River of Death.''
Screened by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry, Johnson's Provisional Division proceeded along the Ringgold Road toward Reed's Bridge across the Chickamauga. Along the way, Johnson's men met Federal resistance in the form of Robert Minty's cavalry brigade and several regiments of John T. Wilder's mounted infantry. The Texas Brigade served as the reserve force as the Confederates slowly drove the Federals successively back across Pea Vine Creek, Pea Vine Ridge, and the Chickamauga.
While advancing down the Ringgold Road, the Texas Brigade was passed by a column of the Eighth Texas Cavalry (``Terry's Texas Rangers'') and warm greetings were exchanged between the two already famous groups. For the first time in the war, the Texas Brigade would fight alongside other cavalry and infantry units from the Lone Star State. The Seventh Texas Infantry, commanded by Hiram D. Granbury was in John Gregg's Brigade, also assigned to Bushrod Johnson's Provisional Division.
About 3 pm on September 18, Johnson's Division was preparing to cross the Chickamauga when Gen. Hood, who had arrive at Catoosa Station a few hours after the Texas Brigade, arrived and assumed command of the Provisional Division. Hood sent skirmishers forward to support Forrest and ordered Maj. Felix H. Robertson's Artillery Battalion forward and to unlimber. (Robertson was the son of Gen. Jerome B. Robertson, commander of the Texas Brigade.) Hood's Division then crossed the Chickamauga at Reed's Bridge, advanced a quarter of a mile to Jay's Stream Saw Mill, turned south at the mill, and advanced down the west side of the Chickamauga. After a march of two miles, the column halted at dusk. Hood's men were opposite Dalton's Ford and about 800 yards east of the Viniard House on the Lafayette-Chattanooga Road, where a corps of 14,000 Federals under Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden were deployed.
Hood's Division was the only Confederate force west of the river. He deployed his brigades in a defensive position facing three sides. The Texas Brigade faced northwest toward the Viniard House and the Lafayette-Chattanooga Road. One-third of the men were required to remain on duty through the night, while the remaining two-thirds were ordered to sleep on their arms. Throughout the night, Hood's command could hear the ring of axes and rumbling of artillery as the Federals constructed breastworks and moved their guns into position. John C. West of the Fourth Texas heard the activity and ``felt pretty sure that the wool tearing would come off in the morning.''
As September 19 dawned, two powerful armies opposed each other along a six-mile front generally divided by the Lafayette-Chattanooga Road. The battleground was a mix of thick woods, dense undergrowth, and marshy ground, all of which made maneuvering difficult. A few hills and clearings with cabins dotted the landscape. Robertson's Brigade was joined early in the morning by Law's and Benning's Brigades. As Longstreet was still en routefrom Virginia, Bragg assigned Hood temporary command of Longstreet's Corps. Hood's command also included Bushrod Johnson's Division and Kershaw's Brigade of McLaw's Division. Evander Law was given temporary command of Hood's Division.
The Confederate left consisted of the divisions of -- from left to right -- William Preston, Bushrod Johnson, and Evander Law. Law's Division was deployed with the Texas Brigade on the left, Law's Alabama Brigade (now under James Sheffield) in the center, and Benning's Brigade on the right. Robertson's Texas Brigade -- still posted in its position of the previous night -- was formed from left to right in the same order as at Gettysburg: Third Arkansas (under Col. Van Manning), First Texas (under Capt. R. J. Harding), Fourth Texas (under Lt. Col. John Bane), and Fifth Texas (under Maj. J. C. Rogers).
The Battle of Chickamauga began at dawn far on the Confederate right. (Bragg's order was to engage the enemy progressively from right to left.) By mid-morning the battle had developed in earnest on the right. John C. West later wrote, ``about half past ten or eleven o'clock a most tremendous fire of musketry was opened on our right, which continued for two hours without two minutes intermission.'' By mid-afternoon, the Confederate left was engaged. From the vicinity of the Viniard House, the Federals crossed the Lafayette-Chattanooga Road and drove back Bushrod Johnson's skirmishers. At 2:30 pm, Hood ordered Johnson's Division forward against Gen. Jefferson C. Davis' Division of Alexander McCook's Twentieth Corps. While the Texas Brigade waited to be ordered in forward in support of Johnson, it was subjected to heavy but inaccurate shelling and long-range small arms fire.
Between 3 and 3:30 pm, the Texas Brigade was ordered forward to assist the hard-pressed Johnson. As the Texans moved forward, they encountered many stragglers from Johnson's Division streaming to the rear. With Sheffield's (Law's) Brigade to their right, the Texas Brigade emerged from the heavy underbrush and woods and marched into a clearing. During this advance, the Texans saw Gen. John Gregg of Johnson's Division, who had been shot through the neck and dragged by his horse's reins toward the Texas Brigade, lying in no-man's land between the enemy lines. Gregg's spurs and sword were being pilfered by some adventurous Federals when the Texas Brigade charged forward, drove off the Yankee scavengers, and rescued Gregg and his horse. Little did the Texans know that within a few months Gregg would be commanding their own brigade.
As the Texas Brigade advanced some 200--300 yards into the clearing, it was viciously attacked from the left by Federals posted in a ravine covered by thick underbrush. Changing their front and leaving Sheffield's supporting brigade, the Texas Brigade attacked and drove the Federals from the ravine and onto the high ground beyond. Here Robertson's men came under frontal fire from barricaded infantry on the crest and assailed from the right by two Federal batteries firing grape and cannister at 200 yards. Val Giles of Co. B, Fourth Texas recalled that a group of Federal prisoners being herded to the rear was hit by the artillery, and stated that he ``distinctly saw the dust rise from [one Federal prisoner's] shoulders where the grapeshot struck him.'' The Texas Brigade rushed forward across the Lafayette-Chattanooga Road and closed with the enemy. Though some of the Federals fled their barricaded position, many remained behind the rail fences and engaged the Texans and Arkansans in fierce hand-to-hand combat before abandoning the hill.
The bitter fighting shifted toward the Viniard House and Farm, where Federals had tenaciously beaten back Johnson's previous assaults. The Texas Brigade recklessly charged the fortress-like log house, eventually forcing the enemy from the ``hornet's nest'' but with great loss. The Fourth Texas suffered the most casualties in the attack, including Lt. Col. Bane, Lts. J. M. Bookman and A. G. Killingsworth, and Color Sergeant Ed Francis. The regiment would eventually bury 22 of its men on the grounds of the Viniard Farm.
The driven Federals deserted several pieces of artillery and fell back to a skirt of timber a quarter of a mile west of the Lafayette-Chattanooga Road. Unable to cope with the superior Federal numbers and firepower, the Texas Brigade was forced to withdraw from its salient back toward the main Confederate line. As they fell back through the farm and the beyond the hill from which they had previously driven the Federals, the Texans again came under heavy and accurate artillery fire. Federal infantry pursued the Texas Brigade during its retreat and reoccupied the hill. In a desperate charge, the Texas Brigade drove the Yankees from their barricaded position for the second time. Robertson, anxious to hold onto the only high ground in the area, ordered artillery and infantry support. To this request, he received only Benning's infantry. The two brigades managed to repel repeated assaults and hold the hill until sunset. After three requests for artillery support went unanswered, Robertson and Benning were ordered by Gen. Law to withdraw their commands under cover of darkness 150 yards back across the Lafayette-Chattanooga Road.
The first day of the Battle of Chickamauga ended with severe casualties suffered by both sides, but with few gains for either army. With the exception of the small section occupied temporarily by the Texas Brigade, Bragg had failed to obtain possession of the Lafayette-Chattanooga road and to isolate Rosecrans from Chattanooga. Similarly, Rosecrans had failed to drive Bragg back across the Chickamauga.
During the night of September 19, the Federals built breastworks to protect the Lafayette-Chattanooga Road and shorted their defensive line to a breadth of three miles. Meanwhile, Longstreet and two more brigades of McLaws' Division arrived from Virginia to augment the Confederate forces. Bragg now divided his army into two wings, with Longstreet in command of the left wing and Gen. Leonidas Polk in command of the right wing. When dawn broke on the 20th, Bragg expected the attack to be renewed under the same right-to-left echelon strategy.
At daylight on September 20, the Texas Brigade was drawn up in line of battle about 200 yards east of the Viniard House and the Lafayette-Chattanooga Road. Shortly afterwards, the brigade was ordered to march by the right and head north about one-half mile to a new attack position. Hood's temporary corps now contained five divisions, with T. C. Hindman's, Law's, Johnson's, and A. P. Stewart's Divisions arranged left to right and McLaw's Division of two brigades under Kershaw posted in the rear as a reserve. Law had arranged his division in a triangular formation, with Sheffield in front, and Robertson and Benning to the left and right, respectively. Two support brigades lay 300-400 yards behind Sheffield.
About 11 am, Hood ordered all his divisions forward simulatneously toward the Lafayette-Chattanooga Road. The Texas Brigade crossed the road just south of the Brotherton House and advanced quite a distance through broken, wooded country. After advancing about a mile, much of it under artillery fire, Robertson's men were fired upon by a strong Union force of infantry and artillery posted on a wooded hill to their right front. The Texas Brigade immediately wheeled to the right and moved against the hill. The men pushed forward through the underbrush at the quick step, firing as they went. With accurate and heavy fire, the Texas Brigade drove the Federals from the hill, and caused them to retreat in disorder to a second ridge a short distance away. From this position, the Federals maintained as steady fire against Robertson's command.
The Texas Brigade had advanced so rapidly to its front and right that it was well ahead of the Confederate army in that section of the field. This rapid advancement was due to a Federal blunder in which Rosecrans had ordered Gen. T. J. Wood's Division to move from the right to the center of the Federal line about the same time that Longstreet and Hood launched their attack. Eight Confederate brigades, including the Texas Brigade, poured through the resulting half-mile gap in the Federal line.
From his besieged position, Robertson requested support for both his exposed flanks. Unlike the previous day, no infantry support was available. Robertson soon deemed his position untenable when both his flanks were fired upon. Facing fire from three directions, Robertson had no choice but to withdraw quickly from the cross-fire and take cover in a nearby patch of timber. Several members of the brigade, including Gen. Robertson, were convinced the flanking fire had come from Confederate units. If so, this was understandable given Robertson's advanced position and the blue-grey kersey uniforms his men had been wearing since August while camped near Fredericksburg. Miles Smith of Co. D, Fourth Texas, later wrote that ``Chickamauga was the most demoralizing fight to me of the war. Just as we were fighting the Yanks with all our might, we were fired into from the rear by some of the Tennessee Army.''
As the Texas Brigade withdrew from its position in some confusion, Gen. Hood happened to be riding by as he was directing the advance of his very extended command. He saw his old brigade retiring, and, seeking to rally them, galloped over to the timber where they were reforming. As Hood and Robertson were conversing in front of the woods, a minie ball struck Hood in the upper part of his right thigh, splintering the bone. Hood fell from his horse into the arms of his old brigade. Several Texans who witnessed the shooting thought that the shot came from the same friendly troops, perhaps from Florida, that had been firing upon them before. Hood was carried from the field after ordering Bushrod Johnson to press the attack. His leg was amputated shortly after. This day would be the last the Texas Brigade would ever serve under the command of Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood.
By mid-afternoon the Texas Brigade was ordered by Gen. Law to move from its position in the timber to the left of Hood's old division and to erect a barricade of logs and rails in its immediate front. Robertson's command remained here under desultory fire until 5 pm, when it was ordered to the vicinity of Horseshoe or Snodgrass Hill. (This was hill where earlier that afternoon Maj. Gen. George Thomas, commanding five Union divisions, successfully held off several Confederate assaults and saved Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland from complete destruction during its chaotic retreat.) At dark, the Texas Brigade relieved Archibald Gracie's Brigade in the front lines and remained on alert until the last of the Federal forces had retreated to Chattanooga.
In the two days of fighting at Chickamauga, the Texas Brigade lost 570 of about 1300 men. The Fourth and Fifth Texas lost both of their commanders and their second in command. John C. West of the Fourth Texas wrote home, ``The Old Texas Brigade is fearfully cut up. There are not more than 150 in our regiment. The Fifth numbers about 100 and the First about the same.'' One of the major losses suffered by the Fourth Texas was that of Color Sergeant Ed Francis. Francis was killed advancing the regimental colors toward the Viniard House when he was struck down. Captain J. T. Hunter, temporarily in command of the Fourth, retrieved the flag from under Francis' body and carried it back to the safety of the Confederate lines.
The Texas Brigade spent September 21 and 22 on the battlefield burying its dead and gathering supplies discarded by the fleeing Yankees. John C. West picked up ``a new blue-backed Webster spelling book (which he sent home to his children)... a splendid gun and accoutrements, plenty of paper and a nice pair of woolen gloves.'' During this time, Gen. Micah Jenkins' South Carolina Brigade was assigned to Hood's Division. As he was senior in rank to Evander Law, Jenkins assumed command of the division, much to the consternation of the Texans and Arkansans who regarded Law to be Hood's rightful and deserving successor.
Gen. Bragg's failure to actively pursue the retreating Federals allowed the Yankees to become safely entrenched around Chattanooga by September 22. Thus, the strategic advantage won by the tactical victory at Chickamauga was lost and Bragg was forced to lay siege to Chattanooga to keep the pressure on Rosecrans.
Early on September 23, the Texas Brigade marched north to Rossville, crossed Chattanooga Creek, and bivouacked for the night in a skirt of woods east of Lookout Mountain. The next morning, the Brigade reached the Confederate siege line south of Chattanooga and moved to its assigned position on the left of the line. J. B. Polley of the Fourth Texas reported that the Texas Brigade was stationed ``about a mile and a half east of the northern foot of Lookout Mountain.'' This location was near where Chattanooga Creek empties in the Tennessee River. Here, Robertson's command constructed some of the most extensive trenches and breastworks they were to build during the war.
By early October, Hood's Division, now under the command of Brig. Gen. Micah Jenkins of South Carolina, had firmly entrenched itself as the left flank of Bragg's siege line around Chattanooga. In many spots along the Tennessee River, the opposing picket lines were less than 100 yards apart. Choosing to ignore the high command's edicts against fraternization between pickets, the Texas Brigade arranged a truce with their Federal counterparts across the Tennessee. Both sides agreed that shooting each other was a waste of powder and made life uncomfortable. No such truce was arranged by Jenkins' old South Carolina Brigade, which was posted to the left of the Texas Brigade. It became an odd sight to see the Texans openly relaxing, playing cards, and exchanging commodities with the Yankees, while the Carolina men to their immediate left hid in their rifle pits or behind trees.
By mid-October, Bragg's Army of Tennessee was almost as short of food as the besieged Federal army in Chattanooga. Bragg's supply system had fallen victim to inadequate transportation and nearly continuous rainfall. Little forage was to be found in this mountainous area with few farms, so the Army of Tennessee was almost totally dependent on its failing commissary system. According to J. B. Polley of the Fourth Texas, the men received an unvarying diet of musty corn, blue beef, and contaminated water which left many of the men sick with diarrhea. Major C. M. Winkler of the Fourth Texas wrote home on October 20 that during the time of high waters, last week, we were almost without food for four days. The rains, however, have ceased, and we have our usual supply. Our principle article of breadstuff is the coarsest kind of cornmeal. Stuff it is, and make no mistake. Occasionally we get flour, some rice, and, once in a while can purchase Irish potatoes; but this is an exhausted, mountaineous [sic], poor country.
When they travelled west to join Bragg's army, most of the Texans thought they would be returning to Virginia before the onset of winter. Consequently, they deposited their winter clothing at the Texas regimental storage depots in Richmond. Pvt. John C. West of the Fourth Texas was critical of the Army of Tennessee's clothing shortage when he wrote, ``I suppose after a good many die of cold and pmeumonia, the authorities will take some steps to have the winter clothing brought to this place.'' The shortage of blankets was so accute that West was offered $75 for his well-worn, wool blanket. In the mountains of Tennessee, frost was not unusual in early October.
The beautiful scenery around Chattanooga offered some consolation to the starved and poorly clothed Texans. As he stood on the crest of Lookout Mountain and looked toward Chattanooga and the Tennessee River, Major Winkler wrote, ``I gazed in amazement at the scene. I thought of the exclamation of Bascomb at the Falls of Niagara: `God what a grandeur, what a sight!' -- almost bewildered by the beauty spread out before me.''
As the Texans were renowned scouts and sharpshooters, several of them were assigned the task of preventing boats loaded with provisions from landing above Chattanooga and reaching the Federal garrison stationed there. J. H. Deering of Co. B, Fourth Texas was one of the most successful of these scouts. Twice Dearing led a band of men downriver, surprised a ferry boat laden with goods, and killed or captured several officers and men. Major Winkler later declared that Dearing was ``without a doubt, the best scout in the army.''
On October 27, two Federal corps under the command of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker landed on the south bank of the Tennessee at Brown's Ferry on the extreme left of the Confederate siege line. The ferry had previously been guarded by Brig. Gen. Evander Law's Alabama Brigade, but Jenkins inexplicably withdrew the Alabamians during Law's absence on furlough two days before. Law returned from furlough on the 27th, and was placed in temporary command of the division during Jenkins' absence that day. Law promptly recalled the Alabamians to the west side of Lookout Mountain, but this small force was insufficient to stop the occupation of Hooker's divisions at Brown's Ferry.
Incensed at the loss of Brown's Ferry, Bragg ordered Longstreet to launch an assault against Hooker on the night of October 28. Although given permission to use Jenkins', McLaws', and W. H. T. Walker's Divisions in the assault, Longstreet chose only Jenkins' four brigades. Misunderstanding Bragg's intent, Longstreet ordered Jenkins to attack only the Federal Division under Gen. John Geary, which was camped as a rear guard near the railroad crossroads at Wauhatchie, one mile west of Lookout Mountain. While Col. John Bratton's Brigade was ordered to attack Geary from the rear, Law's Brigade and the Texas Brigade were posted along the Wauhatchie-Brown's Ferry Road to prevent reinforcements from reaching Geary. Benning's Brigade was ordered to support Bratton.
The Texas Brigade left its position in the siege line after supper on October 28. It marched west around the northern base of Lookout Mountain, crossed the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, and formed a battle line along the eastern side of Lookout Creek. Law continued west across Raccoon Mountain and posted his men on its eastern slope near the road to Brown's Ferry. Gen. Robertson was then instructed to send three of his regiments to support Law. The First and Fourth Texas and the Third Arkansas were ordered across Lookout Creek. The First Texas and Third Arkansas formed on the left of Law's Brigade, while the Fourth Texas formed on the right of Law's men. During this deployment, Robertson's men crossed several ridges or ``hogbacks'' along the eastern face of Raccoon Mountain. The Fourth Texas, under Lt. Col. John P. Bane, halted and deployed atop one of the hogbacks, which was thickly timbered along its sides and clear at the top.
From their exposed position atop the hogback, The Fourth Texas could hear the guns of the Bratton-Geary battle at Wauhatchie two miles to their left. After a long, eerie silence, a short burst of gunfire erupted on the Texans immediate left, followed by other bursts on all sides. After hearing a rumour that the Alabamians to their left had withdrawn, Lt. Col. Bane ordered scouts to the right and front to inspect their position. The scouts on the right returned explaining that their right flank was exposed to the Tennessee River, and skirmishers to the front returned with the word that Yankees were approaching in strong force. As a cry of ``we are flanked!'' rose from the ranks, Lt. Col. Bane and Maj. Winkler gave conflicting orders for a withdrawal. This confusion precipitated a wild flight by the Fourth Texas from its position. The pursuing Yankees outflanked Law's position, and fired ineffectual volleys into the ranks of the fleeing Texans. This incident, known hereafter as ``The Raccoon Races'', was the only time during the war that a regiment from the Texas Brigade was routed in the face of the enemy.
Several humorous stories emerged from the rout of the Fourth Texas during the early morning hours of October 29. One man slipped on a large round stone and continued to slide down the hill in spread-eagle fashion until he involuntarily tried to pass on both sides of a tree concurrently. J. B. Polley reported that the man came to a screeching halt or ``sit-still.'' Another man, the portly Dutchman Pvt. J. C. Brieger of Co. F, rushed down the hillside and struck a fair-sized sapling with such force that it bent under him and then launched him -- knapsack and all -- through the air. Brieger landed on all fours and proceeded that way down the rest of the hillside. As the sapling snapped back, it caught Polley's hat and sent it back somewhere toward the ranks of the advancing Federals. Pvt. A. R. Rice of Co. B, one of the oldest and largest men in the Fourth Texas, was rapidly approaching a small gully at the bottom of the slope when he lost his footing and tumbled into the gully. Momentarily stunned, Rice was used by his comrades as a bridge across the stream as they ran up the next slope. Thereafter, Rice was affectionately known as ``Old Pontoon.''
As the sun rose on October 29, the Federals ended their pursuit and Jenkins' men were posted on the west side of Lookout Mountain along Lookout Creek. Immediately, finger-pointing over the previous night's fiasco began. History would show that the Wauhatchie disaster was the result of mistrust and confusion among the commanders from the brigade to the army levels. Both Law and Jenkins thought they commanded the division and thus issued conflicting orders. Jenkins complained bitterly to Longstreet about the performances of both Law and Robertson during the engagement. Bragg's promise to Longstreet that McLaw's Division would be sent in support of Jenkins went unfulfilled.
Jenkins' Division remained in its position along Lookout Creek until October 30. According to Polley, the Texas Brigade occupied such steep ground covered by loose rock that ``only by bracing [their] feet against trees could [the men] avoid rolling downhill.'' That evening, Jenkins' men marched eastward around the northern face of Lookout Mountain and, by dawn of October 31, had established a camp on the mountain's eastern slope.
During a lull in activity on October 31, Pvt. John C. West wrote to his sister, ``We have been in the mud for over a month in almost continuous rain.'' He had to read his letters from home ``in mud to his ankles on an empty stomach...Some sagacious surgeon, who has been in a comfortable tent, with plenty of blankets, will suddenly discover that a barefooted man cannot well keep warm under one blanket, which has not been thoroughly dry for three weeks...I was barefooted about a week ago, but then the water was too deep for shoes, so it made little difference.'' Closing on a happier note, West wrote that he had recently read The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, Les Miserables, Aurora Leigh, and Davenport Dunn, and that he had on hand Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, and always carried in his knapsack Milton's Paradise Lost and the Bible.
On November 1, Gen. Longstreet wrote to Col. William Brent, Chief of Staff of the Army of Tennessee, requesting that Gen. Jerome B. Robertson be relieved of command of the Texas Brigade. This request almost certainly came at the urging of Gen. Micah Jenkins, whose feuds with Robertson and Evander Law had been greatly aggravated by the debacle at Wauhatchie. Longstreet charged that ``this officer has been complained of so frequently for want of conduct in time of battle that I apprehend that the abandonment by his brigade of its position on the night of the 28th [October] may have been due to his want of hearty co-operation.'' On Gen. Bragg's order, Brent relieved Robertson on November 2 and ordered a board of inquiry to examine the case.
The board began hearing testimony on November 4, but the proceedings were soon disrupted by the detachment of Longstreet's divisions from the siege of Chattanooga. To relieve the mounting pressure on the Army of Tennessee by Federal forces under Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Chattanooga (who had assumed command from William Rosecrans on October 19) and Gen. Ambrose Burnside at Knoxville, Bragg ordered Longstreet to move into East Tennessee and destroy Burnside's force. A quick victory over Burnside, Bragg reasoned, would enable Longstreet to rejoin the Army of Tennessee at Chattanooga for a decisive action against Grant.
On November 4, Jenkins was ordered to march his division to the tunnel through Missionary Ridge, where it would board the trains of the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad the next day. Each man of the Texas Brigade received ten days' rations of fresh beef and corn meal, which were to be cooked immediately. The cooking utensils departed camp early, however, so the men had to bake their bread ``in the ashes.'' As the men moved out on November 5, many discarded greasy decks of cards from their pockets or haversacks. The men did not wish to be found killed in their next engagement with such items in their possession. Upon arriving at the tunnel, the Texans and Arkansans found no train awaiting them, so they continued marching to Tyner's Station about 10 miles further east.
The Texas Brigade reached Tyner's Station early in the morning of November 6, after an all-night march along a half-frozen road in a sleet storm. The cold and unhappy Texans remained at the station for three days waiting for the railroad cars that would take them to Knoxville. On November 8, with no prospects for transportation in sight, Gen. Robertson (who had just been restored to command pending resumption of his board of inquiry) marched his command 20 miles to Cleveland. The Texas Brigade arrived at Cleveland the next afternoon. There the trains finally caught up with Robertson's command. The men gladly left the frozen roads for the rail cars, but soon found that progress aboard the train was little faster than that which they had already made on foot. The dilapidated rolling stock provided by Bragg's quartermaster was built of heavy material, while the engines were of lightweight construction. Every time the train reached a hill, the passengers had to debark, march alongside the rails, and reboard the train on the downgrade. Occasionally, the men had to bail water from streams and cut up rail fences in order to keep the engines going.
On November 10, the Texas Brigade left the cars of the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad at Sweetwater, Tennessee -- the rendezvous point for Longstreet's infantry and artillery and the cavalry division of Gen. ``Fighting Joe'' Wheeler. The Texans camped at Sweetwater until November 12, when the rendezvous was finally completed four days behind schedule. That day the brigade was ordered to march cautiously along the tracks toward Loudon, which lay on the south bank of the Tennessee River some 20 miles southwest of Knoxville. On November 13, Longstreet sent three brigades of cavalry under Wheeler east toward Maryville and then north to threaten Knoxville and distract Burnside. That night, a pontoon bridge was laid across the Tennessee River at Loudon. On November 14, most of Jenkins' Division (including the Texas Brigade) braved a march across the pontoon bridge, which had been made unstable by a swift current and poor anchorage, and constructed breastworks on the north side of the river.
Once across the Tennessee, Longstreet ordered a vigorous pursuit of Burnside's army as it slowly withdrew toward Knoxville. Sharp skirmishes were fought at Lenoir's Station on November 15 and at Campbell's Station on November 16. Fearing a Federal cavalry attack on his lines of communications, Longstreet ordered the Texas Brigade back to Loudon on November 16 to ``keep things in order there and take charge of the bridges.'' On November 19, Robertson received orders to rejoin Jenkins' Division ``at the front'', which was a seige line drawn around Knoxville north of the Holston River. Along the way, Co. E of the Fourth Texas was detached at Lenoir's Station on the Holston and ordered to sort through and forward to Longstreet the vast amount of supplies left there by Burnside's army.
The Texas Brigade remained in its position along the seige line west of Knoxville until November 21, when it and Law's Brigade were ordered by Longstreet back to the south bank of the Holston River. The two brigades were instructed to engage the Federal forces there and drive them from their formidable forts positioned along the heights on the south side of the Holston. The Confederates crossed the Holston about a mile and a half west of Fort Higley, the westernmost of the three Federal forts on the south bank. The Texas Brigade, with the Fifth Texas on the extreme left next to the river, moved slowly eastward along the south bank, driving the Federal pickets and skirmishers before it.
On November 23, the Texas Brigade, after much long-range skirmishing and under artillery fire, opened the attack on the main Federal line. The Yankees resisted stubbornly at first, but they eventually gave way in disorder and retreated to a prepared defensive position on the crest of a high ridge. For the next two days, the Texas Brigade kept up a steady fire against the strong Federal position, but failed to drive the enemy from it. Gen. Robertson then withdrew his command to Cherokee Heights, a series of high hills about 1000 yards west of Fort Higley, and set up a defense line. From this position, the Texas Brigade exchanged sniper fire with the Federals at Fort Higley and across the river. J. B. Polley of the Fourth Texas wrote that at Knoxville the Texans were ``under a more constant and vigorous [sniper] fire than any other command.''
While in their defensive position on Cherokee Heights, the Texans at last had an opportunity to rectify by their own efforts the inadequate food and supplies provided by the commissary of the Army of Tennessee. Several members of the Fourth Texas engaged in bartering and foraging in the depleted and desolate area south of the Holston. Pvt. John C. West of the Fourth Texas reported that the ``Yanks [had] taken everything from the citizens of the neighborhood, chickens, ducks, turkeys, hogs, etc.'', but in one foray he succeeded ``in getting two or three canteens of buttermilk for which he had given an ``old lady three or four pounds of wool which [he] had taken from the hides of slaughtered sheep.'' By late 1863, Confederate scrip was not popular as currency among the citizenry, especially the one in Unionist East Tennessee. On November 24, Pvt. West and a fellow Wacoan were forced to walk six miles to find a taker for their Confederate tender. After a hard day of tramping through the rain, they had exchanged one month's pay ($11 each) for two chickens, two dozen apples, and four canteens of molasses.
On November 29, Longstreet made his one and only serious attempt to break the Federal defenses around Knoxville. He ordered McLaws' Division to spearhead a major assault against Fort Sanders, the key bastion on the western perimeter of the Federal line. The remainder of Jenkins' brigades north of the Holston were to act in support of McLaws or in reserve. Robertson's and Law's Brigades south of the Holston were ordered to demonstrate against the Federal forces south of the Holston and prevent the transfer of Federal reinforcements north of the river. The Eighth and Eleventh Texas Cavalry under Col. Thomas Harrison were ordered south of the river to support Robertson and Law.
Longstreet's assault against Fort Sanders was a dismal failure. McLaws' men charged across frozen, snowy ground only to reach the defensive ditch before Fort Sanders with no scaling ladders and no means of crawling up the slippery frozen walls of the fort. One assault wave after another poured into the ditch and, unable to move or escape, the penned Confederates were unmercifully raked with musketry and cannister from the Federals atop the walls of the fort. Longstreet stopped the assault and carnage after only half an hour, but not before suffering over 800 casualties. The Texas Brigade, which launched a diversionary attack on Fort Higley south of the Holston, lost but one man killed and one wounded on November 29.
On December 2, Gen. Longstreet issued orders to withdraw from the vicinity of Knoxville. The order was in response to a telegram from President Davis received four days earlier informing Longstreet of the Federal victories against Gen. Bragg at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. Bragg had retreated into northwestern Georgia, and Longstreet was to make an attempt to rejoin him. Logistics, however, precluded a march across the mountains to Georgia, so Longstreet instead ordered a retreat to Bristol, Virginia, where he planned to encamp for the winter. The route of retreat was north around Knoxville and then northeast along the north bank of the Holston River. The Texas Brigade and Law's Brigade, accompanied by a battery of E. Porter Alexander's artillery, were to guard the trains.
On December 3, Law's and Robertson's Brigades vigorously attacked the Federals to their front in an attempt to conceal the withdrawal. After withstanding the Confederate attacks until noon, the Federals retreated to a second line of entrenchments nearer the Holston. The two Confederate brigades then quietly withdrew westward, crossed to the north bank of the river by ferry in the early evening, and marched north around Knoxville.
On the morning of December 4, the Texas Brigade led the advance of Longstreet's command eastward from Knoxville. Convinced that they were about to return to Lee's army, the men of the Fourth Texas sang repeated choruses of ``Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny.'' The brigade followed the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad along the north bank of the Holston for about ten miles, and then crossed to the south bank by means of the railroad bridge at Strawberry Plains. Here, about a mile from the river, the brigade camped for the night.
Over the next four days, the Texas Brigade -- still guarding Longstreet's baggage and ordnance trains -- followed the track of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad along the western slope of the Bays Mountains. The brigade passed through New Market, Mossy Creek, Morristown, and Russellville, where they then followed the Rogersville and Jefferson Railroad toward Rogersville. The Texans and Arkansans reached Rogersville on December 8, and waited there until joined by Longstreet's main column the next day.
On December 10, Longstreet received another telegram from Davis informing him that he had been given sole authority over the troops in his Department of East Tennessee. That same day, Gen. Robertson wrote to Gen. Hood that his brigade carried on its rolls only 784 men ``present for duty,'' of which ``many'' were ``not fit to march.'' Thus, the Texas Brigade now had the effective strength of an undersized regiment. Of the ``present for duty'', the Fourth Texas counted 20 officers and 193 men -- the most of the four regiments in the brigade. Robertson proposed to Hood that the Texas Brigade be sent back to Texas for the winter to recuperate and recruit, and then rejoin Longstreet west of the Mississippi on or about April 1, 1864. Robertson's proposal was ultimately refused by the War Department.
On December 13 (or 14), pursuing elements of the Federal Ninth and Twenty-third Corps under Maj. Gen. John G. Parke met Confederate cavalry under W. T. Martin and infantry under Bushrod Johnson at Bean's Station, about 17 miles southwest of Rogersville. Longstreet had dispatched Martin and Johnson to bag the Federal cavalry and an infantry brigade stationed there. The Texas Brigade was ordered to the vicinity of Bean's Station to support the cavalry action. Although they were under occasional artillery fire, the Texans did not see action in what turned out to be a minor engagement in which the Federal forces escaped westward.
On December 18, Gen. Micah Jenkins preferred charges of "conduct highly prejudicial to good order and military discipline'' against Robertson. These charges stemmed from detrimental remarks that Robertson had supposedly made about Jenkins' generalship and judgment following a recent order to pursue marauding Federal cavalry. According to Miles V. Smith of the Fourth Texas, the ``Brigade was called on often during the winter to race out after Federal cavalry over ice and snow with no shoes.'' When ordered to repel a cavalry raid under bad weather conditions, Robertson protested and remarked that ``he didn't see any reason to have his men run after every cavalryman that came by.'' A ``junior officer'' reported this remark to Jenkins.
The Texas Brigade remained in the vicinity of Bean's Station until December 19. That day, Pvt. John C. West of Co. E, Fourth Texas wrote home that ``half our brigade [is] barefooted. I was without shoes for two weeks, but have a good pair now...some others...have been barefooted for three or four weeks.'' When Parke showed no further inclination to advance, the Texas Brigade crossed the Holston River with the rest of Longstreet's infantry and went into winter quarters at Morristown on December 22.
Morristown was located on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad in the fertile valley between the Holston and French Broad Rivers about 40 miles northeast of Knoxville. The Texas Brigade camped on top of a wooded hill one mile north of town. Here the water supply was ample and the foraging opportunities good. Not realizing that the site would be their established winter camp, the brigade spent the next five nights camped under canvas. By December 27, it had become clear to the men that Morristown was to be a fairly permanent camp site, so construction was started on more substantial winter quarters.
On December 23, Longstreet relieved Robertson of command of the Texas Brigade and ordered him to Bristol, Tennessee, to ``await the assembling of a court for the trial of his case.'' Lt. Col. King Bryan of the Fifth Texas assumed temporary command of the brigade. (Bryan would later be replaced by Captain A. C. Jones of the Third Arkansas.)
Pvt. John C. West spent Christmas Day, 1863 as a ``camp walker,'' wandering from camp to camp visiting old friends and sharing whatever food and provisions he encountered along the way. Most of the men prepared their last items captured from the Yankees around Knoxville. After eating heartily and passing along rumors of the brigade's imminent movement westward across the Mississippi (no doubt a reference to Robertson's proposal to Hood), West moved on to seek out a former college classmate in Jenkins' South Carolina Brigade. The chum was found in possession of a couple of eggs and a flask of brandy, from which a ``Tom and Jerry'' was soon concocted. At his friend's request, West returned the next day for a dinner of a ``first rate chicken pie...backed by genuine coffee sent from home.''