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Prospects of the Year 1862.-The Lines of the Potomac.-General Jackson's Expe dition to Winchester.-The BATTLE OF MILL SPRINGS IN KENTUCKY.-General Crittenden.-Death of General Zollicoffer.-Sufferings of Crittenden's Army on the Retreat.-Comparative Unimportance of the Disaster.-The BATTLE OF ROANOKE ISLAND.-Importance of the Island to the South.-Death of Captain Wise.-Causes of the Disaster to the South.-Investigation in Congress.-Censure of the Government.-Interviews of General Wise with Mr. Benjamin, the Secretary of War.-Mr. Benjamin censured by Congress, but retained in the Cabinet.-His Promotion by President Davis. Condition of the Popular Sentiment.
THE year 1862 was to bring in a train of disasters to the South. Taking a brief glance at the lines of the Potomac, we shall thereafter have to find the chief interest of the war in other directions-in the West and on the seacoast.
In December last, Gen. Thomas F. Jackson was sent from Gen. Johnston's line to Winchester with a force at his disposal of some ten thousand men. Had the same force been placed at the command of Gen. Jackson in early autumn, with the view to an expedition to Wheeling, by way of the Winchester and Parkersburg road, the good effects would, in all probability, have shown themselves in the expulsion of the Federals from northwestern Virginia.
On the 1st of January, 1862, Gen. Jackson marched with his command from Winchester to Bath, in Morgan county, and from the latter place to Romney, where there had been a large Federal force for many weeks, and from which point they had committed extensive depredations on the surrounding country. Gen. Jackson drove the enemy from Romney and the neighboring country without much fighting. His troops, however, endured the severest hardships in the expedition. Their sufferings were terrible in what was the severest portion of the winter. They were compelled at one time to struggle through an almost blinding storm of snow and sleet, and to bivouac at night in the forests, without tents or camp equipage. Many of the troops were frozen on the march, and died from exposure and exhaustion.
The heroic commander, whose courage had been so brilliantly illustrated at Manassas, gave new proofs of his iron will in this expedition and the subsequent events of his campaign in the upper portion of the valley of Virginia. No one would have supposed that a man, who, at the opening of the war, had been a professor in a State military institute-that at Lexington, Virginia-could have shown such active determination and grim energy in the field. But Gen. Jackson had been brought up in a severer school of practical experience than West Point, where he had graduated twenty years before; he had served in the memorable campaign from Vera Cruz to Mexico; and an iron will and stern courage, which he had from nature, made him peculiarly fitted to command.* But we must wait for a subsequent period to refer again to Gen. Jackson's operations in the Valley, or to other portions of the campaign in Virginia.
* At the siege of Vera Cruz, Jackson commanded a battery, and attracted attention by the coolness and judgment with which he worked his guns, and was promoted first lieutenant. For his conduct at Cerro Gordo, he was brevetted captain. He was in all Scott's battles to the city of Mexico, and behaved so well that he was brevetted major for his services. To his merits as a commander he added the virtues of an active, humble, consistent Christian, restraining profanity in his camp, welcoming army colporteurs, distributing tracts, and anxious to have every regiment in his army supplied with a chaplain. He was vulgarly sneered at as a fatalist; his habits of soliloquy were derided as superstitious conversations with a familiar spirit; but the confidence he had in his destiny was the unfailing mark of genius, and adorned the Christian faith, which made him believe that he had a distinct mission of duty in which he should be spared for the ends of Providence. Of the habits of his life the following description is given by one who knew him: "He is as calm in the midst of a hurricane of bullets as he was in the pew of his church at Lexington, when he was professor of the Institute. He appears to be a man of almost superhuman endurance. Neither heat nor cold makes the slightest impression upon him. He cares nothing for good quarters and dainty fare. Wrapped in his blanket, he throws himself down on the ground anywhere, and sleeps as soundly as though he were in a palace. He lives as the soldiers live, and endures all the fatigue and all the suffering that they endure. His vigilance is something marvellous. He never seems to sleep, and lets nothing pass without his personal scrutiny. He can neither be caught napping, nor whipped when he is wide awake. The rapidity of his marches is something portentous. He is heard of by the enemy at one point, and, before they can make up their minds to follow him, he is off at another. His men have little baggage, and he moves, as nearly as he can, without incumbrance. He keeps so constantly in motion, that he never has a sick list, and no need of hospitals.'
THE BATTLE OF MILL SPRINGS IN KENTUCKY.
In a previous chapter, we noticed the expedition of Gen. Zollicoffer in Kentucky, and gave an account of the rout of the forces sent against him. The next expedition of the enemy against him was successful beyond their expectations.
Since the affair referred to, Gen. Zollicoffer had moved with a portion of his command to Mill Springs, on the southern bank of the Cumberland river, and soon after advanced across to Camp Beech Grove, on the opposite bank, fortifying this camp with earthworks. At Beech Grove, he placed five regiments of infantry, twelve pieces of artillery, and several hundred cavalry, and at Mill Springs he had two regiments of infantry and several hundred cavalry. About the first of January, Major-general Crittenden arrived and took the command, having been advanced, by President Davis, from a captaincy in the Federal army to a major-generalship in the Confederate army.
Our position at Beech Grove had but few advantages. From the face of the country in front there was a very bad range for artillery, and it could not be of very material benefit against an attacking infantry force; and, considering the extent of the front line and the number of works to be defended, there was within the camp an insufficient force. At the same time, for several weeks, bare existence in the camps was very precarious, from want of provisions and forage. Regiments frequently subsisted on one-third rations, and this very frequently of bread alone. Wayne county, which was alone productive in this region of Kentucky, had been exhausted, and the neighboring counties of Tennessee could furnish nothing for the support of the army. Only corn could be obtained for the horses and mules, and this in such small quantities that often cavalry companies were sent out on unshod horses which had eaten nothing for two days. The condition of the roads and the poverty of the intervening section rendered it impossible to transport from Knoxville, a distance of one hundred and thirty miles. The enemy from Columbia commanded the Cumberland river, and only one boat was enabled to come up with supplies. from Nashville. With the channel of communication closed, the position became untenable without attack.
In these straits, when the entire army at Mill Springs had been reduced to a single ration of beef per day, and a half ration of corn, the latter eaten as parched corn, and not issued as meal, news reached Gen. Crittenden of an advance movement of the enemy, both from Columbia and from Somerset. On the 17th of January it was ascertained that a large Federal force, under Gen. Thomas, was moving on the road from Columbia, and, on the evening of that day, was camped about ten miles from Beech Grove. It was also ascertained that other reinforcements were moving from the direction of Columbia, under command of Gen. Schoëpff, and that the junction of these two forces was intended for an attack on Camp Beech Grove.
Under these circumstances, Gen. Crittenden determined to attack Gen. Thomas's force in his camp. The decision, which was sanctioned by a council of war, was a most adventurous
It was proposed, with an effective force of four thousand men, to attack an enemy in his intrenchments, at least ten thousand strong; it is true, however, that a defence of our intrenchments was impracticable, and that to have awaited the enemy there, would only have given him time to have effected a junction of his forces. This consideration, however, gives but an imperfect vindication of the impetuous adventure determined upon by Gen. Crittenden. The fact was, that the avenues of retreat were open to our little army, and could only have been cut off by the enemy's crossing above and below Mill Springs. In perfect silence, at midnight, the march began. The brigade of Gen. Zollicoffer moved in front. In the gray dawn, about six o'clock, two miles from their camp, the pickets of the enemy fired upon our advanced cavalry. The morning of the 19th was dark and rainy-a fit day for a sabbath battle. The 15th Mississippi regiment, in line of battle, was steadily advanced, under the constant fire of the enemy. The charge of Gen. Zollicoffer's brigade, in which this gallant regiment earned the most conspicuous distinction of. the day, soon became impetuous. The Mississippi troops fought with a devotion never excelled by the soldiers of any battle-field; nearly half of the regiment (it numbered only 440) fell in the action; at times they fought with the enemy at ten or twelve paces, and, in one of their sweeping and exultant charges, for fifty yards, dashed
over the dead bodies of Yankees. The enemy was steadily driven back before the charge of Gen. Zollicoffer's command. Already he was ascending the last hill to its crest, where the heaviest firing told the battle raged. He sent for reinforcements, and the brigade of Gen. Carrol was ordered up. In another moment, it was announced that Gen. Zollicoffer was killed. He had fallen on the crest of the hill, the stronghold of the enemy, which he had almost driven them from, and which once gained, the day was ours.
Gen. Zollicoffer fell very near the camp of the enemy. He was with Col. Battle's Tennessee regiment, this and the Mississippi regiment being the chief participants in the action, and in the ranks of which were his own home friends, born and brought up around him at Nashville. In front, and concealed in the woods, was a regiment of Kentucky renegades, com manded by Col. Fry. By some mistake, probably that of the Kentuckians for a regiment of his own command, Gen. Zolli coffer got very near them. Col. Fry was at the right of his regiment. Gen. Zollicoffer was within a few feet of the colonel. A gum coat concealed his uniform. The two parties mistook each other for friends, and discovered their mutual mistake almost at the same instant. One of General Zollicoffer's aids shot at Colonel Fry, but only wounded his horse. The next moment the Federal colonel fired at Zollicoffer, and the general, raising his hand to his breast, fell, pierced by several balls.
At the announcement of the death of Gen. Zollicoffer, a sudden gloom pervaded the field and depressed the Tennessee troops, who had been devotedly attached to him. Gen. Crittenden essayed all that personal example could do to retrieve the sinking fortunes of the day. He, in person, rode up to the front of the fight, in the very midst of the fire of the enemy. To gain the disputed hill, the fight was still continued. Charge after charge was driven back by the heavy forces of the enemy. After a conflict of three and a half hours, our troops commenced to give way. The pursuit was checked by several stands made by the little army, and the intrenchments at Camp Beech Grove were reached in the afternoon, with a loss on our side of about three hundred killed and wounded, and probably fifty prisoners.
The advance of the enemy arrived late in the evening before