Soldiers and Sailors Historical Society of Rhode Island.
OF EVENTS IN THE
War of the Rebellion.
No. 17--Second Series.
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AMBROSE EVERETT BURNSIDE.
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PERSONAL NARRATIVES OF EVENTS IN THE War of the Rebellion, BEING PAPERS READ BEFORE THE RHODE ISLAND SOLDIERS AND SAILORS HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Second Series - No. 17.
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AMBROSE EVERETT BURNSIDE:
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Copyright by N. BANGS WILLIAMS. 1882.
AMBROSE EVERETT BURNSIDE.
Read before the Society, May 30, 1882.
Ambrose Everett Burnside was born in Liberty, Indiana, May 23, 1824, and died in Bristol, Rhode Island, September 13, 1881. The interval between these two dates was filled with the events of a busy and useful life. It was also a life which attracted an unwonted measure of honor, esteem and affection. In public, it was spent in patriotic service. In private, it was the object of a devoted and fervent love. It exhibited and illustrated some of the best qualities of manhood. It is very fitting that it should be set forth before those who shared the perils of its career, and who, in the spirit of a generous comradeship, have rejoiced in the honors which marked its course. It is also fitting
that we should close this day of commemoration by reviewing the life of him who holds a chief place in our memory, because he was always willing to become the servant of all. I have been invited to perform this grateful duty, and while I address myself to this labor of love, I ask, as I know I shall receive, your respectful and patient attention.
The youth of Burnside, before entering the military academy at West Point, was spent in the little western town where his father, Edghill Burnside, had fixed his residence, upon his removal to the northwest from his native state of South Carolina. His great-grandfather had come to this country from Scotland. His grandfather, during the Revolution, was a loyalist, and after the war of independence, was obliged to leave the country—settling in Jamaica for a time, but subsequently returning to South Carolina. His father took part in the emigration to the northwest, escaping from the evil of slave-holding by freeing the slaves whom he had inherited, and following what was then called the “Quaker trail,” though not himself belonging to the Society of Friends. Among the South Carolina families that
removed to Indiana was Miss Pamelia Brown, whom Mr. Burnside married. Nine children were born to them, of whom Ambrose was the fourth. He was named for the family physician, Dr. Everts, but, on his appointment to the military academy, at West Point, changed his second name to Everett, retaining it afterwards through his life-time. There is a story, that the boy at one time tried to learn the trade of a tailor, and that he was found by friends who became interested in him, conning a book of tactics, while working at the board. He was carefully brought up, and taught as well as he could be in the elementary schools of the time. It is known that he was of an ardent and adventurous character, with an active and sanguine temperament, which was hardly suited to a quiet occupation. His father, who held the office of associate judge of the county court, desired to give him a military education, and it is a pleasing proof of the esteem in which Mr. Burnside was held, that the young man received the almost, if not entirely, unanimous recommendation of the legislature of Indiana for an appointment to the national military academy. The Hon. Caleb B.Smith—afterwards
Secretary of the Interior under Lincoln—was the member of congress holding the gift of appointment. But as Mr. Smith was not in full accord with the existing administration of John Tyler, the good offices of his father's friend, Judge C. H. Test, were brought into requisition, and by his influence the place was secured. At the beginning of the academical year, 1843, young Burnside was admitted a cadet at West Point. Among his classmates were Orlando B. Willcox, Ambrose P. Hill, Romeyn B. Ayers, Charles Griffin and Henry Heth. In the other classes appear the names of Ulysses S. Grant, Fitz John Porter, Barnard E. Bee, George B. McClellan, Thomas J. Jackson, John G. Foster, Darius N. Couch, John G. Parke, and Jesse L. Reno.
Burnside was graduated in 1847, in the artillery—eighteen in a class of thirty-eight. He was immediately appointed brevet second lieutenant, and was promoted to a full second lieutenancy, September, 8, 1847, and was assigned to the Third Artillery, He was at once ordered to Vera Cruz to take part in active service in the war with Mexico, which
was then drawing near its end. Put in charge of a baggage train, he was sent into the interior along a line of communication threatened by guerrillas at different points. He won the praise of his superior officers for his successful performance of this duty. The chief battles of the war had, however, been already fought before his arrival at the front, and there was consequently no opportunity for winning distinction in the field. Upon the proclamation of peace and the return of the army, Lieutenant Burnside was ordered to Fort Adams, in our own state, where he soon made many dear and life-long friends.
In the early part of 1849, he was transferred from Fort Adams to New Mexico, and assigned to Bragg's Battery. He arrived at his new post on the 1st of August. The command was organized as cavalry, and was employed as escort to the United States mails upon the plains. On the 21st of August, while in command of a detachment of twenty-nine men, he came in contact with a body of sixty or more Apache warriors, who disputed his passage through a ravine near Las Vegas. Burnside immediately attacked and routed his savage foe—killing eighteen,
capturing nine prisoners, forty horses and all the supplies of the band. Captain Judd, in command of the post, warmly praised his subordinate, and recommended his promotion to first lieutenant. In the spring of 1851, Lieutenant Burnside was quartermaster of the Mexican Boundary Commission, under the direction of the Honorable John R. Bartlett. In September, 1851, he was sent from Gila River to Washington with important despatches which it was necessary to forward with utmost speed. His route lay through a hostile territory, and he had to run a gauntlet of twelve hundred miles. With an escort of three men and his faithful colored servant, Robert Holloway, he safely made his way, meeting with many hair-breadth escapes, and within three weeks the despatches were in the hands of the proper authorities at the capitol. His promotion in December was a deserved reward for his daring, vigilance and faithfulness. At the end of his service as quartermaster, in March, 1852, he was ordered to return to his former post at Fort Adams. There he remained until November 1st, 1853, when he resigned his commission in the army.
His residence at Fort Adams was naturally a very happy experience for the young officer. Perhaps it was the happiest of his life. He was of a jovial, gay and light-hearted nature. He was intelligent and active in mind, handsome in person, of a tall, commanding stature, agreeable in manners, with a position and name in the army which gave him an entrance into the best social circles in Newport, and he soon became an acknowledged favorite. In an address which he delivered at Newport a few years ago, he alludes to what he calls “the follics and frailties of his youth.” But he was glad to say that notwithstanding these, he had always been met with uniform kindness and confidence. The reason is obvious to us. For we know that those “follics and frailties,” whatever they may have been, were mostly upon the surface of his life. They had no power to spoil or even taint the inner purity and generosity of his spirit. Doubtless it was a time of danger and temptation. But it is certain that he passed safely through the ordeal. While at Fort Adams, he was married, on the 27th of April, 1852, to Miss Mary Richmond Bishop, of Providence—and
the union proved to be in all respects of the greatest satisfaction and benefit. The strength and solidity of Mrs. Burnside's character were an admirable balance and counterpart to the lighter qualities of her husband, and she became in after years his best counsellor and his firmest support.
But the young officer was not wholly engrossed with the gayeties of social life. While in service on the plains, he saw that the carbine with which our mounted troops were armed was not adequate to its purpose. He studied the matter thoroughly, and the result of his studies was the invention of a breech-loading rifle, which was in every way superior to the arms then in use. It could be easily loaded, discharged and cleansed; it was accurate in aim and long in range. For more than ten years it held a high place in the estimation of military men as one of the most serviceable weapons of its kind. Although it has since been superseded by better and more effective arms, it was yet a very creditable evidence of the originality and facility of the young man's powers of mind.
Sanguine of success in the manufacture of this
weapon, and encouraged to believe that the government would give him a profitable contract, Burnside, as I have said, resigned his commission. He immediately removed to Bristol, built a factory and began the work. He had the assistance of some of our leading capitalists, but the negotiations at Washington failed of completion and the enterprise ended in disaster. In the early years of our civil war the manufacture of the arm became profitable, but it was too late to be of any pecuniary advantage to the inventor. At the time of its first inception, it was accompanied by many discouragements and disappointments. Later on, while the Buchanan administration was in power, there were too many adverse influences at work to prevent the introduction of the rifle into the service of the army, and the end was a complete failure. Burnside sold his uniform and sword, gave up all to his creditors, and sought occupation elsewhere. He found a position in the Land Office of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, at Chicago, and removed thither in the latter part of April, 1858. In June, 1860, he was promoted to be treasurer of the company, and removed to New York,
where the opening of the war for the Union found him quietly engaged—like thousands of others—in the occupations of a contented and peaceful life.
There are some, who, with a certain show of justice, say—and the matter may at this point be appropriately discussed—that Burnside did not possess the qualities which are thought necessary to success in business. While all must acknowledge his administrative and executive ability and his sense of responsibility, he yet did not have that measure of caution in dealing with other men which seems to be required in the transactions of trade. He lacked the element of distrust. He took too much for granted. He regarded a verbal promise as binding as a written one. He believed that others understood his plans as clearly as they were marked out in his own mind. He trusted when he should have watched. Never knowing by experience the nature of intrigue or double-dealing, he could not be made to see that there was anything in others which justified any suspicion of their motives, or any thought of their untruthfulness. He could not understand
how any man could work against him or become his enemy, or even his rival. His own heart never had an ungenerous feeling, and he could not conceive how any other heart could cherish it. We can readily see how open he was to deception by those who had an interest in deceiving him, and how liable he was to be injured through an excess of generosity and trustfulness. This complete confidence in others is both an amiable and in many respects an admirable feature in human character. Some of the best and loveliest qualities grow out of it. Without it, I am quite sure, Burnside could not have attracted the affectionate esteem which we are all glad to give to him. But in the rough conflicts of the world, and in the great variety of human forces, with which the generous and chivalrous soul has to deal, it does not answer—if one wishes to achieve what generally goes by the name of success—to place entirely out of sight the painful fact of human falsehood, wickedness and sin. It is a grand elevation, at which the high and honorable man stands, from which human baseness and meanness retire from view:—as when one stands upon a mountain
top, from which the unsightly and low things in the valley are hidden, or, in the distance, become even picturesque. Yet the baseness and the meanness and the lowness are still there! It was certainly creditable to Burnside that he could overlook them all, or, still recognizing their existence, could hold fast his faith in human nature and never let it go.
The war for the Union did not find him unprepared. The country had educated him, and he felt it as a patriotic obligation and duty to enter its service. He had foreseen somewhat of the trouble that was coming. While in New Orleans, during the autumn of 1861, he frankly told his Southern friends that they were mistaking the temper of the North if they supposed that secession could be peaceably accomplished. Men of all parties would unite to save the Union from disruption and the government from ruin. He was a member of the Democratic party then, and had been honored by its confidence in Rhode Island. But this was a question above party and could not be decided without bloodshed. There could be but one issue to the war. The Union would be preserved and the South would
be reduced to poverty. Such were his opinions then, and his confidence in the success of the government never wavered even in the darkest days of the struggle that ensued.
When Governor Sprague decided to send a regiment of infantry and a battery of artillery to Washington immediately after the attack upon Fort Sumter, no one but Burnside was thought of for the command. He at once responded to the summons to come to Rhode Island and organize the regiment. He shut his desk in New York, took the first conveyance to Providence, and immediately began the work. By the end of the week the battery had been sent forward and half the regiment—five hundred men—started for the capital. The other half followed in a few days. One or two regiments reached Washington in advance of the First Rhode Island. But I venture to say that no troops were better organized and prepared for immediate actice service than those from our own state. They could have taken the field at once. Burnside had the entire confidence and willing aid of the Governor, and was ably seconded by Pitman and Slocum—good soldiers
both, who had been tried and proved in the Mexican war—by Balch, Goddard, Merriman, Tompkins, of the battery, and the company officers. But the good equipment, the careful training and the efficiency for every duty of the campaign, which were shown by the regiment, were mainly due to the intelligence, energy and ability of its colonel.
I do not intend to give an account of that first campaign of the war, ending as it did in the defeat at Bull Run. It is sufficient to say that the First Rhode Island had an experience of every kind of service during its term of three months and a half. It had its garrison duty, its camp, its bivouac, and its picket service. It made long marches, it fought a bloody battle. It helped to win the success with which the day at Bull Run began. It was in the rear guard in the humiliating retreat at evening. “Let us go with the Rhode Islanders!” shouted the Sixty-ninth New York, “we shall be all right there!” For, through the day, the valor of the Rhode Island regiments—the First and Second—had been conspicuous to all along the line. Burnside was in command of a brigade consisting of his own
regiment and the Second with its battery, the Seventy-first New York and the Second New Hampshire. It was a brigade which did its whole duty on that trying day, and did it faithfully and well. It lost such gallant officers as Slocum, Ballou, Tower, Smith and Prescott. But to those who came off safely from the field, no shame attaches that they survived the battle. They did what they were ordered to do as well and faithfully as they could, and at the word of command they retired from the contest. The opinion which their fellow citizens held of the manner in which they had performed their duty was well expressed in the very cordial welcome which the First regiment received on its return to Providence. In the warmth of that welcome it was very fitting that the colonel should have the first place and the chief part. It was natural that he should suffer from the chagrin and disappointment which accompanied the defeat, and from the grief which touched all hearts in the thought of those who had fallen. But the heartiness of the reception when the regiment returned, proved that even an unsuccessful heroism could not fail of appreciation
and reward. The first volunteers were employed for only three months. But their term of service was a very important period, and they performed a very important duty. They saved the capital from what had almost become a state of siege, and their presence at Washington, besides affording an immense relief to the President and his advisers, gave renewed confidence to the country. It proved that the North was fully alive to the danger which threatened the national life, and was also fully prepared to meet and avert it. The assurance was amply given that the people were moved by a deep-seated principle of patriotism, and that in the assertion of that principle, they were ready to make any sacrifice and perform any duty which the government might demand. The First Rhode Island was a type of that kind of manhood which is always prepared both to defend and to maintain the institutions of freedom. It answered the call to duty with promptitude. It did its work with faithfulness. It would have overstayed its time if that had been thought needful. Many of its officers and men went back to the strife and gave up their lives a willing sacrifice to their country's good.
Burnside received a merited approval in his appointment as brigadier general, August 6, 1861. His first duty was to his friend, McClellan, in reorganizing the Army of the Potomac. Then it was proposed to send him upon a coast-wise expedition along the western shores of Chesapeake Bay. Finally it was decided that, with a sufficient force of infantry and in co-operation with the navy, he should make a descent upon the coast of North Carolina. It would appear from Burnside's own narrative that the proposition came mainly from himself. McClellan was preparing for an advance, and the object of Burnside's movement was to co-operate with his chief. But the enemy was bold, even to audacity, and, pressing forward his outposts, flaunted the flag of the rebellion within sight of the dome of the capitol. The Army of the Potomac was kept in winter quarters on the south side of the river and around Washington until the opening of the spring. On the 10th of March advance was made upon Centreville and Manassas, to find those posts evacuated by the rebels and their ramparts mounted with harmless Quaker guns. McClellan, returning to the
neighborhood of Washington, began to embark his troops for Fortress Monroe on the 17th of March and opened his Peninsular campaign.
Meanwhile, Burnside was hastening on his preparations for the expedition to North Carolina. His headquarters were established in New York, and the months of November and December were occupied in making the necessary arrangements. On the 19th of December headquarters were transferred to Annapolis, and on the 5th of January, 1862, the embarkation of the troops began. By the morning of the 8th, all were on board the transports, which immediately got under way. The army numbered 12,000 men, among whom were the Fourth Rhode Island, a battalion of the Fifth Rhode Island and Battery F, First Rhode Island Light Artillery. Eleven steamers and thirty-five sailing vessels furnished transportation. Accompanying were nine gunboats and five floating batteries, armed with forty-seven guns as an army division; and twenty gunboats and batteries carrying fifty-five guns as a naval division. All the forces rendezvoused in Hampton Roads, from which the entire expedition,
with sealed orders, went to sea on the night of the 11th and the morning of the 12th of January, 1862.
For ten days nothing was heard of the fleet, but on the 23rd, tidings came of storm and trouble. Cape Hatteras is not an inviting place in the best of weather, and Hatteras Inlet is hardly more than a swash-channel of varying depth. The tempest came down upon the fleet while it was attempting to make an entrance by this doubtful passage into Pamlico Sound, and the transports were fearfully knocked about. There were croakers at the North and even in Rhode Island who prophesied disaster and failure. Happily, their predictions were falsified. The channel was finally passed with the loss of two steamers, one gunboat, one floating battery and one or two supply schooners. Six men and two officers were drowned. On the 25th the storm broke, and the vessels of the expedition floated securely on the calm waters of Pamlico Sound. Throughout this trying time the bearing and conduct of officers and men were all that could be desired. Burnside himself seemed ubiquitous. The
correspondent of the London News speaks of him in warmest terms. He notices a feature of his character already familiar to the men of the First Rhode Island. “He has performed all the duties of harbor master,” says the writer, “narrowly escaping being swamped on more than one occasion, and there is not a grade in his army that he has not filled during the last fortnight, so anxious is he for the well being and comfort of his troops.”
Roanoke Island, lying between the passages from Pamlico to Albemarle Sound, was occupied by the enemy with a garrison of four thousand men, holding five earthworks, mounting thirty-two guns. Before descending upon the main land it was necessary to occupy this important position. On the 7th of February, the gunboats under Flag Officer Goldsborough, engaged the shore batteries. During the following night the troops were landed, and on the 8th a battle was fought which ended in the capture of the enemy's entire force, and of all his material of war. It was a brilliant achievement. As it was the first important success of the Eastern armies since Bull Run, its announcement at the North excited
great enthusiasm. The President and the War and Navy departments sent letters of thanks to Burnside and Goldsborough. The mayor of New York issued a proclamation of congratulation. The legislatures of Ohio, Massachusetts and Rhode Island voted their thanks for the service—our own legislature supplementing its action by the gift of a sword. Salutes were fired in the principal northern cities. Demonstrations of the public joy throughout our loyal communities were to be witnessed on every side.
The next step was to secure a foot-hold on the main land. The troops were embarked on the 6th of March and the two following days, and on the 9th the fleet slowly proceeded to Hatteras Inlet. On the 12th the gunboats got under way, and, proceeding across the sound and up the Neuse river, came to anchor about twelve miles below New Berne. Here the troops were landed on the 13th and began their march up the right bank of the river. Bivouacking at night about a mile below the enemy's defences they made ready for the coming fray. On the 14th, in the midst of a dense fog, the attack was made upon a line of earth-works defended
by sixty-six guns and about 8,000 men. In the course of a few hours the position was carried, the enemy retreating across the bridge which spanned the river Trent—burning a portion of it behind him—and through the city of New Berne, which he left to its fate. Burnside immediately ferried his army across and took possession of the place.
For the next three months and more, New Berne became his headquarters and the centre of expeditions to different towns along the coast. Fort Macon was attacked and captured by General Parke on the 26th of April. For all these services the administration at Washingtion was profusely grateful. Burnside received the thanks of the President and Secretary of War, and was promoted to the rank of major-general, his commission dating March 18th. His brigade commanders, Foster, Reno and Parke, were also promoted to the same rank, dating April 26th. Colonel Rodman, of our own state, who had highly distinguished himself at the battle of New Berne, in command of the Fourth Rhode Island, was made a brigadier-general, dating from April 28th. The naval officers, Goldsborough
and Rowan, received the thanks of congress and a deserved promotion.
These operations on the North Carolina coast would have had an appropriate ending in the fall of Wilmington. But it was not permitted to Burnside to add this to his list of captures. His instructions did not contemplate a movement to that point. Why it was not ordered has never been explained. At the time, the place was not formidably defended, and it could have been captured with a slight increase of the force at Burnside's command. It proved to be during most of the war a harbor of refuge for the vessels that ran the blockade and furnished supplies to the rebel camps. But by some power Burnside was stopped at New Berne, and the three following months were a period of comparative inaction. But enough had been done to show the quality of his generalship and to attract the attention of his countrymen. The expedition to North Carolina, the manner in which it had been conducted, and the successes which had attended it, had secured his lasting fame. It is no matter of surprise that he should then have been looked upon as
one of our most active, trustworthy and patriotic generals. The opening of his career had in it the promise of a brilliant progress.
The presence of Burnside in North Carolina was unquestionably a help to McClellan in his operations on the Peninsula. The Army of the Potomac wound its slow length along through the spring and early summer, laid siege to Richmond, and was finally, during the last days of June and the first of July, forced from its position and obliged to change its base from the Chickahominy to the James, with headquarters at Harrison's Landing. General Burnside was ordered to reinforce McClellan without delay. On the 5th of July, 8,000 men were despatched from New Berne, and on the 8th were landed at Newport News. A short time afterwards, about 4,000 more from Hilton Head, under command of General Isaac I. Stevens, were added to the force. General Foster was left in command in North Carolina with a force sufficient to hold the places already occupied. Burnside retained a nominal authority there as commander of the department, but on the 26th of August he relinquished this, and all connection with the scene of his earliest successes was thus severed.
Burnside was now at Newport News with a command numbering about 12,000 men. His next step was to organize this force into the Ninth Army Corps. Obtaining authority for this purpose on the 18th of July, he issued his orders on the 22d, appointing his staff and organizing his corps—forming three divisions under command of Generals Parke, Reno and Stevens. It had been determined by the authorities at Washington to evacuate the Peninsula. Burnside was offered but declined the command of the Army of the Potomac. He could not supersede his old comrade and friend, but he could give him an efficient support. The Ninth Corps was moved to Fredericksburg by way of Aquia Creek, on the 2d and 3d of August. General Reno, with the greater part of the command, was immediately sent up the Rappahannock to aid General Pope, now sorely beset by the enemy on the north bank of the Rapidan, in the neighborhood of Warrenton, and around Manassas Junction. Burnside, after returning to the Peninsula to aid McClellan in his movement, was stationed at Fredericksburg, with a brigade or two under General Rodman. The remainder of the
Army of the Potomac was moved from its positions on the Peninsula to Alexandria, from the 16th to the 28th of August. The enemy, now under command of General Lee, after forcing Pope back upon Washington, with sanguinary fighting around Manassas, at Bull Run and Chantilly—where the brave General Stevens lost his life—made for the upper waters of the Potomac, and crossed into Maryland in the early days of September. Meanwhile, McClellan concentrated his forces around Washington. Burnside was withdrawn from Fredericksburg, was again offered and again declined the command of the Army of the Potomac. That army was now organized in six corps, of which the First and Ninth formed the right wing, under Burnside, who was thus given the advance. He marched upon Frederick, entering the town on the 12th of September—the rear-guard of the enemy leaving the town as our advance marched in—the two bodies having a smart skirmish in the streets. Burnside was received with joyful acclamations and a warm and demonstrative enthusiasm. The Ninth Corps had now four divisions, under Generals Willcox, who had succeeded Stevens, Sturgis,
who had succeeded to Reno's division when that gallant officer took command of the corps, Rodman, who had taken Parke's division, as Parke himself had been made chief of Burnside's staff, and Cox, who had brought to the corps the “Kanawha Division” of Pope's army—in which Rutherford B. Hayes was lieutenant-colonel of the Twenty-third Ohio.
The enemy, on his retreat, made a stand at Turner's Gap, in the South mountain, and here, in the forenoon of the 14th of September, Parke's and Willcox's divisions came in contact with the rebel troops strongly posted. General Hooker, with the First Corps, arrived about noon and was sent up to attack the enemy's left. General Reno, with the remainder of the Ninth, pushed rapidly through the Gap. In the latter part of the day General McClellan arrived upon the scene, and Burnside's command, advancing on all points, cleared the mountain passes of every obstruction. It was a well-fought battle, under Burnside's eye and immediate direction, and he certainly deserves the credit of having efficiently and successfully carried the mountain passes. McClellan approved his plans and the manner
of their execution, and confirmed the order already given for Reno's final advance. In the last hour of the day, Reno was shot dead. He was one of the most gallant and skillful officers in our army, and his death is mourned to this day as one of the severest losses of the war.
On the 17th was fought the battle of Antietam. The Ninth Corps in advance—General Cox succeeding to the command—pushed on towards Sharpsburg, and now formed the left wing of the Army of the Potomac. Hooker, with the First Corps, was now posted on the right, and came under the command of General Sumner, who had direction of that part of the army. He was moved across Antietam Creek on the evening of the 16th and opened the battle early in the morning of the following day. McClellan states that his plan was “to attack the enemy's left, and as soon as matters looked favorably there, to move the corps of General Burnside against the enemy's extreme right, upon the ridge running to the south and rear of Sharpsburg.” In front of Burnside's position and between him and the objective point of his attack, was a stone bridge with low
parapets, which it was necessary to carry in order to cross his command. At ten o'clock in the forenoon, Burnside received orders to attack. The troops were immediately put in motion and the attack was made. Twice were the regiments selected for the task driven back. The third attempt was successful, and by one o'clock in the afternoon the bridge was carried, and three divisions were promptly thrown across—Rodman, meanwhile, crossing his division at a ford below. The corps gallantly ascended and occupied the ridge, and, pressing forward, advanced to the outskirts of the town of Sharpsburg. The success of this movement depended somewhat upon the favorable result of the attack delivered from the right of our line. But that attack had been very strongly met, and at three o'clock in the afternoon had almost entirely ceased. The left wing, which had really occupied the most advanced position of the day, was now pressed backward, and, retiring to the ridge on the other side of the creek, held it firmly and could not be dislodged. The night shut down upon a bloody battle-field. The losses on both sides were large. In Burnside's
command, General Rodman, of our own state, fell, mortally wounded, while gallantly leading his division in the final struggle of the day, beyond the bridge. Twelve days of pain and suffering, followed, and on the 30th of September he died, leaving the memory of a brave, faithful and Christian man to be long and faithfully cherished by all who knew his worth.
The result of the battle of Antietam, although not a decisive victory, was yet of such a nature as to compel General Lee to withdraw his army across the Potomac. Burnside wished to renew the battle on the morning of the 18th, but McClellan was not prepared to do so until the morning of the 19th, when it was discovered that there was no enemy in front, except about two thousand wounded men who could not be moved, and as many more unburied dead. General Lee had returned to Virginia. For the next few weeks the two armies lay inactive on opposite sides of the Potomac. McClellan was desirous of wintering in the neighborhood for the purpose of re-fitting and re-organizing his command. The President was desirous of striking
another blow upon the enemy before the winter set in. Early in October he ordered McClellan to take his army across the Potomac. But it was not till the 1st of November that the entire command was finally transferred to Virginia. It then advanced with celerity—General Lee retiring up the valley of the Shenandoah, our own army making its way along upon the eastern side of the Blue Ridge. On the 7th of November headquarters were at Warrenton, and there, on the evening of that day, a special messenger arrived from Washington, bearing an order from the War Department, relieving General McClellan and appointing General Burnside to the command of the Army of the Potomac. The order was dated on the 5th, and on the 9th, after much serious and even prayerful thought, Burnside assumed command. “With diffidence for myself,” were the closing words of the general order, “but with a proud confidence in the unswerving loyalty and determination of the gallant army now entrusted to my care, I accept its control with the steadfast assurance that the just cause will prevail.”
The honor to which Burnside had now been raised
was considered, next to the command-in-chief, the highest in the army. When it was a matter which allowed of discussion, he had declined it, for he felt that his friend, McClellan, should be allowed an opportunity to retrieve the losses which had been suffered in the Peninsular campaign. Doubtless had Burnside been summoned to Washington for consultation, he would still have pleaded that McClellan should be retained in command—at least, till after the battle for which McClellan says in his report he was preparing, and which could hardly be long delayed. But the order was now peremptory, and could not be avoided. There was nothing left for Burnside but to obey. He appreciated the confidence which the government reposed in him, and he understood the greatness of the honor. But he also felt the weight of the responsibility which had now come upon him. The sense of personal obligation in all matters of public duty was at all times very strong with him—never more so than now. It was a large command—in a letter to me at the time, he called it “enormous.” He knew that many of the general officers were strongly attached to McClellan.
It was natural, too, that with all the personal good will which Burnside attracted to himself, there should still be a feeling, that a stranger, so to speak, had come to take the command, passing over those who were more closely identified with the Army of the Potomac and its career. There was also a modest appreciation of his own ability. But to decline the position thus accorded to him, and almost forced upon him, would be an indication of a lack of interest in the cause, and might even be interpreted as a disinclination for the service, which Burnside did not and could not feel. Conscious of all the difficulties of the situation, he accepted it with an entire and patriotic devotion to the public good.
The army was concentrated and halted for a few days around Warrenton. It was in a measure re-organized in three grand divisions—of two corps each—respectively under Generals Sumner, Hooker and Franklin. It numbered at the time, in the immediate front, 127,574. Besides these, about 100,000 men were distributed around Washington and along the upper Potomac. The entire force was under Burnside's command, but the new organization in
grand divisions applied only to that part of it which was in face of the enemy. With this force, Burnside prepared for active and aggressive movements. His plan was to march upon Fredericksburg by way of Falmouth, crossing the Rappahannock at the latter place, occupying the town and the hills beyond. Communication with Washington was to be had by way of Aquia Creek and the Potomac river. This was the first step. The objective point was Richmond itself. With plenty of supplies at Fredericksburg, “wagon trains can be organized,” says the general in his written plan, “and filled with at least twelve days’ provisions, when a rapid movement can be made upon Richmond, direct, by way of such roads as are open to us.” As the bridges across the Rappahannock had been destroyed, pontons would be required to cross the army. It would also be necessary to provide a vast amount of supplies—forage, horses, mules, beef-cattle and subsistence—and these should be ready at Fredericksburg, upon the arrival of the army at that place, or soon afterwards. The plan, after considerable discussion between Burnside and the authorities at Washington, was accepted.
There seems, however, to have been some misunderstanding of the details by General Halleck, who, at that time, held the position of general-in-chief. The contemplated movement was evidently not so clear to him, as it was to the general who conceived it and was now prepared to put it into execution.
Burnside, believing that his plan was as fully understood by the President and General Halleck as it was by himself, set his army in motion. The advance started on the 15th of November and arrived at Falmouth on the 17th. Headquarters started on the 16th and arrived on the 19th. No ponton train had reached the Rappahannock, and there was no intelligence of any. The abundant supplies that had been asked for were not forthcoming. Rain began to fall. The river was rising. The fords above Falmouth were impracticable. There were no means of crossing the army, and the commanding general, chagrined and disappointed, found that his plans were frustrated at the very first stage. General Lee, finding that our army had left Warrenton, made a rapid march across the country and down the
south bank of the Rappahannock, and on the 22d of November, his troops deployed along the hills in the rear of Fredericksburg. The road to Richmond was effectually blocked. Three days afterwards, on the 25th of November, late in the afternoon, the ponton train, having suffered various misfortunes by land and sea, arrived near the general headquarters. General Daniel P. Woodbury, who had charge of the matter, had requested General Halleck to delay the movement of the army for a few days that he might make the connection sure. But that officer declined to hold the army back, and it accordingly moved, as I have stated, only to find itself stopped at Falmouth, with no further means of progress at its disposal.
What should be done next? was the question at headquarters. After the cold and snowy weather in November the temperature became more favorable for military movements, and it hardly seemed advisable to put the army into winter quarters. The pontons were in camp and supplies had become abundant. General Burnside was unwilling to sit down quietly under the first failure. He wished to
make another attempt to move his army towards Richmond. The chief obstacle in the way was the army of General Lee, strongly posted and fortified on the hills above Fredericksburg—a few regiments holding the town itself. After careful deliberation, Burnside decided to cross the Rappahannock and make an attack upon Lee's position. Lee himself seemed to have no inclination to take the offensive. His army was well established, and communication with Richmond was easy. He quietly awaited the attack. On the 10th of December, Burnside concentrated his army—in available force about 100,000 men—along the river front. On the 11th, under cover of a heavy bombardment, six bridges were laid—not without opposition from the enemy's troops in the town—and one division and two brigades were sent across to hold the town and the bridge-heads. On one of the lower bridges the Second Rhode Island crossed, leading the column. On the 12th, the remainder of the army—with the exception of General Hooker's grand division, held in reserve—was sent across. The battle was to be fought on the next day. The general plan was to make a vigorous attack with
our left upon Lee's right, about a mile below the town, seize the road in the rear of the hills, if possible, and compel the enemy to move out of the earth-works on the crest of the ridge by taking them in flank and reverse. If this movement should prove successful the right and centre were to move directly upon the heights and force the enemy into retreat. The plan of battle seemed both feasible and hopeful. Its success depended upon the celerity and vigor with which the opening attack was delivered, and the promptness and force with which it should be supported. By twelve o'clock, meridian, all the necessary dispositions were made by General Franklin, who held command upon the left, and the attack was made by General Meade's division, supported by General Gibbon's. It was gallantly, and for a moment successfully, delivered. The troops charged the enemy's position with great vigor, pierced the first, and very nearly reached the second line, breaking in pieces successively three brigades. General Gibbon's division hurried up in support. But now Jackson's corps of the enemy's army appeared upon the scene and our men were forced back. Reinforcements
were sadly needed, but reinforcements did not come. General Franklin had about 47,000 men—to speak correctly, 46,892—with 116 pieces of artillery, under his command. He sent Meade with 5,000 men to attack, and Gibbon with about as many more, to support. On the call for reinforcements, a brigade under General Ward was pushed forward. But it could do no more than help extricate the troops in front from their perilous position. At half-past one o'clock Burnside sent a written order to Franklin to advance with all his available force and carry the enemy's position in his front. The order was not obeyed, because, as Franklin says, “darkness would have overtaken us before we could reach the enemy.” He even called the order, if he is correctly reported, “the last resource of all weak generals: an attack along the whole line.” The movement from our left thus became a decided failure.
The attack made by the centre and right of our line, notwithstanding the discouraging result of the attack of the left wing, was well and bravely delivered. The ground was a somewhat broken plain and
was swept by the enemy's fire. As the success of this movement depended to a considerable degree upon the favorable issue of the attack made from our left, there was little hope of victory when that attack failed. But the men behaved with the utmost gallantry. They made most daring but inefficient charges upon the enemy's works, returning again and again to the attack. Through the short winter afternoon—long enough, indeed, to those who were engaged—the slope in rear of the town was a sheet of fire and a scene of carnage. It was like marching up the glacis of a fortress. The earth-works on the crest, the stone wall at “Marye's,” thundered with artillery and blazed with musketry. The Army of the Potomac—gallant, long-enduring and persistent—was held at bay till the sun went down and darkness shut out the fearful view. The battle closed with the disastrous defeat of our forces all along the line. Sumner and Hooker had done everything that man could do to retrieve the failure of our left, but that failure was decisive.
Yet our troops held their positions, and Burnside wished to renew the battle on the next day. He
would even have put himself at the head of the Ninth Corps and stormed the heights in person. The column was formed and ready. But the three grand division commanders dissuaded him from the attempt, and he finally—though with reluctance—gave it up. During the 14th and 15th our forces held the town, the wounded were sent to the rear, and a part of the dead were buried. On the night of the 16th, favored by storm and darkness, the army was silently withdrawn across the river without molestation, and the bridges were taken up. A month more of pleasant weather passed, and Burnside, by no means discouraged by his failure, prepared once more to try his strength with the foe. The fords above Falmouth were carefully examined, with a view to crossing the Rappahannock and giving battle to Lee upon his left flank. Meanwhile, Burnside visited Washington and had a long, free and frank conference with the President, the Secretary of War and the General-in-chief, in which the whole situation was fully discussed. He offered to resign, but Mr. Lincoln would not listen to such a proposal, and he returned to headquarters completely assured of the
confidence of the administration. Preparations were made for an immediate movement, in accordance with advice both verbal and in writing from General Halleck, and with his own disposition to actively engage the enemy. It was decided to cross the Rappahannock at Banks's Ford and United States Ford, with a view of turning Lee's left flank and obliging him to fight us in open field. The army moved out of its encampments on the 20th of January, 1863, reached the neighborhood of Banks's Ford—where the main body was to cross—about nightfall, and prepared to make the passage on the following morning. But soon after dark a furious storm burst upon the soldiers in bivouac. The rain fell in torrents, and soon reduced the roads to a mass of mud and mire. It was impossible to advance, and the movement, thus stopped by the elements, was given up. The army returned to camp as best it could, and immediately went into winter quarters. On the 25th of January, Burnside was relieved of the command and was succeeded by General Hooker, to whom he transferred it on the 26th. He immediately returned to his home in Providence, where he quietly remained till the middle of March.
None of General Burnside's friends would wish to disguise the fact that his command of the Army of the Potomac was a failure in execution, if not in administration. He did not himself desire to disguise it. His plans were good. They were substantially the same which Grant followed in his Virginia campaign of 1864. The main difference was that Grant's lines of march were more in the interior than those which Burnside proposed. The objective point was the same. Burnside designed to march by way of Bowling Green, which would bring him nearer the coast of Chesapeake Bay. He hoped to take his supplies with him, or to be supplied from Port Royal and other accessible points until he reached the James, when he could hold his communications with Washington directly by water. Had the pontons been ready at Falmouth, had his supplies been sent there to meet him on his arrival, had he been able to cross the Rappahannock, as he intended, and seize the hills in the rear of Fredericksburg, in all human probability his movement would have been successful. All the grand division commanders have expressed the opinion that he would have succeeded
had not this failure occurred at the very beginning. There was a great lack of energy somewhere in sending forward from Washington the bridge material. When the ponton-train was fairly in motion by land, it suffered many mishaps. The boats that were sent by water had no wagons. A series of accidents and delays occurred, and the army was fairly stranded on the north bank of the Rappahannock.
After the first failure many of the subordinate generals seemed to lose heart in the enterprise. The winter was coming on and they did not wish to move till spring. They hesitated about attacking Lee in his strong position. There were discussions and bickerings among different portions of the command which impaired the efficiency and seriously lowered the tone and morale of the army. There was a want of co-operation with the chief on the part of those who should have been most zealous and helpful. On the day of battle all these various influences were felt. It is not too much to say that General Franklin did not clearly understand what was expected of him, nor was he cordially or earnestly disposed to carry out the aggressive movement assigned to his
direction. He had a grand opportunity, but he had neither the heart nor the mind to improve it. The man who could publicly call his commanding officer “a weak general,” could not be expected to give him a hearty obedience, or a warm support. The wellplanned enterprise failed. That it would have succeeded in more favorable circumstances and under the influence of a stronger will, the campaign of 1864 afterwards proved.
There is other evidence, indeed, which comes from one of the chief actors in the scene, and which carries the weight of deliberate utterance and the assurance of the highest soldierly qualities of character. General Meade himself, in his evidence before the committee on the conduct of the war, expressed the opinion that a victory would have been gained had he been properly supported. In an address which he made a few months after the battle, he said in the course of his remarks: “I speak of Fredericksburg, where the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps crossed and led the advance, unaided and alone, up the heights, and held their position for half an hour, while the others crossed. Had they been followed and supported
by other troops, their courage that day would have won a victory.” That the enemy's line was pierced, was very rudely shaken, and on the point of being broken altogether, becomes clear from the accounts which have been published on the other side. The attack of General Meade was severe enough to call for the presence and the utmost exertion of Lee's best general, Stonewall Jackson, to repel it. His enthusiastic biographer says that he seemed possessed by the “genius of battle” in that hour of danger, “and his countenance glowed as from the glare of a great conflagration.” Other evidence of a similar character, and to the same purport, abounds. It comes from both sides, and there can be but little doubt, that had adequate support been promptly sent forward from our left wing, the fortunes of the day would have been different. A great victory was within our grasp.
But whatever may have been the cause of the failure, Burnside was not the man to shrink from taking upon himself the responsibility of it. He sought no shelter. His magnanimity shone out more conspicuously than ever. “For the failure I am responsible,”
he says. When relieved, he said to the President: “Neither you nor General Hooker will be a happier man than myself, if he shall gain a victory on the Rappahannock.” “Give your full and cordial support and co-operation to the brave and skillful general who is to command you,” he said to the army as he transferred his command. Nothing could be more generous, and nothing could be more characteristic. Nor were these words the formal expression which the occasion seemed to demand. I happened to be at headquarters during the time when his mind was mostly exercised in regard to the many trying matters connected with his failure. I had with him the very freest and fullest conversation. He would call me up in the morning, an hour or two before the camp was astir, and we would pace up and down the lines of tents, earnestly and frankly discussing the situation of affairs. While he was entirely outspoken, he was always generous and kind in the expression of his opinions of the officers of the army. I cannot recall a single word of unjust disparagement of the soldierly qualities even of those who were known to be lukewarm in their support
or lacking in their confidence in his judgment. I am sure that what he said in public was the expression of the genuine feeling of his heart. In the full light which beat upon him he was the same man as in the unreserved intercourse of private friendship. For he had nothing to conceal. He had no private enmities to cherish, as he had no private wrongs to redress. The enemy on the other side of the Rappahannock was the enemy of his country and not of himself. It happened while I was at Falmouth that some scouting party brought in among other things an intercepted letter addressed to Stonewall Jackson, from his wife or some friend of the family, announcing the birth of a child. It was promptly forwarded to its destination under a flag of truce, and its receipt was kindly and courteously acknowledged.
Moreover, I am well assured that there were not then, or afterwards, any feelings of personal injury towards those officers who had the most to do with thwarting his plans. He had contemplated a movement across the Rappahannock at a point about six or seven miles below Fredericksburg, to divert the
enemy's attention while General Averill with the cavalry was to make a raid upon the enemy's rear by way of the upper fords. This was in the last days of December, 1862. One or two officers, obtaining leave of absence, went directly to Washington, and, in an interview with the President, persuaded him that such a movement would be disastrous. The President was induced at once to telegraph an order that no movement be made without letting him know. The cavalry force had already started, and of course had to be recalled. Burnside was grievously disappointed, and immediately went to Washington (as I have said) to consult with the President and the Secretary of War. He then ascertained by what means his contemplated movement had been frustrated. It was a time when, if ever, a man would be justified in using the language of strong invective against those who had thus abused his confidence. But Burnside had an admirable self-control; and, though grieved and indignant, that he was hindered and baulked in this unworthy way, it was yet more on account of the injury that was done to the cause than of the indignity that was put upon
himself. I speak on this matter from personal knowledge, for I was with him at the time he went to Washington. He made a warm protest to the President against such practices, for he was strongly convinced that they were vastly prejudicial to the interests of the service. They were proofs of insubordination. But, what was worse in his eyes, they were unpatriotic and disloyal. His personal grievances were lost sight of in the greater injury that threatened the Republic if such acts were allowed to go unnoticed and unpunished. It was in this spirit that “order No. 8”—dismissing some officers from the service and relieving others from command in the Army of the Potomac—was written, but not issued. It may be accepted as the declaration more of a public principle than a personal intent. For what I would wish to emphasize is, that the keenest feeling that General Burnside had in the matter, was not personal. If ever there was a man or a public officer that was able to sink his private feeling in his service of the country's interest and welfare, Burnside was that man. It was an admirable and a very conspicuous feature in his character,
and it has been illustrated in so many ways and on so many fields, as to be stated here without a question or a doubt!
It is a grateful task to turn from discussions of this kind to scenes of more brilliant and successful adventure. General Burnside was assigned to the command of the Department of the Ohio on the 16th of March, 1863. He arrived at Cincinnati, the headquarters of the department, on the 23d, and assumed command on the 25th. He held the position until the 11th of December. Two divisions of the Ninth Corps were sent to him in April, and he thus had the pleasure of welcoming to his command his former companions in arms. The three important events of General Burnside's administration of the Department of the Ohio, were the arrest, trial and conviction of Clement L. Vallandigham for disloyalty to the government, the entire suppression of John Morgan's raid and the extinction of his force of partizans, and the deliverance of East Tennessee from the rule of the Southern Confederacy. An episode of the operations of this period was the participation of the Ninth Corps, under General Parke, in the capture of Vicksburg by General Grant.
The arrest of Vallandigham was one of those acts which a bold and loyal man is sometimes obliged to perform at the risk of transgressing the bounds of ordinary obedience to the strict letter of the law. There is no question that the speeches made before the arrest were calculated to weaken the power of the government, and were extremely disloyal, if not absolutely treasonable. In an address about the 1st of May, Mr. Vallandigham was unusually violent and vituperative. The President, the army, General Burnside and the general orders issued for maintaining the peace of the department, were the subjects of especial invective. The speaker was arrested on the night of the 4th and immediately taken to Cincinnati. He was at once tried by a military commission and sentenced to “confinement in some fortress of the United States * * * during the continuance of the war.” The sentence was approved by Burnside, and Vallandigham was ordered to be confined in Fort Warren. Meanwhile, application was made for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States Circuit Court, for the Southern District of Ohio. Learned counsel on both sides presented
the case before Judge Leavitt—a magistrate of thirty years’ standing. After patient hearing, the writ was refused. The President, however, with characteristic sagacity, commuted the sentence to one of banishment from loyal territory, and ordered Mr. Vallandigham to be sent beyond the lines of our armies, through General Rosecrans, then commanding at the front. The order was promptly obeyed. Mr. Lincoln rightly judged, that to the Confederacy the disloyal orator would be an unwelcome guest. He was coldly received, and he afterwards transferred himself to Canada, where he found an asylum till the last days of the war, when he was permitted to return home.
That which is interesting to us in this transaction, is the spirit in which Burnside carried it through to its end. He declared that he considered it his duty to “stop license and intemperate discussion, which tends to weaken the authority of the government and the army.” Speakers who attempted to inflame the passions of the populace by their disloyal utterances would be met by the strong hand of military power. “They must not use license,” said Burnside, “and
plead that they are exercising liberty. In this Department it cannot be done. I shall use all the power I have to break down such license, and I am sure I will be sustained by all honest men. At all events, I will have the consciousness, before God, of having done my duty to my country; and when I am swerved from the performance of that duty by any pressure, public or private, or by any prejudice, I will no longer be a man or a patriot.” There is no doubt, that the prompt and decisive action which was taken in this case, had a very tranquillizing effect throughout the Northwest. There had previously been many violent harangues, which, in the leniency of the government, had been overlooked. After the arrest of Vallandigham, these harangues practically ceased. It was found that the commander of the Department of the Ohio would not tolerate any such doings within the bounds of his jurisdiction. There were to be no enemies in the rear. Disloyalists at the North were to go to their own place. Even there—within the lines of the Southern army—they would not be cordially received. Men whose business was mainly to talk treason had no real standing
anywhere. Those who were engaged in a life and death struggle with the government did not wish for recruits whose chief weapon was their tongue. But such men did not care to fight, and so they sought safety in silence. The arrest of Vallandigham extinguished the entire brood.
General John H. Morgan was an intrepid and active partizan, and during the month of July he made a raid through the southern counties of Indiana and Ohio, which at one time threatened very serious results. Morgan, with a force of two or three thousand mounted men and four pieces of artillery, broke through our lines in Kentucky on the 2d of July. Pushing forward, not without opposition, he reached the Ohio river at Brandenburgh on the 8th, and capturing two steamers, he ferried his command across, and, having placed his men and animals safely on the Indiana side, burnt his transports. For a time, it seemed as though he was about to do a vast deal of mischief. But Burnside had already organized pursuing forces which followed closely upon his heels, patrolled the river with armed boats, employed the militia that were available, arranged a system of defence
for the towns most seriously threatened, and, in fine, effectually hemmed in the daring raider. Morgan attempted to make his escape across the Ohio at different points, but was effectually baffled everywhere. He was hotly pursued through the lower range of counties, his rear, under Basil Duke, his second in command, was overtaken and captured on the 19th, another part of the band was taken on the 20th, and on the 27th, Morgan himself and the rest of the command were compelled to surrender. No similar enterprise on either side, during the war, came to such an inglorious end.
When the Department of the Ohio was organized, it comprised the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, with Eastern Kentucky and prospectively East Tennessee. The last named portion of the Department was still in the hands of the rebels. Burnside directed his attention to the relief and occupation of East Tennessee immediately upon taking command. In making a movement in this direction, two objects were held in view—to protect the left flank of General Rosecrans, who was operating in West Tennessee, and to deliver a loyal population
from a rule which had become both oppressive and hateful. Regarding this as of chief importance in the administration of his department, Burnside received authority to organize the Twenty-third Corps, which he hoped to lead, with the two divisions of the Ninth Corps, over the mountains. His plans were formed, and, with the advice and co-operation of Generals Thomas and Rosecrans, preparations were early made to begin the movement. By the 2d of June, everything was ready, and headquarters were transferred from Cincinnati to Lexington. But on the 3d, orders came from Washington to send the Ninth to the re-inforcement of General Grant, who was then operating against Vicksburg. On the 4th, the Ninth, under General Parke, was started. It did excellent service in Mississippi, and received the thanks of General Grant. But its departure postponed the movement into East Tennessee, for a season. After the suppression of Morgan and his band, the project was taken up anew, and, at last, on the 16th of August, Burnside moved out from Lexington. The Ninth Corps had not yet returned to Kentucky, and the movement was made by the Twenty-third,
re-inforced by new levies from different portions of the Department. The design was to cross the Cumberland mountains by unfrequented roads and passes, which, owing to their difficulty, had been left unguarded by the enemy. Cutting loose from his communications, Burnside left Crab Orchard on the 21st of August, and on the 30th, arrived at Montgomery. The next two days were occupied in crossing the last ridge, and on the 1st of September the command marched into Kingston and proceeded at once to Knoxville, arriving there on the 3d. The army was divided into five columns, that were united at Montgomery, except the cavalry, which passed through Wheeler's Gap and occupied Knoxville on the 1st of September. The movement was an entire success. The enemy's general, Buckner, was completely surprised, but succeeded in getting off with most of his force, retreating southward in considerable haste, leaving behind a large amount of military stores and public property. Twenty-five hundred of the enemy, with eleven pieces of artillery, were left at Cumberland Gap without orders, and on the 9th of September, fell into Burnside's hands as prisoners of war.
This march over the Cumberland mountains takes rank among the most brilliant achievements of the war. It was the first time in the course of the struggle that an Union army had moved independently of its line of communication. Cavalry raids had been conducted on both sides with differing results. But this was an important movement of 18,000 men, not for inflicting a temporary injury, but for permanent occupation. It was effected with as much celerity as the nature of the ways and mountain paths would permit. The wagon trains were obliged to make a considerable detour to find suitable roads, while the troops on foot and horseback, clambered over the heights and through the gaps. Many of the horses and mules were broken down by the severity of the march, and the men were obliged to take to the drag-ropes to haul the artillery over the obstructions in the way. But every difficulty was cheerfully surmounted, the army descended into the valley and East Tennessee was conquered without a battle. Apart from the difficulties, the march was very picturesque. Officers and men recall with pleasure the scenes of beauty and grandeur which every mile
of progress disclosed. Their letters are very graphic and even enthusiastic in description of the country through which they passed.
But that which excited the most grateful feeling, was the very warm and cordial reception with which the troops were met. There were no more loyal people in the North than the people of East Tennessee. They felt that the coming of an Union army was indeed a deliverance. They welcomed Burnside with most joyful acclamations. There was a considerable number of East Tennessee soldiers in his army, and the scenes at their meeting with kinsmen, friends and neighbors, are spoken of as most affecting. The old flag, which had been hidden away, and in some instances, buried in the ground, was brought forth and floated from every staff. Knoxville was radiant with the stars and stripes. It was an hour of genuine triumph; and the satisfaction of having achieved this brilliant and in every way gratifying success, went far to compensate for the disappointment and gloom of the defeat at Fredericksburg. The real importance of the movement was also seen in the occupation of the railroad, which
was the connecting line of communication between the advanced armies of the enemy, east and west. Burnside received the thanks of the President for his great success.
During the next six weeks the valley of the Holston was occupied and the railroad destroyed as far eastward as the Virginia line. Early in October the Ninth Corps joined the little army and swelled its proportions to about 25,000 men. Before its arrival, the rebel General Bragg, re-inforced by Longstreet's corps from Lee's army in Virginia, defeated Rosecrans at Chickamauga and pushed him back to Chattanooga. Emboldened by this success, the government at Richmond determined to make a bold effort to recover East Tennessee, and sent Longstreet against Burnside. Meanwhile, General Grant had been placed in command of the military division of the Mississippi, and, relieving Rosecrans by Thomas, appointed Sherman to the command of the Department of the Tennessee, retaining Burnside in command at Knoxville. Longstreet first came in contact with our troops on the 14th of November, near Loudon, where a smart action took place with a favorable
result for our side. Burnside, however, in order to relieve Grant altogether from Longstreet's presence on his left flank, decided to withdraw to Knoxville. On the way, a severe engagement occurred on the 16th of November at Campbell's Station, in which the enemy was decidedly worsted. On the next day the march was resumed toward Knoxville, Longstreet following; and on the 18th there was another action near the town, which resulted in an advantage for our forces, under the immediate command of General Sanders—a very brilliant and promising officer—who was mortally wounded. The effect of these movements was to compel Longstreet to undertake the siege of Knoxville. The town itself was well fortified, and could only be carried by regular approaches. Longstreet sat down before it and began to lay his parallels, hoping to reduce the place by starvation. But on the 23d, 24th and 25th of November, the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge were fought, and Longstreet found it necessary to make an assault. The attack was delivered against Fort Sanders on the 29th of November, and was a complete and disastrous
failure. A day or two after this, Sherman was sent up the Tennessee river, and on the 5th of December, Longstreet raised the siege of Knoxville and retreated up the valley of the Holston, taking post near the Virginia line, but refraining from all offensive operations. The biographer of General Lee calls Longstreet's expedition to Knoxville an “unfortunate” one, and says that he was sent upon it by the folly of “President” Davis.
The successful defence of Knoxville brought the campaign in East Tennessee to an end. Burnside was relieved of the command of the Department of the Ohio by General Foster, on the 11th of December, and leaving Knoxville on the 14th, arrived at his home in Providence on the 23d. He had done an excellent and a very important work, and received therefor the thanks of Congress in a resolution approved by the President on the 28th of January, 1864. The occupation of East Tennessee was an effectual protection to the left flank of the army operating towards Atlanta. The deliverance of the people from the rule of the rebel government was a signal benefit for which they could not be too grateful,
and no name is dearer to them now than Burnside's. The success of the whole movement, from beginning to end, reflecting the highest honor upon the gallant leader, was yet modestly disclaimed by him, with characteristic generosity, in favor of “the under officers and the men in the ranks.” Those officers and men, speaking through Major Burrage, of the Thirty-sixth Massachusetts, declare that they will ever be proud to say: “We fought with Burnside at Campbell's Station and in the trenches at Knoxville.”
It was while Burnside was at Knoxville that he conceived and submitted to the authorities at Washington a plan for a march to the sea. He stated it in brief as follows: “To move on the south side of the Tennessee, through Athens, Columbus and Benton, past the right flank of the enemy, sending a body of cavalry along the railroad, or on its west side, to threaten the enemy's flank and cover the movement of the main body, which, consisting of 7,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry, will move rapidly down the line of the East Tennessee and Georgia railroad to Dalton, destroying the enemy's communications,
sending a cavalry force to Rome to destroy the machine works and powder mills at that place; the main body moving rapidly on the direct road to Atlanta, the railroad centre, and there entirely destroying the enemy's communications, breaking up the depots, etc.; thence moving to some point on the coast, where cover can be obtained, as shall be agreed upon. It is proposed to take no trains, but to live upon the country and the supplies at the enemy's depots, destroying such as we do not use. If followed by the enemy, as we undoubtedly shall be, Rosecrans will be relieved and enabled to advance, and from the celerity of our movement and the destruction of bridges, etc., in our rear, the chances of escaping material injury from pursuit, are in our favor. Our chief loss would probably be from stragglers.” This despatch to General Halleck was dated September 30, 1863. On the 2d of October, the reply came: “Distant expeditions into Georgia are not now contemplated.” A year later than this, namely, on the 21st of September, 1864, General Sherman had the plan, as he says, “in his mind's eye.” On the 26th of September he became “more positive
in his conviction, but was in doubt as to time and manner.” In the course of a day or two he was “perfectly convinced.” On the 29th, he telegraphed Halleck that he preferred “to make the movement on Milledgeville, Millen and Savannah.” On the 1st of October, he asked General Grant for permission to destroy Atlanta and march across Georgia to Savannah or Charleston. On the 2d of November, Grant telegraphed to him to “go on as he proposed,” and on the 16th of November, Sherman finally started from Atlanta on his memorable march to the sea. In my history of the Ninth Corps, I state that before General Grant came east to make his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac in the spring of 1864, he had already projected this movement in his mind. General Badeau, in his book on Grant's campaigns, makes the same statement. On the 13th of January, 1864, Grant wrote to Halleck: “I look upon the next line for me to secure to be that from Chattanooga to Mobile—Montgomery and Atlanta being intermediate points.” Had Burnside been allowed to elaborate his plan in detail, it would have been found to contain in it the
substance, at least, of that of Grant and Sherman. I do not put him in the rank of either of those two great commanders. He would not put himself there. I simply state the facts in the case to show that Burnside's suggestion of the movement antedates the other plans—one by nearly four months, the other by a year.
For some reason which I have not been able to ascertain, General Halleck conceived a strong feeling of distrust toward Burnside. He even thought that Burnside contemplated retreating from East Tennessee, or surrendering his army when Longstreet came against him. In this he was entirely mistaken. Throughout the whole of the anxious period after the battle of Chickamauga, Burnside never lost heart or courage. He believed that he could hold out until relief should come. He believed that he was helping Grant by drawing Longstreet to Knoxville and occupying him there. The event justified his opinion. Bragg was greatly weakened and Grant was able to gain a decisive victory. The whole movement was a complete success, and while it was in progress, Burnside had the satisfaction of receiving
from Grant, November 17th, a despatch containing the following words: “You are doing exactly what appears to be right.” I think that with such positive and unimpeachable testimony as that, we can safely leave the record of Burnside's operations in East Tennessee.
We come now to the last year of the great rebellion. Burnside was again assigned to duty as commander of the Ninth Corps, on the 7th of January, 1864. His especial task was to re-organize and recruit the corps to the number of 50,000 men, if that were possible. He was to have three white divisions, and, at his own request, a division of colored troops was added. He submitted a plan on the 26th of January for a coast-wise expedition to North Carolina, to complete the work which he had so well begun in 1862 by the reduction of Wilmington and the occupation of the entire state of North Carolina, or at least, such portions of it as would place the railroads and the lines of communication in the interior within our control. If this plan could be successfully carried out, Richmond would be evacuated and the army of Northern Virginia would fall a prey
to the strong and now well-hardened Army of the Potomac. For the next five or six weeks, Burnside was actively engaged in recruiting his corps, and on the 8th of March, Annapolis, Maryland, was designated as the rendezvous. Another month of incessant labor followed, and on the 11th of April Burnside left Providence for his last campaign. The two divisions of the Ninth that had been at Knoxville, came East in March, and by the 20th of April 25,000 men had been collected, organized, equipped, armed and made ready for immediate service. Burnside's plan for going to North Carolina had neither been accepted nor rejected, and up to the middle of April, the officers and men of the command fully expected to be sent upon that service. Being at Annapolis at the time, and in constant personal communication with the general, I have reason to believe that Burnside himself was not apprised of his destination till a few days previous to his reception of the order to march.
When that order came, it was to proceed to Virginia and guard the rear of the Army of the Potomac, holding the line from the Rapidan to the Potomac.
Burnside, with his staff and a few friends, went to Washington by rail, while General Willcox marched the corps. The column started on the 23d of April, and, on the night of the 24th, encamped a few miles outside of the city of Washington. On the morning of the 25th, the corps passed through the city, paying a marching salute to the President, who was stationed in a balcony of Willard's Hotel. It was a scene of great spirit and animation. The veterans of the corps, bearing the marks of their hard service, with their tattered flags—not one of which had ever fallen into the enemy's hands—were objects of the greatest interest. But when the colored division passed, the enthusiasm reached its height. The men themselves, slaves no longer, but freemen and soldiers of the Republic, when they caught sight of the President, could not restrain themselves. They shouted, cheered, swung their caps, and showed every mark of affection, esteem and joy. They saw in Mr. Lincoln the emancipator of their race. It was the first time that any considerable number of colored troops had passed through Washington, and their bearing and appearance drew
forth many expressions of commendation from the multitudes that filled the streets and from the President and his friends, who witnessed the march. The corps crossed Long Bridge and went into camp on the Virginia side of the river. The expectation of going down the coast was given up. The command was soon distributed along the Orange and Alexandria railroad, and headquarters were established at Warrenton. By the 1st of May, most of the command was drawn forward between the Rappahannock and Bull Run, and it became definitely settled that it was to operate in connection with the Army of the Potomac, and that its field of service would be in Virginia.
General Grant opened the bloody summer of 1864 by moving the Army of the Potomac from the Rapidan on the 3d of May, ordering the Ninth Corps to march with all possible despatch on the afternoon of the 4th. On the 5th, General Lee struck the Army of the Potomac in the entanglements of the Wilderness. Burnside was marching all this day to the reinforcement of Meade, then in immediate command, and reached the battle-field on the morning of the
6th. He found himself confronted by his familiar antagonist, Longstreet, and between the two opposing corps the contest was severe. In the course of the battle, Longstreet was wounded, and the advantage lay with our men. Burnside's arrival was very opportune, and Grant took occasion to speak of the movement of his corps to the scene of action as a “remarkable march.”
It is not my purpose—nor indeed is it necessary—to speak of the sanguinary battles that were fought between the opening of the campaign in the first days of May and the middle of June, when the army sat down in front of Petersburg and began the regular siege of that place. The fighting and manœuvering of the two contending armies, the battles and the marches, have all been sufficiently set forth. It is enough to say, that Burnside and his corps were engaged in every battle and every important movement from the Wilderness to Petersburg, and that their duty was always promptly and effectively done. In other respects the most notable act was one which capitally illustrated Burnside's magnanimity of character. At the beginning of the campaign, the Ninth
Corps was an independent command. There were, therefore, two distinct, although co-operative armies in the field. Burnside and Meade received their orders from Grant. It was an arrangement which was not altogether satisfactory to either party. Burnside saw its disadvantages and also the remedy. He was Meade's senior and superior in rank. But he was willing to waive all considerations of this kind, when he saw that the good of the service would be promoted by such a course. At his suggestion, therefore, General Grant, on the 25th of May, issued an order incorporating the Ninth Corps with the Army of the Potomac, and Burnside thus voluntarily came under the command of one who, in former days, had been a commander of one of his divisions. It certainly was an act of generosity which was very honorable at the time, and which we can now gratefully recall.
On the 18th of June, after three days’ fighting, our lines of siege were laid in front of Petersburg, the Ninth Corps occupying the salient—about one hundred and twenty-five yards from the enemy's position on Cemetery Hill. On the same day, the colored
division, which had been occupied in guarding the lines of communication since the army crossed the Rapidan, joined the corps. General Grant had at last secured a firm grasp upon the Army of Northern Virginia, and he held it in a position of which the abandonment would be the assurance of utter defeat. “The last ditch” had become a literal fact. The end of the rebellion was certainly drawing near. Could anything now be done to hasten it?
Among the Pennsylvania troops belonging to the Ninth Corps was a regiment that had been raised among the miners in Schuylkill County. Lieutenantcolonel Henry Pleasants, of this regiment, was an experienced mining engineer, and he conceived the bold project of running a mine from the position of the Ninth Corps to a point beneath the rebel works opposite, and when completed to explode it, with the hope that the enemy thus taken by surprise could be successfully attacked. After securing through the proper channels—though somewhat reluctantly given—the approval of the commanding general of the army, Lieutenant-colonel Pleasants began work at noon on the 25th of June. He completed
the excavation—having taken out 18,000 cubic feet of earth—on the 23d of July. The next few days were spent in charging, laying the fuses and tamping, and on the 28th of July the mine was ready for exploding.
It was Burnside's plan, immediately upon the explosion, to put in his colored division, supporting the attack by his white divisions—the corps itself being supported by other corps upon either flank. Upon gaining the crest of the works shaken by the explosion, the attacking columns would divide and take the enemy's line in reverse. The colored troops were drilled for two or three weeks with especial reference to the duty they were expected to perform, and their commanders carefully reconnoitred the ground. General Ferrero and his officers became quite enthusiastic in the prospect of service which promised distinction. But when this plan of attack was submitted to Generals Grant and Meade, they did not give to it their approval. General Grant afterwards had the frankness to say that he believed that, if General Burnside had put his colored division in front, “it would have been a success.” But at the time
when this opinion would have had weight, he disapproved that movement. The colored troops were distrusted at headquarters. The formation of the column of attack was not approved, and on the afternoon of the 29th of July, Burnside found that his plan of attack, which had been carefully studied and elaborated, must be given up. One of his white divisions—harassed and worn as they had been by the hard service of the summer and by the necessity of perpetual watching an enemy in very close proximity—must make the assault. Burnside allowed his division commanders to draw lots for the leading position. By an extraordinary fatality the lot fell upon General Ledlie—the least experienced and the least competent of the three. We can only look upon this mode of selection as an unfortunate error of judgment. Burnside should have given to his best and most trusted subordinate the duty of leading the attack. Thwarted in his first choice of the colored troops, he should have put the best of his white divisions forward. In cases of this kind it does not answer to trust to chance.
The mine was to have been exploded at 3½ o'clock
on the morning of the 30th. The fuses were ignited promptly, but the connections had become damp, and the fire would not communicate. The failure was remedied as speedily as possible, and at sixteen minutes before five o'clock, the mine was successfully sprung. An entire six-gun battery, and its garrison of two hundred men and more, with all their paraphernalia were thrown into the air and fell again in inextricable confusion. A huge chasm two hundred feet long, fifty feet wide and twenty-five feet deep, with sand, clay, broken gun-carriages, caissons and human beings remained—a scene of ruin and desolation. The enemy was taken completely by surprise. “The troops in the immediate vicinity,” says the author of Lee and his Campaigns, “were considerably demoralized by the sudden and appalling explosion.” Ledlie's division was immediately ordered in and made for the breach. The troops entered the chasm, but by some unhappy error they were permitted by their leaders to remain there. In point of fact they had no leader, for General Ledlie did not go with his command. Whether they were surprised themselves by the havoc that had been
made, or were disposed to stop and make captures of the half-buried men who were crying for help; whether there was any misunderstanding of orders, or some strange feebleness of will in the immediate direction fell upon them and paralyzed their efforts for the moment, we cannot tell. “Had they advanced beyond the crater,” says the author I have just quoted, “they might have carried the line, for the Confederates had not yet recovered from their surprise. To the astonishment of every one,” he adds, “they huddled into the crater and sought shelter there and behind the breastworks.” Other troops were at once sent in, and last of all, the colored division. But they all, with the exception of Potter's division and the colored troops, crowded down into the crater at once. Potter and Ferrero got their commands beyond, but they were speedily driven back, and, mingling with the others, increased the confusion. All accounts agree, that if the leading division had made at once for the crest of the hill beyond, the rebel line would have been broken, and the other divisions following in support would have, in all probability, won a decisive victory. But after
the first half hour had passed, and the enemy had recovered from his surprise, while the troops remained in the crater without advancing, the day was hopelessly lost. It would seem, however, that some strong demonstration might have been made by those portions of our army that were formed on either flank of the Ninth Corps, by which the suffering troops in the crater could have been extricated from their deadly position. General Meade declined to go to the front, although solicited to do so by General Burnside and other officers. Grant went forward, and seeing how hopeless the enterprise was, ordered the withdrawal of the troops. Thus ended in disaster what, in its inception, was as promising an attack as the Army of the Potomac ever made. The disagreement between the generals in -regard to the plan of attack before it was made, was extremely unfortunate. General Meade was punctilious, and, as General Badeau says, lost his temper on the day of battle. General Burnside naturally felt great chagrin that his arrangements, which he had carefully made, should be so completely set aside within twelve hours of the time at which the attack was to be
made. Still he loyally set himself to the task and would have accomplished it had not the leading division delayed too long in its advance. It could hardly have been expected that Burnside himself would lead the way. A court of inquiry investigated the matter and blamed Burnside and several of his officers by name. The committee on the conduct of the war subsequently took up the case and exonerated Burnside. General Grant, in his testimony, blamed not only General Ledlie for his inefficiency, but also “his seniors, for not seeing that he did his duty, all the way up to” himself. He considered the operation as most promising in results. “Such an opportunity for carrying fortifications,” said he, “I have never seen, and do not expect again to have.” It is a significant fact, nevertheless, that it was with great difficulty that Lieutenant-colonel Pleasants could obtain approval at headquarters for the project of mining the enemy's works.
This was the end of Burnside's military service. He was granted leave of absence on the 13th of August and immediately left the army for his home. Mr. Lincoln refused to accept his resignation, but on
the accession of Mr. Johnson, it was again tendered, and on the 15th of April, 1865, was finally accepted.
General Badeau, in his history of Grant's campaigns, bears witness to Burnside's “magnanimous cheerfulness” in the matter of waiving his rank when assigned to duty under Meade. “On every occasion during the war, when there was need, Burnside displayed the same heroic self-abnegation. His ability has been questioned, his strategy criticized, and sometimes even his vigor denied; but the purity of his patriotism and the loftiness of his public spirit were unsurpassed.” Badeau acknowledges that his criticisms of Burnside are more severe than any he had ever heard from Grant. That is very true, for Grant knew that much of the criticism was undeserved. The personal relations of the two men were always extremely cordial, and Grant had no more loyal supporter at any time than Burnside. Badeau feels impelled to say that no one more fully than himself “acknowledges or admires the unselfish patriotism” of Burnside, “and the lofty willingness which, even after the event of the mine, he displayed to subordinate his own interest to that of the army,
and his own reputation to the success of his cause. Despite his mistakes and his misfortunes, General Burnside's military career remains a credit to himself and his country, from the magnanimity and public virtue by which, on so many occasions, it was adorned.” It hardly seems necessary to repeat such language before an audience and in a community which has seen the lofty patriotism of Burnside conspicuously manifested on the most numerous and important occasions. It has its weight, however, as coming from one who was not especially friendly to any of the generals of the army except his own hero and his favorites. It is in pleasing contrast with the language of those tyros in the service, who show their incapacity of appreciating nobleness of character and their military ignorance by attempting to belittle Burnside and his deeds. The biographer of General Lee adds his meed of praise, and speaks earnestly and warmly of the noble qualities of Burnside in accepting the command of the Army of the Potomac, as shown in “the manliness with which he sought to save McClellan from his political enemies, and the modesty with which he met the tempting offer of his government.”
After the war was ended, General Burnside entered into business relations with some friends in Providence, in connection with the manufacture of locomotive engines. But wishing for more active employment, he began the construction of railroads in the states of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. I am quite sure that, at the time of entering upon this enterprise, he had no thought of engaging in public life; but the people of Rhode Island were desirous of expressing their interest and esteem for him, and demanded his election as their governor. He was nominated for the office March 30, 1866, was elected April 4th and was inaugurated May 29th. He held the office by successive re-elections for three years, and retired from it in 1869, having secured the entire approbation of the people of every political opinion. His administration was marked by an executive ability of a high order, and he was especially active and instrumental in obtaining from the general government the prompt acknowledgment and payment of the war claims of the state. His labors in behalf of the state were distinguished by fidelity and success, and were characterized by that generosity
and self-forgetfulness which were prominent in all his public career. If I mistake not, the state is even now indebted to him for a considerable amount of expenditures incurred by him in the discharge of his official duties, for which he forgot to reimburse himself.
In 1870 Burnside was in Europe, and this visit was notable for the attempt which he made to mediate between France and Germany, then engaged in war with each other. The German armies were besieging Paris in the autumn of 1870. Early in October, Burnside, with a friend, succeeded in getting through the lines of the opposing armies and became the medium of communication between the governments of France and Prussia. He endeavored very earnestly to arrange preliminaries of peace, but without avail. His interviews with Bismarck on one side and Jules Favre on the other side, although comparatively resultless, were yet very agreeable to all parties concerned, and he left upon these able diplomatists a deeply-marked impression of his intelligence and ability. He was successful in securing permission for a considerable number of Americans to leave Paris and to return
to their homes. On his return he resumed his business in New York and at the West. The railroad enterprises in which he was engaged were not, however, so successful as he had anticipated, and he finally decided to enter into public life.
Burnside's election as a senator of the United States was finally consummated, after a considerable struggle, on the 26th of January, 1875. He entered upon his duties on the 4th of March following. He was re-elected—almost without opposition—on the 9th of June, 1880, to serve a second term, beginning March 4th, 1881. Upon his first election as senator, he decided to make his residence in Bristol, and purchased a farm on the shore of Mount Hope Bay, to which he gave the name of his father, Edghill, and where he spent the intervals of his leisure between the sessions of Congress. He found in the labors which it gave him, a relaxation from the cares and duties of public life, and he made the house which he built upon it, the scene of a generous and cordial hospitality.
Scarcely had he entered upon his official career at Washington, when a very painful and distressing
disease, to which Mrs. Burnside had been for some time subject, developed itself with alarming rapidity. The newly-elected senator was called home and remained in close and watchful care over his wife until death ended her sufferings on the 10th of March, 1876. It was a very severe bereavement to Burnside. His wife had been to him in many trying circumstances and experiences a very great help and support. She was a woman of remarkable strength of character, and her death for a time unmanned him. The grief which he was thus called upon to endure, coupled with a severe sickness which now came upon himself, caused him for a time such depression of spirit as to induce him seriously to think of resigning his office. As the summer wore away he regained in a measure the tone and vigor both of body and mind, but there was thenceforth an undercurrent of sadness which gave a certain sombre tinge even to his brightest moments. While he never obtruded his grief, he yet never ceased to feel its influence, and it served to chasten his life by its secret presence.
In the circumstances of the case it was very natural
that Burnside should feel some diffidence and even self-distrust when he engaged in his senatorial duties. But he soon acquired a position of influence and usefulness and attracted the confidence and affectionate esteem of his associates. He held places on important committees—commerce, military affairs, and education and labor—and he was very faithful in all public service. The subjects which chiefly interested him were the extension and enlargement of our trade with foreign countries, the Monroe doctrine in its application to the construction of the Panama Canal, the increased efficiency of the army and the promotion of public education. To all these subjects he gave an intelligent consideration and an attentive study; and when they came up for discussion in the Senate he spoke upon them with clearness and force. He did not assume that he could equal the older, abler and more experienced members of the distinguished body to which he belonged. But in all matters which required the exercise of a self-forgetful patriotism and devotion to the public welfare, he was the unquestioned peer of the ablest. No man could be more free from the spirit of selfseeking
or from the influence of ulterior motives. His single-mindedness was conspicuous. His generosity to an opponent was marked. He knew his own rights and maintained them with self-respect. But he was careful not to encroach in any way on the rights of others. If in the heat of debate he let fall a word or an expression which had even the seeming of injustice, he was quick to acknowledge his error, and to retrieve it. But instances of this kind were very rare, for he usually kept himself in admirable control. He thus won the warm regard of his fellow-senators, and had his life been spared he would have taken a place in the very front rank for usefulness, efficiency and patriotic service. Meanwhile, he was especially mindful of the interests of his state and the private business of his constituents. He forgot himself in all these matters and engaged personally in every labor which might conduce to their successful accomplishment. His army associates, his comrades in service, the widows and orphans of the soldiers who were under his command and had fallen in the strife, will long bless his memory. For they never had and they never will have
in Congress a more faithful and self-forgetful friend. The state of Rhode Island will never have a more devoted representative. The Republic will never have occasion to honor a more patriotic public servant!
I have thus told the story of this pure and honorable life. It is one on which our hearts love to dwell. It is one which our minds will long keep in remembrance. We have followed his career both with admiration and affection. For we have admired the chivalric generosity, the magnanimous surrender of personal feeling to the public good, the forgetfulness of private interests in the public service, the entire self-devotion to his country's cause, which made him the realized ideal of a genuine patriotism. We have loved the man for the nobleness of his aims, the kindness of his heart, his thoughtful considerateness for the humblest of his friends and dependents, his manly self-respect and modesty of bearing, his helpful benevolence, his trustfulness of spirit, and his faith in man and God.
We do not claim for him the possession of the
highest order of military genius. But he did have a certain quickness of apprehension and suggestiveness of mind in military affairs, which is surely kindred to genius. He would have occupied Wilmington when he descended upon the North Carolina coast, could he have been allowed a force sufficient for the enterprise. He urged the capture of Petersburg, when McClellan changed his base from the Chickahominy to the James. The subject of a march to the sea was submitted to the government before either Grant or Sherman had given expression to the thought of such an undertaking. The bold plan of a winter campaign through Virginia, from the Rappahannock to the James, was clearly settled in his mind as soon as he had accepted the command of the Army of the Potomac. The arrest of Vallandigham was in advance of the sentiment or the policy of the government, but was wholly in accord with the purest patriotism, and was really a military necessity. The march across the Cumberland mountains to the conquest and deliverance of East Tennessee was a masterly performance. And finally, the construction of the mine in front of Petersburg, according to the admission
of Grant himself, gave the Army of the Potomac the finest opportunity for a successful assault that that army ever had. That some of his plans should have failed is not to be taken to his discredit. In war there are many accidents and much uncertainty. One of Grant's finest movements in his last campaign—to mention no other instances—was almost completely foiled by a counter movement of a division of the enemy, made without orders, and even without the knowledge of the commanding general. This much is certain, that Burnside, when acting independently and with full freedom to carry out his plans, did win great and important successes. Even in his failures he still commanded the public confidence and gained a larger measure of public esteem. For in every station, whether in prosperous or in adverse fortune, the manly qualities of his character shone conspicuous—those qualities which a generous nation is quick to recognize and ready to appreciate.
That he should escape detraction was not to be expected. But from whatever quarter it came—from the jealous and puerile petulance that made its
exhibition on the floor of the Senate, or from the anonymous, hostile criticisms of the “Nation,” or from the sneering disparagement and unpardonable ignorance of the author of “The Antietam and Fredericksburg,” or from the wilful misrepresentation and falsehood that disfigure the pages of the “Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac,”—it had and still has no more effect upon the strength of his character, or the estimation in which he is held by his fellow-countrymen, than the waves that dash upon the cliffs of a rocky coast, or the wind that whistles through the branches of the sturdy oak. He was too strongly fixed in patriotic principle and is now too firmly held in a nation's honorable love to be disturbed by any such malevolence as this. A just and honest criticism we do not fear. Neither do we hesitate to invite it. For we are convinced that in it and through it all, will shine the purity of motive, the unselfish patriotism, the devotion to the public weal, the military ability and skill, the high and unstained heroism, in the country's service, which characterize the man whom his comrades and the people of our state have delighted to honor.
Side by side with the names of Greene and Perry and the worthiest of Rhode Island's sons, shall stand forever the name of Burnside—not native, indeed, and to the manner born, but loving the state which adopted him with as true a devotion and as firm and constant and loyal an affection as any whom she can call her own. Let the enduring bronze hand down his form and features to future generations. But more enduring still will be the monument which his grateful fellow citizens for long years to come will raise and keep sacred in their memories and hearts!