STAPLETON CRUTCHFIELD, OF SPOTTSYLVANIA COUNTY, VIRGINIA; COLONEL, & CHIEF OF ARTILLERY, 2D CORPS, A.N.V.
The subject of this brief memoir was a distinguished graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. In common with many alumni of that State-fostered institution, he sealed with his life's blood the great principle of primary allegiance to his native State.
This highly-endowed and accomplished young Virginian, like numberless faithful sons of the "Old Dominion" who fell martyrs in her defense when iniquitously assailed, was of gentle blood and ancestral virtue. He also possessed personal qualities, intellectual and moral, of highest value, and had achieved, before the war, when scarce beyond the threshold of manhood, a position of extraordinary influence. The post of Adjunct Professor of Mathematics in the Virginia Military Institute, with the entire duties of the chair mainly on his shoulders, had been, in 1858, three years after his graduation, by a disinterested board of visitors, assigned him, on the strong recommendation of the superintendent and faculty, and with the sanction of the Governor of the State.
A year or two thereafter, the ever-encroaching spirit of Northern assumption, expressed in taxation pernicious to the Southern States, and in the hostile fury of abolitionism, assumed its war-aspect, under the political battle-cry invented by Mr. Seward, of "irrepressible conflict" between the institutions of the two sections, and adopted by Mr. Lincoln as the motto on his banner when elected President by the Northern multitude. The cotton States justly jealous, in view of menace so serious, fell back upon their original rights, never intended to be relinquished, but rather to be inviolably secured by the provisions of the Federal Constitutional compact, and formally withdrew from that compact on the ground that it had been violated on the other side, and was now used as a mere pretext for their ruin. Virginia, true to her history and relations, as sharing the interests and institutions of the South, yet also strongly attached to the compact of union, of which she was virtually the author, endeavored to interpose a wise mediatorship between the confidently threatening Northern mass and their government on the one side, and the defensively defiant Southern States on the other. Unhappily, the stronger section, misled by presumption into disregard of justice, and its government in Washington, inflated by power, would listen to no appeal for delay in behalf of conciliatory counsels. Utter submission by the weaker section to the entire demands of its mightier neighbor, or a vast outpouring of blood, was the single issue. On this, no people at all entitled to be regarded as Christian and free could hesitate, in reliance upon the Supreme arbiter of right, to accept the latter alternative. Mr. Lincoln's war-proclamation was accordingly issued. And Virginia, forced by it to decide between assailant and assailed, virtuously sided with the latter.
As became his lineage, his training, his intelligent patriotism, and his entire principles as a man and a Christian, young Crutchfield sprang, at such a crisis, as did every true Virginian, to the defense of his own, his native land. Nor did his honorable and efficient career as a patriot soldier end until a deadly shot terminated his life at the fatal pass of Sailor's Creek, between Petersburg and Appomattox, about four days before the death of "the lost cause," at the last-named locality. While we mourn the violent, early removal of one so young and well adapted to usefulness, we have, however, to rejoice that he went with "a good hope through grace," and that he was "taken from the evil to come." Incalculably less sad such a departure than the living death experienced in Virginia, and more dreadfully in States farther South, by thousands, who have survived to witness and bear the unrelaxing malice of the conquering section and its multitudes, and the relentless vengeance of their now all-powerful government.
To a brief memoir of this exemplary young Virginian, distinguished graduate and officer of the Virginia Military Institute, faithful soldier, and Christian martyr patriot, a few pages will now be devoted, giving some interesting details respecting his boyhood, student-life, religious character, scientific attainments, and military history.
For the account of his descent and childhood we are indebted to his only sister, the justly-honored daughter-in-law of that full compeer of the world's grandest human benefactors, the late noble Commodore Maury. This graceful tribute from a heart so true we give in its own touching language.
Stapleton Crutchfield was born June 21, 1835, at "Spring Forest," in Spottsylvania County, Virginia, the home of his paternal grandmother, then a widow with a large family, all under the care of her oldest child, Stapleton's father. His people were Minors. His grandmother (paternal) was Elizabeth Lewis Minor, of "Sunning Hill," Louisa County, who married Stapleton Crutchfield, a man largely loved and trusted in his own county of Spottsylvania, which he represented in the Virginia Legislature for a series of years. His maternal grandmother was Barbara Minor, of "Topping Castle," in Caroline County, who married William Kemp Gate wood, of Essex County, and lived at a beautiful home, "Ben Lomond," on the Rappahannock River. Here her eldest daughter, Susan Elizabeth Gatewood, was married, in 1833, to her up-country cousin, Oscar Minor Crutchfield, and left her river-side home with him for the plain country life of "Spring Forest." Her husband was their all in all to his widowed mother and fatherless brothers and sisters. He was also universally beloved throughout the county, and was returned to the Legislature by unanimous election for well-nigh thirty years. During all the later years of that extended term, moreover, he presided as Speaker over the deliberations of that body, with a felicity of administrative vigor rarely surpassed.
In the boy Stapleton's infancy, when on a visit to "Ben Lomond," he was baptized by Rev. John P. McGuire, his grandmother's and mother's pastor, that pastor himself becoming also a godfather to the dear child. It is delightful to believe that the "effectual, fervent prayers" of this "righteous man" were, long years after, with other agencies, of much "avail" in bringing the young man to a recognition of vows made in his Baptism, and thus becoming by choice "Christ's faithful soldier and servant unto his life's end."
He never knew when he could first read, so early was it in his childhood; and so fond was he of reading that not seldom was the derisive term "book-worm" applied to him.
When Stapleton was eight or nine years old, an uncle of his father's died and left to that father, his favorite nephew-Oscar, a comfortable home three miles from "Spring Forest" This bachelor uncle's residence was "the great house" of the district, being of fine red brick, with a slate roof, then regarded much as is now a "Mansard." To Stapleton and his, by this time, several brothers and one sister, this "Green Branch" was a paradise, with its mill and pond and meadows and orchards. There was a large carpenter's shop, too, where very creditable work was carried on for farm purposes, by one of the servants who had been trained to the business, and in this shop the lad Stapleton spent most of his time not given to books. He was always experimenting in mechanics, and succeeded in making an ingenious little combination of machinery to be worked by the stream at the foot of the hill, which to his admiring small companions, white and black, was very wonderful. "Even now," says his sister, "can I hear the music of its shrill little 'click, clack.' He then essayed a larger work, and with his own hands, by dint of patient industry, built a boat to be rowed up and down the mill-pond, a distance of a mile. To reward his labors, his delicate mother, fondly affectionate, sufficiently yielded her fears to allow herself to be cajoled into the ambitious young artisan's craft, and be paddled to the head of the pond among the water-lilies, and down again to the mill-dam.
With all his out-door life, his carpentering, his hunting, fishing, and rabbit-catching, which made existence to him then one long holiday, he failed not to find time for reading, and often spent a long summer's day, on the grass under the trees, devouring some book. During actual holidays, when schooldays had come, this mixed life of sport, work, and reading always returned with its endless resources and enjoyment
At about twelve, the self-cultivating boy was sent to a school some distance off, admirably conducted by an energetic kinswoman of the family, Miss E. H. Hill, who contrived judiciously to manage together a few girls and a number of boys. Stapleton was her acknowledged favorite, because of his uniformly correct deportment and studious habits. His mother, like most of her class in our dear Virginia, in spite of delicate health, a large household, and all the cares incident to farm-life, and notwithstanding, too, her son's manifold self-found avocations, had contrived so well herself to teach him, that wherever he went to school he proved most thorough in all he had learned.
Having stayed nearly two years at the "Mount Airy" school under Miss Hill, he was transferred to one of higher grades under the care of his good godfather, Rev. John P. McGuire, at Loretto, Essex County, Virginia. Here he took and maintained a high stand, and was thence transferred to the Virginia Military Institute, in August, 1851, being then just sixteen years old.
For some reason the isolated world of youths under rigid military forms, into the midst of which the boy of previous domestic training was now thrown, proved to him, at first, uncongenial and disadvantageous. At any rate, former propriety of conduct and habits of application gave way to indifference alike to lessons and to regulations. Under the strict discipline of the Military Institute, this state of things could not be long tolerated. Young Crutchfield was, therefore, after some months, sent home, as an unpromising subject for the educational system of a military school. The next year, however, not to distress his mother, he again sought admission into the Institute, was received into the lowest of its three classes, and entered upon that course of assiduous attention to duty, however distasteful, which, with his superior abilities and cultivation from childhood, could not but eventuate in his reaching and holding the first place in his class.
His mother and himself were all this while, until her removal from earthly trials, the dearest friends, and corresponded with such regularity and affection as deeply to impress the younger children. So full were his letters of life and love, and so neatly and fairly were they written, that by his mother they were greatly prized.
"When our dear mother was dying, in 1853," writes his sister, "and he was summoned home to see her, well do I remember his great grief. He begged she would give him a plain gold ring, with 'My Mother' engraven inside; and, as she put it on his finger, he voluntarily promised her never to touch the wine-cup, nor approach a gaming-table, snares destructive to so many men of bright prospects. This promise, it is believed, he kept with pious strictness to his dying day. Most touching was it to witness his sad sorrow the first summer he spent at home after our mother's death."
Having achieved two of the Institute classes with highest distinction, and being at the head of that to graduate within a year, our young friend, at about nineteen, received the compliment, due to his abilities, attainments, and worth, of being appointed acting Assistant Professor of Mathematics. In the summer of 1855, when just twenty years of age, he graduated at the Virginia Military Institute with the highest honors of his class, and was at once appointed Assistant Professor of Mathematics.
During the three years from the summer of 1855 to that of 1858 the young assistant professor performed most satisfactorily, and with increasing ability, the duties of his position, and at the end of that term, before the opening of the fall session of 1858, had conferred upon him the distinction, eminent, indeed, for a young man of only twenty-three, of being appointed full Professor (adjunct) of Mathematics in the Virginia Military Institute, with the entire duties of the chair resting mainly upon him. This honorable post, with diffused study, original investigation and production, and remarkable success, he filled until the war-cloud burst in 1861. At that time there were probably few men of his age on the continent of brighter promise.
It was during this interesting period of his life that occurred the most important event, perhaps, of his earthly history; viz., the revival of those early religious impressions which, received under a godly mother's prayerful teaching, and deepened at the devoutly-conducted schools with which he had been favored, had been well-nigh obliterated by that worldly habit of mind to which incautious mortals are prone, especially a crowd of heedless youths away from the blessed influences of home. Remarkable, instructive, and encouraging to all faithful exemplars and teachers of the revealed "way of life" was the process by which this superior young man was brought back to the narrow path conducting heavenward. He had been reading that racy and graphic, but not particularly serious, sketch of boy-life, under the wholesome influence of a great and Christian soul, though peculiar, like that of Dr. Arnold, "Tom Brown at Rugby." The sketch, so natural and vivid, replaced him, as it were, in his own school-life under the godly, loving care of his teacher friend, Rev. John P. McGuire, and thence bore him back to the pleading piety of his now sainted mother. The foundations of his spiritual being were stirred to their depths. Scripture and prayer were his resources under the strong convictions produced. Of one or two friends, and especially of the parish rector, he also sought counsel. The result was a cordial acceptance of the blessed gospel as the sure record of a Divine Redeemer, and personal application to the Lord for acceptance in the covenant of grace. In consequence, on a visitation of the parish soon after, he publicly ratified his infantile baptismal vows, as one of the confirmed by Bishop Johns, on the 26th June, 1859.
Thenceforward his life was that of a devout Christian and consistent, habitual communicant of the Church. He at once gladly accepted the superintendency of the parish Sunday-school, and, until called away, usefully discharged its duties.
In the early spring of 1861, war being virtually declared against the Southern States by Mr. Lincoln, representing the hostile passions of Northern and Western millions, Virginia and her children had, perforce, to prepare for her large share in the unequal contest, convinced, like her noble son General Lee, "that she had rights and principles to maintain, which she was bound to defend, even should she perish in the endeavor."
The superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute was immediately called to act as one of a State war-council of three in Richmond. Stonewall Jackson and his associates of the Virginia Military Institute and the corps of cadets were promptly ordered to that capital for specific duties. Very soon those duties were assigned in various directions. Jackson was dispatched to the critical point, as supposed, of Harper's Ferry, and raised to the rank of brigadier. Colonels Gilham and Williamson had committed to them important and appropriate service, and Prof. Crutchfield, invested with the nominal rank of major, was, for the preparatory months of April, May, and June, assigned to the useful, though not inviting, task of drilling and preparing for the field a large number of young men from the University of Virginia.
The collision of arms being evidently then at hand, all were naturally anxious to be in their right place for action; and Crutchfield's earnest appeal for effectual assignment was answered by his being, early in July, 1861, commissioned major of the 9th Regiment Virginia Artillery Volunteers, and ordered for duty therewith to Craney Island, a point then deemed of great importance for the protection of Norfolk, and committed to the command of Colonel F. H. Smith, Superintendent Virginia Military Institute, now made colonel of the Artillery Regiment, 9th Virginia Volunteers, of which Crutch-field was major, and assigned to the defense of that island fort, believed to be liable to early assault by ships seeking access to Virginia's ancient and chief seaport.
The force at Craney Island consisted of detachments from several regiments, besides a portion of the 9th Artillery. And as Colonel Smith, Lieutenant-Colonel Preston, and Major Crutchfield were all earnest Christian men, they divided the entire body into three communities for the purpose of separate religious instruction and worship, each ministering to his own charge with fervent and punctual zeal. Colonel Smith was afterwards honored by the Governor by being raised to the rank of brevet major-general of engineers.
After some experience of the course of events, it was found that the tug of war lay in other scenes than the bristling island thus occupied. Crutchfield, therefore, with the ardor belonging to his youth, temperament, and convictions, earnestly sought transfer to active field-service, and was, accordingly, by the Governor, after a month or two, appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 58th Regiment Virginia Infantry Volunteers, and ordered with it into West Virginia, where it was necessary to restrain disaffection, and remedy previous disaster, and where, in consequence, General R. E. Lee was now in chief command. The difficulties and hardships of the campaign in that quarter during the fall and winter told severely upon the constitution of our young colonel. It therefore became essential that he should have hospital care, and be sent inward on sick-leave. He was about this time obliged to decline the full colonelcy of the 16th Virginia Infantry Volunteers, to which he had been elected.
In the early spring of 1862, the invalid lieutenant-colonel was sufficiently recovered to be restless again for active service, and now found his congenial sphere. Stonewall Jackson, always extremely fond of Crutchfield, and holding him in high esteem, needed an efficient chief of artillery. Requisite communications passed on the subject, and the result was that the younger officer applied for by General Jackson was appointed colonel of artillery, ordered to report to General Jackson, and assigned to the important post of his chief of artillery. Arriving soon after the opening of that marvelous campaign of the grandest of all lieutenant-generals, Colonel Crutchfield, with the comprehensive vigor of his fertile and earnest mind, discharged with marked success the arduous duties devolving upon him, and contributed his full share to those bold, quick strokes of the master maneuver by which Fremont, Banks & Co. were sent reeling towards Washington, and the victorious 2d Corps was left free to make for McClellan's rear at Richmond with the speed almost as of steam, and to fall upon it with the suddenness and power of a thunderbolt Then in the sanguinary seven-days' conflicts, which broke the spirit of the misnamed young Napoleon and his hosts, and sent them crouching under cover of inaccessible gunboats far down James River, Crutchfield's genius and energy aided not a little the wondrous efficiency of Jackson's corps.
So, too, was it in the speedily-following Jacksonian chastisement of the adventurous political-General Schenck at Cedar Mountain, and of the ridiculously-boasting Pope at second Manassas. To Crutchfield's ever industrious and judicious management of his portion of that most complex arm, the artillery, with its manifold objects of attention, officers, men, guns, carriages, ammunition, horses, harness, and all corresponding necessary supplies, and the selection, besides, of battle positions, and having his telling arm well posted and plied therein, was due more than small credit for those great achievements. The same is also true of the capture of Harper's Ferry by Jackson in the late summer of 1862, under cover of General Lee's crossing the Potomac at Leesburg and feigning to menace Washington. Then in the bloody fight at Sharpsburg, amazing in the fact that twenty-seven thousand Confederates stunned and disabled nearly one hundred thousand Federals, the well-managed artillery contributed much to the mighty part performed by Jackson and his corps.
At Fredericksburg again, 13th December, 1862, Crutch-field and his artillery, with Jackson on the Confederate right, grandly aided the destructiveness with which that hero hurled back the immense multitude sent by Burnside to overpower that wing of General Lee's army.
Efficient in meeting the difficult questions of forage, etc., during the quiescence of an inclement winter, no less than in discharging all duty under the excitements of campaigning, our chief of artillery succeeded in keeping his arm in condition for service through the trying winter of 1862-63. So that on the opening of the contest with the great battle of Chancellorsville, May 2, 1863, he was ready, with a thoroughly-prepared artillery force, to accompany General Jackson, and to share with him the peril and the glory of there contributing so largely to the defeat of "fighting Joe" Hooker, with his thrice-overmatching numbers.
At priceless cost, even Jackson's life invaluable, it is known that great victory was purchased. And, though not at his side, yet, about the same moment, severely wounded was his faithful friend and trusted artillery chief, Colonel Crutchfield. From the field the same ambulance bore them together. Neither knew who was his fellow-sufferer until a few feint words on either side revealed them to each other.
While the wound of the immortal commander of the 2d Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, proved, after a few days, fatal, that of his able and efficient artillery chief was found to be, not indeed mortal, but a long while disabling. When sufficiently recovered from the great nervous shock to be removed any considerable distance, he was sent to Lexington for assiduous nursing, and to be under the skillful treatment of that eminent surgeon, Dr. McGuire, Sr., then post-surgeon at Lexington. For a number of months the shattered bones, nerves, etc., of the leg not only caused to the sufferer extreme and prostrating pain, but the remarkable slowness with which they seemed to take on healthy action toward readjustment and restoration, impressed the experienced surgeon with the conviction that his patient could never again be fit for field service. Under this state of facts the Board of Visitors of Virginia Military Institute unanimously elected the wounded colonel of artillery to the chair of Natural Philosophy, etc., which Stonewall Jackson's lamented death had left vacant, and it was by Colonel Crutchfield accepted under the idea that for field duty he was permanently disabled.
To the surprise of all, however, great improvement in his condition supervened, during the winter of 1863-64, so that feeling himself again adequate to duty with the army, he could no longer be persuaded to forego the presentation of himself for assignment to suitable service where most important. His old post was no longer open for resumption by him. On the death of the unmatched lieutenant-general who had commanded the 2d Corps, General Lee determined that of that corps, and of the 1st, commanded by Longstreet, there should be formed a third, of which General A. P. Hill should be the lieutenant-general commanding, while Long-street should, as before, command the 1st, and Lieu tenant-General Ewell the 2d. Colonel E. P. Alexander was promoted, and became brigadier-general and chief of artillery, 1st Corps. Colonel A. S. Long became, in like manner, brigadier-general and chief of artillery, 2d Corps, and Colonel R. L. Walker, brigadier-general and chief of artillery, 3d Corps.
No fit place thus remained with the army in the field for the efficient 2d Corps' chief of artillery, so long unavoidably absent that his post had necessarily been assigned to another; well-earned promotion also had he thereby failed to receive.
Richmond being constantly the objective-point aimed at by the Washington government and its army and navy of invasion, it was of course essential there should be always ready a sufficient and well-officered force defending the lines around this city. To the command of an important portion of these defenses was Colonel Crutchfield at once assigned, when in person he reported for duty to the adjutant-general, and requested some adequate and useful active service. Thus it was that he missed the great battles of 1864, from the Wilderness to second Cold Harbor, in which Grant with his two hundred thousand was so tremendously butchered and beaten off by General Lee and his primary fifty thousand. Still, in common with his fellow-defenders of the Richmond lines, on occasion, such as the cavalry dash after Stuart's death, to surprise and carry the works, etc., Crutchfield found need there for all that he possessed of sagacity, courage, and skill. Only by the exercise of such qualities on the part of his associates and himself were several such attempts at surprise and capture effectually frustrated.
When General Grant, marvelously outgeneraled by General Lee and beaten away down to City Point, yielded his famous purpose to " fight it out on" the direct " line" to Richmond, and substituted, therefore, the investment of Petersburg, the defensive line at Richmond became of even greater importance, inasmuch as general Lee's reduced force could spare but a handful to oppose the large threatening body which Grant might leave from his reinforced masses, shattered as they had been, on the north bank of James River. His main body it was essential General Lee should meet and counteract in their attempt upon Petersburg.
Active movements and vigorous fighting occurred from time to time on the Richmond lines, as well as on those around Petersburg, during the fall of 1864 and winter of 1865, and in these, so far as they involved his post of service, Colonel Crutchfield with the brave men, his companions, bore an efficient part.
Thus came the early spring of 1865, witnessing increase of want and diminution of strength in the Confederate men, individually, and in their numbers and ability as an army. The barbarous policy of devastation in productive districts which Grant, Sherman, etc., had adopted, and the kindred plan of giving five Federals for one Confederate, Grant's suggestion of genius, the notorious scheme of "attrition," were severely telling on the gallant defenders of the rights of their States, their altars, and their firesides, and reducing to dimensions wholly inadequate their organized army. The alternated line of over thirty miles from the northern side of Richmond around to the southern and western sides of Petersburg, affording in many places scarce one defender to ten paces, was, on the morning of Sunday, April 2, 1865, broken by a combined charge of the enemy at a point southwest of Petersburg.
Only the extraordinary genius, self-possession, and power of General Lee enabled him to hold at bay the enemy's surging masses at such an hour, and get his own troops, scattered as they were, within an interior line, which his foresight had provided. Within that line, however, they were, to a wonderful extent, securely gotten, so that again were the swollen numbers of his adversary effectually defied. Still, it was obvious the day had arrived for evacuating Petersburg, and with it, by consequence, Richmond. Dispatches were accordingly sent by General Lee to the Executive and War Department in Richmond, with requisition for abundant supplies to be sent by railroad to Amelia Court-House, whither the commanding general would hasten with his force, and where it was directed all the troops in and around Richmond should also rendezvous. There accordingly met, by Wednesday forenoon, April 5, 1865, all that remained of the glorious Army of Northern Virginia, including the gallant General Ewell, who had for some time been commanding at Richmond; General Custis Lee, with an important body of Richmond defenders, armed artisans, etc., and Colonel Crutchfield under them, controlling an extemporized brigade, and acting as brigadier.
From some cause no supplies, so essential for famishing men and animals, arrived, and there from resulted the greatest difficulties conceivable. Processes of relief had to be extemporized, which necessitated delay and correspondent loss of precious time, every moment of which should else have been employed in hastening to the mountains.
This loss of time was rendered more perilous by the fact that a dispatch from army headquarters to the authorities in Richmond, indicating General Lee's numbers and route, was in the city mislaid, and fell into the enemy's hands. The Confederate plan was therefore known, as otherwise it could not have been; and hence unusual activity characterized the enemy in driving forces ahead to obstruct the advance of our army on its ascertained route, and others in pursuit to harass, where possible, its obstructed rear.
From the nature of the case, the less seasoned and disciplined troops, from Richmond, under their commanders, interspersed with a few organized bodies of the hardy veterans of General Lee's long-tried army, had to bring up the rear. It was scarcely possible that men, so long mainly stationary, should keep up, in forced marches, with soldiers whom habit had rendered, under Jackson and others, entitled to the designation "foot cavalry." Thus it happened that while these latter, the more thoroughly trained portion of our army, had, for the most part, to push on with vigor at night, get into position, form line of battle, and fight all day, the less active portion, assisted by such of what might be termed the "regulars" of the Southern force as could be spared from the front, had to bring up the rear, which was supposed less likely to be assailed by any formidable array of the enemy. The inference was, no one dreaming of the secret of our course having been gotten by the enemy, through a dispatch mislaid in Richmond, that their main endeavor would be to obstruct our progress by a strong cavalry force, so as to allow the main body of the enemy to come up, as advised by the cavalry, and cut off our advance toward the mountains.
There proved, however, an obstruction in the way of the rear half of the Confederate column, which the knowledge possessed by the enemy prevented their overcoming with adequate promptness, and which placed them almost inevitably within the destructive power of an immense pursuing body of the enemy. That obstruction was the well-nigh impassable mud in the road and along all parallel tracks across the Valley, and at the defile road of Sailor's Creek, a small stream which empties into the Appomattox River. Much rain had fallen, rendering the passage of wagons, etc., everywhere difficult, and here, of course, peculiarly so. Moreover, the passage of all the leading half of our column, with its artillery and train, had rendered doubly difficult, and well-nigh impracticable, the miry Valley and defile of the Sailor's Creek passage.
Here, then, utterly hindered and unavoidably more or less confused, was all that portion of our column exposed to surrounding and overwhelming assault. And in this condition it was virtually surrounded and severely attacked.
Able and intrepid commanders did, in the emergency, all that could be achieved under such conditions with troops a number of whom were recently from hospitals and workshops. The gallant and maimed General Ewell, with accustomed vigor, directed preparations for meeting the enemy at all points. General Custis Lee, in personal command of the mixed organizations from Richmond, supervised the arrangement of them, and valiantly directed them in the fight, while General Richard Anderson, much confided in by General Lee, had special command of the trained troops assisting all that rear portion of our column.
Colonel Crutchfield, to whom had been committed a brigadier-general's command of the troops from Richmond, was at his post, faithfully endeavoring to preserve order under the severe pressure of enveloping attack. Confusion incident to such attack was becoming diffusive, and it was growing more and more evident some readjustment of forces must be promptly made. And having at hand no staff officer to send to General Custis Lee or General Ewell for orders and relief, the acting brigadier himself, after a moment's conference with Major Hardin, a fellow-graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, and gallant battalion commander, whom he saw near, efficiently using against the enemy his small force, put spurs to his horse and rode under a furious fire to find one of the generals commanding, and get, if possible, assistance for this exposed point, and explanation of plans for the future. This was the last known of him in life. A short time after he was found on the field, not far from where his conference with Major Hardin had occurred, shot through the head, and entirely lifeless. Before that night closed in the whole organized force there had been compelled to surrender. Generals Ewell and Custis Lee were prisoners, and such appliances as they had at the impracticable pass fell into the enemy's hands. None escaped but a few hundreds of tough, active, and resolute men, who, foreseeing the result, made good their exit, and reached the hard-fighting advance-half of what remained of the toil-worn and battle-reduced Army of Northern Virginia.
At the time of his tragic end Colonel Crutchfield was within a month or two of being thirty years old, and it may be with modest confidence affirmed that there was scarcely another man of his age on the continent who excelled him in mental endowments and scientific culture, in faithful gallantry as a patriot soldier, and in the exemplary performance of all relative duties. For six years he had been a devout, consistent, earnest Christian, marked alike by fervency, cheerfulness, and practical activity for others' welfare; and on the minds of his pious friends there can remain no shadow of doubt that his glorious death of momentary pain was a blessed release from miseries unnumbered, in his beloved Virginia and I her Southern sisters subjugated, and a joyful entrance upon the privileged condition of the "spirits of the just made perfect."
Rev. Wm. N. Pendleton, D.D. (Source: Biographical sketches of the Graduates and Eleves of the Virginia Military Institute who fell during the war between the States, by Chas. D. Walker. Published 1875. Transcribed by L. Rodriguez)
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