Soldiers of the First Brigade

Henry Kyd Douglass, I Rode With Stonewall. Pages 15-17.

“The Men were so restless and eager to see him once more before he left, that he consented to see and speak to them in a body. The Brigade on the 4th of November was drawn up in the rear of the Second regiment’s camp in column of regiments closed en masse. Accompanied by several of his staff Jackson rode up to the troops on “Little Sorrel.” he glanced at them for a moment over the silent ranks – they were as silent as if in church – took off his cap, and in his sharp earnest voice spoke to them thus:

“Officers and men of the First Brigade, I am not here to make a speech but simply to say farewell. I first met you at Harper’s Ferry in the commencement of the war, and I cannot take leave of you without giving _expression to my admiration of your conduct from that day to this, whether on the march, or in bivouac, the tented field, or on the bloody plains of Manassas, where you gained the well deserved reputation of having decided the fate of the battle. Throughout the broad extent of country over which you have marched, by your respect for the rights and property of citizens, you have shown that you were soldiers not only to defend, but able and willing to defend and protect. You have already gained a brilliant reputation, throughout the army of the whole Confederacy, and I trust in the future by your own deeds on the field, and by the assistance of the same Kind Providence who has heretofore favored our cause, that you will gain more victories, and add additional lustre to the reputation you now enjoy. You have already gained a proud position in the history of this our second War of Independence. I shall look with great anxiety to your future movements, and I trust whenever I hear of the First brigade on the field of battle it will be of still nobler deeds achieved and higher reputation won.”

He paused for an instant. He then rose in his stirrups, threw the reins upon the neck of his horse, and stretching out his gauntleted right hand he concluded in a voice that sent a thrill through all that presence:

“In the army of the Shenandoah you were the First Brigade; in the army of the Potomac you were the First Brigade; in the second corps of this army you are the First Brigade; you are the First Brigade in the affections of your General; and I hope by your future deeds and bearing you will be handed down to posterity as the First Brigade in our second War of Independence. Farewell!”

He ended and gently settled into his saddle. As he gathered up the reins slowly with his left hand and turned the horse’s head to depart, his old brigade could keep silence no longer and broke the air with one of those discordant yells, with which he was afterwards so familiar, and which he once pronounced “The sweetest music I have ever heard.” Unable to bear it calmly, he seized his old cap from his head and waving it to them galloped away; while the noise of their shouting still rang in his ears he disappeared from view and departed for his new field of labor and glory.”

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