Wade Hampton: Confederate Warrior to Southern Redeemer

By Rod Andrew Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
LONG WINTER ON THE OCCOQUAN

Colonel Hampton had indeed performed well in his first battle. Early in the fray, in the absence of complete information or specific instructions, he had shown initiative by modifying the orders he had received from Beauregard and moving toward the exposed left flank. Nor was he too proud to take advice from more experienced officers like General Bee. He had used the available terrain well. After the arrival of Brigadier General Thomas Jackson, he apparently had shown less initiative. But by that time, Beauregard was on the field and Hampton’s men had already played a key role in preventing the Confederate retreat from becoming a rout. Finally, he had exhibited a trait that would become a trademark of his combat leadership throughout the war: coolness under pressure. Most importantly for his own confidence and for his reputation among his men, Hampton had shown that he was indeed worthy to bear his grandfather’s and father’s name.

Hampton’s superiors, West Pointers all, noticed. He was one of three colonels in the army whom Beauregard singled out in his official report for “soldierly ability” and for “restor[ing] the fortunes of the day.”1 General Johnston, to whom Hampton’s command officially belonged, reported that Hampton “rendered efficient service in maintaining the orderly character of the retreat.”2 On the evening after the battle, Beauregard escorted President Davis around the battlefield. The two of them stopped at Hampton’s tent, where they tried to outdo one another in heaping exultant praise on the heavily bandaged colonel. Hampton was profoundly embarrassed, hesitating to repeat their extravagant compliments even to his wife, lest he appear vain. It was not that Hampton minded the praise. Rather, as one historian explains, he was a man “of great natural reserve” and thus “made uneasy by effusion in others.”3 But Hampton was not the only hero—far from it. The press lionized Beauregard, and no unit commander received as much credit for the victory as Brigadier General Jackson, now christened “Stonewall” for his stand on Henry House Hill. Promotions for officers flew thick and fast in Virginia after the battle, but none arrived for Hampton. Colonels Jackson, Jubal Early, J. E. B. Stuart, and several others became brigadier generals many months before him.4

Hampton’s men certainly held him in high regard after the battle. If

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