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Lieutenant General Richard Stoddert Ewell

Lieutenant General Richard Stoddert Ewell
by
Richard Barksdale Harwell

Richard S. Ewell is a native of Prince William county, Virginia. We have not been able to ascertain the year of his birth; but, as he entered the Military Academy of West Point in 1836 and graduated in 1840, we presume he is somewhat turned of forty. He was appointed second lieutenant of cavalry by brevet on the 1st of July, 1840, and full second lieutenant the November following. On the 18th of September, 1845, he was made first lieutenant, and, with that rank, went into the Mexican war. He won his promotion to captain in the field, having received it for "gallant and meritorious conduct" in the battles of Contreras and Cherubusco.

Captain Ewell was among the first to cast his fortune with the South when his native State seceded. His first appearance .was at Fairfax Court house, when a party of cavalry were surprised by the enemy, and Governor Smith succeeded in rallying them. Ewell, we believe, had no command; but, when the alarm took place, he rushed into the street, in the very midst of the danger, and, by his energetic remonstrances and fearless exposure of his person, contributed greatly to prevent a catastrophe. With the rank of colonel, we next find him in command of the camp of instruction for cavalry at Ashland. His services here were invaluable and their effect has been felt throughout the war. His discipline was stern and rigid, but humane, and, out of raw mounted militia, he soon formed a most efficient body of troops. At the first battle of Manassas, Ewell, now a brigadier, was stationed with his cavalry on the right. In that position, he was detained all day, without participating in the dangers and glory of the fight. An order was sent to him to advance to Centreville, and fall upon the flank and rear of the enemy. That order never reached him. Had it arrived in time, the consequence would have been the capture of 20,000 men, the utter destruction of the Yankee army, and, in all probability, the eapture of Washington. Soon after this battle, Ewell was made a major-general and placed in command of a division.

Upon Jackson's retreat after the battle of Kernstown, Ewell was sent to re-inforce him. The two great soldiers seemed formed to act together. The utmost cordiality always existed between them. Each was too noble, too brave, too generous, to feel the slightest jealousy of the other. Upon all occasions, Jackson bore testimony to the invaluable services of Ewell; and Ewell, in return, always expressed the highest admiration for Jackson. In nearly all of Jackson's battles in the Valley, Ewell was a participant, and the part he bore was always prominent. At Port Republic, Ewell was pitted against Fremont, He routed him completely and clapped an extinguisher upon his pretensions to be considered a soldier. Since that time, Fremont has been continually sinking in the estimation of the Yankees, and has now at last found his level, as the chief of an army of negroes.

General Ewell was in all the battles around Richmond in which Jackson's corps was engaged. When the latter was ordered to the Piedmont country to chastise the miscreant Pope, Ewell was his right-hand man. He distinguished himself greatly in the battle of Cedar mountain, and was the life and soul of the march to Manassas. In the second battle of that name, he was so severely wounded in the leg, that amputation was rendered necessary. He bore the operation with great fortitude and even cheerfulness. As soon as he had sufficiently recovered, he was removed to Richmond, where, in the house of his friend, Dr. Hancock, who had been his surgeon on a former occasion, he lay several months, occasionally suffering great pain. Having finally recovered, he was made a lieutenant-general and placed in command of one-half of Jackson's old corps, out of which two had been formed, General A. P. Hill commanding the other. It is said that Jackson, on his death-bed, expressed his earnest desire that Ewell might be his successor. That he was correct in his estimate of Ewell's capacity for command has been rendered sufficiently evident. The capture of Winchester was one of the most magnificent achievements of the war, and places its author, at once, in the foremost rank of our generals.

Richard Barksdale Harwell, The War and Its Heroes: Illustrated (Richmond: Ayres & Wade, 1864), 56-19.

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