Crab wrote only two paragraphs in his memoir about the winter of 1863-64, which followed the battle of Gettysburg.
The Army of Northern Virginia had set up winter quarters in and around Orange County, Virginia. The mapmakers called the place “Orange Court House.”
Crab wrote about an army in hardship:
We were inactive after [Gettysburg] generally, until the spring of 1864. Nothing of great interest occurred to me except much marching, sometime without shoes or very poor ones and often without provisions, except green corn or apples for several days at a time.
We wintered in 1863 near the Rappahannock near Culpepper Courthouse. General Lee knew it would soon be the scene of bloodshed and began to repair the roads so his army could travel
on them. As I said, I was an officer and was placed in charge of a pioneer corps and worked much on the roads. I would often get orders direct from Gen’l Lee, who would ride out often with his wife to see how I was progressing with the work.
One memorable event did occur during that lull. On April 29, 1864, General Lee welcomed General Longstreet and two divisions of the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia back
from Tennessee. Lee had detached these men in the fall of 1863, and they took part in the battles of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge.
“Lee honored our return to his command with a review,” wrote Longstreet’s chief of artillery, General E. Porter Alexander. Military Memoirs of a Confederate, p. 493 (New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons 1907, reprinted Da Capo Press 1993). “[N]o one who was present can ever forget the occasion.”
It was the only review Lee held after 1862. Alexander said, “He was not given to parades merely for show.”
The review did not include the Second and Third Corps of the army. Those two corps had never left Virginia. Thus Crab and Judge were not present.
“It is now over 40 years, but in imagination I can see to-day . . . .” Alexander wrote, “[a]s the well-remembered figure of Lee upon Traveller, at the head of his staff, rides between the posts and comes out upon the ground, the bugle sounds a signal, the guns thunder out a salute, Lee reins up Traveller and bares his good gray head and looks at us, and we give the ‘rebel yell’ and shout and cry and wave our flags and look at him once more.”
Gordon Rhea wrote that, “A bugle sounded, 13 cannon roared, caps flew high, flags dipped and waved, and drums and fifes struck up ‘Hail to the Chief.” Rhea, The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864 (L.S.U. Press 20014), p. 21.
Alexander, the eye-witness, wrote: “[A] wave of sentiment – something like what came a year later at Appomattox when[Lee] rode back from his meeting with Grant – seemed to sweep over the field. All felt the bond which held them together. There was no speaking, but the effect was as of a military sacrament.
A chaplain asked Lee’s aide-de-camp: “‘Does it not make the general proud to see how these men love him?’ [Colonel] Venable answered, ‘Not proud. It awes him.’” Military Memoirs, 494.
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