Never Call Retreat: Lee and Grant: The Final Victory: A Novel of the Civil War

Never Call Retreat: Lee and Grant: The Final Victory: A Novel of the Civil War


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312342999
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 05/16/2006
Series: The Gettysburg Trilogy , #3
Edition description: REPRINT
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 406,785
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.15(d)

About the Author

NEWT GINGRICH, former Speaker of the House, bestselling author of Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor, the longest serving teacher of the Joint War Fighting Course for Major Generals at Air University, and an honorary Distinguished Visiting Scholar and Professor at the National Defense University. He resides in Virginia with his wife, Callista, with whom he hosts and produces documentaries, including "A City Upon A Hill".

Dr. William R. Forstchen is the author of over thirty works of historical fiction, science fiction, young adult works, and traditional historical research. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in military history from Purdue University.

Read an Excerpt

Never Call Retreat

Lee and Grant: The Final Victory

By Newt Gingrich, William R. Forstchen, Albert S. Hanser

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2005 Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0469-8


Carlisle, Pennsylvania

August 22, 1863
5:15 A.M.

Capt. Phil Duvall of the Third Virginia Cavalry, Fitz Lee's Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia, raced up the steps of the Carlisle Barracks, taking them two at a time. Reaching the top floor, he scrambled up a ladder to the small cupola that domed the building.

One of his men was already there, Sergeant Lucas, half squatting, eye to the telescope. As Duvall reached the top step of the ladder, Lucas stepped back from the telescope and looked down at him.

"It ain't good, sir."

Lucas offered him a hand, pulling his captain up. Phil looked around. Morning mist carpeted the valley around them. At any other time he would have just stood there for a long moment to soak in the view. It was a stunningly beautiful morning. The heat of the previous days had broken during the night as a line of thunderstorms marched down from the northwest. The air was fresh, the valley bathed in the indigo glow and deep shadows of approaching dawn. The sounds of an early summer morning floated about him, birds singing, someone nearby chopping wood, but mingled in was another sound.

He squatted down, putting his eye to the telescope, squinting, adjusting the focus. He saw nothing but mist, then, after several seconds, a flash of light. It was hard to distinguish, but long seconds later a distant pop echoed, then another.

He stood back up, taking out his field glasses, focusing them on the same spot. With their broader sweep he could now see them, antlike, deployed in open line, mounted, crossing a pasture at a trot, their uniforms almost black in the early morning light ... Yankee cavalry, a skirmish line ... behind them, a half mile back, what looked to be a mounted regiment in column on the Cumberland Valley Pike.

He lowered his glasses and looked down at the parade ground in front of the barracks. His troopers were already falling in, saddling mounts, scrambling about.

"Lucas, get down there and tell the boys they got ten minutes to pack up."

"We gonna fight 'em?"

Phil looked at him.

"Are you insane? That's at least a regiment out there. Now tell 'em they got ten minutes to pack it up."

Lucas slid down the ladder, his boots echoing as he ran down the stairs.

Phil looked back to the east. He didn't need field glasses now. He could see them. The Yankee skirmishers were across the pasture, disappearing into a narrow stretch of woods bordering a winding stream. A few more pops, and from the west side of the creek, half a dozen troopers emerged ... his boys. They were riding at full gallop, jumping a fence, coming out on the main pike.

Only six of them? There should be twenty or more. These were the boys at the forward picket just outside of Marysville. So the first rumor was true: They had been caught by surprise.

The Yankee skirmishers did not come out of the wood line in pursuit, reining in after emerging from the woods. There were a few flashes. One of his men slumped over in the saddle but managed to stay mounted. The mounted Yankee regiment on the road started to come forward, beginning to shake out from column into line, obviously preparing to rush the town.

He lowered his glasses and looked around one last time. It had been a lovely month here, duty easy, the locals not exactly friendly, but not hostile either. The land was rich, the food good, his mounts fattening on the rich grass, the bushels of oats, his men fattening as well.

Positioned here as an outpost they had missed the battles of the previous four weeks around Washington and Baltimore ... and he was glad of it.

As a West Pointer, class of 1861, he knew he should be of higher rank by now, but that did not bother him. He had seen enough of slaughter. Though others sought "recognition in dispatches" in order to gain promotions, that was a vainglorious game he felt to be childish. Staying alive and making sure his men stayed alive held a higher priority. Besides, Jeb Stuart trusted his judgment as a scout. That was recognition enough. Ever since Grant came east and started moving tens of thousands of troops into Harrisburg, it was his job to watch them from the other side of the river and report in with accurate assessments, and he had been doing that.

He had sent a report just yesterday that he suspected a move was about to begin on their part, and now it had indeed begun. What was surprising was the speed of it all. Carlisle was a dozen miles west of Harrisburg. Apparently, the Yankees had thrown a bridge across the river during the night and were now pushing forward with their cavalry to create a screen behind which their infantry would advance.

He ran his hand along the smooth polished brass tube of the telescope. There had been quiet evenings when he had used it to study the moon, the crescent of Venus, and now, on August mornings, before dawn, the belt of Orion.

Bring it along? It weighed a good thirty pounds.

Reluctantly he upended it, letting it tumble back down the stairwell, crashing on the floor below.

He took one last look, then slid down the ladder, boots echoing as he tromped down the stairs. Some men were running back into the building, darting into rooms, reemerging carrying some souvenir or keepsake picked up over the last month ... a banjo, a wall clock, a quilt. At the sight of this, he regretted the destruction of the telescope. After the war it would have been nice to have it back home in the valley and take it up Massanutten to watch the stars at night or gaze out across a Shenandoah peaceful once more.

He heard heavy steps coming up the stairs. It was Lieutenant Syms, the man he had assigned to their forward station at Marysville. Syms was gray-faced, wincing with each step, his right calf bleeding, boot punctured by a ball.

"Damn it, Syms. Where the hell have you been?" Phil shouted.

"Sir, I'm sorry, sir. Didn't you get our report by wire?"

"Only part of it."

Phil stuck his head into the telegraphy station they had established on the second floor of the barracks.

Sergeant Billings was sitting by the key, looking at him calmly, awaiting orders.

"Read what Syms wired."

Billings picked up a scrap of paper.

"This came through at two-ten this morning. 'Pontoon bridge across river. Cavalry ...'"

Billings looked back up.

"That was it, sir."

Syms shook his head.

"Damn all. I'm sorry, sir. They slipped some troopers across. Cut the line behind us before we could get more out."

"In other words, they caught you by surprise."

Syms was always straightforward, and after only a second's hesitation he reluctantly nodded his head in agreement.

"Something like that, sir."

"So what the hell is going on?"

"They jumped us at our headquarters. Ten of us got out. I sent a few boys down to the river, and in the confusion they were able to see that one bridge was already across and infantry on it. A civilian, reliable, he's been in our pay, told one of my boys that it was Ord's Corps leading the crossing."

"Do you believe that?"

"Yes, sir. I caught a glimpse of the bridge as we pulled out."

"How did you see it in the dark?"

"It was lined with torches, sir. I could see infantry on it. A long column clear back across the river into Harrisburg."

How did the Yankees get a bridge across the Susquehanna so quickly? They must have built sections of it upstream and floated them down once it got dark. He suspected that Syms and his boys were truly asleep, from too much drink, if they let that get past them.

Duvall sighed and looked at Sergeant Billings.

"Send the following to headquarters: 'Grant started crossing Susquehanna shortly after midnight. Ord's Corps in the lead.'"

Gunfire outside interrupted his thoughts. He looked up and saw what was left of Sym's detachment galloping onto the parade ground: one trooper leading the horse of a wounded comrade, who was slumped over in the saddle.

"'Believe Grant moving down this valley, heading south. Regiment or more of their cavalry about to storm Carlisle. Abandoning this post.' Now send it!"

Billings worked the key as Duvall went to the window and looked out. The Yankee cavalry were clearly visible on the main pike, deployed to either side of the road, forming a battlefront several hundred yards across. They were coming on cautiously, most likely not sure if this town was well garrisoned or not. Mounted skirmishers were now advancing less than a quarter mile away.

Billings finished sending the message, the confirm reply clicking back seconds later.

"Smash all this equipment, then get mounted," Duvall snapped, and he walked out of the room.

He reached the ground floor and saw three troopers upending cans of coal oil onto the floor, a sergeant holding a rolled-up newspaper, already striking a match.

"What the hell are you doing there, Sergeant?"

"Well, sir, this is Yankee government property, isn't it? Figured you'd want it torched."

The sergeant was grinning. There was something about arson that seemed to excite most young men, and the wanton destruction of this fine old barracks would be quite a blaze.

Duvall looked around, the corridor lined with old prints, lithographs of the war in Mexico, a portrait of Lincoln still hanging but the glass on it smashed, a rather scatological comment penciled across his brow. The barracks were a reminder that this was the oldest military post in the United States. It dated back to the French and Indian Wars.

The newspaper flared. The sergeant looked at him expectantly.

I grew up a little more than a hundred miles from here, Duvall thought. We were neighbors once, a sister even marrying a fine young man from the theological seminary down at Gettysburg. He had not heard from her in more than a year, not since her husband was killed at Second Manassas, fighting for the Yankees.

We were neighbors once.

"Sergeant," Duvall said quietly. "Don't."


"You heard me. Let it be."

The sergeant looked disappointed.

"Go out and mount up."

The sergeant nodded, carrying his flaming torch, tossing it by the doorstep, where it flickered and smoked, his disappointed assistants following. Billings came running down the stairs and out the door behind them.

Duvall took one last look, walked over to the smoldering paper and crushed it out with his heel, then stepped onto the porch. His command of a hundred men was mounted, many with revolvers drawn, expecting to be ordered to turn out on to the pike and face the Yankees head-on.

Syms was kneeling over the wounded trooper, shot in the back, lying on his side, blood dripping out.

"We leave him here," Duvall said. "They'll take care of him."

"Sir, forgot to tell you," Syms said, looking up at Phil. "Your old friend is over there."


"George Armstrong Custer. That's his brigade dogging us. I saw him in the lead."

George, it would have to be him. No one spoke. All knew that he and George had been roommates at West Point.

An orderly led up his mount, and Duvall climbed into the saddle, turned to face his men, and pointed south.

"Let's go, boys."

"We ain't fighting 'em?" Sergeant Lucas asked, coming up to Phil's side as they trotted across the parade ground, angling toward the road out of the south side of town.

Phil shook his head.

"Hell no, Sergeant. That's not a regiment out there, that's Grant and the entire Yankee army. Now let's go."

Washington, D.C.

August 22
6:00 A.M.

Maj. Ely Parker, aide-de-camp to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, turned off Pennsylvania Avenue and approached the east gate of the White House. A crowd milled about on the sidewalks, spilling into the streets. Guards lined the iron fence facing them. There was a low hum, as copies of newspapers, which had just hit the streets minutes before, were passed back and forth. He caught snatches of conversation. "Sickles is dead." "The rebs will be here by tomorrow I tell you ..."

At his approach a detachment swung the gate open, a captain stepping forward to block Ely's approach. Ely leaned over, showing a slip of paper.

"Bearing dispatches from General Grant," he whispered. The captain examined the note, nodded, stepped back, and saluted.

"Hey, who's the Injun they're letting in?" a civilian shouted. "Injuns and niggers, Abe's got a helluva an army, don't he?"

Ely knew he shouldn't, but he was just so damn fed up and tired. Being a full-blooded Seneca in the army, he had often drawn comments, which he knew how to deal with, usually by a cold stare. But this morning he was tired, damn tired and fed up. He turned his mount and stared straight at the man who had shouted the insult.

The crowd parted back to the offender.

"Got a problem there, Major?" the man asked.

"Injuns and niggers are dying for you," Ely said quietly. "And you stand out here taunting. If you don't like us, at least have the courage to put on a gray uniform and fight us like a man. You're a coward, sir, and if you don't like that, wait out here for me after I meet the president and we can discuss it further.

"Pistols, swords" — he paused — "or tomahawks."

The man paled. A flicker of laughter greeted Ely's comments. "Bully for you," someone shouted. The loud-mouthed civilian turned and stalked off. Applause rippled through the crowd.

Angry that he had allowed himself to be baited, Ely turned back and rode the last few feet to the entry to the White House, dismounting wearily.

The captain at the gate came to his side.

"Can you tell me what's going on, Major?" he asked curiously.

Ely shook his head.

"Sorry to ask, sir," the captain pressed. "Just the city's been crazy with rumors for two days now. Word is the entire Army of the Potomac was wiped out and Lee will be here by tomorrow. That crowd has been out there all night. A lot of them are like that fool you dealt with. I have my men standing by with loaded rifles."

Ely said nothing, just nodded as he walked up the steps to the door, a sergeant opened it for him. An elderly black servant, waiting inside, offered to take Ely's hat.

"I'm bearing dispatches from General Grant," Ely said. "Is the president available? I'm ordered to deliver these to him personally."

"He's awake, sir. In fact, been up most of the night. Could you wait here, please?"

Ely nodded. The servant turned and went up the stairs, returning less than a minute later.

"This way, sir."

Ely followed him, looking around with curiosity. It was his first time in the White House, in fact, the first time he would stand before a president. If not for all that he had seen the last few days, the enormity of what he was bearing with him, he knew he should be nervous, but he wasn't. If anything, he was angry, damn angry.

The servant knocked on a door and seconds later it opened. Ely was surprised to see that it was the president himself opening the door.

The man towered above him, dark eyes looking straight at Ely.

"Thank you, Jim," the president said, then extended his hand to Ely.

"Come on in, Major. I was hoping you or someone would come down from our General Grant. Are you hungry?"

Caught a bit off guard, Ely lied and said no.

"Jim, could you bring our guest a cup of coffee?"

Ely stepped into the office. One other person was in the room, shirt half open, tie off, sitting on a sofa by an open window.

"Major Parker, is it?" Lincoln asked.

"Yes, sir. I'm on General Grant's staff, sir."

"Congressman Elihu Washburne," Lincoln said, nodding toward Elihu, who stood up and offered his hand.

"So do you think you'll fight that duel with that Copperhead down on the street?" Elihu asked.

Ely looked at him with surprise, dark features flushing even darker.

Elihu chuckled and pointed toward the open window.

"I heard you're a Seneca," Elihu said.

"Yes, sir."

"Noble tribe," Lincoln said with a smile. "I'm glad you're on our side."

Lincoln motioned for Ely to sit down on the sofa alongside of Elihu while he sank into an overstuffed leather chair facing them.

Even as he sat down Ely reached into the haversack at his side and drew out a sealed package and handed it to the president.

"These come directly from General Grant," Ely said. "I should add, sir, I was with General Sickles during the fight on Gunpowder River. After being separated from Sickles I recrossed the Susquehanna where a courier from General Grant met me, handed over the dispatches you now have, with orders to deliver them to you personally."


Excerpted from Never Call Retreat by Newt Gingrich, William R. Forstchen, Albert S. Hanser. Copyright © 2005 Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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