ROBERT E. RODES
ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA
Robert Emmett Rodes (March 29, 1829 - September 19, 1864) started his Confederate service as a Colonel in command of the 5th Alabama Infantry regiment, in the brigade commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, with which he first saw combat at the First Battle of Bull Run, He was promoted to brigadier general on October 21, 1861, and commanded a brigade under Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill.
In the Peninsula Campaign, Rodes was wounded in the arm at the Battle of Seven Pines and was assigned to light duty in the defenses of Richmond, Virginia, while he recuperated. He recovered in time for Gen. Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North, in September 1862, fighting at South Mountain and Antietam. At Antietam, he commanded one of two brigades that held out so long against the Union assault on the sunken road, or "Bloody Lane", at the center of the Confederate line, suffering heavy casualties. Rodes was lightly wounded by shell fragments.
In the Battle of Chancellorsville, Rodes was a division commander in Stonewall Jackson's corps. He was the first division-level commander in Lee's army who had not graduated from West Point. Rodes led Jackson's devastating flank attack against the Union XI Corps on May 2, 1863. He was temporarily placed in command of the corps that night when Jackson was mortally wounded and Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill was also wounded. Hill immediately summoned the more senior officer Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, and minutes later Rodes graciously ceded his battlefield command to him. Jackson on his deathbed recommended that Rodes be promoted to major general and this promotion be back-dated to be effective May 2.
When Lee reorganized the Army of Northern Virginia to compensate for the loss of Jackson, Rodes joined the Second Corps under Richard Ewell. In the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 1, 1863, Rodes led the assault south from Oak Hill against the right flank of the Union I Corps. Although he successfully routed the division of Maj. Gen. John C. Robinson and drove it back through the town, the attack was not as well coordinated or pursued as aggressively as his reputation would have implied. His division sat mostly idle for the remaining two days of the battle.
Rodes continued to fight with Ewell's corps through the 1864 Overland Campaign of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Ewell was replaced by Lt. Gen. Jubal Early and his corps was sent by Lee to the Shenandoah Valley to draw Union forces away from Petersburg, in the Valley Campaigns of 1864. They conducted a long and successful raid down the Valley, into Maryland, and reached the outskirts of Washington, D.C., before turning back. Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan was sent by Grant to drive Early from the Valley.
On September 19, 1864, Sheridan attacked the Confederates at the Battle of Opequon, also known as the Third Battle of Winchester. Several wives of Confederate officers were chased from town during the attack and Rodes managed to save Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon's wife from capture. Rodes and Gordon prepared to attack Sheridan's forces when Rodes was struck in the back of his head by a Union shell fragment. He died on the field outside Winchester.
Rodes was mourned by the Confederacy as a promising, brave, and aggressive officer killed before he could achieve greatness. Robert E. Lee and other high-ranking officers wrote sympathetic statements. Rodes is buried beside his brother, Virginius Hudson Rodes, who had been his adjutant throughout the War, in Presbyterian Cemetery, Lynchburg, Virginia. He was survived by his wife, Virginia Hortense Woodruff (1833-1907), and two children, Robert Emmet Rodes, Jr. (1863-1925) and Bell Yancey Rodes (1865-1931).
• Collins, Darrell, Major General Robert Rodes of the Army of Northern Virginia, Savas Beatie LLC, 2008, ISBN 978-1932714-09-8.
• Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
• Tagg, Larry, The Generals of Gettysburg, Savas Publishing, 1998, ISBN 1-882810-30-9.
• Robert E. Rodes at Find a Grave Retrieved on 2008-06-09
• Virginia Military Institute Archives, page for Robert E. Rodes, Class of 1848