Part 6 out of 10
"He has recognized that I am under some secret restraint," Merwyn
thought, "and distrusts me at last. He probably thinks, with his
daughter, that I am afraid to go. Oh that I had a chance to prove
that I am, at least, not a coward! In some way I shall prove it
before many weeks pass."
At dinner, that evening, Mr. Vosburgh smiled significantly at
Marian, and said, "Who do you think called on me to-day?"
"Mr. Merwyn," she said, promptly.
"You are right. He came to offer--"
"Money," contemptuously completing her father's sentence.
"You evidently think you understand him. Perhaps you do; and I admit
that I felt much as you do, to-day, when he offered his purse to
the cause. I fear, however, that we are growing a little morbid on
this subject, and inclined to judgments too severe. You and I have
become like so many in the South. This conflict and its results
are everything to us, and we forget that we are surrounded by
hundreds of thousands who are loyal, but are not ready for very
"We are also surrounded by millions that are, and I cast in my lot
with these. If this is to be morbid, we have plenty of company."
"What I mean is, that we may be too hard upon those who do not
feel, and perhaps are not capable of feeling, as we do."
"O papa! you know the reason why Mr. Merwyn takes the course he
"I know what you think to be the reason, and you may be right. Your
explanation struck me with more force than ever to-day; and yet,
looking into the young fellow's face, it seems impossible. He
impresses me strangely, and awakens much curiosity as to his future
course. He asked if he could call as usual, and I, with ordinary
politeness, said, 'Certainly.' Indeed, there was a dignity about
the fellow that almost compelled the word. I don't know that we
have any occasion to regret it. He has done nothing to forfeit mere
courtesy on our part."
"Oh, no," said Marian, discontentedly; "but he irritates me. I wish
I had never known him, and that I might never meet him again. I am
more and more convinced that my theory about him is correct, and
while I pity him sincerely, the ever-present consciousness of his
fatal defect is more distressing--perhaps I should say, annoying--than if
he presented some strong physical deformity. He is such a superb
and mocking semblance of a man that I cannot even think of him
"Well, my dear, perhaps this is one of the minor sacrifices that
we must make for the cause. Until Merwyn can explain for himself,
he has no right to expect from us more than politeness. While I
would not take from him a loan for my individual work, I can induce
him to give much material help. In aiding Strahan, and in other
ways, he has done a great deal, and he is willing to do more. The
prospects are that everything will be needed, and I do not feel
like alienating one dollar or one bit of influence. According to
your theory his course is due to infirmity rather than to fault,
and so he should be tolerated, since he is doing the best he can.
Politeness to him will not compromise either our principles or
"Well, papa, I will do my best; but if he had a particle of my
intuition he would know how I feel. Indeed, I believe he does know
in some degree, and it seems to me that, if I were a man, I couldn't
face a woman while she entertained such an opinion."
"Perhaps the knowledge that you are wrong enables him to face you."
"If that were true he wouldn't be twenty-four hours in proving it."
"Well," said her father, with a grim laugh, and in a low voice,
"he may soon have a chance to show his mettle without going to
the front. Marian, I wish you would join your mother. The city is
fairly trembling with suppressed disloyalty. If Lee marches northward
I shall fear an explosion at any time."
"Leave the city!" said the young girl, hotly. "That would prove
that I possess the same traits that repel me so strongly in Mr.
Merwyn. No, I shall not leave your side this summer, unless you
compel me to almost by force. Have we not recently heard of two
Southern girls who cheered on their friends in battle with bullets
flying around them? After witnessing that scene, I should make
a pitiable figure in Captain Lane's eyes should I seek safety in
flight at the mere thought of danger. I should die with shame."
"It is well Captain Lane does not hear you, or the surgeon would
have fever to contend with, as well as wounds."
"O dear!" cried the girl. "I wish we could hear from him."
Mr. Vosburgh had nearly reached the conclusion that if the captain
survived the vicissitudes of the war he would not plead a second
time in vain.
A few evenings later Merwyn called. Mr. Vosburgh was out, and others
were in the drawing-room. Marian did not have much to say to him,
but treated him with her old, distant politeness. He felt her manner,
and saw the gulf that lay between them, but no one unacquainted with
the past would have recognized any lack of courtesy on her part.
Among the exciting topics broached was the possibility
of a counter-revolution at the North. Merwyn noticed that Marian
was reticent in regard to her father and his opinions, but he was
startled to hear her say that she would not be surprised if violent
outbreaks of disloyalty took place any hour, and he recognized her
courage in remaining in the city. One of the callers, an officer
in the Seventh Regiment, also spoke of the possibility of all the
militia being ordered away to aid in repelling invasion.
Merwyn listened attentively, but did not take a very active part in
the conversation, and went away with the words "counter-revolution"
and "invasion" ringing in his ears.
He became a close student of the progress of events, and, with his
sensitiveness in regard to the Vosburghs, adopted a measure that
taxed his courage. A day or two later he called on Mr. Vosburgh at
his office, and asked him out to lunch, saying that he was desirous
of obtaining some information.
Mr. Vosburgh complied readily, for he wished to give the young
man every chance to right himself, and he could not disguise the
fact that he felt a peculiar interest in the problem presented by
his daughter's unfortunate suitor. Merwyn was rather maladroit in
accounting for his questions in regard to the results of a counter
revolution, and gave the impression that he was solicitous about
Convinced that his entertainer was loyal from conviction and
feeling, as well as from the nature of his pecuniary interests,
Mr. Vosburgh spoke quite freely of the dangerous elements rapidly
developing at the North, and warned his host that, in his opinion,
the critical period of the struggle was approaching. Merwyn's grave,
troubled face and extreme reticence in respect to his own course
made an unfavorable impression, yet he was acting characteristically.
Trammelled as he was, he could not speak according to his natural
impulses. He felt that brave words, not enforced by corresponding
action, would be in wretched taste, and his hope was that by deeds
he could soon redeem himself. If there was a counter-revolution he
could soon find a post of danger without wearing the uniform of a
soldier or stepping on Southern soil, but he was not one to boast
of what he would do should such and such events take place. Moreover,
before the month elapsed he had reason to believe that he would
receive a letter from his mother giving him freedom. Therefore,
Mr. Vosburgh was left with all his old doubts and perplexities
unrelieved, and Marian's sinister theory was confirmed rather than
Merwyn, however, was no longer despondent. The swift march of events
might give him the opportunities he craved. He was too young not to
seize on the faintest hope offered by the future, and the present
period was one of reaction from the deep dejection that, for a
time, had almost paralyzed him in the country.
Even as a boy he had been a sportsman, and a good shot with gun,
rifle, and pistol, but now he began to perfect himself in the use
of the last-named weapon. He arranged the basement of his house in
such a way that he could practise with his revolvers, and he soon
became very proficient in the accuracy and quickness of his aim.
According to the press despatches of the day, there was much
uncertainty in regard to General Lee's movements and plans. Mr.
Vosburgh's means of information led him to believe that the rebel
army was coming North, and many others shared the fear; but as
late as June 15, so skilfully had the Confederate leader masked
his purposes, that, according to the latest published news, the
indications were that he intended to cross the Rappahannock near
Culpepper and inaugurate a campaign similar to the one that had
proved so disastrous to the Union cause the preceding summer.
On the morning of the 16th, however, the head-lines of the leading
journals startled the people through the North. The rebel advance
had occupied Chambersburg, Pa. The invasion was an accomplished
fact. The same journals contained a call from the President for
100,000 militia, of which the State of New York was to furnish
20,000. The excitement in Pennsylvania was intense, for not only
her capital, but her principal towns and cities were endangered.
The thick-flying rumors of the past few days received terrible
confirmation, and, while Lee's plans were still shrouded in mystery,
enough was known to awaken apprehension, while the very uncertainty
proved the prolific source of the most exaggerated and direful
stories. There was immense activity at the various armories, and
many regiments of the city militia expected orders to depart at
any hour. The metropolis was rocking with excitement, and wherever
men congregated there were eager faces and excited tones.
Behind his impassive manner, when he appeared in the street, no
one disguised deeper feeling, more eager hope, more sickening fear,
than Willard Merwyn. When would his mother's letter come? If this
crisis should pass and he take no part in it he feared that he
himself would be lost.
Since his last call upon Marian he felt that he could not see her
again until he could take some decided course; but if there were
blows to be struck by citizens at the North, or if his mother's
letter acceded to his wish, however grudgingly, he could act at
once, and on each new day he awoke with the hope that he might be
unchained before its close.
The 17th of June was a memorable day. The morning press brought
confirmation of Lee's northward advance. The men of the Quaker
City were turning out en masse, either to carry the musket or for
labor on fortifications, and it was announced that twelve regiments
of the New-York militia were under marching orders. The invasion
was the one topic of conversation. There was an immense revival
of patriotism, and recruiting at the armories went on rapidly. At
this outburst of popular feeling disloyalty shrunk out of sight for
a time, and apparently the invaders who had come north as allies
of the peace party created an uprising, as they had expected, but
it was hostile to them.
The people were reminded of the threats of the Southern leaders.
The speech of Jeff Davis in the winter of 1860-61 was quoted: "If
war should result from secession, it will not be our fields that
will witness its ravages, but those of the North."
The fact that this prediction was already fulfilled stung even the
half-hearted into action, and nerved the loyalty of others, and
when it became known that the gallant Seventh Regiment would march
down Broadway en route for Pennsylvania at noon, multitudes lined
the thoroughfare and greeted their defenders with acclamations.
Merwyn knew that Marian would witness the departure, and he watched
in the distance till he saw her emerge from her home and go to a
building on Broadway in which her father had secured her a place.
She was attended by an officer clad in the uniform of a service
so dear to her, but which HE had sworn never to wear. He hastily
secured a point of observation in a building opposite, for while
the vision of the young girl awakened almost desperate revolt at
his lot, he could not resist a lover's impulse to see her. Pale,
silent, absorbed, he saw her wave her handkerchief and smile at
her friends as they passed; he saw a white-haired old lady reach
out her hands in yearning love, an eloquent pantomime that indicated
that her sons were marching under her eyes, and then she sank back
into Marian's arms.
"Oh," groaned Merwyn, "if that were my mother I could give her a
love that would be almost worship."
"I'VE LOST MY CHANCE."
During the remainder of the 17th of June and for the next few days,
the militia regiments of New York and Brooklyn were departing for
the seat of war. The city was filled with conflicting rumors. On
the 19th it was said that the invaders were returning to Virginia.
The questions "Where is Lee, and what are his purposes? and what
is the army of the Potomac about?" were upon all lips.
On the 20th came the startling tidings of organized resistance to
the draft in Ohio, and of troops fired upon by the mob. Mr. Vosburgh
frowned heavily as he read the account at the breakfast-table and
said: "The test of my fears will come when the conscription begins
in this city, and it may come much sooner. I wish you to join your
mother before that day, Marian!"
"No," she said, quietly,--"not unless you compel, me to."
"I may be obliged to use my authority," said her father, after some
thought. "My mind is oppressed by a phase of danger not properly
realized. The city is being stripped of its loyal regiments, and
every element of mischief is left behind."
"Papa, I entreat you not to send me away while you remain. I assure
you that such a course would involve far greater danger to me than
staying with you, even though your fears should be realized. If
the worst should happen, I might escape all harm. If you do what
you threaten, I could not escape a wounded spirit."
"Well, my dear," said her father, gently, "I appreciate your courage
and devotion, and I should indeed miss you. We'll await further
Day after day passed, bringing no definite information. There were
reports of severe cavalry fighting in Virginia, but the position
of the main body of Lee's army was still practically unknown to the
people at large. On the 22d, a leading journal said, "The public
must, with patience, await events in Virginia, and remain in
ignorance until some decisive point is reached;" and on the 24th,
the head-lines of the press read, in effect, "Not much of importance
from Pennsylvania yesterday." The intense excitement caused by
the invasion was subsiding. People could not exist at the first
fever-heat. It was generally believed that Hooker's army had brought
Lee to a halt, and that the two commanders were manoeuvring for
positions. The fact was that the Confederates had an abundance of
congenial occupation in sending southward to their impoverished
commissary department the immense booty they were gathering among
the rich farms and towns of Pennsylvania. Hooker was seeking, by
the aid of his cavalry force and scouts, to penetrate his opponent's
plans, meanwhile hesitating whether to fall on the rebel communications
in their rear, or to follow northward.
Lee and his great army, flushed with recent victories, were not all
that Hooker had to contend with, but there was a man in Washington,
whose incapacity and ill-will threatened even more fatal difficulties.
Gen. Halleck, Commander-in-Chief, hung on the Union leader like
the "Old Man of the Sea." He misled the noble President, who,
as a civilian. was ignorant of military affairs, paralyzed tens
of thousands of troops by keeping them where they could be of no
practical use, and by giving them orders of which General Hooker
was not informed. The Comte de Paris writes, "Lee's projects could
not have been more efficiently subserved," and the disastrous defeat
of General Milroy confirms these words. It was a repetition of the
old story of General Miles of the preceding year, with the difference
that Milroy was a gallant, loyal man, who did all that a skilful
officer could accomplish to avert the results of his superior's
blundering and negligence.
Hooker was goaded into resigning, and of the army of the Potomac the
gifted French author again writes, "Everything seemed to conspire
against it, even the government, whose last hope it was;" adding
later: "Out of the 97,000 men thus divided (at Washington, Frederick,
Fortress Monroe, and neighboring points) there were 40,000, perfectly
useless where they were stationed, that might have been added to
the army of the Potomac before the 1st of July. Thus reinforced, the
Union general could have been certain of conquering his adversary,
and even of inflicting upon him an irreparable disaster."
The fortunes of the North were indeed trembling in the balance.
We had to cope with the ablest general of the South and his great
army, with the peace (?) faction that threatened bloody arguments
in the loyal States, and with General Halleck.
The people were asking: "Where is the army of the Potomac? What
can it be doing, that the invasion goes on so long unchecked?" At
Gettysburg this patient, longsuffering army gave its answer.
Meanwhile the North was brought face to face with the direst
possibilities, and its fears, which history has proved to be just,
were aroused to the last degree. The lull in the excitement which
had followed the first startling announcement of invasion was
broken by the wildest rumors and the sternest facts. The public
pulse again rose to fever-heat. Farmers were flying into Harrisburg,
before the advancing enemy; merchants were packing their goods
for shipment to the North; and the panic was so general that the
proposition was made to stop forcibly the flight of able-bodied
men from the Pennsylvanian capital.
As Mr. Vosburgh read these despatches in the morning paper, Marian
smiled satirically, and said: "You think that Mr. Merwyn is under
some powerful restraint. I doubt whether he would be restrained
from going north, should danger threaten this city."
And many believed, with good reason, that New York City was
threatened. Major-General Doubleday, in his clear, vigorous account
of this campaign writes: "Union spies who claimed to have counted
the rebel forces as they passed through Hagerstown made their
number to be 91,000 infantry and 280 guns. This statement, though
exaggerated, gained great credence, and added to the excitement of
the loyal people throughout the Northern States, while the disloyal
element was proportionately active and jubilant." Again he writes:
"There was wild commotion throughout the North, and people began to
feel that the boast of the Georgia Senator, Toombs, that he would
call the roll of his slaves at the foot of Bunker Hill Monument,
might soon be realized. The enemy seemed very near and the army of
the Potomac far away." Again: "The Southern people were bent upon
nothing else than the entire subjugation of the North and the
occupation of our principal cities."
These statements of sober history are but the true echoes of the
loud alarms of the hour. On the morning of the 20th of June, such
words as these were printed as the leading editorial of the New York
Tribune: "The rebels are coming North. All doubt seems at length
dispelled. Men of the North, Pennsylvanians, Jerseymen, New-Yorkers,
New-Englanders, the foe is at your doors! Are you true men or
traitors? brave men or cowards? If you are patriots, resolved and
deserving to be free, prove it by universal rallying, arming, and
marching to meet the foe. Prove it NOW!"
Marian, with flashing eyes and glowing cheeks, read to her father
this brief trumpet call, and then exclaimed: "Yes, the issue is
drawn so sharply now that no loyal man can hesitate, and to-day
Mr. Merwyn cannot help answering the question, 'Are you a brave
man or a coward?' O papa, to think that a MAN should be deaf to
such an appeal and shrink in such an emergency!"
At that very hour Merwyn sat alone in his elegant home, his face
buried in his hands, the very picture of dejection. Before him on
the table lay the journal from which he had read the same words
which Marian had applied to him in bitter scorn. An open letter
was also upon the table, and its contents had slain his hope. Mrs.
Merwyn had answered his appeal characteristically. "You evidently
need my presence," she wrote, "yet I will never believe that you
can violate your oath, unless your reason is dethroned. When you
forget that you have sworn by your father's memory and your mother's
honor, you must be wrecked indeed. I wonder at your blindness to
your own interests, and can see in it the influence which, in all
the past, has made some weak men reckless and forgetful of everything
except an unworthy passion. The armies of your Northern friends
have been defeated again and again. I have means of communication
with my Southern friends, and before the summer is over our gallant
leaders will dictate peace in the city where you dwell. What then
would become of the property which you so value, were it not for my
influence? My hope still is, that your infatuation will pass away
with your youth, and that your mind will become clear, so that
you can appreciate the future that might be yours. If I can only
protect you against yourself and designing people, all may yet be
well; and when our glorious South takes the foremost place among
the nations of the earth, my influence will be such that I can still
obtain for you rank and title, unless you now compromise yourself
by some unutterable folly. The crisis is approaching fast, and the
North will soon learn that, so far from subduing the South, it will
be subjugated and will gladly accept such terms as we may deem it
best to give. I have fulfilled my mission here. The leading classes
are with us in sympathy, and it will require but one or two more
victories like that of Chancellorsville to make England our open
ally. Then people of our birth and wealth will be the equals of the
English aristocracy, and your career can be as lofty as you choose
to make it. Then, with a gratitude beyond words, you will thank me
for my firmness, for you can aspire to the highest positions in an
empire such as the world has not seen before."
"No," said Merwyn, sternly, "if there is a free State left at the
North, I will work there with my own hands for a livelihood, rather
than have any part or lot in this Southern empire. Yet what can I
ever appear to be but a shrinking coward? An owner of slaves all
her life, my mother has made a slave of me. She has fettered my
very soul. Oh! if there are to be outbreaks at the North, let them
come soon, or I shall die under the weight of my chains."
The dark tide of invasion rose higher and higher. At last the tidings
came that Lee's whole army was in Pennsylvania, that Harrisburg
would be attacked before night, and that the enemy were threatening
Columbia on the northern bank of the Susquehanna, and would have
crossed the immense bridge which there spans the river, had it not
On the 27th, the Tribune contained the following editorial words:
"Now is the hour. Pennsylvania is at length arousing, we trust not
too late. We plead with the entire North to rush to the rescue; the
whole North is menaced through this invasion. It we do not stop it
at the Susquehanna, it will soon strike us on the Delaware, then
on the Hudson."
"My chance is coming," Merwyn muttered, grimly, as he read these
words. "If the answering counter-revolution does not begin during
the next few days, I shall take my rifle and fight as a citizen as
long as there is a rebel left on Northern soil."
The eyes of others were turned towards Pennsylvania; he scanned
the city in which he dwelt. He had abandoned all morbid brooding,
and sought by every means in his power to inform himself in regard
to the seething, disloyal elements that were now manifesting
themselves. From what Mr. Vosburgh had told him, and from what he
had discovered himself, he felt that any hour might witness bloody
co-operation at his very door with the army of invasion.
"Should this take place," he exclaimed, as he paced his room, "oh
that it might be my privilege, before I died, to perform some deed
that would convince Marian Vosburgh that I am not what she thinks
me to be!"
Each new day brought its portentous news. On the 30th of June, there
were accounts of intense excitement at Washington and Baltimore,
for the enemy had appeared almost at the suburbs of these cities.
In Baltimore, women rushed into the streets and besought protection.
New York throbbed and rocked with kindred excitement.
On July 3d, the loyal Tribune again sounded the note of deep alarm:
"These are times that try men's souls! The peril of our country's
overthrow is great and imminent. The triumph of the rebels
distinctly and unmistakably involves the downfall of republican
and representative institutions."
By a strange anomaly multitudes of the poor, the oppressed in other
lands, whose hope for the future was bound up in the cause of the
North, were arrayed against it. Their ignorance made them dupes
and tools, and enemies of human rights and progress were prompt to
use them. On the evening of this momentous 3d of July, a manifesto,
in the form of a handbill, was extensively circulated throughout
the city. Jeff Davis himself could not have written anything more
disloyal, more false, of the Union government and its aims, or
better calculated to incite bloody revolution in the North.
For the last few days the spirit of rebellion had been burning like
a fuse toward a vast magazine of human passion and intense hatred
of Northern measures and principles. If from Pennsylvania had come
in electric flash the words, "Meade defeated," the explosion would
have come almost instantly; but all now had learned that the army
of the Potomac had emerged from its obscurity, and had grappled
with the invading forces. Even the most reckless of the so-called
peace faction could afford to wait a few hours longer. As soon as
the shattered columns of Meade's army were in full retreat, the
Northern wing of the rebellion could act with confidence.
The Tribune, in commenting on the incendiary document distributed
on the evening of the 3d, spoke as follows: "That the more determined
sympathizers, in this vicinity, with the Southern rebels have, for
months, conspired and plotted to bring about a revolution is as
certain as the Civil War. Had Meade been defeated," etc.
The dramatic culmination of this awful hour of uncertainty may
be found in the speeches, on July 4th, of ex-President Franklin
Pierce, at Concord, N.H., and of Governor Seymour, in the Academy
of Music, at New York. The former spoke of "the mailed hand of
military usurpation in the North, striking down the liberties of
the people and trampling its foot on a desecrated Constitution."
He lauded Vallandigham, who was sent South for disloyalty, as "the
noble martyr of free speech." He declared the war to be fruitless,
and exclaimed: "You will take care of yourselves. With or without
arms, with or without leaders, we will at least, in the effort to
defend our rights, as a free people, build up a great mausoleum of
hearts, to which men who yearn for liberty will, in after years,
with bowed heads reverently resort as Christian pilgrims to the
shrines of the Holy Land."
Such were the shrines with which this man would have filled New
England. There is a better chance now, that a new and loyal Virginia
will some day build a monument to John Brown.
Governor Seymour's speech was similar in tenor, but more guarded.
In words of bitter irony toward the struggling government, whose
hands the peace faction were striving to paralyze, he began: "When
I accepted the invitation to speak with others, at this meeting,
we were promised the downfall of Vicksburg, the opening of the
Mississippi, the probable capture of the Confederate capital, and
the exhaustion of the rebellion. By common consent, all parties
had fixed upon this day when the results of the campaign should be
known. But, in the moment of expected victory, there came a midnight
cry for help from Pennsylvania, to save its despoiled fields from
the invading foe; and, almost within sight of this metropolis, the
ships of your merchants were burned to the water's edge. Parties
are exasperated and stand in almost defiant attitude toward each
"At the very hour," writes the historian Lossing, "when this ungenerous
taunt was uttered, Vicksburg and its dependences and vast spoils,
with more than thirty thousand Confederate captives, were in the
possession of General Grant; and the discomfited army of Lee, who,
when that sentence was written, was expected to lead his troops
victoriously to the Delaware, and perhaps to the Hudson, was flying
from Meade's troops, to find shelter from utter destruction beyond
Rarely has history reached a more dramatic climax, and seldom have
the great scenes of men's actions been more swiftly shifted.
Merwyn attended this great mass-meeting, and was silent when the
thousands applauded. In coming out he saw, while unobserved himself,
Mr. Vosburgh, and was struck by the proud, contemptuous expression
of his face. The government officer had listened with a cipher
telegram in his pocket informing him of Lee's repulse.
For the last twenty-four hours Merwyn had watched almost sleeplessly
for the outburst to take place. That strong, confident face indicated
no fears that it would ever take place.
A few hours later, he, and all, heard from the army of the Potomac.
When at last it became known that the Confederate army was in full
retreat, and, as the North then believed, would be either captured
or broken into flying fragments before reaching Virginia, Merwyn
faced what he believed to be his fate.
"The country is saved," he said. "There will be no revolution at the
North. Thank God for the sake of others, but I've lost my chance."
In June, especially during the latter part of the month, Strahan
and Blauvelt's letters to Marian had been brief and infrequent. The
duties of the young officers were heavy, and their fatigues great.
They could give her little information forecasting the future.
Indeed, General Hooker himself could not have done this, for all
was in uncertainty. Lee must be found and fought, and all that any
one knew was that the two great armies would eventually meet in
the decisive battle of the war.
The patient, heroic army of the Potomac, often defeated, but never
conquered, was between two dangers that can be scarcely overestimated,
the vast, confident hosts of Lee in Pennsylvania, and Halleck in
Washington. General Hooker was hampered, interfered with, deprived
of reinforcements that were kept in idleness elsewhere, and at
last relieved of command on the eve of battle, because he asked
that 11,000 men, useless at Harper's Ferry, might be placed under
his orders. That this was a mere pretext for his removal, and an
expression of Halleck's ill-will, is proved by the fact that General
Meade, his successor, immediately ordered the evacuation of Harper's
Ferry and was unrestrained and unrebuked. Meade, however, did not
unite these 11,000 men to his army, where they might have added
materially to his success, but left them far in his rear, a useless,
half-way measure possibly adopted to avoid displeasing Halleck.
It would seem that Providence itself assumed the guidance of this
longsuffering Union army, that had been so often led by incompetence
in the field and paralyzed by interference at Washington. Even the
philosophical historian, the Comte de Paris, admits this truth in
Neither Lee nor Meade knew where they should meet, and had under
consideration various plans of action, but, writes the French
historian, "The fortune of war cut short all these discussions by
bringing the two combatants into a field which neither had chosen."
Again, after describing the region of Gettysburg, he concludes:
"Such is the ground upon which unforeseen circumstances were about
to bring the two armies in hostile contact. Neither Meade nor Lee
had any personal knowledge of it."
Once more, after a vivid description of the first day's battle, in
which Buford with his cavalry division, Doubleday with the First
Corps, and Howard with the Eleventh, checked the rebel advance, but
at last, after heroic fighting, were overwhelmed and driven back
in a disorder which in some brigades resembled a rout, the Comte
de Paris recognizes, in the choice of position on which the Union
troops were rallied, something beyond the will and wisdom of man.
"A resistless impulse seems to spur it (the rebel army) on to battle.
It believes itself invincible. There is scorn of its adversary;
nearly all the Confederate generals have undergone the contagion.
Lee himself, the grave, impassive man, will some day acknowledge that
he has allowed himself to be influenced by these common illusions.
It seems that the God of Armies had designated for the Confederates
the lists where the supreme conflict must take place: they cheerfully
accept the alternative, without seeking for any other."
All the world knows now that the position in the "lists" thus
"designated" to the Union army was almost an equivalent for the
thousands of men kept idle and useless elsewhere. To a certain
extent the conditions of Fredericksburg are reversed, and the
Confederates, in turn, must storm lofty ridges lined with artillery.
Of those days of awful suspense, the 3d, 4th, and 5th of July, the
French historian gives but a faint idea in the following words: "In
the mean while, the North was anxiously awaiting for the results
of the great conflict. Uneasiness and excitement were perceptible
everywhere; terror prevailed in all those places believed to be
within reach of the invaders. Rumors and fear exaggerated their
number, and the remembrance of their success caused them to be
When, therefore, the tidings came, "The rebel army totally defeated,"
with other statements of the victory too highly colored, a burden
was lifted from loyal hearts which the young of this generation
cannot gauge; but with the abounding joy and gratitude there were
also, in the breasts of hundreds of thousands, sickening fear and
suspense which must remain until the fate of loved ones was known.
In too vivid fancy, wives and mothers saw a bloody field strewn with
still forms, and each one asked herself, "Could I go among these,
might I not recognize HIS features?"
But sorrow and fear shrink from public observation, while joy and
exultation seek open expression. Before the true magnitude of the
victory at Gettysburg could be realized, came the knowledge that
the nation's greatest soldier, General Grant, had taken Vicksburg
and opened the Mississippi.
Marian saw the deep gladness in her father's eyes and heard it in
his tones, and, while she shared in his gratitude and relief, her
heart was oppressed with solicitude for her friends. To her, who
had no near kindred in the war, these young men had become almost
as dear as brothers. She was conscious of their deep affection,
and she felt that there could be no rejoicing for her until she was
assured of their safety. All spoke of the battle of Gettysburg as
one of the most terrific combats of the world. Two of her friends
must have been in the thick of it. She read the blood-stained
accounts with paling cheeks, and at last saw the words, "Captain
Blauvelt, wounded; Major Strahan, wounded and missing."
This was all. There was room for hope; there was much cause to
fear the worst. From Lane there were no tidings whatever. She was
oppressed with the feeling that perhaps the frank, true eyes of
these loyal friends might never again look into her own. With a
chill of unspeakable dread she asked herself what her life would
be without these friends. Who could ever take their place or fill
the silence made by their hushed voices?
Since reading the details of the recent battle her irritation against
Merwyn had passed away, and she now felt for him only pity. Her
own brave spirit had been awed and overwhelmed by the accounts of
the terrific cannonade and the murderous hand-to-hand struggles.
At night she would start up from vivid dreams wherein she saw the
field with thousands of ghastly faces turned towards the white
moonlight. In her belief Merwyn was incapable of looking upon
such scenes. Therefore why should she think of him with scorn and
bitterness? She herself had never before realized how terrible
they were. Now that the dread emergency, with its imperative demand
for manhood and action, had passed, her heart became softened
and chastened with thoughts of death. She was enabled to form a
kinder judgment, and to believe it very possible that Merwyn, in
the consciousness of his weakness, was suffering more than many a
wounded man of sterner mettle.
On the evening of the day whereon she had read the ominous words
in regard to her friends, Merwyn's card was handed to her, and,
although surprised, she went down to meet him without hesitation.
His motives for this call need brief explanation.
For a time he had given way to the deepest dejection in regard to
his own prospects. There seemed nothing for him to do but wait for
the arrival of his mother, whom he could not welcome. He still had
a lingering hope that when she came and found her ambitious dreams
of Southern victory dissipated, she might be induced to give him
back his freedom, and on this hope he lived. But, in the main, he
was like one stunned and paralyzed by a blow, and for a time he
could not rally. He had been almost sleepless for days from intense
excitement and expectation, and the reaction was proportionately
great. At last he thought of Strahan, and telegraphed to Mrs.
Strahan, at her country place, asking if she had heard from her son.
Soon, after receiving a negative answer, he saw, in the long lists
of casualties, the brief, vague statement that Marian had found.
The thought then occurred to him that he might go to Gettysburg
and search for Strahan. Anything would be better than inaction.
He believed that he would have time to go and return before his
mother's arrival, and, if he did not, he would leave directions
for her reception. The prospect of doing something dispelled his
apathy, and the hope of being of service to his friend had decided
attractions, for he had now become sincerely attached to Strahan.
He therefore rapidly made his preparations to depart that very
night, but decided first to see Marian, thinking it possible that
she might have received some later intelligence. Therefore, although
very doubtful of his reception, he had ventured to call, hoping
that Marian's interest in her friend might secure for him a slight
semblance of welcome. He was relieved when she greeted him gravely,
quietly, but not coldly.
He at once stated his purpose, and asked if she had any information
that would guide him in his search. Although she shook her head
and told him that she knew nothing beyond what she had seen in the
paper, he saw with much satisfaction that her face lighted up with
hope and eagerness, and that she approved of his effort. While
explaining his intentions he had not sat down, but now she cordially
asked him to be seated and to give his plans more in detail.
"I fear you will find fearful confusion and difficulty in reaching
the field," she said.
"I have no fears," he replied. "I shall go by rail as far as possible,
then hire or purchase a horse. The first list of casualties is
always made up hastily, and I have strong hopes of finding Strahan
in one of the many extemporized hospitals, or, at least, of getting
some tidings of him."
"One thing is certain," she added, kindly,--"you have proved that
if you do find him, he will have a devoted nurse."
"I shall do my best for him," he replied, quietly. "If he has been
taken from the field and I can learn his whereabouts, I shall follow
The color caused by his first slight embarrassment had faded away,
and Marian exclaimed, "Mr. Merwyn, you are either ill or have been
"Oh, no," he said, carelessly; "I have only shared in the general
excitement and anxiety. I am satisfied that we have but barely
escaped a serious outbreak in this city."
"I think you are right," she answered, gravely, and her thought was:
"He is indeed to be pitied if a few weeks of fearful expectation have
made him so pale and haggard. It has probably cost him a tremendous
effort to remain in the city where he has so much at stake."
After a moment's silence Merwyn resumed: "I shall soon take my
train. Would you not like to write a few lines to Strahan? As I
told you, in effect, once before, they may prove the best possible
tonic in case I find him."
Marian, eager to comply with the suggestion, excused herself. In her
absence her father entered. He also greeted the young man kindly,
and, learning of his project, volunteered some useful instructions,
adding, "I can give you a few lines that may be of service."
At last Merwyn was about to depart, and Marian, for the first time,
gave him her hand and wished him "God-speed." He flushed deeply,
and there was a flash of pleasure in his dark eyes as he said, in
a low tone, that he would try to deserve her kindness.
At this moment there was a ring at the door, and a card was brought
in. Marian could scarcely believe her eyes, for on it was written,
She rushed to the door and welcomed the young officer with exclamations
of delight, and then added, eagerly, "Where is Mr. Strahan?"
"I am sorry indeed to tell you that I do not know," Blauvelt
replied, sadly. Then he hastily added: "But I am sure he was not
killed, for I have searched every part of the field where he could
possibly have fallen. I have visited the hospitals, and have spent
days and nights in inquiries. My belief now is that he was taken
"Then there is still hope!" exclaimed the young girl, with tears
in her eyes. "You surely believe there is still hope?"
"I certainly believe there is much reason for hope. The rebels
left their own seriously wounded men on the field, and took away
as prisoners only such of our men as were able to march. It is true
I saw Strahan fall just as we were driven back; but I am sure that
he was neither killed nor seriously wounded, for I went to the spot
as soon as possible afterwards and he was not there, nor have I
been able, since, to find him or obtain tidings of him. He may have
been knocked down by a piece of shell or a spent ball. A moment or
two later the enemy charged over the spot where he fell, and what
was left of our regiment was driven back some distance. From that
moment I lost all trace of him. I believe that he has only been
captured with many other prisoners, and that he will be exchanged
in a few weeks."
"Heaven grant that it may be so!" she breathed, fervently. "But,
Mr. Blauvelt, YOU are wounded. Do not think us indifferent because
we have asked so eagerly after Major Strahan, for you are here
alive and apparently as undaunted as ever."
"Oh, my wounds are slight. Carrying my arm in a sling gives too
serious an impression. I merely had one of the fingers of my left
hand shot away, and a scratch on my shoulder."
"But have these wounds been dressed lately?" Mr. Vosburgh asked,
"And have you had your rations this evening?" Marian added, with
the glimmer of a smile.
"Thanks, yes to both questions. I arrived this afternoon, and at
once saw a good surgeon. I have not taken time to obtain a better
costume than this old uniform, which has seen hard service."
"Like the wearer," said Marian. "I should have been sorry indeed
if you had changed it."
"Well, I knew that you would be anxious to have even a negative
assurance of Strahan's safety."
"And equally so to be positively assured of your own."
"I hoped that that would be true to some extent. My dear old mother,
in New Hampshire, to whom I have telegraphed, is eager to see me,
and so I shall go on in the morning."
"You must be our guest, then, to-night," said Mr. Vosburgh,
decisively. "We will take no refusal, and I shall send at once to
the hotel for your luggage."
"It is small indeed," laughed Blauvelt, flushing with pleasure,
"for I came away in very light marching order."
Marian then explained that Merwyn, who, after a brief, polite
greeting from Blauvelt, had been almost forgotten, was about to
start in search of Strahan.
"I would not lay a straw in his way, and possibly he may obtain
some clue that escaped me," said the young officer.
"Perhaps, if you feel strong enough to tell us something of that
part of the battle in which you were engaged, and of your search,
Mr. Merwyn may receive hints which will be of service to him," Mr.
"I shall be very glad to do so, and feel entirely equal to the
effort. Indeed, I have been resting and sleeping in the cars nearly
all day, and am so much better that I scarcely feel it right to be
absent from the regiment."
They at once repaired to the library, Marian leaving word with
Mammy Borden that they were engaged, should there be other callers.
A GLIMPSE OF WAR.
"Captain Blauvelt," said Marian, when they were seated in the
library, "I have two favors to ask of you. First, that you will
discontinue your story as soon as you feel the least weakness, and,
second, that you will not gloss anything over. I wish a life-picture
of a soldier's experience. You and Mr. Strahan have been inclined
to give me the brighter side of campaigning. Now, tell us just what
you and Mr. Strahan did. I've no right to be the friend of soldiers
if I cannot listen to the tragic details of a battle, while sitting
here in this quiet room, and I wish to realize, as I never have
done, what you and others have passed through. Do not be so modest
that you cannot tell us exactly what you did. In brief, a plain,
unvarnished tale unfold, and I shall be content."
"Now," she thought, "Mr. Merwyn shall know to whom I can give my
friendship. I do not ask him, or any one, to face these scenes,
but my heart is for a man who can face them."
Blauvelt felt that he was fortunate indeed. He knew that he had
fair powers as a raconteur, and he was conscious of having taken no
unworthy part in the events he was about to describe, while she,
who required the story, was the woman whom he most admired, and
whose good opinion was dear to him.
Therefore, after a moment's thought, he began: "In order to give
you a quiet, and therefore a more artistic prelude to the tragedy
of the battle, I shall touch lightly on some of the incidents of
our march to the field. I will take up the thread of our experiences
on the 15th of June, for I think you were quite well informed of
what occurred before that date. The 15th was one of the hottest
days that I remember. I refer to this fact because of a pleasant
incident which introduces a little light among the shadows, and
suggests that soldiers are not such bad fellows after all, although
inclined to be a little rough and profane. Our men suffered terribly
from the heat, and some received sunstrokes. Many were obliged to
fall out of the ranks, but managed to keep up with the column. At
noon we were halted near a Vermont regiment that had just drawn a
ration of soft bread and were boiling their coffee. As our exhausted
men came straggling and staggering in, these hospitable Vermonters
gave them their entire ration of bread and the hot coffee prepared
for their own meal; and when the ambulances brought in the men who
had been sun-struck, these generous fellows turned their camp into
a temporary hospital and themselves into nurses.
"I will now give you a glimpse of a different experience. Towards
evening on the 19th a rain-storm began, and continued all night.
No orders to halt came till after midnight. On we splashed, waded,
and floundered along roads cut up by troops in advance until the
mud in many places reached the depth of ten inches. It was intensely
dark, and we could not see to pick our way. Splashed from head to
foot, and wet through for hours, we had then one of the most dismal
experiences I remember. I had not been well since the terrible
heat of the 15th, and Strahan, putting on the air of a martinet,
sternly ordered me to mount his horse while he took charge of my
Marian here clapped her hands in applause.
"At last we were ordered to file to the right into a field and bivouac
for the night. The field proved to be a marshy meadow, worse than
the road. But there was no help for it, and we were too tired to
hunt around in the darkness for a better place. Strahan mounted
again to assist in giving orders for the night's arrangement, and
to find drier ground if possible. In the darkness he and his horse
tumbled into a ditch so full of mire and water that he escaped all
injury. We sank half-way to our knees in the swampy ground, and the
horses floundered so that one or two of the officers were thrown,
and all were obliged to dismount. At last, by hallooing, the regiment
formed into line, and then came the unique order from the colonel,
'Squat, my bull-frogs.' There was nothing for us to do but to
lie down on the swampy, oozing ground, with our shelter tents and
blankets wrapped around and under us. You remember what an exquisite
Strahan used to be. I wish you could have seen him when the morning
revealed us to one another. He was of the color of the sacred soil
from crown to toe. When we met we stood and laughed at each other,
and I wanted him to let me make a sketch for your benefit, but we
"I will now relate a little incident which shows how promptly
pluck and character tell. During the 25th we were pushed forward
not far from thirty miles. On the morning of this severe march
a young civilian officer, who had been appointed to the regiment
by the Governor, joined us, and was given command of Company I.
When he took his place in the march there was a feeling of intense
hostility toward him, as there ever is among veterans against
civilians who are appointed over them. If he had fallen out of the
ranks and died by the roadside I scarcely believe that a man would
have volunteered to bury him. But, while evidently unaccustomed to
marching, he kept at the head of his company throughout the entire
day, when every step must have been torture. He uttered not a word
of complaint, and at night was seen, by the light of a flaring
candle, pricking the blisters on his swollen feet; then he put on
his shoes, and walked away as erect as if on parade. In those few
hours he had won the respect of the entire regiment, and had become
one of us. Poor fellow! I may as well mention now that he was
killed, a few days later, with many of the company that he was
bravely leading. His military career lasted but little over a week,
yet he proved himself a hero.
"Now I will put in a few high lights again. On the 28th we entered
Frederick City. Here we had a most delightful experience. The day
was warm and all were thirsty. Instead of the cold, lowering glances
to which we had been accustomed in Virginia, smiling mothers, often
accompanied by pretty daughters, stood in the gateways with pails
and goblets of cool, sparkling water. I doubt whether the same
number of men ever drank so much water before, for who could pass
by a white hand and arm, and a pretty, sympathetic face, beaming
with good-will? Here is a rough sketch I made of a Quaker matron,
with two charming daughters, and an old colored man, 'totin'' water
at a rate that must have drained their well."
Marian praised the sketch so heartily that Merwyn knew she was
taking this indirect way to eulogize the soldier as as well as the
artist, and he groaned inwardly as he thought how he must suffer
"I will pass over what occurred till the 1st of July. Our march
lay through a country that, after desolated Virginia, seemed like
paradise, and the kind faces that greeted us were benedictions.
July 1st was clear, and the sun's rays dazzling and intense in their
heat. Early in the afternoon we were lying around in the shade,
about two miles from the State line of Pennsylvania. Two corps
had preceded us. Some of our men, with their ears on the ground,
declared that they could hear the distant mutter of artillery. The
country around was full of troops, resting like ourselves.
"Suddenly shrill bugle-blasts in every direction called us into
line. We were moved through Emmetsburg, filed to the left into
a field until other troops passed, and then took our place in the
column and began a forced march to Gettysburg. Again we suffered
terribly from the heat and the choking clouds of dust raised by
commands in advance of us. The sun shone in the west like a great,
angry furnace. Our best men began to stagger from the ranks and fall
by the wayside, while every piece of woods we passed was filled
with prostrate men, gasping, and some evidently dying. But on,
along that white, dusty road, the living torrent poured. Only one
command was heard. 'Forward! Forward!'
"First, like a low jar of thunder, but with increasing volume and
threatening significance, the distant roar of artillery quickened
the steps of those who held out. Major Strahan was again on his
feet, with other officers, their horses loaded down with the rifles
of the men. Even food and blankets, indeed almost everything except
ammunition, was thrown away by the men, for, in the effort to reach
the field in time, an extra pound became an intolerable burden.
"At midnight we were halted on what was then the extreme left of
Meade's position. When we formed our regimental line, as usual,
at the close of the day, not over one hundred men and but five or
six officers were present. Over one hundred and fifty had given
out from the heat and fatigue. The moment ranks were broken the men
threw themselves down in their tracks and slept with their loaded
guns by their sides. Strahan and I felt so gone that we determined
to have a little refreshment if possible. Lights were gleaming from
a house not far away, and we went thither in the hope of purchasing
something that would revive us. We found the building, and even
the yard around it, full of groaning and desperately wounded men,
with whom the surgeons were busy. This foretaste of the morrow took
away our appetites, and we returned to our command, where Strahan
was soon sleeping, motionless, as so many of our poor fellows would
be on the ensuing night.
"Excessive fatigue often takes from me the power to sleep, and I lay
awake, listening to the strange, ominous sounds off to our right.
There were the heavy rumble of artillery wheels, the tramp of men,
and the hoarse voices of officers giving orders. In the still night
these confused sounds were wonderfully distinct near at hand, but
they shaded off in the northeast to mere murmurs. I knew that it
was the army of the Potomac arriving and taking its positions. The
next day I learned that General Meade had reached the field about
one A.M., and that he had spent the remaining hours of the night
in examining the ground and in making preparations for the coming
struggle. The clear, white moonlight, which aided him in his task,
lighted up a scene strange and beautiful beyond words. It glinted
on our weapons, gave to the features of the sleepers the hue
of death, and imparted to Strahan's face, who lay near me, almost
the delicacy and beauty of a girl. I declare to you, that when I
remembered the luxurious ease from which he had come, the hero he
was now, and all his many acts of kindness to me and others,--when
I thought of what might be on the morrow, I'm not ashamed to say
that tears came into my eyes."
"Nor am I ashamed," faltered Marian, "that you should see tears in
mine. Oh, God grant that he may return to us again!"
"Well," resumed Blauvelt, after a moment of thoughtful hesitation,
"I suppose I was a little morbid that night. Perhaps one was excusable,
for all knew that we were on the eve of the most desperate battle
of the war. I shall not attempt to describe the beauty of the
landscape, or the fantastic shapes taken by the huge boulders that
were scattered about. My body seemed almost paralyzed with fatigue,
but my mind, for a time, was preternaturally active, and noted every
little detail. Indeed, I felt a strange impulse to dwell upon and
recall everything relating to this life, since the chances were
so great that we might, before the close of another day, enter a
different state of existence. You see I am trying, as you requested,
to give you a realistic picture."
"That is what I wish," said the young girl; but her cheeks were
pale as she spoke.
"In the morning I was awakened by one of my men bringing me a cup
of hot coffee, and when I had taken it, and later a little breakfast
of raw pork and hard-tack, I felt like a new man. Nearly all of our
stragglers had joined us during the night, or in the dawn, and our
regiment now mustered about two hundred and forty rifles in line,
a sad change from the time when we marched a thousand strong. But
the men now were veterans, and this almost made good the difference.
"When the sun was a few hours high we were moved forward with the
rest of our brigade; then, later, off to the left, and placed in
position on the brow of a hill that descended steeply before us,
and was covered with rocks, huge boulders, and undergrowth. The
right of our regiment was in the edge of a wood with a smoother
slope before it. I and my company had no other shelter than the
rocks and boulders, which formed a marked feature of the locality,
and protruded from the soil in every imaginable shape. If we had
only thrown the smaller stones together and covered them with earth
we might have made, during the time we wasted, a line of defence
from which we could not have been driven. The 2d of July taught us
that we had still much to learn. As it was, we lounged about upon
the grass, seeking what shade we could from the glare of another
intensely hot day, and did nothing.
"A strange, ominous silence pervaded the field for hours, broken
only now and then by a shell screaming through the air, and the
sullen roar of the gun from which it was fired. The pickets along
our front would occasionally approach the enemy too closely, and there
would be brief reports of musketry, again followed by oppressive
silence. A field of wheat below us undulated in light billows
as the breeze swept it. War and death would be its reapers. The
birds were singing in the undergrowth; the sun lighted up the rural
landscape brilliantly, and it was almost impossible to believe
that the scenes of the afternoon could, take place. By sweeping
our eyes up and down our line, and by resting them upon a battery
of our guns but a few yards away, we became aware of the significance
of our position. Lee's victorious army was before us. Sinister
rumors of the defeat of Union forces the previous day had reached
us, and we knew that the enemy's inaction did not indicate hesitation
or fear, but rather a careful reconnaissance of our lines, that the
weakest point might be discovered. Every hour of delay, however,
was a boon to us, for the army of the Potomac was concentrating
and strengthening its position.
"We were on the extreme left of the Union army; and, alas for us!
Lee first decided to turn and crush its left. As I have said, we
were posted along the crest of a hill which sloped off a little
to the left, then rose again, and culminated in a wild, rocky
elevation called the Devil's Den,--fit name in view of the scenes
it witnessed. Behind us was a little valley through which flowed a
small stream called Plum Run. Here the artillery horses, caissons,
and wagons were stationed, that they might be in partial shelter.
Across the Run, and still further back, rose the rocky, precipitous
heights of Little Round Top, where, during the same afternoon,
some of the severest fighting of the battle is said to have taken
place. Please give me a sheet of paper, and I can outline the
nature of the ground just around us. Of the general battle of that
day I can give you but a slight idea. One engaged in a fight sees,
as a rule, only a little section of it; but in portraying that he
gives the color and spirit of the whole thing."
Rapidly sketching for a few minutes, Blauvelt resumed: "Here we
are along the crest of this hill, with a steep, broken declivity
in front of us, extending down a few hundred yards to another small
stream, a branch of Plum Run. Beyond this branch the ground rises
again to some thick woods, which screened the enemy's movements.
"At midday clouds of dust were seen rising in the distance, and we
at last were told that Sedgwick's corps had arrived, and that the
entire army of the Potomac was on the ground. As hours still elapsed
and no attack was made, the feeling of confidence grew stronger.
Possibly Lee had concluded that our position was unassailable, or
something had happened. The soldier's imagination was only second
to his credulity in receiving the rumors which flew as thick as
did the bullets a little later.
"Strahan and I had a quiet talk early in the day, and said what we
wished to each other. After that he became dreamy and absorbed in
his own thoughts as we watched for signs of the enemy through hours
that seemed interminable. Some laughing, jesting, and card-playing
went on among the men, but in the main they were grave, thoughtful,
and alert, spending the time in discussing the probabilities of
this conflict, and in recalling scenes of past battles.
"Suddenly--it could not have been much past three o'clock--a dozen
rebel batteries opened upon us, and in a second we were in a tempest
of flying, bursting shells. Our guns, a few yards away, and other
batteries along our line, replied. The roar of the opening battle
thundered away to the right as far as we could hear. We were formed
into line at once, and lay down upon the ground. A few of our men
were hit, however, and frightful wounds were inflicted. After this
iron storm had raged for a time we witnessed a sight that I shall
never forget. Emerging from the woods on the slope opposite to us,
solid bodies of infantry, marching by columns of battalion, came
steadily toward us, their bayonets scintillating in the sunlight as
if aflame. On they came till they crossed the little stream before
us, and then deployed into four distinct lines of battle as steadily
as if on parade. It was hard to realize that those men were marching
towards us in the bright sunlight with deadly intent. Heretofore,
in Virginia, the enemy had been partially screened in his approaches,
but now all was like a panorama spread before us. We could see our
shells tearing first through their column, then through the lines of
battle, making wide gaps and throwing up clouds of dust. A second
later the ranks were closed again, and, like a dark tide, on flowed
"We asked ourselves, 'What chance have our thin ranks against those
four distinct, heavy battle lines advancing to assault us?' We had
but two ranks of men, they eight. But not a man in our regiment
flinched. When the enemy reached the foot of the hill our cannon
could not be so depressed as to harm them. The time had come for
the more deadly small arms. After a momentary halt the Confederates
rushed forward to the assault with loud yells.
"Strahan's face was flushed with excitement and ardor. He hastened
to the colonel on the right of the line and asked him to order a
charge. The colonel coolly and quietly told him to go back to his
place. A crash of musketry and a line of fire more vivid than July
sunshine breaks out to the right and left as far as we can hear.
Our men are beginning to fall. Again the impetuous Strahan hastens
to the colonel and entreats for the order to charge, but our
commander, as quiet and as impassive as the boulder beside which
he stands, again orders him back. A moment later, however, their
horses are brought, and they mount in spite of my remonstrances and
those of other officers. Strahan's only answer was, "The men must
see us to-day;" and he slowly rode to the rear and centre of the
regiment, wheeled his horse, and, with drawn sword, fixed his eyes
on the colonel, awaiting his signal. Supreme as was the moment of
excitement, I looked for a few seconds at my gallant friend, for
I wished to fix his portrait at that moment forever in my mind."
"Merciful Heaven!" said Marian, in a choking voice, "I thought I
appreciated my friends before, but I did not."
Mr. Vosburgh's eyes rested anxiously on his daughter, and he asked,
gravely, "Marian, is it best for you to hear more of this to-night?"
"Yes, papa. I must hear it all, and not a detail must be softened
or omitted. Moreover," she added, proudly, dashing her tears right
and left, "I am not afraid to listen."
Merwyn had shifted his seat, and was in deep shadow. He was pale
and outwardly impassive, but there was torture in his mind. She
thought, pityingly, "In spite of my tears I have a stouter heart
A GLIMPSE OF WAR, CONTINUED.
"Miss Marian," resumed Blauvelt, "the scenes I am now about to
describe are terrible in the extreme, even in their baldest statement.
I cannot portray what actually took place; I doubt whether any one
could; I can only give impressions of what I saw and heard when
nearly all of us were almost insane from excitement. There are
men who are cool in battle,--our colonel was, outwardly,--but the
great majority of men must be not only veterans, but also gifted with
unusual temperaments, to be able to remain calm and well balanced
in the uproar of a bloody battle.
"In a sense, our men were veterans, and were steady enough to aim
carefully as the enemy advanced up the steep hill. Our shots told
on them more fatally than theirs on us. The greater number of us
shared Strahan's impatience, and we longed for the wild, forward
dash, which is a relief to the tremendous nervous strain at such a
time. After a moment or two, that seemed ages, the colonel quietly
nodded to Strahan, who waved his sword, pointed towards the enemy,
and shouted, 'Charge!'
"You know him well enough to be sure that this was not an order
for the men to fulfil while he looked on. In a second his powerful
bay sprung through the centre of our line, and to keep up with him
we had to follow on a run. There was no hesitation or flagging.
Faces that had been pale were flushed now. As I turned my eyes
from moment to moment back to my company, the terrible expression
of the men's eyes impressed me even then. The colonel watched our
impetuous rush with proud satisfaction, and then spurred his horse
to the very midst of our advance. The lieutenant-colonel, undaunted
by a former wound, never flinched a second, but wisely fought on
"The first battle-line of the enemy seemed utterly unable to stand
before our fierce onset. Those who were not shot fled.
"Again I saw Strahan waving his sword and shouting; 'Victory!
Forward, men! forward!'
"He was in the very van, leading us all. At this moment the second
rebel line fired a volley, and the bullets swept by like an autumn
gust through a tree from which the leaves, thinned by former gales,
are almost stripped. It seemed at the moment as if every other man
went down. Wonder of wonders, as the smoke lifted a little, I saw
to the right the tall form of our colonel still on his gray horse,
pointing with his sword to the second rebel line, and shouting,
'Forward, my men! forward!'
"As the order left his lips, his sword fell, point-downward, and,
with a headlong curve, he went over his horse upon the rocks below.
Even in his death he went towards the enemy. His horse galloped in
the same direction, but soon fell. I thought that Strahan was gone
also, for he was hidden by smoke. A second later I heard his voice:
"The men seemed infuriated by the loss of the colonel, and by no
means daunted. Our next mad rush broke the second line of the enemy.
"The scene now defies all my powers of description. The little
handful of men that was left of my company were almost beyond
control. Each soldier was acting under the savage impulse to follow
and kill some rebel before him. I shared the feeling, yet remained
sane enough to thank God when I saw Strahan leap lightly down from
his staggering horse, yet ever crying, 'Forward!' A second later
the poor animal fell dead.
"Our own cannons were bellowing above us; the shells of the enemy
were shrieking over our heads. There was a continuous crash of
musketry that sounded like a fierce, devouring flame passing through
dry thorns, yet above all this babel of horrid sounds could be heard
the shouts and yells of the combatants and the shrieks and groans
of wounded and dying men. Then remember that I saw but a little
section, a few yards in width, of a battle extending for miles.
"In our mad excitement we did not consider the odds against us. The
two remaining lines of battle were advancing swiftly through the
fugitives, and we struck the first with such headlong impetuosity
that it was repulsed and gave back; but the fourth and last line
passing through, and being reinforced by the other broken lines,
came unfaltering, and swept us back from sheer weight of numbers.
We were now reduced to a mere skirmish line. It was at this moment
that I saw Strahan fall, and it seemed but a second later that the
enemy's advance passed over the spot. It was impossible then to
rescue him, for the lieutenant-colonel had given orders for all
to fall back and rally behind the guns that it was our duty to
protect. Indeed, the difficult thing, now, was to get back. The
Union regiment, on our right, had given way, after a gallant fight,
earlier than we had, and the rebels were on our flank and rear. A
number of our men going to the ridge, from which they had charged,
ran into the enemy and were captured. There were desperate hand-to-hand
encounters, hair-breadth escapes, and strange episodes.
"One occurs to me which I saw with my own eyes. It happened a
little earlier in the fight. We were so close to the enemy that a
man in my company had not time to withdraw his ramrod, and, in his
instinctive haste to shoot first at a rebel just before him, sent
ramrod and all through the Confederate's body, pinning him to the
ground. The poor fellow stretched out his hands and cried for mercy.
My man not only wished to recover his rod, but was, I believe,
actuated by a kindly impulse, for he ran to the 'Johnny," pulled
out the rod, jerked the man to his feet, and started him on a run
to our rear as prisoner.
"When at last what was left of the regiment reached its original
position it numbered no more than a full company. Scarcely a hundred
were in line. Over one hundred of our men and the majority of the
officers were either killed or wounded. While the lieutenant-colonel
was rallying us near the battery, a shell struck a gun-carriage,
hurling it against him, and he was home senseless from the field.
The command now devolved on the senior captain left unwounded.
"One of my men now said to me, 'Captain, why don't you go to the
rear? Your face is so covered with blood that you must be badly
"It was only at that moment that I became conscious of my wound. In
my intense anxiety about Strahan, in the effort to get my men back
in something like order, and in the shock of seeing the lieutenant-colonel
struck down, my mind seemed almost unaware of the existence of
the body. In the retreat I had felt something sting my hand like
a nettle, and now found one of the fingers of my left hand badly
shattered. With this hand I had been wiping my brow, for it was
intensely hot. I therefore was the most sanguineous-looking man of
"Of course I did not go to the rear because of a wound of so slight
a nature, and my earnest hope was that reinforcements would enable
us to drive the enemy back so that I could go to the spot where I
had seen Strahan fall.
"What I have vainly attempted to describe occurred in less time
than I have taken in telling about it. I think it would have been
much better if we had never left the line which we now occupied,
and which we still held in spite of the overwhelming superiority,
in numbers, of the enemy. If, instead of wasting the morning hours,
we had fortified this line, we never could have been driven from
"Our immediate foes, in front of us did not at that time advance
much farther than the point of our repulse, and, like ourselves,
sought cover from which to fire. We now had a chance to recover
a little from our wild excitement, and to realize, in a slight
degree, what was taking place around us. Information came that
our corps-commander had been seriously wounded. Our own colonel
lay, with other dead officers, a little in our rear, yet in plain
sight. We could only give them a mournful glance, for the battle
was still at its height, and was raging in our front and for miles
to the right. The thunder of three hundred or more guns made the
very earth tremble, while the shrieking and bursting of the shells
above us filled the air with a din that was infernal.
"But we had little chance to observe or think of anything except
the enemy just below us. With wolfish eyes they were watching every
chance to pick off our men. Many of our killed and wounded on the
bloody declivity were in plain view, and one poor fellow, desperately
hurt, would often raise his hand and wave it to us.
"Our men acted like heroes, and took deliberate aim before they
fired. When a poor fellow dropped, one of our officers picked up
the rifle and fired in his place."
"Did you do that?" Marian asked.
"Yes; my sword was of no service, and my handful of men needed no
orders. Anything at such a time is better than inaction, and we all
felt that the line must be held. Every bullet counted, you know.
"Some of our boys did very brave things at this time. For instance:
rifles, that had become so clogged or hot as to be unserviceable,
were dropped, and the men would say to their immediate companions,
'Be careful how you fire,' and then rush down the slope, pick up
the guns of dead or wounded comrades, and with these continue the
"At last the enemy's fire slackened a little, and I went to take
my farewell look at our colonel and others of our officers whose
bodies had been recovered. These were then carried to the rear,
and I never saw their familiar faces again.
"The horses now came up at a gallop to take away the battery near
us, and I saw a thing which touched me deeply. As the horses were
turning that a gun might be limbered up, a shot, with a clean cut,
carried away a leg from one of the poor animals. The faithful,
well-trained beast, tried to hobble around into his place on three
legs. He seemed to have caught the spirit which animated the entire
army that day.
"As I turned toward the regiment, the cry went up, 'They are flanking
"The brief slackening of the enemy's fire had only indicated
preparations for a general forward movement. An aid now galloped
to us with orders to fall back instantly. A few of my men had been
placed, for the sake of cover, in the woods on the right, and I
hastened over to them to give the order. By the time I had collected
them, the enemy had occupied our old position and we barely escaped
capture. When we caught up with the regiment, our brigade-commander
had halted it and was addressing it in strong words of eulogy;
adding, however, that he still expected almost impossible things
of his troops.
"It was pleasant to know that our efforts had been recognized and
appreciated, but our hearts were heavy with the thoughts of those
we had lost. We were now sent to a piece of woods about a mile to
the rear, as a part of the reserve, and it so happened that we were
not again called into the fight, which ended, you know, the next
"I had bound up my fingers as well as I could, and now, in reaction
and from loss of blood, felt sick and faint. I did not wish to go
to our field hospital, for I knew the scenes there were so horrible
that I should not be equal to witnessing them. Our surgeon came
and dressed my finger for me, and said that it would have to come
off in the morning, and I now found that my shoulder also had been
slightly cut with a bullet. These injuries on that day, however,
were the merest trifles.
"Our supper was the dreariest meal I ever took. The men spoke in
subdued tones, and every now and then a rough fellow would draw his
sleeve across his eyes, as so many things brought to mind those who
had breakfasted with us. We were like a household that had returned
from burying the greater part of its number. Yes, worse than this,
for many, suffering from terrible wounds, were in the hands of the
"Of course I grieved for the loss of men and officers, but I had
come to feel like a brother towards Strahan, and, fatigued as I
was, solicitude on his account kept me awake for hours. The battle
was still raging on our extreme right, and I fell asleep before
the ominous sounds ceased.
"Waking with the dawn, I felt so much better and stronger that I
took a hasty cup of coffee, and then started toward the spot where
I had seen Strahan fall, in the hope of reaching it. The surgeon had
ordered that I should be relieved from duty, and told me to keep
quiet. This was impossible with my friend's fate in such uncertainty.
I soon found that the enemy occupied the ground on which we had
fought, and that to go beyond a certain point would be death or
captivity. Therefore I returned, the surgeon amputated my finger,
and then I rested with the regiment several hours. With the dawn,
heavy fighting began again on the extreme right, but we knew at
the time little of its character or object.
"After an early dinner I became restless and went to our corps-hospitals
to look after such of the wounded of my company as had been carried
thither. It was situated in a grove not far away. I will not describe
the scenes witnessed there, for it would only give you useless pain.
The surgeons had been at work all the night and morning around the
amputation tables, and our doctor and chaplain had done about all
that could be accomplished for our poor fellows. There were hundreds
of men lying on the ground, many of whom were in the agonies of
death even as I passed.
"I again went back to see if there had been any change in our front
which would enable me to reach Strahan. This still being impossible,
I continued along our lines to the right at a slow pace, that I
might gain some idea of our position and prospects. My hope now of
reaching Strahan lay in our defeating Lee and gaining the field.
Therefore I had a double motive to be intensely interested in all
I saw. Since nine in the morning a strange silence had settled on
the field, but after yesterday's experience it raised no delusive
hopes. With the aid of a small field-glass that I carried, I could
see the enemy's batteries, and catch glimpses of their half-concealed
infantry, which were moving about in a way that indicated active
preparation for something. Our officers had also made the most of
this respite, and there had been a continuous shifting of troops,
strengthening of lines, and placing of artillery in position since
the dawn. Now, however, the quiet was wonderful, in view of the
vast bodies of men which were hi deadly array. Even the spiteful
picket-firing had ceased.
"I had barely reached a high point, a little in the rear of the
Second Corps, commanded by General Hancock, when I saw evidences
of excitement and interest around me. Eyes and field-glasses were
directed towards the enemy's lines nearly opposite. Springing on
a rock near me, I turned my glass in the same direction, and saw
that Lee was massing his artillery along the edge of the woods on
the ridge opposite. The post of observation was a good one, and I
determined to maintain it. The rock promised shelter when the iron
tempest should begin.
"Battery after battery came into position, until, with my glass,
I could count nearly a hundred guns. On our side batteries were
massing also, both to the right and the left of where I stood.
Experience had so taught me what these preparations meant that I
fairly trembled with excitement and awe. It appeared as if I were
about to witness one of the most terrific combats of the world,
and while I might well doubt whether anything could survive
the concentrated fire of these rebel guns, I could not resist the
desire to see out what I felt must be the final and supreme effort
of both armies. Therefore I stuck to my rock and swept with my glass
the salient points of interest. I dreaded the effect of the awful
cannonade upon our lines of infantry that lay upon the ground below
me, behind such slight shelter as they could find. Our position at
this point was commanding, but many of the troops were fearfully
exposed, while our artillerymen had to stand in plain view. Over
all this scene, so awfully significant and unnaturally quiet,
the scorching July sun sent down its rays like fiery darts, which
everywhere on the field scintillated as if they were kindling
"At last the enemy fired a single gun. Almost instantly a flashing
line of light swept along the massed Confederate batteries, I sprung
down behind my rock as a perfect storm of iron swept over and around
me, and my heart stood almost still at the deep reverberations
which followed. This was but the prelude to the infernal symphony
that followed. With remarkable rapidity and precision of aim the
enemy continued firing, not irregularly, but in immense thundering
volleys, all together. There would be a moment's pause, and then
would come such a storm of iron that it seemed to me that even my
sheltering rock would be cut away, and that everything exposed must
"At first I was exceedingly troubled that our guns did not reply.
Could it be possible that the enemy's fire was so destructive that
our forces were paralyzed? I was learning to distinguish between the
measured cadences of the enemy's firing. After a hurtling shower
flew over, I sprung out, took a survey, and was so filled with
exultation and confidence, that I crept back again with hope renewed.
Our men were standing at the guns, which officers were sighting in
order to get more accurate range, and the infantry had not budged.
Of course there were streams of wounded going to the rear, but this
is true of every battle.
"I now had to share my slight cover with several others, and saw
that if I went out again I should lose it altogether. So I determined
to wait out the artillery duel quietly. I could see the effects
of the enemy's shells in the rear, if not in front, and these were
disastrous enough. In the depression behind the ridge on which were
our guns and infantry, there were ammunition-wagons, ambulances,
and caissons. Among these, shells were making havoc. Soon a caisson
exploded with a terrific report and a great cloud of smoke, which,
clearing, revealed many prostrate forms, a few of which were able
to crawl away.
"Minutes, which seemed like ages, had passed, and the horrible din
was then doubled by the opening of all our batteries. The ground
beneath me trembled, but as time passed and our guns kept up their
steady fire, and the infantry evidently remained unshaken in their
lines of defence, my confidence became stronger. By degrees you grow
accustomed to almost anything, and I now found leisure to observe
my companions behind the rock. I instantly perceived that two of
them were press-correspondents, young, boyish-looking fellows, who
certainly proved themselves veterans in coolness and courage. Even
in that deadly tempest they were alert and busy with their note-books.
"When the caisson exploded, each swiftly wrote a few cabalistic
symbols. There was a house to the left, as we sat feeing our rear,
and I saw that they kept their eyes on that almost continually.
Curious to know why, I shouted in the ear of one, asking the
reason. He wrote, 'Meade's headquarters,' and then I shared their
solicitude. That it was occupied by some general of high rank, was
evident from the number of horses tied around it, and the rapid
coming and going of aids and orderlies; but it seemed a terrible
thing that our commander-in-chief should be so exposed. Shells flew
about the little cottage like angry hornets about their nest, and
every few minutes one went in. The poor horses, tied and helpless,
were kicking and plunging in their terror, and one after another
went down, killed or wounded. I was told that General Meade and
staff were soon compelled to leave the place.
"The hours of the cannonade grew monotonous and oppressive. Again
and again caissons were exploded and added to the terrible list
of casualties. Wagons and ambulances--such of them as were not
wrecked--were driven out of range. Every moment or two the ground
shook with the recoil and thunder of our batteries, while the air
above and around us seemed literally filled with shrieking, moaning,
whistling projectiles of almost every size and pattern in present
use. From them came puffs of smoke, sharp cracks, heard above the
general din, as they exploded and showered around us pieces of
jagged iron. When a shell bursts, its fragments strike the ground
obliquely, with a forward movement; therefore our comparative
safety behind our rock, which often shook from the terrific impact
of missiles on its outer side. So many had now sought its shelter
that some extended beyond its protection, and before the cannonade
was over two were killed outright, almost within reach of my arm.
Many of the wounded, in going to the rear, were struck down before
reaching a place of safety. The same was true of the men bringing
ammunition from the caissons in the depression beneath us. Every few
minutes an officer of some rank would be carried by on a stretcher,
with a man or two in attendance. I saw one of these hastily moving
groups prostrated by a shell, and none of them rose again or
struggled. I only tell you of these scenes in compliance with your
wish, Miss Marian, and because I see that you have the spirit of
a soldier. I was told that, in the thickest of the fight, the wife
of a general came on the field in search of her husband, who was
reported wounded. I believe that you could have done the same."
"I don't know," she replied, sadly,--"I don't know, for I never
realized what war was before;" and she looked apprehensively at
Merwyn, fearing to see traces of weakness. His side face, as he sat
in the shadow, was pale indeed, but he was rigid and motionless.
She received the impression that he was bracing himself by the
whole strength of his will to listen through the dreadful story.
Again Mr. Vosburgh suggested that these details were too terrific
for his daughter's nerves, but she interrupted him almost sternly,
saying: "No, papa, I intend to know just what my friends have
passed through. I feel that it is due to them, and, if I cannot
hear quietly, I am not worthy to be their friend. I can listen to
words when Southern girls can listen to bullets. Captain Blauvelt,
you are describing the battle exactly as I asked and wished. My only
fear is that you are going beyond your strength;" and she poured
him out a glass of light wine.
"When you come to hear all I passed through after leaving that
rock, you will know that this story-telling is not worth thinking
about," said Blauvelt, with a slight laugh, "All my exposure was
well worth the risk, for the chance of telling it to a woman of your
nerve. My hope now is that Strahan may some day learn how stanch
was our 'home support,' as we were accustomed to call you. I assure
you that many a man has been inspired to do his best because of
such friendship and sympathy. I am now about to tell you of the
grandest thing I ever saw or expect to see, and shall not abate one
jot of praise because the heroic act was performed by the enemy."
THE GRAND ASSAULT.
"After seeming ages had passed," Blauvelt resumed, having taken a
few moments of rest, "the fire of our artillery slackened and soon
ceased, and that of the rebete also became less rapid and furious.
We saw horses brought up, and some of our batteries going to the
rear at a gallop. Could our guns have been silenced? and was disaster
threatening us? Our anxiety was so great that the two correspondents
and I rushed out and were speedily reassured. There was our infantry,
still in line, and we soon saw that reserve batteries were taking
the place of those withdrawn. We afterward learned that General
Meade and brave General Hunt, Chief of Artillery, had ordered our
guns to be quiet and prepare for the assault which they knew would
follow the cannonade.
"The wind blew from us towards the enemy, and our unbroken lines
were in view. All honor to the steadfast men who had kept their
places through the most awful artillery combat ever known on this
continent. For nearly two mortal hours the infantry had been obliged
to lie still and see men on every side of them torn and mangled to
death; but like a wide blue ribbon, as far as the eye could reach,
there they lay with the sunlight glittering on their polished
muskets. The rebels' fire soon slackened also. We now mounted the
friendly rock, and I was busy with my glass again. As the smoke
lifted, which had covered the enemy's position, I saw that we had
not been the only sufferers. Many of their guns were overturned,
and the ground all along their line was thick with prostrate men.
"But they and their guns were forgotten. Their part in the bloody
drama was to be superseded, and we now witnessed a sight which can
scarcely ever be surpassed. Emerging from the woods on the opposite
ridge, over a mile away, came long lines of infantry. Our position
was to be assaulted. I suppose the cessation of our firing led the
enemy to think that our batteries had been silenced and the infantry
supports driven from the hill. The attacking column was forming
right under our eyes, and we could see other Confederate troops
moving up on the right and left to cover the movement and aid in
carrying it out.
"There was bustle on our side also, in spite of the enemy's
shells, which still fell thickly along our line. New batteries were
thundering up at a gallop; those at the front, which had horses
left, were withdrawn; others remained where they had been shattered
and disabled, fresh pieces taking position beside them. The dead
and wounded were rapidly carried to the rear, and the army stripped
itself, like an athlete, for the final struggle.
"Our batteries again opened with solid shot at the distant Confederate
infantry, but there was only the hesitation on their part incident
to final preparation. Soon on came their centre rapidly, their
flank supports, to right and left, moving after them. It proved
to be the launching of a human thunderbolt, and I watched its
progress, fascinated and overwhelmed with awe."
"Were you exposed at this time to the enemy's shells?" Marias asked.
"Yes, but their fire was not so severe as it had been, and
my interest in the assault was so absorbing that I could scarcely
think of anything else. I could not help believing that the fate
of our army, perhaps of the country, was to be decided there right
under my eyes, and this by an attack involving such deadly peril
to the participants that I felt comparatively safe.
"The scene during the next half-hour defies description. All ever
witnessed in Roman amphitheatres was child's play in comparison.
The artillery on both sides had resumed its heavy din, the enemy
seeking to distract our attention and render the success of their
assault more probable, and we concentrating our fire on that solid
attacking column. As they approached nearer, our guns were shotted
with shells that made great gaps in their ranks, but they never
faltered. Spaces were closed instantly, and on they still came like
a dark, resistless wave tipped with light, as the sun glinted on
their bayonets through rifts of smoke.
"As they came nearer, our guns in front crumbled and decimated
the leading ranks with grape and canister, while other batteries
farther away to the right and left still plowed red furrows with
shot and shell; but the human torrent, although shrinking and
diminishing, flowed on. I could not imagine a more sublime exhibition
of courage. Should the South rear to the skies a monument to their
soldiers, it would be insignificant compared with that assaulting
column, projected across the plain of Gettysburg.
"At the foot of the ridge the leaders of this forlorn hope, as
it proved, halted their troops for a moment. As far as the smoke
permitted me to see, it seemed that the supporting Confederate
divisions had not kept pace with the centre. Would the assault be
made? The familiar rebel yell was a speedy answer, as they started
up the acclivity, firing as they came. Now, more vivid than the
sunlight, a sheet of fire flashed out along our line, and the crash
of musketry drowned even the thunder of the cannon.
"The mad impulse of battle was upon me, as upon every one, and I
rushed down nearer our lines to get a better view, also from the
instinctive feeling that that attack must be repulsed, for it aimed
at nothing less than the piercing of the centre of our army. The
front melted away as if composed of phantoms, but other spectral
men took their place, the flashes of their muskets outlining their
position. On, on they came, up to our front line and over it. At
the awful point of impact there was on our side a tall, handsome
brigadier, whose black eyes glowed like coals. How he escaped so
long was one of the mysteries of battle. His voice rang out above
the horrid din as he rallied his men, who were not retreating, but
were simply pushed back by the still unspent impetus of the rebel
charge. I could not resist his appeal, or the example of his
heroism, and, seizing a musket and some cartridges belonging to a
fallen soldier, I was soon in the thick of it. I scarcely know what
happened for the next few moments, so terrible were the excitement
and confusion. Union troops and officers were rushing in on all
sides, without much regard to organization, under the same impulse
which had actuated me. I found myself firing point-blank at the
enemy but a few feet away. I saw a rebel officer waving his hat
upon his sword, and fired at him. Thank Heaven I did not hit him!
for, although he seemed the leading spirit in the charge, I would
not like to think I had killed so brave a man. In spite of all our
efforts, they pushed us back, back past the battery we were trying
to defend. I saw a young officer, not far away, although wounded,
run his gun a little forward with the aid of the two or three men
left on their feet, fire one more shot, and fall dead. Then I was
parrying bayonet thrusts and seeking to give them. One fierce-looking
fellow was making a lunge at me, but in the very act fell over,
pierced by a bullet. A second later the rebel officer, now seen to
be a general, had his hand on a gun and was shouting, 'Victory!'
but the word died on his lips as he fell, for at this moment there
was a rush in our rear. A heavy body of men burst, like a tornado,
through our shattered lines, and met the enemy in a hand-to-hand
"I had been nearly run over in this charge, and now regained my
senses somewhat. I saw that the enemy's advance was checked, that
the spot where lay the Confederate general would mark the highest
point attained by the crimson wave of Southern valor, for Union
troops were concentrating in overwhelming numbers. The wound in
my hand had broken out afresh. I hastened to get back out of the
melee, the crush, and the 'sing' of bullets, and soon reached my
old post of observation, exhausted and panting. The correspondents
were still there, and one of them patted me on the shoulder in a way
meant to be encouraging, and offered to put my name in his paper,
an honor which I declined. We soon parted, unknown to each other.
I learned, however, that the name of the gallant brigadier was Webb,
and that he had been wounded. So also was General Hancock at this
"The enemy's repulse was now changed into a rout. Prisoners were
brought in by hundreds, while those retreating across the plain were
followed by death-dealing shot and shell from our lines. As I sat
resting on my rock of observation, I felt that one could not exult
over such a foe, and I was only conscious of profound gratitude over
my own and the army's escape. Certainly if enough men, animated by
the same desperate courage, had taken part in the attack, it would
have been irresistible.
"As soon as I saw that the battle at this point was practically
decided, I started back towards our left with the purpose of finding
my regiment and our surgeon, for my hand had become very painful.
I was so fortunate as to meet with my command as it was being moved
up within a few rods of the main line of the Third Corps, where we
formed a part of the reserve. Joining my little company and seeing
their familiar faces was like coming home. Their welcome, a cup of
coffee, and the redressing of my wound made me over again. I had to
answer many questions from the small group of officers remaining,
for they, kept in the rear all day, had not yet learned much about
the battle or its results.
"While I gladdened their hearts with the tidings of our victory,
our surgeon growled: 'I'll have you put under arrest if you don't
keep quiet. You've been doing more than look on, or your hand would
not be in its present condition.'
"Soon after I fell asleep, with my few and faithful men around me,
and it was nearly midnight when I wakened."
"It's very evident that none of your present audience is inclined
to sleep," Marian exclaimed, with a deep breath.
"And yet it's after midnight," Mr. Vosburgh added. "I fear we are
taxing you, captain, far beyond your strength. Your cheeks, Marian,
"I do not feel weary yet," said the young officer, "if you are
not. Imagine that I have just waked up from that long nap of which
I have spoken. Miss Marian was such a sympathetic listener that
I dwelt much longer than I intended on scenes which impressed me
powerfully. I have not yet described my search for Strahan, or
given Mr. Merwyn such hints as my experience affords. Having just
come from the field, I do not see that he could gain much by undue
haste. He can accomplish quite as much by leaving sometime tomorrow.
To be frank, I believe that the only place to find Strahan is
under a rebel guard going South. Our troops may interpose in time
to release him; if not, he will be exchanged before long."
"In a matter of this kind there should be no uncertainty which can
possibly be removed," Merwyn said, in a husky voice. "I shall now
save time by obtaining the information you can give, for I shall
know better how to direct my search. I shall certainly go in the
"Yes, captain," said Marian, eagerly. "Since you disclaim weariness
we could listen for hours yet. You are a skilful narrator, for,
intensely as your story has interested me, you have reserved its
climax to the last, even though your search led you only among
woful scenes in the hospitals."
"On such scenes I will touch as lightly as possible, and chiefly
for Mr. Merwyn's benefit; for if Strahan had been left on the field,
either killed or wounded, I do not see how he could have escaped
me." Then, with a smile at the young girl, he added: "Since you
credit me with some skill as a story-teller, and since my story is
so long, perhaps it should be divided. In that case what I am now
about to relate should be headed with the words, 'My search for
BLAUVELT'S SEARCH FOR STRAHAN.
"You will remember," said the captain, after a moment's pause,
that he might take up the thread of his narrative consecutively,
"that I awoke a little before midnight. At first I was confused,
but soon all that had happened came back to me. I found myself a
part of a long line of sleeping men that formed the reserve. Not
farther than from here across the street was another line in front
of us. Beyond this were our vigilant pickets, and then the vedettes
of the enemy. All seemed strangely still and peaceful, but a single
shot would have brought thousands of men to their feet. The moon
poured a soft radiance over all, and gave to the scene a weird
and terrible beauty. The army was like a sleeping giant. Would
its awakening be as terrible as on the last three mornings? Then
I thought of that other army sleeping beyond our lines,--an army
which neither bugle nor the thunder of all our guns could awaken.
"I soon distinguished faint, far-off sounds from the disputed
territory beyond our pickets. Rising, I put my hand to my ear, and
then heard the words, 'Water! water!'
"They were the cries of wounded men entreating for that which would
quench their intolerable thirst. The thought that Strahan might be
among this number stung me to the very quick, and I hastened to the
senior captain, who now commanded the regiment. I found him alert
and watchful, with the bugle at his side, for he felt the weight
of responsibility so suddenly thrust upon him.
"'Captain Markham,' I said, 'do you hear those cries for water?'
"'Yes,' he replied, sadly; 'I have heard them for hours,
"'Among them may be Strahan's voice,' I said, eagerly.
"'Granting it, what could we do? Our pickets are way this side of
the spot where he fell.'
"'Captain,' I cried, 'Strahan was like a brother to me. I can't
rest here with the possibility that he is dying yonder for a little
water. I am relieved from duty, you know. If one of my company will
volunteer to go with me, will you give him your permission? I know
where Strahan fell, and am willing to try to reach him and bring
"'No,' said the captain, 'I can't give such permission. You might
be fired on and the whole line aroused. You can go to our old
brigade-commander, however--he now commands the division,--and
see what he says. He's back there under that tree. Of course, you
know, I sympathize with your feeling, but I cannot advise the risk.
Good heavens, Blauvelt! we've lost enough officers already.'
"'I'll be back soon,' I answered.
"To a wakeful aid I told my errand, and he aroused the general,
who was silent after he had been made acquainted with my project.
"'I might bring in some useful information,' I added, hastily.
"The officer knew and liked Strahan, but said: 'I shall have to put
my permission on the ground of a reconnoissance. I should be glad
to know if any changes are taking place on our front, and so would
my superiors. Of course you understand the risk you run when once
beyond our pickets?'
"'Strahan would do as much and more for me,' I replied.
"'Very well;' and he gave me permission to take a volunteer, at
the same time ordering me to report to him on my return.
"I went back to our regimental commander, who growled, 'Well, if
you will go I suppose you will; but it would be a foolhardy thing
for even an unwounded man to attempt.'
"I knew a strong, active young fellow in my company who would
go anywhere with me, and, waking him up, explained my purpose. He
was instantly on the qui vive. I procured him a revolver, and we
started at once. On reaching our pickets we showed our authority
to pass, and were informed that the enemy's vedettes ran along the
ridge on which we had fought the day before. Telling our pickets
to pass the word not to fire on us if we came in on the run, we
stole down into the intervening valley.
"The moon was now momentarily obscured by clouds, and this favored
us. My plan was to reach the woods on which the right of our regiment
had rested. Here the shadows would be deep, and our chances better.
Crouching and creeping silently from bush to bush, we made our
gradual progress until we saw a sentinel slowly pacing back and
forth along the edge of the woods. Most of his beat was in shadow,
and there were bushes and rocks extending almost to it. We watched
him attentively for a time, and then my companion whispered: 'The
Johnny seems half dead with sleep. I believe I can steal up and
capture him without a sound. I don't see how we can get by him as
long as he is sufficiently wide awake to walk.'
"'Very well. You have two hands, and my left is almost useless,'
I said. 'Make your attempt where the shadow is deepest, and if he
sees you, and is about to shoot, see that you shoot first. I'll be
with you instantly if you succeed, and cover your retreat in case