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THE LAST DAYS OF LEE AND HIS PALADINS.
STAFF OFFICER SERVING IN VIRGINIA.
FROM THE MSS. OF
COLONEL SURRY, OF EAGLE'S NEST.
JOHN ESTEN COOKE
AUTHOR OF "SURRY OF EAGLE'S NEST."
_Nec aspera terrent._
On the wall over the mantel-piece, here in my quiet study at
Eagle's-Nest, are two crossed swords. One is a battered old sabre worn
at Gettysburg, and Appomattox; the other, a Federal officer's dress
sword captured in 1863.
It was a mere fancy to place them there, as it was a whim to hang upon
that nail yonder, the uniform coat with its stars and braid, which
Stuart wore on his famous ride around McClellan in 1862. Under the
swords hang portraits of Lee, Jackson, and Stuart. Jackson wears his
old coat, and his brow is raised as though he were looking out from
beneath his yellow old cadet cap. Stuart is seated, grasping his sabre,
with his plumed hat resting on his knee. His huge beard flows on his
breast, his eyes are clear and penetrating, and beneath the picture I
have placed a slip cut from one of his letters to me, and containing
the words, "Yours to count on, J.E.B. Stuart." Lastly, the gray
commander-in-chief looks with a grave smile over his shoulder, the eyes
fixed upon that excellent engraving of the "Good Old Rebel," a private
of the Army of Northern Virginia, seated on a log, after the war, and
reflecting with knit brows on the past and the present.
From this sketch of my surroundings, worthy reader, you will perceive,
that I amuse myself by recalling the old times when the Grays and Blues
were opposed to each other. Those two swords crossed--those pictures of
Lee, Jackson, Stuart, and the "Old Rebel"--you are certain to think
that the possessor of them is unreconstructed (terrible word!) and
still a rebel!
But is it wrong to remember the past? I think of it without bitterness.
God decreed it--God the all-wise, the all-merciful--for his own
purpose. I do not indulge any repinings, or reflect with rancor upon
the issue of the struggle. I prefer recalling the stirring adventure,
the brave voices, the gallant faces: even in that tremendous drama of
1864-5, I can find something besides blood and tears: even here and
there some sunshine!
In this last series of my memoirs I shall deal chiefly with that
immense campaign. In the first series which, I trust the reader of
these pages will have perused, I followed Jackson through his hard
battles to the fatal field of Chancellorsville. In this volume I shall
beg the reader first to go with Stuart from the great review of his
cavalry, in June, 1863, to the dark morning of May 11, 1864, at Yellow
Tavern. Then the last days will follow.
I open the drama with that fine cavalry review in June, 1863, on the
Plains of Culpeper.
It is a pleasure to return to it--for Gettysburg blackened the sunshine
soon. The column thundered by; the gay bugles rang; the great
banner floated. Where is that pageant to-day? Where the old moons of
Villon? Alas! the strong hours work their will. June, 1863, is long
dead. The cavalry horses, if they came back from the wars, are
ploughing. The rusty sabres stick fast in the battered old scabbards.
The old saddles are shabby--and our friends take them away from us. The
old buttons are tarnished, and an order forbids our wearing them. The
brass bands clash no more; and the bugles are silent. Where are the
drums and the bugles? Do they beat the long roll at the approach of
phantom foes, or sound the cavalry charge in another world? They are
silent to-day, and have long disappeared; but I think I hear them still
in my dreams!
It is in June, 1863, therefore, worthy reader, that I open my volume.
Up to that time I had gone with Jackson's "foot cavalry," marching
slowly and steadily to battle. Now, I was to follow the gay and
adventurous career of the Virginia Rupert--Stuart, the Knight of the
Black Plume! If you are willing to accompany me, I promise to show you
some animated scenes. You will hear Stuart laugh as he leads the
charge, or jest with his staff, or sing his gay cavalry songs. But,
alas! we shall not go far with him; and when he leaves us a sort of
shadow will fall upon the landscape. From that May, 1864, laughter will
seldom be heard. The light which shines on the great picture will be
red and baleful. Blood will gush on desperate fields--men will fall
like dry leaves in the winds of autumn.
The crimson torrent will sweep away a whole generation almost--and the
Red Cross flag will go down in blood.
The current of events will drag us to Petersburg, and those last months
which witnessed the final wrestle in this war of the giants.
Let us bask in the sunshine, before breasting the storm. The pages of
blood and mourning will soon be opened--meanwhile we will laugh.
In this June, 1863, faces smile still, and cheers resound. Bugles are
ringing, swords clashing, cannon thundering.
Lee's old army is full of ardor, and seventy thousand men shout!
THE LAST DAYS OF LEE AND HIS PALADINS.
THE CAVALRY REVIEW.
On a beautiful day of June, 1863, the plains of Culpeper, in Virginia,
were the scene of an imposing pageant.
Stuart's cavalry was passing in review before Lee, who was about to
commence his march toward Gettysburg.
Those of my readers who were fortunate enough to be present, will not
forget that scene. They will remember the martial form of Stuart at the
head of his _sabreurs_; how the columns of horsemen thundered by the
great flag; how the multitude cheered, brightest eyes shone, the merry
bands clashed, the gay bugles rang; how the horse artillery roared as
it was charged in mimic battle--while Lee, the gray old soldier, with
serene carriage, sat his horse and looked on.
Never had the fields of Culpeper witnessed a spectacle more
magnificent. The sunshine darted in lightnings from the long line of
sabres, lit up beautiful faces, and flashed from scarfs, and waving
handkerchiefs, rosy cheeks, and glossy ringlets. All was life, and joy,
and splendor. For once war seemed turned to carnival; and flowers
wreathed the keen edge of the sword.
Among the illustrious figures gazed at by the crowd, two were the
observed of all the observers--those of Lee and Stuart.
Lee sat his powerful horse, with its plain soldierly equipments,
beneath the large flag. He was clad in a gray uniform, almost without
mark of rank. Cavalry boots reached nearly to his knees; as usual he
wore no sword; over his broad brow drooped a plain brown felt hat,
without tassel or decoration. Beneath, you saw a pair of frank and
benignant, but penetrating eyes, ruddy cheeks, and an iron gray
mustache and beard, both cut close. In the poise of the stately head,
as in the whole carriage of his person, there was something calm,
august and imposing. This man, it was plain, was not only great, but
good;--the true type of the race of gentlemen of other times.
Stuart, the chief of cavalry of the army, was altogether different in
appearance. Young, ardent, full of life and abandon, he was the true
reproduction of Rupert, said to be his ancestor. The dark cavalry
feather; the lofty forehead, and dazzling blue eyes; his little
"fighting jacket," as he called it, bright with braid and buttons, made
a picture. His boots reached to the knee; a yellow silk sash was about
his waist; his spurs, of solid gold, were the present of some ladies of
Maryland; and with saber at tierce point, extended over his horse's
head, he led the charge with his staff, in front of the column, and
laughing, as though the notes of the bugle drove him forward.
In every movement of that stalwart figure, as in the glance of the blue
eyes, and the laughter curling the huge mustache, could be read youth
and joy, and a courage which nothing could bend. He was called a "boy"
by some, as Coriolanus was before him. But his Federal adversaries did
not laugh at him; they had felt his blows too often. Nor did the
soldiers of the army. He had breasted bullets in front of infantry, as
well as the sabre in front of cavalry. The civilians might laugh at
him--the old soldiers found no fault in him for humming his songs in
battle. They knew the man, and felt that he was a good soldier, as well
as a great general. He would have made an excellent private, and did
not feel "above" being one. Never was human being braver, if he did
laugh and sing. Was he not brave? Answer, old sabreurs, whom he led in
a hundred charges! old followers of Jackson, with whom he went over the
breastworks at Chancellorsville!
Some readers may regard this picture of Stuart as overdrawn; but it is
the simple truth of that brave soul. He had his faults; he loved
praise, even flattery, and was sometimes irascible--but I have never
known a human being more pure, generous and brave.
At sunset the review was over. The long columns of cavalry moved slowly
back to their camps. The horse artillery followed; the infantry who had
witnessed the ceremony sought their bivouacs in the woods; and the
crowd, on foot, on horseback, or in carriages, returned toward the
Court-House, whose spires were visible across the fields.
Stuart had approached the flag-staff and, doffing his plumed hat, had
saluted Lee, who saluted in return, and complimented the review. After
a few moments' conversation, they had then saluted a second time. Lee,
followed by his staff, rode toward his quarters; and Stuart set out to
return to his own.
We had ridden about half a mile, when Stuart turned his head and called
me. I rode to his side.
"I wish you would ride down toward Beverly's Ford, Surry," he said,
"and tell Mordaunt to keep a bright lookout to-night. They must have
heard our artillery on the other side of the river, and may want to
find out what it means."
I saluted, and turned my horse. Stuart cantered on singing.
In a few minutes he was out of sight, and I was riding toward the
HOW I BECAME A MEMBER OF GENERAL STUART'S STAFF.
If the reader has done me the honor to peruse the first volume of my
memoirs, I indulge the vanity of supposing that he will like to be
informed how I became a member of General Stuart's staff.
When oaks crash down they are apt to prostrate the saplings growing
around them. Jackson was a very tall oak, and I a very humble sapling.
When the great trunk fell, the mere twig disappeared. I had served with
Jackson from the beginning of the war; that king of battle dead at
Chancellorsville, I had found myself without a commander, and without a
home. I was not only called upon in that May of 1863, to mourn the
illustrious soldier, who had done me the honor to call me his friend; I
had also to look around me for some other general; some other position
in the army.
I was revolving this important subject in my mind, when I received a
note from General J.E.B. Stuart, Jackson's friend and brother in arms.
"Come and see me," said this note. Forty-eight hours afterward I was at
Stuart's head-quarters, near Culpeper Court-House.
When I entered his tent, or rather breadth of canvas, stretched beneath
a great oak, Stuart rose from the red blanket upon which he was lying,
and held out his hand. As he gazed at me in silence I could see his
"You remind me of Jackson," he said, retaining my hand and gazing
fixedly at me.
I bowed my head, making no other reply; for the sight of Stuart brought
back to me also many memories; the scouting of the Valley, the hard
combats of the Lowland, Cold Harbor, Manassas, Sharpsburg,
Fredericksburg, and that last greeting between Jackson and the great
commander of the cavalry, on the weird moonlight night at
Stuart continued to gaze at me, and I could see his eyes slowly fill
"It is a national calamity!" he murmured. "Jackson's loss is
[Footnote 1: His words.]
He remained for a moment gazing into my face, then passing his hand
over his forehead, he banished by a great effort these depressing
memories. His bold features resumed their habitual cheerfulness.
Our dialogue was brief, and came rapidly to the point.
"Have you been assigned to duty yet, my dear Surry?"
"I have not, general."
"Would you like to come with me?"
"More than with any general in the army, since Jackson's death. You
know I am sincere in saying that."
"Thanks--then the matter can be very soon arranged, I think. I want
another inspector-general, and want _you_."
With these words Stuart seated himself at his desk, wrote a note,
which, he dispatched by a courier to army head-quarters; and then
throwing aside business, he began laughing and talking.
For once the supply of red tape in Richmond seemed temporarily
exhausted. Stuart was Lee's right hand, and when he made a request, the
War Office deigned to listen. Four days afterward, I was seated under
the canvas of a staff tent, when Stuart hastened up with boyish ardor,
holding a paper.
"Here you are, old Surry,"--when he used the prefix "old" to any one's
name, he was always excellently well disposed toward them,--"the
Richmond people are prompt this time. Here is your assignment--send for
Sweeney and his banjo! He shall play 'Jine the Cavalry!' in honor of
the occasion, Surry!"
You see now, my dear reader, how it happened that in June, 1863, Stuart
beckoned to me, and gave me an order to transmit to General Mordaunt.
BLUE AND GRAY PHANTOMS.
As I rode toward the Rappahannock to deliver Stuart's order to General
Mordaunt, the wide landscape was suddenly lit up by a crimson glare. I
looked over my shoulder. The sun was poised upon the western woods, and
resembled a huge bloodshot eye. Above it extended a long black cloud,
like an eyebrow--and from the cloud issued low thunder.
When a storm is coming, the civilian seeks shelter; but the soldier
carrying an order, wraps his cape around him, and rides on. I went on
past Brandy and Fleetwood Hill, descended toward the river, entered a
great belt of woods--then night and storm descended simultaneously. An
artillery duel seemed going on in the clouds; the flickering lightnings
amid the branches resembled serpents of fire: the wind rolled through
the black wood, tearing off boughs in its passage.
I pushed my horse to full speed to emerge from this scene of crashing
limbs and tottering trunks. I had just passed a little stream, when
from a by-road on my left came the trample of hoofs. It is good to be
on the watch in the cavalry, and I wheeled to the right,
listening--when all at once a brilliant flash of lightning showed me,
within fifty paces, a column of _blue_ cavalry.
"Halt!" rang out from the column, and a pistol-shot followed.
I did not halt. Capture was becoming a hideous affair in June, 1863. I
passed across the head of the column at full speed, followed by
bullets; struck into a bridle-path on the right, and pushed ahead,
They had followed me nearly half a mile, firing on me, and ordering me
to halt, when suddenly a sonorous "Halt!" resounded fifty yards in
front of me; and a moment afterward, a carbine ball passed through my
I drove on at full speed, convinced that these in front were friends;
and the chest of my horse struck violently against that of another in
"Halt, or you are dead!" came in the same commanding voice.
Another flash of lightning showed me a squadron of _gray_ cavalry: at
their head rode a cavalier, well mounted; it was his horse against
which I had struck, and he held a cocked pistol to my breast.
The lightning left nothing in doubt. Gray and blue quickly recognized
each other. The blue cavalry had drawn rein, and, at that moment, the
leader of the grays shouted--"Charge!" A rush of hoofs, and then a
quick clash of sabres followed. The adversaries had hurled together.
The wood suddenly became the scene of a violent combat.
It was a rough affair. For ten minutes the result was doubtful. The
Federal cavalry were apparently commanded by an officer of excellent
nerve, and he fought his men obstinately. For nearly a quarter of an
hour the wood was full of sabre-strokes, carbine-shots, and yells,
which mingled with the roll of the storm. Then the fight ended.
My friend of the cocked pistol threw himself, sabre in hand, upon the
Federal front, and it shook, and gave back, and retreated. The weight
of the onset seemed to sweep it, inch by inch, away. The blue squadron
finally broke, and scattered in every direction. The grays pressed on
with loud cheers, firing as they did so:--five minutes afterward, the
storm-lashed wood had swallowed pursuers and pursued.
The whole had disappeared like phantom horsemen in the direction of the
MOHUN AND HIS PRISONER.
Half an hour afterward, the storm had spent its fury, and I was
standing by a bivouac fire on the banks of the Rappahannock, conversing
with the officer against whom I had driven my horse in the darkness.
Mounted upon a powerful gray, he had led the attack with a sort of
fury, and I now looked at him with some curiosity.
He was a man of about thirty, of gaunt face and figure, wearing a hat
with a black feather, and the uniform of a colonel of cavalry. The
features were regular and might have been called handsome; the eyes,
hair, mustache, and imperial--he wore no beard--coal black; the
complexion so pale that the effect was startling. More curious than all
else, however, was the officer's expression. In the lips and eyes could
be read something bitterly cynical, mingled with a profound and
apparently ineradicable melancholy. After looking at my new
acquaintance for an instant, I said to myself: "This man has either
suffered some great grief, or committed some great crime."
His bearing was cold, but courteous.
"I recognized you as soon as I saw you, colonel," he said, in response
to my salute. "You probably do not know me, however, as I have just
been transferred from the Army of the West. Colonel Mohun, at your
I exchanged a pressure of the hand with Colonel Mohun, or, speaking
more correctly, I grasped his. It did not return the pressure. I then
thanked him for his timely appearance, and he bowed coldly.
"It was lucky that my scout led me in this direction," he said, "that
party is whipped back over the river, and will give us no more trouble
to-night--the woods are full of their dead and wounded."
As he spoke he took a cigar case from his pocket, and presented it.
"Will you smoke, sir?" he said.
I bowed and selected a cigar. Colonel Mohun imitated me, and was about
to commence smoking, when two or three cavalry men were seen
approaching through the gloom, apparently escorting some one.
As they drew nearer the figures became plainer in the firelight. The
cavalry men had in charge a female prisoner.
She was a woman of petite figure, clad in a handsome gray riding-habit,
and mounted upon a superb horse, with rich equipments, apparently
belonging to a Federal officer of high rank. From the horse, I glanced
at the prisoner's face. It was a strange countenance. She was about
twenty-five--her complexion was dead white, except the lips which were
as red as carnations; her eyes were large and brilliant, her hair dark
and worn plain under a small riding-hat. In one delicately gauntleted
hand she held the rein of her horse--with the other, which was
ungloved, she raised a lace handkerchief to her lips. On the finger
sparkled a diamond.
There was something strange in the expression of this woman. She looked
"dangerous" in spite of her calmness.
She sat gazing at some one behind me, with the handkerchief still
raised to her lips. Then she took it away, and I could see a smile upon
What was the origin of that smile, and at whom was she looking? I
turned, and found myself face to face with Colonel Mohun. His
appearance almost frightened me. His countenance wore the hue of a
corpse, his whole frame shook with quick shudders, and his eyes were
distended until the black pupils shone in the centres of two white
Suddenly his teeth clinched audibly; he passed his hand over his
forehead streaming with cold sweat; and said in a low voice:
"Then you are not dead, madam?"
"No, sir," the prisoner replied tranquilly.
Mohun gazed at her with a long, fixed look. As he did so his features
gradually resumed the cold and cynical expression which I had first
observed in them.
"This meeting is singular," he said.
A satirical smile passed over the lips of the prisoner.
"Our last interview was very different, was it not, sir?" she said.
"The Nottoway was higher than the Rappahannock is to-night, and you did
not expect to meet me again--so soon!"
Mohun continued to gaze at her with the same fixed look.
"No, madam," he said.
"You recall that agreeable evening, do you not, sir?"
Mohun coolly inclined his head.
"And you have not seen me since?"
"You are mistaken!"
"Is it possible that I could have forgotten so pleasing a circumstance,
"Where and when have I seen you since that time?"
"Everywhere, and at all times!--awake and asleep, day and night!"
"True," he said, with a bitter smile.
"You remember, then! I am not wrong!" exclaimed the prisoner, gazing
intently at him.
Mohun raised his head, and I could see the old cynical expression upon
"Certainly I remember, madam," he said. "Do you think it possible for
any one to forget your charming ladyship? And could any thing be more
delightful than this interview between two old friends? But let us
reserve these sweet confidences, these gushing emotions! One thing only
is wanting, to perfect the happiness of this moment; the presence this
evening of _your dear brother_!--but he is doubtless detained
Mohun's expression was singular as he uttered these words. The prisoner
looked at him as he was speaking with an indescribable smile. I can
only compare it to that of the swordsman about to deliver a mortal
"My brother," she said, in accents as soft as a flute; "detained
elsewhere, do you say, sir? You are mistaken in supposing so. He
commanded the cavalry with which you were fighting to-night!"
At these words, uttered in a strange, mocking voice, I saw Mohun start
as if a rattlesnake had bitten his heel. With all his self-possession
he could not restrain this exhibition of emotion.
"Impossible! You are deceiving me--"
The prisoner interrupted him with a gay laugh.
"So you do not believe me," she said; "you think, my dear sir, that
everybody is dead but yourself! Dismiss that idea from your mind! _I_
am not dead, since we have the pleasure of again meeting in the flesh.
_He_ is not dead! No! it was Colonel Mortimer Darke whom you fought
to-night. This is his horse which I borrowed to take a short ride. I have
been captured, but _he_ is neither dead nor captured, and you will
doubtless receive some friendly message from him soon."
Under the mocking accents and the satirical glance, it was easy to read
profound hatred. The speaker could not hide that. At that moment she
resembled a tigress about to spring.
Mohun had listened with absorbing attention as his companion spoke;
but, as on the first occasion, he speedily suppressed his agitation.
His face was now as cold and unmoved as though moulded of bronze.
"So be it, madam," he said; "I will respond as I best can to such
message as he may send me. For yourself, you know me well, and, I am
glad to see, indulge no apprehensions. The past is dead; let it sleep.
You think this interview is painful to me. You deceive yourself, madam;
I would not exchange it for all the wealth of two hemispheres."
And calling an officer, he said:--
"You will conduct this lady to General Stuart, reporting the
circumstances attending her capture."
Mohun made a ceremonious bow to the prisoner as he spoke, saluted me in
the same manner, and mounting his horse, rode back at the head of his
The prisoner, escorted by the young officer, and still riding her fine
horse, had already disappeared in the darkness.
An hour afterward, I had delivered my message to Mordaunt, and was
returning by the road over Fleetwood Hill, thinking of the singular
dialogue between Mohun and the gray woman.
What had these worthies meant by their mysterious allusions? How had
Mohun found himself face to face on this stormy night, with two human
beings whom he thought dead?
These questions puzzled me for half an hour; then I gave up the
mystery, laughing. An hour afterward I had passed through Culpeper
Court-House, crossed the fields, and had reached General Stuart's
Stuart's tent, or rather the strip of canvas which he called one, was
pitched beneath a great oak on a wooded knoll about a mile south of the
little village. Above it drooped the masses of fresh June foliage;
around, were grouped the white canvas "flies" of the staff; in a glade
close by gleamed the tents d'abri of the couriers. Horses, tethered to
the trees, champed their corn in the shadow; in the calm, summer night,
the battle-flag drooped and clung to its staff. Before the tent of
Stuart, a man on guard, with drawn sabre, paced to and fro with
A glance told me that Mohun's singular prisoner had arrived. A courier
was holding her fine animal near the general's tent, and as I
dismounted, three figures' appeared in the illuminated doorway. These
were the figures of Stuart, the "gray woman," and a young aid-de-camp.
"Farewell, madam," said Stuart, bowing and laughing; "I am sorry to
have made your acquaintance under circumstances so disagreeable to you;
but I trust you will appreciate the situation, and not blame me."
"Blame you? Not in the least, general. You are a very gallant man."
And the gay words were accompanied by a musical laugh.
"You will have an opportunity of seeing the Confederate capital," said
The lady made a humorous grimace.
"And of abusing me upon the way thither; and afterward on the route to
Port Monroe and Washington, as you will not be detained, I am sure."
"I shall not abuse you, sir. You are the noblest gentleman I have ever
[Footnote 1: The real words of Stuart's prisoner]
And with mutual salutes they parted--the young aid-de-camp accompanying
the lady to her horse, and aiding her to mount. They then set forward
toward the Court-House. Stuart had ordered the prisoner to be conducted
thither, and detained at the village tavern, under guard, until
morning, when she would be sent to Richmond.
As they disappeared, I entered the general's tent, and found him
laughing. Leaning one hand upon his desk, covered with papers, upon
which rested his feather-decorated hat, he carelessly played with the
tassel of his yellow sash with the other hand. His blue eyes sparkled,
and his mustache curled with humor.
"That is really a beauty, Surry?" he said, "and I have laughed
He threw himself on his red blanket as he spoke, and began playing with
his two setter pups, whose names were "Nip" and "Tuck." He had brought
them out of the lines on his saddle.
"Well, you are really a magician," I said. "You charm the evil spirit,
and make prisoners laugh."
Stuart laughed in reply.
"That is a curious person that Mohun sent me," he said; "at first she
was disdainful enough; but I paid her a few compliments, and now she is
in an excellent humor, as you saw."
"But what about the fight?"
I made my report of the events of the evening.
"Well, Mohun is a trump," said Stuart. "A new man, but seems made of
the right stuff--real steel. What does Mordaunt say of the attack?"
"Only a scout."
"Right, and this lady is our spoil! She is handsome, is she not? But a
more curious face I have never seen. White cheeks and red lips--a sort
of devil and angel mixed! Who is she, I wonder, and what was her
errand. Something is under it. She gave her name as 'Mrs. Darke,'--and
her horse made me break the tenth commandment, Surry! Lady and courser
"She is certainly a beauty."
"And what eyes!"
Stuart remained silent for some moments, and then I heard him sigh.
"Do you know, my dear Surry," he said, "that if people heard us talk in
this way, they would call us libertines--immoral--any thing? There are
two things that people will not disbelieve about me--that I am impure,
and a drunkard! Do you know what a good man was heard to say of me the
other day? 'Stuart would be one of the greatest soldiers in the army,
if he did not drink so hard!' And others add: 'if he were not a
libertine.' Well, need I defend myself to _you_, from these charges? I
promised my mother in my childhood, never to touch ardent spirits, and
a drop has never passed my lips, except the wine of the communion. I
know I need not tell you that I am equally guiltless of the other
imputation. That person does not live who can say that I ever did any
thing improper of that description. And yet I am a drunkard--a
libertine--I, who never touched drink, and love but one person in this
[Footnote 1: This was actually said of Stuart.]
[Footnote 2: His words]
Stuart's head sank, and he uttered a weary sigh.
"They will not let me alone," he muttered, "and yet I am here fighting
for my country. But I defy them to take my good name away from me,
And he rose to his feet.
"General Lee knows me! Jackson knew me! I have the regard of the one,
and I had the love of the other. What do I care? If my children only
will not hear these ignoble charges! _One_ can never hear them, Surry--
my beloved little Flora! She died while I was fighting near Middleburg
in the fall of '62--that nearly broke me down--"
And Stuart paused and covered his eyes with his hand. Between the
fingers I saw a tear.
For a moment his breast heaved--something like a sob issued from the
brave lip, whereon the heavy mustache trembled.
"I think of her often--I shall never get over her death, Surry!" he
murmured. "They think me hard and cold, and bad perhaps--it is nothing.
Since she died I care less for men's opinion, and only try to do my
duty, till the ball comes that will end me."
[Footnote 1: His words.]
And dashing a tear from his eyes, Stuart walked to the door of his
tent, from which he gazed forth upon the stars.
Five minutes passed thus, and I did not speak. Then all at once I heard
Stuart call out: "Orderly!"
"Yes, sir," came from the man on post near the tent.
"Tell Sweeney to come and bring his banjo!"
And walking fifty steps, Stuart caressed the glossy neck of his mare
"Lady Margaret," who was tethered to a bough, and looked around
affectionately at her master.
When he returned he was humming "The dew lay on the blossom," and
following him was Sweeney--the same old Sweeney!--ever mild, courteous,
almost sad, doffing his cap, saluting with simple grace, and tuning his
In a moment the tent, the wooded knoll, the whole vicinity was ringing
with the uproarious notes of the mirth-inspiring banjo; and Sweeney was
chanting, as only that great master _could_ chant, the mighty epic of
the sabreurs of Stuart:--
"If you want to have a good time
Jine the cavalry,
Bully Boys, hey!"
The staff and couriers quickly assembled, the servants were grouped in
the starlight, the horses beneath the boughs turned their intelligent
heads--and leading in the uproarious chorus might have been heard the
sonorous and laughing voice of Stuart.
The festivities were kept up until nearly midnight.
Then Stuart yawned; said with a laugh, "Good morning, gentle-_men_" as
was his habit when he wished to work; and the tent was soon deserted.
I retired to rest, but at three in the morning felt a hand upon my
"The general is going to move, colonel, and wishes to see you," said
I rose, made my brief toilet, and went toward Stuart's tent where a
light was shining. He was writing busily at his desk, as fresh and gay
as on the preceding evening. His enormous constitution defied fatigue.
All at once I saw that there was another personage in the tent. He was
a young man of about twenty, of slight figure, beardless face, and an
expression so shy and retiring that he seemed ready to blush if you
spoke to him. He wore, nevertheless, the uniform of a captain of
artillery; and I remember wondering how this girlish and shrinking
personage, with the large, sad eyes, had come to hold a commission.
"Captain Davenant, of my horse artillery, Colonel Surry," said Stuart.
The youth colored, and then with an air of painful embarrassment took a
step forward and pressed my hand. The grasp of the slender fingers was
like the grip of a steel vice.
"Davenant has been on a scout across the Rappahannock, to keep his hand
in," said Stuart, busily writing. "My horse artillery boys do a little
of every thing--and Davenant is a wild-cat, Surry, with a touch of the
bull dog, in spite of his looks!"
The young officer drew back blushing more than ever at these words. His
confusion seemed to deprive him of the power of utterance.
"I'll bet he's blushing now!" said Stuart, laughing and continuing to
write with his back turned, as he spoke. "He is blushing or
sighing--for the poor Yankees he has killed, doubtless!"
"You are laughing at me, general," said the young man timidly. "Well,
my laughter won't hurt you, Davenant. I never joke with people I don't
like. But to business. The enemy are going to attack me, Surry. Get
ready, I am going to move."
The voice came like an echo. Then at the door appeared the gigantic,
black-bearded Lieutenant Hagan, chief of the general's escort. Have you
forgotten him, my dear reader?--his huge figure, his mighty beard, the
deep thunder of his tones? I showed you the brave soldier in 1861 and
'62. In 1863 his beard was heavier, his voice more like thunder--when
the giant walked along he seemed to shake the ground.
"I am going to move in half an hour, Hagan," said Stuart, still writing
busily. "Head-quarters will be established on Fleetwood Hill, beyond
Brandy; my horse!"
Hagan saluted and vanished without uttering a word. In five minutes the
camp was buzzing, and "Lady Margaret" was led up.
"Come on, Surry! Come on, Davenant! I will beat you to the
And Stuart buckled on his sword, drew on his gauntlets, and mounted his
horse. I was beside him. Not to be ready when Stuart was--was to be
left behind. He waited for nobody. His staff soon learned that.
As Davenant's horse was awaiting him, he was as prompt as Stuart
desired. In a minute we were all three riding at full speed toward the
village. Stuart was playing with his glove, which he had taken off and
dangled to and fro. His brows were knit, and he was reflecting. We did
not interrupt him, and in ten minutes we were all clattering over the
main street of the hamlet.
Stuart pushed on by the tavern, without pausing, in the direction of
Fleetwood, when just as he reached the eastern suburbs of the town a
small one-horse wagon, leaving the place, attracted his attention.
There was just sufficient light to make out the figures in the wagon.
There were two. One was a portly and plainly clad old countryman, with
a prominent nose, a double chin, and fat hands decorated with pinchbeck
rings. Beside him sat an old woman, as fat as himself, wearing a faded
calico gown, a "coal-scuttle" bonnet, and a huge ruffled cap beneath.
Stuart looked keenly at the wagon, called to the driver to halt, and
demanded whither he was going, and on what business. The old countryman
smiled. The question seemed to strike him as absurd, and his
explanation was simple and calculated to remove all suspicion. He
stated that his name was Brown--that he lived near the village; had
brought in a load of vegetables to sell, on the preceding evening--some
friends had persuaded him and "his old woman" to spend the night, and
they were now going home.
Stuart peered under the coal-scuttle bonnet.
"And this is your 'old woman' my friend," he said with a laugh.
"Jest so, sir," was the wheezy reply of the fat old countryman, smiling
sweetly. "You see she would come along, sir. Womankind is mighty
"A profound sentiment!" laughed Stuart, and riding on without further
words, he left the countryman free to proceed on his way.
We crossed a little stream, rode on toward Fleetwood, and had nearly
reached Brandy when Stuart suddenly reined in his horse.
"Do you know what I think," he said, "that I have done a foolish
"To let that old fellow go on. I don't like his looks."
"The old countryman?"
"Yes; I wish I had arrested him--him and his wife."
"I have an instinct about rascals, Surry; and something tells me that I
have been guilty of an imprudence."
"Was not his explanation satisfactory?"
"What could be wrong?"
"And his 'old woman,'" I said, laughing; "think of that highly
"I like her least of all!"
"If you choose."
"I think your instinct misleads you this time, general."
"I think not."
"Well, we will see."
And we did see.
In two hours the head-quarters tents were pitched upon Fleetwood Hill
beyond Brandy, and Stuart sent his provost marshal to Culpeper
Court-House, with orders to conduct the prisoner taken by Mohun on the
preceding night, to General Lee, for examination.
An hour afterward the worthy provost returned in hot haste with the
astounding information that the fair lady was nowhere to be found. She
had disappeared from her chamber, none knew how, before daylight, and
as a notoriously suspected individual who had lately been hanging round
the tavern had disappeared too, it was probable that they had gone off
together. Upon this point, a note left by the lady directed to "General
Stuart" would probably give information. This had been found upon her
table. And the provost wound up by handing the note to Stuart.
He read it with an air of decided ill-humor. Then throwing it upon his
desk, burst into a laugh.
"Well, Surry," he said, "who is right and who is wrong, now? Read
And he pointed to the note, which I opened and read. It was in a
delicate female hand, and ran as follows:--
"General Stuart will pardon the attempt his captive is about to make,
to effect her escape. He made himself quite charming in their brief
interview, but liberty is sweet. Finding a friend unexpectedly in this
quarter of the world, I have made every arrangement with him; he is a
great master of disguises, and, though the travelling costume which I
shall adopt will make me look hideous, I hope it will enable me, before
sunrise, to pass a private ford, known to my friend alone, and reach
the opposite bank of the Rappahannock.
"Farewell, my dear general. If all the rebels were like yourself, I
might change my politics. I have but one other friend in your
army--Colonel Mohun, of the cavalry. Present my regards to him, and say
that _we will meet again_."
That was all. I raised my eyes from the paper, and looked at the
general with stupefaction.
"Then that 'old woman' was the lady?"
"And we are fooled?"
"Completely. They are by this time on the other side of the
With these words, Stuart dismissed the whole subject, turned to his
desk, and in a moment was busy at his official writing.
THE BALL BEFORE THE BATTLE.
On the same evening I was riding with Stuart toward Culpeper
"Do you know where we are going, Surry?" he said, with a laugh.
"I can guess, I think."
"To the ball given by the young officers to the Charlottesville belles
"You are wrong, old fellow. I don't dare to go there."
"Well, that is the word," he replied; "I am not afraid of the Yankees,
but I am of gossips--above all, of the valorous correspondents of the
"I begin to understand now."
"They are dangerous."
Stuart cantered on, playing with his glove as usual. "Think of
Messieurs the bomb-proof critics!" he laughed. "They already say I
reviewed the cavalry with a wreath of flowers around my horse's neck."
"Is it possible?"
"They say so everywhere; and I will tell you the foundation for the
charge. In passing through the Court-House on the morning of the
review, a young lady friend of mine ran out from her house and threw a
wreath over the neck of my horse. Well, I think it is something to be
courteous in this world. I did not throw it off. I thanked her, rode
on, and only removed it when I got out of sight. Meeting General Lee, I
told him of it, laughing, and he said, with a smile: 'Why did you not
wear it?' I might as well have done so, Surry, for you see I have
the credit of it. Why try to be temperate, and pure, and soldierly? I
am a drunkard, a libertine, and a popinjay! But I care nothing. I
intend to do my duty, old fellow, and the next few days will probably
show if I can fight."
[Footnote 1: Fact.]
With which words Stuart broke into a song, cantered on more rapidly,
and passing without drawing rein through the Court-House, soon reached
General Lee's head-quarters on an eminence beyond.
Here he remained for an hour, in private interview with the
commander-in-chief. Finally, they came out together. General Lee in his
plain uniform, with that sedate dignity of bearing which made the gray
old cavalier so superb. I had the honor to receive his salute, and to
press his hand, and then I set out with General Stuart for Fleetwood.
In passing through the Court-House we observed the windows of a large
building all ablaze with lights, and heard the merry notes of music.
Stuart drew rein.
"I think I will drop in for a few minutes, in spite of every thing!" he
said. "See the end of all my excellent resolutions, Surry!"
And rapidly dismounting, Stuart entered the ball-room. I followed.
If the review was imposing, the ball was charming. Youths and maidens
had assembled promptly at the sound of music, and, if I were a poet or
a penny-a-liner, my dear reader, I would compose a fine description of
the merry spectacle. But alas! I am neither; and feel unequal to the
"ornate" style of writing. I am only a battered old _militaire_, with a
number of great events to speak of. Look in the newspapers of that
period for an account of the assembly.
Let me say, however, in passing, that there was something sad as well
as joyful, gloomy as well as brilliant, in all that echoing laughter,
and the movements of these gay figures, on the eve of the bloody battle
of Fleetwood. Girls were smiling upon youths who in twelve hours would
be dead. Lips were shaping gallant compliments--soon they were going to
utter the death-groan. All went merry as a marriage-bell, and they
danced to the joyous music. Soon the cannon would begin to roll, and
the youths would charge to that stormy music as they danced to this.
I was gazing at the lively assemblage--at the undulating forms moving
to and fro, the gay uniforms, the fluttering scarfs, the snowy arms,
the rosy cheeks, when my attention was attracted by a figure which made
me lose sight of all else.
It was that of a young girl about twenty, tall, stately, and beautiful.
Her dark hair was carried back in glossy waves, and ended in profuse
curls. Her cheeks resembled blush roses; the eyes were large,
brilliant, and full of laughing hauteur; the lips red, and wreathed
into a dazzling smile, which was the perfection of satirical mirth.
I grow extravagant; but this young girl was superb. There was something
queen like and imposing in her movements and whole appearance. She
seemed to look down on the crowd with satirical disdain, and the gay
youths who surrounded her were every instant struck by the bright
shafts of a wit which spared nothing.
Who was this dangerous beauty, who received the attentions of the young
officers with so much careless disdain? I asked that question of a
friend and he replied:
"Miss Georgia Conway, a daughter of Judge William Conway."
"Ah," I said, "the statesman?--the successor of Randolph in bitter
"Yes, and yonder he is."
I looked in the direction indicated, and saw an elderly gentleman of
small stature, with long gray hair, and lips full of benignant smiles.
He wore a suit of black, and there was something courtly and attractive
in every movement of the slender figure. His low bow and sweet smile
were the perfection of old-time courtesy.
I was still looking at this gentleman, whose fame had extended
throughout Virginia and the whole South, when a familiar voice near me,
attracted my attention. It was that of Captain Davenant, the young
officer of the horse artillery, and glancing in the direction of the
voice I saw him bending over a young lady who was seated and conversing
with him. She was a girl of seventeen, with blue eyes, auburn hair, and
a complexion as fair as a lily. As Davenant addressed her in low tones,
she gazed up into his face with an expression of confiding affection.
In the eyes of the young officer I could read a profound and ardent
Turning to my friend I inquired the name of the young lady, in turn.
"Miss Virginia Conway," he replied, "the only sister of Miss Georgia."
He had scarcely uttered the words, when Davenant's interview with the
young lady terminated in a very singular manner. Suddenly Judge Conway
passed through the crowd, reached the spot where the young people were
conversing, and darting a glance of positive fury at the youth--a
glance which made his eyes resemble coals of fire--offered his arm to
his daughter, and abruptly bore her away.
Davenant's face flushed crimson, and his eyes darted flame. He took a
step as though about to follow--but all at once he stopped.
Then from red his face became pale. The old expression of sadness
returned to his lips. With head bent down, and a faint color stealing
over his cheeks, he went toward the door, and passed though it, and
Before I had time to reflect upon this singular incident, I heard the
voice of Stuart.
"Come, Surry! to horse! unless you wish to remain!" he said.
"Ready, general!" I replied.
And in five minutes we were galloping toward Fleetwood.
"A gay ball," said Stuart, as we rode along; "but do you remember _my
"Perfectly, general. Has it told you something on the present
"You have heard of the famous ball at Brussells, broken up by the guns
"Well, I think that this one will prove similar--that cannon are going
to thunder before the music stops."
Stuart had scarcely spoken when rapid hoof-strokes were heard in front,
and a horseman shot by.
"Have you seen General Stuart?" said a voice in the darkness.
"Here I am--what news, Stringfellow?"
The horseman drew rein so suddenly that his horse was thrown upon his
haunches. "You will be attacked at daylight, general."
"The whole Yankee cavalry, with infantry and artillery supports."
"All right; ride back with me, and tell me every thing, Stringfellow."
In half an hour we were at head-quarters. Stuart dismounted and entered
"You see I was right, Surry," he said turning toward me, "and there is
something in my _instinct_ after all!"
At daylight a long thunder came up from the woods of the Rappahannock.
The greatest cavalry combat of the war had begun.
At that sound Stuart leaped to the saddle, and rode rapidly toward the
front. Fifteen minutes afterward his head-quarters had vanished. On the
green slope of Fleetwood not a tent was visible.
Is the reader familiar with the country along the Upper Rappahannock?
If so, he will remember that the river is crossed in Culpeper by
numerous fords. The principal--beginning on the left, that is to say,
up the river--are Welford's, Beverly's, the Railroad bridge, and
Stuart's left, under William H.F. Lee, was opposite Welford's; his
centre, under Jones, opposite Beverly's; his right, under Hampton,
toward Kelly's; and a force under Robertson was posted in the direction
of Stevensburg, to guard the right flank. The whole amounted to about
seven or eight thousand cavalry.
The Federal column which now advanced to attack it, is said to have
embraced all the cavalry of General Hooker's army; and must have
numbered more than twelve thousand sabres.
Stuart rode on rapidly down Fleetwood Hill, and was soon opposite
Beverly's Ford where the enemy had crossed in force. General Jones was
heavily engaged, and the Napoleons of the horse artillery were roaring
steadily. Every moment the round shot crashed, or the shell tore
through the woods about three hundred yards in front of the pieces
where the dismounted cavalry of the enemy had effected a lodgment. They
kept up a hot fire at the cannoneers, and the steady rattle of carbines
further up the river told that Lee was also engaged.
In face of the bursting shell, the blue _tirailleurs_ could not
advance; and Stuart sent an order to Hampton to move in and attack on
The troopers of the Gulf States advanced at the word; their dense
column was seen slowly moving, with drawn sabre, across the plain; the
moment of decisive struggle seemed rapidly approaching, when suddenly a
heavy blow was struck at Stuart's rear.
I had been directed by him to ascertain if "every thing had been sent
off from Fleetwood," and to see that no papers had been dropped there
in the hurry of departure. Going back at a gallop I soon reached the
hill, and rode over the ground recently occupied by the head-quarters.
The spot seemed swept. Not a paper was visible. All that I could see
was a withered bouquet dropped by some young officer of the staff--a
relic, no doubt, of the last night's ball at the village.
I had already turned to ride back to Stuart, when my attention was
attracted by a column of cavalry advancing straight on Brandy--that is,
upon Stuart's rear. What force was that? Could it be the enemy? It was
coming from the direction of Stevensburg; but how could it have passed
our force there?
"Look!" I said to an officer of the horse artillery, one battery of
which was left in reserve on the hill, "look! what column is that?"
"It must be Wickham's," was his reply.
"I am sure they are Yankees!"
"Impossible!" he exclaimed.
But our doubts were soon terminated. From the rapidly advancing column
two guns shot out and unlimbered. Then two white puffs of smoke spouted
from their muzzles, and the enemy's shell burst directly in our faces.
The horse artillery returned the fire, and I hastened back with the
intelligence to Stuart.
"It is only a squadron, I suppose," he replied with great coolness. "Go
back and get all the cavalry you can, and charge the guns and bag
[Footnote: His words]
It is impossible to imagine any thing calmer than the speaker's voice.
I knew, however, that the attack was more critical than he supposed;
hastened back; came up with two regiments; and they ascended the hill
at full gallop, leaping the ravines, and darting toward the crest.
Suddenly it blazed with staggering volleys. The Federal cavalry had
rushed straight across the fields toward the hill--ascended its western
slope as we ascended the eastern, and met us--coming on, in squadron
front, they struck the Confederates advancing in column of fours, and
in confusion from the rough ground--they recoiled--were thrown into
disorder; and with loud cheers the enemy swarmed all over Fleetwood
The battle seemed lost. Stuart was cut off, and hemmed in between two
powerful bodies of Federal cavalry, supported by infantry and
All that saved us at that moment, was the "do or die" fighting of the
cavalry and horse artillery.
On the crest of Fleetwood took place a bitter and obstinate struggle.
It was one of those fights of the giants, which once witnessed is never
forgotten. The cannoneers of the horse artillery fought as savagely,
hand to hand, as the regular cavalry; and the crest became the scene of
a mad wrestle, rather of wild beasts than men.
All at once the form of Davenant appeared amid the smoke. He had come
rapidly from the front, and now threw himself into the combat like the
bloodhound to which Stuart had compared him. His sad smile had
disappeared; his cheeks were flushed; his eyes fiery;--leaping from his
horse, he seized the sponge-staff of a gun, from which all the
cannoneers had been driven, and ramming home a charge of canister,
directed the gun upon a column of the enemy.
Before he could fire, a Federal cavalryman rode at him, and cut
furiously at his bare head, with the full weight of his sabre.
Davenant did not try to draw his sword--the attempt would have been
useless. In his hand he had a weapon; and with a swing of the rammer he
swept the cavalryman from the saddle. He fell headlong, covered with
blood; and Davenant aimed and fired the charge of canister--leaped upon
his horse--and drawing his sword, plunged into the melee, his head
bare, his eyes flaming, his voice rising loud and inspiring, above the
[Footnote 1: Fact.]
It was a stubborn, a superb struggle. Three times the enemy's guns were
charged and captured; three times the Confederates were furiously
charged in turn, and the pieces recaptured by the enemy. A final
charge of the gray cavalry carried all before it. The Federal artillery
was seized upon, and their cavalry driven back--but at that moment a
heavier force still was seen advancing upon Stuart from the direction
of Kelly's ford.
[Footnote 1: Fact.]
It was a splendid spectacle. They came on in solid column, and rapidly
formed line of battle on the slope of Fleetwood, with drawn sabres, and
flags floating. As they moved they seemed to shake the very ground. I
had never before seen so great a force of cavalry drawn up--and the
critical moment of the battle had plainly come.
At that instant the great field presented a remarkable appearance.
Cavalry were charging in every direction, and it was hard to tell
friend from foe. Stuart was fighting, so to say, from the centre
outwards. The enemy were in his front, in his rear, and on both his
flanks. If they closed in, apparently, he would be crushed as in a
vice. The iron hand would strangle him.
That moment tested the nerves. Stuart's "heart of oak" bore the strain.
He was aroused, stung, his cheeks burned, his eyes flamed--but the man
was sufficient for the work. I looked closely at him. "Do or die" was
plain on his face. From that instant I never had any doubts about
He rushed two pieces of artillery to a knoll in front of the line of
Federal horsemen. A moment afterward two reports were heard, and two
shell burst precisely in the middle of the line, making a wide gap in
it, and checking the charge which had begun.
[Footnote 1: Fact.]
All at once I saw a column of cavalry coming up from the river, and
turning to Stuart, said:--
"General, what cavalry is that?"
"Hampton's!" Stuart exclaimed. "Bring it up like lightning!"
[Footnote 1: His words.]
I set out at full gallop, and soon reached the column. At the head of
it rode Young, the _beau sabreur_ of Georgia, erect, gallant, with his
brave eye and smile.
I pointed out the enemy and gave the order.
"All right!" exclaimed Young, and, turning to his men, he whirled his
sabre around his head and shouted,
The column thundered on, and as it passed I recognized Mohun, his
flashing eye and burnished sabre gleaming from the dust-cloud.
In five minutes they were in front of the enemy--the men wheeled and
faced the Federal line.
"Charge!" rose from a hundred lips. Spurs were buried in the hot
flanks; the mass was hurled at the enemy; and clashing like thunder,
sword against sword, swept every thing before it. Not a single shot was
fired--the sabre only was used. The enemy were broken to pieces--what I
saw was a wild melee of whirling swords, flying horses, men cloven to
the chin, while others were seen throwing themselves from the saddle,
and raising their hands to escape the keen swordsmen slashing at
[Footnote 1: Fact.]
The great force of the enemy sweeping down on Stuart's flank was thus
routed. The spectacle which followed was ludicrous as well as exciting.
The enemy fled in disorder. Never before had I seen the nails in the
hind shoes of hundreds of horses--myriads of horses' tails streaming
like meteors as they ran!
The force disappeared in the woods, hotly pursued by their foes. The
dust followed them in a great cloud--from that cloud arose yells and
cheers--cannon thundered; carbines rattled;--but that sound receded
more and more rapidly toward the river.
On our left the brave William H.F. Lee had been as successful. He had
charged and repulsed the enemy, falling wounded at the head of his men.
They had not again advanced upon him. Near the Barbour House he
presented an unbroken front to them.
Stuart held with his cavalry, indeed, the whole Fleetwood range. The
long thunder of his artillery said to the enemy,
They did not come. They went back. Their cavalry had crossed the river
to ascertain the meaning of the great review. They had discovered
nothing, after heavy loss. The ground was strewed with their dead and
dying--they retired, shattered and bleeding.
Stuart's loss was also great--even his staff was not spared. One of my
brother staff officers was killed, another wounded, a third captured.
But Stuart had won the greatest cavalry fight of the war.
MOHUN FAINTS AT THE RIGHT MOMENT.
In a room of the "Barbour House" on Fleetwood Hill, Stuart was writing
a dispatch to General Lee.
It was nearly sunset, and the red light was streaming through the
windows. On the floor lay a number of wounded men, groaning piteously.
Busily attending to their wants were two young girls--the daughters of
Judge Conway, whom I had seen on the night of the ball.
The young ladies, I afterward discovered, had been on a visit to the
family occupying the Barbour House; had courageously remained during
the whole of the battle--and they were now busily attending to the
wants of the wounded.
I was gazing at the eldest--the superb beauty with the disdainful eyes,
who had held that wit-combat with her circle of admirers--when Stuart
finished his dispatches, and turned around.
"Any reports?" he said briefly to a member of his staff.
"None, general--except that Colonel Mohun is reported killed."
"Mohun! It is impossible! He drove the enemy, and was unhurt. I would
not swap him for a hundred, nor a thousand of the enemy!"
"Thank you, general!" said a sonorous voice behind us.
And Mohun entered, making the military salute as he did so.
In his bearing I could discern the same cool pride, mingled with
satire. There was only one change in him. He was paler than ever, and I
could see that his right shoulder was bloody.
As he entered, Miss Georgia Conway, who was bending over a wounded
soldier, raised her head and looked at him. Mohun's eye met her own,
and he bowed ceremoniously, taking no further notice of her.
At this exhibition of careless indifference I could see Miss Conway's
face flush. An expression of freezing hauteur came to the beautiful
lips; and the disdainful glance indicated that her _amour propre_ was
She turned her back upon him abruptly--but as Mohun had already turned
his, the movement failed in its object. The officer was looking at
Stuart, who had grasped his hand. He winced as the general pressed it,
and turned paler, but said nothing.
"Then you are not dead, Mohun!" exclaimed Stuart, laughing.
"Not in the least, general, I am happy to inform you," replied Mohun.
"I am truly glad to hear it! What news?"
"Our party is all over. We followed them up until they recrossed the
river--and I owed them this little piece of politeness for I recognized
an old acquaintance in the commander of the squadron."
"A certain Colonel Darke--a charming person, general." And Mohun
"I recognized him yonder when we charged on the hill, and, at first, he
followed his men when they broke. As I got close to him, however, in
the woods, he recognized me in turn, and we crossed swords. He is
brave--no man braver; and he did his utmost to put an end to me. I had
somewhat similar views myself in reference to my friend, the colonel,
but his men interposed and prevented my carrying them out. They were
all around me, slashing away. I was nearly cut out of the saddle--I was
carried away from my friend in the melee--and the unkindest cut of all
was his parting compliment as he retreated through the river."
"What was that, Mohun?"
"A bullet from his pistol, which grazed my shoulder. A mere scratch,
but provoking. I saw him grin as he fired."
"An old friend on the Yankee side? Well, that happens," said Stuart--
"Frequently, general," said Mohun; "and this one was _very_ dear,
indeed--most tenderly attached to me, I assure you. My affection for
him is of the same endearing nature: and we only crossed sabres in
jest--a mere fencing bout for amusement. We would not hurt each other
And Mohun's mustache curled with laughter. There was something restless
and sinister in it.
Suddenly his face grew paler, and his eyes were half closed.
"Well, Mohun," said Stuart, who was not looking at him; "I am going to
send you across the river on a reconnaissance to-night."
"All right, general."
And the officer made the military salute. As he did so, he staggered,
and Stuart raised his eyes.
"You are wounded!" he exclaimed.
"A trifle," laughed Mohun.
But as he spoke, his frame tottered; his face assumed the hue of a
corpse; and he would have fallen, had not Miss Georgia Conway started
up unconsciously from the wounded man whom she was attending to, and
supported the officer in her arms.
Mohun opened his eyes, and a grim smile came to his pale face.
"A pretty tableau!" I heard him murmur; "it would do to put in a
romance. A cup of tea--or a pistol--that would finish--"
As he uttered these singular words, the blood gushed from his wounded
shoulder, his eyes closed, and, his head falling on the bosom of the
young girl, he fainted.
THE SLIM ANIMAL.
Fleetwood was the first gun of the great campaign which culminated on
the heights of Gettysburg. A week afterward, Lee's columns were in
motion toward Pennsylvania.
Was that invasion the dictate of his own judgment? History will answer.
What is certain is, that the country, like the army, shouted "Forward!"
The people were ablaze with wild enthusiasm; the soldiers flushed with
the pride of their great victories of Fredericksburg and
Chancellorsville. The authorities at Richmond shared the excitement,
and the commissary-general, with unwonted humor, or in sober earnest,
indorsed, it is said, upon a requisition for supplies: "If General Lee
wishes rations, let him seek them in Pennsylvania."
I doubt if the great commander shared the general agitation. I think he
aimed to draw Hooker out of Virginia, leaving the rest to Providence.
So he moved toward the Potomac.
The world had called Lee cautious. After this invasion, that charge was
not repeated. From first to last audacity seemed the sentiment
With Hooker on the Rappahannock, threatening Richmond, Lee thrust his
advance force under Ewell through the Blue Ridge toward Maryland;
pushed Longstreet up to Culpeper to support him, and kept only A.P.
Hill at Fredericksburg to bar the road to the Confederate capital.
Hooker wished to advance upon it, but President Lincoln forbade him.
The dispatch was a queer official document.
"In case you find Lee coming to the north of the Rappahannock," Lincoln
wrote, "I would by no means cross to the south of it. I would not take
any risk of being entangled upon the river, _like an ox jumped half
over a fence, and liable to be torn by dogs, front and rear, without a
fair chance to gore one way or kick the other._"
Ludicrous perhaps, but to the point; the "Rail-Splitter" was not always
dignified, but often judicious. Chancellorsville had been defeat--Lee's
assault, foreboded thus by Lincoln, would be death.
Hooker fell back, therefore, in the direction of Washington. Lee had
foreseen that fact, and had given himself small anxiety. His three
corps were already in full motion toward the Potomac; and suddenly the
thunder of artillery came on the winds of the mountains.
Ewell, the head of the Southern spear, was driving at Milroy, holding
Winchester. The struggle was brief. General Milroy had put the iron
heel on the poor valley; had oppressed the unfortunate people beyond
the power of words--and suddenly the hand of Fate clutched and shook
him to death. Ewell stormed his "Star Fort" near Winchester, with the
bayonet; drove him to headlong flight; got in rear of him, capturing
nearly all his command; and poor Milroy scarce managed to escape, with
a small body-guard, beyond the Potomac.
"In my opinion Milroy's men will fight better _under a soldier!_"
It was his commanding officer, Hooker, who wrote those words a few days
afterward. From the hands of his own general came that unkindest cut!
Exit Milroy, thus amid hisses and laughter--the hornet's nest at
Winchester was swept away--and Ewell headed straight for Pennsylvania.
Longstreet came up rapidly to fill the gap in the line--Hill followed
Longstreet--and then the world beheld the singular spectacle of an army
extended in a long skirmish line over a hundred miles, with another
army massed not daring to assail it.
Hooker did not see his "opening;" but Lincoln did. One of his
dispatches has been quoted--here is another as amusing and as
"If the head of Lee's army is at Martinsburg," Lincoln wrote Hooker,
"and the tail of it on the Plank road, between Fredericksburg and
Chancellorsville, _the animal must be very slim somewhere--could you
not break him?_"
But Hooker could not. He did not even try. Lee's movements seemed to
paralyze him--his chief of staff wrote:--
"We cannot go boggling round, until we know what we are going after."
"Boggling round" exactly described the movements of Hooker. He was
still in a grand fog, and knew nothing of his adversary's intent, when
a terrific cry arose among the well-to-do farmers of Pennsylvania. The
wolf had appeared in the fold. Ewell was rapidly advancing upon
Behind came the veteran corps of Hill and Longstreet. The gorges of the
Blue Ridge were alive with bristling bayonets. Then the waters of the
Potomac splashed around the waists of the infantry and the wheels of
the artillery carriages. Soon the fields of Maryland and Pennsylvania
were alive with "rebels," come, doubtless, to avenge the outrages of
Pope and Milroy. Throughout those commonwealths--through Philadelphia,
New York, and Boston--rang the cry, "Lee is coming!"
To return to the cavalry. The horsemen of Stuart were going to move in
an eccentric orbit. These are my _memoirs_, reader, not a history of
the war; I describe only what I saw, and am going to ask you now, to
"follow the feather" of Stuart.
Stuart was promptly in the saddle, and when Lee began to move, advanced
north of the Rappahannock, drawing a cordon of cavalry across the roads
above Middleburg, to guard the approaches to the mountain.
The result was that the infantry defiled through the Blue Ridge without
Hooker's knowledge. He knew that something was going on, but there his
information terminated. The troopers of Stuart kept watch over fifteen
miles of front, and through this wall of sabres the Federal eye could
Stuart is regarded by many as only a brave "raider." It was on
occasions like this, however, that he performed his greatest services.
Everywhere he confronted the enemy in stubborn battle; and the work was
hard. It was fighting, fighting, fighting--now, as in 1862, when he
covered Lee's retreat after Sharpsburg. Day and night the cavalry had
no rest. The crack of carbines, the clash of sabres, and the roar of
cannon were incessant. It was a war of giants which Fauquier and
Loudoun saw in those days--and not until the rear of Lee's column had
nearly reached the Potomac, did General Hooker by a desperate effort
succeed in driving Stuart back.
In these pages I must leave that obstinate struggle undescribed. It was
full of romantic scenes, and illustrated by daring courage: but all is
lost to view in the lurid smoke of Gettysburg.
With one scene in the hurrying drama I shall pass to greater events.
But first, I beg to introduce to the reader a very singular personage,
who is destined to play an important part in the history I am writing.
It was the night of the 20th of June, 1863. Stuart's head-quarters had
been established in a house on the roadside above Middleburg.
We had been fighting all day; had returned only at nightfall: and I was
exchanging a few words with Stuart, before following the staff to rest,
when all at once a third personage, who seemed to have arisen from the
floor, stood before us.
His presence was so sudden and unexpected that I started. Then I looked
at him, curiously.
He was a man of about forty, thin, wiry, and with a nose resembling the
beak of a bird of prey. His eyes, half buried under bushy eyebrows,
twinkled like two stars. His mouth was large and smiling; his
expression exceedingly benignant. From the face I passed to the
costume. The worthy was clad in severe black, with a clerical white
cravat: wore a black beaver hat of the "stove-pipe" order; and
presented the appearance of a pious and peaceable civilian--almost that
of a clergyman, smiling benignantly upon all around him.
Stuart uttered an exclamation of satisfaction.
"Ah! Nighthawk, here you are!" he said.
And turning to me he introduced the new comer as "Mr. Nighthawk, one of
my 'private friends,' and true as steel."
Mr. Nighthawk bowed with an air of smiling respect--of benignant
"I am glad to know you, colonel, and hope I may have an opportunity of
being of service to you some day," he said.
The voice was low, soft, and accorded with the mild expression of the
"Well, what news, Nighthawk?" asked Stuart; "experience tells me that
you have something of importance to communicate?"
"Yes. You pass in the cavalry by the name of the 'man before the
battle,' for you always turn up then."
Mr. Nighthawk smiled.
"I try to give you information, general; and perhaps I have some news.
But first of my visits to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and
Washington, where I saw many of our friends."
And in his low, quiet voice Mr. Nighthawk, who had taken a seat and
smoothed down his white cravat, proceeded to speak of his travels and
what he had seen.
The narrative astounded me. He spoke without reserve, for General
Stuart had informed him that he might do so before me; and I was
startled to find the number of private friends the South had in the
North. Mr. Nighthawk was evidently _au fait_ at his trade. He had a
perfect understanding plainly with persons of the highest political
position; and Stuart listened with the greatest interest to the
speaker, whose low voice never rose above the half-whisper by which I
had been impressed on his first opening his lips.
"So the summing up of all this," said Stuart, "that our friends are not
"They are not, general."
"They say Lee must win a great victory on the soil of Pennsylvania?"
"Yes, general. Without it there is no hope of peace, they declare."
"Well, I think they are right; and that we shall gain the victory."
Mr. Nighthawk made no reply; and Stuart reflected for some moments
without speaking. Then rousing himself:--
"I forgot," he said. "You have not given me your special information,
The worthy smiled.
"You know I am the 'man before the battle,' general?"
"Yes, go on, Nighthawk."
"I have just left General Hooker's head-quarters."
"Where are they?"
"You saw him?"
"I conversed with him."
"An hour, general, as the Rev. Mr. Ward, from Massachusett, of the
'Grand Union Sanitary Commission'."
And Mr. Nighthawk smiled.
"Of course I urged active movements, and General Hooker became quite
"He agreed with your views then?" said Stuart, laughing.
"And he intends--"
"There is the important thing. While we were conversing, General Hooker
was called for a moment out of his tent, and by accident, my eyes fell
upon an order which lay upon his desk."
"For two divisions of cavalry, one of infantry, and a full complement
of artillery, to advance and drive you back to the mountain."
"Ah! you saw that order?"
"I did, general; it was just ready to be sent."
"What day did it fix?"
"Ah, indeed! Two divisions of infantry and one of cavalry?"
Mr. Nighthawk inclined in assent.
"When did you leave Hooker's head-quarters?"
"And you came through the lines to-night?"
"Yes, general, in the usual way, by passing through the pickets. I was
on foot and nothing was easier."
Stuart knit his brows and reflected. Then he called to the orderly.
"Wake the adjutant-general, and have three couriers ready at once!"
Mr. Nighthawk arose.
"By-the-by, general," he said, "I saw Swartz, whom I have mentioned to
"Yes; the best spy, you say, in the Federal army."
"I think he is, general. He is a wonderful man. He recently played a
trick upon you."
"At least he bore off a prisoner from you. It was a lady, captured by
Colonel Mohun, one night on the Rappahannock."
"Ah! Is it possible! So Swartz was the old countryman, driving the
wagon that morning."
"So he informed me, general."
"You are friends, then?"
And Mr. Nighthawk smiled.
"We have an agreement--but that would not interest you, general. That
was really Swartz, and the old woman was the prisoner."
"Well," said Stuart, "that was a bold stroke, but the lady was handsome
enough to make friends. There is something between herself and Colonel
Mohun, is there not?"
Mr. Nighthawk glanced quickly at the face of the general. His eyes
resembled steel points, but the piercing glance at once sank.
"Something between them, general? What could have made you think that?
But here is Major McClellan. I will not detain you, general; I will
come back at daylight to receive your orders."
With these words, Mr. Nighthawk distributed a benignant smile, bowed in
a friendly manner, and disappeared, it was difficult to say how, from
the apartment. I had turned my eyes from him but an instant; when I
again looked he was gone.
"And now to work!" exclaimed Stuart. "We are going to fight tomorrow,
Surry, since the 'man before the battle' has made his appearance!"
HOW STUART FELL BACK.
At daybreak, Stuart was going at full gallop to the front.
A rapid fire of skirmishers, mingled with the dull roar of cannon,
indicated that Nighthawk had not been deceived.
All at once the sharp-shooters were seen falling back from the woods.
"Bring me a piece of artillery!" exclaimed Stuart, darting to the
But the attack of the enemy swept all before it. Stuart was driven
back, and was returning doggedly, when the gun for which he had sent,
galloped up, and unlimbered in the road.
It was too late. Suddenly a solid shot screamed above us; the gun was
hurled from its carriage, and rolled shattered and useless in the wood;
the horses were seen rearing wild with terror, and trying to kick out
of the harness.
Suddenly one of them leaped into the air and fell, torn in two by a
second round shot.
"Quick work!" said Stuart, grimly.
And turning round to me, he said, pointing to a hill in rear--
"Post three pieces on that hill to rake all the roads."
The order, like the former, came too late, however. The enemy advanced
in overpowering force--drove Stuart back beyond his head-quarters,
where they captured the military satchel of the present writer--and
still rushing forward, like a hurricane, compelled the Confederate
cavalry to retire behind Goose Creek. On the high ground there, Stuart
posted his artillery; opened a rapid fire; and before this storm of
shell the Federal forces paused.
The spectacle at that moment was picturesque and imposing. The enemy's
force was evidently large. Long columns of cavalry, heavy masses of
infantry and artillery at every opening, right, left, and centre,
showed that the task of driving back Stuart was not regarded as very
easy. The sunshine darted from bayonet and sabre all along the great
line of battle--and from the heavy smoke, tinged with flame, came the
Federal shell. With their infantry, cavalry, and artillery, they seemed
determined to put an end to us. Stuart galloped to his guns, pouring a
steady fire from the lofty hill. Captain Davenant directed it in
person, and he was evidently in his right element. All his sadness had
disappeared. A cool and resolute smile lit up his features.
"All right, Davenant! Hold your ground!" exclaimed Stuart.
"I will do so, general."
"Can you keep them from crossing?"
"I can try, general."
A whirlwind of shell screamed around the two speakers. For the
hundredth time I witnessed that entire indifference to danger which was
a trait of Stuart. The fire at this moment was so terrible that I heard
an officer say:--
"General Stuart seems trying to get himself and everybody killed."
Nothing more inspiring, however, can be imagined than his appearance at
that moment. His horse, wild with terror, reared, darted, and attempted
to unseat his rider. Stuart paid no attention to him. He had no eyes or
thought for any thing but the enemy. His cheeks were flushed, his eyes
flamed--he resembled a veritable king of battle.
From Stuart my glances passed to Davenant. His coolness impressed me
deeply. While giving an order, a shell burst right in his face,
enveloping horse and rider in a cloud of smoke--but when the smoke
drifted away, he was sitting his horse unmoved, and giving the order as
quietly as before.
I have not invented this picture, reader, or fancied this character. I