Part 2 out of 12
had the honor to enjoy the friendship of the brave boy I describe. He
was remarkable, in an epoch crowded with remarkable characters.
Stuart held his ground for an hour on the high hills of Goose Creek,
but it then became plain that he was going to be driven back. The enemy
had felt him, and discovered that the game was in their own hands. Now
they rushed on his right, left and centre, at the same moment--cavalry,
infantry, and artillery rolling on like a torrent--crossed the stream,
charged the hill--in a moment a bitter and savage combat commenced for
the possession of the crest.
Stuart rushed toward the guns. As he reached them a cannon ball carried
off the head of a cannoneer, and his horse reared with fright, nearly
trampling on the headless trunk which spouted blood. Davenant had
coolly drawn his sabre, but had given no order to retire.
"Move back the guns!" exclaimed Stuart.
"Is it necessary, general?" asked Davenant.
"Yes, they will be captured in five minutes!"
"It is a pity we can not remain, general. This is an excellent
And he gave the order to limber up. The operation was performed amid a
hurricane of bullets, striking down the cannoneers.
Suddenly a column of Federal cavalry charged straight at the guns.
Davenant met them with his mounted men, armed with sabres, and a
stubborn combat followed. It was a hilt to hilt affair, and Davenant
was in the midst of it shouting:--
"You are fighting for your guns, boys! You promised to die by your
The men answered with fierce shouts, and met the enemy with savage
resolution. Meanwhile, the guns had rushed at a gallop down the western
slope; a regiment came to Davenant's assistance; the fight grew
desperate, but was of no avail.
In fifteen minutes we were driven.
Driven! Do you know what that means, reader? Ask old soldiers if it is
pleasant. They will growl in reply!
We were forced back, step by step, with the enemy at our very heels. At
our backs came on the huge column, yelling and firing, mad with
triumph. Stuart the valiant, the obstinate, the unshrinking was driven!
We were forced back to Upperville, and there things looked stormy. On
the other roads, Stuart's right and left were rapidly retiring. His
centre at Upperville seemed devoted to destruction.
The enemy came on like a whirlwind, with a roaring shout. As far as the
eye could see, the great fields were dark with them. Their horse
artillery advanced at a gallop, unlimbered, and tore the retreating
columns with shot and shell.
I was ten yards from Stuart, just at the edge of the town, when a
picked body of Federal horsemen darted straight upon him.
They had evidently recognized him by his major-general's uniform and
splendid feather. Bullets hissed around him; blows were struck at him;
and for an instant I saw him in the midst of a wild huddle of enemies,
defending himself with his revolver only.
In an instant he would have been killed or captured, with his staff and
body-guard, when a resounding shout was heard.
I glanced over my shoulder, and saw the cavaliers of Hampton coming on
with drawn sabre.
Then a splendid spectacle was presented--that of Wade Hampton in one of
his great moments. This stalwart cavalier was leading his men, and in
an instant they had struck the enemy with a noise like thunder.
Suddenly a cavalier on a black horse rushed by like the wild huntsman,
and I recognized Mohun; who, spurring his animal to headlong speed,
drove straight at the leader of the Federal cavalry, almost in contact
Through a rift in the smoke I caught a glimpse of Mohun's opponent. He
was a man of low stature, but broad, heavy, and powerful. He came to
meet his adversary with the bridle of his horse resting on the animal's
neck, while both hands clutched a heavy broad-sword, raised over his
I could only see that the two opponents hurled together like knights
tilting; their swords gleamed; they closed in, body to body; then the
smoke wrapped them. It was impossible to see more.
MOSBY COMES TO STUART'S ASSISTANCE.
Sore and restive at the reverse which had come to balance his victory
of Fleetwood, Stuart bivouacked near Paris, that night, and made every
preparation to attack at dawn.
At daylight he was in the saddle, and spurred to the high ground
All at once he checked his horse. The enemy had disappeared.
Stuart's blue eye flashed, and half an hour afterward he was advancing
at the head of his cavalry. Not a foe was visible. Pressing on through
Upperville, and over the trampled fields beyond, he continued to
advance upon Middleburg, and near that place came up with the rear of
the enemy. They showed little fight, however, and were driven beyond
the place. The gray troopers pursued them with shouts and cheers--with
which were mingled cries of rejoicing from the people of Middleburg.
An hour afterward the lines were re-established in triumph.
Stuart returned to his former head-quarters amid a drenching rain; and
this recalls an incident very honorable to the brave soldier. As night
descended, dark and stormy, Stuart gazed gloomily at the torrents of
"My poor fellows!" he said, with a sigh, "they will have a hard time
Then suddenly turning to his servant, he added:--
"Spread my oil-cloth and blankets under that apple tree yonder. I will
keep them dry enough when I once get into them."
[Footnote 1: His words.]
"You are not going to sleep out on such a night, general!" exclaimed a
"Certainly I am," was his reply, "I don't intend to fare better than my
[Footnote 1: His words.]
And an hour afterward Stuart was asleep under the apple tree, with a
torrent pouring on him.
That was the act of a good officer and soldier, was it not, reader?
Before sunrise Stuart was up, and walking uneasily to and fro. As the
day wore on, he exhibited more and more impatience. All at once, at the
appearance of an officer, approaching rapidly from the front, he
uttered an exclamation of pleasure.
"Here is Mosby at last!" he said.
And he went to meet the new-comer. It was the famous chief of partisans
whose name by this time had become a terror to the enemy. He wore a
plain gray uniform, a brace of revolvers in a swaying belt, rode a
spirited gray mare, and I recognized at once the roving glance, and
satirical smile which had struck me on that night when he rescued
Farley and myself in Fauquier.
Stuart rapidly drew him into a private apartment; remained in
consultation with him for half an hour; and then came forth, with a
smile of evident satisfaction.
Mosby's intelligence must have pleased him. It at least dispelled his
An hour afterward his head-quarters had disappeared--every thing was
sent toward the mountains. Stuart set out apparently to follow
them--but that was only a ruse to blind busybodies.
A quarter of a mile from head-quarters he leaped a fence, and doubled
back, going in the direction now of Manassas.
At daylight on the next morning he had forced his way through the Bull
Two hours afterward he had made a sudden attack on the enemy's
infantry. It was the rear of Hancock's corps, which was the rear of
Hooker's army, then retiring toward the Potomac.
THE SUPPER NEAR BUCKLANDS.
Stuart's fight near Haymarket, here alluded to, was a gay affair; but I
pass over it, to a scene still gayer and decidedly more pleasant.
The fighting continued throughout the day, and at dusk a heavy rain
came on. We were all tired and hungry--the general no less so than his
staff--and when an invitation was sent to us by a gentleman near
Bucklands, to come and sup with him, we accepted it with fervor, and
hastened toward the friendly mansion.
A delightful reception awaited us. The house was full of young ladies,
passionately devoted to "rebels," and we were greeted with an
enthusiasm which passed all bounds. Delicate hands pressed our own;
bright eyes beamed upon us; rosy lips smiled; musical voices said
"welcome!"--and soon a savory odor, pervading the mansion, indicated
that the wants of the inner man were not forgotten.
An excellent supper was plainly in preparation for the bold Stuart and
his military family; and that gay and gallant cavalier, General Fitz
Lee having also been invited, the joy of the occasion was complete! The
house rang with clashing heels, rattling sabres, and clanking spurs. A
more charming sound still, however, was that made by jingling keys and
rattling china, and knives and forks. All was joy and uproar: jests,
compliments and laughter. Young ladies went and came; the odors grew
more inviting. In ten minutes the door of a large apartment opposite
the drawing-room was thrown open, and a magnificent, an enthralling
spectacle was revealed to every eye. Not to be carried away, however,
by enthusiasm, I will simply say that we saw before us a long mahogany
table covered with the most appetizing viands--broils, roasts, stews,
bread of every variety, and real coffee and tea in real silver! That
magical spectacle still dwells in my memory, reader, though the fact
may lower me in your good opinion. But alas! we are all "weak
creatures." The most poetical grow hungry. We remember our heroic
performances in the great civil war--but ask old soldiers if these
recollections are not the most vivid!
An incident connected with the repast made it especially memorable. The
servants of the house had deserted to their friends in blue; and as
there was thus a deficiency of attendants, the young ladies took their
places. Behind every chair stood a maiden--their faces wreathed with
smiles. We were shown to our seats, amid joyous laughter. The comedy
evidently afforded all engaged in it immense enjoyment--and the
cavaliers humoring the angelic maid-servants, gravely advanced toward
Stuart threw his plumed hat upon a chair, and drew near the foot of the
table. The light fell full on the ruddy face, the heavy beard and
mustache, and brilliant fighting jacket. He looked round with a gay
smile. "Was any one absent," asked the kind lady of the house, as she
saw the glance. Stuart made a low bow, and said:--
"All are here, madam!"
All at once, however, a voice at the door responded:--
"I think you are mistaken, general!"
And he who had uttered these words advanced into the apartment.
He was a young man, about twenty-three, of medium height, graceful, and
with a smile of charming good humor upon the lips. His hair was light
and curling; his eyes blue; his lips shaded by a slender mustache. His
uniform was brand new, and decorated with the braid of a lieutenant.
Yellow gauntlets reached his elbow, he wore a shiny new satchel, and in
his hand carried a brown felt hat, caught up with a golden star.
Stuart grasped his hand warmly.
"Here you are, old fellow!" he exclaimed.
And turning to the company, he added:--
"My new aid-de-camp, Lieutenant Herbert, ladies. A fop--but an old
soldier. Take that seat by Colonel Surry, Tom."
And every one sat down, and attacked the supper.
I had shaken hands with Tom Herbert, who was far from being a stranger
to me, as I had met him frequently in the drawing-rooms of Richmond
before the war. He was a fop, but the most charming of fops, when I
first knew him. He wore brilliant waistcoats, variegated scarfs,
diamond studs, and straw-colored kid gloves. In his hand he used to
flourish an ivory-headed whalebone cane, and his boots were of feminine
delicacy and dimensions. Such was Tom at that time, but the war had
"brought him out." He had rushed into the ranks, shouldered a musket,
and fought bravely. So much I knew--and I was soon to hear how he had
come to be Stuart's aid.
The supper was charming. The young girls waited on us with mock
submission and delighted smiles. Tom and I had fallen to the lot of a
little princess with golden ringlets; and Miss Katy Dare--that was her
name--acquitted herself marvellously. We supped as though we expected
to eat nothing for the next week--and then having finished, we rose,
and waited in turn on the fair waiters.
Behind every chair now stood an officer in uniform.
Bright eyes, rosy cheeks, jewelled hands, glossy curls--there was the
picture, my dear reader, which we beheld as we "waited" at that magical
supper near Buckland. When we wrapped our capes around us, and fell
asleep on the floor, the little maidens still laughed in our dreams!
[Footnote 1: A real incident.]
AN HONEST FOP.
Stuart moved again at dawn. The scene of the preceding evening had
passed away like a dream. We were in the saddle, and advancing.
Riding beside Lieutenant Tom Herbert, I conversed with that worthy, and
found the tedious march beguiled by his gay and insouciant talk.
His "record" was simple. He had volunteered in the infantry, and at the
battle of Cold Harbor received a wound in the leg which disqualified
him for a foot-soldier thenceforward. His friends succeeded in
procuring for him the commission of lieutenant, and he was assigned to
duty as drill-master at a camp of instruction near Richmond.
"Here I was really in clover, old fellow," said Tom, laughingly "no
more toils, no more hardships, no bullets, or hard tack, or want of
soap. A snowy shirt every day--kid gloves if I wanted them--and the
sound of cannon at a very remote distance to lull me to repose, my boy.
Things had changed, they had indeed! I looked back with scorn on the
heavy musket and cartridge-box. I rode a splendidly groomed horse, wore
a new uniform shining with gold braid, a new cap covered with ditto,
boots which you could see your face in, a magnificent sash, and spurs
so long and martial that they made the pavement resound, and announced
my approach at the distance of a quarter of a mile! I say the pavement;
I was a good deal on the pavement--that of the fashionable Franklin
street being my favorite haunt. And as the Scripture says, it is not
good for man to be alone, I had young ladies for companions. My life
was grand, superb--none of your low military exposure, like that borne
by the miserable privates and officers in the field! I slept in town,
lived at a hotel, mounted my horse after breakfast, at the Government
stables near my lodgings and went gallantly at a gallop, to drill
infantry for an hour or two at the camp of instruction. This was a
bore, I acknowledge, but life can not be all flowers. It was soon over,
however--I galloped gallantly back--dined with all the courses at my
hotel, and then lit my cigar and strolled up Franklin. I wore my
uniform and spurs on these promenades--wild horses tearing me would not
have induced me to doff the spurs! They were so martial! They jingled
so! They gave a military and ferocious set-off to my whole appearance,
and were immensely admired by the fair sex! Regularly on coming back
from my arduous and dangerous duties at camp, I brushed my uniform, put
on my red sash, and with one hand resting with dignity on my new sword
belt, advanced to engage the enemy--on Franklin street."
Tom Herbert's laugh was contagious; his whole bearing so sunny and
_riante_ that he was charming.
"Well, how did you awake from your _dolce far niente?_" I said.
"By an effort of the will, old fellow--for I really could not stand
that. It was glorious, delightful--that war-making in town; but there
was a thorn in it. I was ashamed of myself. 'Tom Herbert you are not a
soldier, you are an impostor,' I said; 'you are young, healthy, as good
food for powder as anybody else, and yet here you are, safely laid away
in a bomb-proof, while your friends are fighting. Wake, rouse yourself,
my friend! The only way to regain the path of rectitude is to go back
to the army!"
"I said that, Surry," Tom continued, "and as I could not go back into
the infantry on account of my leg, I applied for an assignment to duty
in the cavalry. Then the war office had a time of it. I besieged the
nabobs of the red tape day and night, and they got so tired of me at
last that they told me to find a general who wanted an aid and they
would assign me."
"Well, as I was coming out of the den I met General Jeb Stuart going
in. I knew him well, and he was tenth cousin to my grandmother, which
you know counts for a great deal in Virginia."
"What's the matter, Tom?" he said.
"I want a place in the cavalry, general."
"What claim have you?"
"Shot in the leg--can't walk--am tired of drilling men in bomb-proof."
"Good!" he said. "That's the way to talk. Come in here."
"And he dragged me along. I found that one of his aids had just been
captured--he wanted another, and he applied for me. A month afterward
his application was approved--short for the war office. That was five
days ago. I got into the saddle,--pushed for the Rapidan--got to
Middleburg--and arrived in time for supper."
"That's my history, old fellow, except that I have just fallen in
love--with the young angel who waited on me at supper, Miss Katy Dare.
I opened the campaign in a corner last night--and I intend to win her,
Surry, or perish in the attempt!"
STUART GRAZES CAPTURE.
As Tom Herbert uttered these words, a loud shout in front startled us.
Stuart had ridden on ahead of his column, through the immense deserted
camps around Wolf Run Shoals, attended only by two or three staff
As I now raised my head quickly, I saw him coming back at headlong
speed, directing his horse by means of the halter only, and hotly
pursued by a detachment of Federal cavalry, firing on him as they
pressed, with loud shouts, upon his very heels.
"Halt!" shouted the enemy. And this order was followed by "bang! bang!
Stuart did not obey the order.
And a storm of bullets whistled around our heads. I had drawn my sword,
but before I could go to Stuart's assistance, Tom shot ahead of me.
He came just in time. Two of the enemy had caught up with Stuart, and
were making furious cuts at him. He parried the blow of one of the
Federal cavalry-men--and the other fell from the saddle, throwing up
his hands as he did so. Tom Herbert had placed his pistol on his
breast, and shot him through the heart.
But by this time the rest had reached us. A sabre flashed above Tom's
head; fell, cutting him out of the saddle nearly; and he would have
dropped from it, had I not passed my arm around him.
In another instant, all three would have been killed or captured. But
the firing had given the alarm. A thunder of hoofs was heard: a
squadron of our cavalry dashed over the hill: in three minutes the
enemy were flying, to escape the edge of the sabre.
Stuart led the charge, and seemed to enjoy it with the zest of a
fox-hunter. He had indeed escaped from a critical danger. He had pushed
on with a few of his staff, as I have said, to Fairfax Station, had
then stopped and slipped his bridle to allow his horse to eat some
"Yankee oats," and while standing beside the animal, had been suddenly
charged by the party of Federal cavalry, coming down on a
reconnaissance from the direction of the Court-House. So sudden was
their appearance that he was nearly "gobbled up." He had leaped on the
unbridled horse; seized the halter, and fled at full speed. The enemy
had pursued him; he had declined halting--and the reader has seen the
[Footnote 1: Real.]
Stuart pressed the party hotly toward Sanxter's, but they
escaped--nearly capturing on the way, however, a party of officers at a
blacksmith's shop. The general came back in high good humor. The chase
seemed to have delighted him.
"Bully for old Tom Herbert!" he exclaimed. "You ought to have seen him
when they were cutting at him, and spoiling his fine new satchel!"
Tom Herbert did not seem to participate in the general's mirth. He was
examining the satchel which a sabre stroke had nearly cut in two.
"What are you looking at?" asked Stuart.
"This hole, general," replied Tom, uttering a piteous sigh.
"Well, it is a trifle."
"It is a serious matter, general."
"You have lost something?"
"A joint of my new flute."
And Tom Herbert's expression was so melancholy that Stuart burst into
"You may have lost your flute, Tom," he said, leaning on his shoulder,
"but you have won your spurs at least, in the cavalry!"
At daylight, on the next morning, Stuart had crossed the Potomac into
He had advanced from Wolf Run Shoals to Fairfax Court House, where the
men rifled the sutlers' shops of tobacco, figs, white gloves, straw
hats, and every edible and wearable:--then the column pushed on toward
Seneca Falls, where the long wavering line of horsemen might have been
seen hour after hour crossing the moonlit river, each man, to prevent
wetting, holding above his head a shot or shell taken from the
caissons. Then the artillery was dragged through: the panting horses
trotted on, and the first beams of day saw the long column of Stuart
ready to advance on its perilous pathway to the Susquehanna, by the
route between the Federal army and Washington.
The word was given, and with the red flags fluttering, Stuart moved
toward Rockville, unopposed, save by a picket, which was driven off by
the advance guard. Without further incident, he then pushed on, and
entered the town in triumph.
A charming reception awaited him. The place was thoroughly Southern;
and the passage of the cavalry was greeted with loud cheers. Unbounded
was the delight, above all, of a seminary of young girls. Doors and
windows were crowded: bright eyes shone; red lips laughed; waving
handkerchiefs were seen everywhere; and when Stuart appeared in person,
he was received with wild rejoicing.
He bowed low, removing his plumed hat, but suddenly intelligence came
which forced him to push on. A long train of "government" wagons had
come up from Washington, and on discovering our presence, returned
toward the city at a gallop. But the ferocious rebels were after them.
Stuart led the charging column--the warlike teamsters were soon
halted--the trains became our spoil--and with countless kicking mules
driven onward in droves before them, the cavalry, escorting the
captured wagons, continued their way toward Pennsylvania.
Moving all that night, Stuart came to Westminster, where Fitz Lee, the
gallant, drove the enemy's cavalry from their camp, and the town fell
into the hands of Stuart.
Here scowls instead of smiles greeted us. Every face was glum and
forbidding, with a few exceptions. So we hastened to depart from that
"loyal" town, and were soon on the soil of Pennsylvania.
Approaching Hanover we suddenly waked up the hornets. Chambliss,
leading Stuart's advance, pushed ahead and drove in a picket. Then that
brave soldier rushed on, and seemed intent on taking the place, when I
was sent by Stuart to order him "not to go too far."
I came up with Chambliss as he was charging, but had scarcely given him
the order, when he was charged in turn by a heavy force and driven
The enemy rushed on, firing volleys, and the road was full of tramping
horsemen. To avoid being carried away with them, I diverged into a
field, when all at once Stuart appeared, retreating at full gallop
before a party who were chasing him.
It was a serious matter then, but I laugh now, remembering that "good
Stuart and myself retreated at a gallop, boot to boot; leaped ditches
and fences; and got off in safety.
A few moments afterward his artillery opened its thunders. From the
lofty hill, that hardy captain of the horse artillery, Breathed, roared
obstinately, driving them back. Hampton's guns on the right had opened
too--and until night, we held the heights, repulsing every advance of
It was truly a fine spectacle, that handsome town of Hanover as I
looked at it, on the afternoon of the fair June day. In front extended
green fields; then the church spires rose above the roofs of the town;
behind, a range of mountains formed a picturesque background. It is
true, the adjuncts of the scene were far from peaceful. The green
fields were full of blue sharp-shooters; in the suburbs were posted
batteries; down the mountain road behind, wound a long compact column
Breathed fought hard that day. From the waving field of rye on the
upland his guns thundered on--in the face of that fire, the enemy could
not, or would not, advance.
So the night came on, and Stuart's great train moved.
Those wagons were a terrible encumbrance to us on the march. But Stuart
determined not to abandon them, and they were dragged on--a line
stretched to infinity!
Thenceforth, dear reader, the march was a sort of dream to me. How can
I relate my adventures--the numerous spectacles and events of the time?
I know not even now if they were events or mere dreams, seeing that,
all the long way, I was half asleep in the saddle! It was a veritable
Drowsyland that we moved through on horseback! The Dutchmen, the
"fraus," the "spreading," the sauer-kraut--the conestogas, the red
barns, the guttural voices, the strange faces--were these actual
things, or the mere fancies of a somnambulist? Was I an officer of real
cavalry making a real march; or a fanciful being, one of a long column
I seem dimly to remember a pretty face, whose owner smiled on me--and a
faint memory remains of a supper which she gave me. If I am not
mistaken I was left alone in the town of Salem--hostile faces were
around me--and I was falling asleep when Hampton's cavalry came up.
I think, then, I rode on with him--having been left to direct him. That
we talked about horses, and the superiority of "blood" in animals; that
at dawn, Hampton said, "I am perishing for sleep!" and that we lay
down, side by side, near a haystack.
All that is a sort of phantasmagoria, and others were no better than
myself. Whole columns went to sleep, in the saddle, as they rode along;
and General Stuart told me afterward, that he saw a man attempt to
climb over a fence, half succeed only, and go to sleep on the top rail!
Some day I promise myself the pleasure of travelling in Pennsylvania.
It possesses all the attractions to me of a world seen in a dream!
But after that good sleep, side by side with the great Carolinian,
things looked far more real, and pushing on I again caught up with
He advanced steadily on Carlisle, and in the afternoon we heard
artillery from the south.
I looked at my military map, and calculated the distance. The result
was that I said:--
"General, those guns are at a place called Gettysburg on this map."
"Impossible!" was his reply. "They can not be fighting there. You are
But I was right.
Those guns were the signal of the "First day's fight at Gettysburg."
CARLISLE BY FIRELIGHT.
It can not be said that we accomplished very enormous results at
Carlisle. The enemy defended it bravely.
Stuart sent in a flag, demanding a surrender: this proposition was
politely declined; and for fear that there might possibly remain some
doubts on the subject, the Federal commander of the post, opened with
artillery upon the gray cavalry.
That was the signal for a brisk fight, and a magnificent spectacle
As soon as the enemy's response to the flag of truce had been received,
Stuart advanced his sharp-shooters, replied with his artillery to their
own, and dispatched a party to destroy the extensive United States
barracks, formerly used as cantonments for recruits to the army.
In ten minutes the buildings were wrapped in flames; and the city of
Carlisle was illumined magnificently. The crimson light of the
conflagration revealed every house, the long lines of trees, and made
the delicate church spires, rising calmly aloft, resemble shafts of
I recall but one scene which was equally picturesque--the "doomed city"
of Fredericksburg, on the night of December 11, 1862, when the church
spires were illumined by the burning houses, as those of Carlisle were
in June, 1863.
So much for this new "Siege of Carlisle." Here my description ends. It
was nothing--a mere picture. An hour afterward Stuart ceased firing,
the conflagration died down; back into the black night sank the fair
town of Carlisle, seen then for the first and the last time by this
The guns were silent, the cavalry retired; and Stuart, accompanied by
his staff, galloped back to a great deserted house where he established
his temporary head-quarters.
On the bold face there was an expression of decided ill-humor. He had
just received a dispatch, by courier, from General Lee.
That dispatch said, "Come, I need you urgently here," and the "here" in
question, was Gettysburg, at least twenty miles distant. Now, with
worn-out men and horses, twenty miles was a serious matter. Stuart's
brows were knit, and he mused gloomily.
Suddenly he turned and addressed me.
"You were right, Surry," he said, "those guns were at Gettysburg. This
dispatch, sent this morning, reports the enemy near there."
I bowed; Stuart reflected for some moments without speaking. Then he
"I wish you would go to General Lee, and say I am coming, Surry. How is
"Worn-out, general, but I can get another."
"Good; tell General Lee that I will move at once to Gettysburg, with
all my force, and as rapidly as possible!"
"I will lose no time, general."
And saluting, I went out.
From the captured horses I selected the best one I could find, and
burying the spurs in his sides, set out through the black night.
THE HOUSE BETWEEN CARLISLE AND GETTYSBURG.
You know when you set out, the proverb says, but you know not when you
I left Carlisle, breasting the night, on the road to Gettysburg, little
thinking that a curious incident was to occur to me upon the way--an
incident closely connected with the destinies of some personages who
play prominent parts in this history.
I had ridden on for more than an hour, through the darkness, keeping a
good look-out for the enemy, whose scouting parties of cavalry were
known to be prowling around, when all at once, my horse, who was going
at full speed, struck his foot against a sharp point of rock, cropping
out from the surface.
The animal stumbled, recovered himself, and went on as rapidly as
before. A hundred yards further his speed relaxed; then he began to
limp painfully; then in spite of every application of the spur I could
not force him out of a slow limping trot.
It was truly unfortunate. I was the bearer of an important message, and
was surrounded by enemies. The only chance was to pass through them,
under shadow of the darkness; with light they would perceive me, and my
capture be certain.
A hundred yards further, and I found I must decide at once upon the
course to pursue. My horse seemed about to fall. At every stroke of the
spur he groaned piteously, and his limp had become a stagger.
I looked around through the trees, and at the distance of a quarter of
a mile I saw the glimmer of a light. To obtain another horse was
indispensable under the circumstances; and looking to see that my
revolver was loaded and capped, I forced my tottering animal toward the
mansion in which the light glimmered.
My design was simply to proceed thither, "impress" a fresh horse at the
pistol's muzzle; throw my saddle upon him; leave my own animal, and
proceed on my way.
Pushing across the fields, and dismounting to let down the fences which
my limping animal could not leap, I soon approached the light. It shone
through the window of a house of some size, with ornamental grounds
around it, and apparently the abode of a man of means.
At fifty paces from it I dismounted and tethered my horse in the shadow
of some trees. A brief reconnaissance under the circumstances was
advisable; and approaching the mansion silently, without allowing my
sabre to make any clatter, I gained the long portico in front, and went
to a window reaching down to the flooring of the verandah.
Through the half-closed venetians I could see into a large apartment,
half library, half sitting-room, as the easy chairs, mantel ornaments,
desks, and book-cases showed. On the centre-table burned a brilliant
lamp--and by its light I witnessed a spectacle which made me draw back
in the shadow of the shutter, and rivet my eyes on the interior.
Before me, in the illuminated apartment, I saw the woman whom Mohun had
captured on the Rappahannock; and beside her the personage with whom
she had escaped that morning in the wagon from Culpeper Court-House. I
could not mistake him. The large, prominent nose, the cunning eyes, the
double chin, the fat person, and the chubby hands covered with
pinchbeck rings, were still fresh in my memory.
The name of this personage had been revealed by Nighthawk. Swartz, the
secret agent, blockade-runner, and "best spy in the Federal army" was
A glance at the woman revealed no change in her appearance. Before me
was the same lithe and graceful figure, clad as before in a gray dress.
I saw the same snow-white cheeks, red lips, and large eyes burning with
a latent fire.
The two were busily engaged, and it was not difficult to understand
their occupation. The desks, drawers and chests of the apartment were
all open; and the female with rapid hands was transferring papers from
them to Swartz, who methodically packed them in a leathern valise.
These papers were no doubt important, and the aim to remove them to
some place of safety beyond the reach of the Confederates.
I gazed for some moments, without moving, upon the spectacle of these
two night-birds at their work. The countenance of the lady was
animated; her motions rapid; and from time to time she stopped to
listen. Swartz, on the contrary, was the incarnation of phlegmatic
coolness. His face wore an expression of entire equanimity; and he
seemed to indulge no fears whatever of intruders.
All at once, however, I saw his eyes glitter as they fell upon a paper
which she handed him to pack away with the rest. It was carefully
folded, but one of the folds flew open as he received it, and his eyes
were suddenly fixed intently upon the sheet.
Then his head turned quickly, and he looked at his companion. She was
bending over a drawer, and did not observe that glance. Thereupon
Swartz folded up the paper, quietly put it in his pocket, and went on
packing the valise with his former coolness; only a slight color in his
face seemed to indicate concealed emotion.
As he pocketed the paper, his companion turned round. It was plain that
she had not perceived the manoeuvre.
At the same moment I heard the sound of hoofs in rear of the house, and
the clatter of a sabre as a cavalier dismounted. A few indistinct
words, apparently addressed to a servant or orderly, followed. Then the
door of the apartment opposite the front window was thrown open, and a
In the new-comer I recognized Mohun's adversary at Upperville--Colonel
Darke, of the United States Cavalry.
Darke entered the apartment abruptly, but his appearance seemed to
occasion no surprise. The spy retained his coolness. The lady went on
with her work. You would have said that they had expected the officer,
and recognized his step.
Their greeting was brief. Darke nodded in apparent approbation of the
task in which the man and woman were engaged, and folding his arms in
front of the marble mantel, looked on in silence.
I gazed at him with interest, and more carefully than I had been able
to do during the fight at Upperville, when the smoke soon concealed
him. Let me draw his outline. Of all the human beings whom I
encountered in the war, this one's character and career were perhaps
the most remarkable. Were I writing a romance, I should be tempted to
call him the real hero of this volume.
He was a man approaching middle age; low in stature, but broad,
muscular, and powerful. He was clad in the full-dress uniform of a
colonel of the United States Cavalry, wore boots reaching to the knee
and decorated with large spurs; and his arms were an immense sabre and
a brace of revolvers in black leather holsters attached to his belt.
His face was swarthy, swollen by excess in drink apparently, and half
covered by a shaggy beard and mustache as black as night. The eyes were
deep-set, and wary: the poise of the head upon the shoulders, haughty;
the expression of the entire countenance cold, phlegmatic, grim.
Such was this man, upon the surface. But there was something more about
him which irresistibly attracted attention, and aroused speculation. At
the first glance, you set him down as a common-place ruffian, the prey
of every brutal passion. At the second glance, you began to doubt
whether he was a mere vulgar adventurer--you could see, at least, that
this man was not of low birth. There was in his bearing an indefinable
something which indicated that he had "seen better days." The surface
of the fabric was foul and defiled, but the texture beneath was of
velvet, not "hodden gray."
"That brute," I thought, "was once a gentleman, and crime or drink has
Darke continued to gaze at Swartz and the gray woman as they plied
their busy work; and once or twice be pointed to drawers which they had
failed to open. These directions were promptly obeyed, and the work
went on. The few words which the parties uttered came in an indistinct
murmur only through the window at which I was stationed.
Such was the scene within the mansion, upon which I gazed with strong
curiosity: suddenly the neigh of a horse was heard in a clump of woods
beyond the front gate; and Darke quickly raised his head, and then came
out to the portico.
He passed within three feet of me, but did not perceive me, as I was
concealed by one of the open venetians. Then he paused and listened.
The wind sighed in the foliage, and a distant watch-dog was
barking--that was all. No other noise disturbed the silence of the July
Darke remained upon the portico for some moments, listening
attentively. Then turned and re-entered the house. Through the window,
I could see him make his appearance again in the illuminated apartment.
In response to the glances of inquiry from his companions he made a
gesture only, but that said plainly:--
"Nothing is stirring. You can go on with your work."
In this, however, he was mistaken. Darke had scarcely re-entered the
apartment, when I discerned the hoof-strokes of horses beyond the front
gate--then the animals were heard leaping the low fence--a moment
afterward two figures came on at full gallop, threw themselves from the
saddle, and rapidly approached the house.
The rattle of a sabre which one of them wore attracted Darke's
attention. He reached the door of the room at a single bound--but at
the same instant the new comers rushed by me, and burst in.
As they passed I recognized them. One was Mohun, the other Nighthawk.
DARKE AND MOHUN.
What followed was instantaneous.
The adversaries were face to face, and each drew his pistol and fired
at the same moment.
Neither was struck: they drew their swords; and, through the cloud of
smoke filling the apartment, I could see Darke and Mohun close in, in a
hand to hand encounter.
They were both excellent swordsmen, and the struggle was passionate and
terrible. Mohun's movements were those of the tiger springing upon his
prey; but Darke met the attack with a coolness and phlegm which
indicated unshrinking nerve; his expression seemed, even, to indicate
that crossing swords with his adversary gave the swarthy giant extreme
pleasure. His face glowed, and a flash darted from beneath the shaggy
eyebrows. I could see him smile; but the smile was strange.
From the adversaries my glance passed quickly to the gray woman. She
was leaning against the wall, and exhibited no emotion whatever; but
the lurid blaze in the great dark eyes, as she looked at Mohun, clearly
indicated that a storm was raging in her bosom. Opposite the woman
stood Nighthawk--motionless, but grasping a pistol. As to Swartz, that
worthy had profited by an open window near, and had glided through it
To return to the combatants. The passionate encounter absorbed all my
attention. Mohun and Darke were cutting at each other furiously. They
seemed equally matched, and the result was doubtful. One thing only
seemed certain--that in a few minutes one of the adversaries would be
Such was the situation of affairs when shots were heard without, the
clash of sabres followed, and the door behind Darke was burst open
violently by his orderly, who rushed in, exclaiming:--
"Look out, colonel! The enemy are on you!"
As he uttered these words, the man drew a revolver and aimed at Mohun's
Before he could fire, however, an explosion was heard, and I saw the
man suddenly drop his weapon, which went off as it escaped from his
nerveless grasp. Then he threw up his hands, reeled, took two uncertain
steps backward, and fell at full length on the floor. Nighthawk had
shot him through the heart.
All this had taken place in far less time than it has taken to write
it. I had made violent efforts to break through the window; and finding
this impossible, now ran to the door and burst into the apartment.
The singular scene was to have as singular a denouement.
Darke evidently realized the great danger which he ran, for the house
was now surrounded, nearly, and his capture was imminent.
From the black eyes shot a glare of defiance, and advancing upon Mohun,
he delivered a blow at him which nearly shattered his opponent's sword.
Mohun struck in turn, aiming a furious cut at Darke; but as he did so,
he stumbled over the dead orderly, and nearly fell. For the moment he
was at Darke's mercy.
I rushed forward, sword in hand, to ward off the mortal stroke which I
was certain his adversary would deliver, but my intervention was
Darke recoiled from his stumbling adversary, instead of striking at
him. I could scarcely believe my own eyes, but the fact was
Then the Federal colonel looked around, and his eye fell upon the
"Kill him!" she said, coldly. "Do not mind me!--only kill him!"
"No!" growled Darke. And seizing the woman in his arms:--
"They shall not take you prisoner!" he said.
And the swarthy Hercules passed through the door in rear at a single
bound, bearing off the woman like a feather.
A moment afterward the hoof-strokes of a horse were heard.
Darke had disappeared with the gray woman.
I turned to look at Mohun. He was standing perfectly motionless, and
looking after Darke with a strange expression of gloom and
"You are unhurt!" I said.
He turned quickly, and held out his hand.
"Slightly wounded--but I am not thinking of that."
"Of what, then?"
"I remember only one thing--that this man might have buried his sword
in my heart, and did not."
An hour afterward the skirmish was over; I had explained my presence at
the house to Mohun, parted with him, promising to see him soon again;
and, mounted upon a fresh animal which Mohun presented to me from among
those captured, was once more on my way to Gettysburg.
It was hard to realize that the scenes of the night were actual
occurrences. They were more like dreams than realities.
I came in sight of Gettysburg at sunrise.
Gettysburg!--name instinct with so many tears, with so much mourning,
with those sobs which tear their way from the human heart as the lava
makes its way from the womb of the volcano!
There are words in the world's history whose very sound is like a sigh
or a groan; places which are branded "accursed" by the moaning lips of
mothers, wives, sisters, and orphans. Shadowy figures, gigantic and
draped in mourning, seem to hover above these spots: skeleton arms with
bony fingers point to the soil beneath, crowded with graves: from the
eyes, dim and hollow, glare unutterable things: and the grin of the
fleshless lips is the gibbering mirth of the corpse torn from its
cerements, and erect, as though the last trump had sounded, and the
dead had arisen. No fresh flowers bloom in these dreary spots; no merry
birds twitter there; no streamlets lapse sweetly with musical murmurs
beneath the waterflags or the drooping boughs of trees. See! the
blighted and withered plants are like the deadly nightshade--true
flowers of war, blooming, or trying to bloom, on graves! Hear the
voices of the few birds--they are sad and discordant! See the
trees--they are gnarled, spectral, and torn by cannon-balls. Listen!
The stream yonder is not limpid and mirthful like other streams. You
would say that it is sighing as it steals away, soiled and ashamed. The
images it has mirrored arouse its horror and make it sad. The serene
surface has not given back the bright forms of children, laughing and
gathering the summer flowers on its banks. As it sneaks like a culprit
through the scarred fields of battle, it washes bare the bones of the
dead in crumbling uniforms--bringing, stark and staring, to the upper
air once more, the blanched skeleton and the grinning skull.
Names of woe, at whose utterance the heart shudders, the blood curdles!
Accursed localities where the traveller draws back, turning away in
horror! All the world is dotted with them; everywhere they make the
sunlight black. Among them, none is gloomier, or instinct with a more
nameless horror, than the once insignificant village of Gettysburg.
I reached it on the morning of July 2, 1863.
The immense drama was in full progress. The adversaries had clashed
together. Riding across the extensive fields north of the town, I saw
the traces of the combat of the preceding day--and among the dying I
remember still a poor Federal soldier, who looked at me with his stony
and half-glazed eye as I passed; he was an enemy, but he was dying and
I pitied him.
A few words will describe the situation of affairs at that moment.
Lee had pressed on northward through the valley of the Cumberland, when
news came that General Meade, who had succeeded Hooker, was advancing
to deliver battle to the invaders.
At that intelligence Lee arrested his march. Meade menaced his
communications, and it was necessary to check him. Hill's corps was,
therefore, sent across the South Mountain, toward Gettysburg; Ewell,
who had reached York, was ordered back; and Lee made his preparations
to fight his adversary as soon as he appeared.
The columns encountered each other in the neighborhood of
Gettysburg--a great centre toward which a number of roads converge,
like the spokes of a wheel toward the hub.
The head of Hill's column struck the head of Reynolds's--then the
The day and scene were lovely. On the waving wheat-fields and the
forests in full foliage, the light of a summer sun fell in flashing
splendor. A slight rain had fallen; the wind was gently blowing; and
the leaves and golden grain were covered with drops which the sunshine
changed to diamonds. Over the exquisite landscape drooped a beautiful
Soon blood had replaced the raindrops, and the bright bow spanning the
sky was hidden by lurid smoke, streaming aloft from burning buildings,
set on fire by shell.
I give but a few words to this first struggle, which I did not witness.
The Federal forces rushed forward, exclaiming:---
"We have come to stay!"
"And a very large portion of them," said one of their officers, General
Doubleday, "never left that ground!"
Alas! many thousands in gray, too, "came to stay."
Hill was hard pressed and sent for assistance. Suddenly it appeared
from the woods on his left, where Ewell's bayonets were seen, coming
back from the Susquehanna.
Rodes, the head of Ewell's corps, formed line and threw himself into
Early came up on the left; Rodes charged and broke through the Federal
centre. Gordon, commanding a brigade then, closed in on their right
flank, and the battle was decided.
The great blue crescent was shattered, and gave way. The Confederates
pressed on, and the Federal army became a rabble. They retreated
pellmell through Gettysburg, toward Cemetery Hill, leaving their
battle-flags and five thousand prisoners in our hands.
Such was the first day's fight at Gettysburg. Lee's head of column had
struck Meade's; each had rapidly been reinforced; the affair became a
battle, and the Federal forces were completely defeated.
That was the turning point of the campaign. If this success had only
been followed up--if we could only have seized upon and occupied
Then General Meade would have been compelled to retire upon Westminster
and Washington. He would doubtless have fought somewhere, but it is a
terrible thing to have an army flushed with victory "after" you!
Cemetery Range was not seized that night. When the sun rose the next
morning, the golden moment had passed. General Meade was ready.
From right to left, as far as the eye could reach, the heights bristled
with blue infantry and artillery. From every point on the ridge waved
the enemy's battle flags. From the muzzles of his bronze war-dogs,
Meade sent his defiant challenge to his adversary to attack him.
"Come on!" the Federal artillery seemed to mutter fiercely.
And Lee's guns from the ridge opposite thundered grimly in reply,
"We are coming!"
That is the word which rises to the lips of every Southerner, above all
to every Virginian, who attempts to describe this terrible battle of
The cheeks flush, the voice falters, and something like a fiery mist
blinds the eyes. What comes back to the memory of the old soldiers who
saw that fight is a great picture of heroic assaults, ending in
frightful carnage only,--of charges such as the world has rarely seen,
made in vain,--of furious onslaughts, the only result of which was to
strew those fatal fields with the dead bodies of the flower of the
And we were so near succeeding! Twice the enemy staggered; and one more
blow--only one more! promised the South a complete victory!
When Longstreet attacked Round Top Hill, driving the enemy back to
their inner line, victory seemed within our very grasp--but we could
not snatch it. The enemy acknowledge that, and it is one of their own
poets who declares that
"The century reeled When Longstreet paused on the slope of the hill."
Pickett stormed Cemetery Heights, and wanted only support. Five
thousand men at his back would have given him victory.
There is a name for the battle of Gettysburg which exactly suits
it--"The Great Graze!"
You must go to the histories, reader, for a detailed account of this
battle. I have not the heart to write it, and aim to give you a few
scenes only. In my hasty memoirs I can touch only upon the salient
points, and make the general picture.
The ground on which the battle was fought, is familiar to many
thousands. A few words will describe it. Cemetery Ridge, where General
Meade had taken up his position, is a range of hills running northward
toward Gettysburg, within a mile of which place it bends off to the
right, terminating in a lofty and rock-bound crest.
This crest was Meade's right. His line stretched away southward then,
and ended at Round Top Hill, the southern extremity of the range, about
four miles distant. From one end to the other of the extensive range,
bayonets glistened, and the muzzles of cannon grinned defiance.
Opposite the Cemetery Range was a lower line of hills, called Seminary
Range. Upon this Lee was posted, Ewell holding his left, A. P. Hill his
centre, and Longstreet his right.
Between the two armies stretched a valley, waving with grain and dotted
with fruit-trees, through which ran the Emmettsburg road, on the
western side of a small stream. The golden grain waved gently; the
limpid water lapsed away beneath grass and flowers; the birds were
singing; the sun was shining--it was the strangest of all scenes for a
I rode along the line of battle, and curiously scanned the features of
the landscape. There is a frightful interest connected with ground
which is soon going to become the arena of a great combat. A glance
told me that the enemy's position was much the stronger of the two.
Would Lee attack it?
From the landscape I turned to look at the army. Never had I seen them
so joyous. It would be impossible to convey any idea of the afflatus
which buoyed them up. Every man's veins seemed to run with quicksilver,
instead of blood. Every cheek was glowing. Every eye flashed with
superb joy and defiance. You would have supposed, indeed, that the
troops were under the effect of champagne or laughing gas. "I never
even imagined such courage," said a Federal officer afterward; "your
men seemed to be drunk with victory when they charged us!"
That was scarce an exaggeration. Already on the morning of battle they
presented this appearance. Lying down in line of battle, they laughed,
jested, sang, and resembled children enjoying a holiday. On the faces
of bearded veterans and boy-soldiers alike was a splendid pride. The
victories of Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville had electrified the
troops. They thought little of a foe who could be so easily driven;
they looked forward to victory as a foregone conclusion--alas! they did
not remember that they held the heights at Fredericksburg; and that
Meade on Cemetery Hill was an adversary very different from Hooker in
the Spottsylvania Wilderness!
Such was the spectacle which I witnessed, when after delivering my
message to General Lee, I rode along the Southern line. I think the
great commander shared in some measure the sentiment of his troops. His
bearing was collected; in his eye you could read no trace of
excitement; the lips covered by the gray mustache were firm and
composed; and he greeted me with quiet courtesy:--but in the cheeks of
the great soldier a ruddy glow seemed to betray anticipated victory.
I confess I shared the general sentiment. That strange intoxication was
contagious, and I was drunk like the rest with the thought of triumph.
That triumph would open to us the gates of Washington and bring peace.
The North scarcely denied that then--though they may deny it to-day.
The whole country was completely weary of the war. There seemed to be
no hope of compelling the South to return to the Union. A victory over
Meade, opening the whole North to Lee, promised a treaty of peace. The
day had arrived, apparently when the army of Northern Virginia, musket
in hand, was about to dictate the terms of that document.
"Lee has only to slip the leash," I thought, as I gazed at the army,
"and these war-dogs will tear down their prey!"
Alas! they tore it, but were torn too! they did all at Gettysburg that
any troops could do.
What was impossible, was beyond even their strength.
THE WRESTLE FOR ROUND TOP HILL.
From the morning of the second of July to the evening of the third, the
fields south of Gettysburg were one great scene of smoke, dust, uproar,
blood; of columns advancing and returning; cannon thundering; men
shouting, yelling, cheering, and dying; blue mingled with gray in
savage and unrelenting battle.
In that smoke-cloud, with the ears deafened, you saw or heard little
distinctly. But above the confused struggle rose two great incidents,
which on successive days decided every thing.
The first of them was Longstreet's assault on the enemy's left wing, in
front of Round Top Hill.
Lee had displayed excellent soldiership in determining upon this
movement, and it will be seen that it came within an inch of success.
Standing upon Seminary Range, near his centre, he had reconnoitered
General Meade's position through his field-glass, with great attention;
and this examination revealed the fact that the Federal line was
projected forward in a salient in front of Round Top Hill, a jagged and
almost inaccessible peak, near which rested General Meade's extreme
If this weak point could be carried, "it appeared" said Lee, "that its
possession would give facilities for assailing and carrying the more
elevated ground and crest beyond."
As to the importance of that crest--namely Round Top Hill--hear General
"If they had succeeded in occupying that, it would have prevented me
from holding any of the ground which I subsequently held to the last."
Lee determined to attack the salient, making at the same time a heavy
demonstration--or a real assault--upon the Federal right, opposite
All his preparations were not made until the afternoon. Then suddenly,
Longstreet's artillery opened its thunders.
At that moment the spectacle was grand. The heights, the slopes, the
fields, and the rugged crest opposite, were enveloped in smoke and fire
from the bursting shell. The sombre roar ascended like the bellowing of
a thousand bulls, leaped back from the rocks, and rolled away, in wild
echoes through the hills. All the furies seemed let loose, and yet this
was only the preface.
At four in the evening the thunder dropped to silence, and along the
lines of Hood and McLaws, which formed the charging column, ran a wild
cheer, which must have reached the ears of the enemy opposite.
That cheer told both sides that the moment had come. The word was
given, and Longstreet hurled his column at the blue line occupying a
peach-orchard in his front.
The blow was aimed straight at the salient in the Federal line, and in
spite of a brave resistance it was swept away; McLaws advancing rapidly
toward the high ground in its rear. At one blow the whole left wing of
General Meade's army seemed thrown into irretrievable confusion, and
Hood pressing forward on McLaws's right, hastened to seize upon the
famous Round Top, from which he would be able to hurl his thunder upon
the flank and rear of the Federal line of battle.
The scene, like the conflict which now took place, was wild and
singular. The crest of Round Top Hill was a mass of rock, which rose
abruptly from the rough and jagged slope. It was unoccupied--for the
sudden overthrow of the force in front of it had not been
anticipated--and one headlong rush on the part of Hood alone seemed
necessary to give him possession of the real key of the whole position.
Hood saw that at a glance, and dashed up the slope at the head of his
men. It was scarcely an order of battle which his troops presented at
this moment. But one thought burned in every heart. The men swarmed up
the hill-side; the woods gave back the rolling thunder of their cheers;
already the Southern battle-flags carried by the foremost were
fluttering on the crest.
The mass rushed toward the red flags; for an instant the gray figures
were seen erect upon the summit--then a sudden crash of musketry
resounded--and a mad struggle began with a Federal brigade which had
hastened to the spot.
This force, it is said, was hurried up by General Warren, who finding
the Federal signal-officers about to retire, ordered them, to remain
and continue waving their flags to the last; and then, seizing on the
first brigade he could find, rushed them up the slope to the crest.
They arrived just in time. Hood's men were swarming on the crest. A
loud cheer arose, but all at once they found themselves face to face
with a line of bayonets, while beyond were seen confused and struggling
masses, dragging up cannon.
What followed was a savage grapple rather than an ordinary conflict.
Only a small part of Hood's force had reached the summit, and this was
assailed by a whole brigade. The fight was indescribable. All that the
eye could make out for some moments in the dust and smoke, was a
confused mass of men clutching each other, dealing blows with the
butt-ends of muskets, or fencing with bayonets--men in blue and gray,
wrestling, cursing, falling, and dying, in the midst of the crash of
small-arms, and the thunder of cannon, which clothed the crest in
When the smoke drifted, it was seen that the Confederates had been
repulsed, and driven from the hill. Hood was falling back slowly, like
a wounded tiger, who glares at the huntsman and defies him to the last.
The slope was strewed with some of his bravest. The Federal cannon
roaring on Round Top Hill, seemed to be laughing hoarsely.
McLaws, too, had fallen back after nearly seizing upon the crest in his
front. The enemy had quickly re-enforced their left, with brigades,
divisions, and corps, and the Confederates had been hotly assailed in
their turn. As night descended, the whole Southern line fell back. The
pallid moonlight shone on the upturned faces of the innumerable dead.
Longstreet sat on a fence, cutting a stick with his penknife, when an
English officer near him exclaimed:--
"I would not have missed this for any thing?"
Longstreet, laughed grimly.
"I would like to have missed it very much!" he said.
[Footnote 1: His words.]
THE CHARGE OF THE VIRGINIANS.
Lee's great blow at the enemy's left had failed. He had thrown his
entire right wing, under Longstreet, against it. The enemy had been
driven; victory seemed achieved;--but suddenly the blue lines had
rallied, they had returned to the struggle, their huge masses had
rolled forward, thrown Longstreet back in turn, and now the pale moon
looked down on the battlefield where some of the bravest souls of the
South had poured out their blood in vain.
Lee had accomplished nothing, and one of his great corps was panting
and bleeding. It was not shattered or even shaken. The iron fibre would
stand any thing almost. But the sombre result remained--Longstreet had
attacked and had been repulsed.
What course would Lee now pursue? Would he retire?
Retire? The army of Northern Virginia lose heart at a mere rebuff?
Lee's veteran army give up the great invasion, after a mere repulse?
Troops and commander alike shrunk from the very thought. One more trial
of arms--something--an attack somewhere--not _a retreat_!
That was the spirit of the army on the night of the second of July.
A flanking movement to draw the enemy out of their works, or a second
Lee determined to attack.
Longstreet and Ewell had accomplished nothing by assailing the right
and left of the enemy. Lee resolved now to throw a column against its
centre--to split the stubborn obstacle, and pour into the gap with the
whole army, when all would be over.
That was hazardous, you will say perhaps to-day, reader. And you have
this immense argument to advance, that it failed. Ah! these arguments
_after the event_! they are so fatal, and so very easy.
Right or wrong, Lee resolved to make the attack; and on the third of
July he carried out his resolution.
If the writer of the South shrinks from describing the bloody repulse
of Longstreet, much more gloomy is the task of painting that last
charge at Gettysburg. It is one of those scenes which Lee's old
soldiers approach with repugnance. That thunder of the guns which comes
back to memory seems to issue, hollow and lugubrious, from a thousand
Let us pass over that tragedy rapidly. It must be touched on in these
memoirs--but I leave it soon.
It is the third of July, 1863. Lee's line of battle, stretching along
the crest of Seminary Ridge, awaits the signal for a new conflict with
a carelessness as great as on the preceding day. The infantry are
laughing, jesting, cooking their rations, and smoking their pipes. The
ragged cannoneers, with flashing eyes, smiling lips, and faces
blackened with powder, are standing in groups, or lying down around the
pieces of artillery. Near the centre of the line a gray-headed officer,
in plain uniform, and entirely unattended, has dismounted, and is
reconnoitring the Federal position through a pair of field-glasses.
It is Lee, and he is looking toward Cemetery Heights, the Mount St.
Jean of the new Waterloo--on whose slopes the immense conflict is going
to be decided.
Lee gazes for some moments through his glasses at the long range
bristling with bayonets. Not a muscle moves; he resembles a statue.
Then he lowers the glasses, closes them thoughtfully, and his calm
glance passes along the lines of his army. You would say that this
glance penetrates the forest; that he sees his old soldiers, gay,
unshrinking, unmoved by the reverses of Longstreet, and believing in
themselves and in him! The blood of the soldier responds to that
thought. The face of the great commander suddenly flushes. He summons a
staff officer and utters a few words in calm and measured tones. The
order is given. The grand assault is about to begin.
That assault is going to be one of the most desperate in all history.
Longstreet's has been fierce--this will be mad and full of headlong
fury. At Round Top blood flowed--here the earth is going to be soaked
with it. Gettysburg is to witness a charge recalling that of the six
hundred horsemen at Balaklava. Each soldier will feel that the fate of
the South depends on him, perhaps. If the wedge splits the tough grain,
cracking it from end to end, the axe will enter after it--the work will
be finished--the red flag of the South will float in triumph over a
last and decisive field.
Pickett's division of Virginia troops has been selected for the
hazardous venture, and they prepare for the ordeal in the midst of a
profound silence. Since the morning scarce a gunshot has been heard.
Now and then only, a single cannon, like a signal-gun, sends its growl
through the hills.
Those two tigers, the army of Northern Virginia and the army of the
Potomac, are crouching, and about to spring.
At one o'clock the moment seems to have arrived. Along the whole front
of Hill and Longstreet, the Southern artillery all at once bursts
forth. One hundred and forty-five cannon send their threatening thunder
across the peaceful valley. From Cemetery Heights eighty pieces reply
to them; and for more than an hour these two hundred and twenty-five
cannon tear the air with their harsh roar, hurled back in crash after
crash from the rocky ramparts. That thunder is the most terrible yet
heard in the war. It stirs the coolest veterans. General Hancock, the
composed and unexcitable soldier, is going to say of it, "Their
artillery fire was most terrific...it was the most terrific cannonade
I ever witnessed, and the most prolonged.... It was a most terrific and
appalling cannonade, one possibly hardly ever equalled."
For nearly two hours Lee continues this "terrific" fire. The Federal
guns reply--shot and shell crossing each other; racing across the blue
sky; battering the rocks; or bursting in showers of iron fragments.
Suddenly the Federal fire slackens, and then ceases. Their ammunition
has run low, or they are silenced by the Southern fire. Lee's guns
also cease firing. The hour has come.
[Footnote: This was the real reason.]
The Virginians, under Pickett, form in double line in the edge of the
woods, where Lee's centre is posted. These men are ragged and
travel-worn, but their bayonets and gun-barrels shine like silver. From
the steel hedge, as the men move, dart lightnings.
From the Cemetery Heights the enemy watch that ominous apparition--the
gray line of Virginians drawn up for the charge.
At the word, they move out, shoulder to shoulder, at common time.
Descending the slope, they enter on the valley, and move steadily
toward the heights.
The advance of the column, with its battle-flags floating proudly, and
its ranks closed up and dressed with the precision of troops on parade,
is a magnificent spectacle. Old soldiers, hardened in the fires of
battle, and not given to emotion, lean forward watching the advance of
the Virginians with fiery eyes. You would say, from the fierce clutch
of the gaunt hands on the muskets, that they wish to follow; and many
The column is midway the valley, and beginning to move more rapidly,
when suddenly the Federal artillery opens. The ranks are swept by round
shot, shell, and canister. Bloody gaps appear, but the line closes up,
and continues to advance. The fire of the Federal artillery redoubles.
All the demons of the pit seem howling, roaring, yelling, and
screaming. The assaulting column is torn by a whirlwind of canister,
before which men fall in heaps mangled, streaming with blood, their
bosoms torn to pieces, their hands clutching the grass, their teeth
biting the earth. The ranks, however, close up as before, and the
Virginians continue to advance.
From common time, they have passed to quick time--now they march at the
double-quick. That is to say, they run. They have reached the slope;
the enemy's breastworks are right before them; and they dash at them
with wild cheers.
They are still three hundred yards from the Federal works, when the
real conflict commences, to which the cannonade was but child's play.
Artillery has thundered, but something more deadly succeeds it--the
sudden crash of musketry. From behind a stone wall the Federal infantry
rise up and pour a galling fire into the charging column. It has been
accompanied to this moment by a body of other troops, but those troops
now disappear, like dry leaves swept off by the wind. The Virginians
Amid a concentrated fire of infantry and artillery, in their front and
on both flanks, they pass over the ground between themselves and the
enemy; ascend the slope; rush headlong at the breastworks; storm them;
strike their bayonets into the enemy, who recoil before them, and a
wild cheer rises, making the blood leap in the veins of a hundred
The Federal works are carried, and the troops are wild with enthusiasm.
With a thunder of cheers they press upon the flying enemy toward the
Alas! as the smoke drifts, they see what is enough to dishearten the
bravest. They have stormed the first line of works only! Beyond, is
another and a stronger line still. Behind it swarm the heavy reserves
of the enemy, ready for the death-struggle. But the column can not
pause. It is "do or die." In their faces are thrust the muzzles of
muskets spouting flame. Whole ranks go down in the fire. The survivors
close up, utter a fierce cheer, and rush straight at the second tier of
Then is seen a spectacle which will long be remembered with a throb of
the heart by many. The thinned ranks of the Virginians are advancing,
unmoved, into the very jaws of death. They go forward--and are
annihilated. At every step death meets them. The furious fire of the
enemy, on both flanks and in their front, hurls them back, mangled and
dying. The brave Garnett is killed while leading on his men. Kemper is
lying on the earth maimed for life. Armistead is mortally wounded at
the moment when he leaps upon the breastworks:--he waves his hat on the
point of his sword, and staggers, and falls. Of fifteen field officers,
fourteen have fallen. Three-fourths of the men are dead, wounded, or
prisoners. The Federal infantry has closed in on the flanks and rear of
the Virginians--whole corps assault the handful--the little band is
enveloped, and cut off from succor--they turn and face the enemy,
bayonet to bayonet, and die.
When the smoke drifts away, all is seen to be over. It is a panting,
staggering, bleeding remnant only of the brave division that is coming
back so slowly yonder. They are swept from the fatal hill--pursued by
yells, cheers, cannon-shot, musket-balls, and canister. As they
doggedly retire before the howling hurricane, the wounded are seen to
stagger and fall. Over the dead and dying sweeps the canister. Amid
volleys of musketry and the roar of cannon, all but a handful of
Pickett's Virginians pass into eternity.
THE GREAT MOMENT OF A GREAT LIFE.
I was gazing gloomily at the field covered with detachments limping
back amid a great whirlwind of shell, when a mounted officer rode out
of the smoke. In his right hand he carried his drawn sword--his left
arm was thrown around a wounded boy whom he supported on the pommel of
In the cavalier I recognized General Davenant, whom I had seen near the
village of Paris, and who was now personally known to me. In the boy
I recognized the urchin, Charley, with the braided jacket and jaunty
I spurred toward him.
"Your son--!" I said, and I pointed to the boy.
"He is dying I think, colonel!" was the reply in a hoarse voice. The
gray mustache trembled, and the eye of the father rested, moist but
fiery, on the boy.
"Such a child!" I said. "Could _he_ have gone into the charge?"
"I could not prevent him!" came, in a groan, almost from the old
cavalier. "I forbade him, but he got a musket somewhere, and went over
the breastworks with the rest. I saw him then for the first time, and
heard him laugh and cheer. A moment afterward he was shot--I caught and
raised him up, and I have ridden back through the fire, trying to
shield him--but he is dying! Look! his wound is mortal, I think--and so
young--a mere child--never was any one braver than my poor child--!"
A groan followed the words: and bending down the old cavalier kissed
the pale cheek of the boy.
I made no reply; something seemed to choke me.
Suddenly a grave voice uttered some words within a few paces of us, and
I turned quickly. It was General Lee--riding calmly amid the smoke, and
re-forming the stragglers. Never have I seen a human being more
General Davenant wheeled and saluted.
"We are cut to pieces, general!" he said, with something like a fiery
tear in his eye. "We did our best, and we drove them!--but were not
supported. My brigade--my brave old brigade is gone! This is my boy--I
brought him out--but he is dying too!"
The hoarse tones and fiery tears of the old cavalier made my heart
beat. I could see a quick flush rise to the face of General Lee. He
looked at the pale face of the boy, over which the disordered curls
fell, with a glance of inexpressible sympathy and sweetness. Then
stretching out his hand, he pressed the hand of General Davenant, and
said in his deep grave voice:--
"This has been a sad day for us, general--a sad day, but we cannot
expect always to gain victories. Never mind--all this has been _my_
fault. It is _I_ who have lost this fight, and you must help me out of
it in the best way you can."
[Footnote 1: His words.]
As he uttered these measured words, General Lee saluted and disappeared
in the smoke.
General Davenant followed, bearing the wounded boy still upon his
Ten minutes afterward, I was riding to find General Stuart, who had
sent me with a message just before the charge.
I had gloomy news for him. The battle of Gettysburg was lost.
The sun was sinking red and baleful, when I reached Stuart, beyond the
left wing of the army.
From the afternoon of the second to this night of the third of July,
the cavalry had met that of the enemy in stubborn conflict. The columns
had hurled together. General Hampton had been severely wounded in a
hand-to-hand encounter with sabres, while leading his men. Stuart had
narrowly escaped death or capture in the melee; and Fitz Lee had fought
hilt to hilt with the Federal horsemen, repulsing them, and coming back
laughing, as was his wont.
All these scenes I have passed over, however. The greater drama
absorbed me. The gray horsemen were fighting heroically; but what was
that encounter of sabres, when the fate of Gettysburg was being decided
at Cemetery Hill?
So I pass over all that, and hasten on now to the sequel. Memory finds
few scenes to attract it in the days that followed Gettysburg.
But I beg the reader to observe that I should have no scenes of a
humiliating character to draw. Never was army less "whipped" than that
of Lee after this fight! Do you doubt that statement, reader? Do you
think that the Southerners were a disordered rabble, flying before the
Federal bayonets? a flock of panic-stricken sheep, hurrying back to the
Potomac, with the bay of the Federal war-dogs in their ears?
That idea--entertained by a number of our Northern friends--is entirely
Lee's army was not even shaken. It was fagged, hungry, out of
ammunition, and it retired,--but not until it had remained for
twenty-four hours in line of battle in front of the enemy, perfectly
careless of, even inviting, attack.
"I should have liked nothing better than to have been attacked," said
Longstreet, "and have no doubt I should have given those who tried, as
bad a reception as Pickett received."
[Footnote 1: His words.]
It may be said that this is the boast of the defeated side. But General
Meade, when interrogated before the war committee, stated the exact
"My opinion is now," said Meade "that General Lee evacuated that
position, not from the fear that he would be dislodged from it by any
active operations on my part, but that he was fearful a force would be
sent to Harper's Ferry to cut off his communications.... That was what
caused him to retire."
"Did you discover," asked one of the committee, "after the battle of
Gettysburg, any symptoms of demoralization in Lee's army?"
"No, sir," was General Meade's reply, "I saw nothing of that kind."
[Footnote 1: General Meade's testimony may be found in the Report on
the Conduct of the War. Part I., p. 337.]
That statement was just, and General Meade was too much of a gentleman
and soldier to withhold it. He knew that his great adversary was still
unshaken and dangerous--that the laurels snatched on Round Top and
Cemetery Heights might turn to cypress, if the wounded lion were
assailed in his own position.
After the repulse of Pickett's column on the third of July, Lee had the
choice of two courses--to either attack again or retire. Meade was
evidently determined to remain on the defensive. To engage him, Lee
must once more charge the Cemetery Heights. But a third failure might
be ruinous; the Confederate ammunition was nearly exhausted; the
communications with the Potomac were threatened,--and Lee determined to
That is the true history of the matter.
The force which fell back before Meade was an army of veterans, with
unshaken nerves. It required only a glance to see that these men were
still dangerous. They were ready to fight again, and many raged at the
retreat. Like Lee's "old war horse," they were anxious to try another
struggle, to have the enemy return the compliment, and come over to
Then commenced that singular retreat.
The trains retired in a long line stretching over many miles, by the
Chambersburg road, while the army marched by the shorter route, between
the trains and the enemy, ready to turn and tear the blue huntsmen if
they attempted to pursue.
So the famous army of Northern Virginia--great in defeat as in
victory--took its slow way back toward the soil of Virginia. Never was
spectacle stranger than that retreat from Gettysburg. The badly wounded
had been sent with the army trains; but many insisted upon keeping
their places in the ranks. There was something grim and terrible in
these bandaged arms, and faces, and forms of Lee's old soldiers--but
you did not think of that as you looked into their pale faces. What
struck you in those eyes and lips was the fire, and the smile of an
unconquerable courage. Never had I witnessed resolution more splendid
and invincible. In the ragged foot soldiers of the old army I could see
plainly the evidences of a nerve which no peril could shake. Was it
race--or the cause--or confidence, through all, in Lee? I know not, but
it was there. These men were utterly careless whether the enemy
followed them or not. They were retreating unsubdued. The terrible
scenes through which they had passed, the sights of horror, the ghastly
wounds, the blood, agony, death of the last few days had passed away
from their memories; and they went along with supreme indifference,
ready to fight at any moment, and certain that they could whip any
enemy who assailed them.
General Meade did not attempt that. He kept Lee at arm's-length, and
followed so slowly that the civilians were in enormous wrath, and
looked _*de haut en bas_ on him--on this timid soldier who had not cut
Lee to pieces.
[Illustration: MEETING OF GENERALS LEE AND DAVENANT.]
Between Meade, however, and the bold civilians, there was this enormous
difference. The soldier knew the mettle of the man and the army
retiring from Gettysburg. The civilians did not. Meade retained the
fruits of his victory over Lee. The civilians would have lost them.
At Williamsport, Lee halted and drew up his army in line of battle. The
Potomac, swollen by rains, presented an impassable obstacle.
Meade, following slowly, was met at every step by Stuart's cavalry; but
finally faced his adversary.
Every thing presaged a great battle, and Lee's cannon from the hills
south of Hagerstown laughed,
But General Meade did not come. Lee, standing at bay with the army of
Northern Virginia, was a formidable adversary, and the Federal
commander had little desire to charge the Confederates as they had
charged him at Gettysburg--in position.
Day after day the adversaries remained in line of battle facing each
Lee neither invited nor declined battle.
At last the Potomac subsided: Lee put his army in motion, and crossing
on a pontoon at Falling Waters took up his position on the south bank
of the river.
Stuart followed, bringing up the rear with his cavalry column; and the
whole army was once more on the soil of Virginia.
They had come back after a great march and a great battle.
The march carried their flags to the south bank of the Susquehanna; the
battle resulted in their retreat to the south bank of the Potomac. Thus
nothing had been gained, and nothing lost. But alas! the South had
counted on a great and decisive victory. When Lee failed to snatch that
from the bloody heights of Gettysburg--when, for want of ammunition,
and to guard his communications, he returned to the Potomac--then the
people began to lose heart, and say that, since the death of Jackson,
the cause was lost.
Gettysburg in fact is the turning point of the struggle. From that day
dated the decadence of the Southern arms.
At Chancellorsville, the ascending steps of victory culminated--and
At Gettysburg, the steps began to descend into the valley of defeat,
and the shadow of death.
What I shall show the reader in this final series of my memoirs, is Lee
and his paladins--officers and privates of the old army of Northern
Virginia--fighting on to the end, true in defeat as in victory, in the
dark days as in the bright--closing up the thin ranks, and standing by
the colors to the last.
That picture may be gloomy--but it will be sublime, too.
THE FLOWER OF CAVALIERS.
UNDER "STUART'S OAK."
Crossing to the south bank of the Potomac, Stuart established his
headquarters at "The Bower," an old mansion on the Opequon.
The family at the ancient hall were Stuart's cherished friends, and our
appearance now, with the red flag floating and the bugle sounding a gay
salute as we ascended the hill, was hailed with enthusiasm and
All at the "Bower," loved Stuart; they love him to-day; and will love
His tents were pitched on a grassy knoll in the extensive grounds,
beneath some ancient oaks resembling those seen in English parks. It
was a charming spot. Through the openings in the summer foliage you saw
the old walls of the hall. At the foot of the hill, the Opequon stole
away, around the base of a fir-clad precipice, its right bank lined
with immense white-armed sycamores. Beyond, extended a range of hills:
and in the far west, the North Mountain mingled its azure billows with
the blue of the summer sky.
Such was the beautiful landscape which greeted our eyes: such the spot
to which the winds of war had wafted us. Good old "Bower," and good
days there! How well I remember you! After the long, hard march, and
the incessant fighting, it was charming to settle down for a brief
space in this paradise--to listen idly to the murmur of the Opequon, or
the voice of the summer winds amid the foliage of the century oaks!
The great tree on the grassy knoll, under which Stuart erected his own
tent, is called "Stuart's Oak" to this day. No axe will ever harm it, I
hope; gold could not purchase it; for tender hearts cherish the gnarled
trunk and huge boughs, as a souvenir of the great soldier whom it
sheltered in that summer of 1863.
So we were anchored for a little space, and enjoyed keenly the repose
of this summer nook on the Opequon. Soon the bugle would sound again,
and new storms would buffet us; meanwhile, we laughed and sang,
snatching the bloom of the peaceful hours, inhaling the odors,
listening to the birds, and idly dreaming.
For myself, I had more dreams than the rest of the gray people there!
The Bower was not a strange place to me. My brethren of the staff used
to laugh, and say that, wherever we went, in Virginia, I found
kins-people. I found near and dear ones at the old house on the
Opequon; and a hundred spots which recalled my lost youth. Every object
carried me back to the days that are dead. The blue hills, the stream,
the great oaks, and the hall smiled on me. How familiar the portraits,
and wide fireplaces, and deers' antlers. The pictures of hawking
scenes, with ladies and gentlemen in the queerest costumes; the
engravings of famous race-horses, hanging between guns, bird-bags and
fishing-rods in the wide hall--these were not mere dead objects, but
old and long-loved acquaintances. I had known them in my childhood;
looked with delight upon them in my boyhood; now they seemed to salute
me, murmuring--"Welcome! you remember us!"
Thus the hall, the grounds, the pictures, the most trifling object
brought back to me, in that summer of 1863, a hundred memories of the
years that had flown. Years of childhood and youth, of mirth and joy,
such as we felt before war had come to harass us; when I swam in the
Opequon, or roamed the hills, looking into bright eyes, where life was
so fresh and so young. The "dew was on the blossom" then, the flower in
the bud. Now the bloom had passed away, and the dew dried up in the hot
war-atmosphere. It was a worn and weary soldier who came back to the
scenes of his youth.
Suddenly, as I mused thus, dreaming idly under the great oak which
sheltered me, I heard a voice from Stuart's tent, sending its sonorous
music on the air. It was the great cavalier singing lustily--
"The dew is on the blossom!"
At all hours of the day you could hear that gay voice. Stuart's
headquarters were full of the most mirthful sounds and sights. The
knoll was alive with picturesque forms. The horses, tethered to the
boughs, champed their bits and pawed impatiently. The bright
saddle-blankets shone under the saddles covered with gay decorations.
Young officers with clanking sabres and rattling spurs moved to and
fro. In front of the head-quarters tent the red battle-flag caught the
sunshine in its dazzling folds.
Suddenly, a new charm is added to the picturesque scene. Maiden figures
advance over the grassy lawn; bright eyes glimmer; glossy ringlets are
lifted by the fingers of the wind; tinkling laughter is heard;--and
over all rings the wild sonorous music of the bugle!
The days pass rapidly thus. The nights bring merriment, not sleep. The
general goes with his staff to the hospitable mansion, and soon the
great drawing-room is full of music and laughter. The song, the dance,
the rattling banjo follow. The long hours flit by like a flock of
summer birds, and Sweeney, our old friend Sweeney, is the king of the