Part 3 out of 12
For Sweeney rattles as before on his banjo; and the "Old Gray Horse"
flourishes still in imperishable youth! It is the same old Sweeney,
with his mild and deferential courtesy, his obliging smile, his
unapproachable skill in "picking on the string." Listen! his voice
rings again as in the days of '61 and '62. He is singing still "Oh
Johnny Booker, help this nigger!" "Stephen, come back, come back,
Stephen!" "Out of the window I did sail!" "Sweet Evelina," and the
grand, magnificent epic which advises you to "Jine the Cavalry!"
Hagan listens to him yonder with a twinkle of the eye--Hagan the
black-bearded giant, the brave whose voice resembles thunder, the
devotee and factotum of Stuart, whom he loves. And Sweeney rattles on.
You laugh loud as you listen. The banjo laughs louder than all, and the
great apartment is full of uproar, and mirth, and dance.
Then the couples sink back exhausted; a deep silence follows; Sweeney
has made you laugh, and is now going to make you sigh. Listen! You can
scarcely believe that the singer is the same person who has just been
rattling through the "Old Gray Horse." Sweeney is no longer mirthful;
his voice sighs instead of laughing. He is singing his tender and
exquisite "Faded Flowers." He is telling you in tones as soft as the
sigh of the wind in the great oaks, how
"The cold, chilly winds of December,
Stole my flowers, my companions from me!"
Alas! the cold, chilly winds of the coming winter will blow over the
grave of the prince of musicians! Sweeney, the pride and charm of the
cavalry head-quarters, is going to pass away, and leave his comrades
and his banjo forever!
You would say that the future throws its shadow on the present.
Sweeney's tones are so sweet and sorrowful, that many eyes grow
moist--like Rubini, he "has tears in his voice." The melting strains
ascend and sigh through the old hall. When they die away like a wind in
the distance, the company remain silent, plunged in sad and dreamy
Suddenly Stuart starts up and exclaims:--
"Stop that, Sweeney! you will make everybody die of the blues. Sing the
'Old Gray Horse' again, or 'Jine the Cavalry!'"
Sweeney smiles and obeys. Then, the gay song ended, he commences a
reel. The banjo laughs; his flying fingers race over the strings;
youths and maidens whirl from end to end of the great room--on the
walls the "old people" in ruffles and short-waisted dresses, look down
smiling on their little descendants!
O gay summer nights on the banks of the Opequon! you have flown, but
linger still in memory!
In the autumn of 1867, I revisited the old hall where those summer days
of 1863 had passed in mirth and enjoyment; and then I wandered away to
the grassy knoll where "Stuart's oak" still stands. The sight of the
great tree brought back a whole world of memories. Seated on one of its
huge roots, beneath the dome of foliage just touched by the finger of
autumn, I seemed to see all the past rise up again and move before me,
with its gallant figures, its bright scenes, and brighter eyes. Alas!
those days were dust, and Stuart sang and laughed no more. The grass
was green again, and the birds were singing; but no martial forms moved
there, no battle-flag rippled, no voice was heard. Stuart was
dead;--his sword rusting under the dry leaves of Hollywood, and his
battle-flag was furled forever.
That hour under the old oak, in the autumn of 1867, was one of the
saddest that I have ever spent.
The hall was there as before; the clouds floated, the stream murmured,
the wind sighed in the great tree, as when Stuart's tent shone under
it. But the splendor had vanished, the laughter was hushed--it was a
company of ghosts that gathered around me, and their faint voices
sounded from another world!
BACK TO THE RAPIDAN.
But this is a book of incident, worthy reader. We have little time for
musing recollections. The halts are brief; the bugle is sounding to
horse; events drag us, and we are again in the saddle.
Those gay hours on the Opequon were too agreeable to last. The old hall
was a sort of oasis in the desert of war only. We paused for an
instant; rested under the green trees; heard the murmur of the
waters--then the caravan moved, breasting the arid wastes once more,
and the coming simoom.
Stuart's head-quarters disappeared--we bade our kind friends
good-bye--and, mounting, set out for the Lowland, whither Lee's column
was then marching.
The short lull had been succeeded by new activity. Meade was advancing
along the east slope of the Blue Ridge to cut Lee off from Richmond.
But the adventure succeeded no better now than in 1862. Meade failed,
as McClellan had failed before him.
The army passed the Blue Ridge; drove back the force sent to assail
them in flank as they moved; and descended to Culpeper, from which they
withdrew behind the Rapidan. Here Lee took up his position, crowned the
south bank with his artillery, and, facing General Meade, occupying the
north bank, rested.
Such had been the result of the great campaign, in its merely military
Lee had invaded the North, delivered battle on the territory of the
enemy, suffered a repulse, retired, and was again occupying nearly the
same ground which he had occupied before the advance. Moving backward
and forward on the great chessboard of war, the two adversaries seemed
to have gained or lost nothing. The one was not flushed with victory;
the other was not prostrated by defeat. Each went into camp, ceased
active operations, and prepared for the new conflict which was to take
place before the end of the year.
I shall record some incidents of that rapid and shifting campaign,
beginning and ending in the month of October; then I pass on to the
more important and exciting pages of my memoirs: the mighty struggle
between Lee and Grant.
To return for a moment to the cavalry. It held the front along the
Rapidan and Robertson rivers, from Madison Court-House on the left, to
Chancellorsville on the right. Stuart kept his lynx-eye on all the
fords of the two rivers, having his head-quarters in the forks of the
streams not far from their junction.
I should like to speak of the charming hours spent at the hospitable
mansion near which head-quarters had been established. The sun shone
bright, at the house on the grassy hill, but not so bright as the eyes
which gave us friendly welcome. Years have passed since that time--all
things have changed--but neither time or the new scenes will banish
from some hearts the memory of that beautiful face, and the music of
that voice! We salute to-day as we saluted in the past--health and
happiness attend the fair face and the kindly heart!
I saw much of Mohun in those days, and became in course of time almost
his intimate friend. He exhibited still a marked reserve on the subject
of his past life: but I thought I could see that the ice was melting.
Day by day he grew gayer--gradually his cynicism seemed leaving him.
Who was this singular man, and what was his past history? I often asked
myself these questions--he persisted in giving me no clue to the
secret--but I felt a presentiment that some day I should "pluck out the
heart of his mystery."
So much, in passing, for my relations with Mohun. We had begun to be
friends, and the chance of war was going to throw us together often. I
had caught one or two glimpses of a past full of "strange matters"--in
the hours that were coming I was to have every mystery revealed.
Meanwhile Lee was resting, but preparing for another blow. His army was
in the highest spirits. The camps buzzed, and laughed, and were full of
mirth. Gettysburg was forgotten, or if remembered, it only served to
inflame the troops, and inspire them with a passionate desire to "try
again." In the blaze of a new victory, the old defeat would disappear.
Such was the condition of things in the army of Northern Virginia in
the first days of October, 1863.
THE OPENING OF THE HUNT.
It soon became obvious that Lee had resolved to strike a blow at his
How to do so with advantage seemed a hard problem. Between the
opponents lay the Rapidan, which would be an ugly obstacle in the path
of an army retreating after defeat--and the same considerations which
deterred General Meade from attacking Lee, operated to prevent a like
movement on the part of his adversary.
Thus an advance of the Southern army on the enemy's front was far too
hazardous to be thought of--and the only course left was to assail
their flank. This could either be done by crossing lower down, and
cutting the enemy off from the Rappahannock, or crossing higher up, and
cutting him off from Manassas. Lee determined on the latter--and in a
bright morning early in October the great movement began.
Leaving Fitz Lee's cavalry and a small force of infantry in the works
on the Rapidan fronting the enemy, General Lee put his columns in
motion for the upper fords.
The men hailed the movement with cheers of delight. As they wound
along, with glittering bayonets, through the hills and across the
river, you could easily see that the old army of Northern Virginia was
still in full feather--that Gettysburg had not shaken it--and that Lee
could count on it for new campaigns and harder combats than any in the
The head of the column was directed toward Madison Court-House, which
would enable Lee either to advance directly upon the enemy's flank by
the Sperryville road, or continue his flank movement, pass the
Rappahannock, and cut off his opponent from Washington.
The advance was an inspiring spectacle. The weather was magnificent,
and the crimson foliage of the wood rivalled the tints of the red
battle-flags, fluttering above the long glittering hedge of bayonets.
Stuart's cavalry had moved out on the right flank to protect the column
from the observation of the enemy. The campaign of October, 1863, had
It was to be one of the briefest, but most adventurous movements of the
war. Deciding little, it was yet rich in incident and dramatic scenes.
A brilliant comedy, as it were--just tinged with tragedy--was that
rapid and shifting _raid_ of Lee's whole army, on Meade. Blood, jests,
laughter, mourning--these were strangely mingled, in the cavalry
movements at least: and to these I proceed.
From the heights, whence you see only the "great events," the movements
of armies, and the decisive battles, let us now descend into the
lowland, good reader. I will lay before you some incidents, not to be
found in the "official reports;" and I promise to carry you on rapidly!
THE GAME A-FOOT.
It was a magnificent morning of October,
Stuart leaped to saddle, and, preceded by his red flag rippling gayly
in the wind, set out from his head-quarters in the direction of the
He was entering on his last great cavalry campaign--and it was to be
one of his most successful and splendid.
The great soldier, as he advanced that morning, was the beau ideal of a
cavalier. His black plume floated proudly; his sabre rattled; his eyes
danced with joy; his huge mustache curled with laughter; his voice was
gay, sonorous, full of enjoyment of life, health, the grand autumn, and
the adventurous and splendid scenes which his imagination painted. On
his brow he seemed already to feel the breath of victory.
It was rather an immense war-machine, than a man which I looked at on
that morning of October, 1863. Grand physical health, a perfectly
fearless soul, the keenest thirst for action, a stubborn dash which
nothing could break down--all this could be seen in the face and form
of Stuart, as he advanced to take command of his column that day.
On the next morning at daylight he had struck the enemy.
Their outposts of cavalry, supported by infantry, were at Thoroughfare
Mountain, a small range above the little village of James City. Here
Stuart came suddenly upon them, and drove in their pickets:--a moment
afterward he was galloping forward with the gayety of a huntsman after
A courier came to meet him from the advance guard, riding at full
"Well!" said Stuart.
"A regiment of infantry, general."
"Yonder in the gap."
And he pointed to a gorge in the little mountain before us.
Stuart wheeled and beckoned to Gordon, the brave North Carolinian, who
had made the stubborn charge at Barbee's, in 1862, when Pelham was
attacked, front and rear, by the Federal cavalry.
"We have flushed a regiment of infantry, Gordon. Can you break them?"
"I think I can, general."
The handsome face of the soldier glowed--his bright eyes flashed.
"All right. Get ready, then, to attack in front. I will take Young, and
strike them at the same moment on the right flank!"
With which words Stuart went at a gallop and joined Young.
That gay and gallant Georgian was at the head of his column; in his
sparkling eyes, and the smile which showed the white teeth under the
black mustache, I saw the same expression of reckless courage which I
had noticed on the day of Fleetwood, when the young Georgian broke the
column on the hill.
Stuart explained his design in three words:--
"Are you ready?"
"All ready, general!"
And Young's sabre flashed from the scabbard.
At the same instant the crash of carbines in front, indicated Gordon's
Young darted to the head of his column.
"Charge!" he shouted.
And leading the column, he descended like a thunderbolt on the enemy's
As he did so, Gordon's men rushed with wild cheers into the gorge.
Shouts, carbine-shots, musket-shots, yells resounded. In five minutes
the Federal infantry, some three hundred in number, were scattered in
headlong flight, leaving the ground strewed with new muskets, whose
barrels shone like burnished silver.
"Good!" Stuart exclaimed, as long lines of prisoners appeared, going to
the rear, "a fair beginning, at least!"
And he rode on rapidly.
The cavalry pressed forward without halting and reached the hills above
James City--a magniloquent name, but the "city" was a small affair--a
mere village nestling down amid an amphitheatre of hills.
On the opposite range we saw the enemy's cavalry drawn up; and, as we
afterward learned, commanded by General Kilpatrick.
They presented a handsome spectacle in the gay autumn sunshine; but we
did not attack them. Stuart's orders were to protect the march of Ewell
from observation; and this he accomplished by simply holding the
Federal cavalry at arm's-length. So a demonstration only was made.
Skirmishers advanced, and engaged the enemy. The whole day thus passed
in apparent failure to drive the Federals.
A single incident marked the day. Stuart had taken his position, with
his staff and couriers, on a hill. Here, with his battle-flag floating,
he watched the skirmishers,--and then gradually, the whole party,
stretched on the grass, began to doze.
They were to have a rude waking. I was lying, holding my bridle, half
asleep, when an earthquake seemed to open beneath me. A crash like
thunder accompanied it. I rose quickly, covered with dust. A glance
explained the whole. The enemy had directed a gun upon the tempting
group over which the flag rose, and the percussion-shell had fallen and
burst in our midst.
Strangest of all, no one was hurt.
Stuart laughed, and mounted his horse.
"A good shot!" he said, "look at Surry's hat!" which, on examination, I
found covered half an inch deep with earth.
In fact, the shell had burst within three feet of my head--was a "line
shot," and with a little more elevation, would have just reached me.
Then, exit Surry! in a most unmilitary manner, by the bursting of a
At nightfall the enemy was still in position, and Stuart had not
We spent the night at a farm-house, and were in the saddle again at
The hills opposite were deserted. The enemy had retreated. Stuart
pushed on their track down the Sperryville road, passed the village of
Griffinsburg, and near Stonehouse Mountain came on, and pushed them
rapidly back on Culpeper Court-House.
All at once quick firing was heard on our right.
"What is that?" Stuart asked.
"An infantry regiment, general!" said Weller, one of our couriers,
galloping quickly up.
The words acted upon Stuart like the blow of a sword. A wild excitement
seemed to seize him.
"Bring up a squadron!" he shouted--for we were riding ahead without
support; "bring up the cavalry! I am going to charge! Bring me a
And drawing his sword, Stuart rushed at full gallop, alone and
unattended, toward the Federal infantry, whose gun-barrels were seen
glittering in the woods.
Never had I seen him more excited. He was plainly on fire with the idea
of capturing the whole party.
The staff scattered to summon the cavalry, and soon a company came on
at full gallop. It was the "Jefferson Company," under that brave
officer, Captain George Baylor.
"Charge, and cut them down!" shouted Stuart, his drawn sword flashing
as he forced his horse over fallen trees and the debris of the great
A fine spectacle followed. As the Federal infantry double-quicked up a
slope, Baylor charged.
As his men darted upon them, they suddenly halted, came to a
front-face, and the long line of gun-barrels fell, as though they were
parts of some glittering war-machine.
The muzzles spouted flame, and the cavalry received the fire at thirty
It seemed to check them, but it did not. They had come to an impassable
ditch. In another moment, the infantry broke, every man for himself,
and making a detour, the cavalry pursued, and captured large numbers.
For the second time Stuart had charged infantry and broken them.
Pushing on now through the great deserted camps of Stonehouse Mountain,
he descended upon Culpeper.
The enemy's cavalry retreated, made a stand on the hills beyond, with
their artillery; and seemed to have resolved to retreat no farther.
Suddenly the thunder of artillery came up from the Rapidan. I was
sitting my horse near Stuart and Gordon. They were both
laughing--indeed, Stuart seemed laughing throughout the campaign.
"That is Fitz Lee!" he said; "he has crossed and driven them."
And turning round,--
"I wish you would go to General Lee, Surry--you will find him toward
Griffinsburg--and tell him we are driving the enemy, and Fitz Lee seems
to be coming up."
I saluted, and left the two generals laughing as before.
In half an hour I had found General Lee. He was in camp on the
Sperryville road, and was talking to Ewell.
It was a singular contrast. Lee, robust, ruddy, erect, with his large
frank eye--Ewell, slight, emaciated, pale, with small piercing eyes,
and limping on his crutch.
"Thank you, colonel," General Lee said, with his grave but charming
courtesy; "tell General Stuart to continue to press them back toward
And turning to Ewell:--
"You had better move on with your command, general," he said, in his
Ewell bowed and turned to obey--I returned to Stuart.
He was pushing the Federal cavalry "from pillar to post." Driven back
from the hill, where they had planted their artillery, they had
retreated on Brandy; Stuart had followed like a fate; Gordon, sent
round to the left, struck their right flank with his old sabreurs; Fitz
Lee, coming up on the right, thundered down on their left--and in the
woods around Brandy took place one of those cavalry combats which, as
my friends, the novelists say, "must be seen to be appreciated!" If the
reader will imagine, in the dusk of evening, a grand hurly-burly made
up of smoke, dust, blood, yells, clashing swords, banging carbines,
thundering cannon, and wild cheers, he will have a faint idea of that
"little affair" at Brandy.
A queer circumstance made this fight irresistibly comic.
Fitz Lee had repulsed Buford on the Rapidan; followed him on his
retreat, harassing him at every step--when, just as Buford reached
Brandy, with Fitz Lee at his heels, Kilpatrick descended on Fitz Lee's
rear by the Sperryville road, and Stuart thundered down on _his_!
Thus Fitz Lee was pursuing Buford; Kilpatrick, Fitz Lee; and Stuart,
Kilpatrick! It was a grand and comic jumble--except that it came very
near being any thing but comic to that joyous cavalier, "General Fitz,"
as we called him--caught as he was between Generals Buford and
General Fitz was the man for a "tight place," however--and "his
people," as he called his cavalry, soon cut through to Stuart.
It was a tough and heavy fight.
"Old Jeb cut off more than he could _chaw_, that time!" said a veteran
afterward, in describing the fight. And at one time it seemed that the
enemy were going to hold their ground.
Fleetwood, beyond, was lined with bayonets, and every knoll was crowned
with cannon: when night fell, however, the whole force had retreated
and crossed the Rappahannock, leaving the ground strewed with their
dead and wounded.
In the dusky woods near Brandy, Stuart sat his horse, looking toward
the Rappahannock, and laughing still. He was talking with brave Fitz
Lee, whose stout figure, flowing beard, and eyes twinkling with humor,
were plain in the starlight. I shall show you that gallant figure more
than once in this volume, reader. You had but to look at him to see
that he was the bravest of soldiers, and the best of comrades.
So night fell on a victory. Stuart had driven the enemy at every step.
He had charged their infantry, cavalry, and artillery, routing
all,--and he was once more in sight of Fleetwood Hill, where he had
defeated them in the preceding June.
Singular current of war! It used to bear us onward; but be taken with a
sudden fancy to flow back to the old spots! See Manassas,
Fredericksburg, Cold Harbor, Chancellorsville!
Fleetwood takes its place with them--twice bloody and memorable. In
sight of it took place two of Stuart's hardest combats--and both were
By sunrise Stuart was pushing rapidly up the bank of the Rappahannock
toward Warrenton Springs.
Meade had retreated from Culpeper, and was falling back rapidly. Lee
was pressing on to cut him off in the vicinity of Auburn.
A hot fight took place at Jeffersonton, a little village beyond Hazel
River; and here the enemy fought from house to house, but finally
Stuart followed, and came up with their rear retreating over the bridge
at Warrenton Springs.
On the northern bank the Federal sharp-shooters were posted in double
Stuart turned, and saw, not far from him, the Jefferson Company who had
charged so gallantly at Stonehouse Mountain. A movement of his hand,
and they were charging over the bridge.
Suddenly they recoiled. The head files had stopped,--the horses
rearing. The flooring in the centre of the bridge had been torn up--it
was impossible to cross.
The men wheeled and came back under a hot fire of sharp-shooters.
Stuart's face was fiery.
"To the ford!" he shouted.
And placing himself in front of the men, sword in hand, he led them
through the ford, in face of a heavy fire, charged up the opposite
slope, and the Federal skirmishers scattered in wild flight.
The Twelfth Virginia Cavalry followed them, and they were cut down or
As the column moved on, Stuart galloped along the line toward the
He had just faced death with these men, and at sight of him they raised
"Hurrah for old Jeb!" rose in a shout from the column.
Stuart turned: his face glowed: rising in his stirrups, he took off his
hat and exclaimed:---
"Bully for the old Twelfth!"
The words were unclassic, it may be, reader, but they raised a storm.
"I felt like I could die for old Jeb after that," one of the men said
Stuart disappeared, followed by tumultuous cheers, and his column
continued to advance upon Warrenton ahead of the army. He had ridden
on for a quarter of an hour, when he turned to me, and said:--
"I am getting uneasy about things at Culpeper. I wish you would ride
back to Rosser, who is there with two hundred men, and tell him to call
on Young, if he is pushed." I turned my horse.
"You know where Young is?"
"On the Sperryville road."
"Exactly--Rosser can count on him. I am going on toward Warrenton."
And the general and myself parted, riding in opposite directions.
I returned toward Hazel River; passed that stream, and the long rows of
army wagons; and as the sun was sinking, drew near Culpeper.
As I pressed on, I heard the long thunder of cannon coming up from the
direction of Brandy.
What could that sound mean? Had the enemy again advanced and assailed
the small force of cavalry there?
Going on now at full speed, I heard the cannon steadily approaching
Culpeper Court-House. All at once, as I drew near the village, I heard
a tremendous clatter in the streets; a column of cavalry was advancing
to the front--soon the crack of carbines was heard beyond the town.
A short ride brought me to the field, and all was explained. Colonel
Rosser had been attacked by a whole corps of Federal infantry, and two
divisions of cavalry--while his own force was about two hundred men,
and a single gun.
He had offered an obstinate resistance, however, fallen back slowly,
and when about to be driven into the town, Young had come to his aid.
Then followed one of the gayest comedies of the war. Young was the
author of it. You laugh sometimes still, do you not, old comrade, at
the trick you played our friends on that October evening?
Young threw himself into the fight with the true cavalry elan.
Dismounting his whole brigade, he opened a rapid fire on the advancing
enemy; and this obstinate resistance evidently produced a marked effect
upon their imaginations. They had been advancing--they now paused. They
had been full of audacity, and now seemed fearful of some trap. It was
evident that they suspected the presence of a heavy force of
infantry--and night having descended, they halted.
This was the signal for the fifth act of the comedy. Young kindled
camp-fires along two miles of front; brought up his brass band and
played "The Bonnie Blue Flag," and "Dixie." It was obvious to the enemy
that at least a corps of Lee's infantry was there in their front, ready
to renew the action at dawn!
The finale was comic--I shared the blankets of the gallant Georgian
that night--when we rose the enemy's whole force had disappeared.
Such had been the result of the ruse, and I always regarded the affair
as one of the gayest incidents of the war.
When I left the brave Young, he was laughing in triumph.
If your eye meets this page, old comrade, it may give you another laugh
--and laughter is something in this dull epoch, is it not?
But whether you laugh or sigh, and wherever you may be, health and
happiness attend you!
In the afternoon, I was at Warrenton.
STUART CAUGHT IN THE TRAP.
I found the general moving toward Auburn, on a reconnoissance.
Meade had been delayed much by uncertainty as to his adversary's
designs--had scarcely advanced beyond the Rappahannock--and the object
of Stuart was to discover his position and intentions.
That was the work always assigned to the "Eyes and Ears" of the army
Stuart's cavalry; and the stout cavalier, now at the head of his
column, was on for the railroad, along which the enemy must retreat.
Another comedy was to follow--which came near being a tragedy.
Stuart steadily advanced, and about sunset had passed Auburn, when, as
he was riding at the head of his column, a messenger rode up hastily
from Gordon, holding the rear.
"Well!" said Stuart.
"The enemy are in your rear, general!"
"General Gordon sent me to say so."
Stuart turned and galloped back. Gordon came to meet him.
"The Yankee army are in our rear, general," said Gordon. "Come, and I
will show you."
And riding to an eminence he pointed out across the fields, in the
gathering gloom, long lines of infantry and artillery moving toward
Stuart gazed at them keenly. As he sat looking toward them, a staff
officer from the front came up rapidly.
"The enemy are in front, general."
"Yes, with artillery."
Stuart looked at Gordon.
"A real trap," he said coolly, knitting his brows.
"Have they seen you, Gordon?" he asked.
"I think not, general."
"Well, so far all is well. There is nothing to do but to lay low, and
take the chances of getting out."
Stuart's voice was never cooler. He looked quietly at the huge column
cutting off his retreat.
"A splendid chance to attack them!" he all at once exclaimed.
And tearing a leaf out of his dispatch-book, he wrote a hasty note to
General Lee. I afterward knew what it contained. Stuart described his
situation, and proposed that Rodes, then near Warrenton, should attack
at dawn--when he would open with his artillery, charge with his
horsemen, and cut his way out.
"A good man in blue uniform now, Gordon."
Gordon sent off an aid, and the man soon appeared. From top to toe he
was of irreproachable blue; and he listened keenly to his instructions.
Five minutes afterward he had dismounted, given his horse to a comrade,
and was stealing on foot through the thicket toward the Federal column.
A moment afterward he had mingled with their column and disappeared.
Other messengers, also in Federal uniform, were dispatched: the whole
force of cavalry was massed, and concealed in the woods: then darkness
descended; and the long night of anxiety began.
The situation was not agreeable. Stuart was caught in a veritable trap.
On both sides--in his rear and his front--were passing heavy corps of
Federal infantry; their numerous artillery; and their long-drawn
columns of cavalry. Discovery was destruction; the only hope was that
the enemy would not suspect our proximity. If we were once known to be
lurking there, good-bye to Stuart and his men!
So the long night commenced. The hours passed on, and still we were not
discovered. It seemed miraculous that some noise did not betray
Stuart's hiding-place; but an Unseen Eye seemed to watch over him, and
an Unseen Hand to guard him.
More than once the neigh of a horse rang out on the air of night; and
two or three times the discordant bray of a mule attached to the
artillery startled the silence of the woods. But these sounds were
unheeded. They evidently attracted no attention from the enemy.
Leaning down in their saddles, the men, half overcome by sleep, but
afraid of a rough waking, passed sleepless hours, looking for the dawn.
Stuart was never cooler. On his horse, at the head of his men, he
betrayed no emotion. You would not have known, except for his subdued
tones when speaking to some one, that he and his command were in a
veritable "tight place." Cool and resolute, he was equal to any event.
Certain capture or destruction of his whole force was imminent.
Thus the night glided away. We had not been discovered. Over the trees
was seen the yellow streak of dawn.
I looked round. The men's faces were haggard from want of sleep. But
they evidently felt perfect confidence in Stuart.
He hastened to justify it.
No sooner had light come than he placed his artillery in position. As
it grew and broadened, the enemy were seen just on a hill in front of
us, busily cooking their breakfasts.
Suddenly a single cannon sent its long thunder, dull and reverberating,
through the woods, from the direction of Warrenton.
Stuart rose erect in his saddle, and looked in the direction of the
sound, his eyes glowing.
Another followed; then another; then a long, continuous bellow of
artillery, making the hills echo.
There was no longer any doubt about the fate of the messengers. Lee had
received the dispatches; Rodes had opened on the Federal columns,
attacking as that good soldier knew how to attack.
Stuart darted to his guns. On his countenance was a grim smile.
"Attention!" he exclaimed.
The cannoneers ran to their posts, a cheer rose, the next instant the
guns spouted flame; shell after shell in rapid succession screamed
through the woods--and bursting in the midst of the blue groups, threw
them into the wildest disorder.
Stuart did not allow the panic to subside. His sharp-shooters opened at
the same instant a determined fire; the great cavalier went at full
speed to the head of his column:--then rushing like an avalanche,
troopers and artillery, charged the column in front, burst through,
trampling it as he went, and at a gallop the gray horsemen, with guns
following, broke out; and were again free.
Stuart was out of the trap. From one of the "tightest places" that a
commander was ever in he had extricated his whole command.
Once in safety, he turned like a wild boar on his enemies. In ten
minutes his artillery had taken a new position--its thunders had
opened--its roar told the army, that his feather still floated, his
star was still in the ascendant.
Such was that queer affair of Auburn. Few more curious incidents
occurred in the war.
A brave officer of the infantry had accompanied us as an amateur.
"I've got enough of the cavalry," he said, laughing; "I am going back
to the infantry. It is safer!"
GENERAL MEADE'S "EYE-TEETH."
Stuart came back laughing from his adventure.
The army hailed his reappearance with joy and cheers.
They had already split the air with shouts in honor of the cavalry, on
that evening at Warrenton Springs, when Stuart charged through the
"Hurrah for Stuart!" was now the exclamation everywhere. And let me add
that the stout cavalier keenly enjoyed his popularity. He was brave and
fond of glory--approbation delighted him. In his ears, praise,
sympathy, admiration, sounded sweet.
General Lee continued to press forward, but the golden moment for
intercepting Meade had fled.
He had not been cut off in Culpeper; he had not been cut off at
Warrenton; he was not going to be cut off at Bristoe, near Manassas.
Hill had been sent in that direction to intercept the enemy's retreat,
but on the afternoon succeeding the adventure of Stuart, an ugly blow
was dealt him on the banks of Deep Run.
He came up with the enemy's rear guard under their brave General
Warren; assailed it in front of an embankment furiously, and suffered a
General Cooke was shot down at the head of his men; the brigade was
nearly cut to pieces; and Warren retreated across Deep Run, in grim
triumph, carrying off several pieces of Hill's artillery.
It was a grievous blow, and affected the brave Hill deeply. General Lee
was no less melancholy; it is said that he was both gloomy and restive.
It was reported, I know not upon what authority, that when he and
General Hill were riding over the field, and Hill essayed to explain
the unfortunate affair, the commander-in-chief shook his head, and said
in grave tones:--
"Say no more, general--have these poor dead soldiers buried."
From the hill above Bristoe, General Lee, accompanied by Stuart, looked
out in the direction of Manassas. Not a blue coat was to be seen. Meade
had made good his retreat. Everywhere he had eluded the blows of his
great adversary--and in parting from him, finally, at Bristoe, had left
blood in his foot-steps--the blood of some of Lee's best soldiers.
It is said that General Meade made this retreat under protest--and that
he was everywhere looking for a position to fight. A Northern
correspondent described how, sitting with him by the camp-fire, General
Meade had said:--
"It was like pulling out my eye-teeth not to have had a fight!"
Did he say that? Then he was out-generalled.
But he had succeeded in retreating safely. He was behind the works of
Centreville: Lee had stopped the pursuit.
There was nothing more, indeed, to be done. Lee must retire, or attack
the enemy behind their earth-works. That was not very promising, and he
fell back toward his old camps, on the Rapidan.
Nothing prevented the cavalry, however, from "feeling" the enemy in
their new position; and Stuart rapidly advanced to Bull Run, across
which Fitz Lee drove the Federal horsemen.
A raid toward their rear, by Stuart, followed. He moved toward
Groveton; deflected to the left, and crossed the Catharpin in a violent
storm; advanced next day toward Frying-Pan; then striking the Second
Corps of Meade, and throwing it into confusion, by producing the
impression that his force was Lee's whole army, he quietly retired by
the way he had come.
His disappearance revealed all. The enemy perceived that the attack was
only a "cavalry raid," and were seized with immense indignation. A
picked division was sent out in pursuit of the daring raiders--and this
force of horsemen, about three thousand in number, hurried across Bull
Run to punish Stuart.
They were commanded by the ardent General Kilpatrick:--what followed is
known as the "Buckland Races."
WHAT THE AUTHOR HAS OMITTED.
Such is a rapid summary of the cavalry operations succeeding the action
Those readers who cry out for "movement! movement!" are respectfully
requested to observe that I have passed over much ground, and many
events in a few paragraphs:--and yet I might have dwelt on more than
one scene which, possibly, might have interested the worthy reader.
There was the gallant figure of General Fitz Lee, at the head of his
horsemen, advancing to charge what he supposed to be the enemy's
artillery near Bristoe, and singing as he went, in the gayest voice:--
"Rest in peace! rest in peace!
Slumb'ring lady love of mine;
Rest in peace! rest in peace!
There was the charge over the barricade near Yates's Ford, where a
strange figure mingled just at dusk with the staff, and when arrested
as he was edging away in the dark, coolly announced that he belonged to
the "First Maine Cavalry."
There was the march toward Chantilly, amid the drenching storm, when
Stuart rode along laughing and shouting his camp songs, with the rain
descending in torrents from his heavy brown beard.
There was the splendid advance on the day succeeding, through the rich
autumn forest, of all the colors of the rainbow.
Then the fight at Frying-Pan; arousing the hornets' nest there, and the
feat performed by Colonel Surry, in carrying off through the fire of
the sharp-shooters, on the pommel of his saddle, a beautiful girl who
declared that she was "not at all afraid!"
These and many other scenes come back to memory as I sit here at
Eagle's Nest. But were I to describe all I witnessed during the war, I
should never cease writing. All these must be passed over--my canvas is
limited, and I have so many figures to draw, so many pictures to paint,
that every square inch is valuable.
That is the vice of "memoirs," reader. The memory is an immense
receptacle--it holds every thing, and often trifles take the prominent
place, instead of great events. You are interested in those trifles,
when they are part of your own experience; but perhaps, they bore your
listener and make him yawn--a terrible catastrophe!
So I pass to some real and _bona fide_ "events." Sabres are going to
clash now, and some figures whom the reader I hope has not forgotten
are going to ride for the prize in the famous Buckland Races.
I FALL A VICTIM TO TOM'S ILL-LUCK.
Stuart had fallen back, and had reached the vicinity of Buckland.
There was a bright light in his blue eyes, a meaning smile on his
mustached lip, which in due time I was going to understand.
Kilpatrick was following him. From the rear guard came the crack of
skirmishers. It seemed hard to understand, but the fact was perfectly
evident, that Stuart was retreating.
I had fallen out of the column, and was riding with Tom Herbert. Have
you forgotten that worthy, my dear reader? Has the roar of Gettysburg
driven him quite from your memory? I hope not. I have not mentioned him
for a long time, so many things have diverted me--but we had ridden
together, slept together, fought together, and starved together! Tom
had come to be one of my best friends, in fact, and his charming good
humor beguiled many a weary march. To hear him laugh was real
enjoyment; and when he would suddenly burst forth with,
"Oh look at the riggings
On Billy Barlo--o--o--ow!"
the sternest faces relaxed, the sourest personages could not but laugh.
Brave and honest fop! Where are you to-day, _mon garcon_! I wish I
could see you and hear you sing again!
But I am prosing. Riding beside Tom, I was looking down and thinking of
a certain young lady, when an exclamation from my companion made me
raise my head.
"By George! there's the house, old fellow!"
"Of the famous supper."
"So it is!"
"And my inamorata, Surry! I wonder if she is still there?"
"Inamorata? What is her other name?"
Tom laughed, and began to sing in his gayest voice,
"Oh, Katy! Katy!
Don't marry any other;
You'll break my heart, and kill me dead,
And then be hanged for murder!"
"That is answer enough," I said, laughing.
"Suppose we go and see if they are still alive," Tom said, blushing;
"ten minutes will take us to the house."
In fact, I saw across the fields, embowered in foliage, the hospitable
mansion in which we had eaten the famous supper, on the route to
"It is risky," I said, hesitating.
"But pleasing," retorted Tom, with a laugh.
And I saw, from his flushed face, that he had set his heart on the
That conquered me. I never could refuse Tom Herbert any thing; and we
were soon cantering toward the house.
Leaving our horses in a little grove, near the mansion, in order that
they might not attract the attention of any of the enemy's vedettes, we
hastened up the steps.
As we reached the door, it opened, and Miss Katy Dare, the heroine of
Tom's dreams, very nearly precipitated herself into our arms.
"Oh, I am so glad to see you!" she exclaimed, with her auburn ringlets
dancing, her eyes sparkling,--and taking care to look at _me_ as she
uttered the words.
Then a whole bevy of young ladies hastened out to welcome us.
Where had we been? Why were we going back? Could General Stuart intend
to leave them in the Yankee lines again? Oh, no! he could not! He could
not have the heart to! Was he coming to see them? Oh, the sight of gray
uniforms was HEAVENLY!!!
And the young damsels positively overwhelmed me with exclamations and
interrogatories. Eyes danced, lips smiled, cheeks glowed--they hung
around me, and seemed wild with enthusiasm and delight.
Around _me_, I say--for Tom and Miss Katy had accidentally strolled
into a conservatory near at hand. A glass door gave access to it, and
they had "gone to examine the flowers," the young ladies said, with
rapturous smiles and little nods.
Meanwhile, "the wants of the soldiers" were by no means forgotten. Busy
hands brought in china, silver, and snowy napkins. On the table the
waiter was soon deposited, containing a splendid, miraculous array of
edibles, and these were flanked by decanters containing excellent
This consumed half an hour--but at last the repast was ready, and one
of the young ladies hastened toward the conservatory, uttering a
discreet little "ahem!" which made her companions laugh.
In an instant Tom made his appearance with a decided color in his
cheeks; and Miss Katy--well, Miss Katy's face was the color of a peony,
or a carnation.
Shall I reveal to you, gentle reader, what Tom told me long afterward?
He had advanced and been repulsed--had attacked and been "scattered."
Pardon the slang of the army, and admire the expeditious operations of
the gentlemen of the cavalry!
Tom was blushing, but laughing too. He was game, if he _was_
unfortunate. He did not even decline the material enjoyment of lunch,
and having led in the young Miss Katy, with a charmingly foppish air,
took his seat at the table, which promised so much pleasure of another
The fates frowned on us. Tom was unlucky that day, and I was drawn into
the vortex of bad fortune.
Suddenly a clatter of hoofs came from the grass plat in front of the
house; the rattle of sabres from a company of cavalry followed; and the
young ladies had just time to thrust us into the conservatory, when the
door opened, and an officer in blue uniform, accompanied by a lady,
entered the apartment.
I OVERHEAR A SINGULAR CONVERSATION.
I recognized the new-comers at a glance. They were Darke, and the gray
There was no mistaking that powerful figure, of low stature, but
herculean proportions; that gloomy and phlegmatic face, half-covered
with the black beard; and the eye glancing warily, but with a reckless
fire in them, from beneath the heavy eye-brows.
The woman wore an elegant gray riding habit--gray seemed a favorite
with her. Her cheeks were as white as ever, and her lips as red. Her
bearing was perfectly composed, and she advanced, with the long riding
skirt thrown over her arm, walking with exquisite grace.
All this I could easily see. The glass door of the conservatory had
been left ajar in the hurry of our retreat, and from behind the
lemon-trees and flower-bushes, we could see into the apartment without
There was evidently little danger of our discovery. The new-comers had
plainly entered the house with no design to search it. Darke advanced
into the apartment; made the ladies a bow, which more than ever
convinced me that he had been familiar with good society; and requested
food for the lady. She had tasted none for many hours, and was faint.
He would not ask it for himself, inasmuch as he was an enemy.
He bowed again as he spoke, and was silent.
The young ladies had listened coldly. As he finished, they pointed to
the waiter, and without speaking, they left the apartment.
Darke was left alone with the woman in gray. She seemed to have
regarded ceremony as unnecessary. Going to the table, she had already
helped herself, and for some moments devoured, rather than ate, the
food before her.
Then she rose, and went and took her seat in a rocking-chair near the
fire. Darke remained erect, gazing at her, in silence.
The lady rocked to and fro, pushed back her dark hair with the snowy
hand, and looking at her companion, began to laugh.
"You are not hungry?" she said.
"No," was his reply.
"And to think that a romantic young creature like myself _should_ be!"
"It was natural. I hoped that you would have given up this fancy of
accompanying me. You can not stand the fatigue."
"I can stand it easily," she said. "When we have a cherished object,
weariness does not count."
"A cherished object! What is yours?"
"Sit down, and I will tell you. I am tired. You can rejoin the column
in ten minutes."
"So be it," said Darke, gloomily.
And he sat down near her.
"You wish to be informed of my object in going with you everywhere,"
she said. And her voice which had at first been gay and careless,
assumed a mocking accent, making the nerves tingle. "I can explain in a
very few words my romantic desire. I wish to see _him_ fall."
"Humph!" ejaculated Darke, coldly; "you mean--"
"That man--yes. You promised to kill him, when you next met. Did you
not promise me that?"
Darke looked at the speaker with grim admiration.
"You are a singular woman," he said; "you never forget a wrong. And yet
the wrong, people might say, was committed by _you_--not _him_."
"Do _you_ say that?" exclaimed the woman with sudden venom in her
"I say nothing, madam," was the gloomy reply. "I only declare that you
hate much more strongly than I do. I hate him--and hate him honestly.
But I would not take him at disadvantage. You would strike him,
wherever you met him--in the dark--in the back--I think you would dance
the war-dance around him, when he was dying!"
And Darke uttered a short jarring laugh.
"You are right," said the woman, coolly. "I wish to see that man die--I
expected you to kill him on that night in Pennsylvania. You promised to
do it;--redeem your promise!"
"I will try to do so, madam," said Darke, coolly.
"And I wish to be present on the occasion."
Darke laughed as before.
"That doubtless has prevented you from having our good friend
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she said:---
"No, I have tried that."
"By what means--who was your agent?"
Darke waited, listening.
"He has three times waylaid _him_ behind the rebel lines, and fired on
him as he was riding at night through the woods," added the woman.
"Bah!" said Darke; "Swartz told you that?"
"He has done so."
"Hatred blinds you; I do not believe that story. But I design nothing
of that description against Colonel Mohun. I will fight him wherever I
meet him in battle--kill him, if I can--but no assassination."
A mocking smile came to the woman's lips.
"You seem to dislike the idea of--assassination," she said.
Darke uttered a sound resembling the growl of a wild animal, and a
moment after, seizing the decanter, he dashed some of its contents into
a glass, and raised it to his lips.
"Cursed stuff!" he suddenly exclaimed, setting the glass down
violently. "I want drink--real drink--to-day!"
The woman looked at him curiously, and said quietly:--
"What is the matter?"
Her companion's brows were knit until the shaggy masses united over the
gloomy eyes. Beneath burned a lurid fire.
"I have seen _him_ again--General Davenant," he said, in a low voice;
"it is the second time."
As he uttered these words, Darke seemed the prey of some singular
"It was at Gettysburg first," he continued. "He was leading the charge,
on the third day, against Cemetery Heights. I was there by accident.
They were repulsed. When he rode back, he was carrying a bleeding boy
in his arms through the smoke. I recognized his tall form and gray
hair; and heard his voice in the midst of the cannon, as he cheered on
The speaker's face had flushed. His breast rose and fell.
"That was the first time," he said. "The second was the other day when
he was riding among the enemy's guns near Bristoe--I made him out with
Darke bent down, and gazed at the floor in silence. The fire in the
dark eyes had deepened. His heavy under lip was caught in the large,
All at once a ringing laugh disturbed the silence. There was a mocking
intonation in it which was unmistakable.
"General Davenant!" exclaimed the woman. "Well, who is General
Darke looked at the mocking speaker sidewise.
"Who is General Davenant?" he said. "Is it necessary that I enlighten
you, madam? He is my bugbear--my death's head! The sight of him poisons
my life, and something gnaws at me, driving me nearly mad! To see that
man chills me, like the hand of death!"
The woman looked at him and then began to laugh.
"You do unbend your noble strength, my lord!" she said, "to think so
brainsickly of things!" throwing into the word, "brainsickly,"
"One would say," she continued, "that the brave Colonel Darke had the
blues to-day! Take care how you meet Colonel Mohun in this mood! The
result might be unfortunate."
Darke made no reply for some moments. He was gazing with knit brows
upon the floor. Then he raised his head.
"You return to the subject of your friend," he said, coldly.
"Yes. The subject is agreeable."
"Well, I can give you intelligence of him--unless Swartz has
"Your friend Mohun is in love--again!"
The woman's face flushed suddenly.
"With whom?" she said.
"Ah! there is the curious part of the affair, madam!" returned Darke.
And in a low tone he added:--
"The name of the young lady is--Georgia Conway."
The woman half rose from her chair, with flashing eyes, and said:--
"Who told you that?"
Darke smiled. There was something lugubrious in that chilly mirth.
"An emissary on whom I can rely, brought me the intelligence," he said,
"Colonel Mohun was wounded in the battle of Fleetwood, and entering a
house where _she_ was nursing the wounded, fainted, and was caught in
her arms. From that moment the affair began. She nursed him, and he was
soon healed. I had myself inflicted the wound with a pistol
ball--but the hurt was trifling. He got well in a few days--and was
ready to meet me again at Upperville--but in those few days the young
lady and himself became enamored of each other. She is proud, they say,
and had always laughed at love--he too is a woman-hater--no doubt from
some old affair, madam!--but both the young people suddenly changed
their views. Colonel Mohun became devoted; the young woman forgot her
sarcasm. My emissary saw them riding out more than once near Culpeper
Court-House; and since the return of the army, they have been billing
and cooing like two doves, quite love sick! That's agreeable, is it
And Darke uttered a singular laugh. As for the woman she had grown so
pale, I thought she would faint.
"Do you understand, madam?" continued Darke. "Colonel Mohun is in love
_again_; and the name of his friend is--Georgia Conway!"
The woman was silent; but I saw that she was gnawing her nails.
"My budget is not exhausted, madam," continued Darke. "The young lady
has a sister; her name is Virginia. She too has a love affair with a
young officer of the artillery. His name is William Davenant!"
And the speaker clutched the arm of a chair so violently that the wood
cracked in his powerful grasp.
"That is all!" he added. "The Mohuns, Davenants and Conways, are about
to intermarry, you see! Their blood is going to mingle, their hands to
clasp, in spite of the gulf of fire that divides their people! All is
forgotten, or they care nothing. They are yonder, billing, and cooing,
and kissing! the tender hearts are throbbing--all the world is bright
to them--while I am here, and you, tearing our hearts out in despair!"
Darke stopped, uttering a sound between a curse and a groan. The woman
had listened with a bitter smile. As he finished, she rose and
approached him. Her eyes burned in the pale face like coals of fire.
"There is a better thing than despair!" she said.
And grasping his arm almost violently:--
"That man is yonder!" she said, pointing with the other hand toward
Warrenton, "Go and meet him, and kill him, and end all this at once!
Remember the banks of the Nottaway!--That sword thrust--that grave!
Remember, he hates you with a deadly hatred--has wounded you, laughed
at you,--driven you back, when you met him, like a hound under the
lash! Remember me!--your oath! Break that oath and I will go and kill
As she uttered these words a cannon shot thundered across the woods.
"Listen!" the woman exclaimed.
Darke rose suddenly to his feet.
"You are right!" he said, gloomily. "You keep me to the work. I do not
hate him as you do--but he is an enemy, and I will kill him. Why do I
yield to you, and obey you thus? What makes me love you, I wonder!"
Suddenly a second gun roared from beyond Buckland.
"We will talk of that afterward," said the woman, with flushed cheeks;
"think of one thing only now--that _he_ is yonder."
"Good!" said Darke, "and I hope that in an hour one of us will be dead,
I care not which--come, madam--but you must not expose yourself!"
"What am I!"
"All I have left!" he said.
And with a gloomy look he rushed from the house, followed by the gray
THE BUCKLAND RACES.
In a moment the voice of Darke was heard, ordering "to horse!" a
clatter of sabres followed; and the company of cavalry sat out at full
gallop toward the firing.
At their head I saw Darke's burly figure. The woman, escorted by an
orderly, rode toward the rear.
In a few minutes the company of cavalry had entered a belt of woods and
We had hastened into the apartment--Tom and myself, and looked now
toward the highway. It was dark with a long column of Federal cavalry
which seemed to be in great agitation.
The column, as well as I could make out, numbered at least a division.
Neither the head nor the tail of the blue serpent was visible--only the
main body, with its drawn sabres glittering like silver scales in the
I hesitated not many seconds. Something was evidently going on, and our
present whereabouts dangerous.
With a hasty salute to the young ladies who had hurried in, I made a
sign to Tom, and ran to my horse.
My companion did not join me for at least five minutes. Impatience
began to master me, when he appeared, laughing, and flourishing a knot
of red ribbon, which I had observed in Miss Katy's hair.
With a bound he was in the saddle--I saw him turn and make a gay salute
toward the ladies on the steps, and then we set out at full speed
across the fields to rejoin Stuart.
He was evidently engaged with the enemy. From the front came quick
carbine shots and shouts. From the woods, on the left flank and in rear
of the enemy, was heard the rapid thunder of cannon.
Suddenly every thing flashed upon me. I remembered Stuart's significant
smile; the absence of Fitz Lee; a trap had evidently been laid, and
General Kilpatrick had fallen into it.
I was not deceived. The gallant Fitz Lee had suggested the ruse. He was
to move toward Auburn, while Stuart retreated upon Warrenton, pursued
by Kilpatrick. Then Fitz Lee was to attack the enemy in flank and rear,
from the direction of Auburn--his cannon would be the signal for Stuart
to turn. General Kilpatrick, thus assailed in front, flank and rear,
_sauve qui pent_ would, probably, be the order of the day with him.
Every thing turned out exactly as it had been arranged. Stuart retired
steadily on Warrenton. When the Federal rear approached Buckland, Fitz
Lee came in on their left flank, and then Stuart turned like a tiger,
and bore down on the head of their column.
That gun we had heard was the signal of Fitz Lee's attack. Those
carbine shots came from Stuart as his men charged.
We had set out at full speed to rejoin Stuart, as I have said; but he
saved Tom and myself the trouble of riding very far. He came to meet
us, at full gallop, with drawn sabre, driving the Federal troopers in
disorder before him.
The affair that succeeded was one of the most animated of the war.
The enemy were completely dumbfoundered, but a part of Kilpatrick's
force made a hard fight. Sabres clashed, carbines cracked, Fitz Lee's
artillery roared--the fields and woods around Buckland were full of
tumult and conflict.
In ten minutes we had caught up with Stuart. He was leading his column
in person. At the head of the front regiment rode Mohun, with drawn
sabre, and pressing his magnificent gray to headlong speed. In his eye
was the splendid joy of combat; his cheeks glowed; his laughing lips
revealed the white teeth under the black mustache. It was difficult to
recognize in this gay cavalier, the pale, bitter and melancholy cynic
of the previous June.
"Look, Surry!" exclaimed Mohun, "we are driving our friend Kilpatrick!
Stuart is down on him like a lion!"
"You are driving a personal friend of yours, besides!" I said. "Yonder
he is--Colonel Darke!"
Mohun's smile disappeared suddenly. He looked at Darke, whose burly
figure was seen at the head of the charging column; and that glance was
troubled and doubtful.
"I am sorry to meet him," he said, in a low tone.
"He would not strike me yonder, in Pennsylvania, when I was in his
"But he has sworn to kill you to-day!" I exclaimed. "I have just heard
him swear that! Look out, Mohun! here they are!"
In an instant the two columns had clashed together, like thunder. What
followed was a fierce and confused struggle--sabres clashing, carbines
banging, men shouting, groaning, and falling from their horses, which
trampled over the dead and wounded alike.
I was close beside Mohun as he closed in with Darke. The latter had
plainly resolved on his enemy's destruction; and in an instant the two
men were cutting furiously at each other with their sabres. They were
body to body--their faces flamed--it was rather a wrestle on horseback,
than a sword fight.
Suddenly Mohun delivered a blow which fell upon his opponent's sword
hand, nearly cutting through the fingers. Darke's arm instinctively
fell, and he was at his adversary's mercy.
Instead of plunging his sword into Darke's breast, however, as he might
have done, Mohun let its point fall, and said:--
"Take your life! Now I am even with you, sir!"
Darke recoiled, and a furious flash darted from his eyes. Then his left
hand went to his hilt; he drew a pistol; and spurring close up to
Mohun, placed the weapon on his enemy's breast, and fired.
The bullet passed through Mohun's breast, but at the same instant Darke
uttered a fierce cry. Mohun had driven his sword's point through the
Federal officer's throat--the blood spouted around the blade--a moment
afterward the two adversaries had clutched, dragged each other from
their rearing horses, and were tearing each other with hands and teeth
on the ground, wet with their blood.
One of Mohun's men leaped from horseback and tore them apart.
"A sword! give me a sword," exclaimed Mohun, hoarsely.
And rising to his feet, he clutched at an imaginary weapon,--his lips
foamed with blood,--and reeling, he fell at full length on the body of
his adversary, who was bathed in blood, and seemed to be dying.
What is here described, all took place in a few minutes. In that time
the enemy's column had been broken, and hurled back. Suddenly the wild
Southern cheer rang above the woods. Stuart and Fitz Lee had united
their forces; in one solid column they pressed the flying enemy,
banging and thundering on their rear with carbines and cannon.
Kilpatrick was defeated; his column in hopeless rout.
"Stuart boasts of having driven me from Culpeper;" he is reported to
have said just before the fight, "and now I am going to drive _him_."
But Stuart was not driven. On the contrary, he drove Kilpatrick. Some
of the enemy's column did not stop, it is said, before they reached the
banks of the Potomac.
Such was the dramatic termination of the last great cavalry campaign of
The affair came to be known as "The Buckland Races," and Stuart's old
sabreurs still laugh as they recall the comedy.
TWO SCENES IN DECEMBER, 1863.
The campaign of October, 1863, was over. Lee was behind the Rapidan.
In December General Meade struck a blow, in turn, at his adversary.
Shall we glance, in passing, at that affair of Mine Run? I saw a
spectacle there--and a sad one, too--which I am tempted to describe,
though aware it has little to do with my narrative. I have left
Colonels Mohun and Darke in a bloody embrace yonder near Buckland. I
ought to relate at length how they were not dead, and how they in due
time recovered, but for the moment I think of a fine sight, and a
weeping face, which I saw in the woods below Verdiersville.
Let us ride thither, reader, it will not take long.
In December, then, General Meade crossed the lower Rapidan, and
advanced to assail General Lee in his works above.
A fiasco followed. Meade marched toward Verdiersville; found his
adversary behind earth-works, near that place; reconnoitered them, felt
them, moved backward and forward before them--and then, one morning,
before General Lee was aware of the fact, quietly disappeared,
returning to the north bank of the Rapidan.
You see I have no battles to describe on this occasion, reader. We had
some hard fighting in the cavalry, but I shall not dwell upon that. It
is some handsome fire-necklaces, and a talk with an old woman, which I
shall speak of.
The fire-necklaces were manufactured by General Meade's troops, just
before their retreat. The men had fallen into line at the word; moved
silently toward the Rapidan, and had not taken the trouble, in leaving
the rebel woods, to extinguish their bivouac fires, amid the thickets,
carpeted with leaves. The result was a splendid spectacle. The fires
had gradually burned outward, devouring the carpet of dry leaves. Great
circles of flame were seen everywhere in the woods, and these dazzling
fire-necklaces grew larger and larger, twined together, became
entangled, twisted about, sparkled, crackled,--of all the sights I ever
saw I think this was the most curious!
From time to time the flames crawled along and reached the foot of some
tall tree, festooned with dry vines. Then the vine would catch; the
flame would dart through the festoons; climb the trunk; stream from the
summit,--and above the blazing rings, twisting in endless convolutions,
would roar a mighty tongue of flame, crimson, baleful, and menacing.
It was a new "torch of war," invented by General Meade.
Such was the picturesque spectacle which rose a moment ago to my
Now for the sad scene which I witnessed, as I rode back with Stuart.
Passing a small house, a poor woman came out, and with eyes full of
tears, exclaimed, addressing Stuart:--
"Oh, child! stop a minute! Are they coming back? They have took every
thing I had--they are _not_ coming back!"
[Footnote 1: Her words.]
Stuart stopped. He was riding at the head of his staff, preceded by his
battle-flag. Not a trace of amusement was seen on his features, as he
heard himself addressed in that phrase, "Oh, child!"
"Have they treated you so badly?" he said, in his grave, kind voice.
"Oh, yes!" exclaimed the poor woman, weeping bitterly, "they have took
every hog, cow, and ear of corn I have, and every thing from my
daughter; she is a widow, and lives near us. These are her children, my
grandchildren, come to get out of the way."
[Footnote 1: Her words.]
And she pointed to two or three little girls, with frightened faces,
and eyes wet with tears.
Stuart seemed deeply affected. Under that stout heart, which never
shrunk, was a wealth of sweetness and kindness.
"Well, they are not coming back, my good woman," he said, in a voice of
deep feeling. "You need not be afraid--they are gone now."
The poor woman clasped her hands.
"Oh! do you believe that, child!" she said; "do you believe they'll
never come back?"
[Footnote 1: Her words.]
"I hope not, at least," Stuart replied, in a low tone.
"She clasped her hands, and for the third time addressing him as
"Oh! if they will only never come back!"
That scene affected me deeply. The poor woman's tears brought something
into my throat which seemed to choke me. This time the Northern
soldiers had been impartial in their marauding. They had not only
destroyed the property, and carried off the slaves of the wealthy
proprietors, the "bloated aristocrats;" they had taken the bread out of
the mouths of the widow and the fatherless--leaving them bare and
starving in that bleak December of '63.
War conducted in that manner is barbarous--is it not, reader? The cry
of that widow and her children must have gone up to Heaven.
Stuart returned to his bivouac in the pine wood near Verdiersville,
where he had slept without tents, by his camp-fire, all these freezing
nights. Then the army began to move; soon it resumed its former
position; the cavalry was sent to watch the fords of the Rapidan; and
Stuart returned to his own head-quarters near Orange Court-House, gayly
singing, as he had left them to advance and meet the enemy.
STUART'S WINTER QUARTERS.
What gay memories are evoked by that familiar name! How we laughed and
sang in that hollow in the hills near Orange, in the cold winter of
Stuart called his head-quarters "Wigwam Independence," but the officers
of his staff gave them the sobriquet of "Coon Hollow;" and I adopt in
my memoirs the old familiar designation.
Never were soldiers more comfortable than the inhabitants of Coon
Hollow!--and Stuart's tent was the most comfortable of all. He had
stretched a large canvas beneath some sheltering trees; and filling up
the opening at each end with a picturesque wicker-work of evergreens,
ensconced himself there in his sylvan lodge, like some Robin Hood, or
ranger of the greenwood in old times. The woodland haunt and open air
life seemed, at first, to charm the bold cavalier; nothing seemed
wanting to his happiness, lost here in the forest: but soon the
freezing airs "demoralized" even the stout cavalryman, and he exchanged
his canvas for a regular tent of the largest description, with a plank
floor, a camp-couch, and a mighty chimney, wherein sparkled, ere long,
a cheerful fire of hickory, driving away the blasts of the cold winter
nights, which were sent on their way with song.
Such was Stuart's own domicile. The staff tents were grouped around,
with their solid chimneys of rock. The "cavalry head-quarters" was
complete--a warm nest in the woods. Couriers came and went; sabres
rattled; spurs jingled; the horses whinnied from their stables, woven
of pine boughs, near by; and in and out of the general's tent played
his two boisterous setters, Nip and Tuck, the companions of his idle
hours. We all messed together, under a broad canvas, at one table:
music resounded; songs were sung; Sweeney, soon, alas! to be dead, was
yet king of the woodland revels; Stuart joined in his songs, to the
music of the banjo; and not seldom did the bright faces of fair ladies
shine on us, bringing back all the warmth of the summer days--the blue
sky, the sunshine, and the smiles!
Such was good old "Coon Hollow." I recall it with delight. The chill
airs cut you to the bone when you ventured out on horseback from the
sheltered nook; but in Coon Hollow all was warm and bright. In the
woods on the crest above, the winds sighed: but in the hollow below,
the banjo rattled; laughter resounded; great fires roared; and, as
though in open defiance of winter and its tempests, Stuart, carolled in
his clear and sonorous voice, his favorite ditty,
"The dew is on the blossom."
So we sang and laughed all those long winter evenings. The winds
carried away the sound of jests, and banjo notes. The long hours of
winter thus flew by like birds lost, one by one, in the night of the
past. Happy days! happy nights! I remember them still. Stuart is
dead--more than one of my dear companions have followed him--but their
voices sound again, their eyes again flash, their friendly smiles
linger in memory.
So the days fled by--and I wonder if our friends across the Rapidan,
who were going to crush us, were as gay as the folk about to be
crushed? The future looked stormy, but we laughed--and we did right,
did we not, friend? That mirth was not unseemly--not unworthy of
approval. It is evidence at least of "game," _non fractum esse fortuna
et retinere in rebus asperis, dignitatem_--is it not? Good fortune,
wealth, and success, are nothing compared to that. For my part, I would
rather have the equal mind in arduous things, than money in my purse,
or victory. The army of Northern Virginia had that in the winter of
1863, as they had had it in 1861 and '62, and were going to have it in
the dark year and black winter preceding April, 1865.
But I linger too long on those days at "Coon Hollow." The wave of war
had wafted us to that quiet nook; for a time, we laughed and sang; but
the storm was coming. Soon it struck us; and we left the harbor, driven
by the tempest.
So I dismiss Coon Hollow, lost amid the hills of Orange. The spot is
desolate to-day, and the bleak wood is silent. But for me, Stuart is
singing there now as then--and will sing in my memory forever!
LEE'S "RAGGED REGIMENTS."
It required a stout heart to laugh and sing, _con amore_, in the last
days of that winter, and the first days of spring, 1864.
Those very figures, "1864," tell the story, and explain this. Do they
Each year of the war has its peculiar physiognomy.
1861--that is mirth, adventure, inexperience, bright faces, wreaths of
flowers, "boxes" from home, and "honorable mention" in reports, if you
only waved your sword and shouted "Hurrah!" Then you heard the brass
bands playing, the drum gayly rolling, the bugles sending their joyous
notes across the fields and through the forests--blooming fields,
untouched forests!--and that music made the pulses dance. Gayly-clad
volunteers marched gallantly through the streets; the crowds cheered;
the new flags, shaped by fair hands, fluttered;--not a bullet had torn
through them, not a rent was seen in the new uniforms. As the trains
swept by with the young heroes on board, bevies of lovely girls
cheered, waved handkerchiefs, and threw nosegays. Eyes were sparkling,
lips smiling, cheeks glowing in '61. The youths had havelocks to ward
off the sun; gaiters to keep out the dust; woollen belts to prevent
rheumatism; fanciful shirt bosoms, and pretty needle-cases and tobacco
pouches of silk and velvet, decked with beads and gay needle-work, by
the dearest fingers in the world!
So they went to the wars--those stout and ruddy youths. Every one
anxious to have his head taken off by a cannon ball, all for the honor
and glory of it. They marched along cheering, as the white
handkerchiefs waved; they proudly kept step to the tap of the drum, or
moved briskly beside the cannon, or cantered by on their glossy and
The epoch was agitated, but joy coursed in every vein. And when the
first successes came, those small affairs were greeted with "thunders
General Spoons marched to Bethel; took a look at the gray people; fired
a gun or two before retreating--and a thousand Southern journalists
shouted "lo, triumphe!--a grand victory!" The brave Del. Kemper fired a
shot at the Federal train approaching Vienna, and the journalists
cried, "we have driven back the whole Federal army!"
Then some real fighting came, and the applause was again tremendous.
When the news of the first Manassas flashed over the wires, the
Southern people stood upon their heads, and went wild. The war was
ended--the affair was over--the brass bands, and rolling drums, and
dazzling uniforms had speedily done the business. The power of the
North was broken. She had run upon the breakers. The great hulk was
lying stranded, the waves were beating her, and she was about to go to
Such was 1861--an era of mirth, inexperience, inflated views, brilliant
pageants, gay adventures, ruddy cheeks, sparkling eyes and splendid
banners, floating proudly in the sunshine of victory!
1862 came, and with it a new phase of the war. Sweat, dust, and blood
had replaced the music and wreaths of roses. Faces, were not so
ruddy--they began to look war-worn. The rounded cheeks had become
gaunt. The bright uniforms were battle-soiled. Smoke had stained them,
the bivouac dimmed them, the sun had changed the blue-gray to a sort of
scorched yellow. Waving handkerchiefs still greeted the troops--as they
greeted them to the end of the war. But few flowers were thrown
now--their good angels looked on in silence, and prayed for them.
They were no longer holiday soldiers, but were hardened in battle. They
knew the work before them, and advanced to it with the measured tramp
of veterans. They fought as well as soldiers have ever fought in this
world. Did they not? Answer, Cold Harbor, Malvern Hill, Cedar Mountain,
Manassas, Boonsboro', Sharpsburg, and Fredericksburg! And every battle,
nearly, was a victory. In the lowlands and the mountains--in Virginia
and Maryland--they bore aloft the banner of the South in stalwart
hands, and carried it forward with unshrinking hearts, to that baptism
of blood awaiting it. That was the great year for the South. The hour
was dark--a huge foe fronted us--but wherever that foe was met, he
seemed to reel before the mailed hand that buffeted his front. All
frippery and decoration had long been stripped from the army. The
fingers of war--real war--had torn off the gaudy trappings; and the
grim lips had muttered, "What I want is hard muscle, and the brave
heart--not tinsel!" The bands were seldom heard--the musicians were
tending the wounded. The drums had ceased their jovial rattle, and were
chiefly used in the "long roll," which said "Get ready, boys! they are
So in the midst of smoke and dust,--with yells of triumph, or groans of
agony, in place of the gay cheering--passed that year of battles, 1862.
The South was no longer romantic and elated on the subject of the war.
The soldiers no longer looked out for adventures, or for the glorious
cannonball to carry off their heads, and make their names immortal. At
home, the old men were arming, and the women sending words of cheer to
their husbands and sons, and praying. In the camps, the old soldiers
had forgotten the wreaths of roses. Their havelocks were worn out, and
they no longer minded the sun. Gray flannel had replaced the "fancy"
shirt bosoms; they carried tobacco in their pockets; and you saw them,
seated on some log, busy sewing on buttons, the faces once so round and
ruddy, now gaunt and stained with powder.
1863 came, and it was an army of veterans that struck Hooker at
Chancellorsville. It was no longer a company of gay gallants marching
by, amid music, waving scarfs, and showers of nosegays from fairy
hands. It was a stormy wave of gaunt warriors, in ragged clothes and
begrimed faces, who clutched their shining muskets, rushed headlong
over the breastworks, and, rolling through the blazing and crackling
woods, swept the enemy at the point of the bayonet, with the hoarse and
menacing cry, "Remember Jackson!" Gettysburg followed--never was
grapple more fierce than that, as we have seen; and when the veterans
of Lee were hurled back, the soil of the continent seemed to shake.
They were repulsed and retreated, but as the lion retreats before the
huntsman, glaring back, and admonishing him not to follow too closely,
if he would consult his own safety. At Williamsport the wounded lion
halted and turned--his pursuer did not assail him--and he crossed the
Potomac, and descended to the Rapidan, to strike in turn that dangerous
blow in October, when Meade was nearly cut off from Washington.
With that campaign of Bristoe, and the fiasco of Mine Run, the year of
It left the South bleeding, and what was worse,--discouraged. Affairs
were mismanaged. The army had scarcely sufficient meat and bread to
live on. The croakers, clad in black coats, and with snowy shirt
bosoms, began to mutter under their breath, "It is useless to struggle
longer!"--and, recoiling in disgust from the hard fare of "war times,"
began to hunger for the flesh-pots of Egypt. Manna was tasteless now;
the task-master was better than the wilderness and the scant fare. Oh!
to sit by the flesh-pots and grow fat, as in the days when they did eat
thereof! Why continue the conflict? Why waste valuable lives? Why think
of still fighting when flour was a hundred dollars a barrel, coffee
twenty dollars a pound, cloth fifty dollars a yard, and good whiskey
and brandy not to be purchased at any price? Could patriotism live amid
trials like that? Could men cling to a cause which made them the
victims of Yankee cavalry? Why have faith any longer in a government
that was bankrupt--whose promises to pay originated the scoffing
proverb, "as worthless as a Confederate note!" Meat and drink was the
religion of the croakers in those days. Money was their real divinity.
Without meat and drink, and with worthless money, the Confederacy, in
their eyes, was not the side to adhere to. It was unfortunate--down
with it! Let it be anathema-maranatha!
The croakers said that--and the brave hearts whom they insulted could
not silence them. There were stout souls in black coats--but the
croakers distilled their poison, working busily in the darkness. It was
the croakers who bought up the supplies, and hoarded them in garrets,
and retailed them in driblets, thereby causing the enormous prices
which, according to them, foretold the coming downfall. They evaded the
conscript officers; grew fat on their extortions; and one day you would
miss them from their accustomed haunts--they had flitted across the
Potomac, and were drinking their wine in New York, London, or Paris.
Meanwhile, three classes of persons remained faithful to the
death:--the old men, the army, and the women.
The gray-beards were taking down their old guns and swords, and forming
home-battalions, to fight the enemy to the death when his cavalry came
to lay waste the country.
The women were weaving homespun, knitting socks, nursing the wounded,
and praying. They had never ceased to pray, nor had they lost the heart
of hope. The croakers believed in success, and their patron saint was
Mammon. The women believed in the justice of the cause, and in God. In
1861, they had cheered the soldiers, and waved their handkerchiefs, and
rained bouquets. In 1862, they had sent brave words of encouragement,
and bade their sons, and brothers, and husbands fight to the end. In
1863, they repeated that--sent the laggards back to the ranks--and when
they were not sewing, or nursing the sick, were praying. O women of
Virginia, and the great South to her farthest limits, there is nothing
in all history that surpasses your grand record! You hoped, in the dark
days as in the bright;--when bearded men shrunk, you fronted the storm
unmoved! Always you hoped, and endured, and prayed for the land. Had
the rest done their duty like the women and the army, the red-cross
flag would be floating to-day in triumph!
The army--that was unshaken. Gettysburg had not broken its strength,
nor affected its stout manhood. Lee's old soldiers believed in him
after Gettysburg, in the winter of '63, as they had believed in him
after Fredericksburg, in the winter of '62. They had confidence still
in their great leader, and in their cause. The wide gaps in their ranks
did not dismay them; want of food did not discourage them; hunger,
hardships, nakedness, defeat,--they had borne these in the past, they
were bearing them still, they were ready to bear them in the future.
War did not fright them--though the coming conflict was plainly going
to be more bitter than any before. The great array of Grant on the
north bank of the Rapidan did not depress them--had they not met and
defeated at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville a force as great, and