Part 6 out of 12
control of it on his return.
His ambition was thus gratified--for the moment at least. The unknown
youth, living once on bread and tea, and too poor to possess a bed, was
now a foreign minister; had an Italian count for his _chef de cuisine_;
and drew a salary which enabled him to return, some years afterward, to
the United States with savings amounting to $30,000.
It was a contrast to his past. The sallow youth was _M. le ministre_!
The garret in Richmond had been turned into a marble palace in Turin.
He had a nobleman for a cook, instead of making his own tea. And the
_Examiner_ had done all that for him!
When war became imminent, he returned to Virginia, and resumed control
of the _Examiner_. With the exception of brief military service with
General Floyd, and on the staff of A.P. Hill, in the battles around
Richmond, when he was slightly wounded in the right arm, he remained in
editorial harness until his death.
As soon as he grasped the helm of the _Examiner_ again, that great
battleship trembled and obeyed him. It had been powerful before, it was
now a mighty engine, dragging every thing in its wake. Commencing by
supporting the Government, it soon became bitterly inimical to
President Davis and the whole administration. The invective in which it
indulged was not so violent as in the past, but it was even more
powerful and dangerous. Every department was lashed, in those brief,
terse sentences which all will remember--sentences summing up volumes
in a paragraph, condensing oceans of gall into a drop of ink. Under
these mortal stabs, delivered coolly and deliberately, the authors of
public abuses shrank, recoiled, and sought safety in silence. They
writhed, but knew the power of their adversary too well to reply to
him. When once or twice they did so, his rejoinder was more mortal than
his first attack. The whole country read the _Examiner_, from the chief
officers of the administration to the humblest soldier in the trenches.
It shaped the opinions of thousands, and this great influence was not
due to trick or chance. It was not because it denounced the Executive
in terms of the bitterest invective; because it descended like a wild
boar on the abuses or inefficiency of the departments; but because this
journal, more, perhaps, than any other in the South, spoke the public
sentiment, uttered its views with fearless candor, and conveyed those
views in words so terse, pointed, and trenchant--in such forcible and
excellent English--that the thought of the writer was driven home, and
remained fixed in the dullest apprehension.
The _Examiner_, in one word, had become the controlling power, almost,
of the epoch. Its views had become those even of men who bitterly
stigmatized its course. You might disapprove of its editorials often,
and regret their appearance--as I did--but it was impossible not to be
carried onward by the hardy logic of the writer: impossible not to
admire the Swift-like pith and vigor of this man, who seemed to have
re-discovered the lost well of undefiled English.
When I went to see John M. Daniel, thus, in this summer of 1864, it was
not a mere journalist whom I visited, but a historic character. For it
was given to him, invisible behind the scenes, to shape, in no small
degree, the destiny of the country, by moulding the views and opinions
of the actors who contended on the public arena.
Was that influence for good or for evil? Let others answer. To-day this
man is dead, and the cause for which he fought with his pen has failed.
I reproduce his figure and some scenes of that great cause--make your
own comments, reader.
THE EDITOR IN HIS SANCTUM.
Knocking at the door of the journalist's house on Broad Street, nearly
opposite the "African church," I was admitted by a negro servant, sent
up my name, and was invited by Mr. Daniel to ascend to his sanctum on
the second story.
I went up, and found him leaning back in a high chair of black
horsehair, in an apartment commanding a view southward of James River
and Chesterfield. On a table beside him were books and papers--the
furniture of the room was plain and simple.
He greeted me with great cordiality, bowing very courteously, and
offering me a cigar. I had not seen him since his return from Europe,
and looked at him with some curiosity. He was as sallow as before--his
eyes as black and sparkling; but his long, black hair, as straight as
an Indian's, and worn behind his ears, when I first knew him, was
close-cut now; and his upper lip was covered by a black mustache. His
dress was simple and exceedingly neat. It was impossible not to see
that the famous journalist was a gentleman.
As I had visited him purely upon a matter of business, I dispatched it,
and then rose to take my departure. But he urged me with persistent
cordiality, not to desert him. He saw few persons, he said; I must stay
and dine with him. I had business? Then I could attend to it, and would
do him the favor to return.
Looking at my watch, I found that it was nearly two o'clock--he had
informed me that he dined at four--and, not to detain the reader with
these details, recurring to a very retentive memory, I found myself,
two hours afterward, seated at table with the editor of the _Examiner_.
The table was of ancient, and brilliantly-polished mahogany. The dinner
consisted of only two or three dishes, but these were of the best
quality, excellently cooked, and served upon china of the most costly
description. Coffee followed--then a great luxury--and, not only the
sugar-dish, cream-jug and other pieces of the service were of silver;
the waiter upon which they rested was of the same material--heavy,
antique, and richly carved.
We lingered at table throughout the entire afternoon, my host having
resisted every attempt which I made to depart, by taking my hat from my
hand, and thrusting upon me another excellent Havana cigar. Cordiality
so extreme, in one who bore the reputation of a man-hater, was at least
something _piquant_--and as my host had appealed to my weak side, by
greatly praising a slight literary performance of mine ("he would be
proud," he assured me, "to have it thought that _he_ had written it),"
I yielded, surrendered my hat, lit the cigar offered me, and we went on
I still recall that conversation, the last but one which I ever had
with this singular man. Unfortunately, it does not concern the
narrative I now write, and I would not like to record his denunciations
and invective directed at the Government. He handled it without mercy,
and his comments upon the character of President Davis were exceedingly
bitter. One of these was laughable for the grim humor of the idea.
Opening a volume of Voltaire--whose complete works he had just
purchased--he showed me a passage in one of the infidel dramas of the
great Frenchman, where King David, on his death-bed, after invoking
maledictions upon his opponents, declares that "having forgiven all his
enemies _en bon Juif_, he is ready to die."
A grim smile came to the face of the journalist, as he showed me the
"That suits Mr. Davis exactly," he said. "He forgives his enemies _en
bon Juif_! I believe I will make an editorial, and quote the passage on
him--but he wouldn't understand it!"
That was bitter--was it not, reader? I raised my pen to draw a line
through the incident, but it can do no harm now.
The solitary journalist-politician spoke freely of himself and his
intentions for the future. With a few passages from our talk on this
point, I will terminate my account of the interview.
"You see I am here chained to the pen," he said, "and, luckily, I have
that which defies the conscript officers, if the Government takes a
fancy to order editors into the ranks."
Smiling slightly as he spoke, he showed me his right hand, the fingers
of which he could scarcely bend.
"I was wounded at Cold Harbor, in June, 1862," he added; "not much
wounded either; but sufficient to prevent me from handling a sword or
musket. It is a trifle. I should like to be able to show an honorable
scar in this cause, and I am sorry I left the army. By this time I
might have, been a brigadier--perhaps a major-general."
[Footnote 1: His words.]
[Footnote 2: His words.]
"Possibly," I replied; "but the position of an editor is a powerful
"Do you think so?"
"Yes, colonel; but what good is the _Examiner_ doing? What can all the
papers in the Confederacy effect? Besides, I like to command men. I
[Footnote 1: His words.]
"I would recommend the philosophic view of things," I said. "Why not
take the good the gods provide? As a soldier, you would be in
fetters--whatever your rank--to say nothing of the bullet that might
cut short your career. And yet this life of the brain is wearing
"But my health is all the better for it," he said. "A friend was here
to see me the other day, and I startled him by the observation 'I shall
live to eat the goose that eats the grass over your grave.' When he
inquired my meaning, I replied, 'For two reasons--I come of a
long-lived race, and have an infallible sign of longevity; I never
dream, and my sleep is always sound and refreshing.'"
[Footnote 1: His words.]
[Footnote 2: His words.]
"Do you believe in that dictum?" I said.
"Thoroughly," he replied, laughing. "I shall live long, in spite of the
enmities which would destroy me in an instant, if the secret foes I
have could only accomplish their end without danger to themselves."
"You do not really believe, surely, that you have such foes?"
"Not believe it? I know it. _You_ have them, colonel, too. How long do
you think you would live, if your enemies had their way with you?
Perhaps you think you have no enemies who hate you enough to kill you.
You are greatly mistaken--every man has his enemies. I have them by the
thousand, and I have no doubt you, too, have them, though they are
probably not so numerous as mine."
[Footnote 1: His words.]
"But their enmity comes to nothing."
"Because to indulge it, would bring them into trouble," he replied.
"Neither your enemies or mine would run the risk of murdering us in
open day; but suppose they could kill us by simply _wishing it?_ I
should drop down dead before your eyes--and you would fall a corpse in
Main Street before you reached your home!"
[Footnote 1: His words.]
"A gloomy view enough, but I dare not deny it."
"It would be useless, colonel. That is the way men are made. For
myself, I distrust all of them--or nearly all."
He uttered the words with intense bitterness, and for a moment remained
"This is gloomy talk," he said, "and will not amuse you. Let us change
the topic. When I am not discussing public affairs--the doings of this
wretched administration, and the old man of the sea astride upon the
country's back--I ought to try and amuse myself."
"You find the _Examiner_ a heavy weight upon you?"
"It is a mill-stone around my neck."
[Footnote 1: His words.]
"Why not throw it off, if you find it onerous?"
"Because I look to this journal as a father does to an only son--as my
pet, my pride, and the support and honor of myself and my name in the
"You are proud of it."
"It has made me, and it will do more for me hereafter than it has ever
He paused, and then went on, with a glow in his swarthy face:
"Every man has his cherished object in this world, colonel. Mine is the
success and glory of the _Examiner_. I intend to make of it what the
London _Times_ is in England, and the world--a great power, which shall
lay down the law, control cabinets, mould parties, and direct events.
It has given me much trouble to establish it, but _ca ira_ now! From
the _Examiner_ I expect to realize the great dream of my life."
"The dream of your life? What is that?--if I may ask without
"Oh! I make no secret of it, and as a gentleman speaking to a
gentleman, can say what I could not in the society of _roturiers_ or
common people. My family is an old and honorable one in Virginia--this,
by way of explanation only, I beg you to note. We are thus, people of
old descent, but my branch of the family is ruined. My object is to
reinstate it; and you will perhaps compare me to the scheming young
politician in Bulwer's 'My Novel,' who seeks to restore the family
fortunes, and brighten up the lonely old house--in Yorkshire, is it?
"Yes," I said.
"Well, I always sympathized with that character. He is morally bad, you
say: granted; but he is resolute and brave--and his object is noble."
"I agree with you, the object _is_ noble."
"I am glad you think so, colonel. I see I speak to one who has the old
Virginia feeling. You respect family."
"Who does not? There are those who profess to care naught for it, but
it is because they are new-comers."
"Yes," was the journalist's reply, "mushrooms--and very dirty ones!"
I laughed at the speaker's grimace.
"For my own part," I said, "I do not pretend to be indifferent whether
or not my father was a gentleman. I bow as politely to the new-comer as
if it were the Conqueror he came over with; but still I am glad my
father was a gentleman. I hope no one will quarrel with that."
"You are mistaken. They will hate you for it."
"You are right--but I interrupted you."
"I am glad the interruption came, colonel, for it gave you an
opportunity of showing me that my views and your own are in exact
accord on this subject. I will proceed, therefore, without ceremony, to
tell you what I design doing some day."
I listened with attention. It is always interesting to look into the
recesses of a remarkable man's character. This human being was notable
in an epoch filled with notabilities; and chance was about to give me
an insight into his secret thoughts.
He twirled a paper-cutter in his fingers, reflected a moment, and
"I am still young--not very young either, for I will soon be forty--but
I know no young man who has better prospects than myself, and few who
have done so well. I suppose I am worth now nearly $100,000 in good
money. I have more gold coin than I know what to do with. The
_Examiner_ is very valuable property, and is destined to be much more
so. I expect to live long, and if I do, I shall be rich. When I am
rich, I shall buy the old family estate in Stafford County, and shall
add to it all the land for miles around. I shall build a house to my
fancy, and, with all my possessions walled in, I shall teach these
people what they never knew--how to live like a gentleman."
[Footnote 1: This paragraph is in Mr. J.M. Daniel's words.]
The glow had deepened on the sallow face. It was easy to see that the
speaker had unfolded to me the dream of his life.
"Your scheme is one," I said, "which takes my fancy greatly. But why do
you intend to wall in your property?"
"To keep out those wolves called men."
"Ah! I forgot. You do not like those bipeds without feathers."
"I like some of them, colonel; but the majority are worse than my dogs,
Fanny and Frank, yonder. Sometimes I think they are human--they bite
each other so!"
I laughed. There was something _piquant_ in the grim humor of this
"What is your ideal man?" I said, "for, doubtless, you have such an
"Yes. I like a man of bronze, who does not snivel or weep. I like
Wigfall for his physique and his magnificent courage. It is the genuine
thing. There is no _put on_ there. He has native pluck--the actual
article--and it is no strain on him to exhibit it. The grit is in him,
and you can't shake him."
[Footnote 1: This paragraph is in Mr. J.M. Daniel's words.]
"You would admit your men of bronze, then, into the walled-up domain in
"I don't know," he said grimly. "With my violin, a good cook, English
books and papers--I hate your Yankee trash--and occasional travel, I
think I could get through life without very great ennui. I do not
expect to be governor of Virginia for ten years yet!"
And smiling, the journalist said:--
"Let us change the subject. What are people talking about? I never ask
what is the news. Is any thing said of evacuating Virginia? That is
a pernicious idea! Whom have you seen lately?"
[Footnote 1: His words.]
[Footnote 2: His words.]
"A queer set," I said.
And I gave him an account of my dinner at Mr. Blocque's.
"What a little wretch!" he said. "I think I will run a pin through that
bug, and impale him. He would make a fine dish served up _a la Victor
Hugo_. You have read _Les Miserables_ yonder? It is a trashy affair."
And taking up the elegantly bound volume, which must have cost him a
considerable sum, he quietly pitched it out of the window.
As he did so, the printer's devil appeared at the door, holding proof
in his hand.
"You see I am never safe from intrusion, colonel. This _Examiner_
newspaper keeps me at the oar."
I rose and put on my hat.
"Come and see me again soon, if it suits your convenience," he said. "I
am going to write an editorial, and I think I will serve up your host,
"Do not use his name."
"Be tranquil. He will be the type only."
And, escorting me to the door, Mr. Daniel bestowed a courteous bow upon
me, which I returned. Then the door closed.
AN EDITORIAL IN THE EXAMINER.
On the following morning I opened the _Examiner_, and the first article
which I saw was the following one, on
"We owe to the kindness of SHEM'S Express Company, which has charge
of the line between the front door of the State Department and the
back door of the Tuileries kitchen, the advance sheets of a new
novel by VICTUS HAUTGOUT, which bears the striking title, _Les
Fortunes_, and which consists of five parts--ABRAHAM, ISAAC, JACOB,
JUDAH, and BENJAMIN. Of course, the discerning reader will not
suppose for a moment that there is any connection between _Les
Fortunes_ and _Les Miserables_; between the chaste style of
HAUTGOUT and the extravaganzas of HUGO; whose works, in former
days, were not considered fit reading for an Anglo-Saxon public,
whose latest and most corrupt fiction owes its success (let us
hope) rather to the dearth of new literature than to the vitiated
taste of the Southern people. How great the difference between the
two authors is, can best be appreciated by comparing the
description of the _gamin_ in _Marius_, with the following extracts
from HAUTGOUT'S portraiture of the BLOCKADE-RUNNER:--
"Yankeedom has a bird, and the crocodile has a bird. The
crocodile's bird is called the Trochilus. Yankeedom's bird is
called the blockade-runner. Yankeedom is the crocodile. The
blockade-runner is the Trochilus.
"Couple these two ideas--Yankeedom and the crocodile. They are
worth the coupling. The crocodile is asleep. He does not sleep on
both ears; he sleeps with one eye open; his jaws are also open.
Rows of teeth appear, sharped, fanged, pointed, murderous,
carnivorous, omnivorous. Some of the teeth are wanting: say a
dozen. Who knocked those teeth out? A demon. What demon?
Or perhaps an angel. What angel? The angel is secession: the
demon is rebellion. ORMUZD and AHRIMAN: BALDUR and LOKI:
the DEVIL and ST. DUNSTAN. So we go.
"The Trochilus picks the crocodile's teeth. Does the crocodile
object? Not he. He likes to have his teeth picked. It is good for
his health. It promotes his digestion. It is, on the whole, a
sanitary measure. 'Feed yourself,' he says,'my good Trochilus, on
the broken meats which lie between my grinders. Feed your little
ones at home. I shan't snap you up unless I get very hungry. There
are Confederates enough. Why should I eat _you_?'
"This little creature--this _Trochilus obsidionalis_--this
blockade-running tomtit--is full of joy. He has rich food to eat
every day. He goes to the show every evening, when he is not on
duty. He has a fine shirt on his back; patent-leather boots on his
feet; the pick and choice of a dozen houses. He is of any
age--chiefly of the conscript age; ranges singly or in couples;
haunts auction houses; dodges enrolling officers; eats
canvass-backs; smells of greenbacks; swears allegiance to both
sides; keeps faith with neither; is hand and glove with ABE'S
detectives as well as with WINDER'S Plugs; smuggles in an ounce of
quinine for the Confederate Government, and smuggles out a pound of
gold for the Lincolnites; fishes in troubled waters; runs with the
hare and hunts with the hounds; sings Yankee Doodle through one
nostril, and My Maryland through the other; is on good terms with
everybody--especially with himself--and, withal, is as great a
rascal as goes unhung.
"He has sports of his own; roguish tricks of his own, of which a
hearty hatred of humdrum, honest people is the basis. He has his
own occupations, such as running for hacks, which he hires at
fabulous prices; crossing the Potomac in all kinds of weather;
rubbing off Yankee trade-marks and putting English labels in their
stead. He has a currency of his own, slips of green paper, which
have an unvarying and well regulated circulation throughout this
"He is never satisfied with his pantaloons unless they have a
watch-fob, and never satisfied with his watch-fob unless it
contains a gold watch. Sometimes he has two watch-fobs; sometimes
"This rosy child of Richmond lives, develops, gets into and out of
scrapes--a merry witness of our social unrealities. He looks on
ready to laugh; ready also for something else, for pocketing
whatever he can lay his hands on. Whoever you are, you that call
yourselves Honor, Justice, Patriotism, Independence, Freedom,
Candour, Honesty, Right, beware of the grinning blockade-runner.
He is growing. He will continue to grow.
"Of what clay is he made? Part Baltimore street-dirt, part James
River mud, best part and worst part sacred soil of Palestine. What
will become of him in the hands of the potter, chance? Heaven
grant that he may be ground into his original powder before he is
stuck up on our mantel-pieces as a costly vase, in which the
choice flowers of our civilization can but wither and die."
Admire that grim humor, reader--the firm stroke with which this
Aristophanes of 1864 drew my friend, Mr. Blocque. See how he reproduced
every trait, delineated the worthy in his exact colors, and, at the
foot of the picture, wrote, as it were, "Here is going to be the
founder of 'one of the old families,'--one of the ornaments of the
future, who will come out of the war rich, and be a costly vase, not a
vessel of dishonor, as at present."
Grim satirist! You saw far, and I think we want you to-day!
UNDER THE CROSSED SWORDS.
I had dined with Mr. Blocque; two days afterward I went to sup with
Does the reader remember his appearance at Culpeper Court-House, on the
night of the ball after the review in June, 1863? On that evening he
had excited my astonishment by abruptly terminating the interview
between his daughter and Captain Davenant; and I little supposed that I
would ever penetrate the motive of that action, or become intimate with
Yet the chance of war had decreed that both events should occur. All
will be, in due time, explained to the reader's satisfaction; at
present we will simply make the acquaintance of one of the most
distinguished statesmen of the epoch.
My friendly relations with the judge came about in a very simple
manner. He was an intimate associate of the gentleman at whose house I
was staying; had taken great interest in my recovery after Yellow
Tavern; and therefore had done me the honor to bestow his friendship
On the day to which we have now come, Judge Conway had made a speech of
surpassing eloquence, in Congress, on the condition of the country, and
I had listened, thrilling at the brave voice which rang out its
sonorous, "All's well!" amid the storm. I was now going to call on the
statesman to express my admiration of his eloquent appeal, and converse
upon the exciting topics of the hour.
I found him in a mansion not far from the splendid residence of Mr.
Blocque. Here he occupied "apartments," or rather a single room,--and,
in 1864, my dear reader, that was a very common mode of living.
Like others, Judge Conway was too poor to occupy a whole house,--even
too poor to board. He had a single apartment, containing a few chairs
and a bed; was waited on by a maid; and, I think, prepared his own
meals, which were plain to poverty.
He met me at the door of his bare and poor-looking apartment, extending
his hand with the gracious and stately courtesy of the ancient regime.
His figure was small, slight, and bent by age; his face, thin and pale;
his hair nearly white, and falling in long curls upon his shoulders;
under the gray brows sparkled keen, penetrating, but benignant eyes.
As I pressed the hand of my host, and looked around the poor apartment,
I could not refrain from a sentiment of profound bitterness. Two days
before I had dined at the table of a peddling blockade-runner, who ate
canvass-backs, drank champagne, wore "fine linen," and, dodging the
conscript officers, revelled in luxury and plenty. And now here before
me was a gentleman of ancient lineage, whose ancestors had been famous,
who had himself played a great part in the history of the
commonwealth,--and this gentleman was poor, lived in lodgings, had
scarce a penny; he had been wealthy, and was still the owner of great
possessions; but the bare land was all that was left him for support.
He had been surrounded with luxury, but had sacrificed all to the
cause. He had had two gallant sons, but they had fallen at the first
Manassas--their crossed swords were above his poor bare mantel-piece.
From the splendid table of the sneaking blockade-runner, I had come to
the poverty-stricken apartment of this great statesman and high-bred
gentleman. "Oh, Juvenal!" I muttered, "it is your satires, not the
bucolics of Virgil, that suit this epoch!"
The old statesman pointed, with all the grace of a nobleman, to a bare
rocking-chair, and received my congratulations upon his speech with
"I am glad that my views are honored by your good opinion, colonel," he
said, "and that you approve of the tone of them. I am naturally given
to invective--a habit derived from my friend, the late Mr. Randolph;
but the country wants encouragement."
"And yet not to satirize is so hard, my dear sir!"
"Think of the army depleted--the soldiers starving--the finances in
ruin, and entire destruction threatening us!"
The old statesman was silent. A moment afterward he raised his head,
and with his thin finger pointed to the crossed swords above his
"I try to bear and forbear since I lost my poor boys," he said. "They
died for their country--I ought to live for it, and do what I can in my
sphere--to suppress my bitterness, and try to utter words of good
cheer. But we are discussing gloomy topics. Let us come to more
cheerful matters. I am in very good spirits to-day. My daughters have
come to make me a visit," and the old face glowed with smiles; its
expression was quite charming.
"I see you do not appreciate that great treat, my dear colonel," he
added, smiling. "You are yet unmarried, though I rejoice to hear you
are soon to be united to a daughter of my old friend, Colonel Beverly,
of "The Oaks." Some day I hope you will know the great charm of
paternity. This morning I was lonely--this evening I am no longer so.
Georgia and Virginia have come up from my house, "Five Forks," escorted
by my faithful old Juba, and they burst in upon me like the sunshine!"
The words had scarcely been uttered when a tap came at the door; a
voice said, "May we come in, papa?" and a moment afterward the door
opened, and admitted Miss Georgia Conway and her sister Virginia.
Miss Georgia was the same tall and superb beauty, with the dark hair
and eyes; Miss Virginia the same winning little blonde, with the blue
eyes, and the smiles which made her lips resemble rose-buds. The young
ladies were clad in poor, faded-looking calicoes, and the slippers on
the small feet, peeping from their skirts, were full of holes. Such was
the appearance presented in that summer of 1864, my dear reader, by two
of the most elegant and "aristocratic" young ladies of Virginia!
But you did not look at the calicoes, and soon forgot the holes in the
shoes. My bow was such as I should have bestowed on two princesses, and
the young ladies received it with a grace and courtesy which were
In ten minutes we were all talking like old friends, and the young
ladies were making tea.
This was soon ready; some bread, without butter, was placed upon the
little table; and the meal was the most cheerful and happy imaginable.
"Oh, my dear Mr. Blocque!" I could not help saying to myself, "keep
your champagne, and canvass-backs, and every luxury, and welcome! I
like dry bread and tea, with this company, better!"
I have not room to repeat the charming words, mingled with laughter, of
the young women, on that evening. Their presence was truly like
sunshine, and you could see the reflection of it upon the old
Only once that countenance was overshadowed. I had uttered the name of
Willie Davenant, by accident; and then all at once remembering the
scene at Culpeper Court-House, had looked quietly at Judge Conway and
Miss Virginia. A deep frown was on his face--that of the young girl was
crimson with blushes, and two tears came to her eyes, as she caught her
father's glance of displeasure.
I hastened to change the topic--to banish the dangerous subject; and in
a few moments everybody was smiling once more. Miss Georgia, in her
stately and amusing way, was relating their experiences from a scouting
party of the enemy, at "Five Forks."
"I heard something of this from old Juba," said the Judge; "you do not
mention your deliverer, however."
"Our deliverer, papa?"
Miss Georgia unmistakably blushed in her turn.
"Oh, I forgot!" she said, carelessly, "General Mohun _did_ drive them
off. Did I not mention it?--I should have done so before finishing,
As she spoke, the young lady happened to catch my eye. I was laughing
quietly. Thereupon her head rose in a stately way--a decided pout
succeeded--finally, she burst into laughter.
The puzzled expression of the old Judge completed the comedy of the
occasion--we all laughed in a perfectly absurd and foolish way--and the
rest of the evening passed in the most cheerful manner imaginable.
When I bade my friends good evening, I knew something I had not known
before:--namely, that Mohun the woman-hater, had renewed his "friendly
relations" with Miss Georgia Conway, at her home in Dinwiddie.
Exchanging a pressure of the hand with my host and his charming
daughters, I bade them good evening, and returned homeward. As I went
along, I thought of the happy circle I had left; and again I could not
refrain from drawing the comparison between Judge Conway and Mr.
At the fine house of the blockade-runner--champagne, rich viands,
wax-lights, gold and silver, and profuse luxury.
At the poor lodgings of the great statesman,--a cup of tea and cold
bread; stately courtesy from my host, charming smiles from his
beautiful daughters, clad in calico, with worn-out shoes--and above the
simple happy group, the crossed swords of the brave youths who had
fallen at Manassas!
It was past ten in the evening when I left Judge Conway. But I felt no
disposition to retire; and determined to pay a visit to a singular
character of my acquaintance.
The name of this gentleman was Mr. X-----.
Looking back now to the days spent in Richmond, in that curious summer
of '64, I recall, among the representative personages whom I
encountered, no individual more remarkable than the Honorable Mr.
X-----. You are acquainted with him, my dear reader, either personally
or by reputation, for he was a prominent official of the Confederate
Government, and, before the war, had been famous in the councils of
He resided at this time in a small house, on a street near the capitol.
You gained access to his apartment after night--if you knew the way--by
a winding path, through shrubbery, to the back door of the mansion.
When you entered, you found yourself in presence of a tall, powerful,
gray-haired and very courteous personage, who sat in a huge arm-chair,
near a table littered with papers, and smoked, meditatively, a cigar,
the flavor of which indicated its excellent quality.
I enjoyed the intimacy of Mr. X----- in spite of the difference of our
ages and positions. He had been the friend of my father, and, in my
turn, did me the honor to bestow his friendship upon me. On this
evening I was seized with the fancy to visit him--and passing through
the grounds of the capitol, where the bronze Washington and his great
companions looked silently out into the moonlight, reached the small
house, followed the path through the shrubbery, and opening the door in
the rear, found myself suddenly enveloped in a cloud of cigar smoke,
through which loomed the portly figure of Mr. X-----.
He was seated, as usual, in his large arm-chair, by the table, covered
with papers; and a small bell near his hand seemed placed there for the
convenience of summoning an attendant, without the trouble of rising.
Near the bell lay a package of foreign-looking documents. Near the
documents lay a pile of telegraphic dispatches. In the appearance and
surroundings of this man you read "Power."
Mr. X----- received me with easy cordiality.
"Glad to see you, my dear colonel," he said, rising and shaking my
hand; then sinking back in his chair, "take a cigar, and tell me the
news." I sat down,--having declined the proffered cigar.
"The news!" I said, laughing; "I ought to ask that of you."
"Ah! you think I am well-informed?"
I pointed to the dispatches. Mr. X----- shrugged his shoulders.
"Papers from England and France--they are not going to recognize us.
"And those telegrams--nothing. We get little that is worth attention,
except a line now and then, signed 'R.E. Lee.'"
"Well, there is that signature," I said, pointing to an open paper.
"It is a private letter to me--but do you wish to see a line which I
have just received? It is interesting, I assure you."
And he handed me a paper.
It was a telegram announcing the fall of Atlanta!
"Good heavens!" I said, "is it possible? Then there is nothing to stop
"Nothing whatever," said Mr. X-----, coolly.
"What will be the consequence?"
"The Confederacy will be cut in two. Sherman will be at Savannah before
Grant reaches the Southside road--or as soon, at least."
"You think Grant will reach that?"
"Yes, by April; and then--you know what!"
"But Lee will protect it."
Mr. X----- shrugged his shoulders.
"Shall I tell you a secret?"
"Lee's force is less than 50,000--next spring it will not number
40,000. Grant's will be at least four times that."
"Why can not our army be re-enforced?"
Mr. X----- helped himself to a fresh cigar.
"The people are tired, and the conscript officers are playing a farce,"
he said. "The commissary department gives the army a quarter of a pound
of rancid meat. That even often fails, for the quartermaster's
department does not supply it. The result is--no conscripts, and a
thousand desertions. The soldiers are starving; their wives and
children are writing them letters that drive them mad--the end is not
far off; and when Grant reaches the Southside road we are gone."
Mr. X----- smoked his cigar with extreme calmness as he spoke.
"But one thing remains," I said.
"What is that?"
"Lee will retreat from Virginia."
Mr. X----- shook his head.
"He will not."
"He will be prevented from doing so."
"Under any circumstances?"
"Until too late, at least."
"And the result?"
"Surrender--though he said to me the other day, when he came to see me
here, 'For myself, I intend to die sword in hand.'"
I could not refrain from a sentiment of profound gloom, as I listened
to these sombre predictions. It seemed incredible that they could be
well founded, but I had more than once had an opportunity to remark the
extraordinary prescience of the remarkable man with whom I conversed.
"You draw a black picture of the future," I said. "And the South seems
moving to and fro, on the crust of a volcano."
"No metaphor could be more just."
"And what will be the result of the war?"
"That is easy to reply to. Political slavery, negro suffrage, and the
bayonet, until the new leaven works."
"The new leaven?"
"The conviction that democratic government is a failure."
"An emperor, or dictator--call him what you will. The main fact is,
that he will rule the country by the bayonet--North and South
Mr. X----- lit a fresh cigar.
"Things are going on straight to that," he said. "The future is
perfectly plain to me, for I read it in the light of history. These
events are going to follow step by step. Lee is brave--no man is
braver; a great leader. I think him one of the first captains of the
world. But in spite of his courage and skill--in spite of the heroism
of his army--in spite of the high character and pure motives of the
president--we are going to fail. Then the rest will follow--negro
suffrage and the bayonet. Then the third era will begin--the disgust of
the white man at the equality of the negro; his distrust of a
government which makes such a farce possible; consequent revulsion
against democracy; a tendency toward monarchy; a king, emperor or
dictator, who will restore order out of the chaos of misrule and
madness. England is rushing toward a democracy, America is hastening to
become an empire. For my own part I think I prefer the imperial to the
popular idea--Imperator to Demos. It is a matter of taste, however."
And Mr. X----- turned his head, calling out, calmly,
The door opened and a stranger glided into the apartment. He was clad
in a blue Federal uniform, half-concealed by a brown linen overall. His
face was almost covered by a red beard; his lips by a mustache of the
same color; and his eyes disappeared behind huge green goggles.
"Come in," repeated Mr. X-----, who seemed to recognize the intruder;
The personage glanced quickly at me.
"Speak before him," said Mr. X-----, "he is a friend."
"I am very well acquainted with Colonel Surry," said the other,
smiling, "and have the honor to number him, I hope, among my own
With which words, the new-comer quietly removed his red beard, took off
his green spectacles, and I saw before me no less a personage than Mr.
"SEND ME A COPY.--IN CANADA!"
Nothing was more surprising in this singular man than these sudden
appearances at places and times when you least expected him.
I had parted with him in Spottsylvania, on the night when he "deserted"
from the enemy, and rode into our lines; and he was then the secret
agent of General Stuart. Now, he reappeared in the city of Richmond,
with an excellent understanding, it was evident, between himself and
Our greeting was cordial, and indeed I never had classed Nighthawk
among professional spies. General Stuart assured me one day, that he
invariably refused all reward; and his profound, almost romantic
devotion to Mohun, had deeply impressed me. Love of country and
watchful care of the young cavalier, whose past life was as mysterious
as his own, seemed the controlling sentiments of Nighthawk; and he
always presented himself to me rather in the light of a political
conspirator, than as a "spy."
His first words now indicated that he was a secret agent of the
Government. He seemed to have been everywhere, and gained access to
everybody; and once more, as in June, 1863, when he appeared at
Stuart's head-quarters, near Middleburg, he astonished me by the
accuracy and extent of his information. Political and military secrets
of the highest importance, and calling for urgent action on the part of
the Government, were detailed by Nighthawk, in his calm and benignant
voice; he gave us an account of a long interview which he had had at
City Point, with General Grant; and wound up as usual by announcing an
impending battle--a movement of the enemy, which duly took place as he
Mr. X----- listened with close attention, asking few questions.
When Nighthawk had made his report, the statesman looked at his watch,
said, _sotto voce_, "Midnight--too late," and added aloud:--
"Come back at ten to-morrow morning, my friend; your information is
highly interesting and important."
Nighthawk rose, and I did likewise, declining the courteous request of
Mr. X----- to prolong my visit. He held the door open with great
politeness and said, smiling:--
"I need not say, my dear colonel, that the views I have expressed this
evening are confidential--for the present, at least."
"Assuredly," I replied, with a bow and a smile.
"Hereafter you are at liberty to repeat them, if you wish, only I beg
you will ascribe them to Mr. X-----, an unknown quantity. If you write
a book, and put me in it, send me a copy--in Canada!"
A moment afterward I was wending my way through the shrubbery, thinking
of the curious personage I had left.
At the gate Nighthawk awaited me, and I scarcely recognized him. He had
resumed his red beard, and green glasses.
"I am glad to see you again, colonel," he said benignantly; "I heard
that you were in the city and called at your lodgings, but found you
"You wished to see me particularly, then, Nighthawk."
"Yes, and to-night, colonel."
"I know you are a friend of General Mohun's."
"A very sincere friend."
"Well, I think we will be able to do him a very great service by
attending to a little matter in which he is interested, colonel. Are
you disengaged, and willing to accompany me?"
THE WAY THE MONEY WENT.
I looked intently at Nighthawk. He was evidently very much in earnest.
"I am entirely disengaged, and perfectly willing to accompany you," I
said; "but where?"
"You know I am a mysterious person, colonel, both by character and
profession. I fear the habit is growing on me, in spite of every
exertion I make. I predict I will end by burning my coat, for fear it
will tell some of my secrets."
"Well," I said with a smile, "keep your secret then, and lead the way.
I am ready to go far to oblige Mohun in any thing."
"I thank you, colonel, from my heart. You have only to follow me."
And Nighthawk set out at a rapid pace, through the grounds of the
capitol, toward the lower part of the city.
There was something as singular about the walk of my companion, as
about his appearance. He went at a great pace, but his progress was
entirely noiseless. You would have said that he was skimming along upon
In an incredibly short time we had reached a street below the capitol,
and my companion, who had walked straight on without turning his head
to the right or the left, all at once paused before a tall and
dingy-looking house, which would have appeared completely uninhabited,
except for a bright red light which shone through a circular opening in
At this door Nighthawk gave a single tap. The glass covering the
circular space glided back, and a face reconnoitred. My companion
uttered two words; and the door opened, giving access to a stairs,
which we ascended, the janitor having already disappeared.
At the head of the stairs was a door which Nighthawk opened, and we
found ourselves in an apartment where a dozen persons were playing
Upon these Nighthawk threw a rapid glance--some one whom he appeared to
be seeking, was evidently not among the players.
Another moment he returned through the door, I following, and we
ascended a second flight of stairs, at the top of which was a second
door. Here another janitor barred the way, but my companion again
uttered some low words,--the door opened; a magnificently lit
apartment, with a buffet of liquors, and every edible, presented itself
before us; and in the midst of a dozen personages, who were playing
furiously, I recognized--Mr. Blocque, Mr. Croker, Mr. Torpedo, and
For some moments I stood watching the spectacle, and it very
considerably enlarged my experience. Before me I saw prominent
politicians, officers of high rank, employees of government holding
responsible positions, all gambling with an ardor that amounted to
fury. One gentleman in uniform--apparently of the quartermaster's
department--held in his hand a huge package of Confederate notes, of
the denominations, of $100 and $500, and this worthy staked, twice, the
pretty little amount of $10,000 upon a card, and each time lost.
The play so absorbed the soldiers, lawgivers, and law-administrators,
that our presence was unperceived. My friend, Mr. Blocque, did not turn
his head; Mr. Croker, Mr. Torpedo, and Colonel Desperade, were red in
the face and oblivious.
After that evening I knew where some of the public money went.
As I was looking at the strange scene of reckless excitement, one of
the players, a portly individual with black mustache, rich dark curls,
gold spectacles, and wearing a fine suit of broadcloth--rose and looked
toward us. Nighthawk was already gazing at him; and suddenly I saw
their glances cross like steel rapiers. They had evidently recognized
each other; and going up to the gentleman of the spectacles, Nighthawk
said a few words in a low voice, which I did not distinguish.
"With pleasure, my dear friend," said the portly gentleman, "but you
are sure you are not provided with a detective of General Winder's?"
"Can you believe such a thing?" returned Nighthawk, reproachfully.
"I thought it possible you might have one waiting below; but if you
give me your word, Nighthawk--"
And without further objection the worthy followed Nighthawk and myself
down the stairs.
As we approached the outer door, the invisible janitor opened it; we
issued forth into the street; and the portly gentleman, fixing a keen
look upon me in the clear moonlight, said:--
"I believe we have had the pleasure of meeting before, colonel."
"I am ashamed to say I do not remember where, sir," I said.
"My memory is better, colonel; we met last May, in a house in the
Wilderness, near Chancellorsville."
"Is it possible that you are--"
"Swartz, very much at your service. It is wonderful what a difference
is made by a wig and spectacles!"
As he spoke, he gracefully removed his black wig and the gold
spectacles. In the man with gray hair, small eyes, and double chin, I
recognized the spy of the Wilderness.
Replacing his wig and spectacles, Mr. Swartz smiled in a good-humored
manner, and said:--
"May I ask to what I am indebted for this visit?"
Nighthawk replied even more blandly:--
"I wish to have a conversation with you, my dear Swartz, before
"Ah! you intend to arrest me!"
"Unless you make it unnecessary."
"By producing the paper which we spoke of in the Wilderness," said
Swartz shook his head.
"That is not in my power, my friend. I did not bring it with me."
"Will you think me very impolite if I say I do not believe you, my dear
"Well, that would be speaking without ceremony, my friend--but I assure
you I am unable to do as you desire."
"Aha! you repeat that curious statement, my dear Swartz! Well, oblige
me by accompanying me to the provost-marshal's."
"You arrest me?"
"As a spy?"
"It is impossible, Nighthawk!"
"I might do so."
And, opening his coat, Mr. Swartz exhibited a bowie-knife and revolver.
"I show you these little toys," said he, laughing good-humoredly, "to
let you see, my friend, that I might oppose your project--and you know
I am not backward in using them on occasion. But I make a difference.
You are not a common police-officer or detective, Nighthawk--you are a
friend and comrade, and I am going to prove that I appreciate your
feelings, and respect your wishes."
Nighthawk fixed his eyes on the speaker and listened.
"You are a friend of General Mohun's," said Mr. Swartz, with bland good
humor; "you wish to secure a certain document in which he is
interested; you fancy I have that document here in the city of
Richmond; and your object, very naturally, is to force me to surrender
it. Well, I do not object to doing so--for a consideration. I fully
intend to produce it, when my terms are accepted. I would have stated
them to you in the Wilderness, but you were unable to meet me--or to
General Mohun, but his violence defeated every thing. You meet me now,
and without discussion, demand the paper. I reply, that I have not
brought it with me, but three days from this time will meet you at a
spot agreed on, with the document, for which you will return me--my
Nighthawk shook his head.
"Unfortunately, my dear Swartz, experience tells me that the present is
always the best time for business--that 'a bird in the hand is worth
two in the bush.'"
Mr. Swartz smiled sweetly.
"And I am the bird in your hand?"
"Something like it."
"I am a spy?"
"Don't use hard names, my friend."
"By no means, my dear Nighthawk, and if I have hurt your feelings, I
deeply regret it. But I am speaking to the point. You regard me as a
Federal spy, lurking in Richmond--you penetrate my disguise, and are
going to arrest me, and search my lodgings for that paper."
"The necessity is painful," said Nighthawk.
"It is useless, my friend."
"I will try it."
Swartz smiled, and drew a paper from his pocket, which he unfolded.
"You are then determined to arrest your old comrade, Nighthawk."
"Yes, my dear Swartz."
"As a spy?"
"In spite of this?"
And Mr. Swartz held out the paper.
"Do me the favor to read this, colonel, and then oblige me by returning
I took the paper, and easily read it by moonlight. It contained the
"The bearer is employed on secret service, by the Confederate
Government, and will not be molested."
The paper was signed by a personage of high position in the government,
and was stamped with the seal of the department over which he presided.
There could be no doubt of the genuineness of the paper. The worthy Mr.
Swartz loomed up before me in the novel and unexpected light of a
I read the paper aloud to Nighthawk, and pointed to the official
signature and seal.
Nighthawk uttered a groan, and his chin sank upon his breast.
That spectacle seemed to excite the sympathy of his friend.
"There, my dear Nighthawk," said Mr. Swartz, in a feeling tone, "don't
take the blow too much to heart. I have beaten you, this game, and your
hands are tied at present. But I swear that I will meet you, and
produce that paper."
"When?" murmured Nighthawk.
"In three days from this time."
"At the house of our friend Alibi, near Monk's Neck, in Dinwiddie."
"On your word?"
"On the word of Swartz!"
"That is enough, my dear Swartz; I will be at Alibi's, when we will
come to terms. And now, pardon this visit, which has put you to so much
inconvenience. I was merely jesting, my dear friend, when I spoke of
arresting you. Arrest you! Nothing could induce me to think of so
unfriendly a proceeding. And now, good night, my dear friend. I will
return with you, colonel."
With which words Nighthawk saluted his "friend," and we returned toward
the upper part of the city.
Such were the scenes of a night in the summer of 1864.
THE GRAVE OF STUART.
On the next morning a piece of good fortune befell me. In spite of
continued visits to the war-office, and an amount of importunity which
must have been exceedingly annoying to the gentlemen of the red tape, I
found myself, at the end of August, apparently no nearer to an
"assignment to duty" than at first.
It really seemed that the Confederate States had no need of my
services; that the privilege of performing military duty in behalf of
the Government was one jealously guarded, and not to be lightly
bestowed upon any one. I was in despair, and was revolving the project
of resigning my empty commission, and enlisting in the cavalry as a
private soldier, when the _deus ex machina_ to extricate me from all my
troubles, appeared in the person of Colonel P-----, of army head-
This accomplished soldier and gentleman met me as I was coming out of
the war-office, on the morning after the visit to Mr. X-----, looking I
suppose, like some descendant of the Knight of the Sorrowful
Countenance, and stopped to inquire the cause of my dejection. I
informed him of the whole affair, and he laughed heartily. "You have
set about your affairs, my dear colonel, in a manner entirely wrong,"
he said. "You should have gone to some general, discovered that your
grandmother and his own were third cousins; expressed your admiration
of his valor; denounced the brother-general with whom he was
quarreling; written puffs to the papers about him; and then, one
morning said, 'By the by, general, you are entitled to another staff
officer.' The result would have been a glowing letter to the war
department, requesting your assignment--you would have attained your
object--you would have been torn from the horrors of Richmond, and once
more enjoyed the great privilege of being shot at!"
I echoed the colonel's laugh.
"Alas!" I said, "I have no genius for all that. I never yet could
'crook the hinges of the knee that thrift might follow fawning,' and I
suppose I shall be compelled to resign, and enter the ranks. Why not?
Better men are there, carrying musket or carbine, or pulling the
"Still you gained your rank by your services--and I am going to make
you an offer which will enable you to retain it. Come and be my
assistant inspector-general--an officer is required to inspect the
cavalry and horse artillery, which is so distant, often, that I have no
time to visit them."
"A thousand thanks, colonel! You could not offer me a more pleasant
"You will have to ride a great deal, but will have a great deal of
freedom. If you consent to my proposition, I will have the matter
arranged at once, and will request you to make a tour of inspection to
General Early's army, near Winchester."
He looked at me, laughing.
"'The Oaks' is--a charming place," he added, "and you are certain to be
very tired when you reach the vicinity of Markham's! If you find it
convenient to stop there--say, for a day or more--present my regards to
Colonel Beverly, and any of the family you find present!"
With which words he laughed again, shook me by the hand, and then his
tall form disappeared in the doorway of the war office.
On the next day I found my assignment awaiting me. I was appointed
assistant inspector-general of the cavalry and horse artillery of the
army of Northern Virginia. Tremendous title!
That evening I went by railway to Petersburg, to visit Colonel P-----,
and receive his instructions. Returning the same night, the next day
set out on horseback for the Valley of the Shenandoah, by way of
Orange, Gaines's Cross Roads, and Ashby's Gap.
Of this journey it is unnecessary for me to speak in the present
volume. Some curious adventures occurred to me, in the valley, near
Millwood, and I made the acquaintance of St. Leger Landon, of
"Bizarre," one of the bravest and truest gentlemen I have ever known.
The adventures alluded to, and some events in the strange history of my
friend, Captain Landon, are embraced in a separate memoir, to which I
have given the fanciful title, _Hilt to Hilt, or Days and Nights on the
Banks of the Shenandoah_.
I remained in the valley from the first to the eighteenth of September,
when I set out on my return to Petersburg, little thinking that, on the
very next day, General Early would be attacked on the Opequon, driven
from Winchester, and forced to retreat up the valley, in spite of
fighting which was never surpassed.
I had received some rough handling in a cavalry combat near the Old
Chapel, beyond Millwood, and my ride back was tedious. But at last I
reached Richmond, and made preparations to set out at once for the
army. On the evening before my departure, I went to visit the grave of
Stuart at Hollywood, on the beautiful hill above the falls, west of the
As I approached the lonely spot, where the great cavalier was lying
beside his little Flora, of whom he had often spoken to me with tears,
a thousand memories knocked at the door of my heart. With head bent
down, and chin resting on my breast, I drew near the grassy mound over
which waved the autumn foliage, tinted with yellow and crimson--and in
these few moments, all the splendid career of Stuart passed before me,
as on that day when I rode with him toward the fatal field of Yellow
I remembered all his hard combats, his glorious encounters, his
victories over such odds as vindicated his claim to a descent from the
dashing Rupert, and ranked him with the most famous leaders of cavalry
in all history. I recalled the courage, the joy, the gay laughter of
the great soldier--the blue eyes that flashed so--the sonorous voice
singing the merry songs. I remembered all the occasions when he had led
his men in the charge--how he had wept for Jackson, bowed his head
above the cold face of Pelham--how he had met the torrent unmoved,
shrunk from nothing in his path, fallen to save the Virginia capital,
and died murmuring "God's will be done!"--I remembered all that, and
with something in my throat that seemed choking me, drew near the quiet
mound, beneath which rested such a career, and so much glory.
The birds were twittering and singing, the foliage waving gently--I
raised my head--when suddenly I became aware that a solitary mourner
was bending over the grave.
He was an officer in gray uniform. He held a flower in his hand, which
he dropped upon the grave, uttering a low sob as he did so.
At the same moment he turned round, and I recognized the great
partisan, Colonel Mosby.
[Footnote 1: Real.]
Twenty-four hours after, I had passed over the same number of miles,
and found myself at the staff head-quarters, on the left bank of the
Appomattox, above Petersburg.
I had soon pitched my tent, with the assistance of a servant; had
erected a hedge of cedar boughs to protect it from the cutting blasts
of the coming winter; and, a few days afterwards, was surrounded with
many objects of comfort. My tent had been floored; at one end rose an
excellent chimney; strips of planks, skillfully balanced on two logs,
supplied a spring bed; I had secured a split bottom chair, and my
saddle and bridle were disposed upon a rough rack, near a black valise
containing my small stock of apparel, and the pine table and desk
holding official papers.
Having christened this castle "The Cedars," I settled down for a long
winter,--and it was not a great while before I congratulated myself on
the good fortune which had provided me with that warm nest. More than
once, however, I experienced something like a sentiment of shame, when,
in the dark and freezing nights, with the hail rattling on my tent, I
sat by my warm fire, and heard the crack of the sharp-shooters, along
the lines beyond Petersburg. What right had I to be there, by that
blazing fire, in my warm tent, when my brethren--many of them my
betters--were yonder, fighting along the frozen hills? What had I done
to deserve that comfort, and exemption from all pain? I was idling, or
reading by my blazing fire,--_they_ were keeping back the enemy, and,
perhaps, falling and dying in the darkness. I was musing in my chair,
gazing into the blaze, and going back in memory to the fond scenes of
home, so clearly, that I laughed the heart's laugh, and was happy. And
they? They, too, were thinking of home, perhaps,--of their wives and
children, to sink down the next moment shivering with cold, or stagger
and fall, with spouting blood, as the bullet pierced them. Why should
_I_ be thus favored by a good Providence? I often asked myself that
question, and I could not answer it. I could only murmur, "I did not
sneak here to get out of the way of the bullets,--those, yonder, are my
betters,--God guard and keep the brave soldiers of this army!"
And now, worthy reader, having given you some idea of the manner in
which the more fortunate ones wintered near Petersburg, in 1864, I am
going to drop the subject of army head-quarters, and my surroundings
there. Jackson and Stuart are dead, and have become figures of history.
I have drawn them as well as I could,--I dare not attempt to do the
same with the great commander-in-chief. He is alive. May he live
long!--and, saluting him, I pass on.
So if I speak of General Lee, it will be of the individual in his
official character. What he utters, he will have uttered in the hearing
With these words of preface, I resume the thread of my history.
October, 1864, had come.
The "situation" may be described in a few words.
Grant had drawn his lines from a point in Charles City, on the left
bank of James River, across that stream and across the Appomattox,
around Petersburg to the Squirrel Level road, where he threatened the
Southside railroad, Lee's line of communication with the south and
west. Fort Harrison had just been taken. Grant was gradually hemming in
his opponent along the immense line extending across the two rivers,
past the scene of the famous "Crater" explosion, to the vicinity of the
Rowanty, a distance of nearly forty miles. One incessant crash and
thunder went up, day and night. Grant was "hammering continuously,"
carrying out his programme; and, the military view apart, never was
spectacle more picturesque than that presented in these combats.
The long lines of works were wreathed with the smoke of battle. The
glare of cannon lit the smoke-cloud; mortar shells rose, described
their fiery curves, and descended in the trenches, and these were
saluted as they rose and fell by the crack of musketry, the roar of
artillery, the echoing cheers of the blue and gray people, who never
seemed weary of fighting, yelling, and paying their compliments to each
other. At night the spectacle was superb; the mortars were like flocks
of fire-birds, swooping down upon their prey. The horizon glared at
each cannon-shot; shell burst in vivid lightnings, shining for a
moment, then extinguished. And yonder object, like a bloodshot eye,
shining grimly through the darkness,--what is that? It is a lamp, my
dear reader, with a transparent shade; and on this shade is written,
for the information of the graybacks:--
"While yet the lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest rebel may return."
Lee's lines faced Grant's, following the blue cordon across the rivers,
around Petersburg, toward the Southside railroad.
Beyond the right of the Confederate infantry stretched the cavalry,
which consisted of the divisions of Wade Hampton and W.H.F. Lee,--the
former commanding. Fitz Lee, with his division, was in the Valley.
Such, reader was the situation, when I joined the army. The great fifth
act of the tragic drama was approaching.
Three days after my arrival, I mounted my horse, crossed the
Appomattox, followed the Boydton road, struck southward at the Quaker
road, and soon found myself in the heart of the shadowy pine woods of
that singular country, Dinwiddie.
My official duty was to inspect and report the condition of the cavalry
and horse artillery of the army at the beginning and middle of each
month. And now, first assuring the reader that I performed my duty in
all weather, and amid every difficulty, I will drop the official phase
of my history, and proceed to matters rather more entertaining.
On the day after my departure from Petersburg, I had made my
inspections, and was returning.
I had been received by my old friends of the cavalry with every mark of
cordial regard. General Hampton, General Lee, and the various officers
and men whom I had known as a staff-officer of General Stuart, seemed
to welcome the sight of a face which, perhaps, reminded them of their
dead leader; and I had pressed all these warm hands, and received these
friendly greetings not without emotion--for I, too, was carried back to
I saw Mordaunt and Davenant, but not Mohun--he was absent, visiting his
picket line. Mordaunt was the same stately soldier--his grave and
friendly voice greeted me warmly as in old days; and Willie Davenant,
now a major, commanding a battalion of horse artillery, shook hands
with me, as shy and blushing as before--and even more sad.
"How had his suit prospered? Were things more encouraging?"
I asked him these questions with a laugh, apologizing for my intrusion.
He assured me sadly that it was not in the least an intrusion; but that
he had not seen the person to whom I alluded, for many months.
And executing a blush which would have become a girl, this young tiger
of the horse artillery--for such he always proved himself, in a
fight--hastened to change the subject. Soon afterward I took my
departure, turned my horse's head toward Petersburg, and set out at a
round trot between the walls of pine.
It was dusk when I reached the debouchment of the "military road," and,
tired and hungry, I was contemplating ruefully the long ride still
before me, when rapid hoof-strokes behind me attracted my attention,
and, turning my head, I recognized the bold figure of Mohun.
He was mounted on a fine animal, and came at full speed.
In a moment he had caught up, recognized, and we exchanged a warm grasp
of the hand.
"I am delighted to see you, Surry. I thought you had deserted us, old
fellow. The sight of you is a treat!"
"And the sight of you, my dear Mohun. You look beaming."
Indeed, Mohun had never presented a better appearance, with his dark
eyes; his tanned and glowing cheeks; his raven mustached lips, which,
parting with a smile, showed white and regular teeth. He was the
picture of a gallant soldier; all his old melancholy and cynical
bitterness gone, as mist is swept away by the morning sunshine.
"You are positively dazzling, Mohun. Where are you going, and what has
happened to you? Ah!--I begin to understand!"
And pointing northward, I said:--
"Five Forks is not far from here, is it?"
Mohun colored, but, the next moment, burst into laughter.
"You are right, old friend! It is impossible to hide any thing from
"And a friend of yours is there--whom you are going to see?"
"Yes, my dear Surry," was his reply, in a voice of sudden earnestness,
"you are not mistaken, and you see I am like all the rest of the world.
When we first met on the Rapidan, I was a woman-hater. I despised them
all, for I had had reason. That was my state of mind, when a very
beautiful and noble girl, whom you have seen, crossed my path. Events
threw us together--first, the wound I received at Fleetwood--she caught
me as I was falling on that day--and several times afterward I saw and
conversed with her, finding her proud, satirical, indifferent to
admiration, but as honest and true as steel. Still, our relations did
not proceed beyond friendship, and when I told you one day in the
Wilderness that I was not her suitor, I spoke the truth. I am not
exactly able to say as much to-day!--But to finish my account of
myself: I came here to Dinwiddie on the right of the army, and a week
or two after my arrival the enemy made a cavalry raid toward the
Southside railroad. I followed, and came up with them as they were
plundering a house not far from Five Forks. Well, I charged and drove
them into the woods--when, who should make her appearance at the door
but Miss Conway, whom I had last seen in Culpeper! As you know, her
father resides here--he is now at Richmond--and, after following the
enemy back to their own lines, hurrying them up with sabre and carbine,
I came back to inquire the extent of their depredations at Five Forks.
"Such is the simple explanation of the present 'situation,' my dear
friend. Miss Virginia cordially invited me to come whenever I could do
so, and although Miss Georgia was less pressing--in fact, said nothing
on the subject--I was not cast down thereby! I returned, have been
often since, and--that's all."
Mohun laughed the heart's laugh. You have heard that, have you not,
reader? "Now tell me about yourself," he added, "and on the way to Five
Forks! I see you are tired and hungry. Come! they have the easiest
chairs yonder, and are the soul of hospitality!"
The offer was tempting. Why not accept it? My hesitation lasted exactly
At the end of that time, I was riding beside Mohun in the direction of
Five Forks, which we reached just as I terminated my account of myself
since Mohun and I had parted in the Wilderness.
"Five Forks" was an old mansion not far from the place of the same
name, now become historical. It was a building of large size; the
grounds were extensive, and had been elegant; the house had evidently
been the home of a long line of gentlemen, whose portraits, flanked by
those of their fair helpmates, adorned the walls of the great
drawing-room, between the lofty windows. In the hall stood a tall
bookcase, filled with law books, and volumes of miscellany. From the
woodwork hung pictures of racehorses, and old engravings. Such was the
establishment which the Federal cavalry had visited, leaving, as
always, their traces, in broken furniture, smashed crockery, and
I shall not pause to describe my brief visit to this hospitable house.
The young ladies had returned from Richmond some time before, escorted
by the gray-haired Juba, that faithful old African retainer; and, as a
result of the evenings which I had spent with them and their father, I
had the honor to be received in the character of an old friend.
Ten minutes after my arrival I saw that Mohun was passionately in love
with Miss Georgia; and I thought I perceived as clearly that she
returned his affection. Their eyes--those tell-tales--were incessantly
meeting; and Mohun followed every movement of the queenly girl with
those long, fixed glances, which leave nothing in doubt.
The younger sister, Miss Virginia, received me with charming sweetness,
but a secret melancholy weighed down the dusky eye-lashes. The blue
eyes were sad; the very smiles on the rosy lips were sad. All was plain
here, too, at a single glance. The pure girl had given her heart to the
brave Willie Davenant, and some mysterious hostility of her father
toward the young officer, forced them apart.
What was the origin of that hostility? Why had Judge Conway so abruptly
torn his daughter away from Davenant at the ball in Culpeper--and why
had that shadow passed over the old statesman's brow when I uttered the
name of the young man in Richmond?
I asked myself these questions vainly--and decided in my mind that I
should probably never know.
I was mistaken. I was going to know before midnight.
After an excellent supper, over which Miss Georgia presided with
stately dignity--for she, too, had changed, in as marked a degree as
Mohun,--I rose, declared I must return to Petersburg, and bade the
young ladies, who cordially pressed me to remain, good-night.
Mohun declared that he would remain an hour longer--and having promised
a visit soon, at his camp on the Rowanty, I mounted my horse, and set
out, through the darkness, for Petersburg.
Following the White Oak road, I passed Hatcher's Run at Burgess's mill,
and went on over the Boydton road, reflecting upon the scene I had just
All at once my horse placed his foot upon a sharp root in the road,
stumbled, nearly fell, and when I touched him with the spur I found
that he limped painfully.
Dismounting, I examined his foot. The sharp point had entered it, and
it was bleeding profusely. The accident was unfortunate--and,
attempting to ride on, I found the hurt worse than I had expected. My
gray staggered on as if the limb were broken.
I dismounted once more, led him slowly by the bridle, and continued my
way on foot. A quarter of a mile farther, the animal was in such agony
that I looked around for some light, by which to examine the hurt more
On the right, a glimmer was seen through the trees. I made straight
toward it, through the woods, and soon found myself near a group of
tents, one of which was lit up.
"Whose head-quarters are these?" I asked of a man on post, near.
"Mine, my dear colonel," said a voice in the darkness near. "My candle
yonder is hospitable and enables me to recognize you."
With which words the figure advanced into the light, and I recognized
the tall and stately form of General Davenant.
He gave me his hand cordially, and I explained my dilemma. "You are
unfortunate, but fortunate, too," said Davenant, "as I have a man among
my couriers who knows all about horses. I will send yours to him;
meanwhile come into my tent."
And intrusting my horse to the orderly with some brief directions, the
general led the way into his head-quarters tent.
A cheerful fire burned in the rude log-built chimney. On one side were
a plain desk and two camp-stools; on the other a rough couch of pine
logs, filled with straw, and spread with blankets. Upon the blankets a
boy of about fourteen was sound asleep, the light auburn curls tossed
in disorder over the rosy young face. At a glance I recognized the
youth who had entered the ranks at Gettysburg, taken part in Pickett's
charge, and been borne out through the smoke, wounded and bleeding, in
the arms of his father. The young Charley had evidently recovered, and
was as ruddy as before. His little braided jacket was as jaunty, his
face as smiling, as on that evening near Paris.
An hour afterward, General Davenant and myself were conversing like old
friends. We were by no means strangers, as I had repeatedly been thrown
with him in the army, and my intimacy with Will doubtless commended me
to the brave soldier's regard. An accident now seemed about to make us
still better acquainted. The orderly had reported that it would be
impossible to proceed farther with my horse that night, and I had
accepted the invitation of General Davenant to remain with him until
"My brigade is holding the right of the army, colonel," he had said;
"we have just moved to this position, and have not had time to become
very comfortable. But I can offer you a tolerable supper and a camp-bed
after it, with a warm welcome, I assure you."
I declined the supper, but accepted the bed; and seated opposite the
grizzled old cavalier, in his gray uniform, had begun to converse.
Something about the stately general of infantry, drew me irresistibly
toward him. His bearing was lofty, and not without a species of
hauteur; but under all was an exquisite high-breeding and courtesy,
which made his society quite charming.
At some words of mine, however, in reference to my visit on this day to
his son, a decided expression of gloom had obscured the smiles of the
"Yes, colonel," he said, with something like a sigh, "Willie has lost
his good spirits, and has been much depressed for more than a year. You
are his friend--you share his confidence--you doubtless know the origin
of this depression."
"I do, general; a very common cause of trouble to young men--a young
"A young lady," repeated General Davenant, in the same gloomy tone. "He
has committed the imprudence of falling in love, as the phrase is,
He paused before the words "Miss Conway," and uttered them with evident
repugnance. They issued from his lips, indeed, with a species of jerk;
and he seemed glad to get rid of them, if I may so express myself.
"I can talk of this affair with you, colonel," he added, gloomily, "for
Will has told me of your regard for him."
I bowed, and said:--
"You are not wrong in supposing that I am one of your son's best
friends, general. I was long in the cavalry with him--there is no more
heroic soldier in the army--and it has given me sincere sorrow to see
him laboring under such melancholy."
General Davenant, with his hand covering his brow, listened in silence.
"I have not inquired the origin of this depression," I added--"that
would have been indiscreet--though I know Will would tell me. I guessed
it, however, and I have visited the young lady at her house to-night. I
will certainly use my utmost exertions to remove all obstacles."
General Davenant suddenly rose erect. His eye was flashing.
"I beg you will not, colonel!" he exclaimed. "The barrier between
himself and--Miss Conway--can never be removed."
I looked at the speaker's flushed face with positive wonder, and
"You astonish me, general! Are there any such obstacles in life?"
I made no reply.
"There are, colonel," repeated the now fiery old soldier. "Judge Conway
has been guilty of a gross wrong to me. No son of mine shall ever form
an alliance with his family!"
I looked up with deep astonishment.
"This is a very great surprise to me, my dear general," I said; "I
thought, from many things, that it was Judge Conway who opposed this
alliance; and from the belief that _you_ had done _him_ some great
General Davenant had taken his seat again, after his outburst. Once
more his forehead was covered with his hand. For some moments he
preserved a silence so profound, that nothing disturbed the night but
the long breathing of the sleeping boy, and the measured tramp of the
Then, all at once, the general raised his head. His expression was no
longer fiery--it was unutterably sad.
"I have been reflecting, colonel," he said gravely, "and, in these few
minutes, have come to a somewhat singular determination."
"What is that, general?"
"To tell you why _my_ son can never marry the daughter of Judge
TWO MEN AND A WOMAN.
General Davenant leaned his elbow on the desk, rested his forehead in
his hand, and said in a deep, measured voice:--
"My story need not be a long one, colonel. Those who relate gay
adventures and joyous experiences, indulge in endless details--memory
is charming to them at such moments--they go back to the past, with a
smile on the lips, recalling every little detail, every color of the
"My own narrative will be brief, because it is a gloomy one. It is far
from pleasant to return to the scenes I propose to describe. I only do
so to erase a stigma which seems to attach to my family and myself; to
show you that, in spite of Judge Conway, I deserve your good opinion.
Assuredly I do not propose any pleasure to myself in relating these
events. Alas! one of the bitterest things to a proud man--and I am
proud--is to even seem to defend his good name from imputed dishonor!"
Knitting his brows as he spoke, the old soldier looked gloomily into
the blaze before us. In a moment, he went on:--
"I was born in the county of Dinwiddie, colonel, where my family had
lived from the time of the first settlement of Virginia. My father was
a large landholder, and his most intimate friend was Mr. Conway, the
father of the present judge. The family friendship was inherited by the
young people of the two families--and my two most intimate friends were
George and William Conway. One is dead, the other is Judge William
Conway, member of Congress. We had played together as children, been
companions at school. When our fathers died, and we in turn became the
representatives of the two families, our friendship became even more
close. I was half my time at 'Five Forks'--they paid long visits to me
at 'The Pines'--we hunted together, went to entertainments together,
drank wine together, and were inseparable.
"George was especially my favorite. He was the soul of amiability;
everybody loved him; and I entertained for him the most tender
friendship. His brother William was equally estimable, but did not
attract you as strongly. Although a person of the highest sense of
honor, and universally respected for talents of the first order, he was
irascible, bitter, and, when once aroused, allowed nothing to restrain
him. At such moments his best friends avoided him, for he was
dangerous. He brooked no opposition. His anger was like a consuming
fire; and a friendship which he had formed with that gentleman of
splendid powers, but venomous antipathies, John Randolph of Roanoke,
served still more to encourage him in the indulgence of the natural
acerbity of his disposition. More than once, I have seen him almost
foam at the mouth as he denounced some political adversary from the
stump, and when one of these fits of passion seized him, he became as
ungovernable as a wild animal. You can scarcely realize that, now.
Sorrow has chastened him; trouble has softened him; I have nothing to
say against the Judge William Conway of to-day. He is a
self-sacrificing patriot, a gentleman of irreproachable courtesy, and
sweetness of character; but, as a young man, he was a firebrand, and I
think the fire is still unquenched beneath the gray hairs of the man of
"Such were George and William Conway, when I knew them as young
men--the one mild, amiable, the soul of kindness and good-nature; the
other proud, honorable, but subject to fits of stormy passion, which
made all avoid him when the paroxysm was upon him.
"From this hasty description, you will understand why George was a
greater favorite with me than his brother. Our friendship was, indeed,
as close and tender as possible, and we passed our majority and
approached the age of twenty-five, without ever having had a moment's
interruption of our intimacy.
"Then, all at once, there appeared upon the stage, that cause of so
much happiness, woe, joy, grief, to mankind--a woman. To make a long
story short, George Conway and myself were so unfortunate as to become
attached to the same young lady, and very soon this sentiment amounted,
both on his part and on my own, to a wild and consuming passion. The
young lady--it is unnecessary to mention her name--was a person of rare
beauty, and mistress of all the wiles which bring young men to the feet
of women. She used these unsparingly, too, for nothing delighted her so
much as to attract admiration and inspire love. Perceiving the effect
which her grace and loveliness had produced upon myself and George, she
made every exertion to increase our infatuation--encouraged first one,
then the other; and, in the end, succeeded in breaking those close ties
of friendship which had bound us from the time when we had played
together as children.
"That is a sad confession, colonel, but it is the truth. The bright
eyes and smiles of a girl had terminated a life-long friendship. The
mere love of admiration in the heart of a young girl had interrupted
the affection of years--making George and myself cold and _distrait_
toward each other. Soon things became still worse. From friends we had
become mere acquaintances--from acquaintances we became strangers, and
finally foes. Busy-bodies whispered, tale-bearers blew the flames. If
the young lady smiled on me at a party where George was present, the
good people around us looked at _him_ with satirical meaning. If she
smiled on George, their eyes were turned toward me, and they giggled
"That is all tedious--is it not? An old story, which every country
neighborhood knows. You laugh, perhaps, at hearing it told of A and
B,--but you do not laugh when you are one of the actors. Well, not to
lengthen my history unduly, an open rivalry and enmity at last arose
between myself and poor George. We had been spurred on to hate each
other, and narrowly escaped having an 'affair' together--appealing to
the pistol as the arbiter.
"It never came to that, however. I saw, ere long, that the young lady
had made up her mind. George was in every way a more attractive and
lovable person than myself; and after drawing me on, encouraging me,
and inducing me to offer her my hand, she turned her back on me, and
"Such was the result of the campaign. George had won,--and I am obliged
to say that I hated him cordially. I should never have done so, from
the simple fact of his success. I am not so ignoble as that, my dear
colonel. Bitter as was my disappointment, I could have bowed to the
fiat--pardoned the young lady--and offered my hand to dear George; but
there were our 'friends,' the busy-bodies and talebearers. They were
unresting in their exertions--took the whole affair under their
personal supervision, and invented a hundred fables to sting and arouse
me. You would have said that they were bloody minded--the
busy-bodies--and bent on trouble; that their aim was to profoundly
enrage me, and cause bloodshed. George had laughed at me, they said;
never had had a moment's doubt of the young lady's sentiments; had
often jested about me, and expressed his pity for my 'silly
presumption;' had even amused himself and the young lady, by mimicking