Part 8 out of 12
firing off salutes about the very day of the election;--something,
too, that could not be plainly contradicted by the events till
after that critical day--then let the contradiction come and
welcome: your true Yankee will only laugh.
"From this necessity came the great 'reconnoissance in force' of
last Thursday on our lines before Richmond and Petersburg; a
'reconnoissance' in very heavy force indeed upon three points of
our front at once both north and south of the James river; so that
it may be very properly considered as three reconnoissances in
force; made with a view of feeling, as it were, LEE'S position; and
the object of the three reconnoissances having been fully
attained--that is, LEE having been felt--they retired. That is the
way in which the transactions of Thursday last are to appear in
STANTON'S bulletin, we may be all quite sure; and this
representation, together with the occupation of a part of the
Boydton plank-road (which road the newspapers can call for a few
days the Southside Road) will cause every city from Boston to
Milwaukee to fire off its inevitable hundred guns. Thus, the
Presidential election will be served, just in the nick of time; for
that emergency it is not the real victory which is wanted, so much
as the jubilation, glorification and cannon salutes.
"Even when the truth comes to be fully known that this was the
grand pre-election assault itself: the resistless advance on
Richmond which was to lift the Abolitionists into power again upon
a swelling high-tide of glory unutterable--easily repulsed and sent
rolling back with a loss of about six or seven thousand men in
killed, wounded and prisoners; even when this is known, does the
reader imagine that the Yankee nation will be discouraged? Very far
from it. On the contrary it will be easily made to appear that from
these 'reconnoissances in force,' an advantage has been gained,
which is to make the next advance a sure and overwhelming success.
For the fact is, that a day was chosen for this mighty movement,
when the wind was southerly, a soft and gentle breeze, which wafted
the odour of the Yankee whiskey-rations to the nostrils of
Confederate soldiers. The Confederates ought to have been taken by
surprise that morning; but the moment they snuffed the tainted
gale, they knew what was to be the morning's work. Not more
unerring is the instinct which calls the vulture to the
battle-field before a drop of blood is shed; or that which makes
the kites 'know well the long stern swell, that bids the Romans
close;' than the sure induction of our army that the Yankees are
coming on, when morn or noon or dewy eve breathes along the whole
line a perfumed savour of the ancient rye. The way in which this
discovery may be improved is plain. It will be felt and understood
throughout the intelligent North, that it gives them at last the
key to Richmond. They will say--Those rebels, to leeward of us,
smell the rising valour of our loyal soldiers: the filling and
emptying of a hundred thousand canteens perfumes the sweet South as
if it had passed over a bed of violets, stealing and giving
odours:--when the wind is southerly it will be said, rebels know a
hawk from a handsaw. Therefore it is but making our next grand
assault on some morning when they are to windward of us--creeping
up, in the lee of LEE, as if he were a stag--and Richmond is ours."
That is savage, and sounds unfraternal to-day, when peace and good
feeling reign--when the walls of the Virginia capitol re-echo the
stately voices of the conscript fathers of the great commonwealth and
mother of States: conscript fathers bringing their wisdom, mature
study, and experience to the work of still further improving the work
of Jefferson, Mason, and Washington.
"I have Richmond by the throat!" General Grant wrote in October, 1864.
In February, 1868, when these lines are written, black hands have got
Virginia by the throat, and she is suffocating; Cuffee grins, Cuffee
gabbles--the groans of the "Old Mother" make him laugh.
Messieurs of the great Northwest, she gave you being, and suckled you!
Are you going to see her strangled before your very eyes?
In truth, if not held by the throat, as General Grant announced,
Richmond and all the South in that autumn of 1864, was staggering,
suffocating, reeling to and fro under the immense incubus of
At that time black was the "only wear," and widows and orphans were
crying in every house throughout the land. Bread and meat had become no
longer necessaries, but luxuries. Whole families of the old aristocracy
lived on crusts, and even by charity. Respectable people in Richmond
went to the "soup-houses." Men once rich, were penniless, and borrowed
to live. Provisions were incredibly dear. Flour was hundreds of dollars
a barrel; bacon ten dollars a pound; coffee and tea had become unknown
almost. Boots were seven hundred dollars a pair. The poor skinned the
dead horses on battle-fields to make shoes. Horses cost five thousand
dollars. Cloth was two hundred dollars a yard. Sorghum had taken the
place of sugar. Salt was sold by the ounce. Quinine was one dollar a
grain. Paper to write upon was torn from old blank books. The ten or
twenty dollars which the soldiers received for their monthly pay, was
about sufficient to buy a sheet, a pen, and a little ink to write home
to their starving families that they too were starving.
In town and country the atmosphere seemed charged with coming ruin. All
things were in confusion. Everywhere something jarred. The executive
was unpopular. The heads of departments were inefficient. The army was
unfed. The finances were mismanaged. In Congress the opposition
bitterly criticised President Davis. The press resounded with fierce
diatribes, _pro_ and _con_, on all subjects. The _Examiner_ attacked
the government, and denounced the whole administration of affairs. The
_Sentinel_ replied to the attacks, and defended the assailed officials.
One could see nothing that was good. The other could see nothing that
was bad. Their readers adopted their opinions; looking through glasses
that were deep green, or else _couleur de rose_. But the green glasses
outnumbered the rose-colored more and more every day.
Thus, in the streets of the city, and in the shades of the country, all
was turmoil, confusion--a hopeless brooding on the hours that were
coming. War was no longer an affair of the border and outpost. Federal
cavalry scoured the woods, tearing the last mouthful from the poor
people. Federal cannon were thundering in front of the ramparts of the
cities. In the country, the faint-hearted gathered at the court-houses
and cross-roads to comment on the times, and groan. In the cities,
cowards croaked in the market-places. In the country, men were hiding
their meat in garrets and cellars--concealing their corn in pens, lost
in the depths of the woods. In the towns, the forestallers hoarded
flour, and sugar, and salt in their warehouses, to await famine prices.
The vultures of troubled times flapped their wings and croaked
joyfully. Extortioners rolled in their chariots. Hucksters laughed as
they counted their gains. Blockade-runners drank their champagne,
jingled their coin, and dodged the conscript officers.
The rich were very rich and insolent. The poor were want-stricken and
despairing. Fathers gazed at their children's pale faces, and knew not
where to find food for them. Mothers hugged their frail infants to
bosoms drained by famine. Want gnawed at the vitals. Despair had come,
like a black and poisonous mist, to strangle the heart.
The soldiers were agonized by maddening letters from their families.
Their fainting loved ones called for help. "Father! come home!" moaned
the children, with gaunt faces, crying for bread. "Husband, come home!"
murmured the pale wife, with her half-dead infant in her arms. And the
mothers--the mothers--ah! the mothers! They did not say, "Come home!"
to their brave boys in the army; they were too proud for that--too
faithful to the end. They did not summon them to come home; they only
knelt down and prayed: "God, end this cruel war! Only give me back my
boy! Do not bereave me of my child! The cause is lost--his blood not
needed! God, pity me and give me back my boy!"
So that strange autumn of that strange year, 1864, wore on. The country
was oppressed as by some hideous nightmare; and Government was silent.
The army alone, kept heart of hope--Lee's old soldiers defied the enemy
to the last.
They called themselves "Lee's Miserables."
That was a grim piece of humor, was it not, reader? And the name had
had a somewhat curious origin. Victor Hugo's work, _Les Miserables_,
had been translated and published by a house in Richmond; the soldiers,
in the great dearth of reading matter, had seized upon it; and thus, by
a strange chance the tragic story of the great French writer, had
become known to the soldiers in the trenches. Everywhere, you might see
the gaunt figures in their tattered jackets bending over the dingy
pamphlets--"Fantine," "Cosette," or "Marius," or "St. Denis,"--and the
woes of "Jean Valjean," the old galley-slave, found an echo in the
hearts of these brave soldiers, immured in the trenches and fettered by
duty to their muskets or their cannon.
Singular fortune of a writer! Happy M. Hugo! Your fancies crossed the
ocean, and, transmitted into a new tongue, whiled away the dreary hours
of the old soldiers of Lee, at Petersburg! Thus, that history of "The
Wretched," was the pabulum of the South in 1864; and as the French
title had been retained on the backs of the pamphlets, the soldiers,
little familiar with the Gallic pronunciation, called the book "Lees
Miserables!" Then another step was taken. It was no longer the book,
but themselves whom they referred to by that name. The old veterans of
the army thenceforth laughed at their miseries, and dubbed themselves
grimly "_Lee's_ Miserables!"
[Footnote 1: It is unnecessary to say that this is not a jest or fancy
on the part of Colonel Surrey. It is a statement of fact.--ED.]
[Illustration: THE TRENCHES.]
The sobriquet was gloomy, and there was something tragic in the
employment of it; but it was applicable. Like most popular terms, it
expressed the exact thought in the mind of every one--coined the
situation into a phrase. Truly, they were "The Wretched,"--the
soldiers of the army of Northern Virginia, in the fall and winter of
1864. They had a quarter of a pound of rancid "Nassau bacon"--from New
England--for daily rations of meat. The handful of flour, or corn-meal,
which they received, was musty. Coffee and sugar were doled out as a
luxury, now and then only; and the microscopic ration became a jest to
those who looked at it. A little "grease" and cornbread--the grease
rancid, and the bread musty--these were the food of the army.
Their clothes, blankets, and shoes were no better--even worse. Only at
long intervals could the Government issue new ones to them. Thus the
army was in tatters. The old clothes hung on the men like scarecrows.
Their gray jackets were in rags, and did not keep out the chilly wind
sweeping over the frozen fields. Their old blankets were in shreds, and
gave them little warmth when they wrapped themselves up in them,
shivering in the long cold nights. The old shoes, patched and yawning,
had served in many a march and battle--and now allowed the naked sole
to touch the hard and frosty ground.
Happy the man with a new blanket! Proud the possessor of a whole
roundabout! What millionaire or favorite child of fortune passes
yonder--the owner of an unpatched pair of shoes?
Such were the rations and clothing of the army at that epoch;--rancid
grease, musty meal, tattered jackets, and worn-out shoes. And these
were the fortunate ones! Whole divisions often went without bread even,
for two whole days. Thousands had no jackets, no blankets, and no
shoes. Gaunt forms, in ragged old shirts and torn pantaloons only,
clutched the musket. At night they huddled together for warmth by the
fire in the trenches. When they charged, their naked feet left
blood-marks on the abatis through which they went at the enemy.
That is not an exaggeration, reader. These facts are of record.
And that was a part only. It was not only famine and hardship which
they underwent, but the incessant combats--and mortal tedium--of the
trenches. Ah! the trenches! Those words summed up a whole volume of
suffering. No longer fighting in open field; no longer winter-quarters,
with power to range; no longer freedom, fresh air, healthful
Here, cooped up and hampered at every turn, they fought through all
those long months of the dark autumn and winter of 1864. They were no
longer men, but machines loading and firing the musket and the cannon.
Burrowing in their holes, and subterranean covered-ways, they crouched
in the darkness, rose at the sound of coming battle, manned the
breastworks, or trained the cannon--day after day, week after week,
month after month, they were there in the trenches at their grim work;
and some fiat of Destiny seemed to have chained them there to battle
forever! At midnight, as at noon, they were at their posts. In the
darkness, dusky figures could be seen swinging the sponge-staff,
swabbing the cannon, driving home the charge. In the starlight, the
moonlight, or the gloom lit by the red glare, those figures, resembling
phantoms, were seen marshalled behind the breastworks to repel the
coming assault. Silence had fled from the trenches--the crash of
musketry and the bellow of artillery had replaced it. That seemed never
to cease. The men were rocked to sleep by it. They slept on in the dark
trenches, though the mortar-shells rose, described their flaming
curves, and, bursting, rained jagged fragments of iron upon them. And
to many that was their last sleep. The iron tore them in their tattered
blankets. They rose gasping, and streaming with blood. Then they
staggered and fell; when you passed by, you saw a something lying on
the ground, covered with the old blanket. It was one of "Lee's
Miserables," killed last night by the mortars--and gone to answer,
"Here!" before the Master.
The trenches!--ah! the trenches! Were you in them, reader? Thousands
will tell you more of them than I can. There, an historic army was
guarding the capital of an historic nation--the great nation of
Virginia--and how they guarded it! In hunger, and cold, and nakedness,
they guarded it still. In the bright days and the dark, they stood at
their posts unmoved. In the black night-watches as by day--toward
morning, as at evening--they stood, clutching the musket, peering out
into the pitchy darkness; or lay, dozing around the grim cannon, in the
embrasures. Hunger, and cold, and wounds, and the whispering voice of
Despair, had no effect on them. The mortal tedium left them patient.
When you saw the gaunt faces contract, and tears flow, it was because
they had received some letter, saying that their wives and children
were starving. Many could not endure that. It made them forget all.
Torn with anguish, and unable to obtain furloughs for a day even, they
went home without leave--and civilians called them deserters. Could
such men be shot--men who had fought like heroes, and only committed
this breach of discipline that they might feed their starving children?
And, after all, it was not desertion that chiefly reduced Lee's
strength. It was battle which cut down the army--wounds and exposure
which thinned its ranks. But thin as they were, and ever growing
thinner, the old veterans who remained by the flag of such glorious
memories, were as defiant in this dark winter of 1864, as they had been
in the summer days of 1862 and 1863.
Army of _Northern Virginia_!--old soldiers of Lee, who fought beside
your captain until your frames were wasted, and you were truly his
"wretched" ones--you are greater to me in your wretchedness, more
splendid in your rags, than the Old Guard of Napoleon, or the three
hundred of Thermopylae! Neither famine, nor nakedness, nor suffering,
could break your spirit. You were tattered and half-starved; your
forms, were warworn; but you still had faith in Lee, and the great
cause which you bore aloft on the points of your bayonets. You did not
shrink in the last hour the hour of supreme trial. You meant to follow
Lee to the last. If you ever doubted the result, you had resolved, at
least, on one thing--to clutch the musket, to the end, and die in
Is that extravagance--and is this picture of the great army of Northern
Virginia overdrawn? Did they or did they not fight to the end? Answer!
Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Charles City, every spot around
Petersburg where they closed in death-grapple with the swarming enemy!
Answer! winter of '64,--bleak spring of '65,--terrible days of the
great retreat when hunted down and driven to bay like wild animals,
they fought from Five Forks to Appomattox Court-House--fought
staggering, and starving, and falling--but defiant to the last!
Bearded men were seen crying on the ninth of April, 1865. But it was
_surrender_ which wrung their hearts, and brought tears to the grim
Grant's cannon had only made "Lee's Miserables" cheer and laugh.
THE BLANDFORD RUINS.
These memories are not cheerful. Let us pass to scenes more sunny--and
there were many in that depressing epoch. The cloud was dark--but in
spite of General Grant, the sun would shine sometimes!
After reading the _Examiner's_ comments, I mounted my horse and rode
into Petersburg, where I spent a pleasant hour in conversation with a
friend, Captain Max. Do you laugh still, my dear Max? Health and
happiness attend you and yours, my hearty!
As I got into the saddle again, the enemy began a brisk shelling. The
shell skimmed the roofs of the houses, with an unearthly scream; and
one struck a chimney which it hurled down with a tremendous crash. In
spite of all, however, the streets were filled with young women, who
continued to walk quietly, or to trip along laughing and careless, to
buy a riband or some trifle at the stores. That seemed singular
then, and seems more singular to-day. But there is nothing like being
accustomed to any thing--and the shelling had now "lost its interest,"
and troubled nobody.
[Footnote 1: Real.]
"Good!" I said, laughing, "our friends yonder are paying us their
respects to-day. They have dined probably on the tons of turkey sent
from New England, and are amusing themselves shelling us by way of
And wishing to have a better view of the lines, I rode toward
Do you remember the ivy-draped ruins of the old "Blandford church," my
dear reader? This is one of our Virginia antiquities, and is worth
seeing. Around the ruins the large graveyard is full of elegant
tombstones. Many are shattered to-day, however, by the Federal shell,
as the spot was near the breastworks, and in full range of their
artillery. In fact it was not a place to visit in the fall of 1864,
unless you were fond of shell and a stray bullet. I was somewhat
surprised, therefore, as I rode into the enclosure--with a hot skirmish
going on a few hundred yards off--to see a young officer and a maiden
sitting on a grass bank, beneath a larch tree, and conversing in the
most careless manner imaginable.
[Footnote 1: Real.]
Who were these calmly indifferent personages? Their backs were turned,
and I could only see that the young lady had a profusion of auburn
hair. Having dismounted, and approached, I made another discovery. The
youth was holding the maiden's hand, and looking with flushed cheeks
into her eyes--while she hung her head, the ringlets rippling over her
cheeks, and played absently with some wild flowers, which she held
between her fingers.
The "situation" was plain. "Lovers," I said to myself; "let me not
disturb the young ones!"
And I turned to walk away without attracting their attention.
Unfortunately, however, a shell at that instant screamed over the ruin;
the young girl raised her head with simple curiosity--not a particle of
fear evidently--to watch the course of the missile; and, as the youth
executed the like manoeuvre, they both became aware of my presence at
the same moment.
The result was, that a hearty laugh echoed among the tombstones; and
that the youth and maiden rose, hastening rapidly toward me.
An instant afterward I was pressing the hand of Katy Dare, whom I had
left near Buckland, and that of Tom Herbert, whom I had not seen since
the fatal day of Yellow Tavern.
The auburn ringlets of Katy Dare were as glossy as ever; her blue eyes
had still the charming archness which had made me love her from the
first. Indeed her demeanor toward me had been full of such winning
sweetness that it made me her captive; and I now pressed the little
hand, and looked into the pretty blushing face with the sentiment which
I should have experienced toward some favorite niece.
Katy made you feel thus by her artless and warm-hearted smile. How
refrain from loving one whose blue eyes laughed like her lips, and
whose glances said, "I am happier since you came!"
And Tom was equally friendly; his face radiant, his appearance
distinguished. He was clad in a new uniform, half covered with gold
braid. His hat was decorated with a magnificent black plume. His
cavalry boots, reaching to the knee, were small, delicate, and of the
finest leather. At a moderate estimation, Tom's costume must have cost
him three thousand dollars!--Happy Tom!
He grasped my hand with a warmth which evidently came straight from the
heart; for he had a heart--that dandy!
"Hurrah! old fellow; here you are!" Tom cried, laughing. "You came upon
us as suddenly as if you had descended from heaven!"
"Whither you would like to send me back! Am I wrong, Tom?"
And I shot a glance of ancient and paternal affection at these two
young things, whose _tete-a-tete_ I had interrupted.
Katy blushed beautifully, and then ended by laughing. Tom caressed his
slender mustache, and said:---
"My dear fellow, I certainly should like to go to heaven--consequently
to send my friends there--but if it is all the same to everybody, I
think I would prefer--hem!--deferring the journey for a brief period,
"Until an angel is ready to go with you!"
And I glanced at the angel with the ringlets.
"Ah, my dear Surry!" said Tom, smoothing his chin with his hand, "you
really have a genius for repartee which is intolerable, and not to be
"Let the angel sit in judgment!"
"Oh, you have most 'damnable iteration!'"
"I learned it all from you."
"From me, my boy?"
"Certainly--see the beauty of repetition in poetry."
And looking at the damsel, I began to repeat--
Don't marry any other!
You'll break my heart, and kill me dead,
And then be hanged for murder!"
The amount of blushing, laughter, pouting, good humor, and hilarity
generally, which this poem occasioned, was charming. In a few minutes
we were all seated again on the grassy bank, and Tom had given me a
history of his adventures, which had not been either numerous or
remarkable. He had been assigned to duty on the staff of General
Fitzhugh Lee, and it was delightful to hear his enthusiasm on the
subject of that gay and gallant officer.
"I tell you he's a trump, old fellow," quoth Tom, with ardor. "He's as
brave as steel, a first-rate officer, a thorough gentleman, generous,
kind, and as jolly as a lark! Give me Fitz Lee to fight with, or march
with, or hear laugh! He was shot in the Valley, and I have been with
him in Richmond. In spite of his wound, which is a severe one, he is as
gay as the sunshine, and it would put you in good spirits only to go
into his chamber!"
"I know General Fitz well, Tom," I replied, "and you are right about
him; every word you say is true, and more to boot, old fellow. So you
are cruising around now, waiting for your chief to recover?"
"Exactly, my dear Surry."
"And have captured the barque _Katy!_"
"Humph!" quoth Miss Katy, tossing her head, with a blush and a laugh.
"Beware of pirates," I said, "who make threats even in their
verses,--and now tell me, Miss Katy, if you are on a visit to
Petersburg? It will give me true pleasure to come and see you."
"Indeed you must!" she said, looking at me with the most fascinating
smile, "for you know you are one of my old friends now, and must not
neglect me. I am at my aunt's, Mrs. Hall,--uncle brought me a month ago
from Buckland; but in the morning I shall go down to a cousin's in
"In Dinwiddie, Miss Katy?"
"Yes, near the Rowanty. My cousin, Mr. Dare, has come for me."
"Well, I will visit you there."
"Please do. The house is called 'Disaway's.'"
I bowed, smiling, and turned to Tom Herbert.
"When shall I see you again, Tom, and where? Next week--at Disaway's?"
Tom colored and then laughed. This dandy, you see, was a good boy
"Well, old fellow," he replied, "I think it possible I may visit
Dinwiddie. My respected chieftain, General Fitz, is at present reposing
on his couch in Richmond, and I am bearer of bouquets as well as of
dispatches between him and his surgeon. But I am told he is ordered to
Dinwiddie as soon as he is up. The country is a new one; the thought
has occurred to me that any information I can acquire by--hem!--a
topographical survey, would be valuable. You perceive, do you not, my
dear friend? You appreciate my motive?"
"Perfectly, Tom. There will probably be a battle near 'Disaway's.'"
"And I'd better ride over the ground, eh?"
"Well, I'll do it!"
"Only beware of one thing!"
"What, my dear Surry?" asked Tom, anxiously.
"There is probably a conservatory at Disaway's."
"Like that near Buckland, and the battle might take place _there_. If
it does--two to one you are routed!"
Katy blushed exquisitely, smiled demurely, and burst into laughter.
Then catching my eye she raised her finger, and shook her head with
sedate reproach, looking at Tom. He was laughing.
"All right, I'll look out, Surry!"
"Resolve on one thing, Tom."
"What is that?"
"That you will never surrender, but be taken in arms!"
With which mild and inoffensive joke I shook hands with Tom, informing
him where to find me; made Miss Katy a bow, which she returned with a
charming smile and a little inclination which shook together her
ringlets; and then leaving the young people to themselves, I mounted my
horse, and returned to the Cedars.
All the way I was smiling. A charming influence had descended upon me.
The day was brighter, the sunshine gayer, for the sight of the young
fellow, and the pretty little maiden, with her blue eyes, like the
skies, and her ringlets of silken gold!
ON THE BANKS OF THE ROWANTY.
When I again set out for the cavalry, a few days after the scene at
Blandford church, the youth and sunshine of those two faces still dwelt
in my memory, and I went along smiling and happy.
Not even the scenes on the late battle-field beyond the Rowanty, made
my mood gloomy; and yet these were not gay. Graves were seen
everywhere; the fences were broken down; the houses riddled by balls;
and in the trampled roads and fields negroes were skinning the dead
horses, to make shoes of their hides. On the animals already stripped
sat huge turkey-buzzards feeding. My horse shied as the black vultures
rose suddenly on flapping wings. They only circled around, however,
sailing back as I disappeared.
Such is war, reader,--a charming panorama of dead bodies and vultures!
Turning into the Quaker road, I went on until I reached the
head-quarters of General William H.F. Lee, opposite Monk's Neck. Here,
under the crest of a protecting hill, where the pine thickets afforded
him shelter from the wind, that gallant soldier had "set up his
rest"--that is to say a canvass fly, one end of which was closed with a
thick-woven screen of evergreens. My visit was delightful, and I shall
always remember it with pleasure. Where are you to-day, general, and
good comrades of the old staff? You used to laugh as hard as you
fought--so your merriment was immense! Heaven grant that to-day, when
the bugles are silent, the sabres rusting, you are laughing as in the
days I remember!
Declining the friendly invitation to spend the night, I went on in the
afternoon; and on my way was further enlivened by a gay scene which
makes me smile even to-day. It was in passing General Butler's
headquarters near the Rowanty. In the woods gleamed his white tents;
before them stretched the level sandy road; a crowd of staff officers
and others, with the general in their midst, were admiring two glossy
ponies, led up by two small urchins, evidently about to run a race on
Butler--that brave soldier, whom all admired as much as I did--was
limping about, in consequence of a wound received at Fleetwood. In the
excitement of the approaching race he had forgotten his hurt. And soon
the urchins were tossed up on the backs of their little glossy
steeds--minus all but bridle. Then they took their positions about
three hundred yards off; remained an instant abreast and motionless;
then a clapping of hands was heard--it was the signal to start--and the
ponies came on like lightning.
The sight was comic beyond expression. The boys clung with their knees,
bending over the floating manes; the little animals darted by; they
disappeared in the woods "amid thunders of applause;" and it was
announced that the roan pony had won.
"Trifles," you say, perhaps, reader; "why don't our friend, the
colonel, go on with his narrative?"
True,--the reproach is just. But these trifles cling so to the memory!
I like to recall them--to review the old scenes--to paint the "trifles"
even, which caught my attention during the great civil war. This is not
a history, friend--only a poor little memoir. I show you our daily
lives, more than the "great events" of history. That is the way the
brave Butler and his South Carolinians amused themselves--and the
figure of this soldier is worth placing amid my group of "paladins." He
was brave--none was braver; thoroughbred--I never saw a man more so.
His sword had flashed at Fleetwood, and in a hundred other fights; and
it was going to flash to the end.
I pushed on after the pony race, and very soon had penetrated the belt
of shadowy pines which clothe the banks of the Rowanty, making of this
country a wilderness as singular almost as that of Spottsylvania. Only
here and there appeared a small house, similar to that of Mr.
Alibi's--all else was woods, woods, woods! Through the thicket wound
the "military road" of General Hampton; and I soon found that his
head-quarters were at a spot which I had promised myself to
Two hours' ride brought me to the place. Disaway's was an old mansion,
standing on a hill above the Rowanty, near the "Halifax bridge," by
which the great road from Petersburg to North Carolina crosses the
stream. It was a building of considerable size, with wings, numerous
gables, and a portico; and was overshadowed by great oaks, beneath
which gleamed the tents of Hampton and his staff.
As I rode up the hill, the staff came out to welcome me. I had known
these brave gentlemen well, when with Stuart, and they were good
enough, now, to give me the right hand of fellowship,--to receive me
for old times' sake, with "distinguished consideration." The general
was as cordial as his military family--and in ten minutes I was seated
and conversing with him, beneath the great oak.
A charming cordiality inspired the words and countenance of the great
soldier. Nearly four years have passed, but I remember still his
courteous smile and friendly accents.
All at once, the figure of a young woman appeared in the doorway. At a
glance I recognized the golden ringlets of Katy Dare. She beckoned to
me, smiling; I rose and hastened to greet her; in a moment we were
seated upon the portico, conversing like old friends.
There was something fascinating in this child. The little maiden of
eighteen resembled a blossom of the spring. Were I a poet, I should
declare that her azure eyes shone out from her auburn hair like
glimpses of blue sky behind sun-tinted clouds!
I do not know how it came about, or how I found myself there, but in a
few moments I was walking with her in the autumn woods, and smiling as
I gazed into the deep blue of her eyes. The pines were sighing above
us; beneath our feet a thick carpet of brown tassels lay; and on the
summit of the evergreens the golden crown of sunset slowly rose, as
though the fingers of some unseen spirit were bearing it away into the
Katy tripped on, rather than walked--laughing and singing gayly. The
mild air just lifted the golden ringlets of her hair, as she threw back
her beautiful face; her cheeks were rosy with the joy of youth; and
from her smiling lips, as fresh and red as carnations, escaped in sweet
and tender notes, like the carol of an oriole, that gay and warbling
song, the "Bird of "Beauty."
Do you remember it, my dear reader? It is old--but so many good things
"Bird of beauty, whose bright plumage
Sparkles with a thousand dyes:
Bright thine eyes, and gay thy carol,
Though stern winter rules the skies!"
Do you say that is not very grand poetry? I protest! friend, I think it
superior to the _chef d'oeuvres_ of the masters? You do not think so?
Ah! that is because you did not hear it sung in the autumn forest that
evening--see the ringlets of Katy Dare floating back from the rosy
cheeks, as the notes escaped from her smiling lips, and rang clearly in
the golden sunset. Do you laugh at my enthusiasm? Well, I am going to
increase your mirth. To the "Bird of Beauty" succeeded a song which I
never heard before, and have never heard since. Thus it is a lost pearl
I rescue, in repeating some lines. What Katy sang was this:--
"Come under, some one, and give her a kiss!
My honey, my love, my handsome dove!
My heart's been a-weeping,
This long time for you!
"I'll hang you, I'll drown you,
My honey, my love, my handsome dove!
My heart's been a-weeping,
This long time for you!"
That was the odd, original, mysterious, incomprehensible poem, which
Katy Dare carolled in the sunset that evening. It may seem stupid to
some--to me the words and the air are charming, for I heard them from
the sweetest lips in the world. Indeed there was something so pure and
childlike about the young girl, that I bowed before her. Her presence
made me better--banished all discordant emotions. All about her was
delicate and tender, and pure. Like her "bird of bright plumage" she
seemed to have flitted here to utter her carol, after which she would
open her wings and disappear!
Katy ran on, in the pauses of her singing, with a hundred little jests,
interspersed with her sweet childlike laughter, and I was more and more
enchanted--when all at once I saw her turn her head over her shoulder.
A bright flush came to her cheeks as she did so; her songs and laughter
ceased; then--a step behind us!
I looked back, and found the cause of her sudden "dignity," her demure
silence. The unfortunate Colonel Surry had quite disappeared from the
Coming on rapidly, with springy tread, I saw--Tom Herbert! Tom Herbert,
radiant; Tom Herbert, the picture of happiness; Tom Herbert, singing in
his gay and ringing voice:--
Don't marry any other!
You'll break my heart and kill me dead,
And you'll be hung for murder!"
Wretch!--I could cheerfully have strangled him!
THE STUART HORSE ARTILLERY.
An hour afterward I was at the camp of the Stuart horse artillery.
Five minutes after greeting Tom, who had sought Katy, at
"Disaway's"--been directed to the woods--and there speedily joined
us--I left the young ones together, and made my way back to the
mansion. There are few things, my dear reader, more disagreeable
than--just when you are growing poetical--when blue eyes have excited
your romantic feelings--when your heart has begun to glow--when you
think "I am the cause of all this happiness, and gayety!"--there are
few things I say--but why say it? In thirty seconds the rosy-faced
youngster Tom, had driven the antique and battered Surry quite from the
mind of the Bird of Beauty. That discomfited individual, therefore,
took his way back sadly to Disaway's, leaving the children his
blessing; declined the cordial invitations to spend the night, mounted
his horse, and rode to find Will Davenant, at the horse artillery.
Their camp was in the edge of a wood, near the banks of the Rowanty;
and having exchanged greetings with my old comrades of the various
batteries, and the gallant Colonel Chew, their chieftain, I repaired to
Will Davenant's head-quarters.
These consisted of a breadth of canvass, stretched beneath a tree in
the field--in front of which burned a fire.
I had come to talk with Will, but our conversation was obliged to be
deferred. The brave boys of the horse artillery, officers and men,
gathered round to hear the news from Petersburg; and it was a rare
pleasure to me to see again the old familiar faces. Around me, in light
of the camp-fire, were grouped the tigers who had fought with Pelham,
in the old battles of Stuart. Here were the heroes of a hundred
combats; the men who had held their ground desperately in the most
desperate encounters--the bulldogs who had showed their teeth and
sprung to the death-grapple at Cold Harbor, Manassas, Sharpsburg,
Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Fleetwood, Gettysburg, in the
Wilderness, at Trevillian's, at Sappony, in a thousand bitter conflicts
with the cavalry. Scarred faces, limping bodies, the one-armed, the
one-legged,--these I saw around me; the frames slashed and mutilated,
but the eyes flashing and full of fight, as in the days when Pelham
thundered, loosing his war-hounds on the enemy. I had seen brave
commands, in these long years of combat--had touched the hands of
heroic men, whose souls fear never entered--but I never saw braver
fighters than the horse artillery--soldiers more reckless than Pelham's
bloodhounds. They went to battle laughing. There was something of the
tiger in them. They were of every nation nearly--Frenchmen, Irishmen,
Italians,--but one sentiment seemed to inspire them--hatred of our
friends over the way. From the moment in 1862, when at Barbee's they
raised the loud resounding _Marseillaise_, while fighting the enemy in
front and rear, to this fall of 1864, when they had strewed a hundred
battle-fields with dead men and horses, these "swarthy old hounds" of
the horse artillery had vindicated their claims to the admiration of
Stuart;--in the thunder of their guns, the dead chieftain had seemed
still to hurl his defiance at the invaders of Virginia.
Looking around me, I missed many of the old faces, sleeping now beneath
the sod. But Dominic, Antonio, and Rossini were still there--those
members of the old "Napoleon Detachment" of Pelham's old battery; there
still was Guillemot, the erect, military-looking Frenchman,--Guillemot,
with his hand raised to his cap, saluting me with the profoundest
respect; these were the faces I had seen a hundred times, and never any
thing but gay and full of fight.
Doubtless they remembered me, and thought of Stuart, as others had
done, at seeing me. They gave me a soldier's welcome; soon, from the
group around the camp-fire rose a song. Another followed, then another,
in the richest tenor; and the forests of Dinwiddie rang with the deep
voices, rising clear and sonorous in the moonlight night.
They were old songs of Ashby and Stuart; unpublished ditties of the
struggle, which the winds have borne away into the night of the past,
and which now live only in memory. There was one of Ashby,
"See him enter on the valley,"
which wound up with the words,--
"And they cried, 'O God they've shot him!
Ashby is no more!'
Strike, freemen, for your country,
Sheathe your swords no more!
While remains in arms a Yankee
On Virginia's shore!"
The air was sad and plaintive. The song rose, and wailed, and died away
like the sigh of the wind in the trees, the murmuring airs of evening
in the brambles and thickets of the Rowanty. The singers had fought
under Ashby, and in their rude and plaintive song they uttered their
Then the music changed its character, and the stirring replaced the
"If you want to have a good time,
J'ine the cavalry!"
came in grand, uproarious strains; and this was succeeded by the
"Farewell, forever to the star-spangled banner,
No longer shall she wave o'er the land of the free;
But we'll unfurl to the broad breeze of heaven,
The thirteen bright stars round the Palmetto tree!"
At that song--and those words, "the thirteen bright stars round the
Palmetto tree!"--you might have seen the eyes of the South Carolinians
flash. Many other ditties followed, filling the moonlight night with
song--"The Bonnie Blue Flag," "Katy Wells," and "The Louisiana Colors."
This last was never printed. Here are a few of the gay verses of the
"Irish Lad from Dixie:"--
"My sweetheart's name is Kathleen,
For her I'll do or die;
She has a striped straw mattress,
A shanty, pig, and sty.
Her cheeks are bright and beautiful,
Her hair is dark and curly,
She sent me with the secesh boys
To fight with General Early.
"She made our flag with her own hands,
My Kathleen fair and clever,
And twined its staff with shamrock green,
Old Ireland's pride forever!
She gave it into our trust,
Among our weeping mothers;--
'Remember, Irish men!' she said,
'You bear the Red Cross colors!'
"She told me I must never run;
The Rebel boys were brothers;--
To stand forever by our flag,
The Louisiana colors!
And then she said, 'If you desert,
You'll go to the Old Baily!'
Says I, 'My love, when I can't shoot,
I'll use my old shillalah!'
"And many a bloody charge we made,
Nor mind the battle's blaze;
God gave to us a hero bold,
Our bonny Harry Hays!
And on the heights of Gettysburg,
At twilight first was seen,
The stars of Louisiana bright,
And Katy's shamrock green.
"And oh! if I get home again,
I swear I'll never leave her;
I hope the straw mattress will keep,
The pig won't have the fever!
For then, you know, I'll marry Kate,
And never think of others.
Hurrah, then, for the shamrock green,
And the Louisiana colors!"
It was nearly midnight before the men separated, repairing to their
tents. Their songs had charmed me, and made the long hours flit by like
birds. Where are you, brave singers, in this year '68? I know not--you
are all scattered. Your guns have ceased their thunder, your voices
sound no more. But I think you sometimes remember, as you muse, in
these dull years, those gay moonlight nights on the banks of the
"CHARGE! STUART! PAY OFF ASHBY'S SCORE!"
These memories are beguiling, and while they possess me, my drama does
But you have not been wearied, I hope, my dear reader, by this little
pencil sketch of the brave horse artillerymen. I found myself among
them; the moonlight shone; the voices sang; and I have paused to look
and listen again in memory.
These scenes, however, can not possess for you, the attraction they do
for me. To proceed with my narrative. I shall pass over my long
conversation with Will Davenant, whose bed I shared. I had promised his
father to reveal nothing of the events which I had so strangely
discovered--and was then only able to give the young man vague
assurances of a coming change for the better in his affair with Miss
Conway. He thanked me, blushing, and trying to smile--and then we fell
asleep beside each other.
Just at daylight I was suddenly aroused. The jarring notes of a bugle
were ringing through the woods. I extended my arm in the darkness, and
found that Will Davenant was not beside me.
What had happened? I rose quickly, and throwing my cape over my
shoulders, went out of the tent.
The horse artillery was already hitched up, and in motion. The setting
moon illumined the grim gun-barrels, caissons, and heavy horses, moving
with rattling chains. Behind came the men on horseback, laughing and
ready for combat.
As I was gazing at this warlike scene so suddenly evoked, Will Davenant
rode up and pointed to my horse, which was ready saddled, and attached
to a bough of the great tree.
"I thought I wouldn't wake you, colonel," he said, with a smile, "but
let you sleep to the last moment. The enemy are advancing, and we are
going to meet them."
He had scarcely spoken, when a rapid firing was heard two or three
miles in front, and a loud cheer rose from the artillerymen. In a
moment the guns were rushing on at a gallop, and, as I rode beside
them, I saw a crimson glare shoot up above the woods, in the direction
of the Weldon railroad. The firing had meanwhile grown heavier, and the
guns were rushed onward. Will Davenant's whole appearance had
completely changed. The youth, so retiring in camp, so cool in a hot
fight, seemed burnt up with impatience, at the delay caused by the
terrible roads. His voice had become hoarse and imperious; he was
everywhere urging on the drivers; when the horses stalled in the
fathomless mudholes, he would strike the animals, in a sort of rage,
with the flat of his sabre, forcing them with a leap which made the
traces crack, to drag the piece out of the hole, and onward. A glance
told me, then, what was the secret of this mere boy's splendid
efficiency. Under the shy, blushing face, was the passion and will of
the born soldier--the beardless boy had become the master mind, and
drove on every thing by his stern will.
In spite of every exertion to overcome the obstacles in the roads, it
was nearly sunrise before we reached open ground. Then we emerged upon
the upland, near "Disaway's," and saw a picturesque spectacle. From the
hill, we could make out every thing. A hot cavalry fight was going on
beneath us. The enemy had evidently crossed the Rowanty lower down; and
driving in the pickets, had passed forward to the railroad.
The guns were rushed toward the spot, unlimbered on a rising ground,
and their thunder rose suddenly above the forests. Shell after shell
burst amid the enemy, breaking their ranks, and driving them back--and
by the time I had galloped through a belt of woods to the scene of the
fight, they lost heart, retreated rapidly, and disappeared, driven
across the Rowanty again, with the Confederates pursuing them so hotly,
that many of the gray cavalry punched them in the back with their empty
[Footnote 1: Fact.]
Their object in crossing had been to burn a small mill; and in this
they had succeeded, after which they retired as soon as possible to
their "own side." Some queer scenes had accompanied this "tremendous
military movement." In a house near the mill, resided some ladies; and
we found them justly indignant at the course of the enemy. The Federal
officers--general officers--had ordered the house-furniture to be piled
up, the carriage to be drawn into the pile, and then shavings were
heaped around, and the whole set on fire, amid shouts, cheers, and
firing. The lady of the mansion remonstrated bitterly, but received
"I have no time to listen to women!" said the Federal general,
[Footnote 1: His words.]
"It is not _time_ that you want, sir!" returned the lady, with great
hauteur, "it is _politeness_!"
[Footnote 1: Her words.]
This greatly enraged the person whom she addressed, and he became
furious, when the lady added that all the horses had been sent away. At
that moment an officer near him said:--
"General if you are going to burn the premises, you had better
commence, as the rebs are pursuing us."
"Order it to be done at once!" was the gruff reply.
And the mill was fired, in the midst of a great uproar, with which
mingled shouts of, "The Rebels are coming! The Rebels are coming!"
Soon they came, a hot fight followed, and during this fight a young
woman watched it, holding her little brother by the hand near the
burning mill. I had afterward the honor of making her acquaintance, and
she told me that throughout the firing she found herself repeating over
and over, unconsciously, the lines of the song,--
"Charge! Stuart! pay off Ashby's score,
In Stonewall Jackson's way."
[Footnote 1: Fact.]
The enemy had thus effected their object, and retreated hotly pursued.
I followed toward the lower Rowanty, and had the pleasure of seeing
them hurried over. So ended this immense military movement.
MOHUN,--HIS THIRD PHASE.
I was about to turn my horse and ride back from the stream, across
which the enemy had disappeared, when all at once Mohun, who had led
the pursuit, rode up to me, and we exchanged a cordial greeting.
"Well, this little affair is over, my dear Surry," he said; "have you
any thing to occupy you for two or three hours?"
"Nothing; entirely at your service, Mohun."
"Well, I wish you to accompany me on a private expedition. Will you
follow me blindfold?"
And I rode on beside Mohun, who had struck into a path along the banks
of the Rowanty, leading back in the direction of Halifax bridge.
As we rode on, I looked attentively at him. I scarcely recognized, in
the personage beside me, the Mohun of the past. His gloom so profound
on that night when I parted with him, after the expedition to the
lonely house beyond Monk's Neck, had entirely disappeared; and I saw in
him as few traces of the days on the Rappahannock, in Pennsylvania, and
the Wilderness. These progressive steps in the development of Mohun's
character may be indicated by styling them the first, second, and third
phases of the individual. He had entered now upon the third phase, and
I compared him, curiously with his former self.
On the Rappahannock, when I saw him first, Mohun had been cynical,
bitter, full of gloomy misanthropy. Something seemed to have hardened
him, and made him hate his species. In the bloom of early manhood, when
his life was yet in the flower, and should have prompted him to all
kind and sweet emotions, he was a stranger to all--to charity,
good-will, friendship, all that makes life endurable. The tree was
young and lusty; the spring was not over; freshness and verdure should
have clothed it; and yet it appeared to have been blasted. What had
dried up its sap, I asked myself--withering and destroying it? What
thunder-bolt had struck this sturdy young oak? I could not answer--but
from the first moment of our acquaintance, Mohun became for me a
Then the second phase presented itself. When I met him in the
Wilderness, in May, 1864, a great change had come over him. He was no
longer bitter and cynical. The cloud had plainly swept away, leaving
the skies of his life brighter. Gayety had succeeded gloom. The
rollicking enjoyment of the true cavalryman had replaced the
recklessness of the man-hater. Again I looked at him with
attention--for his courage had made me admire him, and his hidden grief
had aroused my sympathy. A great weight had plainly been lifted from
his shoulders; he breathed freer; the sap long dried up had begun to
flow again; and the buds told that the leaves of youth and hope were
about to reappear. What was the meaning of that?
Now the third phase of the man had come to excite in me more surprise
and interest than the former ones. This time the change was complete.
Mohun seemed no longer himself. Was the man riding beside me the old
Mohun of 1863? Where was the gloomy misanthropy--where the rollicking
humor? They had quite disappeared. Mohun's glance was gentle and his
countenance filled with a charming modesty and sweetness. His voice,
once so cold, and then so hilarious, had grown calm, low, measured,
almost soft. His smile was exquisitely cordial; his glance full of
earnestness and sweetness. The heaven-born spirit of kindness--that
balm for all the wounds of human existence--shone in his eyes, on his
lips, in every accent of his voice.
Colonel Mohun had been reckless, defiant, unhappy, or wildly gay.
General Mohun was calm, quietly happy it seemed. You would have said of
him, formerly, "This is a man who fights from hatred of his enemies, or
the exuberant life in him." Now you would have said, "This is a patriot
who fights from principle, and is worthy to die in a great cause."
What had worked this change? I asked myself once more. Was it love? Or
was it the conviction which the Almighty sends to the most hardened,
that life is not made to indulge hatred, but to love and perform our
I knew not; but there was the phenomenon before me. Mohun was certainly
a new man, and looked on life and the world around him with a
gentleness and kindness of which I had believed him incapable.
"I am going to take you to see a somewhat singular character," he said.
"Who is he?"
"It is a woman."
"And a very strange one, I promise you, my dear Surry."
"Lead on, I'll follow thee!"
"Good! and I declare to you, I think Shakespeare would have examined
this human being with attention."
"She is a phenomenon, then?"
"No, an epileptic; at least I think so."
"Indeed! And where does she live?"
"On the Halifax road, some miles from the Rowanty."
"In the lines of the enemy, then?"
"Something like it."
"Don't disturb yourself about that, Surry. I have sent out a scouting
party who are clearing the country. Their pickets are back to Reams's
by this time, and there is little danger."
"At all events, we'll share any, Mohun. Forward!"
And we pushed on to the Halifax bridge, where, as Mohun expected, there
was no Federal picket.
The bridge--a long rough affair--had been half destroyed by General
Hampton; but we forded near it, pushed our horses through the swamp,
amid the heavy tree trunks, felled to form an abatis, and gaining the
opposite bank of the Rowanty, rode on rapidly in the direction of
Petersburg, that is to say, toward the rear of the Federal army.
Half an hour's ride through the swampy low grounds rising to gentle
uplands, and beneath the festoons of the great vines trailing from tree
to tree, brought us in front of a small house, half buried in a clump
of bushes, like a hare's nest amid brambles.
"We have arrived!" said Mohun, leading the way to the cabin, which we
Throwing his bridle over a bough near the low fence, Mohun approached
the door on foot, I following, and when close to the door, he gave a
"Come in!" said a cheerful and smiling voice.
And Mohun opened the door, through which we passed into a small and
very neat apartment containing a table, some chairs, a wide fireplace,
in which some sticks were burning, a number of cheap engravings of
religious scenes, framed and hanging on the wall, and a low bed, upon
which lay a woman fully dressed.
She was apparently about thirty-five, and her appearance was
exceedingly curious. Her figure was slender and of medium height; her
complexion that of a Moorish or oriental woman, rather than that of the
quadroon, which she appeared to be; her hair black, waving, and
abundant; her eyes as dark and sparkling as burnished ebony; and her
teeth of dazzling whiteness. Her dress was neat, and of bright colors.
Around her neck she wore a very odd necklace, which seemed made of
carved bone; and her slender fingers were decorated with a number of
[Footnote 1: "I have endeavored to give an exact description of this
singular woman." Colonel Surry said to me when he read this passage to
me: "She will probably be remembered by numbers of persons in both the
Federal and Confederate armies. These will tell you that I describe her
accurately, using her real name, and will recall the strange prediction
which she made, and which I repeat. Was she an epileptic? I do not
know. I have certainly never encountered a more curious
Such was the personage who greeted us, in a voice of great calmness and
sweetness, as we entered. She did not rise from the bed upon which she
was lying; but her cordial smile clearly indicated that this did not
arise from discourtesy.
"Take seats, gentlemen," she said, "and please excuse me from getting
up. I am a little poorly to-day."
"Stay where you are, Amanda," said Mohun, "and do not disturb
She looked at him with her dark eyes, and said, in her gentle, friendly
"You know me, I see, General Mohun."
"And you me, I see, Amanda."
"I never saw you before, sir, but--am I mistaken?"
"Not in the least. How did you know me?"
The singular Amanda smiled.
"I have _seen you_ often, sir."
"Ah--in your visions?"
"Or, perhaps, Nighthawk described me. You know Mr. Nighthawk!"
"Oh, yes, sir. I hope he is well. He has often been here; he may have
told me what you were like, sir, and then I _saw you_ to know you
I looked at the speaker attentively. Was she an impostor? It was
impossible to think so. There was absolutely no evidence whatever that
she was acting a part--rather every thing to forbid the supposition, as
she thus readily acquiesced in Mohun's simple explanation.
For some moments Mohun remained silent. Then he said:--
"Those visions which you have are very strange. Is it possible that you
really _see_ things before they come to pass--or are you only amusing
yourself, and others, by saying so? I see no especial harm in the
matter, if you are jesting; but tell me, for my own satisfaction and
that of my friend, if you _really_ see things."
Amanda smiled with untroubled sweetness.
"I am in earnest, sir," she said, "and I would not jest with you and
I listened in astonishment.
"Ah! you know me, too, Amanda!"
"Yes, sir--or I think I do. I think you are Colonel Surry, sir."
"How do you know that?"
"I have _seen you, too_, sir?" was the smiling reply.
I sat down, leaned my head upon my hand, and gazed at this
incomprehensible being. Was she really a witch? I do not believe in
witches, and at once rejected that theory. If not an impostor, then,
only one other theory remained--that Nighthawk had described my person
to her, in the same manner that he had Mohun's, and the woman might
thus believe that she had seen me, as well as my companion, in her
To her last words, however, I made no reply, and Mohun renewed the
colloquy, as before.
"Then you are really in earnest, Amanda, and actually see, in vision,
what is coming to pass?" he said.
"I think I do, sir."
"Do you have the visions often?"
"I did once, sir, but they now seldomer come."
"What produces them?"
"I think it is any excitement, sir. They tell me that I lay on my bed
moaning, and moving my arms about,--and when I wake, after these
attacks, I remember seeing the visions."
"I hear that you predicted General Hunter's attack on Lexington last
"Yes, sir, I told a lady what _I saw_, some months before it came to
"What did you see? Will you repeat it for us?"
"Oh, yes, sir. I remember all, and will tell you about it, as it seems
to interest you. I saw a town, on the other side of the mountain, which
they afterward told me was called Lexington--but I did not know its
name then--and a great army of men in blue dresses came marching in,
shouting and cheering. The next thing I saw was a large building on
fire, and through the windows I saw books burning, with some curious-
looking things, of which I do not know the names."
"The Military Institute, with the books and scientific apparatus," said
"Was it, sir? I did not know."
"What did you see afterward, Amanda?"
"Another house burning, sir; the Federal people gave the ladies ten
minutes to leave it, and then set it on fire."
Mohun glanced at me.
"That is strange," he said; "do you know the name of the family?"
"It was Governor Letcher's. Well, what next?"
"Then they went in a great crowd, and broke open another building--a
large house, sir--and took every thing. Among the things they took was
a statue, which they did not break up, but carried away with them."
"Washington's statue!" murmured Mohun; and, turning to me, he
"This is curious, is it not, Surry?"
I confess I believed that the strange woman was trifling with us, and
had simply made up this story after the event. Mohun saw my
incredulity, and said, in a low tone:--
"You do not believe in this?"
"No," I returned, in the same tone.
"And yet one thing is remarkable."
"That a lady of the highest character assured me, the other day, that
all this was related to her before Hunter even entered the Valley."
[Footnote 1: Fact.]
And turning to Amanda, he said:--
"When did you see these things?"
"I think it was in March, sir."
The words were uttered in the simplest manner possible. The strange
woman smiled as sweetly as she spoke, and seemed as far from being
guilty of a deliberate imposture as before.
"And you _saw_ the fight at Reams's, too?"
"Yes, sir; I saw it two months before it took place. There was a man
killed running through the yard of a house, and they told me,
afterward, he was found dead there."
"Have you had any visions, since?"
"Only one, sir."
"What did you see?"
"It was not much, sir. I saw the Federal people on horses, watering
their horses in a large river somewhere west of here, and the vision
said the war would be over about next March."
"Which side will be successful, Amanda?"
"The vision did not say, sir."
[Footnote 1: Colonel Surry assured me that he had scrupulously searched
his memory to recall the exact words of this singular woman: and that
he had given the precise substance of her statements; often, the exact
Mohun, who had taken his seat on a rude settee, leaned his elbow on his
knee, and for some moments gazed into the fire.
"I have asked you some questions, Amanda," he said at length, "relating
to public events. I _now come to some private matters_--those which
brought me hither--in which your singular visions may probably assist
me. Are you willing to help me?"
"Yes, indeed, sir, if I can," was the reply.
DEEP UNDER DEEP.
Mohun fixed his mild, and yet penetrating glance upon the singular
woman, who sustained it, however, with no change in her calm and
"You know Nighthawk?"
"Oh, yes, sir. He has been here often."
"Very well, sir--I have known him many years."
"Have you seen him, lately?"
"No, sir; not for some weeks."
"Ah! You saw him some weeks since?"
"At this house?"
"Do you know what has become of him?"
"No, sir; but I suppose he is off somewhere."
"He is dead!"
Her head rose slightly, but the smile was unchanged.
"You don't tell me, sir!"
"Yes, murdered; perhaps you know his murderer?"
"Who was it, sir?"
"Oh, I know _him_. He has been here, lately. Poor Mr. Swartz! And so
they murdered him! I am sorry for him."
Mohun's glance became more penetrating.
"You say that Colonel Darke has been here lately?"
"What was the occasion of his visit?"
"I don't know, sir; unless it was to hear me tell my visions."
"You never knew him before?"
"Yes, sir," she said at length.
"When, and how?"
"It was many years ago, sir;--I do not like to speak of these things.
He is a terrible man, they say."
"You can speak to me, Amanda. I will repeat nothing; nor will Colonel
The singular woman looked from Mohun to me, evidently hesitating. Then
she seemed suddenly to make up her mind, and said, with her eternal
"I will tell you, then, sir. I can read faces, and I know neither you
nor Colonel Surry will get me into trouble."
"I will not--on my honor."
"Nor I," I said.
"That is enough, gentlemen; and now I will tell you what you wish to
know, General Mohun."
As she spoke she closed her eyes, and seemed for some moments to be
reflecting. Then opening them again, she gazed, with her calm smile, at
Mohun, and said:--
"It was many years ago, sir, when I first saw Colonel Darke, who then
went by another name. I was living in this same house, when late one
evening a light carriage stopped before the door, and a gentleman got
out of it, and came in. He said he was travelling with his wife, who
had been taken sick, and would I give them shelter until morning, when
she would be able to go on? I was a poor woman, sir, as I am now, and
hoped to be paid. I would have given the poor sick lady shelter all the
same, though--and I told him he could come in, and sleep in this room,
and I would go into that closet-like place behind you, sir. Well, he
thanked me, and went back to the carriage, where a lady sat. He took
her in his arms and brought her along to the house, when I saw that she
was a very beautiful young lady, but quite pale. Well, sir, she came in
and sat down in that chair you are now sitting in, and after awhile,
said she was better. The gentleman had gone out and put away his horse,
and when he came back I had supper ready, and every thing comfortable."
"What was the appearance of the lady?" said Mohun, over whose brow a
"She was small and dark, sir; but had the finest eyes I ever saw."
"The same," said Mohun, in a low tone. "Well?"
"They stayed all night, sir. Next morning they paid me,--though it was
little--and went on toward the south."
"They seemed poor?"
"Yes, sir. The lady's dress was cheap and faded--and the gentleman's
"What names did they give?"
"Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer, sir."
Mohun's brow again contracted.
"Well, go on," he said, "or rather, go back, Amanda. You say that they
remained with you until the morning. Did you not hear some of their
conversation--gain some knowledge of whence they came, whither they
were going, and what was the object of their journey?"
The woman hesitated, glancing at Mohun. Then she smiled, and shook her
"You will get me into trouble, sir," she said.
"I will not, upon my honor. You have told me enough to enable me to do
so, however--why not tell me all? You say you slept in that closet
there--so you must have heard them converse. I am entitled to know
all--tell me what they said."
And taking from his purse a piece of gold, Mohun placed it in the hand
extended upon the bed. The hand closed upon it--clutched it. The eye of
the woman glittered, and I saw that she had determined to speak.
"It was not much, sir," she said. "I did listen, and heard many things,
but they would not interest you."
"On the contrary, they will interest me much."
"It was a sort of quarrel I overheard, sir. Mr. Mortimer was blaming
his wife for something, and said she had brought him to misery. She
replied in the same way, and said that it was a strange thing in _him_
to talk to _her_ so, when she had broken every law of God and man, to
"The--?" Mohun repeated, bending forward.
"The murderer of her father, she said, sir," returned Amanda.
Mohun started, and looked with a strange expression at me.
"You understand!" he said, in a low tone, "is the thing credible?"
"Let us hear more," I said, gloomy in spite of myself.
"Go on," Mohun said, turning more calmly toward the woman; "that was
the reply of the lady, then--that she had broken all the laws of God
and man by marrying the murderer of her father. Did she utter the name
of her father?"
"What was it?"
"A Mr. George Conway," replied Amanda, who seemed to feel that she had
gone too far to conceal any thing.
"And the reason for this marriage?" said Mohun, in a low tone; "did she
explain, or say any thing which explained to you, how such a union had
ever taken place?"
"Yes, sir. They said so many things to each other, that I came to know
all. The young lady was a daughter of a Mr. George Conway, and when she
was a girl, had fallen in love with some worthless young man, who had
persuaded her to elope with him and get married. He soon deserted her,
when she fell in with this Mr. Mortimer and married him."
"Did she know that he was her father's murderer?"
"No, sir--not until after their marriage, I gathered."
"Then," said Mohun, who had suppressed all indications of emotion, and
was listening coolly; "then it seems to me that she was wrong in taking
shame to herself--or claiming credit--for the marriage."
"Yes, sir," returned Amanda, "and he told her as much."
"So they had something like a quarrel?"
"Not exactly a quarrel, sir. He seemed to love her with all his
heart--more than she loved him. They went on talking, and laying plans
to make money in some way. I remember he said to her, 'You are sick,
and need every luxury--I would rather die than see you deprived of
them--I would cheat or rob to supply you every thing--and we must think
of some means, honest or dishonest, to get the money we want. I do not
care for myself, but you are all that I have left in the world.' That
is what he said, sir."
And Amanda was silent.
"Then they fell asleep?" asked Mohun.
"Yes, sir; and on the next morning he took her in his arms again, and
carried her to the carriage, and they left me."
Mohun leaned his chin upon his hand, knit his brows, and reflected. The
singular narrative plunged me too into a reverie. This man, Darke, was
a veritable gulf of mystery--his life full of hidden and inexplicable
things. The son of General Davenant, he had murdered his father's foe;
permitted that father to be tried for the crime, and to remain under
suspicion; disappeared, changed his name, encountered the daughter of
his victim, married her, had those mysterious dealings with Mohun,
disappeared a second time, changed his name a second time, and now had
once more made his appearance near the scene of his first crime, to
murder Swartz, capture his father and brother, and complete his tragic
record by fighting under the enemy's flag against his country and his
There was something diabolical in that career; in this man's life "deep
under deep" met the eye. And yet he was not entirely bad. On that night
in Pennsylvania, he had refused to strike Mohun at a disadvantage--and
had borne off the gray woman at the peril of death or capture. He had
released his captured father and brother, bowing his head before them.
He had confessed the murder of George Conway, over his own signature,
to save this father. The woman who was his accomplice, he seemed to
love more than his own life. Such were the extraordinary contrasts in a
character, which, at first sight, seemed entirely devilish; and I
reflected with absorbing interest upon the singular phenomenon.
I was aroused by the voice of Mohun. He had never appeared more calm:
in his deep tones I could discern no emotion whatever.
"That is a singular story," he said, "and your friend, Colonel Darke,
is a curious personage. But let us come back to events more recent--to
the visits of Swartz."
"Yes, sir," said Amanda, smiling.
"But, first, let me ask--did Colonel Darke recognize you?"
"You mean _know_ me? Oh, yes, sir."
"And did he speak of his former visit--with his wife?"
"I made out I didn't remember him, sir; I was afraid he would think I
had overheard that talk with his wife."
"So he simply called as if to see you as a curiosity?"
"Yes, sir--and staid only a few minutes."
"But you know or rather knew poor Swartz better?"
"I knew him well, sir."
"He often stopped here?"
Mohun looked at the woman keenly, and said:--
"I wish you, now, to answer plainly the question which I am about to
ask. I come hither as a friend--I am sent by your friend Mr. Nighthawk.
Listen and answer honestly--Do you know any thing of a paper which
Swartz had in his possession--an important paper which he was guarding
from Colonel Darke?"
"I do not, sir," said Amanda, with her eternal smile.
"For that paper I will pay a thousand dollars in gold. Where is it?"
The woman's eyes glittered, then she shook her head.
"On my salvation I do not know, sir."
"Can you discover?"
Again the shake of the head.
"How can I, sir?"
Mohun's head sank. A bitter sigh issued from his lips--almost a groan.
"Listen!" he said, almost fiercely, but with a singular smile, "you
have visions--you see things! I do not believe in your visions--they
seem folly--but only _see_ where that paper is to be discovered, and I
will believe! nay more, I will pay you the sum which I mentioned this
I looked at the woman to witness the result of this decisive test of
her sincerity. "If she believes in her own visions, she will be
elated," I said, "if she is an impostor, she will be cast down."
She smiled radiantly!
"I will try, sir!" she said.
Mohun gazed at her strangely.
"When shall I come to hear the result?"
"In ten days from this time, sir."
"In ten days? So be it."
And rising, Mohun bade the singular personage farewell, and went toward
I followed, and we rode back, rapidly, in dead silence, toward the
HOW THE MOMENT AT LAST CAME.
Mohun rode on for more than a mile at full gallop, without uttering a
word. Then he turned his head, and said, with a sigh:--
"Well, what do you think of your new acquaintance, Surry?"
"I think she is an impostor."
"As to her visions, you mean?"
"Yes. Her story of Darke I believe to be true."
"And I know it," returned Mohun. "A strange discovery, is it not? I
went there to-day, without dreaming of this. Nighthawk informed me that
Swartz had often been at the house of this woman--that the paper which
I wish to secure might have been left with her for safe keeping--and
thus I determined to go and ferret out the matter, in a personal
interview. I have done so, pretty thoroughly, and it seems plain that
she knows nothing of its present whereabouts. Will she discover through
her visions--her spies--or her strange penetration, exhibited in the
recognition of our persons? I know not; and so that matter ends. I have
failed, and yet have learned some singular facts. Can you believe that
strange story of Darke? Is he not a weird personage? This narrative we
have just heard puts the finishing touch to his picture--the murderer
marries the daughter of his victim!"
"It is truly an extraordinary history altogether," I said, "and the
whole life of this man is now known to me, with a single exception."
"Ah! you mean--?"
"The period when you fought with him, and ran him through the body, and
threw him into that grave, from which Swartz afterward rescued him on
the morning of the 13th December, 1856."
Mohun looked at me with that clear and penetrating glance which
"Ah! you know that!" he said.
"I could not fail to know it, Mohun."
"True--and to think that all this time you have, perhaps, regarded me
as a criminal, Surry! But I am one--that is I was--in intent if not in
reality. Yes, my dear friend," Mohun added, with a deep sigh, his head
sinking upon his breast, "there was a day in my life when I was insane,
a simple madman,--and on that day I attempted to commit murder, and
suicide! You have strangely come to catch many glimpses of those past
horrors. On the Rappahannock the words of that woman must have startled
you. In the Wilderness my colloquy with the spy revealed more. Lastly,
the words of Darke on the night of Swartz's murder must have terribly
complicated me in this issue of horrors. I knew that you must know
much, and I did not shrink before you, Surry! Do you know why? Because
I have repented, friend! and thank God! my evil passions did not
result, as I intended, in murder and self-destruction!"
Mohun passed his hand across his forehead, to wipe away the drops of
"All this is gloomy and tragic," he said; "and yet I must inflict it on
you, Surry. Even more, I earnestly long to tell you the whole story of
which you have caught these glimpses. Will you listen? It will not be
long. I wish to show you, my dear friend--you are that to me,
Surry!--that I am not unworthy of your regard; that there are no
degrading scenes, at least, in my past life; that I have not cheated,
tricked, deceived--even if I have attempted to destroy myself and
others! Will you listen?"
"I have been waiting long to do so, Mohun," I said. "Speak, but first
hear me. There is a man in this army who is the soul of honor. Since my
father's death I value his good opinion more than that of all
others--it is Robert E. Lee. Well, come with me if you choose, and I
will go to Lee with you, and place my hand upon your shoulder, and say:
'General, this is my friend! I vouch for him; I am proud of his regard.
Think well of him, or badly of me too!' Are you satisfied?"
Mohun smiled sadly.
"I knew all that," he said. "Do you think I can not read men, Surry?
Long since I gave you in my heart the name of _friend_, and I knew that
you had done as much toward me. Come, then! Go to my camp with me; in
the evening we will take a ride. I am going to conduct you to a spot
where we can talk without interruption, the exact place where the
crimes of which I shall speak were committed."
And resuming the gallop, Mohun led the way, amid the trailing festoons,
through the fallen logs, across the Rowanty.
Half an hour afterward we had reached his camp.
As the sun began to decline we again mounted our horses.
Pushing on rapidly we reached a large house on a hill above the
Nottoway, and entered the tall gateway at the moment when the great
windows were all ablaze in the sunset.
Mohun spurred up the hill; reined in his horse in front of the great
portico, and, dismounting, fastened his bridle to the bough of a
magnificent exotic, one of a hundred which were scattered over the
I imitated him, and we entered the house together, through the door,
which gave way at the first push. No one had come to take our horses.
No one opposed our entrance. The house was evidently deserted.
I looked round in astonishment and admiration. In every thing
appertaining to the mansion were the indications of almost unlimited
wealth, directed by the severest and most elegant taste. The broken
furniture was heavy and elaborately carved; the remnants of carpet of
sumptuous velvet; the walls, ceiling, doorways, and deep windows were
one mass of the richest chiselling and most elaborate fresco-painting.
On the walls still hung some faded portraits in the most costly frames.
On the mantel-pieces of variegated marble, supported by fluted pillars,
with exquisitely carved capitals, rested a full length picture of a
gentleman, the heavy gilt frame tarnished and crumbling.
The house was desolate, deserted, inexpressibly saddening from the
evident contrast between its present and its past. But about the grand
mansion hung an august air of departed splendor which to me, was more
striking than if I had visited it in the days of its glory.
"Let me introduce 'Fonthill' to you, or rather the remains of it,
Surry," Mohun said, with a sad smile. "It is not pleasant to bring a
friend to so deserted a place; but I have long been absent; the house
is gone to decay like other things in old Virginia. Still we can
probably find two chairs. I will kindle a blaze, and we can light a
cigar and talk without interruption."
With these words, Mohun proceeded to the adjoining apartment, from
which he returned a moment afterward, dragging two chairs with
elaborately carved backs.
"See," he said, with a smile, "they were handsome once. That one with
the ragged remnants of red velvet was my father's. Take a seat, my dear
Surry. I will sit in the other--it was my mother's."
Returning to the adjoining room, Mohun again reappeared, this time
bearing in his arms the broken remnants of a mahogany table, which he
heaped up in the great fireplace.
"This is all that remains of our old family dining-table," he said.
"Some Yankee or straggling soldier will probably use it for this
purpose--so I anticipate them!"
And, placing combustibles beneath the pile, Mohun had recourse to the
metallic match case which he always carried with him in order to read
dispatches, lit the fuel, and a blaze sprung up.
Next, he produced his cigar case, offered me an excellent Havana, which
I accepted, and a minute afterward we were leaning back in the great
"An odd welcome, this," said Mohun, with his sad smile; "broken chairs,
old pictures, and a fire made of ruined furniture! But one thing we
have--an uninterrupted opportunity to converse. Let us talk, therefore,
or rather, I will at once tell you what I promised."
"LORD OF HIMSELF, THAT HERITAGE OF WOE."
Mohun leaned back in his chair, reflected for a moment with evident
sadness, and then, with a deep sigh, said:--
"I am about to relate to you, my dear Surry, a history so singular,
that it is probable you will think I am indulging my fancy, in certain
portions of it. That would be an injustice. It is a true life I am
about to lay before you--and I need not add that actual occurrences are
often more surprising than any due to the imagination of the romance
writer. I once knew a celebrated novelist, and one day related to him
the curious history of a family in Virginia. 'Make a romance of that,'
I said, 'it is an actual history.' But my friend shook his head. 'It
will not answer my purpose,' he replied, smiling, 'it is too strange,
and the critics would call me a "sensation writer"--that is, ruin me!'
And he was right, Surry. It is only to a friend, on some occasion like
the present, that I could tell my own story. It is too singular to be
"But I am prosing. Let me proceed. My family is an old one, they tell
me, in this part of Virginia; and my father, whose portrait you see
before you, on the mantel-piece, was what is called an 'aristocrat.'
That is to say, he was a gentleman of refined tastes and habits; fond
of books; a great admirer of fine paintings; and a gentleman of social
habits and feelings. 'Fonthill'--this old house--had been, for many
generations, the scene of a profuse hospitality; my father kept up the
ancient rites, entertaining all comers; and when I grew to boyhood I
unconsciously imbibed the feelings, and clung to the traditions of the
family. These traditions may be summed up in the maxims which my father
taught me--'Use hospitality; be courteous to high and low alike; assist
the poor; succor the unhappy; give bountifully without grudging; and
enjoy the goods heaven provides you, with a clear conscience, whether
you are called an aristocrat or a democrat!' Such were my father's
teachings; and he practised them, for he had the kindest and sweetest
heart in the world. He was aided in all by my mother, a perfect saint
upon earth; and if I have since that time given way to rude passions,
it was not for wanting a good example in the blameless lives of this
true gentleman and pure gentlewoman.
"Unhappily, I did not have their example long. When I was seventeen my
mother died; and my father, as though unable to live without her who
had so long been his blessing, followed her a year afterward, leaving
me the sole heir of the great possessions of the family. For a time
grief crushed me. I was alone--for I had neither brother nor sister--a
solitary youth in this great lonely house, standing isolated amid its
twenty thousand acres--and even the guardian who had been appointed to