Part 5 out of 10
"Wher' have you ben that you hain't seed it?" he asked.
"Off on duty," said I.
"No wonder you hain't seed it, then; an' you mought ha' stayed with your
comp'ny an' not ha' seed it _then_; you hain't seed it becaze it ain't
for to be saw. They're put it away back yander."
"How many guns?"
"Some says six an' some says four; I didn't see 'em, myself."
"I don't understand why you didn't see the guns, if you were guarding
the battery; and I don't see why the battery couldn't do its own
"We wa'n't a-guyardin' no battery; we was a-guyardin' a house down _by_
"Oh, I see; protecting some citizen's property."
"That's so; pertectin' property an' gittin' hongry."
"That's Captain Brown's battery, is it not?"
"No, sirree! Hit's Latham's battery, though some does call it Branch's
battery; but I don't see why. Jest as well call Hardeman's regiment
"Which regiment is Hardeman's?"
"Our'n; it's with Branch's brigade now, but it ain't Branch's regiment,
by a long shot."
"I hear that more troops are expected here," said I, at a venture.
"Yes, and I know they're a-comin'; some of 'em is at the Junction
now--comin' from Fredericksburg. I heerd Cap'n Simmons say so
"We'll have a big crowd then," said I.
"What regiment is your'n?"
"'Eventh," said I, without remorse cancelling the difference between the
Eleventh Massachusetts and the Seventh North Carolina.
The man moved about the fire, attending to his cooking. The talk almost
ceased. I pulled an envelope from my pocket and began tearing it into
little bits, which I threw into the fire one by one, pretending mere
The envelope had borne the address:--
CAPTAIN GEORGE B. JOHNSTON,
_Co. G, 28th N.C. Reg't,
Hanover C.H., Va_.
I took out another envelope. It was addressed to Lieut. E.G. Morrow, of
the same company--Company G of the Twenty-eighth. A third bore the
CAPTAIN S.N. STOWE,
_Co. B, 7th N.C. Reg't,_
More envelopes went into the fire. They bore the names of privates,
corporals, and sergeants; some were of the Eighteenth, others of the
Thirty-seventh North Carolina Volunteers. One envelope had no address.
Another gave me the name of Col. James H. Lane, but no regiment.
"Time your friend was getting back," said I.
"Seems to me so, too," said he; "but I reckin he found a crowd ahead of
"How many men in your regiment?" I asked.
"Dunno; there was more'n a thousand at first; not more'n seven or eight
hundred, I reckin; how many in your'n?"
"About the same," I replied; "how many in your company?"
"Eighty-two," he said.
The other man returned from the spring.
"Know what I heerd?" he asked.
"No; what was it?" inquired his companion.
"I heard down thar at the branch that the Twelf' No'th Ca'lina was here
"Well, maybe it is."
"I got it mighty straight."
"How did you hear it?" I asked.
"A man told me that one of Branch's couriers told him so; he had jest
come from 'em; said they is camped not more'n two mile from here"
"Only the Twelfth? No other regiment?" I asked.
"Didn't hear of no other," he replied,
"I wonder what we are here for?" I ventured to say.
"Plain case," said he; "guyard the railroad."
My knowledge of the situation had vastly increased. Here was Branch's
command, consisting of my North Carolina regiments and one from Georgia,
and Latham's battery; another regiment was supposed to be near by. What
more need I know? I must learn the strength of the force; I must get
corroboration. The man with whom I had talked might be wrong on some
point. I considered my friend's opinion correct concerning Branch's
purpose. The Confederate force was put here to protect the railroad.
From the envelopes I had learned that Branch's brigade had recently been
at Gordonsville; it was clear that it had left Gordonsville in order to
place itself between Anderson's force at Fredericksburg and Johnston's
army at Richmond, and thus preserve communications. Branch had been
reenforced by the Forty-fifth Georgia on the preceding day, and
seemingly on this day by the Twelfth North Carolina. I supposed that
General Morell could easily get knowledge from army headquarters of the
last positions occupied by these two regiments, and I did not trouble
myself to ask questions on this point. All I wanted now was
corroboration and knowledge of numbers.
The men had eaten their supper. I left them, giving but slight formality
to my manner of departure. I had made up my mind to seek the path to the
spring. From such a body, thirsty men would be going for water all night
long, especially as there seemed little of it near by. By getting near
the spring I should also be able, perhaps, to determine the position of
the wagons; I had decided to attempt going out of these lines in the
manner of my entering them, if I could but find a wagon going
It took some little time to find the spring, which was not a spring
after all, but merely a pool in a small brook. I hid myself by the side
of the path and waited; soon I heard the rattling of empty canteens and
the footsteps of a man; I started to meet him.
"Say, Mister, do you know whar that spring is?"
"I know where the water is," said I; "it's a branch."
"Gosh! Branch's brigade ort to have a branch."
"You must have come in a hurry," said I; "you are blowing."
"Blowin'? Yes; blowed if I didn't come in a hurry, and blowed if I did;
you've hit it!"
"What regiment do you belong to?"
"Is that Colonel Lane's?"
"No; Lane's is the Twenty-eight. Colonel Lee is our colonel."
"Oh, yes; I got Lee and Lane mixed."
"What regiment is your'n?"
"That's Campbell's," said he.
"You know the brigade mighty well. Here's your water," said I, sitting
down while the man should fill his canteens.
"Know 'em all except these new ones," said he.
"That's the Forty-fifth Georgia," said I; "but I hear that more are
coming. I heard that the Twelfth North Carolina is near by, and is
"Yes; an' it's a fact," said he.
"Your regiment is bigger than ours, I believe," said I.
"Well, I dunno about that; how many men in your'n?"
"About seven or eight hundred, I reckon."
"Not much difference, then; but, I tell you what, that old Twenty-eighth
is a whopper--a thousand men."
I said nothing; I could hear the gurgling of the water as it ran down
the neck of the canteen. The man chuckled, "Branch's brigade ort to have
a branch; blowed if it ortn't." He was pleased with himself for
discovering something like a pun or two.
For two reasons it was policy for me to go back, or start back, with
this man; first, I wanted him to talk more; second, if I should linger
at the water, he might think my conduct strange.
Going up the hill, he asked me to take the lead. I did so, venturing the
remark that these two new regiments made Branch's brigade a very
"Yes," said he; "but I reckon they won't stay with us forever."
"Wonder where they came from," said I.
"Too hard for _me_," he replied; "especially the Twelfth; the
Forty-fifth was at Goldsborough, but not in our brigade."
We reached the street of the Seventh. I stepped aside. "I stop here,"
"Well," said he, "I'm much obleeged to you for showin' me that
branch--that branch that belongs to Branch's brigade," and he went
And now I tried to take some rest. I thought it more prudent to stay at
one of the camp-fires, fearing that if I concealed myself I should be
stumbled upon and suspected, so I went up to one of the fires of the
Twenty-eighth, wrapped my gum-blanket around me and lay down. But I
found it impossible to sleep. The newness of the experience and the
danger of the situation drove sleep as far from me as the east is from
the west. I believe that in romances it is the proper thing to say that
a man in trying situations sleeps the sleep of the infant; but this is
not romance. I could not sleep.
Some time before day a man lying near my fire stretched himself and sat
up. I watched him from the corner of my eye. I wanted no conversation
with him; I was afraid he might question me too closely, and that my
replies would not prove satisfactory to him. I kept quiet; I knew
enough--too much to risk losing.
Suddenly he looked toward me. I was afraid that he had become aware of a
foreign element thrown into his environment. My fears were confirmed. He
opened his mouth and said, "Who--in--the--hell--that--is." The utterance
was an assertion rather than an inquiry. I made no response. He
continued to look at me--shook his head--nodded it--then fell back and
went to sleep.
To make sure that he was fast, I waited awhile; then I rose and made my
way back to a spot near the wagon train, far in the rear. It must have
been after three o'clock. The teamsters had finished feeding their
mules. Soon two of them began to hitch up their teams; then, with much
shouting and rattling of harness, they moved off. I stole along beside
the second wagon for some distance, and had almost decided to climb into
it from behind when I thought that possibly some one was in it. There
seemed little danger in going out behind the wagons, especially as there
was no light of day as yet, although I expected that the cavalry pickets
on the road would be looking straight at me, if I should pass them, and
although, too, I fully understood that these wagons would be escorted by
cavalry when on any dangerous part of the road to Richmond. But my plan
was to abandon the wagon before we should see any cavalry.
When my wagon had reached the thickest of the woods, and about the spot,
as nearly as I could judge, where I had joined the other wagons on the
preceding night, I quietly slipped into the bushes on the left of
The light was sufficient for me to distinguish large objects at twenty
paces, but the woods were dense, and I knew that caution must be more
than ever my guide; now that I had information of great value, it would
not do to risk capture.
For some time I crept through the woods on my hands and knees, intently
listening for the least sound which might convince me whether I was on
the right track. A feverish fear possessed me that I was yet in rear of
the Confederate pickets. The east was now clearly defined, so that my
course was easy to choose--a northeasterly course, which I knew was very
nearly the exact direction to the spot where I had left Jones.
At every yard of progress my fear subsided in proportion; every yard was
increasing my distance from Branch's encampment, and rendering
probability greater in my favour; I surely must be already in front of
any possible picket-line.
The light increased, and the woods became less dense After going a
hundred yards, I ceased to crawl. From behind one large tree I examined
the ground ahead, and darted quickly to another. Soon I saw before me a
fallen tree, and wondered if it might not conceal some vedette. Yet, if
it did, the sentinel should be on my side of the tree. I stood for a few
moments, intently searching it with my eyes. It was not more than
fifteen yards from me, and directly in my course. At last, seeing
nothing, I sprang quickly and was just about to lie down behind it, when
a man rose from its other side. I did not lie down. He looked at me; I
looked at him. He was unarmed. We were about eight feet apart. He began
to recoil. There was light sufficient to enable me to tell from his
dress that he was a rebel. Of course he would think me a Confederate. I
stepped over the log.
"What are you doing here, sir?" I demanded, in a stern voice; "why are
you not with your regiment?"
He said nothing to this. He was abashed. His eyes sought the ground.
"Why don't you answer me, sir?" I asked.
He replied timidly, "I am not doing any harm."
"What do you mean by being here at all?"
"I got lost in the woods last night," he said, "and went to sleep here,
waiting for day."
"Then get back to your company at once," said I; "what is your
"The Seventh," he replied.
"And your brigade?"
He looked up wonderingly at this, and I feared that I had made an
unnecessary mistake through over-carefulness in trying to secure another
corroboration of what I already knew well enough. I thought I could
perceive his idea, and I added in an instant: "Don't you know that
troops have come up in the night? What brigade is yours?"
"Branch's," he said.
"Then you will find your camp just in this direction," said I, pointing
to the rear and left. He slunk away, seemingly well pleased to be quit
at so cheap a cost.
Fearing that our voices had been heard by the pickets, I plunged through
the bushes directly toward the east, and ran for a minute without
pausing. Again the cold sweat was dropping from my face; again I had
felt the mysterious mental agony attendant upon a too violent transition
of personality. Perhaps it was this peculiar condition which pressed me
to prolonged and unguarded energy. I went through thicket and brier
patch, over logs and gullies, and when I paused I knew not where I was.
After some reflection I judged that I had pursued an easterly direction
so far that Jones was now not to the northeast, but more to the north; I
changed my course then, bending toward the north, and before sunrise
reached the creek which, on the preceding night, I had crossed after
leaving Jones. I did not know whether he was above me or below, so I
crossed the stream at the place where I struck it, and went straight
away from it through the swamp.
After going a long distance I began to fear that I was missing my
course, and I did not know which way to turn. I whistled; there was
No opening could be seen in any direction through the swamp. My present
course had led me wrong; it would not do at all to go on; I should get
farther and farther away from Jones. If I should assume any direction as
the right one, I should be likely to have guessed wrong. I spent an hour
working my way laboriously through the swamp, making wide and wider
sweeps to reach some opening or some tree on higher ground. At last I
saw open ground on my left. I went rapidly to it, and found a field,
with a fence separating it from the woods,--the fence running east and
west,--and saw, several hundred yards toward the west, the corner of the
field at which I had stationed Jones.
At once I began to go rapidly down the hill toward the place. As I came
near, I saw both horses prick their ears. Jones was sitting on the
ground, with his gun in his lap, alert toward the west; I was in his
rear. Suddenly he, too, saw the movement of the horses; he sprang
quickly to a tree, from behind which I could now see the muzzle of his
gun ten paces off. I whistled. The gun dropped, and Jones advanced,
"I came in an ace of it," he said, in a loud whisper; "why didn't you
"To tell you the truth, I did not think of it in time, Jones; I am glad
to see you so watchful."
"I should never have recognized you in that plight," said he; "what have
you done with your other clothes?"
"Had to throw them away."
"Well! I certainly had no notion of seeing you come back as you are--and
from that direction."
This was the first time I had seen myself as a Confederate standing with
a Union soldier. In the night, mixed with the rebels, I had felt no
visible contrast with them. Since I had left the wagon I had had no time
for thought of personal appearance. Now I looked at myself. My hands
were scratched with briers; my hat was torn; a great hole was over one
knee, which I had used most in crawling. I was muddy to my knees, having
been more rapid than cautious in crossing the creek. For more than
twenty-four hours my mind had been on too great a strain to think of the
body. By the side of me, Jones looked like a glittering general
questioning an uncouth rebel prisoner. He smiled, but I did not.
"Now, let us mount and ride," said I; "we can eat as we go. The horses
have had an all night's rest, and I can notify you that I need one, but
it won't do to stay here. I know all that we need to know."
* * * * *
We decided that we should return to Old Church by the route which we had
followed in coming. As we rode, I described to Jones the position and
force of the enemy, so that, if I should be taken and he left, he could
report to General Morell. We avoided the fields and roads, and stuck to
the woods, keeping a sharp lookout ahead, but going rapidly. At the
first water which we saw I took time to give my head a good souse.
Near the middle of the forenoon we came out upon the hills above Crump's
Creek, and were about to descend when we heard a noise at our left,
seemingly the galloping of horses. We dismounted, and I crept toward the
road until I could see part of it winding over the hill. About
twenty-five or thirty rebel cavalry--to be exact, they numbered just
twenty-seven, as I counted--were on the road, going at a gallop up the
hill, and apparently excited--running from danger, I thought. They
disappeared over the hill. I thought it quite likely that some of our
cavalry were advancing on the road, and that it would be well for me to
wait where I was; if I should go back and call Jones to come, our men
might pass while I was gone.
In a short time I saw in the road, going westward at a slow walk,
another body of cavalry. These men, to my astonishment, were armed with
lances. My surprise gave way to pleasure, for I remembered much talk in
the army concerning a Pennsylvania regiment of lancers.
As I could see, also, that the men were in Federal uniform, I boldly
left my place of concealment and walked out into the road. The cavalry
halted. The captain, or officer in command, whom I shall here call
Captain Lewis, although that was not his name, rode out a little to the
front of his men, and said, "So you have given it up?"
"No, sir," said I; "to the contrary, I have made a success of it."
"Well, we shall see about that," he exclaimed; "here! get up behind one
of my men. We want you."
For me to go with the cavalry and show them the plain road before their
eyes, was ridiculous. As I hesitated, the captain cried out, "Here,
Sergeant, take two men and carry this man to the rear!"
"Captain, please don't be so fast," said I; "one of my comrades is near
by with our horses--" I was going to say more, but he interrupted me,
crying, "We intend to pay our respects to all your comrades. No more
from you, sir!"
As I showed no willingness to mount behind a man, the sergeant and
detail marched me down the road. I endeavoured to talk to the sergeant,
but he refused to hear me.
This affair had puzzled me, and it continued to puzzle me for a short
while, but I soon saw what it meant, and saw why I had not understood
from the first. My mind had been so fixed upon my direct duty that I had
not once thought of my pretended character. For his part, the captain
had supposed that I was a Confederate deserter coming into the Union
lines. This was now simple enough, but why, under such circumstances, he
had not questioned me in regard to what was in his front, I could not at
all understand. I tried again to speak, but was commanded to be silent.
This was a ludicrous experience, though unpleasant. My only serious
consideration was in regard to Jones. I feared that he would wait for me
indefinitely, and would be captured. Although such a result could bring
no blame to me, yet I was very anxious about him. Concerning myself, I
knew that I could suffer restraint but a very short time; just so soon
as I could get speech with any officer willing to listen, I should be
The sergeant and his two men marched me back nearly to Hawes's shop,
some two miles beyond Crump's Creek, where I was brought before Colonel
Tyler, who was in command of two or three infantry regiments which had
advanced from Old Church on that morning.
Colonel Tyler was the centre of a group of officers; the regiments were
under arms. The sergeant in charge of me reported that I was a
Confederate deserter, whom the Pennsylvania cavalry had found in the
woods beyond Crump's Creek. Colonel Tyler nodded, and began to
"When did you leave your regiment?"
"On the 22d, Colonel," I replied.
"That is a long time to lie out in the woods," said he; "now be sure
that your memory is right. What day of the month is this?"
"The 24th, I think, sir."
"And it has taken you two days to come a few miles?"
"From what place, Colonel?"
"Why, from Hanover."
"No, sir; it has taken me but a few hours."
"What is your regiment?"
"The Eleventh Massachusetts, Colonel."
The colonel smiled. Then he looked angry. Then he composed his
"Have you any idea what is the matter with this man, Sergeant?"
The sergeant shook his head. "I don't know anything about it, Colonel. I
only know that we took the man as I have said. He tried to talk to
Captain Lewis, but the captain thought it best to send him back
"You insist on belonging to the--what regiment did you say?"
"The Eleventh Massachusetts, sir," said I, unable to restrain a smile.
"Then what are you doing here?"
"I was brought here much against my will, Colonel."
"But what were you doing when you were captured?"
"I have not been captured, Colonel; when I came to meet the lancers, I
was returning from a scout."
"What brigade do you belong to?"
"Where is your regiment now?"
"Near Bottom's Bridge, Colonel," I said; then added, "it was there on
the 21st; where it is now I cannot say."
The colonel saw that I was a very remarkable Confederate deserter; he
was beginning to believe my story; his tone altered.
"But why are you in Confederate uniform?"
"Colonel," said I, "I have been sent out by order, and I was just
returning when our cavalry met me. I tried to explain, but they would
not listen to me. The officer threatened me and would not let me speak."
The colonel looked puzzled. "Have you anything to prove that you are a
"No, sir," said I, "not a thing. It would be dangerous for me to carry
anything of that kind, sir. All I ask is to be sent to General Morell."
"Where is General Morell?"
"On the reserve line near New Bridge."
"Why send you to General Morell?"
"Because I must make my report to him."
"Did he send you out?"
"How is it that you are attached to General Grover and also to General
"Well, Colonel, that is something I do not like to talk about, but it is
perfectly straight. If you will send me under guard to General Morell,
the whole matter will be cleared up to your satisfaction. I beg you to
do so at once. I know that General Morell will consider my report
important, and will be disappointed if it should be delayed, sir."
"Not yet," said he; "but I will send him a description of your person. I
shall want you here in case General Morell does not claim you and
justify your claims."
"But if General Morell does not justify me, I am a rebel, and what would
you do with me?"
"If you are a rebel, you are a deserter or a spy, and you say you are
not a deserter; if you are either, General Morell does not need you."
"Colonel," said I, "would not a rebel spy be an idiot to come
voluntarily into the Union lines dressed as I am dressed?"
"One cannot be too careful," said he. "You claim to be a Union man, but
you cannot prove it."
"Then, Colonel, since you refuse to send me back to General Morell, I
beg that you at once send back for my companion."
"His name is Jones. He was chosen by General Morell to accompany me. He
is near the spot where I met the lancers. He has both of our horses, and
I fear he will wait too long for me, and be captured."
"By the lancers?"
"No, sir, by the rebels. He has on his own Federal uniform."
"But why did you not tell me this before?"
"Because I wanted you first to consent to send me to General Morell; you
refuse, and I now tell you about Jones. He can justify me to you; but
time is lost in getting to General Morell, sir."
Colonel Tyler wrote something and handed it to the sergeant, who at once
went off, accompanied by his two men.
"What force of the enemy is in our front?" asked the colonel.
"My report is to be made to General Morell, Colonel."
"But if I order you to report to me?"
"Do you recognize me as a Union soldier, Colonel?"
"What has that got to do with it?"
"You would hardly have the right to command a rebel spy to betray his
cause," said I.
"But you may be a rebel deserter," said he, smiling.
"If I were a rebel deserter, why should I not claim to be one, after
having reached safety?"
"But you may have intended to go home, or you may have been lost, and
if so you are properly a prisoner of war."
"How should a lost rebel know what I know about the composition of the
"I know your case seems pretty strong; but why not give me the benefit
of your knowledge? Some of my men are now almost in the presence of
"General Morell advised me to report only to him, unless our advanced
troops should be in any danger."
"Then I tell you that we are in danger. We contemplate attacking a small
force, but we don't want to run our heads into a hornet's nest."
"Well, Colonel, since you put it so, I will answer you."
"What force is in our front?"
"There are six or seven regiments of infantry and a battery. There are
cavalry, also; several hundred, I presume."
"And where are they?"
"The whole force of which you speak."
"They were at Hanover Court-House all last night, and until day this
morning, I cannot say that they have not moved since."
"Do you know who commands them?"
"Who is it?"
"Did you see him?"
"How then do you know that he is in command?"
"I see that I misunderstood your question, Colonel. I do not know that
General Branch is present with his brigade, but I do know that the
troops at Hanover compose Branch's brigade."
"How did you learn it? A man told you?"
"Three different men, of different regiments, told me."
"Well, that ought to be accepted," said he.
I was allowed to remain at my ease near the circle of officers. It was
easy to see that Colonel Tyler was almost convinced that I was telling
In about an hour the sergeant returned without the two men, and
accompanied by Jones, who was leading my horse, and who at once handed
the colonel a paper. I was immediately released, and in little more than
two hours reached the camp of General Morell, and made my report.
* * * * *
General Morell expressed gratification at my quick return with valuable
results. He told me that General Hooker's command had not moved, and
that he would gladly send a statement of my work to General Grover, and
would say that I would be found with Dr. Khayme until actually ordered
back to the left. He then told me to go back to my quarters and rest;
that I must get all the rest I could, and as quickly as possible.
* * * * *
Although the day was quite warm, I put my gum-blanket over me, to shield
my gray clothes from the gaze of the curious. I was soon at Dr. Khayme's
tent. Without thinking, I entered at once, throwing off the hot blanket.
Lydia sprang up from a camp-stool, and raised her hands; in an instant
she sat again, trembling. She was very white.
"I did not know you," she said; "yet I ought to have known you: Father
prepared me; but we did not expect you before to-morrow, at the
earliest." She was still all a-tremble.
"I am sorry that I startled you so; but I was so eager to hide from all
eyes that I did not think of anything else. Where is the Doctor?"
"He had a case to attend to somewhere--I don't know where it is; he said
he should be back to supper."
Lydia was getting ready to leave the tent. "I suppose you have had hard
work," said she, "and I shall leave you, yet I so wish to know what
success you have had."
"Then stay, and I will tell you about it," said I.
"Only tell me whether you succeeded," she said.
"Yes, I succeeded. I went into the rebel camp and remained all night
with a brigade of them. I know all that I was sent to learn."
"Oh, Father will be so glad!" she said; "now I will let you rest till he
comes, although I should like to hear all about it."
"But you will not hinder me by remaining," I exclaimed; "to be plain
with you, I had to throw away my uniform, and you see me with all the
clothes I've got."
She laughed; then, hanging her head a little, she said, "You need rest,
though, and I'll see if I cannot help you while you get some sleep."
When she had gone I lay down and closed my eyes, but sleep would not
come. After a time I heard voices, and then I saw a black hand open the
tent door and lay a package on the ground. I got up, and saw my name on
the package, which proved to contain a new uniform. I dressed and went
out. The Doctor's negro servant was cooking supper. I asked him who gave
him the package he had put into the tent. He said, "Miss Liddy she done
sont me wid a note to de ginnle en' de ginnle he gimme anudda' note en'
dat man he gimme de bunnle."
The Doctor came while the table was being spread. I gave a detailed
account of my work, his little eyes twinkling with interest as I talked,
and Lydia saying not a word.
When I had ended, I said, "And I have to thank Miss Lydia for her
interest in a ragged rebel; she had the forethought, while I was trying
to sleep, to make a requisition in my behalf; see my new
"I'll give her a kiss for showing her good sense," said her father.
Lydia smiled. "You looked so forlorn--or so tattered and torn--that I
pitied you; I wrote a note to General Morell, not knowing what else
"Did he reply?" I asked, thinking wildly, at the time, of the
conclusion of the celebrated romance called "The House that Jack Built."
"Yes," said she; "you may keep the uniform, and I'll keep the note. I am
thinking that I'll become a collector of autographs."
"Why didn't you let that Confederate, whom you found behind the log,
come with you?" asked the Doctor; "do you not think that he was trying
"I thought so, Doctor," said I; "but I feared to be encumbered with him.
Speed was what I wanted just then."
"I suppose you were right," said he; "if he wants to come, he can come."
"I don't think such a man should have been trusted at all," said Lydia;
"if he would betray his own people, why should he not betray us?"
"Let us not condemn him unjustly; possibly he was telling the simple
truth," said the Doctor.
"In that case," said I, "I should have caught a Tartar if I had accepted
"One more thing," said the Doctor; "in talking to Captain Lewis,"--the
Doctor did not say Lewis, but called the officer by his name,--"in
talking to Captain Blank, why did you not raise your voice loud enough
for Jones to hear you? That would have relieved you at once."
"That is true, Doctor; but I did not understand the situation at all.
Yes, if I had known what he was driving at, a call to Jones would have
"I doubt it," said Lydia; "the captain might have thought you were
"That man must be somewhat idiotic," said the Doctor; "in fact, all
those lancers are what we mildly term unfortunates. I suspect that the
captain had begun to realize the impotency of his command in front of
Enfield rifles. I fancy that he was frightened, and that he blustered to
hide his scare."
It was getting late. Lydia retired to her own apartment. The Doctor had
smoked and smoked; his pipe had gone out, and he did not fill it again.
He rose. "You can get sleep now, my boy; you have done a good day's
work, or rather a good night's work sandwiched between two days. General
Morell ought to reward you."
"I do not want any reward," said I.
"You would not like a commission?" he asked.
"I don't know what good it would do me," said I.
"It would do you no harm," he said; "it would be an advantage to you in
many ways. You would fare better; your service might not be really
lighter, but you would command more respect from others. That captain of
the lancers will not think of apologizing to you; but if he knew you as
Lieutenant Berwick, he would be quick to write you a note. If promotion
is offered you,--and it ought to be offered,--you ought not to
"Doctor," said I, "I am not ambitious--at least, in that way."
THE BATTLE OF HANOVER
"The enemy's in view, draw up your powers.
Here is the guess of their true strength and forces
By diligent discovery; but your haste
Is now urged on you."--SHAKESPEARE.
On the night of the 25th I was again sent for by General Morell.
"Berwick," said he, "I trust you are able to do some more hard work.
Have you had a good rest?"
I was unwilling to say that I had not; yet the fact was that I had
suffered greatly, and had not regained condition.
"One good turn deserves another," said he, laughing; "so you must help
me out again; but don't doubt for a moment that your turn will come,
too, some day."
"Well, General," said I, "what's in the wind this time?"
"Sit here," said he, "while I get the map. Your report has been fully
corroborated. General Branch's brigade or division, of some six to ten
regiments and a battery, is at Hanover Court-House, or was there last
night, and is supposed to be there now. A division of this army will
march against Branch. Now I will show you what you must do for us.
Here," pointing on the map to a road running south, along the railroad
from Hanover Court-House, "here you see the road you were on with the
wagons. At this point--a mile and a half or two miles southeast of
Hanover--is the road running down the river--the road you followed after
crossing Crump's Creek. The force which will march against Branch will
be sufficient to crush him, and we must prevent him from escaping in
the direction of Richmond. Therefore, our attack is arranged to fall on
his right. Now don't make a mistake and be thinking of our right--_his_
right--here. If we can get around his right, we can drive him into the
Pamunkey River. If we should attack on his left, we should simply drive
him toward Richmond."
"Yes, sir; I see," said I.
"Now, it is quite possible that he has taken a new position and nearer
Richmond. It is even possible that he has advanced a considerable
distance nearer Richmond; but it is not likely, as he has been put where
he is for the purpose of observing our right and rear until he is
reenforced. On the 23d, we occupied Mechanicsville, and our possession
of that place may have so interfered with or so threatened Branch's
plans that he will make some movement. The truth is, to be frank with
you, he is in a false position, and ought to return to Hanover Junction
at once and unite there with Anderson's force, which has begun its march
from Fredericksburg to Richmond, or else he ought to join Johnston's
army without delay. I am telling you these things because I want you to
understand the situation thoroughly, in order to help you, and because I
think I can trust you."
"Knowing our plans, you will be better able to decide what to do in a
"Now, what we want to know is the true point upon which our attack
should be directed. If we march straight on Hanover Court-House, and
find that the rebels have left that place and have moved further south,
we shall be attacking their left instead of their right, and they can
retreat toward Richmond. In case they have moved south, we must not
march on the Court-House; we must attack their right, wherever that may
be. Now, that is what you must do for us: find out where Branch's right
flank rests before we make the attack."
"Then I must precede your march by no great distance."
"When do you march, General?"
"We march on the 27th, day after to-morrow, at daylight. You will have
to-night and to-morrow and until the middle of the next day."
"I can see one thing, General."
"What is that?"
"When I find the enemy's right, I must hang to it for fear of its moving
after I report."
"Very well; hang to it."
"And I must have help, so that I can send reports to you while I do hang
"As much help as you want."
"Have you another man as good as Jones?"
"There is no better man than Jones; you want only two?"
"I think Jones and another will do, if the other man can be thoroughly
"You can have as many men as you want, as many horses as you want, and
anything else that you want--speak out."
"Why don't you have a company of cavalry to do this work for you,
"A company of cavalry! They wouldn't get within a mile of Branch!"
"Simply because they would be too many," said I; "all I want is Jones
and another man as good as Jones; if no such man can be found, I want
"What would be your plans?"
"I should report by the third man the first information of importance;
then report by Jones when we find Branch's right; hang to it myself, and
report if it moves. You will need to know where Branch's right is at the
moment when you are ready to strike--not where it was an hour before."
"Right," said he; "you shall have Jones the second if he can be found."
"We must not risk a common man, General; better do without such a man.
He might get himself caught and endanger your whole plan."
"I think we can find a good man. Now, before we leave this, I must tell
you that Colonel Warren's brigade will join in the movement. Warren is
now at Old Church; he will march by the road that you were on yesterday,
while we march upon roads at his left. You understand?"
"Then that is all."
"May I say a word, General?"
"I trust Colonel Warren's movement will be delayed. He has a shorter
distance to make. If the rebels get wind of his movement before they
know of yours, they will almost be sure to change position."
"That has been thought of," said he; "and Warren is instructed not to
attack until everything is ready. However, I shall speak to General
Porter again about this."
"Can I see Jones, General?"
"Yes; I can send him to you. When do you start?"
"To-morrow morning, sir."
"At what hour?"
"Can you think of nothing else you need?"
"I should like to have a good field-glass, General."
"Some tobacco--chewing tobacco; I should not trouble you about that, but
I know that Dr. Khayme has none."
"What do you want with the tobacco?" he asked, laughing.
"A man asked me for some, night before last," said I, "and I could not
"And you want to find him and give it to him?" he asked, yet laughing.
"Oh, no, sir; but I thought I might find another occasion for it."
"Well, I'll send it through Jones."
"Let it be common plug tobacco, if you please."
"Just as you wish. Now, here is your glass. It is one of my own, or
rather it was mine; it is yours hereafter."
"Thank you, General; I think it will be of great use. Is there anything
about it to betray me?"
"No; it is English, and has no private mark. You are sure you have
thought of everything?"
"I think so, General; if anything important occurs to my mind before we
start, I'll let you know."
"Be sure to do it."
Jones came about eight o'clock. He told me that he and a man named Frank
were ordered to go with me. Frank, as well as Jones, I learned, was
chosen from the escort of General Porter. I told Jones what we should
need, and he promised to be ready.
In Dr. Khayme's tent there was not much talk that night. Lydia sat
silent and seemingly depressed. The Doctor said that our left wing had
crossed the Chickahominy. Nobody responded. Then he tried to start an
argument about the loss of spiritual power caused by war, but meeting no
encouragement from me, gave it up. The truth is that I needed rest and
sleep. When the Doctor had had his first smoke, Lydia rose and took his
pipe from him. "We must tell Mr. Berwick good night, Father. He has work
to do to-morrow."
The Doctor laughed; but he rose at once, protesting that Lydia was
right. Lydia did not laugh.
Sleep came to me soon, and the next morning I felt greatly refreshed.
While at breakfast, which the Doctor alone joined in with me, Jones and
Frank rode up. I hastened to end the meal, and we soon were off.
* * * * *
I had made up my mind that if possible we should strike across the
Virginia Central, some miles south of Hanover Court-House, and work our
way toward the Confederate right and rear.
We crossed the Totopotomoy Creek near Pole Green Church, far above the
place where Jones and I had crossed it on the 23rd, and then took to the
woods up the creek swamp, the head of which, I had ascertained from the
map, was at the west of the railroad. We were now on neutral ground. The
usual order of our advance was Jones in the lead, I following him at not
more than forty yards, and Frank coming behind me at more than twice
that distance. Jones was directed to halt and ride back every time that
he should see anything suspicious. Only once, however, did he have
occasion to observe this order. It was when we were approaching the
Totopotomoy; we were in a considerable thicket and had closed up in
order to keep each his leader in sight; Jones was ahead of me about
fifteen steps. I saw him suddenly pull up his horse sharp; then he waved
his hand at me and came riding back. At his first motion I had pulled
up. When Jones had reached me, he said, "There is smoke in front."
I beckoned to Frank to come on. We conferred. Jones had heard no noise,
but had seen a thin line of smoke rising through the trees, which, he
said, were larger and less dense just ahead. Jones was directed to
dismount and to approach the smoke until he could learn what caused it.
He returned very soon, and said there was a house in a small field just
before us, and that a wide road ran in front of the house. We made a
detour and passed on.
About six in the afternoon we reached a road running north, the road, as
I supposed, from Richmond to Hanover. We were now about halfway between
Hanover Court-House and the railroad bridge across the Chickahominy, and
still in the Totopotomoy swamp, or that of one of its branches. We
crossed the road, selecting a place where there were two sudden bends,
and looking well both ways before venturing. After crossing, I directed
Jones to take his stand near the lower bend, and Frank to watch the road
from the upper bend, while I threw sand on the tracks our horses had
made in crossing the road. We were now within less than a mile of the
Virginia Central railroad.
I directed Frank to keep watch on the Hanover road, and went with Jones
toward the railroad, and stationed him near it, or rather as far from it
as he could be and yet see it. Then I returned to Frank and took his
place, directing him to find Jones and then occupy a position as nearly
as possible halfway between Jones and me. Frank's duties were to connect
me with Jones and to care for the three horses, which were brought
together in the centre lest they should be heard. We were now in
position to observe any movement by rail or by road between Richmond and
Hanover Court-House, and I decided to remain here for the most of
From my position I could hear trains moving, in my rear, but for half
the night Jones reported nothing. He could understand, of course, that I
could hear the trains. Rain had set in at nightfall.
About an hour after midnight I heard troops marching north up the road.
I crept up nearer, and, although it was dark and raining, I could make
out that they were cavalry--perhaps as many as a company. I concluded
that the rebels were to the north of us, that is to say, that if they
had moved at all, they were yet between us and Hanover Court-House.
After the cavalry had passed, I thought the situation very much more
definite. I went to Frank, and directed him to call in Jones. The three
of us then made north, through the woods, leading our horses. We had a
hard time. The woods were wet, the branches of the trees struck our
faces. There was hardly enough light to see the trunks of the trees. At
last we reached an opening through which I feared to advance.
We could see no light from camp-fires in any direction. The rebels were
yet far to the north, but their cavalry patrols might be anywhere--might
be upon us at any moment.
Giving Frank my bridle, I crept up to the road, and was glad to find
that the woods on the east side of it extended on toward the north. I
returned to my comrades and together we crossed the road and continued
north in the woods on the east side for perhaps half a mile. It was now
nearly day, and still raining. In the wet woods on this dark night there
was little fear of encountering any enemy; their cavalry pickets would
be in the roads.
I believed that Hanover Court-House was less than five miles from us,
and that if Branch's camp had been moved southward, we ought soon to see
the light of his camp-fires.
Again there was an open field, with a descending slope ahead of us. I
directed Jones to mount and follow me, while Frank should halt, with his
horse and mine to guard, at the top of the hill. I went forward on foot,
Jones riding some ten paces in my rear. At the bottom of the hill I
found a small stream. Bidding Jones return to Frank and bring him and
all the horses up to the branch, I went up the next hill, still in the
open. At the top of the hill I found a straggling thicket of small
pines, not more than a hundred feet in width; from the far side of this
thicket I saw more open ground before me. I went back, hoping to find my
comrades at the branch. As I went down the hill I heard them coming down
the opposite slope. They seemed to be making a great noise. One of the
horses struck fire with his shoe against a stone. I was greatly alarmed,
and decided at once to occupy the thicket of pines until daylight.
The horses were tied, and Frank was left to guard them and keep them
from making a noise. Jones was directed to scout to the left as far as
the road, and to return and examine the ground to our right for a few
hundred yards; while he was engaged in this work I went forward nearly
half a mile, going first over open ground, then through a thick but
narrow skirt of woods, and coming out upon a hill from which I could
see through the rain a dim light which I supposed was caused by
camp-fires. A train of cars rumbled at my left, at a considerable
distance--perhaps more than a mile away.
Returning to the horses I found Jones, who reported that the road was
only some two hundred and fifty yards at our left, with woods on the
other side of it, and that on our right there was nothing but a wood
which extended to a swamp.
Frank and Jones were told to snatch what sleep they could; they rolled
themselves in their gum-blankets and lay under a thick pine bush. The
rain was pouring down.
At the first sign of day I woke the men. We silently made our way across
the road, leading the horses; I knew that the rain would soon, wash out
all our tracks. I now believed that Branch had moved southward some
miles, increasing his distance from the Pamunkey.
We took a hasty and disagreeable meal; then we divided our forces again.
Jones was near the railroad, I near the road, and Frank in the centre.
We moved northward, stopping every hundred yards or so, to be certain
that our communications were intact. Jones was so near the railroad that
I began to think the train of cars I had heard running had not been on
the Central, but farther away on the Fredericksburg railroad, which in
this place runs almost parallel with the Central and some miles to the
westward. In the close wet atmosphere the sounds must have come from a
greater distance than I had first thought. This reflection made me
suspect that there were no trains running on the Central railroad,--for
we should have heard them, and Jones would have seen them,--and I
decided to get on the west side of it and endeavour to make my way
toward the rear of the enemy's camp.
It was not yet the hour of sunrise when we got across the railroad. We
still hugged the woods, going north, with the railroad at our right at
distances varying from one hundred to three hundred yards. We ascended a
low hill, from which there might have been a good lookout but for the
rain. I used General Morell's glass, but could not make out anything
Suddenly we heard the beating of drums, seemingly not more than half a
mile to the north of us. I thought that the enemy's pickets must be very
near to us.
Again I dismounted and crept forward alone, bidding both men keep a
close watch in all directions, and be in constant readiness to bring me
my horse at a moment's warning, for I knew the possibility of detection
and pursuit. Descending a low hill, I found at the bottom of it a small
brook flowing northeastward, and changed my course at once to suit the
stream. I went slowly and cautiously on through weeds and bushes,
sometimes wading down the stream itself, the water being already very
muddy from the rains, and at last, while bending to right and left and
up and down seeking vision ahead through the thicket, I saw before me an
infantry vedette a very short distance in front. He was facing south,
and I know from his position, seeing that he was on the west side of the
railroad, that Branch's division or brigade had moved from Hanover
Court-House, or else that here was another body of men who had taken
position on his right.
Retracing my steps as rapidly as possible, I returned to the hill, and
directed Frank to ride with all consistent speed to General Morell or
General Porter, who would no doubt be met advancing on the road, and
report that the enemy had taken such a position that in order to reach
his right flank it would be necessary for the Union troops to cross to
the west side of the Central railroad some miles south of Hanover
Court-House. I directed him to report also my doubt as to whether Branch
had really moved or had been reenforced, and to say that I should
endeavour at once to resolve this doubt, and to report again
Frank rode away on his mission. It was about seven o'clock.
I put on the gray uniform. A lump came into my throat when I saw that
all the rents had been mended, but I had no time to give to sentiment.
My glass was slung over my shoulder beneath the gum-blanket, with which
I had been covered all night as a protection from the rain. I took
nothing else with me except my canteen. I directed Jones to remain where
he was, and if I should not return in one hour, to conclude that I was
entangled with the enemy, and that I could not get away in time; that he
must assume from my absence that the rebel right extended far, because
if it did not I should return to him; in one hour, therefore, he must
start to meet our advancing troops; in that case he was not to encumber
himself with my horse; I might be able to get back to the spot later in
the day. I added that I seriously doubted my ability to get back before
the advance of the Union troops should reach the ground, and impressed
upon Jones the necessity of communicating with General Morell before
dispositions for attack had gone too far. He comprehended the situation,
and promised to follow my instructions.
Again I crept up to the spot from which I had seen the vedette; he was
yet there, still facing south. His line, therefore, stretched across the
branch. I retired a hundred yards or more to a gully which favoured me,
and crept to my left up the hill. At the top of the hill I entered
thicker woods. I stood behind a tree, and looked and listened. Drums
could be heard toward the north, and seemingly nearer than before; I
thought I could hear the long roll, and feared that the Union advance
was already known by the Confederates.
Now I got on my hands and knees, and began to crawl forward very slowly.
My gum-blanket hindered me; I took it off, put my glass in it, folded
and strapped it, and put it over my shoulder. I was already wet. Again I
went forward slowly. Soon I saw another vedette, facing south. I
retired, and made progress rapidly through the woods to my left; then I
crawled up a long distance. I had hoped to be able to determine the
right of the enemy's pickets and then return to Jones and send him with
my report, while I should remain at the rendezvous to guide the troops
when Jones should have succeeded in guiding them to me. But I had found
the pickets posted in a very advantageous position for themselves, and a
very difficult one for me; more than an hour had passed since I left
Jones; he was already on his way. It took long for me to make a prudent
approach. As soon as I could see one of the vedettes, I would retreat
through the woods until I was out of danger; then I would go fifty or a
hundred yards to my left, and approach, again on my hands and knees
until I discovered a man, when I would retreat again, and so on
alternately. At one place I saw the picket-line itself stretching across
the top of an open hill, with the vedettes concealed, no doubt, in the
hollow in front. I was compelled to go almost entirely around a field,
taking a back track for a quarter of a mile, and then going forward
again on the west side of the field.
About ten o'clock the rain ceased, and while I was thus helped in one
respect, I was hindered also. The pickets would be more alert, and I
felt compelled to keep at a greater distance from the line. I made
another advance, and this time continued advancing, for to my
gratification I found no extension of the picket-line in front of me. I
thought at first that it had been thrown back here, and that I was now
going along the western front.
To make sure, I turned to the right--to the east--and went perhaps three
hundred yards without finding anything, and felt convinced that there
was no western front to the rebel line. I continued to advance eastward,
going straight toward the railroad. At length I had gone a quarter of a
mile, and had found nothing.
Now I began to believe that the rebel picket-line had been withdrawn
while I was going around the field, and I conjectured that the
Confederates had become aware of the approach of our column, and had
retreated, or else were concentrating to meet our advancing troops.
Suddenly I heard a cannon fire, seemingly a mile away, in a
For a clear understanding of the situation it would perhaps be well to
state here that both Frank and Jones had reached the cavalry under
General Emory, at the head of our column, and had reported to him as
well as to General Morell; and that our column had advanced by the road
we had left, had thrown out a skirmish-line which extended beyond the
railroad, but not far enough, and had continued to advance until the
enemy were felt.
The cannon which I had heard, and which continued to fire, were of
Benson's battery of U.S. artillery, and this was the beginning of the
battle of Hanover Court-House, so called.
At this time one of Branch's regiments--the Twenty-eighth North Carolina
under Colonel Lane--was at Taliaferro's Mill at the head of Crump's
Creek, on a road to the right of our advancing column, which had thus
interposed, without knowing it, between the two bodies of Confederates.
At the first warning of the Union advance, General Branch had formed his
troops facing the east and southeast, and covering the Ashcake road,
which runs in a sort of semicircle from the Hanover road to Ashland on
the west, so that the attack of the Union forces against the main body
of rebels merely forced them to give ground in the direction of Ashland.
Lane, at Taliaferro's Mill, was left to work his way out, which he did
later in the afternoon with considerable loss.
Now, when the fight opened, the most of Branch's brigade--having moved
somewhat forward--had placed itself between me and our troops. I soon
became aware of this fact by seeing straggling Confederate soldiers in
the woods in several directions; some of them seemed to be wounded.
Half a mile or so to the eastward the battle was loud. By this time it
was a little after noon; the sun was hot. The sounds of battle were
advancing toward the north. Straggling men went by me, giving me no
attention whatever. I kept my position--not remaining still, however,
but walking about in the woods in order to prevent the possibility of
being suspected of trying to hide--and awaited the issue.
Soon the straggling had ceased, and the battle died away, and I began to
fear that the Confederates had had the best of it.
An hour or so passed; then a new battle broke out in a southeasterly
direction. This was caused by Branch's endeavouring to throw a force in
the rear of the Union troops, who had pushed on nearly to Hanover
Court-House in pursuit of Lane's regiment, leaving Branch on their left
flank and in position to do great damage. Branch attacked vigorously,
but was eventually forced back. Again men began to rush by me, and this
time some of them were in actual flight. There were many wounded;
gradually the woods were scattered over with a regiment or two, the
troops showing various degrees of disorganization, some of the companies
holding together and retiring slowly, while men, single and in groups,
were making their way, as rapidly as they could run, from the field, yet
all in the same direction, as though they had some knowledge of a
 On this day Lane's regiment saved the remainder of Branch's brigade.
The main body of Porter's column pursued Lane toward the Pamunkey, no
doubt thinking that all the rebel force was retreating northward. Lane
was entirely routed, and was cut off from Branch for some days; the
story of his retreat and return to Branch is very interesting. [ED.]
Seeing this confusion of many men, my fear increased, and I decided
quickly--whether right or wrong--that it would not do for me to remain
an idle and unarmed spectator of the retreat; and I thought, too, that
it would be very hazardous to attempt to get out of this mass of men by
going in a northerly or southerly direction, either of which would be
taking them in line, if they could be said to have a line. I saw, of
course, that if I should simply stop--it would have been easy to play
the wounded Confederate--the Union troops would soon pick me up; but I
wanted to see where the defeated rebels would rally. A man, slightly
wounded, I suppose, threw down his gun near me, and kept on. I picked up
the gun--an Enfield rifle--and joined the fugitives. Unaccountably to
me, the disorder of the troops became greater, and a good many of the
stragglers disburdened themselves of whatever they could throw away. I
soon secured a cartridge-box, and a haversack, and with my own
canteen--the like of which there were many in the hands of the rebels--I
became, for the time, a complete Confederate soldier.
No immediate cause for the disorder of the rebels could be seen. The
Union troops were not in sight. I expected the brigade to soon make a
stand, but the retreat continued; sometimes I caught the contagion and
ran along with running men, although I was sure that organised bodies
were now covering our rear. I had no distinct purpose except to
determine the new line.
After some little time I began to wish that I was well out of the
scramble, but I saw no way out of it. Officers were riding about and
trying to make the men get into some sort of formation. Evening was
near, but I saw that before darkness should cover me the brigade would
be formed again and would make a new stand, or else retreat in better
order in the night.
I now gave up all hope of ever returning to find my horse, but felt
confident that Jones would recover him.
As I had anticipated, the retreat became less disorderly, and at last
ceased altogether. The officers succeeded in forming a line across a
road running to the westward, which I believed, from my knowledge of the
map, to be the Ashcake road. When I reached this forming line I
hesitated. I thought at first that I ought to make no pretence of
joining it; that prudence commanded me to keep far from it. Then the
thought came to me that these disorganized battalions ware forming in
any shape they could now take--men belonging to different companies,
and even to different regiments, being side by side; so I got into line
I smiled when I remembered that Dr. Khayme had once said that a spy
might find it his duty to desert to the enemy.
The men seemed to have lost none of the proper pride of the soldier, but
they were very bitter against some general or other unknown to me, and
equally so to them, as it appeared; he had allowed them to be defeated
when they could easily have been reenforced. From the talk which I heard
I drew the inference that there was a large force of Confederates within
supporting distance, and this new knowledge or suspicion interested me
so greatly that I determined to remain longer with these troops--perhaps
even until the next day.
It was now dark. There had never been any pursuit, so far as I could
see. Soon the troops were put in motion westward, on the road to
Ashland. If we had a skirmish-line on either flank, I did not see it;
but we had for rear-guard the Seventh North Carolina, still unbroken,
under the command, as I learned, of Colonel Campbell. It would have been
very easy for me to step out of ranks at any time, either to the right
or to the left, into the woods--or into open ground for that matter--and
get away, but such was not now my intention.
The retreat continued slowly, the mixed men endeavouring while on the
march to find their respective regiments and companies. Mounted
men--officers probably--rode up and down the column crying out: "Flag of
Thirty-seventh is forward," "Flag of Forty-fifth is behind you," and so
on, thus telling the men where to find their commands. It was really
good work, I thought. A little before midnight--or it may have been much
earlier, for I was well-nigh worn out--a halt was made at the crossroads
which I afterward knew to be the crossing of the Ashcake and Richmond
roads about a mile and a half southeast of Ashland. Here all the men
could easily find their commands, and I knew that perfect organization
would be effected in a very few minutes. Before the line was completely
formed, I walked off and was at once alone in the darkness.
By the stars I was able to strike a course; I went nearly east for
perhaps a quarter of a mile, and lay down under a tree, first spreading
my gum-blanket on the wet ground. My weariness amounted almost to
exhaustion. I was hungry, too, and began to explore my predecessor's
haversack, but fell asleep while thinking of food, and slept soundly the
remainder of the night.
At daylight I was awake. I ate some bacon and hoecake which I found in
the haversack; while doing this, I took a good look at my gun and
accoutrements. The rifle was a long Enfield with three bands; the
cartridge-box and cap-box were slung to a single waist-belt, the
scabbard for the bayonet also, but there was no bayonet. The brass plate
on the lid of the cartridge-box was a U.S. plate; the belt-buckle also
was Federal; both plate and buckle had been turned upside down, so that
each bore the inverted letters S U. There were a few cartridges in the
box--such cartridges as I had not seen before. I found that the rifle
was not loaded, and I allowed it to remain empty.
After I had eaten, I crept nearer the crossroads. The rebels had gone. I
examined the road and found that all the tracks in the mud were pointing
toward Ashland. I followed on, keeping for a time openly in the road,
for I was as good a Confederate as need be unless I should be overtaken
by any of our own men. I considered now that this force of the enemy was
likely to establish connection at once with the main Confederate lines
near Richmond, if indeed it had not already done so, and that if I
should turn southward I should be in danger of being forced into the
ranks and questioned, so I decided to go north of Ashland, and determine
if possible the left of the line, which would be, I judged, the extreme
left of the whole Confederate army.
In approaching Ashland I had no trouble; when I came in sight of the
village I began to make a detour to the north, and about an hour after
sunrise placed myself in observation between the Fredericksburg railroad
and the Richmond road, which here run parallel due north and about half
a mile apart. I was facing south.
About nine o'clock in the morning I was surprised to see to the rear of
my left the Richmond road full of troops marching southward. I crawled
up as near to the road as I dared, and watched them. There seemed to be
but one regiment, which was a large one. Three or four officers rode at
the head of the regiment; one, who I supposed was the colonel, was a
large, heavy-built man who sat his horse proudly. The men marched at
the route step; the regiment was in fine order. In the centre were two
flags: one an ordinary Confederate battle-flag; the other an immense
blue banner, emblazoned with the silver palmetto tree. I could not tell
the number of the regiment, although by this time I had my glass fixed
on the flag. The Carolinians passed on south and, I supposed,
 Doubtless Colonel Hamilton, who on this day marched south from
Hanover Junction with his regiment, the First South Carolina. [Ed.]
I still kept my place, observing the roads narrowly. I remained in this
position the rest of the 28th, but saw no other movement. At nightfall I
crept up nearer to the village and found a comfortable resting-place in
an old haystack, east of the place.
The next morning I was slowly advancing toward the railroad, with the
purpose of ascertaining whether Ashland was still occupied by the
rebels, when I heard noises behind me, and, turning, I saw three Union
soldiers on horseback coming toward me. They saw me at the same time.
One of them shouted to me to surrender, and I threw up my hands. They
belonged to Company D of the Fifth U.S. cavalry. I easily succeeded in
proving to the lieutenant in command, who soon rode up at the head of
the company, and whose name I learned was Watkins, that I was a Union
scout. The sight of General Morell's glass had its effect.
I told the lieutenant that in my opinion there was no strong force in
Ashland. We were at this time almost in sight of the town. The
lieutenant mounted me behind a trooper; the company made a dash into the
place; the rebels fled, leaving two of their pickets in our hands. In
the village were some stragglers who also were made prisoners. We
remained in Ashland for several hours, the cavalry securing much
property. There were a good many horses taken, one of which the
lieutenant willingly allowed me to use.
The enemy's infantry had retreated nearer Richmond, and, as all the
country to the east of us was now in our hands, there was nothing to
hinder my reaching General Morell's camp that night. The general told me
that they had given me up for lost, and asked what had become of me
after sending Jones back. I gave an account of my work, and he was
pleased to say that he approved of what I had done. He told me that
Jones had recovered the horse that I had abandoned.
As I approached Dr. Khayme's tent, the Doctor was just entering it; the
tent was dark. I stood outside until he lighted a candle; then I called
him by name. He rushed out and embraced me. In a few words I told him of
my work, and why I had been away so long.
"I will write at once to General Grover," said he, "and to Lydia, too,
who is at Porter's field hospital; we have many wounded from
THE ACCURSED NIGHT
"If ever I were traitor,
My name be blotted from the book of life,
And I from heaven banished!"--SHAKESPEARE.
The night of my return was the 29th of May, 1862. I was very tired,
although I had had a good rest the night before, and alternations of
walking and riding in the day. Our supper was soon despatched, and the
Doctor got his pipe.
"Now, Jones, pull off that distinguished disguise and put on your own
dress; there it is in the corner, just as your namesake brought it."
"No, Doctor," said I; "let's save labour by not doing it; I can content
myself till bedtime as I am."
"How long have you had it on?"
"Almost two days."
"Don't you begin to feel like a Confederate?"
"Not just at this moment, Doctor."
"So you have been with North Carolinians and with Georgians again?"
"Yes, and very nearly with South Carolinians."
"You mean the regiment with the blue flag?"
"Yes; I wish I could have learned its number."
"It was the First, very likely," said he.
This seemed a most astonishing statement, although I had many times
before had evidences of peculiar knowledge possessed by Dr. Khayme. I
thought it was the time to ask him, directly, how it was that he
obtained information unobtainable by ordinary mortals.
"Why should you think so, Doctor?"
"Because of more than one circumstance. Before communications with our
Southern friends became so infrequent I kept up with Charleston. I know
that the First South Carolina regiment was on Sullivan's Island early in
1861, some months before the bombardment of Fort Sumter, and I remember
reading in the _Mercury_ that the ladies of Charleston had presented the
First with a very heavy blue silk banner--a State flag with the silver
palmetto and crescent."
"Then it may be the First regiment, Doctor; I saw the palmetto and the
"More than that," he continued; "the First South Carolina is one of the
regiments which were lately under Anderson near Fredericksburg, and we
know that Anderson's force has fallen back on Richmond. It must have
passed through Ashland very recently."
"I wonder if there are any men in that regiment whom we used to know,"
said I, musingly.
"Very likely; there are companies in it from Charleston."
"Wouldn't it have been strange if I had gone with them, and somebody had
"Stranger things than that might happen to you; somebody might have
recognized you--some old schoolmate, for example--and yet might have
sworn that you are a Carolinian. Was it known to everybody at school
that you were from the North?"
"I think it was, at first; but not in my last years there; of course,
some of the boys knew it."
"Besides," said the Doctor, "there is more than one Northern man in the
Confederate army--men who moved South before the war."
"Yes, I suppose so; but I cannot understand them."
"They have acquired homes, and think they must defend their homes; that
is all, at least so far as concerns those of them who reason, and the
others don't count."
"They might at least be neutral," I said.
"How could they think that being neutral would defend their homes?"
"And you think that the Southern people really believe their homes in
"No doubt of it--and they are right. Have you not already seen more than
one Southern home destroyed?"
"Yes, here where the war is; but the average home in the South, far away
from the armies."
"There will have been very few homes in the South far away from armies;
to conquer the South you must overrun her territory."
"Doctor, you are gloomy to-night, and I confess that I am also. I wonder
what's the matter with us."
"I don't admit being unusually gloomy," said the Doctor; "true, I have
been seeing pain and wretchedness recently, and so have you. Our trades,
however, ought to have accustomed us to such by this time, if ever."
"I don't think I should ever become accustomed to blood; I don't wish
to," said I.
"You need never fight another battle," said he.
"How can I avoid battle?" I asked.
"Your services as a scout are worth more than forty cents a day; you
ought not to fight at all."
"You think fighting more dangerous than scouting?"
"Fighting and scouting are more dangerous than scouting."
"But what can I do? If I am recalled by General Grover, I shall likely
be required to do both."
"I think not. They want you to remain alive. Unless you join the
Confederates again, as you did in the battle the other day, it is not
very likely that you will serve any more in the ranks; of course, you
can do so if you insist upon it."
"Insist on what? Joining the Confederates?"
"No; insist on fighting in the ranks."
"I should feel it my duty to go into battle with the Eleventh unless I
had other work at the time."
"Do you think it your duty to give your best powers to your cause, or
"Can I not do both?"
"No--not at all; you should study your important calling, and make an
art of it."
"I dread it; to believe that I must become a regular spy is a terrible
thought to me."
"Well, Doctor, you know that I am peculiar."
"You allude to your memory?"
"What effect does spying have upon you?"
"It seems to weaken me, body and mind. I was never so exhausted in my
life as when I came back on the 24th."
"You had had a hard time, no doubt."
"But it was not merely a hard time; it was a peculiar time. I believe
that for a short while I lost sight of the fact that I was a
"That only shows that you acted your part."
"The sudden changes are what I find so hard. To imagine myself a
Confederate, and then in a moment to become a Federal, and in the next
moment by effort become a rebel again, is revolutionary."
"I'd prefer being in the ranks."
"Do you believe that your peculiar condition is what makes your
"I know it. The vivid result of my imagination is suddenly contrasted
with as vivid a memory; before I quit being one man I become another,
and I can see two of me at once."
"And that proves painful?"
"It is torture. If I am to imagine myself a Confederate in order to
succeed, why, I prefer the ranks."
"You have struck upon a truth not generally appreciated, Jones; the
relation of the imagination and the memory is almost unity. But for your
recollecting your life in the South, and your consequent real and
practical sympathy with the people of the South, you could not become,
in imagination, a Confederate. Imagination depends largely on memory.
The extraordinary vividness of your memory produces a corresponding
vividness in imagining. You see how valuable are your peculiar powers. I
have no doubt that with a little data concerning some narrow section of
the South, such as knowledge of family names and family history, you
could join the Confederate army and play a most important role, giving
to your generals information of contemplated movements as well as of
movements, in actual progress."
"Doctor Khayme," said I, "never could I consent to such a life."
"I do not advise it," said he, without appearing to regard my emotion;
"I doubt if it would be best for you. It would be more likely to confirm
your intermittent states. What you need is to get rid entirely of any
necessity for the exercise of either memory or imagination for a time.
To cherish either is to cherish both. On the contrary, any great and
long-continued interest, which would dissociate you from your past,
would, in my judgment, prove the end of your peculiar states."
I did not reply. The Doctor remained silent for a long time. When he
spoke again, he rose to retire. "Goodnight, my boy; and hope for the
best. Whatever comes is right, as it fits into the total. Keep up your
spirits. War has many startling opportunities as well as disasters."
* * * * *
In the afternoon of the 31st, sounds of a heavy battle were heard miles
away to the southeast, and soon the rumour ran that the whole of
McClellan's left wing was engaged. Fearing that my company was actually
in battle, I begged Dr. Khayme to send a man to report for me to our
adjutant; General Morell kindly added, at the Doctor's solicitation, a
few words to General Grover.
This battle of Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines as the rebels call it, raged
during all the afternoon of the 31st of May and part of June 1st, and
did at one time threaten to call for the whole strength of McClellan's
left; Grover's brigade, however, was still held in reserve, and did not
become engaged. While the battle was in progress, intense but subdued
excitement was shown by the men in General Morell's command, and by the
other troops on the right. On the part of all, there was constant
expectation of orders to march to the help of the Union forces on the
further side of the Chickahominy, and when news of the final struggle
came, in which our men had more than held their own, disappointment at
not being chosen was as great, perhaps, as joy over success. All seemed
to feel that they had been robbed of an opportunity.
* * * * *
On the evening of June 2d, the Doctor and I were sitting in his tent, he
busily engaged in writing I know not what, when an order came from
General Morell for me to report to him at once.
Being ushered into the general's tent, I found there two officers
unknown to me. The one who most attracted my attention--though I was
careful not to show any curiosity--was a man of nearly forty years, of
medium height and muscular frame. His hair was dark; his mustache very
slightly tinged with gray. His manner indicated an extremely nervous
sense of responsibility, and the attitude of deference, which the others
observed in his regard, was very noticeable. His face reminded me
vaguely of some portrait--I knew not whose.
The other officer was a larger man, of about the same age, and of a more
cheerful temper, if one could judge in a single opportunity. He seemed
to be on a very familiar footing with the officer whom I have first
General Morell did not present me to either of the two officers. In the
middle of the tent was a camp-table, upon which a map was spread, and
around which the three officers were sitting. General Morell allowed me
to stand, cap in hand, while I listened to some words of a conversation
which I supposed had been practically finished before I entered.
"I believe that you clearly understand what is needed," said the smaller
"Perfectly," said General Morell.
The larger man contented himself with merely nodding.
"Then," said the first speaker, "it only remains to know certainly
whether we have the means in hand."
The larger man now spoke: "The work can be done; if not in one way, then
in another. A reconnaissance would effect with certainty our present
purpose. Why risk possible failure with a single man?"
"We cannot be too prudent," replied the other; "we must not divulge our
intentions. Lee would know at once the meaning of a reconnaissance."
"We might make more than one, and let him guess which is serious."
"No; the way to go about it is not by force. If General Morell has
confidence in his means, let General Morell proceed in his own way."
"I have confidence," said General Morell; "but, of course, any plan
might fail. The only thing in life that is certain is death. I should
say that we have nine chances out of ten."
"Then do it your own way," said the small officer, rising; the others
rose also. "I must tell you good night, gentlemen."
The three now left the tent, while I remained.
I had not been unobservant. No names had been spoken, nor any title
given to the officers, and I suspected that very high titles had been
suppressed. Exactly who these officers were, I could not know, but that
they were in great authority was not to be doubted; I made a wild guess
that one was General Porter and the smaller man some trusted
staff-officer from army headquarters.
 Doubtless this officer was General McClellan himself. Mr. Berwick
describes very well McClellan's person, which--from the poor cuts in the
newspapers--had made an impression, yet a vague impression. It is not a
matter for wonder that Mr. Berwick had never before been in the presence
of the great general. [ED.]
General Morell returned alone. He motioned me to a seat at the table,
then sat opposite me. For a time he seemed preoccupied. At length he
looked me full in the face, and said gravely, "Berwick, it is absolutely
necessary for us here on this flank to get accurate information of the
enemy's strength, and as soon as possible."
"The whole line of the enemy?" I asked.
"No; the strength of his left--the position and forces of his left
"A difficult undertaking, General," said I.
"Yes, but not too difficult, I think; and whether difficult or not, it
must be done. Here is our map. It shows us nothing but the country, with
the positions of a few batteries and pickets that can be plainly seen
from our lines. We do not know how well fortified, or how many, are the
troops opposed to us. We have information, but we fear that it is not
reliable; in fact, it is contradictory in some of the most essential
points. We do not know the length of the enemy's line; we suppose it
rests on the James River above Richmond as well as below Richmond. That
makes too long a line to be very strong in all its parts. Their left may
be a mere skirmish-line; their extreme right may be only cavalry. Some
parts of their line must be very thin, and it is suspected that their
left is the thinnest part."
To this I said nothing, and the general continued: "The force under
Anderson from Fredericksburg has reenforced the army now under Lee, and
we are not sure what position it holds. The force under Jackson causes
great apprehension. From several quarters we get rumours of an intention
or supposed intention of Lee to march Jackson against our right. If
there is such a purpose, we ought, by all means, to anticipate the
movement. If we are ever to attack, it ought not to be after Jackson
While the general had been speaking, my mind was more fixed upon myself
than upon what he was saying. The ideas he expressed were readily
understood: their implications in regard to myself were equally clear;
he wanted me to serve again as a getter of information. My stomach rose
against my trade; I had become nauseated--I don't know a better word
--with this spying business. The strain upon me had been too great; the
23d and 24th of May had brought to my mental nature transitions too
sudden and entire to be wholesome; I felt that only a positive command
to enter the rebel lines would justify me in doing myself such violence
again; I had begun to fear for myself; I certainly should not volunteer.
"Now, Berwick," said the general; "I believe that you are the man for
our business. Do you feel free to undertake it for us?"
"Please tell me what you have in mind, General," I said, more with the
view of softening a predetermined refusal than with any intention of
heeding his wishes.
"We want accurate information of the enemy's strength on his left," said
he; "look at this map--here is our position, nearly on our extreme
right; we want you to find out what is opposite our right and what force
extends beyond our front. The enemy's line curves or else has a salient
somewhere beyond this point; his line turns somewhere and extends in
some form to the James River. Find that salient or curve; ascertain its
strength and the strength of their left, or western face."
"And I need not go into their lines to do that?" I asked, somewhat
hopefully, but only a moment hopefully, for I saw how impossible would
be my suggestion.
"I am afraid you will find it necessary to go into the enemy's lines,"
said the general.
It was now on my lips to ask General Morell whether I had choice in the
matter, that is, whether I might decline the honour offered me; but I
was checked by the thought that it would be impossible to explain my
reluctance; and without an explanation of my peculiarity I should suffer
the loss of his respect--something I did not wish to forfeit.
"No," he repeated, "you must get within their lines at night; remain a
day with them, two if necessary, and come out at night. The distance is
not great. A few miles to go and come, and a few miles within
Oh, yes! to him it was easy for me to do this. And I have no doubt that
he honestly believed the reputed charm of such adventures fascinated me
as well as others. But if that man on that accursed night of June had
seen what was going on in me, he would have been far from choosing Jones
Berwick as the man to send upon an enterprise that demanded a fixed
purpose and an undisturbed mind; rather would he have ordered Dr. Khayme
to see to it that I had perfect repose and gentle care lest worst should
But how could I tell him? If I should desire to tell him, how could I
presume upon his good-nature?--the good-nature of a general of a
division, whose office was high and whose time was invaluable, and who,
as I knew well, tolerated my presence for a few moments only, in order
that he might accomplish a purpose.
I must decline or accept without explaining.
"You seem to hesitate, Berwick," said the general; "what is wrong?"
Brought thus face to face with decision, I could hesitate no longer; "I
should like to confer with Dr. Khayme, General," I said.
He looked surprised. "What has Dr. Khayme to do with this?" he asked;
then, in a milder tone, he said, "I have no objection, however; Dr.
Khayme will help rather than hinder."
"The Doctor is my best friend," I said; "and he is much wiser than I am;
if I should undertake the duty you outline, he would, as you say,
General, help rather than hinder; he can be a very great help."
"We have little time to spare, Berwick. How long do you want with Dr.
"Did you expect me to begin work to-night, General?"
"Yes; you ought to be within their lines by daylight."
"And what is the time now?"
"Can you wait my answer an hour?"
"What do you mean by your answer?" he said.
The question and the tone were not to my taste. If I was being treated
as a party to a possible agreement, well and good; if not--if the
general was merely commanding me to obey him, well and good--I would
obey without further delay or hesitation.
I rose and saluted. "General," I said, "if you order me to go into the
enemy's lines, I shall go. If you are asking me to go into the enemy's
lines, I inquire, in my turn, whether you can wait my answer an hour."
"Sit down, Berwick," said the general.
I obeyed. It was not strange that he should wish no unpleasantness.
Though scouts are under orders just as other men are, it is not hard to
understand that generals feel it necessary to be somewhat delicate in
their treatment of such peculiar servants. I suppose that, in the mind
of a general, there always exists some fear that his spies will not
prove as diligent and self-sacrificing as they could be. I had not, in
my treatment of General Morell, intentionally played upon this fear:
such a course would have been contemptible; yet I could see at once the
effect of my speech, and I endeavoured to set myself right in his mind.
"Perhaps, General," said I; "perhaps I have presumed too much upon the
apparent nature of our former relations; if so, I beg to apologize. Give
me a plain, direct order and I will try to obey it, and without mental
"But, Berwick, my good fellow, you know as well as I do that any order
to a scout can only be of the most general nature; and you know, too,
that an unwilling scout is no scout at all."
"Then, to be plain with you, General, I should greatly prefer that you
send some other man on this expedition."
"Berwick," said he, "you are the best man available for this present
"Then order me to go, General."
"No," said he; "I'll humour you. Go to Dr. Khayme and return in one hour
if possible--and no hard feelings," he added, giving me his hand.
As I went toward the Doctor's tent, my intense distaste for the work
offered me seemed to lessen. Perhaps the night air had some effect on
me; perhaps the general's parting words had soothed me; perhaps the
mystery attaching to the council of war, so to speak, had exaggerated my
fears at first, and now calmness had set in; at any rate, before I had
reached the Doctor I was beginning to sympathize with General Morell,
whose responsibility was so great, and whose evident desire to
conciliate had touched me, and was wishing that I could have served him.
Then, too, the question came to me what would General Morell do in case
my refusal was final? And I had little doubt that the correct reply was: