Part 6 out of 7
"That is all right, Dan, and you have done capitally. Now at
Florence we will take up the hunt. It is a long way down there;
and if they drive all the way, as I hope they will, it will take them a
fortnight, so that we shall have gained a good deal of time on
them. The people at the station are sure to remember the three
boxes that lay there for so long without being claimed. Of course
they may have driven only till they got fairly out of reach. Then
they may either have sold the horse and trap, or the fellow Pearson
has with him may have driven it back. But I should think they
would most likely sell it. In that case they would not be more than
a week from the time they left Richmond to the time they took
train again for the south. However, whether they have got a
fortnight or three weeks' start of us will not make much
difference. With the description we can give of Pearson, and the
fact that there was a negress and child, and those three boxes, we
ought to be able to trace him."
It was twelve at night when the train arrived at Florence. As
nothing could be done until next morning Vincent went to an
hotel. As soon as the railway officials were likely to be at their
offices he was at the station again. The tip of a dollar secured the
attention of the man in the baggage-room.
"Three boxes and a black bag came on here a month ago, you say,
and lay here certainly four or five days--perhaps a good deal
longer. Of course I remember them. Stood up in that corner there.
They had been checked right through. I will look at the hooks and
see what day they went. I don't remember what sort of men
fetched them away. Maybe I was busy at the time, and my mate
gave them out. However, I will look first and see when they went.
What day do you say they got here?"
"They came by the train that left Richmond at six o'clock on the
morning of the 20th."
"Then they got in late that night or early next morning. Ah, the
train was on time that day, and got in at half-past nine at night.
Here they are--three boxes and a bag, numbers 15020, went out on
the 28th. Yes, that's right enough. Now I will just ask my mate if
he remembers about their going out."
The other man was called. Oh, yes, he remembered quite well the
three boxes standing in the corner. They went out some time in
the afternoon. It was just after the train came in from Richmond.
He noticed the man that asked for them. He got him to help carry
out the boxes and put them into a cart. Yes, he remembered there
was another man with him, and a negress with a child. He
wondered at the time what they were up to, but supposed it was all
right. Yes, he didn't mind trying to find out who had hired out a
cart for the job. Dessay he could find out by to-morrow--at any rate
he would try. Five dollars are worth earning anyway.
Having put this matter in train, Vincent, leaving Dan at Florence,
went down at once to Charleston. Here, after twenty-four hours'
delay, he obtained a warrant for the arrest of Jonas Pearson and
others on the charge of kidnaping, and then returned to Florence.
He found that the railway man had failed in obtaining any
information as to the cart, and concluded it must have come in
from the country on purpose to meet the train.
"At any rate," Vincent said, "it must be within a pretty limited
range of country. The railway makes a bend from Wilmington to
this place and then down to Charleston, so this is really the nearest
station to only a small extent of country."
"That's so," the railway man said. He had heard from Dan a good
deal about the case, and had got thoroughly interested in it. "Either
Marion or Kingstree would be nearer, one way or the other, to
most of the swamp country. So it can't be as far as Conwayborough
on the north or Georgetown on the south, and it must lie
somewhere between Jeffries' Creek and Lynch's Creek; anyhow it
would be in Marion County--that's pretty nigh sure. So if I were
you I would take rail back to Marion Court house, and see the
sheriff there and have a talk over the matter with him. You
haven't got much to go upon, because this man you are after has
been away from here a good many years and won't be known;
besides, likely enough he went by some other name down here.
Anyhow, the sheriff can put you up to the roads, and the best way
of going about the job."
"I think that would be the best way," Vincent said. "We shall be
able to see the county map too and to learn all the geography of the
"You have got your six-shooters with you, I suppose, because you
are as likely as not to have to use them?"
"Yes, we have each got a Colt; and as I have had a good deal of
practice, it would be awkward for Pearson if he gives me occasion
to use it."
"After what I hear of the matter," the man said, "I should say your
best plan is just to shoot him at sight. It's what would serve him
right. You bet there will be no fuss over it. It will save you a lot
of trouble anyway."
"My advice is good," the man went on earnestly. "They are a rough
lot down there, and hang together. You will have to do it sudden,
whatever you do, or you will get the hull neighborhood up agin
On reaching Marion Courthouse they sought out the sheriff,
produced the warrant signed by the States' authority, and explained
the whole circumstances.
"I am ready to aid you in any way I can," the sheriff said when he
concluded; "but the question is, where has the fellow got to? You
see he may be anywhere in this tract;" and he pointed out a circle
on the map of the county that hung against the wall. "That is about
fifty mile across, and a pretty nasty spot, I can tell you. There are
wide swamps on both sides of the creek, and rice grounds and all
sorts. There ain't above three or four villages altogether, but there
may be two or three hundred little plantations scattered about,
some big and some little. We haven't got anything to guide us in
the slightest, not a thing, as I can see."
"The man who was working under Pearson, when he was with us,
told me he had got the notion that he had had to leave on account
of some trouble here. Possibly that might afford a clew."
"It might do so," the sheriff said. "When did he come to you?"
"I think it was when I was six or seven years old. That would be
about twelve or thirteen years ago; but, of course, he may not have
come direct to us after leaving here."
"We can look anyway," the sheriff said, and, opening a chest, he
took out a number of volumes containing the records of his
predecessors. "Twelve years ago! Well, this is the volume. Now,
Captain Wingfield, I have got some other business in hand that
will take me a couple of hours. I will leave you out this volume
and the one before it and the one after it, and if you like to go
through them you may come across the description of some man
wanted that agrees with that of the man you are in search of."
It took Vincent two hours and a half to go through the volume, but
he met with no description answering to that of Pearson.
"I will go through the first six months of the next year," he said to
himself, taking up that volume, "and the last six months of the
The second volume yielded no better result, and he then turned
back to the first of the three books. Beginning in July, he read
steadily on until he came to December. Scarcely had he begun the
record of that month than he uttered an exclamation of
"December 2nd.--Information laid against gang at Porter's Station,
near Lynch's Creek. Charged with several robberies and murders
in different parts of the county. Long been suspected of having
stills in the swamps. Gang consists of four besides Porter himself.
Names of gang, Jack Haverley, Jim Corben, and John and James
Porter. Ordered out posse to start to-morrow.
"December 5th.--Returned from Porter's Station. Surprised the
gang. They resisted. Haverley, Corben, and James Porter shot.
John Porter escaped, and took to swamp. Four of posse wounded;
one, William Hannay, killed. Circulated description of John Porter
through the county. Tall and lean; when fifteen years old shot a
man in a brawl, and went north. Has been absent thirteen years.
Assumed the appearance of a northern man and speaks with
Yankee twang. Father was absent at the time of attack. Captured
three hours after. Declares he knows nothing about doings of the
gang. Haverley and Corben were friends of his sons. Came and
went when they liked. Will be tried on the 15th."
On the 16th there was another entry:
"William Porter sentenced to three years' imprisonment for
giving shelter to gang of robbers. Evidence wanting to show he
took any actual part in their crimes."
The sheriff had been in and out several times during the five hours
that Vincent's search had taken up. When he returned again
Vincent pointed out the entry he had found.
"I should not be at all surprised if that's our man," the sheriff said.
"I know old Porter well, for he is still alive and bears a pretty bad
reputation still, though we have never been able to bring him to
book. I remember all the circumstances of that affair, for I served
upon the posse. While Porter was in prison his house was kept for
him by a married daughter and her husband. There was a strong
suspicion that the man was one of the gang too, but we couldn't
prove it. They have lived there ever since. They have got five or
six field hands, and are said to be well off. We have no doubt they
have got a still somewhere in the swamps, but we have never been
able to find it. I will send a man off to-morrow to make inquiries
whether any stranger has arrived there lately. Of course, Pearson
will not have kept that name, and he will not have appeared as
John Porter, for he would be arrested on a fresh warrant at once for
his share in that former business. I think, Captain Wingfield, you
had better register at the hotel here under some other name. I don't
suppose that he has any fear of being tracked here; still it is just
possible his father may have got somebody here and at Florence to
keep their eyes open and let him know if there are any inquiries
being made by strangers about a missing negress. One cannot be
too careful. If he got the least hint, his son and the woman would
be hidden away in the swamps before we could get there, and there
would be no saying when we could find him."
Vincent took the sheriff's advice, and entered his name in the hotel
book as Mr. Vincent. Late in the evening the sheriff came round
"I have just sent summonses to six men. I would rather have had
two or three more, but young men are very scarce around here
now; and as with you and myself that brings it up to eight that
ought to be sufficient, as these follows will have no time to
summon any of their friends to their assistance. Have you a rifle,
"No; I have a brace of revolvers."
"They are useful enough for close work," the sheriff said, "but if
they see us coming, and barricade their house and open fire upon
us, you will want something that carries further than a revolver. I
can lend you a rifle as well as a horse if you will accept them."
Vincent accepted the offer with thanks. The next morning at
daylight he went round to the sheriff's house, where six
determined-looking men, belonging to the town or neighboring
farms, were assembled. Slinging the rifle that the sheriff handed
him across his back, Vincent at once mounted, and the party set
off at a brisk trot.
"My man came back half an hour ago," the sheriff said to Vincent
as they rode along. "He found out that a man answering to your
description arrived with another at Porter's about a fortnight ago,
and is staying there still. Whether they brought a negress with
them or not no one seems to have noticed. However, there is not a
shadow of doubt that it is our man, and I shall be heartily glad to
lay hold of him; for a brother of mine was badly wounded in that
last affair, and though he lived some years afterward he was never
the same man again. So I have a personal interest in it, you see."
"How far is it to Porter's?"
"About thirty-five miles. We shall get there about two o'clock, I
reckon. We are all pretty well mounted and can keep at this pace,
with a break or two, till we get there. I propose that we dismount
when we get within half a mile of the place. We will try and get
hold of some one who knows the country well, and get him to lead
three of us round through the edge of the swamp to the back of the
house. It stands within fifty yards of the swamp. I have no doubt
they put it there so that they might escape if pressed, and also to
prevent their being observed going backward and forward to that
still of theirs."
This plan was followed out. A negro lad was found who, on the
promise of a couple of dollars, agreed to act as guide. Three of the
party were then told off to follow him, and the rest, after waiting
for half an hour to allow them to make the detour, mounted their
horses and rode down at a gallop to the house. When they were
within a short distance of it they heard a shout, and a man who was
lounging near the door ran inside. Almost instantly they saw the
shutters swing back across the windows, and when they drew up
fifty yards from the door the barrels of four rifles were pushed out
through slits in the shutters.
The sheriff held up his hand. "William Porter, I want a word with
A shutter in an upper room opened, and an elderly man appeared
with a rifle in his hand.
"William Porter," the sheriff said, "I have a warrant for the arrest
of two men now in your house on the charge of kidnaping a female
slave, the property of Captain Wingfield here. I have no proof
that you had any share in the matter, or that you are aware that the
slave was not honestly obtained. In the second place, I have a
warrant for the arrest of your son John Porter, now in your house
and passing recently under the name of Jonas Pearson, on the
charge of resisting and killing the officers of the law on the 5th of
December, 1851. I counsel you to hand over these men to me
without resistance. You know what happened when your sons
defied the law before, and what will happen now if you refuse
"Yah!" the old man shouted. "Do you suppose we are going to
give in to five men? Not if we know it. Now, I warn you, move
yourself off while I let you, else you will get a bullet in you before
I count three."
"Very well, then. You must take the consequences," the sheriff
replied, and at once called the party to fall back.
"We must dismount," he said in answer to Vincent's look of
surprise; "they would riddle us here on horseback in the open.
Besides we must dismount to break in the door."
They rode back a quarter of a mile, and then dismounted. The
sheriff took two heavy axes that hung from his saddle, and handed
them to two of the men.
"I reckoned we should have trouble," he said. "However, I hope
we sha'n't have to use these. My idea is to crawl up through the
corn-field until we are within shooting distance, and then to open
fire at the loopholes. They have never taken the trouble to grub up
the stumps, and each man must look out for shelter. I want to
make it so hot for them that they will try to bolt to the swamp, and
in that case they will be covered by the men there. I told them not
to fire until they got quite close; so they ought to dispose of three
of them, and as they have got pistols they will be able to master the
others; besides, directly we hear firing behind, we shall jump up
and make a rush round. Do you, sir, and James Wilkins here, stop
in front. Two of them might make a rush out behind, and the
others, when they have drawn us off, bolt in front."
Several shots were fired at the party as they made their way across
to the end of the field, where the tall stalks of maize were still
standing, though the corn had been gathered weeks before. As
soon as they reached the shelter they separated, each crawling
through the maize until they arrived within fifty yards of the house.
There were, as the sheriff had said, many stumps still standing, and
each ensconced himself behind one of those, and began to reply to
the fire that the defenders had kept up whenever they saw a
movement among the corn stalks.
At such a distance the shutters were but of slight advantage to the
defenders of the house; for the assailants were all good shots, and
the loopholes afforded excellent targets at such a distance. After
a few shots had been fired from the house the fire of the defenders
ceased, the men within not daring to protrude the rifles through the
loopholes, as every such appearance was instantly followed by a
couple of shots from the corn patch.
"Give me one of those axes," the sheriff said. "Now, Withers, do
you make a rush with me to the door. Get your rifle loaded before
you start, and have your revolver handy in your belt. Now, Captain
Wingfield, do you and the other two keep a sharp lookout at the
loopholes, and see that they don't get a shot at us as we run. Now,
Withers," and the sheriff ran forward. Two rifles were protruded
through the loopholes. Vincent and his companions fired at once.
One of the rifles gave a sharp jerk and disappeared, the other was
fired, and Withers dropped his axe, but still ran forward. The
sheriff began an onslaught at the door, his companion's right arm
being useless. A minute later the sharp crack of rifles was heard in
the rear, and the sheriff and two men rushed in that direction,
while Vincent and the other lay watching the door. Scarcely had
the sheriff's party disappeared round the house than the door was
thrown open, and Pearson ran out at full speed. Vincent leaped to
"Surrender," he said, "or you are a dead man."
Jonas paused for a moment with a loud imprecation, and then
leveling a revolver, fired. Vincent felt a moment's pain in the
cheek, but before he could level his rifle his companion fired, and
Pearson fell forward dead. A minute later the sheriff and his party
"Have you got him?" he asked.
"He will give no more trouble, sheriff," the young man who fired
said. "I fancy I had him plum between the eyes. How about the
"Dick Matheson is killed; he got two bullets in his body. The other
man is badly wounded. There are no signs of old Porter."
They now advanced to the door, which stood open. As the sheriff
entered there was a sharp report, and he fell back shot through the
heart. The rest made a rush forward. Another shot was fired, but
this missed them, and before it could be repeated they had wrested
the pistol from the hand of Matheson's wife. She was firmly
secured, and they then entered the kitchen, where, crouched upon
the floor, lay some seven or eight negro men and women in an
agony of terror. Vincent's question, "Dinah, where are you?" was
answered by a scream of delight; and Dinah, who had been
covering her child with her body, leaped to her feet.
"It's all right, Dinah," Vincent said; "but stay here, we haven't
finished this business yet."
"I fancy the old man's upstairs," one of the men said. "It was his
rifle, I reckon, that disappeared when we fired."
It was as he expected. Porter was found dead behind the loophole,
a bullet having passed through his brain. The deputy-sheriff, who
was with the party, now took the command. A cart and horse were
found in an out-building; in these the wounded man, who was one
of those who had taken part in the abduction of Dinah, was placed,
together with the female prisoner and the dead body of the sheriff.
The negroes were told to follow; and the horses having been
fetched the party mounted and rode off to the next village, five
miles on their way back. Here they halted for the night, and the
next day went on to Marion Courthouse, Vincent hiring a cart for
the conveyance of Dinah and the other women. It was settled that
Vincent's attendance at the trial of the two prisoners would not be
necessary, as the man would be tried for armed resistance to the
law, and the woman for murdering the sheriff. The facts could be
proved by other witnesses, and as there could be no doubt about
obtaining convictions, it would be unnecessary to try the charge
against the man for kidnaping. Next day, accordingly, Vincent
started with Dinah and Dan for Richmond. Two months afterward
he saw in the paper that Jane Matheson had been sentenced to
imprisonment for life, the man to fourteen years.
CHAPTER XVII. CHANCELLORSVILLE.
The news of the fight between the sheriff's posse and the band
at Lynch's Creek was telegraphed to the Richmond papers by their
local agent upon the day after it occurred. The report said that
Captain Wingfield, a young officer who had frequently
distinguished himself, had followed the traces of a gang, one of
whom was a notorious criminal who had evaded the pursuit of the
law and escaped from that section fifteen years ago, and had,
under an assumed name, been acting as overseer at Mrs.
Wingfield's estate of the Orangery. These men had carried off a
negress belonging to Mrs. Wingfield, and had taken her down
South. Captain Wingfield, having obtained the assistance of the
sheriff with a posse of determined men, rode to the place which
served as headquarters for the gang. Upon being summoned to
surrender the men opened a fire upon the sheriff and his posse. A
sharp fight ensued, in which the sheriff was killed and one of his
men wounded; while the four members of the gang were either
killed or taken prisoners. It was reported that a person occupying a
position as a planter in the neighborhood of Richmond is
connected with this gang.
The reporter had obtained his news from Vincent, who had
purposely refrained from mentioning the names of those who had
fallen. He had already had a conversation with the wounded
prisoner. The latter had declared that he had simply acted in the
affair as he had been paid to do by the man he knew in Richmond
as Pearson, who told him that he wanted him to aid in carrying off
a slave woman, who was really his property, but had been
fraudulently taken from him. He had heard him say that there was
another interested in the affair, who had his own reasons for
getting the woman out of the way, and had paid handsomely for
the job. Who that other was Pearson had never mentioned.
Vincent saw that he had no absolute evidence against Jackson, and
therefore purposely suppressed the fact that Pearson was among
the killed in hopes that the paragraph would so alarm Jackson that
he would at once decamp. His anticipations were entirely justified;
for upon the day of his return to Richmond he saw a notice in the
paper that the Cedars, with its field hands, houses, and all
belonging to it, was for sale. He proceeded at once to the estate
agent, and learned from him that Jackson had come in two days
before and had informed him that sudden and important business
had called him away, and that he was starting at once for New
York, where his presence was urgently required, and that he should
attempt to get through the lines immediately. He had asked him
what he thought the property and slaves would fetch. Being
acquainted with the estate, he had given him a rough estimate, and
had, upon Jackson's giving him full power to sell, advanced him
two-thirds of the sum. Jackson had apparently started at once;
indeed, he had told him that he should take the next train as far
North as he could get.
Vincent received the news with great satisfaction. He had little
doubt that Jackson had really made down to the South, and that he
would try to cross the lines there, his statement that he intended to
go direct North being merely intended to throw his pursuers off his
track should a warrant be issued against him. However, it
mattered little which way Jackson had gone, so that he had left the
There was little chance of his ever returning; for even when he
learned that his confederate in the business had been killed in the
fight, he could not be certain that the prisoner who had been taken
was not aware of the share he had in the business.
A fortnight later Vincent went down into Georgia and brought
back Lucy Kingston for a visit to his mother. She had already
received a letter from her father in reply to one she had written
after reaching her aunt's protection, saying how delighted he was
to hear that she had crossed the lines, for that he had suffered the
greatest anxiety concerning her, and had continually reproached
himself for not sending her away sooner. He said that he was
much pleased with her engagement to Captain Wingfield, whom
he did not know personally, but of whom he heard the most
favorable reports from various Virginian gentlemen to whom he
had spoken since the receipt of her letter.
Lucy remained at Richmond until the beginning of March, when
Vincent took her home to Georgia again, and a week after his
return rejoined the army on the Rappahannock. Every effort had
been made by the Confederate authorities to raise the army of
General Lee to a point that would enable him to cope with the
tremendous force the enemy were collecting for the ensuing
campaign. The drain of men was now telling terribly, and Lee had
at the utmost 40,000 to oppose the 160,000 collected under
The first fight of the campaign had already taken place when
Vincent rejoined the army. A body of 3,000 Federal cavalry had
crossed the river on the 17th of March at Kelley's Ford, but had
been met by General Fitz Lee with about 800 cavalry, and after a
long and stubborn conflict had been driven back with heavy loss
across the river. It was not until the middle of April that the enemy
began to move in earnest. Every ford was watched by Stuart's
cavalry, and the frequent attempts made by the Federal horse to
push across to obtain information were always defeated.
On the 27th of April General Hooker's preparations were complete.
His plan of action was that 20,000 men should cross the river near
the old battlefield of Fredericksburg, and thus lead the
Confederates to believe that this was the point of attack. The main
body were, however, to cross at Kelley's Ford, many miles higher
up the river, and to march down toward Fredericksburg. The other
force was then to recross, march up the river, cross at Kelley's
Ford, and follow and join the main army. At the same time the
Federal cavalry, which was very numerous and well-organized,
was, under General Stoneman, to strike down through the country
toward Richmond, and thus cut the Confederate communication
with their capital, and so prevent Longstreet's division, which was
lying near Richmond, from rejoining Lee.
The passage of the river was effected at the two fords without
resistance on the 29th of April, and upon the same day the cavalry
column marched south. General Lee directed a portion of his
cavalry under General Fitz Lee to harass and delay this column as
much as possible. Although he had with him but a few hundred
men, he succeeded in doing good service in cutting off detached
bodies of the enemy, capturing many officers and men, and so
demoralizing the invaders that, after pushing on as far as the James
River, Stoneman had to retreat in great haste across the Rapidan
Hooker having crossed the river, marched on to Chancellorsville,
where he set to to entrench himself, having sent word to General
Sedgwick, who commanded the force that had crossed near
Fredericksburg, to recross, push round, and join as soon as
possible. Chancellorsville was a large brick mansion standing in
the midst of fields surrounded by extensive forests. The country
was known as the Wilderness. Within a range of many miles there
were only a few scattered houses, and dense thickets and
pine-woods covered the whole country. Two narrow roads passed
through the woods, crossing each other at Chancellorsville; two
other roads led to the fords known as Ely's Ford and the United
States Ford. As soon as he reached Chancellorsville Hooker set
his troops to work cutting down trees and throwing up earthworks
for infantry and redoubts for artillery, erecting a double line of
defenses. On these he mounted upward of a hundred pieces of
artillery, commanding the narrow roads by which an enemy must
approach, for the thickets were in many places so dense as to
render it impossible for troops to force their way through them.
When Sedgwick crossed the river, Lee drew up his army to oppose
him; but finding that no more troops crossed, and that Sedgwick
did not advance, he soon came to the conclusion that this was not
the point at which the enemy intended to attack, and in twenty-four
hours one of Stuart's horsemen brought the news that Hooker had
crossed the Rappahannock at Kelley's Ford and the Rapidan at
Ely's Ford. Lee at once left one division to face General Sedgwick,
and ordered the three others to join General Anderson, who with
8,000 men had fallen back before Hooker's advance, and taken his
post at Tabernacle Church, about halfway between Fredericksburg
and Tabernacle. Lee himself rode forward at once and joined
Jackson led the force from Fredericksburg, and pressed the enemy
back toward Chancellorsville until he approached the tremendous
lines of fortifications, and then fell back to communicate with Lee.
That night a council of war was held, and it was agreed that an
attack upon the front of the enemy's position was absolutely
impossible. Hooker himself was so positive that his position was
impregnable that he issued a general order of congratulation to his
troops, saying that "the enemy must now ingloriously fly or give us
battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him."
Jackson then suggested that he should work right round the
Wilderness in front of the enemy's position, march down until well
on its flank, and attack it there, where they would be unprepared
for an assault. The movement was one of extraordinary peril. Lee
would be left with but one division in face of an immensely
superior force; Jackson would have to perform an arduous march
exposed to an attack by the whole force of the enemy; and both
might be destroyed separately without being able to render the
slightest assistance to each other. At daybreak on the 2d of May
Jackson mustered his troops for the advance. He had in the course
of the night caught a severe cold. In the hasty march he had left his
blankets behind him. One of his staff threw a heavy cape over him
as he lay on the wet ground. During the night Jackson woke, and
thinking that the young officer might himself be suffering from the
want of his cape, rose quietly, spread the cape over him, and lay
down without it. The consequence was a severe cold, which
terminated in an attack of pneumonia that, occurring at a time
when he was enfeebled by his wounds, resulted in his death. If he
had not thrown that cape over the officer it is probable that he
would have survived his wounds.
At daybreak the column commenced its march. It had to traverse a
narrow and unfrequented road through dense thickets, occasionally
crossing ground in sight of the enemy, and at the end to attack a
tremendous position held by immensely superior forces. Stuart
with his cavalry moved on the flank of the column whenever the
ground was open, so as to conceal the march of the infantry from
the enemy. As the rear of the column passed a spot called the
Furnace, the enemy suddenly advanced and cut off the 23d
Georgia, who were in the rear of the column, and captured the
whole regiment with the exception of a score of men. At this point
the road turned almost directly away from Chancellorsville, and
the enemy believed that the column was in full retreat, and had not
the least idea of its real object.
So hour after hour the troops pressed on until they reached the
turnpike road passing east and west through Chancellorsville,
which now lay exactly between them and the point that they had
left in the morning. Jackson's design was to advance upon this line
of road, to extend his troops to the left and then to swing round,
cut the enemy's retreat to the fords, and capture them all. Hooker
had already been joined by two of Sedgwick's army corps, and had
now six army corps at Chancellorsville, while Jackson's force
consisted of 22,000 men. Lee remained with 13,000 at
Tabernacle. The latter general had not been attacked, but had
continued to make demonstrations against the Federal left,
occupying their attention and preventing them from discovering
how large a portion of his force had left him.
It was at five o'clock in the evening that Jackson's troops, having
gained their position, advanced to the attack. In front of them lay
Howard's division of the Federals, intrenched in strong earthworks
covered by felled trees; but the enemy were altogether unsuspicious
of danger, and it was not until with tumultuous cheers the
Confederates dashed through the trees and attacked the
entrenchment that they had any suspicion of their presence. They
ran to their arms, but it was too late. The Confederates rushed
through the obstacles, climbed the earthworks, and carried those in
front of them, capturing 700 prisoners and five guns. The rest of
the Federal troops here, throwing away muskets and guns, fled in
wild confusion. Steadily the Confederates pressed on, driving the
enemy before them, and capturing position after position, until the
whole right wing of the Federal army was routed and disorganized.
For three hours the Confederates continued their march without a
check; but owing to the denseness of the wood, and the necessity
of keeping the troops in line, the advance was slow, and night fell
before the movement could be completed. One more hour of
daylight and the whole Federal army would have been cut off and
captured, but by eight o'clock the darkness in the forest was so
complete that all movement had to be stopped.
Half an hour later one of the saddest incidents of the war took
place. General Jackson with a few of his staff wont forward to
reconnoiter. As he returned toward his lines, his troops in the dark
mistook them for a reconnoitering party of the enemy and fired,
killing or wounding the whole of them, General Jackson receiving
three balls. The enemy, who were but a hundred yards distant, at
once opened a tremendous fire with grape toward the spot, and it
was some time before Jackson could be carried off the field. The
news that their beloved general was wounded was for some time
kept from the troops; but a whisper gradually spread, and the grief
of his soldiers was unbounded, for rather would they have suffered
a disastrous defeat than that Stonewall Jackson should have fallen.
General Stuart assumed the command, General Hill, who was
second in command, having, with many other officers, been
wounded by the tremendous storm of grape and canister that the
Federals poured through the wood when they anticipated an
attack. At daybreak the troops again moved forward in three lines,
Stuart placing his thirty guns on a slight ridge, where they could
sweep the lines of the Federal defenses. Three times the position
was won and lost; but the Confederates fought with such fury and
resolution, shouting each time they charged the Federal ranks
"Remember Jackson," that the enemy gradually gave way, and by
ten o'clock Chancellorsville itself was taken, the Federals being
driven back into the forest between the houses and the river.
Lee had early in the morning begun to advance from his side to the
attack, but just as he was moving forward the news came that
Sedgwick had recrossed at Fredericksburg, captured a portion of
the Confederate force there, and was advancing to join Hooker.
He at once sent two of his three little divisions to join the
Confederates who were opposing Sedgwick's advance, while with
the three or four thousand men remaining to him, he all day made
feigned attacks upon the enemy's position, occupying their
attention there, and preventing them from sending reinforcements
to the troops engaged with Stuart. At night he himself hurried
away, took the command of the troops opposed to Sedgwick,
attacked him vigorously at daybreak, and drove him with heavy
loss back across the river. The next day he marched back with his
force to join in the final attack upon the Federals; but when the
troops of Stuart and Lee moved forward they encountered no
opposition. Hooker had begun to carry his troops across the river
on the night he was hurled back out of Chancellorsville, and the
rest of his troops had crossed on the two following nights.
General Hooker issued a pompous order to his troop after getting
across the river, to the effect that the movement had met with the
complete success he had anticipated from it; but the truth soon
leaked out. General Sedgwick's force had lost 6,000 men,
Hooker's own command fully 20,000 more; but splendid as the
success was, it was dearly purchased by the Confederates at the
price of the life of Stonewall Jackson. His arm was amputated the
day after the battle; he lived for a week, and died not so much
from the effect of his wounds as from the pneumonia, the result of
his exposure to the heavy dew on the night preceding his march
through the Wilderness.
During the two days' fighting Vincent Wingfield had discharged
his duties upon General Stuart's staff. On the first day the work
had been slight, for General Stuart, with the cannon, remained in
the rear, while Jackson's infantry attacked and carried the Federal
retrenchments. Upon the second day, however, when Stuart
assumed the command, Vincent's duties had been onerous and
dangerous in the extreme. He was constantly carrying orders from
one part of the field to the other, amid such a shower of shot and
shell that it seemed marvelous that any one could exist within it.
To his great grief Wildfire was killed under him, but he himself
escaped without a scratch. When he came afterward to try to
describe the battle to those at home he could give no account of it.
"To me," he said, "it was simply a chaos of noise and confusion.
Of what was going on I knew nothing. The din was appalling.
The roar of the shells, the hum of grape and canister, the whistle of
bullets, the shouts of the men, formed a mighty roar that seemed
to render thinking impossible. Showers of leaves fell incessantly,
great boughs of trees were shorn away, and trees themselves
sometimes came crashing down as a trunk was struck full by a
shell. The undergrowth had caught fire, and the thick smoke,
mingled with that of the battle, rendered it difficult to see or to
breathe. I had but one thought, that of making my way through the
trees, of finding the corps to which I was sent, of delivering my
message, and finding the general again. No, I don't think I had
much thought of danger, the whole thing was somehow so
tremendous that one had no thought whatever for one's self. It was
a sort of terrible dream, in which one was possessed of the single
idea to get to a certain place. It was not till at last we swept across
the open ground down to the house, that I seemed to take any
distinct notice of what was going on around me. Then, for the first
time, the exulting shouts of the men, and the long lines advancing
at the double, woke me up to the fact that we had gained one of the
most wonderful victories in history, and had driven an army of
four or five times our own strength from a position that they
believed they had made impregnable."
The defeat of Hooker for a time put a stop to any further advance
against Richmond from the North. The Federal troops, whose
term of service was up, returned home, and it was months before
all the efforts of the authorities of Washington could place the
army in a condition to make a renewed advance. But the
Confederates had also suffered heavily. A third of the force with
which Jackson had attacked had fallen, and their loss could not be
replaced, as the Confederates were forced to send every one they
could raise to the assistance of the armies in the West, where
Generals Banks and Grant were carrying on operations with great
success against them. The important town of Vicksburg, which
commanded the navigation of the Mississippi, was besieged, and
after a resistance lasting for some months, surrendered, with its
garrison of 25,000 men, on the 3d of July, and the Federal
gunboats were thus able to penetrate by the Mississippi and its
confluents into the heart of the Confederacy.
Shortly after the battle of Chancellorsville, Vincent was appointed
to the command of a squadron of cavalry that was detached from
Stuart's force and sent down to Richmond to guard the capital from
any raids by bodies of Federal cavalry. It had been two or three
times menaced by flying bodies of horsemen, and during the
cavalry advance before the battle of Chancellorsville small parties
had penetrated to within three miles of the city, cutting all the
telegraph wires, pulling up rails, and causing the greatest terror.
Vincent was not sorry for the change. It took him away from the
great theater of the war, but after Chancellorsville he felt no eager
desire to take part in future battles. His duties would keep him
near his home, and would give ample scope for the display of
watchfulness, dash, and energy. Consequently he took no part in
the campaign that commenced in the first week in June.
Tired of standing always on the defensive, the Confederate
authorities determined to carry out the stop that had been so
warmly advocated by Jackson earlier in the war, and which might
at that time have brought it to a successful termination. They
decided to carry the war into the enemy's country. By the most
strenuous efforts Lee's army was raised to 75,000 men, divided
into three great army corps, commanded by Longstreet, Ewell, and
Hill. Striking first into Western Virginia, they drove the Federals
from Winchester, and chased them from the State with the loss of
nearly 4,000 prisoners and 30 guns. Then they entered Maryland
and Pennsylvania, and concentrating at Gettysburg they met the
Northern army under Meade, who had succeeded Hooker.
Although great numbers of the Confederates had seen their homes
wasted and their property wantonly destroyed, they preserved the
most perfect order in their march through the North, and the
Federals themselves testify to the admirable behavior of the troops,
and to the manner in which they abstained from plundering or
inflicting annoyance upon the inhabitants.
At Gettysburg there was three days' fighting. In the first a portion
only of the forces were engaged, the Federals being defeated and
5,000 of their men taken prisoners. Upon the second the
Confederates attacked the Northerners, who were posted in an
extremely strong position, but were repulsed with heavy loss. The
following day they renewed the attack, but after tremendous
fighting again failed to carry the height. Both parties were utterly
exhausted. Lee drew up his troops the next day, and invited an
attack from the Federals; but contented with the success they had
gained they maintained their position, and the Confederates then
fell back, Stuart's cavalry protecting the immense trains of wagons
loaded with the stores and ammunition captured in Pennsylvania.
But little attempt was made by the Northerners to interfere with
their retreat. On reaching the Potomac they found that a sudden
rise had rendered the fords impassable. Intrenchments and
batteries were thrown up, and for a week the Confederate army
held the lines, expecting an attack from the enemy, who had
approached within two miles; but the Federal generals were too
well satisfied with having gained a success when acting on the
defensive in a strong position to risk a defeat in attacking the
position of the Confederates, and their forces remained impassive
until pontoon bridges were thrown across the river, and the
Confederate army, with their vast baggage train, had again crossed
into Virginia. The campaign had cost the Northern army 23,000
men in killed, wounded, and prisoners, besides a considerable
number of guns. The Confederates lost only two guns, left behind
in the mud, and 1,500 prisoners, but their loss in killed and
wounded at Gettysburg exceeded 10,000 men. Even the most
sanguine among the ranks of the Confederacy were now
conscious that the position was a desperate one. The Federal
armies seemed to spring from the ground. Strict discipline had
taken the place of the disorder and insubordination that had first
prevailed in their ranks. The armies were splendidly equipped.
They were able to obtain any amount of the finest guns, rifles, and
ammunition of war from the workshops of Europe; while the
Confederates, cut off from the world, had to rely solely upon the
makeshift factories they had set up, and upon the guns and stores
they captured from the enemy.
The Northerners had now, as a blow to the power of the South,
abolished slavery, and were raising regiments of negroes from
among the free blacks of the North, and from the slaves they took
from their owners wherever their armies penetrated the Southern
States. Most of the Confederate ports had been either captured or
were so strictly blockaded that it was next to impossible for the
blockade-runner to get in or out, while the capture of the forts on
the Mississippi enabled them to use the Federal flotillas of
gunboats to the greatest advantage, and to carry their armies into
the center of the Confederacy.
Still, there was no talk whatever of surrender on the part of the
South, and, indeed, the decree abolishing slavery, and still more
the action of the North in raising black regiments, excited the
bitterest feeling of animosity and hatred. The determination to
fight to the last, whatever came of it, animated every white man in
the Southern States, and, although deeply disappointed with the
failure of Lee's invasion of the North, the only result was to incite
them to greater exertions and sacrifices. In the North an act
authorizing conscription was passed in 1863, but the attempt to
carry it into force caused a serious riot in New York, which was
only suppressed after many lives had been lost and the city placed
under martial law.
While the guns of Gettysburg were still thundering, a Federal army
of 18,000 men under General Gillmore, assisted by the fleet, had
laid siege to Charleston. It was obstinately attacked and defended.
The siege continued until the 5th of September, when Fort Wagner
was captured; but all attempts to take Fort Sumter and the town of
Charleston itself failed, although the city suffered greatly from the
bombardment. In Tennessee there was severe fighting in the
autumn, and two desperate battles were fought at Chickamauga on
the 19th and 20th of September, General Bragg, who commanded
the Confederate army there, being reinforced by Longstreet's
veterans from the army of Virginia. After desperate fighting the
Federals were defeated, and thirty-six guns and vast quantities of
arms captured by the Confederates. The fruits of the victory,
however, were very slight, as General Bragg refused to allow
Longstreet to pursue, and so to convert the Federal retreat into a
rout, and the consequence was that this victory was more than
balanced by a heavy defeat inflicted upon them in November at
Chattanooga by Sherman and Grant. At this battle General
Longstreet's division was not present.
The army of Virginia had a long rest after their return from
Gettysburg, and it was not until November that the campaign was
renewed. Meade advanced, a few minor skirmishes took place,
and then, when he reached the Wilderness, the scene of Hooker's
defeat, where Lee was prepared to give battle, he fell back again
across the Rappahannock.
The year had been an unfortunate one for the Confederates. They
had lost Vicksburg, and the defeat at Chattanooga had led to the
whole State of Tennessee falling into the hands of the Federals,
while against these losses there was no counterbalancing success
to be reckoned.
In the spring of 1864 both parties prepared to the utmost for the
struggle. General Grant, an officer who had shown in the
campaign in the West that he possessed considerable military
ability, united with immense firmness and determination of
purpose, was chosen as the new commander-in-chief of the whole
military force of the North. It was a mighty army, vast in numbers,
lavishly provided with all materials of war. The official
documents show that on the 1st of May the total military forces of
the North amounted to 662,000 men. Of these the force available
for the advance against Richmond numbered 284,630 men. This
included the army of the Potomac, that of the James River, and the
army in the Shenandoah Valley--the whole of whom were in
readiness to move forward against Richmond at the orders of
To oppose these General Lee had less than 53,000 men, including
the garrison of Richmond and the troops in North Carolina. Those
stationed in the seaport towns numbered in all another 20,000, so
that if every available soldier had been brought up Lee could have
opposed a total of but 83,000 men against the 284,000 invaders.
In the West the numbers were more equally balanced. General
Sherman, who commanded the army of invasion there, had under
his orders 230,000 men, but as more than half this force was
required to protect the long lines of communication and to keep
down the conquered States, he was able to bring into the field for
offensive operations 99,000 men, who were faced by the
Confederate army under Johnston of 58,000 men. Grant's scheme
was, that while the armies of the North were, under his own
command, to march against Richmond, the army of the West was
to invade Georgia and march upon Atlanta.
His plan of action was simple, and was afterward stated by himself
to be as follows: "I determined first to use the greatest number of
troops practicable against the main force of the enemy, preventing
him from using the same force at different seasons against first one
and then another of our armies, and the possibility of repose for
refitting and producing necessary supplies for carrying on
resistance. Second, to hammer continuously against the armed
force of the enemy and his resources until, by mere attrition if in
no other way, there should be nothing left to him but submission."
This was a terrible programme, and involved an expenditure of life
far beyond anything that had taken place. Grant's plan, in fact, was
to fight and to keep on fighting, regardless of his own losses, until
at last the Confederate army, whose losses could not be replaced,
melted away. It was a strategy that few generals have dared to
practice, fewer still to acknowledge.
On the 4th of May the great army of the Potomac crossed the
Rapidan and advanced toward Chancellorsville. Lee moved two
divisions of his army to oppose them. Next morning the battle
began at daybreak on the old ground where Lee had defeated
Hooker the year before. All day long the division of Ewell
supported the attack of the army corps of Sedgwick and Hancock.
Along a front of six miles, in the midst of the thick forest, the
battle raged the whole of the day. The Confederates, in spite of
the utmost efforts of the Northerners, although reinforced in the
afternoon by the army corps of General Burnside, held their
position, and when night put an end to the conflict the invaders
had not gained a foot of ground.
As soon as the first gleam of light appeared in the morning the
battle recommenced. The Federal generals, Sedgwick, Warren,
and Hancock, with Burnside in reserve, fell upon Hill and Ewell.
Both sides had thrown up earthworks and felled trees as a
protection during the night. At first the Confederates gained the
advantage; but a portion of Burnside's corps was brought up and
restored the battle, while on the left flank of the Federals Hancock
had attacked with such vigor that the Confederates opposed to him
were driven back.
At the crisis of the battle, Longstreet, who had marched all night,
appeared upon the ground, drove back Hancock's men, and was on
the point of aiding the Confederates in a decisive attack upon the
enemy, when, riding rapidly forward into the wood to reconnoiter,
he was, like Jackson, struck down by the fire of his own men. He
was carried to the rear desperately, and it was feared for a time
mortally wounded, and his loss paralyzed the movement which he
had prepared. Nevertheless during the whole day the fight went on
with varying success, sometimes one side obtaining a slight
advantage, the other then regaining the ground they had lost.
Just as evening was closing in a Georgia brigade, with two other
regiments, made a detour, and fell furiously upon two brigades of
the enemy, and drove them back in headlong rout for a mile and a
half, capturing their two generals and many prisoners. The
artillery, as on the previous day, had been little used on either side,
the work being done at short range with the rifle, the loss being
much heavier among the thick masses of the Northerners than in
the thinner lines of the Confederates. Grant had failed in his
efforts to turn Lee's right and to accomplish his direct advance; he
therefore changed his base and moved his army round toward
Lee soon perceived his object, and succeeded in carrying his army
to Spotsylvania before the Federals reached it.
On the afternoon of Monday, the 9th, there was heavy fighting and
on the 10th another pitched battle took place. This time the ground
was more open, and the artillery was employed with terrible effect
on both sides. It ended, however, as the previous battles had done,
by the Confederates holding their ground.
Upon the next day there was but little fighting. In the night the
Federals moved quietly through the wood, and at daybreak four
divisions fell upon Johnston's division of Ewell's corps, took them
completely by surprise, and captured the greater part of them.
But Lee's veterans soon recovered from their surprise and
maintained their position until noon. Then the whole Federal army
advanced, and the battle raged till nightfall terminated the
struggle, leaving Lee in possession of the whole line he had held,
with the exception of the ground lost in the morning.
For the next six days the armies faced each other, worn out by
incessant fighting, and prevented from moving by the heavy rain
which fell incessantly. They were now able to reckon up the
losses. The Federals found that they had lost, in killed, wounded,
or missing, nearly 30,000 men; while Lee's army was diminished
by about 12,000.
While these mighty battles had been raging the Federal cavalry
under Sheridan had advanced rapidly forward, and, after several
skirmishes with Stuart's cavalry, penetrated within the outer
intrenchments round Richmond. Here Stuart with two regiments
of cavalry charged them and drove them back, but the gallant
Confederate officer received a wound that before night proved
fatal. His loss was a terrible blow to the Confederacy, although his
successor in the command of the cavalry, General Wade Hampton,
was also an officer of the highest merit.
In the meantime General Butler, who had at Fort Monroe under his
command two corps of infantry, 4,000 cavalry, and a fleet of
gunboats and transports, was threatening Richmond from the east.
Shipping his men on board the transports he steamed up the James
River, under convoy of the fleet, and landed on a neck of land
known as Bermuda Hundred. To oppose him all the troops from
North Carolina had been brought up, the whole force amounting to
19,000 men, under the command of General Beauregard. Butler,
after various futile movements, was driven back again to his
intrenched camp at Bermuda Hundred, where he was virtually
besieged by Beauregard with 10,000 men, the rest of that general's
force being sent up to reinforce Lee.
In western Virginia, Breckenridge, with 3,500 men, was called
upon to hold in check Sigel, with 15,000 men. Advancing to
Staunton, Breckenridge was joined by the pupils of the military
college at Lexington, 250 in number, lads of from 14 to 17 years of
age. He came upon Sigel on the line of march, and attacked him at
once. The Federal general placed a battery in a wood and opened
fire with grape. The commander of the Lexington boys ordered
them to charge, and, gallantly rushing in through the heavy fire,
they charged in among the guns, killed the artillerymen, drove
back the infantry supports, and bayoneted their colonel. The
Federals now retired down the valley to Strasburg, and
Breckenridge was able to send a portion of his force to aid Lee in
his great struggle.
After his six days' pause in front of Lee's position at Spotsylvania,
Grant abandoned his plan of forcing his way through Lee's army to
Richmond, and endeavored to outflank it; but Lee again divined
his object, and moved round and still faced him. After various
movements the armies again stood face to face upon the old
battle-grounds on the Chickahominy. On the 3d of June the battle
commenced at half-past four in the morning. Hancock at first
gained an advantage, but Hill's division dashed down upon him
and drove him back with great slaughter; while no advantage was
gained by them in other parts of the field. The Federal loss on this
day was 13,000, and the troops were so dispirited that they refused
to renew the battle in the afternoon.
Grant then determined to alter his plan altogether, and sending
imperative orders to Butler to obtain possession of Petersburg,
embarked Smith's corps in transports, and moved with the rest of
his army to join that general there. Smith's corps entered the James
River, landed, and marched against Petersburg. Beauregard had at
Petersburg only two infantry and two cavalry regiments under
General Wise, while a single brigade fronted Butler at Bermuda
Hundred. With this handful of men he was called upon to defend
Petersburg and to keep Butler bottled up in Bermuda Hundred
until help could reach him from Lee. He telegraphed to Richmond
for all the assistance that could be sent to him, and was reinforced
by a brigade, which arrived just in time, for Smith had already
captured a portion of the intrenchments, but was now driven out.
The next day Beauregard was attacked both by Smith's and
Hancock's corps, which had now arrived. With 8,000 men he kept
at bay the assaults of two whole army corps, having in the
meantime sent orders to Gracie, the officer in command of the
brigade before Butler, to leave a few sentries there to deceive that
general, and to march with the rest of his force to his aid. It
arrived at a critical moment. Overwhelmed by vastly superior
numbers, many of the Confederates had left their posts, and
Breckenridge was in vain trying to rally them when Gracie's
brigade came up. The position was reoccupied and the battle
At noon Burnside with his corps arrived and joined the assailants;
while Butler, discovering at last that the troops in front of him
were withdrawn, moved out and barred the road against
reinforcements from Richmond. Nevertheless the Confederates
held their ground all the afternoon and until eleven o'clock at
night, when the assault ceased.
At midnight Beauregard withdrew his troops from the defenses
that they were too few to hold, and set them to work to throw up
fresh intrenchments on a shorter line behind. All night the men
worked with their bayonets, canteens, and any tools that came to
It was well for them that the enemy were so exhausted that it was
noon before they were ready to advance again, for by this time
help was at hand. Anderson, who had succeeded to the command
of Longstreet's corps, and was leading the van of Lee's army,
forced his way through Butler's troops and drove him back into the
Bermuda Hundred, and leaving one brigade to watch him marched
with another into Petersburg just as the attack was recommenced.
Thus reinforced Beauregard successfully defeated all the assaults
of the enemy until night fell. Another Federal army corps came up
before morning, and the assault was again renewed, but the
defenders, who had strengthened their defenses during the night,
drove their assailants back with terrible loss. The whole of Lee's
army now arrived, and the rest of Grant's army also came up, and
that general found that after all his movements his way to
Richmond was barred as before. He was indeed in a far worse
position than when he had crossed the Rapidan, for the morale of
his army was much injured by the repeated repulses and terrible
losses it had sustained. The new recruits that had been sent to fill
up the gaps were far inferior troops to those with which he had
commenced the campaign. To send forward such men against the
fortifications of Petersburg manned by Lee's veteran troops was to
court defeat, and he therefore began to throw up works for a
Fighting went on incessantly between the outposts, but only one
great attempt was made during the early months of the siege to
capture the Confederate position. The miners drove a gallery
under the works, and then drove other galleries right and left under
them. These were charged with eight thousand pounds of powder.
When all was ready, masses of troops were brought up to take
advantage of the confusion which would be caused by the
explosion, and a division of black troops were to lead the assault.
At a quarter to five in the morning of the 30th of July the great
mine was exploded, blowing two guns, a battery, and its defenders
into the air, and forming a huge pit two hundred feet long and sixty
feet wide. Lee and Beauregard hurried to the scene, checked the
panic that prevailed, brought up troops, and before the great
Federal columns approached the breach the Confederates were
ready to receive them. The assault was made with little vigor, the
approaches to the breach were obstructed by abattis, and instead of
rushing forward in a solid mass they occupied the great pit, and
contented themselves with firing over the edge of the crater, where
regiments and divisions were huddled together. But the
Confederate batteries were now manned, and from the works on
either side of the breach, and from behind, they swept the
approaches, and threw shell among the crowded mass. The black
division was now brought up, and entered the crater, but only
added to the confusion, There was no officer of sufficient
authority among the crowded mass there to assume the supreme
command. No assistance could be sent to them, for the arrival of
fresh troops would but have added to the confusion. All day the
conflict went on, the Federals lining the edge of the crater, and
exchanging a heavy musketry fire with the Confederate infantry,
while the mass below suffered terribly from the artillery fire.
When night closed the survivors of the great column that had
marched forward in the morning, confident that victory was
assured to them, and that the explosion would lay Petersburg open
to capture, made their retreat, the Confederates, however, taking a
considerable number of prisoners. The Federal loss in killed,
wounded and captured was admitted by them to be 4,000; the
Confederate accounts put it down at 6,000.
After this terrible repulse it was a long time before Grant again
renewed active operations, but during the months that ensued his
troops suffered very heavily from the effects of fever, heightened
by the discouragement they felt at their want of success, and at the
tremendous losses they had suffered since they entered Virginia on
their forward march to Richmond.
CHAPTER XVIII. A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING.
Vincent Wingfield had had an arduous time of it with his
squadron of cavalry. He had taken part in the desperate charge
that checked the advance of Sheridan's great column of cavalry
which approached within three miles of Richmond, the charge that
had cost the gallant Stuart his life; and the death of his beloved
general had been a heavy blow for him. Jackson and Stuart, two of
the bravest and noblest spirits of the Confederate army, were gone.
Both had been personally dear to Vincent, and he felt how
grievous was their loss to the cause for which he was fighting; but
he had little time for grief. The enemy, after the tremendous
battles of the Wilderness, swung their army round to Cold Harbor,
and Vincent's squadron was called up to aid Lee in his struggle
there. Then they were engaged night and day in harassing the
enemy as they marched down to take up their new base at
Petersburg, and finally received orders to ride round at full speed
to aid in the defense of that place.
They had arrived in the middle of the second day's fighting, and
dismounting his men Vincent had aided the hard-pressed
Confederates in holding their lines till Longstreet's division
arrived to their assistance. A short time before the terrible disaster
that befell the Federals in the mine they exploded under the
Confederate works, he was with General Wade Hampton, who had
succeeded General Stuart in the command of the cavalry, when
General Lee rode up.
"They are erecting siege works in earnest," General Lee said. "I do
not think that we shall have any more attacks for the present. I
wish I knew exactly where they are intending to place their heavy
batteries. If I did we should know where to strengthen our
defenses, and plant our counter batteries. It is very important to
find this out; but now that their whole army has settled down in
front of us, and Sheridan's cavalry are scouring the woods, we shall
get no news, for the farmers will no longer be able to get through
to tell us what is going on.
"I will try and ride round, if you like, general," Vincent said. "By
making a long detour one could get into the rear of their lines and
pass as a farmer going into camp to sell his goods."
"It would be a very dangerous service, sir," General Lee said.
"You know what the consequence would be if you were caught?"
"I know the consequence," Vincent said; "but I do not think, sir,
that the risk is greater than one runs every time one goes into
"Perhaps not," General Lee replied; "but in one case one dies
fighting for one's country by an honorable death, in the other--" and
"In the other one is shot in cold blood," Vincent said quietly. "One
dies for one's country in either case, sir; and it does not much
matter, so far as I can see, whether one is killed in battle or shot in
cold blood. As long as one is doing one's duty, one death is surely
as honorable as the other."
"That is true enough," General Lee said, "although it is not the way
men generally view the matter. Still, sir, if you volunteer for the
work, I do not feel justified in refusing the opportunity of
acquiring information that may be of vital consequence to us.
When will you start?"
"In half an hour, sir. I shall ride back to Richmond, obtain a
disguise there, and then go round by train to Burksville Junction
and then ride again until I get round behind their lines. Will you
give me an order for my horse and myself to be taken?"
"Very well, sir," General Lee said. "So be it. May God be with
you on your way and bring you safely back."
Vincent rode off to his quarters.
"Dan," he said, "I am going away on special duty for at least three
days. I have got a couple of letters to write, and shall be ready to
start in half an hour. Give the horse a good feed and have him at
the door again by that time."
"Am I to go with you, sah?"
"No, Dan; I must go by myself this time."
Dan felt anxious as he went out, for it was seldom that his master
ever went away without telling him where he was going, and he
felt sure that the service was one of unusual danger; nor was his
anxiety lessened when at the appointed time Vincent came out and
handed him two letters.
"You are to keep these letters, Dan, until I return, or till you hear
that something has happened to me. If you hear that, you are to
take one of these letters to my mother, and take the other yourself
to Miss Kingston. Tell her before you give it her what has
happened as gently as you can. As for yourself, Dan, you had your
letters of freedom long ago, and I have left you five hundred
dollars; so that you can get a cabin and patch of your own, and
settle down when these troubles are over."
"Let me go with you, master," Dan said, with the tears streaming
down his cheeks. "I would rather be killed with you a hundred
times than get on without you."
"I would take you if I could, Dan; but this is a service that I must
do alone. Good-by, my boy; let us hope that in three or four days
at the outside I shall be back here again safe and sound."
He wrung Dan's hand, and then started at a canter and kept on at
that pace until he reached Richmond. A train with stores was
starting for the south in a few minutes; General Lee's order enabled
Vincent to have a horse-box attached at once, and he was soon
speeding on his way. He alighted at Burksville Junction, and there
purchased some rough clothes for himself and some
country-fashioned saddlery for his horse. Then, after changing his
clothes at an inn and putting the fresh saddlery on his horse, he
It was getting late in the afternoon, but he rode on by unfrequented
roads, stopping occasionally to inquire if any of the Federal
cavalry had been seen in the neighborhood, and at last stopped for
the night at a little village inn. As soon as it was daybreak he
resumed his journey. He had purchased at Burksville some
colored calico and articles of female clothing, and fastened the
parcel to the back of his saddle. As he rode forward now he heard
constant tales of the passing of parties of the enemy's cavalry, but
he was fortunate enough to get well round to the rear of the
Federal lines before he encountered any of them. Then he came
suddenly upon a troop.
"Where are you going to, and where have you come from?"
"Our farm is a mile away from Union Grove," he said, "and I have
been over to Sussex Courthouse to buy some things for my
"Let me see what you have got there," the officer said. "You are
rebels to a man here, and there's no trusting any of you."
Vincent unfastened the parcel and opened it. The officer laughed.
"Well, we won't confiscate them as contraband of war."
So saying he set spurs to his horse and galloped on with his troop.
Vincent rode on to Union Grove, and then taking a road at random
kept on till he reached a small farmhouse. He knocked at the door,
and a woman came out.
"Mother," he said, "can you put me up for a couple of days? I am a
stranger here, and all the villages are full of soldiers."
The woman looked at him doubtfully.
"What are you doing here?" she asked at last. "This ain't a time for
strangers; besides a young fellow like you ought to be ashamed to
show yourself when you ought to be over there with Lee. My boys
are both there and my husband. You ought to be ashamed of
yourself, a strong-looking young fellow like you, to be riding about
instead of fighting the Yankees. Go along! you will get no shelter
here. I would scorn to have such as you inside my doors."
"Perhaps I have been fighting there," Vincent said significantly.
"But one can't be always fighting, and there are other things to do
sometimes. For instance, to find out what the Yankees are doing
and what are their plans."
"Is that so?" the woman asked doubtfully.
"That is so," he answered earnestly. "I am an officer in Wade
Hampton's cavalry, and, now Sheridan's troopers have cut off all
communication, I have come out to find for General Lee where the
Yankees are building their batteries before Petersburg."
"In that case you are welcome," the woman said. "Come straight
in. I will lead your horse out and fasten him up in the bush, and
give him a feed there. It will never do to put him in the stable; the
Yankees come in and out and they'd take him off sharp enough if
their eyes fell on him. I think you will be safe enough even if they
do come. They will take you for a son of mine, and if they ask any
questions I will answer them sharp enough."
"I wonder they have left you a feed of corn," Vincent said, when
the woman returned after taking away his horse.
"It's no thanks to them," she answered; "they have cleared out
everything that they could lay their hands on. But I have been
expecting it for months, and, as I have had nothing to do since my
man and boys went away, I have been digging a great pit in the
wood over there, and have buried most all my corn, and have
salted my pigs down and buried them in barrels; so they didn't find
much. They took the old horse and two cows; but I hope the old
horse will fall down the first time they uses him, and the cow meat
will choke them as eats it. Now, is there anything as I can do to
"I want a basket with some eggs and chickens or vegetables to take
into their camp to sell, but I am afraid I have not much chance of
"I can help you there too," the woman said. "I turned all my
chickens into the wood the day I heard the Yankees had landed.
They have got rather wild like; but I go out and give them some
corn every evening. I expect if we look about we shall find some
nests; indeed I know there are one or two of them sitting. So if
you will come out with me we can soon knock down five or six of
the creatures, and maybe get a score or two of eggs. As for
vegetables, a horde of locusts couldn't have stripped the country
cleaner than they have done."
They went out into the wood. Six hens were soon killed, and
hunting about they discovered several nests and gathered about
three dozen eggs. Vincent aided in plucking the chickens and they
then returned to the house.
"You had best take a bite before you go," she said. "It's noon now,
and you said you started at daybreak. Always get a meal when you can,
She produced a loaf and some bacon from a little cupboard hidden
by her bed, and Vincent, who, now he thought of it, was feeling
hungry, made a hearty meal.
"I will pay you for these chickens and eggs at once," he said.
"There is no saying whether I shall come back again."
"I will not say no to your paying for the chickens and eggs," she
said, "because money is scarce enough, and I may have long to
wait before my man and the boys come back; but as to lodging and
food I would not touch a cent. You are welcome to all I have when
it's for the good cause." Vincent started with the basket on his arm,
and after walking three miles came upon the Federal camps.
Some of the regiments were already under canvas, others were still
bivouacked in the open air, as the store-ships carrying the heavy
baggage had not yet arrived. The generals and their staffs had
taken up their quarters in the villages. Vincent had received
accurate instructions from his hostess as to the position of the
various villages, and avoided them carefully, for he did not want to
sell out his stock immediately. He had indeed stowed two of the
fowls away in his pocket so that in case any one insisted upon
buying up all his stock he could place these in his basket and still
He avoided the camps as much as he could. He could see the
smoke rising in front of him, and the roar of guns was now close at
hand. He saw on his right an elevated piece of ground, from which
a good view could be obtained of the fortifications upon which the
Federals were working. A camp had been pitched there, and a
large tent near the summit showed that some officer of superior
rank had his quarters there. He made a detour so as to come up at
the back of the hill and when he reached the top he stood looking
down upon the line of works.
They were nearly half a mile distant. The intervening ground had
already been stripped of its hedges, and the trees cut down to form
gabions, fascines, and platforms for the cannon. Thousands of
men were at work; but in some parts they were clustered much
more thickly than in others, and Vincent had no difficulty in
determining where the principal batteries were in course of
construction along this portion of the position. He was still gazing
intently when two horsemen rode up from behind.
"Hallo you, sir! What are you looking at?" one of them asked
sharply. "What are you spying about here?"
Vincent turned slowly round with a silly smile on his lips.
"I am spying all them chaps at work," he said. "It reminds me for
all the world of an ant-hill. Never did see so many chaps before.
What be they a-doing? Digging a big drain or making a roadway, I
"Who are you, sir?" the officer asked angrily.
"Seth Jones I be, and mother's sent me to sell some fowls and eggs.
Do you want to buy any? Fine birds they be."
"Why, Sheridan," laughed the other officer, "this is a feather out of
your cap. I thought your fellows had cleared out every hen-roost
within twenty miles of Petersburg already."
"I fancy they have emptied most of them," the general said grimly.
"Where do you come from, lad?"
"I comes from over there," Vincent said, jerking his thumb back.
"I lives there with mother. Father and the other boys they have
gone fighting Yanks; but they wouldn't take me with them 'cause I
ain't sharp in my wits, though I tells them I could shoot a Yank as
well as they could if they showed me."
"And who do you suppose all those men are?" General Sheridan
asked, pointing toward the trenches.
"I dunno," Vincent replied. "I guess they be niggers. There be too
many of them for whites; besides whites ain't such fools to work
like that. Doesn't ye want any fowl?" and he drew back the cloth
and showed the contents of the basket.
"Take them as a matter of curiosity, general," the other officer
laughed. "It will be downright novelty to you to buy chickens."
"What do you want for them, boy?"
"Mother said as I wasn't to take less nor a dollar apiece."
"Greenbacks, I suppose?" the officer asked.
"I suppose so. She didn't say nothing about it; but I has not seen
aught but greenbacks for a long time since."
"Come along, then," the officer said; "we will take them."
They rode up to the large tent, and the officers alighted, and gave
their horses to two of the soldiers.
"Give your basket to this soldier."
"I want the basket back again. Mother would whop me if I came
back without the basket again."
"All right," the officer said; "you shall have it back in a minute."
Vincent stood looking anxiously after the orderly.
"Do you think that boy is as foolish as he seems?" General
Sheridan asked his companion. "He admits that he comes of a
"I don't think he would have admitted that if he hadn't been a fool.
I fancy he is a half-witted chap. They never would have left a
fellow of his age behind."
"No, I think it's safe," Sheridan said; "but one can't be too
particular just at present. See, the trees in front hide our work
altogether from the rebels, and it would be a serious thing if they
were to find out what we are doing."
"That boy could not tell them much even if he got there," the other
said; "and from this distance it would need a sharp eye and some
military knowledge to make out anything of what is going on.
Where does your mother live, boy?"
"I ain't going to tell you," Vincent said doggedly "Mother said I
wasn't to tell no one where I lived, else the Yankee thieves would
be a-coming down and stealing the rest of our chickens."
The officers laughed.
"Well, go along, boy; and I should advise you not to say anything
about Yankee thieves another time, for likely enough you will get
a broken head for your pains."
Vincent went off grumbling, and with a slow and stumbling step
made his way over the brow of the hill and down through the
camps behind. Here he sold his last two fowls and his eggs, and
then walked briskly on until he reached the cottage from which he
"I am glad to see you back," the woman said as he entered. "How
have you got on?"
"Capitally," he said. "I pretended to be half an idiot, and so got
safely out, though I fell into Sheridan's hands. He suspected me at
first, but at last he thought I was what I looked--a fool. He wanted
to know where you lived, but I wouldn't tell him. I told him you
told me not to tell any one, 'cause if I did the Yankee thieves
would be clearing out the rest of the chickens."
"Did you tell him that, now?" the woman said in delight; "he must
have thought you was a fool. Well, it's a good thing the Yanks
should hear the truth sometimes. Well, have you done now?"
"No, I have only seen one side of their works yet; I must try round
the other flank to-morrow. I wish I could get something to sell that
wouldn't get bought up by the first people I came to, something I
could peddle among the soldiers."
"What sort of thing?"
"Something in the way of drinks, I should say," Vincent said. "I
saw a woman going among the camps. She had two tin cans and a
little mug. I think she had lemonade or something of that sort."
"It wouldn't be lemonade," the woman said "I haven't seen a
lemon for the last two years; but they do get some oranges from
Florida. Maybe it was that, or perhaps it was spirits and water."
"Perhaps it was," Vincent agreed; "though I don't think they would
let any one sell spirits in the camp."
"I can't get you any lemons or oranges neither," the woman said;
"but I might make you a drink out of molasses and herbs, with
some spirits in it. I have got a keg of old rye buried away ever
since my man went off, six months ago; I am out of molasses, but I
dare say I can borrow some from a neighbor, and as for herbs they
are about the only thing the Yankees haven't stole. I think I could
fix you up something that would do. As long as it has got spirits in
it, it don't much matter what you put in besides, only it wouldn't do
to take spirits up alone. You can call it plantation drink, and I don't
suppose any one would ask too closely what it's made of."
"Thank you, that will do capitally."
The next morning Vincent again set out, turning big steps this time
toward the right flank of the Federal position. He had in the
course of the evening made a sketch of the ground he had seen,
marking in all the principal batteries, with notes as to the number
of guns for which they seemed to be intended.
"Look here," he said to the woman before leaving. "I may not be
as lucky to-day as I was yesterday. If I do not come back to-night,
can you find any one you can trust to take this piece of paper round
to Richmond? Of course he would have to make his way first up
to Burksville junction, and then take train to Richmond. When he
gets there he must go down to Petersburg, and ask for General Lee.
I have written a line to go with it, saying what I have done this for,
and asking the general to give the bearer a hundred dollars."
"I will take it myself," the woman said; "not for the sake of the
hundred dollars, though I ain't saying as it wouldn't please the old
man when he comes back to find I had a hundred dollars stored
away; but for the cause. My men are all doing their duty, and I will
do mine. So trust me, and if you don't come back by daybreak
to-morrow morning, I will start right away with these letters. I will
go out at once and hide them somewhere in case the Yanks should
come and make a search. If you are caught they might, like
enough, trace you here, and then they would search the place all
over and maybe set it alight. If you ain't here by nightfall I shall
sleep out in the wood, so if they come they won't find me here. If
anything detains you, and you ain't back till after dark, you will
find me somewhere near the tree where your horse is tied up."
Provided with a large can full of a liquor that the woman
compounded, and which Vincent, on tasting, found to be by no
means bad, he started from the cottage. Again he made his way
safely through the camps, and without hindrance lounged up to a
spot where a large number of men belonging to one of the negro
regiments were at work.
"Plantation liquor?" he said, again assuming a stupid air, to a black
sergeant who was with them. "First-rate stuff; and only fifteen
cents a glass."
"What plantation liquor like?" the negro asked. "Me not know
"First-rate stuff," Vincent repeated. "Mother makes it of spirit and
molasses and all sorts. Fifteen cents a glass."
"Well, I will take a glass," the sergeant said. "Mighty hot work dis
in de sun; but don't you say nuffin about the spirit. Ef dey ask you,
just you say molasses and all sorts, dat's quite enough. De white
officer won't let spirits be sold in de camp.
"Dat bery good stuff," he said, smacking his lips as he handed back
the little tin measure. "You sell him all in no time." Several of the
negroes now came round, and Vincent disposed of a considerable
quantity of his plantation liquor. Then he turned to go away, for
he did not want to empty his can at one place. He had not gone
many paces when a party of three or four officers came along.
"Hallo, you sir, what the deuce are you doing here?" one asked
angrily. "Don't you know nobody is allowed to pass through the
"I didn't see no lines. What sort of lines are they? No one told me
nothing about lines. My mother sent me out to sell plantation
liquor, fifteen cents a glass."
"What's it like?" one of the officers said laughing. "Spirits, I will
bet a dollar, in some shape or other. Pour me out a glass. I will try
Vincent filled the little tin mug, and handed it to the officer. As he
lifted his face to do so there was a sudden exclamation.
"Vincent Wingfield!" and another officer drawing his sword
attacked him furiously, shouting, "A spy! Seize him! A
Vincent recognized with astonishment in the Federal officer
rushing at him with uplifted sword his old antagonist, Jackson.
Almost instinctively he whirled the can, which was still half full of
liquor, round his head and dashed it full in the face of his
antagonist, who was knocked off his feet by the blow. With a yell
of rage he started up again and rushed at Vincent. The latter
snatched up a shovel that was lying close by and stood his ground.
The officers were so surprised at the suddenness of the incident
and the overthrow of their companion, and for the moment so
amused at the latter's appearance, covered as he was from head to
foot with the sticky liquor and bleeding from a cut inflicted by the
edge of the can, that they were incapable of interference.
Blinded with rage, and with the liquid streaming into his eyes,
Jackson rushed at Vincent. The latter caught the blow aimed at
him on the edge of the shovel, and then swinging his weapon
round smote his antagonist with all his strength, the edge of the
shovel falling fairly upon his head. Without a cry the traitor fell
dead in his tracks. The other officers now drew their swords and
rushed forward. Vincent, seeing the futility of resistance, threw
down his shovel. He was instantly seized.
"Halloo there!" the senior officer called to the men, who had
stopped in their work and were gazing at the sudden fray that had
arisen, "a sergeant and four men." Four of the negro soldiers and a
sergeant at once stepped forward. "Take this man and conduct
him to the village. Put him in a room, and stay there with him. Do
you, sergeant, station yourself at the door, so that I shall know
where to find you. Put on your uniforms and take your guns." The
men put on their coats, which they had removed while at work,
shouldered their muskets, and took their places, two on each side
of the prisoner. The officers then turned to examine their prostrate
"It's all over with him," one said, stooping down; "the shovel has
cut his skull nearly in half. Well, I fancy he was a bad lot. I don't
believe in Southerners who come over to fight in our ranks;
besides he was at one time in the rebel army."
"Yes, he was taken prisoner," another said. "Then his father, who
had to bolt from the South, because, he said, of his Northern
sympathies, but likely enough for something else, came round,
made interest somehow and got his son released, and then some
one else got him a commission with us. He always said he had
been obliged to fight on the other side, but that he had always been
heart and soul for the North; anyhow, he was always
blackguarding his old friends. I always doubted the fellow. Well,
there's an end of him; and anyhow he has done useful service at
last by recognizing this spy. Fine-looking young fellow that. He
called him Vincent Wingfield. I seem to remember the name;
perhaps I have read it in some of the rebel newspapers we got hold
of; likely enough some one will know it. Well, I suppose we had
better have Jackson carried into camp."
Four more of the negroes were called out, and these carried the
body into the camp of his regiment. An officer was also sent from
the working party to report the capture of a spy to his colonel.
"I will report it to the general," the latter said; "he rode along here
about a quarter of an hour ago, and may not be back again for
some hours. As we have got the spy fast it cannot make any
As he was marched back to the village Vincent felt that there was
no hope for him whatever. He had been denounced as a spy, and
although the lips that had denounced him had been silenced
forever, the mischief had been done. He could give no satisfactory
account of himself. He thought for a moment of declaring that a
mistake had been made, but he felt that no denial would
counterbalance the effect of Jackson's words. The fury, too, with
which the latter had attacked him would show plainly enough that
his assailant was absolutely certain as to his identity, and even that
there had been a personal feud between them. Then he thought
that if he said that he was the son of the woman in the line she
would hear him out in the assertion. But it was not likely that this
would be accepted as against Jackson's testimony; besides, inquiry
among her neighbors would certainly lead to the discovery that she
was speaking an untruth, and might even involve her in his fate as
his abettor. But most of all he decided against this course because
it would involve the telling of a lie.
Vincent considered that while in disguise, and doing important
service for his country, he was justified in using deceit; but merely
for the purpose of saving his own life, and that perhaps uselessly,
he would not lie. His fate, of course, was certain. He was a spy,
and would be shot for it. Vincent had so often been in the
battlefield, so often under a fire from which it seemed that no one
could come alive, that the thought that death was at hand had not
for him the terrors that possess those differently circumstanced. He
was going to die for the Confederacy as tens of thousands of brave
men had died before, and he rejoiced over the precaution he had
taken as to the transmission of his discoveries on the previous day,
and felt sure that General Lee would do full justice to his memory,
and announce that he had died in doing noble service to the
He sighed as he thought of his mother and sisters; but Rose had
been married in the spring, and Annie was engaged to an officer in
General Beauregard's staff. Then he thought of Lucy away in
Georgia and for the first time his lip quivered and his cheek paled.
The negro guards, who had been enlisted but a few weeks, were
wholly ignorant of their duties, and having once conveyed their
prisoner into the room, evidently considered that all further
necessity for military strictness was at an end. They had been
ordered to stay in the room with the prisoner, but no instructions
had been given as to their conduct there. They accordingly placed
their muskets in one corner of the room, and proceeded to chatter
and laugh without further regarding him.
Under other circumstances this carelessness would have inspired
Vincent with the thought of escape, but he knew that it was out of
the question here. There were Federal camps all round and a shout
from the negroes would send a hundred men in instant pursuit of
him. There was nothing for him to do but to wait for the end, and
that end would assuredly come in the morning. From time to time
the door opened, and the negro sergeant looked in. Apparently his
ideas on the subject of discipline were no stricter than those of his
men, for he made no remark as to their carelessness. Presently,
when he looked in, the four soldiers were standing at the window
watching a regiment passing by on its way to take its share of the
work in the trenches. Vincent, who was sitting at a table,
happened to look up, and was astonished at seeing the sergeant
first put his finger on his lips, then take off his cap, put one hand
on his heart, and gesticulate with the other.
Vincent gazed at him in blank surprise, then he started and almost
sprang to his feet, for in the Yankee sergeant he recognized Tony
Morris; but the uplifted hand of the negro warned him of the
necessity of silence. The negro nodded several times, again put his
hand on his heart, and then disappeared. A thrill of hope stirred
every vein in Vincent's body. He felt his cheeks flush and had
difficulty in maintaining his passive attitude. He was not, then,
utterly deserted; he had a friend who would, he was sure, do all in
his power to aid him.
It was extraordinary indeed that it should be Tony who was now
his jailer; and yet, when he thought it over, it was not difficult to
understand. It was natural enough that he should have enlisted
when the black regiments were raised. He had doubtless heard his
name shouted out by Jackson, and had, as Vincent now
remembered, stepped forward as a sort of volunteer when the
officer called for a sergeant and four men.
Yes, Tony would doubtless do all in his power to save him.
Whether it would be possible that he could do so was doubtful; but
at least there was a hope, and with it the feeling of quiet
resignation with which Vincent had faced what appeared to be
inevitable at once disappeared, and was succeeded by a restless
longing for action. His brain was busy at once in calculating the
chances of his being ordered for instant execution or of the
sentence being postponed till the following morning, and, in the
latter case, with the question of what guard would be probably
placed over him, and how Tony would set about the attempt to aid
him to escape.
Had the general been in camp when he was brought in he would
probably have been shot at sunset, but if he did not return until the
afternoon he would would most likely order the sentence to be
carried out at daybreak. In any case, as he was an officer, some
time might be granted to him to prepare for death. Then there was
the question whether he would be handed over to a white regiment
for safekeeping or left in the hands of the black regiment that had
captured him. No doubt after the sentence was passed the white
officers of that regiment would see that a much stricter watch than
that now put over him was set.
It was not probable that he would still be in charge of Tony, for as
the latter would be on duty all day he would doubtless be relieved.
In that case how would he manage to approach him, and what
means would he use to direct the attention of the sentries in
another direction? He thought over the plans that he himself would
adopt were he in Tony's place. The first thing would be, of course,
to make the sentries drunk if possible. This should not be a
difficult task with men whose notions of discipline were so lax as
those of the negroes; but it would be no easy matter for Tony to
obtain spirits, for these were strictly prohibited in the Federal
camp. Perhaps he might help Tony in this way. He fortunately
had a small notebook with a pencil in his pocket, and as his guards
were still at the window he wrote as follows:
"I am captured by the Yankees. So far as I can see, my only
chance of escape is to make the sentries drunk. The bearer is
absolutely to be trusted. Give him his canteen full of spirits, and
tell him what I have written here."
He tore this page out, folded it up, and directed it to Mrs.
Grossmith, Worley Farm, near Union. Presently Tony looked in
again and Vincent held up the note. The sergeant stepped quickly
forward and took it, and then said sharply to the men:
"Now den, dis not keeping guard. Suppose door open and dis
fellow run away. What dey say to you? Two of you keep your eye
on dis man. Suppose Captain Pearce come in and find you all
staring out window. He kick up nice bobbery."
Thus admonished as to their duty, two of the negroes took up their
muskets and stood with their backs to the door, with their eyes
fixed on the prisoner with such earnestness that Vincent could not
suppress a smile. The negroes grinned responsively.
"Dis bad affair, young sah," one said; "bery bad affair. Ob course
we soldiers ob de Union, and got to fight if dey tell us; but no like
dis job ob keeping guard like dis."
"It can't be helped," Vincent said; "and of course you must do your
duty. I am not going to jump up the chimney or fly through the
window, and as there are four of you, to say nothing of the
sergeant outside, you needn't be afraid of my trying to escape."
"No sah, dat not possible nohow; we know dat bery well. Dat's
why we no trouble to look after you. But as de sargent say watch,
oh course we must watch. We bery pleased to see you kill dat
white officer. Dat officer bery hard man and all de men hate him,
and when you knock him down we should like to hab given cheer.
We all sorry for you; still you see, sah, we must keep watch. If you
were to get away, dar no saying what dey do to us."
"That's all right," Vincent said; "I don't blame you at all. As you
say, that was a very bad fellow. I had quarreled with him before,
because he treated his slaves so badly."
CHAPTER XIX. FREE.
It was not until late in the afternoon that a white officer entered,
and ordered the soldiers to conduct the prisoner to the general's
"What is your name, sir, and who are you?" the general asked as he
was brought in. "I hear that you were denounced by Lieutenant
Jackson as being a spy, and that he addressed you as Vincent
Wingfield. What have you got to say to the charge?"
"My name is Vincent Wingfield, sir," Vincent replied quietly. "I
am upon the staff of General Wade Hampton, and in pursuance of
my duty I came here to learn what I could of your movements and
The general was silent for a moment.
"Then, sir, as you are an officer, you must be well aware of the
consequence of being discovered in disguise here. I regret that
there is no course open to me but to order you to be shot as a spy
One of the officers who was standing by the general here
whispered to him.
"Ah, yes, I remember," he said. "Are you the same officer, sir,
who escaped from Elmira?"
"I am, sir," Vincent replied; "and at the same time aided in the
escape of the man who denounced me to-day, and who then did his
best to have me arrested by sending an anonymous letter stating
the disguise in which I was making my way through the country. I
was not surprised to find that he had carried his treachery further,
and was now fighting against the men with whom he had formerly
"He deserved the fate that has befallen him," the general said.
"Still this does not alter your position. I regret that I must order
my sentence to be carried out."
"I do not blame you, sir. I knew the risks I ran when I accepted the
mission. My only regret is that I failed in supplying my general
with the information they required."
The general then turned to the officer who had brought Vincent up.
"This officer will remain in charge of your men for to-night,
Captain Pearce. You will see that the sentence is carried into
effect at daybreak. I need not tell you that a vigilant guard must be
placed over him."
Vincent was again marched back to the village, but the officer
halted the party when he arrived there.
"Stop here a few minutes, sergeant," he said. "That room is
required for an officer's quarters. I will look round and find
In a few minutes he returned, and Vincent was conducted to a shed
standing in the garden of one of the houses.
"Place one man on guard at the door and another behind," he said
to the sergeant. "Let the other two relieve them, and change the
watch once an hour."
The sergeant saluted.
"De men hab been on duty since daylight, sah, and none of us hab
had anything to eat."
"Oh, I forgot that," the officer replied. "Very well, I will send
another party to relieve you at once."
In ten minutes another sergeant and four men arrived at the spot,
and Tony and his companions returned to the camp.
As soon as Tony had devoured a piece of bread he left the camp,
walked with careless gait through the camps behind, and went on
until he reached a village in which were comparatively few
soldiers. He went up to a woman who was standing at a door.
"Missus," he said, "I hab got a letter to take, and I ain't bery sure as
to de name. Will you kindly tell me what is de address writ on dis
The woman looked at it.
"Mrs. Grossmith, Worley Farm, near Union. That's about two
miles along the road. If you go on any one will tell you which is
Tony hurried on, for he wanted to get back to the camp before it
was dark. He had no difficulty in finding Worley Farm.
"Now, then, what do you want?" its owner said sharply, as she
opened the door in reply to his knock. "There's nothing for you
here. You can look round if you like. It's been all stripped clean
days ago, so I tell you."
"Me no want anything, ma'am. Me hab a letter for you." The
woman in surprise took the note and opened it. She read it through
and looked earnestly at Tony.
"He says you are to be trusted," she said. "Is that so?"
"I would gib my life for him twenty times over," Tony replied.
"He got me away from a brutal master and bought my wife out ob
slavery for me. What does he say, ma'am? For de Lord sake tell
me. Perhaps he tell me how to get him clar."
The woman read out the contents of the note.
"Dat's it, missus, sure enough; dat's the way," he exclaimed in
delight. "Me tink and tink all day, and no manage to tink of
anything except to shoot de sentry and fight wid de oders and get
him out; but den all de oder sojers come running down, and no
chance to escape. If me can get de spirits dat's easy enough. Me
make dem all drunk as hogs."
"I can give you that," the woman said. "Is there anything else you
will want? What are you going to do with him if you get him free?
They will hunt you down like vermin."
"I tought we might get down to de river and get ober somehow.
Dere will be no getting trou der cavalry. Dey will hab dem on
"Well, you want some clothes, anyhow; you can't go about in these
soldier clothes. The first Yank you came across would shoot you
for a deserter, and the first of our men as a traitor. Well, by the
time you get back to-night, that is if you do come back, I will get
up a chest I've get buried with my men's clothes in it. They didn't
want to take them away to the war with them, so I hid them up."