ROMAUNT ABROAD DURING THE WAR.
BY GEO. ALFRED TOWNSEND.
NEW YORK: BLELOCK & COMPANY, 19 BEEKMAN STREET, 1866.
Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1866, by
GEORGE ALFRED TOWNSEND,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
SCRYMGEOUR, WHITCOMB & CO.,
15 WATER STREET, BOSTON.
- Transcriber's note: Inconsistency in hyphenation in this etext is as in the original book. -
Who saw the war as vividly as he sang it; and whose aims for the peace that has ensued, are even nobler than the noble influence he exerted during the struggle, these chapters of travel are inscribed by his friend and colleague.
In the early part of 1863, while I was resident in London,—the first of the War Correspondents to go abroad,—I wrote, at the request of Mr. George Smith, publisher of the Cornhill Magazine, a series of chapters upon the Rebellion, thus introduced:—
"Few wars have been so well chronicled, as that now desolating America. Its official narratives have been copious; the great newspapers of the land have been represented in all its campaigns; private enterprise has classified and illustrated its several events, and delegates of foreign countries have been allowed to mingle freely with its soldiery, and to observe and describe its battles. The pen and the camera have accompanied its bayonets, and there has not probably been any skirmish, however insignificant, but a score of zealous scribes have remarked and recorded it.
"I have employed some leisure hours afforded me in Europe, to detail those parts of the struggle which I witnessed in a civil capacity. The Sketches which follow are entirely personal, and dwell less upon routine incidents, plans, and statistics, than upon those lighter phases of war which fall beneath the dignity of severe history and are seldom related. I have endeavored to reproduce not only the adventures, but the impressions of a novitiate, and I have described not merely the army and its operations, but the country invaded, and the people who inhabit it.
"The most that I have hoped to do, is so to simplify a campaign that the reader may realize it as if he had beheld it, travelling at will, as I did, and with no greater interest than to see how fields were fought and won."
To those chapters, I have added in this collection, some estimates of American life in Europe, and some European estimates of American life; with my ultimate experiences in the War after my return to my own country. I cannot hope that they will be received with the same favor, either here or abroad, as that which greeted their original publication. But no man ought to let the first four years of his majority slip away unrecorded. I would rather publish a tolerable book now than a possibly good one hereafter.
CAMPAIGNS OF A NON-COMBATANT,
Romaunt abroad during the War.
"Here is a piece of James Franklin's printing press, Mr. Townsend," said Mr. Pratt to me, at Newport the other day,—"Ben. Franklin wrote for the paper, and set type upon it. The press was imported from England in 1730, or thereabouts."
He produced a piece of wood, a foot in length, and then laid it away in its drawer very sacredly.
"I should like to write to that press, Mr. Pratt," I said,—"there would be no necessity in such a case of getting off six columns for to-night's mail."
"Well!" said Mr. Pratt, philosophically, "I have a theory that a man grows up to machinery. As your day so shall your strength be. I believe you have telegraphed up to a House instrument, haven't you?"
"Mr. Pratt," cried I, with some indignation, "your memory is too good. This is Newport, and I have come down to see the surf. Pray, do not remind me of hot hours in a newspaper office, the click of a Morse dispatch, and work far into the midnight!"
So I left Mr. Pratt, of the Newport Mercury, with an ostentation of affront, and bade James Brady, the boatman, hoist sail and carry me over to Dumpling Rocks.
On the grassy parapet of the crumbling tower which once served the purposes of a fort, the transparent water hungering at its base, the rocks covered with fringe spotting the channel, the ocean on my right hand lost in its own vastness, and Newport out of mind save when the town bells rang, or the dip of oars beat in the still swell of Narragansett,—I lay down, chafing and out of temper, to curse the only pleasurable labor I had ever undertaken.
To me all places were workshops: the seaside, the springs, the summer mountains, the cataracts, the theatres, the panoramas of islet-fondled rivers speeding by strange cities. I was condemned to look upon them all with mercenary eyes, to turn their gladness into torpid prose, and speak their praises in turgid columns. Never nepenthe, never abandonne, always wide-awake, and watching for saliences, I had gone abroad like a falcon, and roamed at home like a hungry jackal. Six fingers on my hand, one long and pointed, and ever dropping gall; the ineradicable stain upon my thumb; the widest of my circuits, with all my adventure, a paltry sheet of foolscap; and the world in which I dwelt, no place for thought, or dreaminess, or love-making,—only the fierce, fast, flippant existence of news!
And with this inward execration, I lay on Dumpling Rocks, looking to sea, and recalled the first fond hours of my newspaper life.
To be a subject of old Hoe, the most voracious of men, I gave up the choice of three sage professions, and the sweet alternative of idling husbandry.
The day I graduated saw me an attache of the Philadelphia Chameleon. I was to receive three dollars a week and be the heir to lordly prospects. In the long course of persevering years I might sit in the cushions of the night-editor, or speak of the striplings around me as "my reporters."
"There is nothing which you cannot attain," said Mr. Axiom, my employer,—"think of the influence you exercise!—more than a clergyman; Horace Greeley was an editor; so was George D. Prentice; the first has just been defeated for Congress; the last lectured last night and got fifty dollars for it."
Hereat I was greatly encouraged, and proposed to write a leader for next day's paper upon the evils of the Fire Department.
"Dear me," said Mr. Axiom, "you would ruin our circulation at a wink; what would become of our ball column? in case of a fire in the building we couldn't get a hose to play on it. Oh! no, Alfred, writing leaders is hard and dangerous; I want you first to learn the use of a beautiful pair of scissors."
I looked blank and chopfallen.
"No man can write a good hand or a good style," he said, "without experience with scissors. They give your palm flexibility and that is soon imparted to the mind. But perfection is attained by an alternate use of the scissors and the pen; if a little paste be prescribed at the same time, cohesion and steadfastness is imparted to the man."
His reasoning was incontrovertible; but I damned his conclusions.
So, I spent one month in slashing several hundred exchanges a day, and paragraphing all the items. These reappeared in a column called "THE LATEST INFORMATION," and when I found them copied into another journal, a flush of satisfaction rose to my face.
The editor of the Chameleon was an old journalist, whose face was a sealed book of Confucius, and who talked to me, patronizingly, now and then, like the Delphic Oracle. His name was Watch, and he wore a prodigious pearl in his shirt-bosom. He crept up to the editorial room at nine o'clock every night, and dashed off an hour's worth of glittering generalities, at the end of which time two or three gentlemen, blooming at the nose, and with cheeks resembling a map drawn in red ink, sounded the pipe below stairs, and Mr. Watch said—
"Mr. Townsend, I look to you to be on hand to-night; I am called away by the Water-Gas Company."
Then, with enthusiasm up to blood-heat, aroused by this mark of confidence, I used to set to, and scissor and write till three o'clock, while Mr. Watch talked water-gas over brandy and water, and drew his thirty dollars punctually on Saturdays.
So it happened that my news paragraphs, sometimes pointedly turned into a reflection, crept into the editorial columns, when water-gas was lively. Venturing more and more, the clipper finally indited a leader; and Mr. Watch, whose nose water-gas was reddening, applauded me, and told me in his sublime way, that, as a special favor, I might write all the leaders the next night. Mr. Watch was seen no more in the sanctum for a week, and my three dollars carried on the concern.
When he returned, he generously gave me a dollar, and said that he had spoken of me to the Water-Gas Company as a capital secretary. Then he wrote me a pass for the Arch Street Theatre, and told me, benevolently, to go off and rest that night.
For a month or more the responsibility of the Chameleon devolved almost entirely upon me. Child that I was, knowing no world but my own vanity, and pleased with those who fed its sensitive love of approbation rather than with the just and reticent, I harbored no distrust till one day when Axiom visited the office, and I was drawing my three dollars from the treasurer, I heard Mr. Watch exclaim, within the publisher's room—
"Did you read my article on the Homestead Bill?"
"Yes," answered Axiom; "it was quite clever; your leaders are more alive and epigrammatic than they were."
I could stand it no more. I bolted into the office, and cried—
"The article on the Homestead Bill is mine, so is every other article in to-day's paper. Mr. Watch does not tell the truth; he is ungenerous!"
"What's this, Watch?" said Axiom.
"Alfred," exclaimed Mr. Watch, majestically, "adopts my suggestions very readily, and is quite industrious. I recommend that we raise his salary to five dollars a week. That is a large sum for a lad."
That night the manuscript was overhauled in the composing room. Watch's dereliction was manifest; but not a word was said commendatory of my labor; it was feared I might take "airs," or covet a further increase of wages. I only missed Watch's hugh pearl, and heard that he had been discharged, and was myself taken from the drudgery of the scissors, and made a reporter.
All this was very recent, yet to me so far remote, that as I recall it all, I wonder if I am not old, and feel nervously of my hairs. For in the five intervening years I have ridden at Hoe speed down the groove of my steel-pen.
The pen is my traction engine; it has gone through worlds of fancy and reflection, dragging me behind it; and long experience has given it so great facility, that I have only to fire up, whistle, and fix my couplings, and away goes my locomotive with no end of cars in train.
Few journalists, beginning at the bottom, do not weary of the ladder ere they climb high. Few of such, or of others more enthusiastic, recall the early associations of "the office" with pleasure. Yet there is no world more grotesque, none, at least in America, more capable of fictitious illustration. Around a newspaper all the dramatis personae of the world congregate; within it there are staid idiosyncratic folk who admit of all kindly caricature.
I summon from that humming and hurly-burly past, the ancient proof-reader. He wears a green shade over his eyes and the gas burner is drawn very low to darken the bald and wrinkled contour of his forehead. He is severe in judgment and spells rigidly by the Johnsonian standard. He punctuates by an obdurate and conscientious method, and will have no italics upon any pretext. He will lend you money, will eat with you, drink with you, and encourage you; but he will not punctuate with you, spell with you, nor accept any of your suggestions as to typography or paragraphing whatsoever. He wears slippers and smokes a primitive clay pipe; he has everything in its place, and you cannot offend him more than by looking over any proof except when he is holding it. A chip of himself is the copyholder at his side,—a meagre, freckled, matter of fact youth, who reads your tenderest sentences in a rapid monotone, and is never known to venture any opinion or suggestion whatever. This boy, I am bound to say, will follow the copy if it be all consonants, and will accompany it if it flies out of the window.
The office clerk was my bane and admiration. He was presumed by the verdant patrons of the paper to be its owner and principal editor, its type-setter, pressman, and carrier. His hair was elaborately curled, and his ears were perfect racks of long and dandyfied pens; a broad, shovel-shaped gold pen lay forever opposite his high stool; he had an arrogant and patronizing address, and was the perpetual cabbager of editorial perquisites. Books, ball-tickets, season-tickets, pictures, disappeared in his indiscriminate fist, and he promised notices which he could not write to no end of applicants. He was to be seen at the theatre every night, and he was the dashing escort of the proprietor's wife, who preferred his jaunty coat and highly-polished boots to the less elaborate wardrobe of us writers. That this noble and fashionable creature could descend to writing wrappers, and to waiting his turn with a bank-book in the long train of a sordid teller, passed all speculation and astonishment. He made a sorry fag of the office boy, and advised us every day to beware of cutting the files, as if that were the one vice of authors. To him we stole, with humiliated faces, and begged a trifling advance of salary. He sternly requested us not to encroach behind the counter—his own indisputable domain—but sometimes asked us to watch the office while he drank with a theatrical agent at the nearest bar. He was an inveterate gossip, and endowed with a damnable love of slipshod argument; the only oral censor upon our compositions, he hailed us with all the complaints made at his solicitation by irascible subscribers, and stood in awe of the cashier only, who frequently, to our delight and surprise, combed him over, and drove him to us for sympathy.
The foreman was still our power behind the throne; he left out our copy on mechanical grounds, and put it in for our modesty and sophistry. In his broad, hot room, all flaring with gas, he stood at a flat stone like a surgeon, and took forms to pieces and dissected huge columns of pregnant metal, and paid off the hands with fabulous amounts of uncurrent bank bills. His wife and he went thrice a year on excursions to the sea-side, and he was forever borrowing a dollar from somebody to treat the lender and himself.
The ship-news man could be seen towards the small-hours, writing his highly imaginative department, which showed how the Sally Ann, Master Todd, arrived leaky in Bombay harbor; and there were stacks of newsboys asleep on the boilers, fighting in their dreams for the possession of a fragment of a many-cornered blanket.
These, like myself, went into the halcyon land of Nod to the music of a crashing press, and swarmed about it at the dawn like so many gad flies about an ox, to carry into the awakening city the rhetoric and the rubbish I had written.
And still they go, and still the great press toils along, and still am I its slave and keeper, who sit here by the proud, free sea, and feel like Sinbad, that to a terrible old man I have sold my youth, my convictions, my love, my life!
THE WAR CORRESPONDENT'S FIRST DAY.
Looking back over the four years of the war, and noting how indurated I have at last become, both in body and in emotion, I recall with a sigh that first morning of my correspondentship when I set out so light-hearted and yet so anxious. It was in 1861. I was accompanied to the War department by an attache of the United States Senate. The new Secretary, Mr. Edwin M. Stanton, referred me to a Mr. Sanford, "Military Supervisor of Army Intelligence," and after a brief delay I was requested to sign a parole and duplicate, specifying my loyalty to the Federal Government, and my promise to publish nothing detrimental to its interests. I was then given a circular, which stated explicitly the kind of news termed contraband, and also a printed pass, filled in with my name, age, residence, and newspaper connection. The latter enjoined upon all guards to pass me in and out of camps; and authorized persons in Government employ to furnish me with information.
Our Washington Superintendent sent me a beast, and in compliment to what the animal might have been, called the same a horse. I wish to protest, in this record, against any such misnomer. The creature possessed no single equine element. Experience has satisfied me that horses stand on four legs; the horse in question stood upon three. Horses may either pace, trot, run, rack, or gallop; but mine made all the five movements at once. I think I may call his gait an eccentric stumble. That he had endurance I admit; for he survived perpetual beating; and his beauty might have been apparent to an anatomist, but would be scouted by the world at large. I asked, ruefully, if I was expected to go into battle so mounted; but was peremptorily forbidden, as a valuable property might be endangered thereby. I was assigned to the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps in the anticipated advance, and my friend, the attache, accompanied me to its rendezvous at Hunter's Mills. We started at two o'clock, and occupied an hour in passing the city limits. I calculated that, advancing at the same ratio, we should arrive in camp at noon next day. We presented ludicrous figures to the grim sabremen that sat erect at street corners, and ladies at the windows of the dwellings smothered with suppressed laughter as we floundered along. My friend had the better horse; but I was the better rider; and if at any time I grew wrathful at my sorry plight, I had but to look at his and be happy again. He appeared to be riding on the neck of his beast, and when he attempted to deceive me with a smile, his face became horribly contorted. Directly his breeches worked above his boots, and his bare calves were objects of hopeless solicitude. Caricatures, rather than men, we toiled bruisedly through Georgetown, and falling in the wake of supply teams on the Leesburg turnpike, rode between the Potomac on one side and the dry bed of the canal on the other, till we came at last to Chain Bridge.
There was a grand view from the point of Little Falls above, where a line of foamy cataracts ridged the river, and the rocks towered gloomily on either hand: and of the city below, with its buildings of pure marble, and the yellow earthworks that crested Arlington Heights. The clouds over the Potomac were gorgeous in hue, but forests of melancholy pine clothed the sides of the hills, and the roar of the river made such beautiful monotone that I almost thought it could be translated to words. Our passes were now demanded by a fat, bareheaded officer, and while he panted through their contents, two privates crossed their bayonets before us.
"News?" he said, in the shortest remark of which he was capable. When assured that we had nothing to reveal, he seemed immeasurably relieved, and added—"Great labor, reading!" At this his face grew so dreadfully purple that I begged him to sit down, and tax himself with no further exertion. He wiped his forehead, in reply, gasping like a triton, and muttering the expressive direction, "right!" disappeared into a guard-box. The two privates winked as they removed their muskets, and we both laughed immoderately when out of hearing. Our backs were now turned to the Maryland shore, and jutting grimly from the hill before us, the black guns of Fort Ethan Allen pointed down the bridge. A double line of sharp abattis protected it from assault, and sentries walked lazily up and down the parapet. The colors hung against the mast in the dead calm, and the smoke curled straight upward from some log-huts within the fort. The wildness of the surrounding landscape was most remarkable. Within sight of the Capital of the Republic, the fox yet kept the covert, and the farms were few and far apart. It seemed to me that little had been done to clear the country of its primeval timber, and the war had accomplished more to give evidence of man and industry, than two centuries of occupation. A military road had been cut through the solid rocks here; and the original turnpike, which had been little more than a cart track, was now graded and macadamized. I passed multitudes of teams, struggling up the slopes, and the carcasses of mules littered every rod of the way. The profanity of the teamsters was painfully apparent. I came unobserved upon one who was berating his beasts with a refinement of cruelty. He cursed each of them separately, swinging his long-lashed whip the while, and then damned the six in mass. He would have made a dutiful overseer. The soldiers had shown quite as little consideration for the residences along the way. I came to one dwelling where some pertinacious Vandal had even pried out the window-frames, and imperilled his neck to tear out the roof-beams; a dead vulture was pinned over the door by pieces of broken bayonets.
"Langley's,"—a few plank-houses, clustering around a tavern and a church,—is one of those settlements whose sounding names beguile the reader into an idea of their importance. A lonesome haunt in time of peace, it had lately been the winter quarters of fifteen thousand soldiers, and a multitude of log huts had grown up around it. I tied my horse to the window-shutter of a dwelling, and picked my way over a slimy sidewalk to the ricketty tavern-porch. Four or five privates lay here fast asleep, and the bar-room was occupied by a bevy of young officers, who were emptying the contents of sundry pocket-flasks. Behind the bar sat a person with strongly-marked Hebrew features, and a watchmaker was plying his avocation in a corner. Two great dogs crouched under a bench, and some highly-colored portraits were nailed to the wall. The floor was bare, and some clothing and miscellaneous articles hung from beams in the ceiling.
"Is this your house?" I said to the Hebrew.
"I keepsh it now."
"By right or by conquest?"
"By ze right of conquest," he said, laughing; and at once proposed to sell me a bootjack and an India-rubber overcoat. I compromised upon a haversack, which he filled with sandwiches and sardines, and which I am bound to say fell apart in the course of the afternoon. The watchmaker was an enterprising young fellow, who had resigned his place in a large Broadway establishment, to speculate in cheap jewelry and do itinerant repairing. He says that he followed the "Army Paymasters, and sold numbers of watches, at good premiums, when the troops had money." Soldiers, he informed me, were reckless spendthrifts; and the prey of sutlers and sharpers. When there was nothing at hand to purchase, they gambled away their wages, and most of them left the service penniless and in debt. He thought it perfectly legitimate to secure some silver while "going," but complained that the value of his stock rendered him liable to theft and murder. "There are men in every regiment," said he, "who would blow out my brains in any lonely place to plunder me of these watches."
At this point, a young officer, in a fit of bacchanal laughter, staggered rather roughly against me.
"Begurpardon," he said, with an unsteady bow, "never ran against person in life before."
I smiled assuringly, but he appeared to think the offence unpardonable.
"Do asshu a, on honor of gentlemand officer, not in custom of behaving offensively. Azo! leave it to my friends. Entirely due to injuries received at battle Drainesville."
As the other gentlemen laughed loudly here, I took it for granted that my apologist had some personal hallucination relative to that engagement.
"What giggling for, Bob?" he said; "honor concerned in this matter, Will! Do asshu a, fell under Colonel's horse, and Company A walked over small of my back." The other officers were only less inebriated and most of them spoke boastfully of their personal prowess at Drainesville. This was the only engagement in which the Pennsylvania Reserves had yet participated, and few officers that I met did not ascribe the victory entirely to their own individual gallantry. I inquired of these gentlemen the route to the new encampments of the Reserves. They lay five miles south of the turnpike, close to the Loudon and Hampshire railroad, and along both sides of an unfrequented lane. They formed in this position the right wing of the Army of the Potomac, and had been ordered to hold themselves in hourly readiness for an advance. By this time, my friend S. came up, and leaving him to restore his mortified body, I crossed the road to the churchyard and peered through the open door into the edifice. The seats of painted pine had been covered with planks, and a sick man lay above every pew. At the ringing of my spurs in the threshold, some of the sufferers looked up through the red eyes of fever, and the faces of others were spectrally white. A few groaned as they turned with difficulty, and some shrank in pain from the glare of the light. Medicines were kept in the altar-place, and a doctor's clerk was writing requisitions in the pulpit. The sickening smell of the hospital forbade me to enter, and walking across the trampled yard, I crept through a rent in the paling, and examined the huts in which the Reserves had passed the winter. They were built of logs, plastered with mud, and the roofs of some were thatched with straw. Each cabin was pierced for two or more windows; the beds were simply shelves or berths; a rough fireplace of stones and clay communicated with the wooden chimney; and the floors were in most cases damp and bare. Streets, fancifully designated, divided the settlement irregularly; but the tenements were now all deserted save one, where I found a whole family of "contrabands" or fugitive slaves. These wretched beings, seven in number, had escaped from a plantation in Albemarle county, and travelling stealthily by night, over two hundred miles of precipitous country, reached the Federal lines on the thirteenth day. The husband said that his name was "Jeems," and that his wife was called "Kitty;" that his youngest boy had passed the mature age of eight months, and that the "big girl, Rosy," was "twelve years Christmas comin'." While the troops remained at Langley's, the man was employed at seventy-five cents a week to attend to an officer's horse. Kitty and Rose cooked and washed for soldiers, and the boys ran errands to Washington and return,—twenty-five miles! The eldest boy, Jefferson, had been given the use of a crippled team-horse, and traded in newspapers, but having confused ideas of the relative value of coins, his profits were only moderate. The nag died before the troops removed, and a sutler, under pretence of securing their passage to the North, disappeared with the little they had saved. They were quite destitute now, but looked to the future with no foreboding, and huddled together in the straw, made a picture of domestic felicity that impressed me greatly with the docility, contentment, and unfailing good humor of their dusky tribe. The eyes of the children were large and lustrous, and they revealed the clear pearls beneath their lips as they clung bashfully to their mother's lap. The old lady was smoking a clay pipe; the man running over some castaway jackets and boots. I remarked particularly the broad shoulders and athletic arms of the woman, whose many childbirths had left no traces upon her comeliness. She asked me, wistfully: "Masser, how fur to de nawf?"
"A long way," said I, "perhaps two hundred miles."
"Lawd!" she said, buoyantly—"is dat all? Why, Jeems, couldn't we foot it, honey?"
"You a most guv out before, ole 'oman," he replied; "got a good ruff over de head now. Guess de white massar won't let um starve."
I tossed some coppers to the children and gave each a sandwich.
"You get up dar, John Thomas!" called the man vigorously; "you tank de gentleman, Jefferson, boy! I wonda wha your manners is. Tank you, massar! know'd you was a gentleman, sar! Massar, is your family from ole Virginny?"
It was five o'clock when I rejoined S., and the greater part of our journey had yet to be made. I went at his creeping pace until courtesy yielded to impatience, when spurring my Pegasus vigorously, he fell into a bouncing amble and left the attache far behind. My pass was again demanded above Langley's by a man who ate apples as he examined it, and who was disposed to hold a long parley. I entered a region of scrub timber further on, and met with nothing human for four miles, at the end of which distance I reached Difficult Creek, flowing through a rocky ravine, and crossed by a military bridge of logs. Through the thick woods to the right, I heard the roar of the Potomac, and a finger-board indicated that I was opposite Great Falls. Three or four dead horses lay at the roadside beyond the stream, and I recalled the place as the scene of a recent cavalry encounter. A cartridge-box and a torn felt hat lay close to the carcasses: I knew that some soul had gone hence to its account.
The road now kept to the left obliquely, and much of my ride was made musical by the stream. Darkness closed solemnly about me, with seven miles of the journey yet to accomplish, and as, at eight o'clock, I turned from the turnpike into a lonesome by-road, full of ruts, pools, and quicksands, a feeling of delicious uneasiness for the first time possessed me. Some owls hooted in the depth of the woods, and wild pigs, darting across the road, went crashing into the bushes. The phosphorescent bark of a blasted tree glimmered on a neighboring knoll, and as I halted at a rivulet to water my beast, I saw a solitary star floating down the ripples. Directly I came upon a clearing where the moonlight shone through the rents of a crumbling dwelling, and from the far distance broke the faint howl of farm dogs. A sense of insecurity that I would not for worlds have resigned, now tingled, now chilled my blood. At last, climbing a stony hill, the skies lay beneath me reddening with the flame of camps and flaring and falling alternately, like the beautiful Northern lights. I heard the ring of hoofs as I looked entranced, and in a twinkling, a body of horsemen dashed past me and disappeared. A little beyond, the road grew so thick that I could see nothing of my way; but trusting doubtfully to my horse, a deep challenge came directly from the thicket, and I saw the flash of a sabre, as I stammered a reply. Led to a cabin close at hand, my pass was examined by candle-light, and I learned that the nearest camp of the Reserves was only a mile farther on, and the regiment of which I was in quest about two miles distant. After another half hour, I reached Ord's brigade, whose tents were pitched in a fine grove of oaks; the men talking, singing, and shouting, around open air fires; and a battery of brass Napoleons unlimbered in front, pointing significantly to the West and South. For a mile and a half I rode by the light of continuous camps, reaching at last the quarters of the ——th, commanded by a former newspaper associate of mine, with whom I had gone itemizing, scores of times. His regiment had arrived only the same afternoon, and their tents were not yet pitched. Their muskets were stacked along the roadside, and the men lay here and there wrapped in their blankets, and dozing around the fagots. The Colonel was asleep in a wagon, but roused up at the summons of his Adjutant, and greeting me warmly, directed the cook to prepare a supper of coffee and fried pork. Too hungry to feel the chafing of my sores and bruises, I fell to the oleaginous repast with my teeth and fingers, and eating ravenously, asked at last to be shown to my apartments. These consisted of a covered wagon, already occupied by four teamsters, and a blanket which had evidently been in close proximity to the hide of a horse. A man named "Coggle," being nudged by the Colonel, and requested to take other quarters, asked dolorously if it was time to turn out, and roared "woa," as if he had some consciousness of being kicked. When I asked for a pillow, the Colonel laughed, and I had an intuition that the man "Coggle" was looking at me in the darkness with intense disgust. The Colonel said that he had once put a man on double duty for placing his head on a snowball, and warned me satirically that such luxuries were preposterous in the field. He recommended me not to catch cold if I could help it, but said that people in camp commonly caught several colds at once, and added grimly that if I wished to be shaved in the morning, there was a man close by, who had ground a sabre down to the nice edge of a razor, and who could be made to accommodate me. There were cracks in the bottom of the wagon, through which the cold came like knives, and I was allotted a space four feet in length, by three feet in width.
Being six feet in height, my relation to these Procrustean quarters was most embarassing; but I doubled up, chatteringly, and lay my head on my arm. In a short time I experienced a sensation akin to that of being guillotined, and sitting bolt upright, found the teamsters in the soundest of Lethean conditions. As the man next to me snored very loudly, I adopted the brilliant idea of making a pillow of his thigh; which answered my best expectations. I was aroused after a while, by what I thought to be the violent hands of this person, but which, to my great chagrin, proved to be S., intent upon dividing my place with me. Resistance was useless. I submitted to martyrdom with due resignation, but half resolved to go home in the morning, and shun, for the future, the horrible romance of camps.
A GENERAL UNDER THE MICROSCOPE.
When I awoke at Colonel Taggert's tent the morning afterward, I had verified the common experience of camps by "catching several colds at once," and felt a general sensation of being cut off at the knees. Poor S., who joined me at the fire, states that he believed himself to be tied in knots, and that he should return afoot to Washington. Our horses looked no worse, for that would have been manifestly impossible. We were made the butts of much jesting at breakfast; and S. said, in a spirit of atrocity, that camp wit was quite as bad as camp "wittles." I bade him adieu at five o'clock A. M., when he had secured passage to the city in a sutler's wagon. Remounting my own fiery courser, I bade the Colonel a temporary farewell, and proceeded in the direction of Meade's and Reynold's brigades. The drum and fife were now beating reveille, and volunteers in various stages of undress were limping to roll-call. Some wore one shoe, and others appeared shivering in their linen. They stood ludicrously in rank, and a succession of short, dry coughs ran up and down the line, as if to indicate those who should escape the bullet for the lingering agonies of the hospital. The ground was damp, and fog was rising from the hollows and fens. Some signal corps officers were practising with flags in a ploughed field, and negro stewards were stirring about the cook fires. A few supply wagons that I passed the previous day were just creaking into camp, having travelled most of the night. I saw that the country was rude, but the farms were close, and the dwellings in many cases inhabited. The vicinity had previously been unoccupied by either army, and rapine had as yet appropriated only the fields for camps and the fences for fuel. I was directed to the headquarters of Major-General M'Call,—a cluster of wall tents in the far corner of a grain-field, concealed from public view by a projecting point of woods. A Sibley tent stood close at hand, where a soldier in blue overcoat was reading signals through a telescope. I mistook the tent for the General's, and riding up to the soldier was requested to stand out of the way. I moved to his rear, but he said curtly that I was obstructing the light. I then dismounted, and led my horse to a clump of trees a rod distant.
"Don't hitch there," said the soldier; "you block up the view."
A little ruffled at this manifest discourtesy, I asked the man to denote some point within a radius of a mile where I would not interfere with his operations. He said in reply, that it was not his business to denote hitching-stalls for anybody. I thought, in that case, that I should stay where I was, and he politely informed me that I might stay and be—jammed. I found afterward that this individual was troubled with a kind of insanity peculiar to all headquarters, arising out of an exaggerated idea of his own importance. I had the pleasure, a few minutes afterward, of hearing him ordered to feed my horse. A thickset, gray-haired man sat near by, undergoing the process of shaving by a very nervous negro. The thickset man was also exercising the privileges of his rank; but the more he berated his attendant's awkwardness, the more nervous the other became. I addressed myself mutually to master and man, in an inquiry as to the precise quarters of the General in command. The latter pointed to a wall tent contiguous, and was cursed by the thickset man for not minding his business. The thickset man remarked substantially, that he didn't know anything about it, and was at that moment cut by the negro, to my infinite delight. Before the wall tent in question stood a tall, broad-shouldered gentleman in shirt-sleeves and slippers, warming his back and hands at a fire. He was watching, through an aperture in the tent, the movements of a private who was cleaning his boots. I noticed that he wore a seal ring, and that he opened and shut his eyes very rapidly. He was, otherwise, a very respectable and dignified gentleman.
"Is this General M'Call?" said I, a little discomposed. The gentleman looked abstractedly into my eyes, opening and shutting his own several times, as if doubtful of his personality, and at last decided that he was General M'Call.
"What is it?" he said gravely, but without the slightest curiosity.
"I have a letter for you, sir, I believe."
He put the letter behind his back, and went on warming his hands. Having winked several times again, apparently forgetting all about the matter, I ventured to add that the letter was merely introductory. He looked at it, mechanically.
"Who opened it?" he said.
"Letters of introduction are not commonly sealed, General."
"Who are you?" he asked, indifferently.
I told him that the contents of the letter would explain my errand; but he had, meantime, relapsed into abstractedness, and winked, and warmed his hands, for at least, five minutes. At the end of that time, he read the letter very deliberately, and said that he was glad to see me in camp. He intimated, that if I was not already located, I could be provided with bed and meals at headquarters. He stated, in relation to my correspondence, that all letters sent from the Reserve Corps, must, without any reservations, be submitted to him in person. I was obliged to promise compliance, but had gloomy forebodings that the General would occupy a fortnight in the examination of each letter. He invited me to breakfast, proposed to make me acquainted with his staff, and was, in all respects, a very grave, prudent, and affable soldier. I may say, incidentally, that I adopted the device of penning a couple of gossipy epistles, the length and folly of which, so irritated General M'Call, that he released me from the penalty of submitting my compositions for the future.
I took up my permanent abode with quartermaster Kingwalt, a very prince of old soldiers, who had devoted much of a sturdy life to promoting the militia interests of the populous county of Chester. When the war-fever swept down his beautiful valley, and the drum called the young men from villages and farms, this ancient yeoman and miller—for he was both—took a musket at the sprightly age of sixty-five, and joined a Volunteer company. Neither ridicule nor entreaty could bend his purpose; but the Secretary of War, hearing of the case, conferred a brigade quartermastership upon him. He threw off the infirmities of age, stepped as proudly as any youngster, and became, emphatically, the best quartermaster in the Division. He never delayed an advance with tardy teams, nor kept the General tentless, nor penned irregular requisitions, nor wasted the property of Government. The ague seized him, occasionally, and shook his grey hairs fearfully; but he always recovered to ride his black stallion on long forages, and his great strength and bulk were the envy of all the young officers.
He grasped my hand so heartily that I positively howled, and commanded a tall sergeant, rejoicing in the name of Clover, to take away my horse and split him up for kindling wood.
"We must give him the blue roan, that Fogg rides," said the quartermaster, to the great dejection of Fogg, a short stout youth, who was posting accounts. I was glad to see, however, that Fogg was not disposed to be angry, and when informed that a certain iron-gray nag was at his disposal, he was in a perfect glow of good humor. The other attaches were a German, whose name, as I caught it, seemed to be Skyhiski; and a pleasant lad called Owen, whose disposition was so mild, that I wondered how he had adopted the bloody profession of arms. A black boy belonged to the establishment, remarkable, chiefly, for getting close to the heels of the black stallion, and being frequently kicked; he was employed to feed and brush the said stallion, and the antipathy between them was intense.
The above curious military combination, slept under a great tarpaulin canopy, originally used for covering commissary stores from the rain. Our meals were taken in the open air, and prepared by Skyhiski; but there was a second tent, provided with desk and secretary, where Mr. Fogg performed his clerk duties, daily. When I had relieved my Pegasus of his saddle, and penned some paragraphs for a future letter, I strolled down the road with the old gentleman, who insisted upon showing me Hunter's mill, a storm-beaten structure, that looked like a great barn. The mill-race had been drained by some soldiers for the purpose of securing the fish contained in it, and the mill-wheel was quite dry and motionless. Difficult Creek ran impetuously across the road below, as if anxious to be put to some use again; and the miller's house adjoining, was now used as a hospital, for Lieutenant-Colonel Kane, and some inferior officers. It was a favorite design of the Quartermaster's to scrape the mill-stone, repair the race, and put the great breast-wheel to work. One could see that the soldier had not entirely obliterated the miller, and as he related, with a glowing face, the plans that he had proposed to recuperate the tottering structure, and make it serviceable to the army, I felt a regret that such peaceful ambitions should have ever been overruled by the call to arms.
While we stood at the mill window, watching the long stretches of white tents and speculating upon the results of war, we saw several men running across the road toward a hill-top cottage, where General Meade made his quarters. A small group was collected at the cottage, reconnoitring something through their telescopes. As I hastened in that direction, I heard confused voices, thus: "No, it isn't!" "It is!" "Can you make out his shoulder-bar?" "What is the color of his coat?" "Gray!" "No, it's butternut!" "Has he a musket!" "Yes, he is levelling it!" At this the group scattered in every direction. "Pshaw!" said one, "we are out of range; besides, it is a telescope that he has. By——, it is a Rebel, reconnoitring our camp!" There was a manifest sensation here, and one man wondered how he had passed the picket. Another suggested that he might be accompanied by a troop, and a third convulsed the circle by declaring that there were six other Rebels visible in a woods to the left. Mr. Fogg had meantime come up and proffered me a field-glass, through which I certainly made out a person in gray, standing in the middle of the road just at the ridge of a hill. When I dropped my glass I saw him distinctly with the naked eye. He was probably a mile distant, and his gray vesture was little relieved by the blue haze of the forest.
"He is going," exclaimed a private, excitedly; "where's the man that was to try a lead on him?" Several started impulsively for their pieces, and some officers called for their horses. "There go his knees!" "His body is behind the hill!" "Now his head——"
"Crack! crack! crack!" spluttered musketry from the edge of the mill, and like as many rockets darted a score of horsemen through the creek and up the steep. Directly a faint hurrah pealed from the camp nearest the mill. It passed to the next camp and the next; for all were now earnestly watching; and finally a medley of cheers shook the air and the ear. Thousands of brave men were shouting the requiem of one paltry life. The rash fool had bought with his temerity a bullet in the brain. When I saw him—dusty and still bleeding—he was beset by a full regiment of idlers, to whom death had neither awe nor respect. They talked of the delicate shot, as connoisseurs in the art of murder,—and two men dug him a grave on the green before the mill, wherein he was tossed like a dog or a vulture, to be lulled, let us hope, by the music of the grinding, when grain shall ripen once more.
I had an opportunity, after dinner, to inspect the camp of the "Bucktails," a regiment of Pennsylvania backwoodsmen, whose efficiency as skirmishers has been adverted to by all chroniclers of the civil war. They wore the common blue blouse and breeches, but were distinguished by squirrel tails fastened to their caps. They were reputed to be the best marksmen in the service, and were generally allowed, in action, to take their own positions and fire at will. Crawling through thick woods, or trailing serpent-like through the tangled grass, these mountaineers were for a time the terror of the Confederates; but when their mode of fighting had been understood, their adversaries improved upon it to such a degree that at the date of this writing there is scarcely a Corporal's guard of the original Bucktail regiment remaining. Slaughtered on the field, perishing in prison, disabled or paroled, they have lost both their prestige and their strength. I remarked among these worthies a partiality for fisticuffs, and a dislike for the manual of arms. They drilled badly, and were reported to be adepts at thieving and unlicensed foraging.
The second night in camp was pleasantly passed. Some sociable officers—favorites with Captain Kingwalt—congregated under the tarpaulin, after supper-hour, and when a long-necked bottle had been emptied and replenished, there were many quaint stories related and curious individualities revealed. I dropped asleep while the hilarity was at its height, and Fogg covered me with a thick blanket as I lay. The enemy might have come upon us in the darkness; but if death were half so sound as my slumber afield, I should have bid it welcome.
A FORAGING ADVENTURE.
There was a newsboy named "Charley," who slept at Captain Kingwalt's every second night, and who returned my beast to his owner in Washington. The aphorism that a Yankee can do anything, was exemplified by this lad; for he worked my snail into a gallop. He was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and appeared to have taken to speculation at the age when most children are learning A B C. He was now in his fourteenth year, owned two horses, and employed another boy to sell papers for him likewise. His profits upon daily sales of four hundred journals were about thirty-two dollars. He had five hundred dollars in bank, and was debating with Captain Kingwalt the propriety of founding an army express and general agency. Such a self-reliant, swaggering, far-sighted, and impertinent boy I never knew. He was a favorite with the Captain's black-boy, and upon thorough terms of equality with the Commanding General. His papers cost him in Washington a cent and a half each, and he sold them in camp for ten cents each. I have not the slightest doubt that I shall hear of him again as the proprietor of an overland mail, or the patron and capitalist of Greenland emigration.
I passed the second and third days quietly in camp, writing a couple of letters, studying somewhat of fortification, and making flying visits to various officers. There was but one other Reporter with this division of the army. He represented a New York journal, and I could not but contrast his fine steed and equipments with the scanty accommodations that my provincial establishment had provided for me. His saddle was a cushioned McClellan, with spangled breast-strap and plump saddle-bags, and his bridle was adorned with a bright curb bit and twilled reins. He wore a field-glass belted about his body, and was plentifully provided with money to purchase items of news, if they were at any time difficult to obtain. I resolved inwardly to seize the first opportunity of changing establishments, so that I might be placed upon as good a footing. My relations with camp, otherwise, were of the happiest character; for the troops were State-people of mine, and, as reporters had not yet abused the privileges accorded them, my profession was held in some repute. I made the round of various "messes," and soon adopted the current dissipations of the field,—late hours, long stories, incessant smoking, and raw spirits. There were some restless minds about me, whose funds of anecdote and jest were apparently inexhaustible. I do not know that so many eccentric, adventurous, and fluent people are to be found among any other nationality of soldiers, not excepting the Irish.
The blue roan of which friend Fogg had been deprived, exhibited occasional evidences of a desire to break my neck. I was obliged to dispense with the spur in riding him, but he nevertheless dashed off at times, and put me into an agony of fear. On those occasions I managed to retain my seat, and gained thereby the reputation of being a very fine equestrian. As there were few civilians in camp, and as I wore a gray suit, and appeared to be in request at head-quarters, a rumor was developed and gained currency that I was attached to the Division in the capacity of a scout. When my horse became unmanageable, therefore, his speed was generally accelerated by the cheers of soldiers, and I became an object of curiosity in every quarter, to my infinite mortification and dread.
The Captain was to set off on the fourth day, to purchase or seize some hay and grain that were stacked at neighboring farms. We prepared to go at eight o'clock, but were detained somewhat by reason of Skyhiski being inebriated the night before, and thereby delaying the breakfast, and afterward the fact that the black stallion had laid open the black-boy's leg. However, at a quarter past nine, the Captain, Sergeant Clover, Fogg, Owen, and myself, with six four-horse wagons, filed down the railroad track until we came to a bridge that some laborers were repairing, where we turned to the left through some soggy fields, and forded Difficult Creek. As there was no road to follow, we kept straight through a wood of young maples and chestnut-trees. Occasionally a trunk or projecting branch stopped the wagons, when the teamsters opened the way with their axes. After two hours of slow advance, we came to the end of the wood, and climbed a succession of hilly fields. From the summit of the last of these, a splendid sweep of farm country was revealed, dotted with quaint Virginia dwellings, stackyards, and negro-cabins, and divided by miles of tortuous worm-fence. The eyes of the Quartermaster brightened at the prospect, though I am afraid that he thought only of the abundant forage; but my own grew hazy as I spoke of the peaceful people and the neglected fields. The plough had furrowed none of these acres, and some crows, that screamed gutturally from a neighboring ash-tree, seemed lean and pinched for lack of their plunder of corn.
Many of the dwellings were guarded by soldiers; but of the resident citizens only the women and the old men remained. I did not need to ask where the young men were exiled. The residue that prayed with their faces toward Richmond, told me the story with their eyes. There was, nevertheless, no melodramatic exhibition of feeling among the bereaved. I did not see any defiant postures, nor hear any melting apostrophies. Marius was not mouthing by the ruins of Carthage, nor even Rachel weeping for her Hebrew children. But there were on every hand manifestations of adherence to the Southern cause, except among a few males who feared unutterable things, and were disposed to cringe and prevaricate. The women were not generally handsome; their face was indolent, their dress slovenly, and their manner embarrassed. They lopped off the beginnings and the ends of their sentences, generally commencing with a verb, as thus: "Told soldiers not to carr' off the rye; declared they would; said they bound do jest what they pleased. Let 'em go!"
The Captain stopped at a spruce residence, approached by a long lane, and on knocking at the porch with his ponderous fist, a woman came timidly to the kitchen window.
"Who's thar?" she said, after a moment.
"Come out young woman," said the Captain, soothingly; "we don't intend to murder or rob you, ma'am!"
There dropped from the doorsill into the yard, not one, but three young women, followed by a very deaf old man, who appeared to think that the Captain's visit bore some reference to the hencoop.
"I wish to buy for the use of the United States Government," said the Captain, "some stacks of hay and corn fodder, that lie in one of your fields."
"The last hen was toted off this morning before breakfast," said the old man; "they took the turkeys yesterday, and I was obliged to kill the ducks or I shouldn't have had anything to eat."
Here Fogg so misdemeaned himself, as to laugh through his nose, and the man Clover appeared to be suddenly interested in something that lay in a mulberry-tree opposite.
"I am provided with money to pay liberally for your produce, and you cannot do better than to let me take the stacks: leaving you, of course, enough for your own horses and cattle."
Here the old man pricked up his ears, and said that he hadn't heard of any recent battle; for his part, he had never been a politician; but thought that both parties were a little wrong; and wished that peace would return: for he was a very old man, and was sorry that folks couldn't let quiet folks' property alone. How far his garrulity might have betrayed him, could be conjectured only by one of the girls taking his hand and leading him submissively into the house.
The eldest daughter said that the Captain might take the stacks at his own valuation, but trusted to his honor as a soldier, and as he seemed, a gentleman, to deal justly by them. There could be no crop harvested for a twelvemonth, and beggary looked them in the face. I have never beheld anything more chivalrously gallant, than the sturdy old quartermaster's attitude. He blended in tone and face the politeness of a diplomat and the gentleness of a father. They asked him to return to the house, with his officers, when he had loaded the wagons; for dinner was being prepared, and they hoped that Virginians could be hospitable, even to their enemies. As to the hay and fodder, none need be left; for the Confederates had seized their horses some months before, and driven off their cows when they retired from the neighborhood.
I so admired the queer gables and great brick ovens of the house, that I resolved to tie my horse, and rest under the crooked porch. The eldest young lady had taken me to be a prisoner, and was greatly astonished that the Quartermaster permitted me to go at large. She asked me to have a chair in the parlor, but when I made my appearance there, the two younger sisters fled precipitately. The old man was shaking his head sadly by the fireplace. Some logs burned on the andirons with a red flame. The furniture consisted of a mahogany sideboard, table, and chairs,—ponderous in pattern; and a series of family portraits, in a sprawling style of art, smirked and postured on the wall. The floor was bare, but shone by reason of repeated scrubbing, and the black mantel-piece was a fine specimen of colonial carving in the staunchest of walnut-wood.
Directly the two younger girls—though the youngest must have been twenty years of age—came back with averted eyes and the silliest of giggles. They sat a little distance apart, and occasionally nodded or signalled like school children.
"Wish you would stop, Bell!" said one of these misses,—whose flaxen hair was plastered across her eyebrows, and who was very tall and slender.
"See if I don't tell on you," said the other,—a dark miss with roguish eyes and fat, plump figure, and curls that shook ever so merrily about her shoulders.
"Declar' I never said so, if he asks me; declar' I will."
"Tell on you,—you see! Won't he be jealous? How he will car' on!"
I made out that these young ladies were intent upon publishing their obligations to certain sweethearts of theirs, who, as it afterward seemed, were in the army at Manassas Junction. I said to the curly-haired miss, that she was endangering the life of her enamored; for it would become an object with all the anxious troops in the vicinity to shorten his days. The old man roused up here, and remarked that his health certainly was declining; but he hoped to survive a while longer for the sake of his children; that he was no politician, and always said that the negroes were very ungrateful people. He caught his daughter's eye finally, and cowered stupidly, nodding at the fire.
I remarked to the eldest young woman,—called Prissy (Priscilla) by her sister,—that the country hereabout was pleasantly wooded. She said, in substance, that every part of Virginia was beautiful, and that she did not wish to survive the disgrace of the old commonwealth.
"Become right down hateful since Yankees invaded it!" exclaimed Miss Bell. "Some Yankee's handsome sister," said Miss Bessie, the proprietor of the curls, "think some Yankees puffick gentlemen!"
"Oh, you traitor!" said the other,—"wish Henry heard you say that!"
Miss Bell intimated that she should take the first opportunity of telling him the same, and I eulogized her good judgment. Priscilla now begged to be excused for a moment, as, since the flight of the negro property, the care of the table had devolved mainly upon her. A single aged servant, too feeble or too faithful to decamp, still attended to the menial functions, and two mulatto children remained to relieve them of light labor. She was a dignified, matronly young lady, and, as one of the sisters informed me, plighted to a Major in the Confederate service. The others chattered flippantly for an hour, and said that the old place was dreadfully lonesome of late. Miss Bell was sure she should die if another winter, similar to the last, occurred. She loved company, and had always found it so lively in Loudon before; whereas she had positively been but twice to a neighbor's for a twelvemonth, and had quite forgotten the road to the mill. She said, finally, that, rather than undergo another such isolation, she would become a Vivandiere in the Yankee army. The slender sister was altogether wedded to the idea of her lover's. "Wouldn't she tell Henry? and shouldn't she write to Jeems? and oh, Bessie, you would not dare to repeat that before him." In short, I was at first amused, and afterwards annoyed, by this young lady, whereas the roguish-eyed miss improved greatly upon acquaintance.
After a while, Captain Kingwalt came in, trailing his spurs over the floor, and leaving sunshine in his wake. There was something galvanic in his gentleness, and infectious in his merriment. He told them at dinner of his own daughters on the Brandywine, and invented stories of Fogg's courtships, till that young gentleman first blushed, and afterward dropped his plate. Our meal was a frugal one, consisting mainly of the ducks referred to, some vegetables, corn-bread, and coffee made of wasted rye. There were neither sugar, spices, nor tea, on the premises, and the salt before us was the last in the dwelling. The Captain promised to send them both coffee and salt, and Fogg volunteered to bring the same to the house, whereat the Captain teased him till he left the table.
At this time, a little boy, who was ostensibly a waiter, cried: "Miss Prissy, soldiers is climbin' in de hog-pen."
"I knew we should lose the last living thing on the property," said this young lady, much distressed.
The Captain went to the door, and found three strolling Bucktails looking covetously at the swine. They were a little discomposed at his appearance, and edged off suspiciously.
"Halt!" said the old man in his great voice, "where are you men going?"
"Just makin' reconnoissance," said one of the freebooters; "s'pose a feller has a right to walk around, hain't he?"
"Not unless he has a pass," said the Quartermaster; "have you written permission to leave camp?"
"Left'nant s'posed we might. Don't know as it's your business. Never see you in the regiment."
"It is my business, as an officer of the United States, to see that no soldier strays from camp unauthorizedly, or depredates upon private property. I will take your names, and report you, first for straggling, secondly for insolence!"
"Put to it, Bill!" said the speaker of the foragers; "run, Bob! go it hearties!" And they took to their heels, cleared a pair of fences, and were lost behind some outbuildings. The Captain could be harsh as well as generous, and was about mounting his horse impulsively, to overtake and punish the fugitives, when Priscilla begged him to refrain, as an enforcement of discipline on his part might bring insult upon her helpless household. I availed myself of a pause in the Captain's wrath, to ask Miss Priscilla if she would allow me to lodge in the dwelling. Five nights' experience in camp had somewhat reduced my enthusiasm, and I already wearied of the damp beds, the hard fare, and the coarse conversation of the bivouac. The young lady assented willingly, as she stated that the presence of a young man would both amuse and protect the family. For several nights she had not slept, and had imagined footsteps on the porch and the drawing of window-bolts. There was a bed, formerly occupied by her brother, that I might take, but must depend upon rather laggard attendance. I had the satisfaction, therefore, of seeing the Captain and retinue mount their horses, and wave me a temporary good by. Poor Fogg looked back so often and so seriously that I expected to see him fall from the saddle. The young ladies were much impressed with the Captain's manliness, and Miss Bell wondered how such a puffick gentleman could reconcile himself to the Yankee cause. She had felt a desire to speak to him upon that point as she was sure he was of fine stock, and entirely averse to the invasion of such territory as that of dear old Virginia. There was something in his manner that so reminded her of some one who should be nameless for the present; but the "nameless" was, of course, young, handsome, and so brave. I ruthlessly dissipated her theory of the Captain's origin, by stating that he was of humble German descent, so far as I knew, and had probably never beheld Virginia till preceded by the bayonets of his neighbors.
After tea Miss Bessie produced a pitcher of rare cider, that came from a certain mysterious quarter of the cellar. A chessboard was forthcoming at a later hour, when we amused ourselves with a couple of games, facetiously dubbing our chessman Federals and Confederates. Miss Bell, meanwhile, betook herself to a diary, wherein she minutely related the incidents and sentiments of successive days. The quantity of words underscored in the same autobiography would have speedily exhausted the case of italics, if the printer had obtained it. I was so beguiled by these patriarchal people, that I several times asked myself if the circumstances were real. Was I in a hostile country, surrounded by thousands of armed men? Were the incidents of this evening portions of an historic era, and the ground about me to be commemorated by bloodshed? Was this, in fact, revolution, and were these simple country girls and their lovers revolutionists? The logs burned cheerily upon the hearth, and the ancestral portraits glowered contemplatively from the walls. Miss Prissy looked dreamily into the fire, and the old man snored wheezily in a corner. A gray cat purred in Miss Bell's lap, and Miss Bessie was writing some nonsense in my note-book.
A sharp knock fell upon the door, and something that sounded like the butt of a musket shook the porch without. The girls turned pale, and I think that Miss Bessie seized my arm and clung to it. I think also, that Miss Bell attempted to take the other arm, to which I demurred.
"Those brutal soldiers again!" said Priscilla, faintly.
"I think one of the andirons has fallen down, darter!" said the old man, rousing up.
"Tremble for my life," said Miss Bell; "sure shall die if it's a man."
I opened the door after a little pause, when a couple of rough privates in uniform confronted me.
"We're two guards that General Meade sent to protect the house and property," said the tallest of these men; "might a feller come in and warm his feet!"
I understood at once that the Quartermaster had obtained these persons; and the other man coming forward, said—
"I fetched some coffee over, and a bag o' salt, with Corporal Fogg's compliments."
They deposited their muskets in a corner, and balanced their boots on the fender. Nothing was said for a time.
"Did you lose yer poultry?" said the tall man, at length.
"All," said Miss Priscilla.
"Fellers loves poultry!" said the man, smacking his lips.
"Did you lose yer sheep?" said the same man, after a little silence.
"The Bucktails cut their throats the first day that they encamped at the mill," said Miss Priscilla.
"Them Bucktails great fellers," said the tall man; "them Bucktails awful on sheep: they loves 'em so!"
He relapsed again for a few minutes, when he continued: "You don't like fellers to bag yer poultry and sheep, do you?"
Miss Priscilla replied that it was both dishonest and cruel. Miss Bell intimated that none but Yankees would do it.
"P'raps not," said the tall soldier, drily; "did you ever grub on fat pork, Miss? No? Did you ever gnaw yer hard tack after a spell o' sickness, and a ten-hour march? No? P'raps you might like a streak o' mutton arterwards! P'raps you might take a notion for a couple o' chickens or so! No? How's that, Ike? What do you think, pardner? (to me) I ain't over and above cruel, mum. I don't think the Bucktails is over and above dishonest to home, mum. But, gosh hang it, I think I would bag a chicken any day! I say that above board. Hey, Ike?"
When the tall man and his inferior satellite had warmed their boots till they smoked, they rose, recovered their muskets, and bowed themselves into the yard. Soon afterward I bade the young ladies good night, and repaired to my room. The tall man and his associate were pacing up and down the grass-plot, and they looked very cold and comfortless, I thought. I should have liked to obtain for them a draught of cider, but prudently abstained; for every man in the army would thereby become cognizant of its existence. So I placed my head once more upon a soft pillow, and pitied the chilled soldiers who slept upon the turf. I thought of Miss Bessie with her roguish eyes, and wondered what themes were now engrossing her. I asked myself if this was the romance of war, and if it would bear relating to one's children when he grew as old and as deaf as the wheezy gentleman down-stairs. In fine, I was a little sentimental, somewhat reflective, and very drowsy. So, after a while, processions of freebooting soldiers, foraging Quartermasters, deaf gentlemen, Fogg's regiment, and multitudes of ghosts from Manassas, drifted by in my dreams. And, in the end, Miss Bessie's long curls brushed into my eyes, and I found the morning, ruddy as her cheeks, blushing at the window.
WHAT A MARCH IS IN FACT.
I found at breakfast, that Miss Bessie had been placed beside me, and I so far forgot myself as to forget all other persons at the table. Miss Priscilla asked to be helped to the corn-bread, and I deposited a quantity of the same upon Miss Bessie's plate. Miss Bell asked if I did not love dear old Virginia, and I replied to Miss Bessie that it had lately become very attractive, and that, in fact, I was decidedly rebellious in my sympathy with the distressed Virginians. I did except, however, the man darkly mooted as "Henry," and hoped that he would be disfigured—not killed—at the earliest engagement. The deaf old gentleman bristled up here and asked who had been killed at the recent engagement. There was a man named Jeems Lee,—a distant connection of the Lightfoots,—not the Hampshire Lightfoots, but the Fauquier Lightfoots,—who had distinctly appeared to the old gentleman for several nights, robed in black, and carrying a coffin under his arm. Since I had mentioned his name, he recalled the circumstance, and hoped that Jeems Lightfoot had not disgraced his ancestry. Nevertheless, the deaf gentleman was not to be understood as expressing any opinion upon the merits of the war. For his part he thought both sides a little wrong, and the crops were really in a dreadful state. The negroes were very ungrateful people and property should be held sacred by all belligerents.
At this point he caught Miss Priscilla's eye, and was transfixed with conscious guilt.
I had, meantime, been infringing upon Miss Bessie's feet,—very pretty feet they were!—which expressive but not very refined method of correspondence caused her to blush to the eyes. Miss Bell, noticing the same, was determined to tell 'Henry' at once, and I hoped in my heart that she would set out for Manassas to further that purpose.
The door opened here, and the rubicund visage of Mr. Fogg appeared like the head of the Medusa. He said that 'Captain' had ordered the blue roan to be saddled and brought over to me, but I knew that this was a cunning device on his part, to revisit the dwelling. Miss Bell, somehow caught the idea that Fogg was enamored of her, and the poor fellow was subjected to a volley of tender innuendos and languishing glances, that by turn mortified and enraged him.
I bade the good people adieu at eight o'clock, promising to return for dinner at five; and Miss Bessie accompanied me to the lane, where I took leave of her with a secret whisper and a warm grasp of the hand. One of her rings had somehow adhered to my finger, which Fogg remarked with a bilious expression of countenance. I had no sooner got astride of the blue roan than he darted off like the wind, and subjected me to great terror, alternating to chagrin, when I turned back and beheld all the young ladies waving their handkerchiefs. They evidently thought me an unrivalled equestrian.
I rode to a picket post two miles from the mill, passing over the spot where the Confederate soldier had fallen. The picket consisted of two companies or one hundred and sixty men. Half of them were sitting around a fire concealed in the woods, and the rest were scattered along the edges of a piece of close timber. I climbed a lookout-tree by means of cross-strips nailed to the trunk, and beheld from the summit a long succession of hazy hills, valleys, and forests, with the Blue Ridge Mountains bounding the distance, like some mighty monster, enclosing the world in its coils. This was the country of the enemy, and a Lieutenant obligingly pointed out to me the curling smoke of their pickets, a few miles away. The cleft of Manassas was plainly visible, and I traced the line of the Gap Railway to its junction with the Orange and Alexandria road, below Bull Run. For aught that I knew, some concealed observer might now be watching me from the pine-tops on the nearest knoll. Some rifleman might be running his practised eye down the deadly groove, to topple me from my perch, and send me crashing through the boughs. The uncertainty, the hazard, the novelty of my position had at this time an indescribable charm: but subsequent exposures dissipated the romance and taught me the folly of such adventures.
The afternoon went dryly by: for a drizzling rain fell at noon; but at four o'clock I saddled the blue roan and went to ride with Fogg. We retraced the road to Colonel T——s, and crossing a boggy brook, turned up the hills and passed toward the Potomac. Fogg had been a schoolmaster, and many of his narrations indicated keen perception and clever comprehension. He so amused me on this particular occasion that I quite forgot my engagement for dinner, and unwittingly strolled beyond the farthest brigade.
Suddenly, we heard a bugle-call from the picket-post before us, and, at the same moment, the drums beat from the camp behind. Our horses pricked up their ears and Fogg stared inquiringly. As we turned back we heard approaching hoofs and the blue roan exhibited intentions of running away. I pulled his rein in vain. He would neither be soothed nor commanded. A whole company of cavalry closed up with him at length, and the sabres clattered in their scabbards as they galloped toward camp at the top of their speed. With a spring that almost shook me from the saddle and drove the stirrups flying from my feet, the blue roan dashed the dust into the eyes of Fogg, and led the race.
Not the wild yager on his gait to perdition, rode so fearfully. Trees, bogs, huts, bushes, went by like lightning. The hot breath of the nag rose to my nostrils and at every leap I seemed vaulting among the spheres.
I speak thus flippantly now, of what was then the agony of death. I grasped the pommel of my saddle, mechanically winding the lines about my wrist, and clung with the tenacity of sin clutching the world. Some soldiers looked wonderingly from the wayside, but did not heed my shriek of "stop him, for God's sake!" A ditch crossed the lane,—deep and wide,—and I felt that my moment had come: with a spring that seemed to break thew and sinew, the blue roan cleared it, pitching upon his knees, but recovered directly and darted onward again. I knew that I should fall headlong now, to be trampled by the fierce horsemen behind, but retained my grasp though my heart was choking me. The camps were in confusion as I swept past them. A sharp clearness of sense and thought enabled me to note distinctly the minutest occurrences. I marked long lines of men cloaked, and carrying knapsacks, drummer-boys beating music that I had whistled in many a ramble,—field-officers shouting orders from their saddles, and cannon limbered up as if ready to move,—tents taken down and teams waiting to be loaded; all the evidences of an advance, that I alas should never witness, lying bruised and mangled by the roadside. A cheer saluted me as I passed some of Meade's regiments. "It is the scout that fetched the orders for an advance!" said several, and one man remarked that "that feller was the most reckless rider he had ever beheld." The crisis came at length: a wagon had stopped the way; my horse in turning it, stepped upon a stake, and slipping rolled heavily upon his side, tossing me like an acrobat, over his head, but without further injury than a terrible nervous shock and a rent in my pantaloons.
I employed a small boy to lead the blue roan to Captain Kingwalt's quarters, and as I limped wearily after, some regiments came toward me through the fields. General McCall responded to my salute; he rode in the advance. The Quartermaster's party was loading the tents and utensils. The rain fell smartly as dusk deepened into night, and the brush tents now deserted by the soldiers, were set on fire. Being composed of dry combustible material, they burned rapidly and with an intense flame. The fields in every direction were revealed, swarming with men, horses, batteries, and wagons. Some of the regiments began the march in silence; others sang familiar ballads as they moved in column. A few, riotously disposed, shrieked, whistled, and cheered. The standards were folded; the drums did not mark time; the orders were few and short. The cannoneers sat moodily upon the caissons, and the cavalry-men walked their horses sedately. Although fifteen thousand men comprised the whole corps, each of its three brigades would have seemed as numerous to a novice. The teams of each brigade closed up the rear, and a quartermaster's guard was detailed from each regiment to march beside its own wagons. When the troops were fairly under way, and the brush burning along from continuous miles of road, the effect was grand beyond all that I had witnessed. The country people gathered in fright at the cottage doors, and the farm-dogs bayed dismally at the unwonted scene. I refused to ride the blue roan again, but transferred my saddle to a team horse that appeared to be given to a sort of equine somnambulism, and once or twice attempted to lie down by the roadside. At nine o'clock I set out with Fogg, who slipped a flask of spirits into my haversack. Following the tardy movement of the teams, we turned our faces toward Washington. I was soon wet to the skin, and my saddle cushion was soaking with water. The streams crossing the road were swollen with rain, and the great team wheels clogged on the slimy banks. We were sometimes delayed a half hour by a single wagon, the storm beating pitilessly in our faces the while. During the stoppages, the Quartermaster's guards burned all the fence rails in the vicinity, and some of the more indurated sat round the fagots and gamed with cards.
Cold, taciturn, miserable, I thought of the quiet farm, house, the ruddy hearth-place, and the smoking supper. I wondered if the roguish eyes were not a little sad, and the trim feet a little restless, the chessmen somewhat stupid, and the good old house a trifle lonesome. Alas! the intimacy so pleasantly commenced, was never to be renewed. With the thousand and one airy palaces that youth builds and time annihilates, my first romance of war towered to the stars in a day, and crumbled to earth in a night.
At two o'clock in the morning we halted at Metropolitan Mills, on the Alexandria and Leesburg turnpike. A bridge had been destroyed below, and the creek was so swollen that neither artillery nor cavalry could ford it. The meadows were submerged and the rain still descended in torrents. The chilled troops made bonfires of some new panel fence, and stormed all the henroosts in the vicinity. Some pigs, that betrayed their whereabouts by inoportune whines and grunts, were speedily confiscated, slaughtered, and spitted. We erected our tarpaulin in a ploughed field, and Fogg laid some sharp rails upon the ground to make us a dry bed. Skyhiski fried a quantity of fresh beef, and boiled some coffee; but while we ate heartily, theorizing as to the destination of the corps, the poor Captain was terribly shaken by his ague.
I woke in the morning with inflamed throat, rheumatic limbs, and every indication of chills and fever. Fogg whispered to me at breakfast that two men of Reynold's brigade had died during the night, from fatigue and exposure. He advised me to push forward to Washington and await the arrival of the division, as, unused to the hardships of a march, I might, after another day's experience, become dangerously ill. I set out at five o'clock, resolving to ford the creek, resume the turnpike, and reach Long Bridge at noon. Passing over some dozen fields in which my horse at every step sank to the fetlocks, I travelled along the brink of the stream till I finally reached a place that seemed to be shallow. Bracing myself firmly in the saddle, I urged my unwilling horse into the waters, and emerged half drowned on the other side. It happened, however, that I had crossed only a branch of the creek and gained an island. The main channel was yet to be attempted, and I saw that it was deep, broad, and violent. I followed the margin despairingly for a half-mile, when I came to a log footbridge, where I dismounted and swam my horse through the turbulent waters. I had now so far diverged from the turnpike that I was at a loss to recover it, but straying forlornly through the woods, struck a wagon track at last, and pursued it hopefully, until, to my confusion, it resolved itself to two tracks, that went in contrary directions. My horse preferred taking to the left, but after riding a full hour, I came to some felled trees, beyond which the traces did not go. Returning, weak and bewildered, I adopted the discarded route, which led me to a worm-fence at the edge of the woods. A house lay some distance off, but a wheat-field intervened, and I might bring the vengeance of the proprietor upon me by invading his domain. There was no choice, however; so I removed the rails, and rode directly across the wheat to some negro quarters, a little removed from the mansion. They were deserted, all save one, where a black boy was singing some negro hymns in an uproarious manner. The words, as I made them out, were these:—
"Stephen came a runnin', His Marster fur to see; But Gabriel says he is not yar'; He gone to Calvary! O,—O,—Stephen, Stephen, Fur to see; Stephen, Stephen, get along up Calvary!"
I learned from this person two mortifying facts,—that I was farther from Washington than at the beginning of my journey, and that the morrow was Sunday. War, alas! knows no Sabbaths, and the negro said, apologetically—
"I was a seyin' some ole hymns, young Mars'r. Sence dis yer war we don't have no more meetin's, and a body mos' forgits his pra'rs. Dere hain't been no church in all Fairfax, sah, fur nigh six months."
Washington was nineteen miles distant, and another creek was to be forded before gaining the turnpike. The negro sauntered down the lane, and opened the gate for me. "You jes keep from de creek, take de mill road, and enqua' as ye get furder up," said he; "it's mighty easy, sah, an' you can't miss de way."
I missed the way at once, however, by confounding the mill road with the mill lane, and a shaggy dog that lay in a wagon shed pursued me about a mile. The road was full of mire; no dwellings adjoined it, and nothing human was to be seen in any direction. I came to a crumbling negro cabin after two plodding hours, and, seeing a figure flit by the window, called aloud for information. Nobody replied, and when, dismounting, I looked into the den, it was, to my confusion, vacant.
The soil, hereabout, was of a sterile red clay, spotted with scrub cedars. Country more bleak and desolate I have never known, and when, at noon, the rain ceased, a keen wind blew dismally across the barriers. I reached a turnpike at length, and, turning, as I thought, toward Alexandria, goaded my horse into a canter. An hour's ride brought me to a wretched hamlet, whose designation I inquired of a cadaverous old woman—
"Drainesville," said she.
"Then I am not upon the Alexandria turnpike?"
"No. You're sot for Leesburg. This is the Georgetown and Chain Bridge road."
With a heavy heart, I retraced my steps, crossed Chain Bridge at five o'clock, and halted at Kirkwood's at seven. After dinner, falling in with the manager of the Washington Sunday morning Chronicle, I penned, at his request, a few lines relative to the movements of the Reserves; and, learning in the morning that they had arrived at Alexandria, set out on horseback for that city.
Many hamlets and towns have been destroyed during the war. But, of all that in some form survive, Alexandria has most suffered. It has been in the uninterrupted possession of the Federals for twenty-two months, and has become essentially a military city. Its streets, its docks, its warehouses, its dwellings, and its suburbs, have been absorbed to the thousand uses of war.
I was challenged thrice on the Long Bridge, and five times on the road, before reaching the city. I rode under the shadows of five earthworks, and saw lines of white tents sweeping to the horizon. Gayly caparisoned officers passed me, to spend their Sabbath in Washington, and trains laden with troops, ambulances, and batteries, sped along the line of railway, toward the rendezvous at Alexandria. A wagoner, looking forlornly at his splintered wheels; a slovenly guard, watching some bales of hay; a sombre negro, dozing upon his mule; a slatternly Irish woman gossiping with a sergeant at her cottage door; a sutler in his "dear-born," running his keen eye down the limbs of my beast; a spruce civilian riding for curiosity; a gray-haired gentleman, in a threadbare suit, going to camp on foot, to say good by to his boy,—these were some of the personages that I remarked, and each was a study, a sermon, and a story. The Potomac, below me, was dotted with steamers and shipping. The bluffs above were trodden bare, and a line of dismal marsh bordered some stagnant pools that blistered at their bases. At points along the river-shore, troops were embarking on board steamers; transports were taking in tons of baggage and subsistence. There was a schooner, laden to the water-line with locomotive engines and burden carriages; there, a brig, shipping artillery horses by a steam derrick, that lifted them bodily from the shore and deposited them in the hold of the vessel. Steamers, from whose spacious saloons the tourist and the bride have watched the picturesque margin of the Hudson, were now black with clusters of rollicking volunteers, who climbed into the yards, and pitched headlong from the wheel-houses. The "grand movement," for which the people had waited so long, and which McClellan had promised so often, was at length to be made. The Army of the Potomac was to be transferred to Fortress Monroe, at the foot of the Chesapeake, and to advance by the peninsula of the James and the York, upon the city of Richmond.
I rode through Washington Street, the seat of some ancient residences, and found it lined with freshly arrived troops. The grave-slabs in a fine old churchyard were strewn with weary cavalry-men, and they lay in some side yards, soundly sleeping. Some artillery-men chatted at doorsteps, with idle house-girls; some courtesans flaunted in furs and ostrich feathers, through a group of coarse engineers; some sergeants of artillery, in red trimmings, and caps gilded with cannon, were reining their horses to leer at some ladies, who were taking the air in their gardens; and at a wide place in the street, a Provost-Major was manoeuvring some companies, to the sound of the drum and fife. There was much drunkenness, among both soldiers and civilians; and the people of Alexandria were, in many cases, crushed and demoralized by reason of their troubles. One man of this sort led me to a sawmill, now run by Government, and pointed to the implements.
"I bought 'em and earned 'em," he said. "My labor and enterprise set 'em there; and while my mill and machinery are ruined to fill the pockets o' Federal sharpers, I go drunk, ragged, and poor about the streets o' my native town. My daughter starves in Richmond; God knows I can't get to her. I wish to h——l I was dead."
Further inquiry developed the facts that my acquaintance had been a thriving builder, who had dotted all Northeastern Virginia with evidences of his handicraft. At the commencement of the war, he took certain contracts from the Confederate government, for the construction of barracks at Richmond and Manassas Junction; returning inopportunely to Alexandria, he was arrested, and kept some time in Capitol-Hill prison; he had not taken the oath of allegiance, consequently, he could obtain no recompense for the loss of his mill property. Domestic misfortunes, happening at the same time, so embittered his days that he resorted to dissipation. Alexandria is filled with like ruined people; they walk as strangers through their ancient streets, and their property is no longer theirs to possess, but has passed into the hands of the dominant nationalists. My informant pointed out the residences of many leading citizens: some were now hospitals, others armories and arsenals; others offices for inspectors, superintendents, and civil officials. The few people that remained upon their properties, obtained partial immunity, by courting the acquaintance of Federal officers, and, in many cases, extending the hospitalities of their homes to the invaders. I do not know that any Federal functionary was accused of tyranny, or wantonness, but these things ensued, as the natural results of civil war; and one's sympathies were everywhere enlisted for the poor, the exiled, and the bereaved.
My dinner at the City Hotel was scant and badly prepared. I gave a negro lad who waited upon me a few cents, but a burly negro carver, who seemed to be his father, boxed the boy's ears and put the coppers into his pocket. The proprietor of the place had voluntarily taken the oath of allegiance, and had made more money since the date of Federal occupation than during his whole life previously. He said to me, curtly, that if by any chance the Confederates should reoccupy Alexandria, he could very well afford to relinquish his property. He employed a smart barkeeper, who led guests by a retired way to the drinking-rooms. Here, with the gas burning at a taper point, cobblers, cocktails, and juleps were mixed stealthily and swallowed in the darkness. The bar was like a mint to the proprietor; he only feared discovery and prohibition. It would not accord with the chaste pages of this narrative to tell how some of the noblest residences in Alexandria had been desecrated to licentious purposes; nor how, by night, the parlors of cosey homes flamed with riot and orgie. I stayed but a little time, having written an indiscreet paragraph in the Washington Chronicle, for which I was pursued by the War Department, and the management of my paper, lacking heart, I went home in a pet.
DOWN THE CHESAPEAKE.
Disappointed in the unlucky termination of my adventures afield, I now looked ambitiously toward New York. As London stands to the provinces, so stands the empire city to America. Its journals circulate by hundreds of thousands; its means are only rivalled by its enterprise; it is the end of every young American's aspiration, and the New Bohemia for the restless, the brilliant, and the industrious. It seemed a great way off when I first beheld it, but I did not therefore despair. Small matters of news that I gathered in my modest city, obtained space in the columns of the great metropolitan journal, the——. After a time I was delegated to travel in search of special incidents, and finally, when the noted Tennessee Unionist, "Parson" Brownlow, journeyed eastward, I joined his suite, and accompanied him to New York. The dream of many months now came to be realized. A correspondent on the ——'s staff had been derelict, and I was appointed to his division. His horse, saddle, field-glasses, blankets, and pistols were to be transferred, and I was to proceed without delay to Fortress Monroe, to keep with the advancing columns of McClellan.
At six in the morning I embarked; at eleven I was whirled through my own city, without a glimpse of my friends; at three o'clock I dismounted at Baltimore, and at five was gliding down the Patapsco, under the shadows of Fort Federal Hill, and the white walls of Fort McHenry. The latter defence is renowned for its gallant resistance to a British fleet in 1813, and the American national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," was written to commemorate that bombardment. Fort Carroll, a massive structure of hewn stone, with arched bomb-proof and three tiers of mounted ordnance, its smooth walls washed by the waves, and its unfinished floors still ringing with the trowel and the adze,—lies some miles below, at a narrow passage in the stream. Below, the shores diverge, and at dusk we were fairly in the Chesapeake, under steam and sail, speeding due southward.
The Adelaide was one of a series of boats making daily trips between Baltimore and Old Point. Fourteen hours were required to accomplish the passage, and we were not to arrive till seven o'clock next morning. I was so fortunate as to obtain a state-room, but many passengers were obliged to sleep upon sofas or the cabin floor. These boats monopolized the civil traffic between the North and the army, although they were reputed to be owned and managed by Secessionists. None were allowed to embark unless provided with Federal passes; but there were, nevertheless, three or four hundred people on board. About one fourth of these were officers and soldiers; one half sutlers, traders, contractors, newsmen, and idle civilians, anxious to witness a battle, or stroll over the fields of Big Bethel, Lee's Mills, Yorktown, Gloucester, Williamsburg, or West Point; the rest were females on missions of mercy, on visits to sons, brothers, and husbands, and on the way to their homes at Norfolk, Suffolk, or Hampton. Some of these were citizens of Richmond, who believed that the Federals would occupy the city in a few days, and enable them to resume their professions and homes. The lower decks were occupied by negroes. The boat was heavily freighted, and among the parcels that littered the hold and steerage, I noticed scores of box coffins for the removal of corpses from the field to the North. There were quantities of spirits, consigned mainly to Quartermasters, but evidently the property of certain Shylocks, who watched the barrels greedily. An embalmer was also on board, with his ghostly implements. He was a sallow man, shabbily attired, and appeared to look at all the passengers as so many subjects for the development of his art. He was called "Doctor" by his admirers, and conversed in the blandest manner of the triumphs of his system.
"There are certain pretenders," he said, "who are at this moment imposing upon the Government. I regret that it is necessary to repeat it, but the fact exists that the Government is the prey of harpies. And in the art of which I am an humble disciple,—that of injecting, commonly called embalming,—the frauds are most deplorable. There was Major Montague,—a splendid subject, I assure you,—a subject that any Professor would have beautifully preserved,—a subject that one esteems it a favor to obtain,—a subject that I in particular would have been proud to receive! But what were the circumstances? I do assure you that a person named Wigwart,—who I have since ascertained to be a veterinary butcher; in plain language, a doctor of horses and asses,—imposed upon the relatives of the deceased, obtained the body, and absolutely ruined it!—absolutely mangled it! I may say, shamefully disfigured it! He was a man, sir, six feet two,—about your height, I think! (to a bystander.) About your weight, also! Indeed quite like you! And allow me to say that, if you should fall into my hands, I would leave your friends no cause for offence! (Here the bystander trembled perceptibly, and I thought that the doctor was about to take his life.) Well! I should have operated thus:—"