LITERATURE AND NATIONAL POLICY.
VOL. IV.—NOVEMBER, 1863.—No. V.
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THE DEFENCE AND EVACUATION OF WINCHESTER,
ON THE 15TH OF JUNE, 1863, BY THE UNION FORCES, UNDER COMMAND OF MAJOR-GENERAL R. H. MILROY.
The history of many important military operations in the present war, will be recorded most correctly in the proceedings of the Courts of Inquiry and Courts Martial, which, from time to time, have been or may be organized to investigate the conduct of the parties responsible for them. The reports of commanding officers are no doubt often colored, if not by their own interests and inclinations, at least by their enthusiasm and partial view of their own purposes; and even the description of disinterested reporters and eye witnesses may be distorted and exaggerated, either by their own peculiarities of excited imagination, or from their imperfect opportunities for observation. But in cases where numerous witnesses are questioned, and cross examined under the solemnities of judicial proceeding, each one knowing that others equally well informed have been or subsequently will be interrogated on the same points, the probabilities in favor of a truthful result are very greatly enhanced.
About the middle of June last, the sudden and unexpected irruption of the rebel army under General Lee into the Shenandoah Valley, surprised and surrounded a division of our army, commanded by Major-General R. H. Milroy, and compelled the evacuation of that post, in a manner and under circumstances which have elicited the severest criticism and censure of the public press. The commanding officer of these forces was placed in arrest by the General-in-chief of the army. No charges were made against him; but he himself demanded a court of inquiry, which was ordered by the President. That court has recently concluded its labors, and the testimony taken has been submitted to the President as the Commander-in-chief of the army, for his examination and decision.
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Although this particular affair was one of subordinate importance, it was, nevertheless, somewhat connected with the great invasion of Pennsylvania by the rebel army last summer; and on that account, as well as from its own intrinsic interest, it is well worth the brief notice which we now propose to give it. In the general history of the war, the minute detail of such operations will necessarily be overlooked; but the interest of truth requires that the principal features and the actual result, even in these cases, should be fairly stated, and especially that the actors should receive impartial judgment at the hands of the public, with such just censure or applause as may be due to their conduct. In the tremendous operations of the war now raging around us, minor events may escape present attention; but no part of the great and bloody drama can fail to be of importance to the future student of this momentous period in our national history.
At the time of the occurrences that form the subject of the inquiry recently instituted, from which we chiefly derive the materials for this sketch, General Milroy was in the department and under the immediate command of Major-General R. C. Schenck, whose headquarters were at Baltimore. The force at Winchester consisted in all of about nine thousand men, and this body had occupied that position for six months previous to the evacuation. The particular work assigned to General Milroy and his command, was to assist in guarding that important link of communication, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, against the incursions of a considerable rebel force in the valley, under the notorious leaders Imboden, Jones, and Jenkins. The forces at Winchester constituted but a part of those employed in this service. There was, of course, a considerable body of men at Harper's Ferry, with smaller bodies at Martinsburg, Romney, and New Creek, all intended to cooeperate in the protection of the railroad.
A question of much interest had been started between General Halleck, the general-in-chief of the army, and General Schenck, the commander of the department, as to the best means of disposing the forces on this road, for its complete security. General Halleck thought the proper mode was to post his forces immediately on the line of the road, with blockhouses and other defences for resisting the attacks of the enemy. General Schenck, on the other hand, insisted upon holding a line some distance to the south, with a view of watching the enemy, and meeting his attacks before he reached the immediate vicinity of the road. This difference of opinion had been the subject of frequent discussion between these two officers, and gave rise to several telegraphic communications from General Halleck to General Schenck, which the former probably intended as orders, but which the latter, in view of their peculiar phraseology, considered to be merely advisory, and not having the character of peremptory orders. General Halleck expressed the decided opinion, if he did not actually command, that the main body of General Milroy's forces should be withdrawn from Winchester, and a small force only left as an outpost to watch the enemy. General Schenck, on the other hand, as he testified before the Court of Inquiry, believed that any small force left at that point must inevitably be captured; and he therefore determined to leave the whole garrison until the occasion should occur for its withdrawal. He therefore gave no order to General Milroy to evacuate his position until after the telegraphic wire had been cut, when it was too late to communicate with him. On the contrary, the last order received from General Schenck, at Winchester, was to hold the position and await further orders.
The solicitude about the forces at Winchester arose from the anticipated movements of Lee's rebel army. After the disastrous battle of Chancellorsville, it soon became the subject of universal apprehension that the victors in that field would make an attempt upon Washington, and with that ultimate object would invade Maryland and Pennsylvania. In the early days of June, the movements of the enemy on the Rappahannock indicated some aggressive design, though the precise nature of the enterprise about to be undertaken was unknown to our military authorities, who waited with much anxiety for its development. A great raid across the Potomac by Stuart's famous cavalry was anticipated; but its inception was thought to have been seriously embarrassed, if not wholly thwarted, by the several attacks of our own forces, especially by that at Beverly Ford. Still the mysterious movements of the rebel army perplexed our generals, while a distinct impression prevailed everywhere that the Confederates were about to advance northward, menacing Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
While this state of uncertainty mystified the General-in-chief, as he sat at the centre of his converging lines of telegraphic wires, and paralyzed the movements of the Army of the Potomac, there began to be an unusual activity of the rebel forces on the several roads leading through the passes of the Blue Ridge, in the direction of Harper's Ferry and Winchester. It was on Friday, the 12th day of June, that the first indications were seen of the approach of the enemy in force. On that day a strong reconnoitring party from Winchester was sent out on the Strasburg road, under command of Colonel Shawl, of the 87th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. This party consisted of Colonel Shawl's regiment of infantry, the 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry, and one section of Battery L, of the 5th regular artillery; and when its advance was within about two miles of Middletown, it encountered a superior force of cavalry drawn up in line of battle. By a well-concerted piece of strategy, the enemy was lured into pursuit until he fell into an ambush, and received the effective fire both of our artillery and infantry from a dense wood within one hundred yards of the road. Repulsed and pursued by our cavalry, the enemy retreated in confusion, and in this handsome little affair lost no less than fifty in killed and wounded, and thirty-seven prisoners. These prisoners all proved to be part of the rebel forces which had long been in the valley, and thus served to allay all apprehension of the approach of any part of Lee's army from that direction.
Another reconnoissance, under Lieutenant-Colonel Moss, of the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry, was sent out on the Front Royal road on the same day. On his return, this officer reported a large force of the enemy, consisting of cavalry, infantry, and artillery, at Cedarville, twelve miles from Winchester; but as the accounts of officers present, and of reliable scouts, were contradictory, and as it did not appear that he had taken the precautions necessary to enable him to ascertain the strength and character of the enemy, the report of Lieutenant-Colonel Moss was discredited. Nevertheless, on Friday night, the pickets around Winchester were doubled, and strong cavalry patrols were kept out on all the principal roads. A messenger was also sent to Colonel McReynolds, who commanded the 3d brigade at Berryville, notifying him that the enemy was reported to be in force on the Front Royal road, and ordering him to reconnoitre in that direction, to be in readiness to move, and in case of serious attack, to fall back on Winchester. It was also arranged that upon the firing of the four large guns in the fort at Winchester he was to march immediately to that place. Accordingly, on Saturday morning, at about 8 o'clock, the enemy was reported to be approaching on the Front Royal road, and the concerted signal was given for the return of the 3d brigade, under Colonel McReynolds, to unite with the main forces at Winchester. Berryville is on the direct road from Winchester to Harper's Ferry, about twenty miles from the latter place, and ten from the former. The 3d brigade, under Colonel McReynolds, consisting of his own regiment, the 1st New York Cavalry, commanded by Major A. W. Adams, the 6th Indiana Infantry, the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, and the Baltimore battery, Captain Alexander, had been stationed at Berryville, to keep open the road to Harper's Ferry, and to watch the passes of the Blue Ridge and the fords of the Shenandoah river in that direction.
When this part of General Milroy's forces was thus ordered to join him at Winchester, it was not known or suspected that any portion of General Lee's army was in the valley. The movement was made with a view to concentrate the command, and to repel an attack from that portion of the enemy's forces which were known to have been in that vicinity for many months. It was deemed possible that Stuart's cavalry might have crossed the Blue Ridge, as had been apprehended, but there was no intention to abandon the position upon the approach of such an enemy. Indeed it was believed that, even if Stuart had entered the valley, his advance on Winchester would prove to be a mere feint to enable the main body of his forces to cross into Maryland.
Winchester is not a place of any strategic importance; nor is it easily to be held against a greatly superior force. It is approachable on all sides by numerous roads, without any difficulty of intercommunication. But there are some strong positions near the place susceptible of fortification; and several of these had been very skilfully improved by General Milroy, during his occupation of the post—not with any view, however, of attempting to hold it, in case of an attack by overwhelming numbers, but to resist any sudden concentration of the forces which were known to be in the valley or likely to invade it. These fortifications would have successfully resisted Stuart's cavalry, with all the field artillery he could have brought against them.
On Saturday, the 13th of June, the enemy was encountered early in the day within a short distance of Winchester; but no enemy appeared in the direction of the Strasburg road until the afternoon. Our forces held both roads, but they gradually withdrew, skirmishing, during the day, as the enemy steadily approached the town. At about 6 o'clock in the afternoon, a prisoner was captured, who professed to belong to Hay's Louisiana brigade, of Ewell's rebel corps. From this prisoner was derived the information that both Ewell and Longstreet, with their entire forces, fifty thousand strong, were in the immediate vicinity of Winchester. This report was soon fully confirmed by a deserter, who shortly afterward entered our lines; and now, for the first time, it was rendered certain that the command at Winchester was in the immediate presence of an overwhelming force, probably the advance of Lee's entire army.
At this time the 3d brigade, under Colonel McReynolds, was on the march from Berryville to Winchester, in pursuance of the signal, which had been given early in the morning. The direct road from Berryville to Winchester was only ten miles; but the appearance of the enemy at Berryville prevented Colonel McReynolds from taking that route. He accordingly pursued the Harper's Ferry road for a short distance, then turning to the left by a circuitous road through Summit Point to Winchester. His rear guard was attacked by the enemy's cavalry before leaving Berryville, and also again with greater violence at the Opequan Creek, between Summit Point and the Martinsburg road. The enemy was handsomely repulsed in both instances, but particularly in the latter, when the cavalry, under Major A. W. Adams, and the artillery, commanded by Captain Alexander, were both brought into action. After a march of thirty miles, the 3d brigade reached the forts at Winchester about ten o'clock at night.
After it became known what force was in front of Winchester, early in the night of Saturday, under cover of the darkness, the men were withdrawn from the Front Royal and Strasburg roads, and posted in the southern part of the town, with orders to retire to the forts at two o'clock in the morning.
It was now apparent that a very large force of the enemy had approached Winchester, and virtually surrounded it. The Berryville road, the direct route to Harper's Ferry, was held by them. An attack had been made on our forces at Bunker Hill, on the Martinsburg road, during the day (Saturday), and some time in the evening the telegraphic line, which communicated by that road, was severed. Thus Winchester seemed to be entirely isolated and cut off from all its communications. Without any warning whatever, the whole rebel army had eluded the Army of the Potomac, and had poured over the mountains like an avalanche into the Shenandoah Valley. General Milroy did not, for a moment, suppose that this movement could have taken place without the timely knowledge of the authorities at Washington, and he very naturally supposed he had been left unadvised and without orders, because of some movement of the Army of the Potomac, which would soon relieve him from his perilous position.
General Schenck was in expectation of early advice in case of any movement of Lee's army into the valley. In his testimony he produced several telegrams to General Halleck inquiring for information on this subject; but down to Sunday, the 14th, it seems there was no knowledge of Lee's movements in possession of the commander-in-chief of the army. On Friday the 12th, General Schenck had telegraphed General Milroy in these words: 'You will make all the required preparations for withdrawing, but hold your position in the mean time. Be ready for movement, but await further orders.' The additional orders had not been received. The telegraph had been in operation during the greater part of Saturday, while the enemy was gathering around the post; and when, that night, the real situation became known, the most obvious conclusion arising from the circumstances was, that General Schenck had ordered the place to be held until further orders, for some important reason connected with the wider plans of the General-in-chief of the army. The cutting of the telegraphic wire was the only circumstance which cast any doubt upon this view. But in consultation with some of his officers on Saturday night, the commanding general, with their concurrence, adopted the conclusion that his orders prohibited him from leaving Winchester at that time, even if he could have done so with safety, which was more than doubtful. He resolved, therefore, to await the events of Sunday, when the enemy would probably have massed his forces; and if relief should not come during the day, it would then be more easy to determine in what manner and by what route it would be possible to escape. This conclusion was undoubtedly the wisest that could have been adopted. The most critical military judgment will hardly succeed in finding any ground of complaint against this decision in that serious emergency.
So passed the night of Saturday. On Sunday morning the contest was renewed, and kept up with great energy during the whole day, chiefly within the suburbs of the town of Winchester. In the afternoon a sudden and unexpected attack was made upon an unfinished earthwork on Flint Ridge, which, as it commanded the Pughtown and Romney roads, was occupied by Battery L of the 5th regular artillery, supported by the 110th and part of the 116th Ohio volunteer infantry, all under command of Colonel Keifer, of the former regiment. A reconnaissance had been previously ordered in that direction, and had been made or pretended to be made by part of the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry, the officer in charge of the party reporting that there was no enemy on either of those roads or between the two for a considerable distance from Winchester. Within two hours after this report was made, an overwhelming force appeared in that very quarter. The enemy opened on the position with not less than twenty guns, and precipitated upon it a column of at least ten thousand men. After a gallant but ineffectual resistance, Colonel Keifer was enabled to make good his retreat, under cover of the guns from the main fort, which commanded the position. The guns of Battery L were most effectively served in this affair, and executed great slaughter in the ranks of the enemy; but the horses having been nearly all killed, they were necessarily spiked and abandoned.
Our forces, pressed by the enemy on all sides, were now concentrated within the fortifications, and the rifle pits immediately in front of them; and the contest was continued with artillery on both sides until darkness compelled its cessation. In his report of this affair, General Milroy, with characteristic ardor at this juncture, says: 'To my regret, the enemy made no effort to take my position by assault.' It was probably about this time that the rebel General Ewell is reported with his glass to have descried General Milroy in the lookout, which had been constructed some distance up the flagstaff of the main fort, and to have exclaimed, 'There's that d—d old Milroy, who would stop and fight, if the d—l himself was after him.'
With the exception of the loss of Battery L, which was wholly attributable to the imperfect reconnaissance or the false report of Captain Morgan, who commanded the reconnoitring party, the advantage in the fighting, both on Saturday and Sunday, had all been with our forces; and there can be little doubt that the enemy would have suffered severely in any attempt to take the forts by assault.
But it was now apparent that the only alternatives were an evacuation or a surrender. A council of war was ordered by the commanding general, and the three brigade commanders, Brigadier-General Elliott, 1st brigade; Colonel Ely, of the 18th Connecticut, 2d brigade; and Colonel McReynolds, of the 1st New York Cavalry, 3d brigade, were called into consultation. The critical condition of the command was perfectly understood. In pursuance of orders previously received, which looked to the early evacuation of the place, most of the stores had been sent away. The communication with Martinsburg, from which supplies had been obtained always in a few hours, had been cut off; and it now appeared that the stock of ammunition had been very nearly expended, and the men were already on half rations. It was therefore resolved to retreat from the forts at one o'clock in the morning (of Monday 15th June), abandoning everything except the horses, and such supply of ammunition as each man could take upon the march. There was some question as to the feasibility of taking the field artillery; but as the enemy's pickets were within two or three hundred yards of the rifle pits, and as the forts were located on a rocky ridge, which could not well have been descended by the guns without arousing the enemy, it was finally determined to spike and leave them.
The fortifications had been constructed on the ridge, extending northwest from the town; and the guns in position commanded the Martinsburg road to the extent of their range. Probably on this account the enemy had not made his appearance in that direction; and this road, therefore, seemed to offer the only means of escape. The council of war resolved to march by this road to the point whence diverges a cross road to Summit Point, and thence by that place to Charlestown and Harper's Ferry. The three brigades were directed to go out in the order of their numbers, the 1st New York Cavalry, of the 3d brigade, being placed in the extreme rear. Notwithstanding the great precautions taken to elude the enemy immediately in front of the forts, the chief apprehension was that these forces would follow and harass the column on its retreat.
At two o'clock, on the morning of Monday, June 15th, with the most perfect silence, and in extreme darkness, the fortifications were evacuated, and the command of General Milroy commenced its march in the order and by the route designated. The bold and energetic resistance of the day previous had led the enemy to expect a renewal of the contest on Monday morning. Hence he was completely deceived and eluded; and the head of the retreating column had proceeded four and a half miles from Winchester, when suddenly, while it was yet quite dark, it encountered Johnson's division of Ewell's corps, eight or ten thousand strong, posted at the junction of the roads to Martinsburg and Summit Point. The commanding general, expecting only an attack from behind, was near the rear when the firing began. He immediately hastened to the scene of action, and in riding up to the front, and passing Colonel McReynolds, some distance ahead of his troops, ordered him to go back and hurry up his brigade. The forces of the 1st and 2d brigades were at once thrown into line of battle, the former on the left and parallel with the Martinsburg road, and the latter at right angles with the road, facing the woods in which the enemy were posted. The first brigade, by a gallant charge, succeeded in driving the enemy from their guns; the second, led by General Milroy in person, was three times repulsed by greatly superior numbers. Pending these successive charges, during which General Milroy's horse was shot under him, he awaited the arrival of the 3d brigade, and sent repeated messengers to order it up. His purpose was only to engage the enemy long enough to enable the whole column to pass away under cover of the severe blow he had given the enemy in the first charges of the two brigades engaged. But, unfortunately, the only part of the 3d brigade which could be found upon the field was the 1st New York Cavalry, which had been drawn up in line of battle by Major Adams, without having received any orders from the brigade commander. The rest of the brigade had gone to the right in the early part of the conflict, and, with the exception of the 6th Maryland Volunteers, became disorganized and scattered. Colonel McReynolds himself became separated from his troops, and reached Harper's Ferry alone, among the first who arrived.
Thus thwarted in his plans by the failure of the 3d brigade to respond to the orders given; the commanding general was compelled to continue the retreat with only the regiments which were yet upon the field. General Elliotts's forces, being in advance, mostly escaped. Colonel Ely himself was captured with a considerable number of his men; and the delay of the 3d brigade, giving the enemy the full advantage of his superiority in numbers, enabled him to cross the Martinsburg road in pursuit, and cause the remaining part of the command to separate into two parts, one of which, under the commanding general, made its way to Harper's Ferry; and the other, pushed too far to the left, was compelled to retreat upon Hancock, and thence into Pennsylvania. The first of these divisions pursued the Martinsburg road beyond the field of battle, and diverged thence through fields and by-roads to Harper's Ferry. The 3d brigade, with the exception of the 1st New York Cavalry, left the Martinsburg road before reaching the position of the enemy, and, by making a detour back toward Winchester, effected its escape to Charlestown, not, however, without a considerable loss of men captured by the enemy.
It has been ascertained, from prisoners since taken by our army, that the rebel force thus encountered at the junction of the Martinsburg and Summit Point roads, on the morning of the 15th June, had then just reached this position; and at the time when General Elliott drove the enemy from their guns, Johnson and his staff were nearly surrounded, between the 1st and 2d brigades of General Milroy's forces, and were in imminent danger of being captured. If the 3d brigade had taken part in the action, in obedience to the orders given, doubtless this important capture might have been made; and the retreat, which has been pronounced a disastrous failure, would have been crowned with brilliant success. Upon such events, often hang the fortunes of men and armies!
But notwithstanding the derangement of plans, and the want of cooeperation in conducting this retreat, the result was by no means so disastrous as has been generally supposed. Out of 6,900 effective men who marched from Winchester, a little more than 6,000 escaped the enemy, and although scattered in different directions, were found to be on duty when recently the subject was investigated by order of Major-General Schenck.
Most extravagant representations have been made as to the loss of stores and ammunition by this evacuation. But the inquiry has established that a large part of the wagons had been previously sent away in safety, that very few stores were on hand, and that the ammunition was nearly exhausted. The horses were all taken on the retreat, and notwithstanding some confusion and disorder among the teamsters, were mostly saved to the Government. The guns left in the fortifications, and the empty wagons, constituted the principal loss; and these, in comparison with amounts of public property which during the war have been abandoned at many other places, without comment or complaint, were truly insignificant.
In estimating this affair, it cannot be fairly characterized as either disgraceful or particularly disastrous. The movements of Lee's army were wholly unknown in advance either to General Schenck, or to the General-in-chief of the army. The little force at Winchester, without any warning, was called upon to encounter the advance of Lee's army in overwhelming numbers. Without at first knowing or suspecting the character of the enemy, General Milroy held this gathering force at bay and in check for three days; and when finally surrounded and compelled to cut his way out, did so with a loss of less than one thousand of his effective men, of which number the killed and wounded were inconsiderable. It is known from our paroled officers, that during the investment and retreat, the enemy lost at least three hundred killed, and seven hundred wounded, while our casualties were not one fourth of that number.
Lee's army having escaped the army of the Potomac, was on its way to Pennsylvania. This check and delay of its onward march was important in its results. It was the first obstacle met by the invading host. It served to reveal the movements and the concealed purpose of the enemy, and enabled our army to pursue and counteract his designs. Had there been no such obstacle, the rebel army would have swept on unopposed into Maryland, and would have had three, or at least two more days of unobstructed license to revel in the spoils he sought. He might have reached Harrisburg, if such was his intention; and, at all events, he would have plundered and destroyed in a single day, far more than was lost at Winchester.
In the course of his testimony, General Schenck did not hesitate to say, that if he had been left to his own judgment in the control of the forces within his department, he would have concentrated them all at Winchester, with the view to meet and check the contemplated advance of Lee's rebel army, until the Army of the Potomac could have come forward to his relief. Undoubtedly this disposition of his command would have had a controlling influence on the rebel campaign of last summer, in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The movements of both armies would have been materially changed, and the result must have been modified accordingly. The invasion of the loyal States might have been altogether prevented, or it might have been rendered even more disastrous. Speculations of this kind as to movements which could have been made, are not of much value, inasmuch as they cannot alter the irrevocable past. Military operations are subject to so many contingencies, that it is impossible to conjecture with any certainty what results might have followed a different plan of campaign. Yet there could be no improvement in military science, and no benefit from disastrous experience, unless the errors of any particular movement may be pointed out and freely criticized. If General Schenck's idea had been adopted, and preparation made at Winchester to meet the advance of Lee's army, the movements of the Army of the Potomac would have been conformed to that arrangement, with cooeperation between the scattered forces of the Middle Department and those under command of General Hooker. The campaign would have been in some measure under our control; whereas, in the actual circumstances, the enemy passed without opposition, except at Winchester, into Maryland and Pennsylvania, and selected his own field of operations. It was most fortunate, though almost fortuitous, so far as our army was concerned, that it had the good fortune to be posted as it was in the neighborhood of Gettysburg, with Cemetery Hill as the centre of our line. General Meade has all the credit and honor of having made the best disposition of his army, and carried it into the engagement with all the advantages of that magnificent position. But the selection of the battle ground was not the result of any strategy on our part. Doubtless the enemy's ignorance of the topography enabled Meade to occupy the favorable ground which gave him the great victory in Pennsylvania.
Both Major-Generals Schenck and Milroy are volunteer officers, raised from civil life to their present high position. The former has heretofore been mostly known as a politician of the Whig school, long a member of the national House of Representatives, and therein connected with the navy rather than the army. He has again been returned to Congress by his district in Ohio, and it is understood that he will soon leave his position in the army, carrying his honorable wounds into another field of service, where his usefulness to his country in this great crisis will not be diminished.
General Milroy has had the advantage of a military education, and has had much of that experience and training which are necessary to make an accomplished soldier. He graduated at the University of Norwich, Vermont—the same that sent from its academic halls the gallant and lamented General Lander, who died at an early period of the war. Whatever may be the character of that institution as a military school, under the shadow of the great reputation of West Point, it has at least the merit of having imparted to these two of its graduates an enthusiastic love for the profession of a soldier, and a perfect readiness, in a good cause, to meet its privations and dangers. At the commencement of the Mexican war, General Milroy raised a company in his native State of Indiana, and commanded it in the field until the expiration of its term of service. He was even more prompt in preparation for the present rebellion. Anticipating its occurrence, some time before its commencement, he undertook the organization of a company at Rensselaer, Indiana; and, in spite of the ridicule of such an undertaking, he persevered, and presented his company, one of the first to respond to the President's earliest call for volunteers. Thus entering the service as a captain, he has rapidly risen through the intermediate grades to his present position. He is not yet forty-eight, though his perfectly white hair would seem to indicate a greater age. But his red beard and whiskers contrast strongly with the snow on his head, and, together with a flashing bluish-gray eye, indicate the energetic and ardent temperament of unconquerable youth. Though not large in person, he is tall and erect, with a fine, soldierly form. His address is quick, and nervous to such a degree as to deprive him of even the ordinary fluency of speech. His want of words to express the thoughts that evidently burn within him, together with a remarkable diffidence among strangers, renders him incapable of making an impression, at first, proportionate to his real merit. He has, however, always enjoyed great popularity among his men, commanding their entire confidence, and has never failed to endear himself to his intimate companions. His heart has been earnestly with the Union, in the work of its preservation, from the beginning of the war; and whatever may be the disposition of the authorities toward him, his strong convictions and his active temperament will hardly permit him to remain idle during the deadly peril of the nation.
THE TWO SOUTHERN MOTHERS.
Heard you not the din of battle, Cannon's roar, and musket's rattle, Clash of sword, and shriek of shell, Victor's shot, and vanquished's yell?
Saw you not yon scene of slaughter, Human blood poured out like water; Northern valor, Southern pride, Stern resolve on either side?
Cheering on his flagging men, Rallying to the charge again, Comes a bullet, charged with grief, Strikes the brave Confederate chief.
Down he falls, amid the strife, Horses trampling out his life: Scarce can his retreating force Find and save his mangled corpse.
Home they bore him to his mother— He was all she had—none other: Woful mother! who can borrow Words to paint her frantic sorrow?
As she mourned her slaughtered brave, Came and spake her aged slave, Came, and spake with solemn brow: 'Missis, we is even, now.
'I had ten, and you had one; Now we're even—all are gone: Not one left to bury either— Slave and mistress mourn together.
'Every one of mine you sold— Now your own lies stark and cold: To the just Avenger bow— Missis! I forgive you now.'
Thus she spoke, that sable mother; Shuddering, quailed and crouched the other. Yea! although it tarry long, PAYMENT SHALL BE MADE FOR WRONG!
DIARY OF FRANCES KRASINSKA;
OR, LIFE IN POLAND DURING THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.
Friday, January 3d.
My patience, or rather my impatience, has not been exposed to any very severe trial: I have seen the prince royal twice. He recognized me; how childish I was to doubt it? Why should I think him less skilful than myself; and under what dress could I mistake him?
On New Year's day, just as I was writing in my journal, the palatine came into my room, and said: 'Fanny, you have surpassed my expectations; you have been perfect in everything; your dress, and still more your manners, at the ball, have charmed every one; you have pleased universally, and even persons of the highest rank. I have just returned from court, where, with the senators and ministers, we presented our homage to his royal majesty: his royal highness the Duke of Courland took me aside to tell me that he had never seen anything comparable to you. 'Were it not for the court etiquette,' added he, 'which forces me to pass the first day of the year with the king my father, I should go in person to present my congratulations to Mademoiselle Frances Krasinska.'
When I heard these words spoken by the prince palatine, I thought my heart would burst within my bosom. The prince was kind enough to seem as if he had not noticed my confusion, and left me alone with my joy, my delirium, my wild fancies.... I was not then mistaken: the prince royal will come to see me. Yes; the prince palatine told me so; he has never seen anything comparable to me. This phrase haunts my memory like a delicious strain of melody.
Dinner was soon after announced. I was gay—out of myself; the princess scolded me. After dinner we went out to make visits, and found no one at home: everybody was out, offering the congratulations proper to the season. Friends and acquaintances met in the street, and all said to one another: 'I was just going,' or 'I have just been to see you.' The carriages crossed and jostled one another in the streets, and a halt was ordered whenever it was possible to recognize friends amid the crowd, when cards were reciprocally exchanged.
When the night came, the footmen lighted the carriage lamps, and boys ran before with torches; all these lights, vehicles, and liveries made up a charming spectacle—so gay and animated! There were a few accidents, but, God be praised, nothing happened to us. It was late when we returned, and I was very tired: I soon fell asleep, but my sleep was no rest. I dreamed, I pondered, and I saw the future.... How many things, how much weakness, and how much strength may exist in a woman's teeming brain!
The next day, precisely at twelve o'clock, after having made my toilet for the day, I went to the reception room, where the princess was already seated; I had just commenced to work at my embroidery, when a chamberlain entered hastily, and cried aloud: 'His royal highness the Duke of Courland.' The princess rose precipitately to receive him in the antechamber. At first I thought I would retire; but curiosity, or some feeling, I know not what, overcame my fear, and I remained. He entered, approached my workstand, and asked after my health. Notwithstanding my embarrassment, I replied with considerable self-possession. He took a seat near my frame, and seemed interested in my work. I had so strong a desire to appear calm that I succeeded in threading a fine needle with my heavy silk; but God knows how I trembled....
The prince royal praised my skill, and found opportunities of saying many kind and flattering things to me, although he spoke much more to the princess than to myself; he remained about half an hour. I now know that my dress did not change me in his eyes. As he left he told me he hoped to see me this evening at the ball given by the French ambassador, Marquis d'Argenson.
Ah! Barbara's wedding was nothing compared to the fetes in Warsaw: there was as much luxury and magnificence, but the exquisite grace and chivalric courtesy here universal were wanting.
The country may try as it will, it is always a mere parody on the city: in the city, all are nearly alike; all are equally polished, and equally amiable; no one is permitted to speak tiresome truths; the compliments are all ready made, and people only differ in their mode of speaking them. From this general rule I must except the prince royal; his language has another coloring, and his graceful speeches have an air of inspiration.
But he could not say much to me at the Marquis d'Argenson's ball. I was no longer a Virgin of the Sun, and etiquette is much more rigid at a dress ball than at a fancy ball; besides, all the women near us tried to hear what he was saying to me, which displeased me exceedingly; such curiosity is disgusting in persons of high rank.
The princess is in an excellent humor; the prince royal danced only with her last evening; that is, she is the only lady advanced in years who had that honor. The prince palatine is kinder than ever; he asks no questions and offers me no advice. I am awaiting my sister's arrival with the greatest impatience; how many things I will have to tell her!
It is not yet a week since I left school, and the time seems to me ages long: so many events and such divers impressions crowd a lifetime into a few days! New emotions have given birth to a new nature; my dreams as a young girl have been surpassed, or rather have become a serious reality.
Sunday, January 5th.
Would any one believe it? During the whole of yesterday I thought neither of balls, nor of fetes, not even of the prince royal himself: my mind was exclusively filled with my sister. She came sooner than had been expected, and was taken ill immediately after her arrival. The princess was sent for, and hastened to Barbara to remain all day. I desired to accompany her, but was not permitted. Until midnight I was in a horrible state of uneasiness; I sent to three churches to have masses said. Finally, at one o'clock, the princess returned; she told me that Barbara was doing well, and had given birth to a daughter. This morning I begged the princess to permit me to visit my sister, but she replied that I could not do so, as it was not proper for a young girl to visit a lady in Barbara's situation. There was nothing to be said, and so I must wait.
The starost called here for a moment; he seemed very, very happy. They say the little one is charming, red and white, and so plump; she is to be called Angelica, to please our mother, who is so named. Oh! if I could only see the dear child! I have all the honor of being an aunt, without any of the pleasure.
The prince royal sent to congratulate the princess upon the birth of the little girl, and he was kind enough to inquire after me by the same messenger.
Wednesday, January 8th.
My sister improves daily, but she does not yet leave her bed. I have seen the prince royal but once this week; he had gone hunting with the king; but yesterday he amply indemnified us by making us a visit of at least an hour. How good he must be! how tenderly he loves his father! and when he spoke of his mother, his eyes were wet with tears. He seems excellently well disposed toward the Poles; I do not think, so far as I can judge, that a more noble and energetic soul could anywhere be found. All that I had heard of him, all that I had written in my journal, is the most exact truth. He is even far above all the praises bestowed upon him; no one could describe the tone of his voice, his smile, or the expression of his eye, so filled with deep and noble thought; I am not at all surprised at the empress's predilection for him. He has already succeeded in winning the attachment of his people in Courland; he is seen once, and he pleases; again, and he is loved.... I believe that were the king to die, he would be proclaimed king of Poland.
Ah, well! this prince, so much beloved, has distinguished me highly; I can no longer doubt that I am pleasing to him; certain words have confirmed the eloquence of his eyes.... Yes, indeed, I may be quite sure, since even the prince palatine himself has told me so.
I believe that the princess takes a malicious pleasure in spoiling all my happiness; she said to-day, at table, with quite an indifferent air, that the prince royal had already been much pleased with many women, and that, for him, the last was always the most beautiful.... How childish I am, to torment myself thus! Am I the only beauty in the world? The Starostine Wessel, Madame Potocka, and the Princess Sapieha are far more beautiful than I, and then they understand how to add grace to their beauty, while I am entirely devoid of the knowledge of any kind of art. Yet, the prince royal assures me, that is my greatest charm. Nevertheless, my color seems pale beside the brilliancy of those ladies; their cheeks are rose tinted, and always rose tinted, while my color varies according to my emotions. Madame Potocka was charming at the French ambassador's ball; the prince royal danced with her twice, and no one could avoid remarking her. But, in truth, what more can I desire? My whole ambition was to see him, and to be noticed by him during a few moments; my wishes have been gratified, and yet I long for more, still more.... The heart has, then, infinite faculties for ceaseless longing.
Sunday, January 12th.
Now I ought to be completely happy. Last Thursday, at the Prince Czartoryski's ball, the prince royal danced with me alone. He came the day before to make us a visit, and yesterday, he sent his aid-de-camp to invite us to a representation of the Italian opera Semiramide, which is to take place at the court.
During the whole time of the play, the prince paid attention to no one but myself. I was presented to the king, who gave me a most gracious reception; he asked me for my parents, and especially for my mother. The starost came to announce that the prince had concluded to stand godfather to his daughter, and that he had chosen me for godmother.... I will then hold the child at the baptismal font with the prince, and then I shall be of the same rank with himself. The will of God be done! The ceremony will take place with great solemnity in the cathedral church of St. John. Several other baptisms were to have taken place upon the same day, but they will be postponed through respect for the prince. The first society of Warsaw will be present at the ceremony; every one will speak of it, and certainly the Polish Courier will chronicle this important news. What will Madame Strumle and all the young ladies at the school say? What will my parents, and all our court at Maleszow say? What will our little Matthias say?
Oh! that Matthias! How often I think of him! He is responsible for all my torments, and all my uneasiness; without him, my reason would never have abandoned me, nor would such wild hopes have sprung up within my heart.
Scarcely one moment have I been able to rejoice over the approaching ceremony; the princess has just told me that marriage is forbidden between persons who have stood together as godfather and godmother at a baptism; I shuddered as I listened! Great God! what can all this mean? I no longer know myself. All within my soul is confusion and disorder: my own thoughts terrify me; I pass alternately from joy to sorrow; delicious hopes smile upon me, and then I am overwhelmed by a strange presentiment of coming sorrow. I am in a state of continual agitation: I tremble, and long to quit the world, and then again feel drawn toward it by bonds so sweet and so strong....
At least I shall soon once more see my sister. That meeting will afford me a really happy moment; true consolation is to be found in sweet and confiding affections. After the ceremony, we will go to my sister's; she is doing remarkably well; she sits up, but cannot yet leave her room.
Wednesday, January 15th.
The baptism took place yesterday, and I saw my sister. How charming she is! She has grown paler and somewhat thinner. She is, as she always was, good like an angel; and she is so happy! The prince royal quite insisted that my name should be given to the little one, but Barbara would not agree to that; she said that we owed the preference to our mother's name. He has, however, obtained a promise from her that her second daughter shall be named Frances.
The little one is lovely, but red as a crab; she cried during the whole time of the ceremony: they say that is a good sign, and that she will probably live to grow up. God grant it, for I love her already. I was so embarrassed, I had not the least idea how I ought to hold her in the church. My hands failed me; the prince royal aided me most kindly; how good he is!
I was as much surprised as pleased at finding myself standing before the altar at his side, in the presence of so numerous an assemblage, and at seeing my name inscribed on a great book with his: the prophecies of our little Matthias will doubtless receive no further fulfilment.
Every one congratulates me upon the honor I have had. The prince royal has redoubled his kindness to me since the ceremony; his manner is more familiar; and he calls me now, 'My pretty gossip:' when he speaks of the child, he says, 'our Angelica.' He has made the most magnificent presents to her ladyship the starostine and myself; his generosity toward the poor and my sister's servants was truly regal.
He has promised the starost his interest with the king, to obtain for him the castellanship of Radom. Alas for me! I can do nothing for my family; but I have embroidered a dress for Angelica which has cost both time and labor; the prince royal told me he thought it in the best taste. I will shortly embroider a cap for the dear little one.
But I am forgetting a piece of news of the greatest importance. Prince Jerome Radziwill, the standard bearer of Lithuania, is preparing a grand hunt to amuse the king and the prince royal. He is expending the most enormous sums to surpass everything of the kind hitherto seen. He has filled his park with all kinds of game, brought expressly from the forests of Lithuania. The hunt will begin to-morrow; the weather is favorable; it is freezing hard, and the sledges will slide over the snow most charmingly. The prince royal insists upon my being present at this fete. The four beauties of Warsaw will occupy the same sledge, driven by the prince royal himself. (I must here say that I am one of the four beauties now in fashion.) We will all wear the same costume, differing only in color. I have chosen crimson; Madame Potocka, blue; Madame Sapieha, green; and Miss Wessel, orange. Our velvet dresses will be trimmed with sable, and our caps will be made of the same material. I am sorry Barbara cannot see it all; but she has her Angelica, and that is a happiness worth all the rest.
Friday, January 17th.
I was brought up in a castle with a brilliant court, and I have seen the royal fetes at Warsaw; but I never beheld anything comparable to the Prince Radziwill's hunt. We set out at nine in the morning, amid an innumerable quantity of sledges and horses; our equipage was the most splendid, and followed next after the king's. The prince wore a hunting dress of green velvet. I do not know whether it was his costume which rendered his appearance so striking, or his bearing which threw such a charm about his dress; of one thing, however, I am sure, and that is, that I never saw him look so well.
We first went a considerable distance beyond the church of the Holy Cross; then we flew down the side of the hill on which Warsaw is built. In the centre of the plain, near Szulec and Uiazdow (now Lazienki), Prince Radziwill has had a park made and an iron pavilion built. The situation is admirable; the building is open upon all sides, and defended against the wild beasts by bristling points of sharpened iron. All the furniture is covered with green velvet. The king and the prince royal took their places within the pavilion, while the guests occupied a lofty amphitheatre raised without; the little hills to the right and left were crowded with curious spectators. At some distance from the pavilion began long avenues, bordered with fine trees.
As soon as all had arrived, and had taken their destined places, the hunting horns were sounded. The prince's huntsmen let loose eight elks, three bears, twenty-five wolves, and twenty-three wild boars; dogs trained for the purpose drove the animals toward the king's pavilion. The shouts of the huntsmen and the howlings of the animals were deafening. The king killed three boars with his own hands; the prince royal killed at least twenty of the creatures, and, not yet content, he fought a bear with a club, a proof of great strength and skill. I am to have the bear's skin, the main trophy of the prince's hunt, as a carpet. These amusements lasted until four in the afternoon; we then had a collation. We counted eighty-four huntsmen and foresters belonging to Prince Radziwill; they were all richly dressed. Latin and Polish verses were distributed among the guests. Everything was charming. Prince Radziwill desired thus to commemorate the anniversary of the king's coronation. There will also be a grand ball this evening at Marshal Bielinski's, to celebrate the same event.
Sunday, January 19th.
The ball was superb. The prince royal was charmingly gay; the king had given him a star set with diamonds. The supper was splendid, exquisite; and the enforced abstinence of Friday by no means diminished the luxury and abundance; there were an infinity of dishes, but not a particle of meat.
I danced a great deal, and have pains in my feet which cause me much suffering; but I am sorry that I complained, for I shall now be obliged to keep my room for ten days to rest. The princess is quite uneasy about my health. She fears lest so many balls and such late hours should be injurious to me. In truth, I do not think my cheeks are as rosy as they were a few weeks ago.
We have received letters from Maleszow; my mother was kind enough to write to me herself. She begs me to take good care of myself, and, above all, to act prudently, and beware of heeding vain flatteries. She says: 'Do not become vain or proud through the praises bestowed upon you. Caprice has more influence upon the world's judgment than either beauty or merit. If reason is lulled to sleep through the power of such deceitful murmurs, the happiness of a whole life is in danger, and one may suddenly fall from a great height, with all one's weight, upon the earth.'
I hope my good mother's fears will never be realized, and, if my desires have been too lofty and ambitious, I will in future endeavor to chain them in the depths of my soul. My mother's letter caused me many tears; I carry it with me wherever I go, and read it often. God has endowed the words of parents with the power of going directly to their children's hearts. Happy the young girl who has never left her father's house! Notwithstanding all my triumphs, I often regret our castle at Maleszow.
WARSAW, Wednesday, January 29th.
My quarantine is finally ended, but I am sorry to say there have been four balls during my seclusion. I particularly regret a masked ball, where I was to have made one in a Scotch quadrille with the three celebrated beauties. Miss Malachowska took my place, and I was forced to remain alone, notwithstanding the entreaties of the prince royal and of many others; but when the princess once says no, there is no use in attempting to induce her to change her mind, I confess I was really vexed, but it would have been very ungracious to have let it be perceived; at my age, one should be reasonable; besides, I ought not to regret anything, for the prince royal has often been to see me, and has told me that he approved my resignation and the strength of my character.
Since the baptism, the distance separating the prince royal, heir apparent to the throne, from the Starostine Frances Krasinska, has been gradually decreasing; the prince royal desires me to treat him as my equal: what precious and inconceivable goodness! The hours he passes with us are the most delightful that can be imagined; he talks of his journeys to St. Petersburg, to Vienna, to Courland, and amid the society surrounding us, he even finds opportunities to say words to me which I alone can comprehend. The prince royal knows and appreciates all the intrigues which are mining our unfortunate republic, but, through respect for his father, he dare not say what he thinks. Great God! If he should one day be king!
The princess, who eagerly seeks a bad side to the best things, says that his politeness has no other aim than to make a party for himself, and when he is master of the crown, he will forget or despise us. I do not believe this, and repel such a suspicion as the deepest injustice. The princess would be very glad to see Lubomirski on the throne, but I doubt exceedingly the possibility of such an event.
The sisters canonesses have a soiree this evening, to which I am invited. The superior, Miss Komorowska, is a very respectable personage. Madame Zamoyska, born Zahorowska, was the foundress of this community: she copied it from that existing at Remiremont, in Lorraine. It serves as an asylum for young ladies who will not or who cannot marry; they live there in retirement, but still receive visits. Madame Zamoyska bought the Marieville, in one of the main streets, on purpose to establish this community of canonesses. Twelve ladies of the highest rank are received there, but eight young girls belonging to the lesser nobility are also admitted.
The last days of the carnival are finally at hand.
Ash Wednesday, February 16th.
After such constant and fatiguing excitement, one grows tired of pleasure and longs for rest. I am almost glad when I think the carnival is over. During the past three weeks I have led a purely external life, absorbed in balls, dress, and visits. One must have tried this mode of life to know how sad and tiresome it really is. My success, my happiness, are envied by others, while I long only for solitude, only for a few quiet moments, in which I may enjoy my own thoughts and reflections.
Barbara seems to comprehend my sufferings. I see her often, and certain words which occasionally fall from her lips explain her fears for me. She sees before me a destiny by no means in harmony with my tastes, requirements, and faculties; she would wish for me a future such as her heart and her reason have made for her; she understands life, and has set me to dreaming of another happiness.... I begin to reflect.... But how beautiful Madame Potocka looked at the masked ball yesterday evening! Her dress as a sultana became her astonishingly. Her beauty shone as a sun above that of all other women; every one admired her, and all coveted the honor of dancing with her. As for me, I could only dance one Polonaise; I was attacked by so severe a pain in my foot that I could not leave my seat, and I was forced to decline the invitations of the prince royal and of several noblemen. Thank heaven, the carnival is over!
Saturday, February 29th.
I am going to Sulgostow when I least expected to make such a journey, and must first write a few hasty lines. The starost and my sister called yesterday to say farewell. The prince palatine came to my room this morning, and told me my brother and sister were very anxious I should accompany them home. 'It is very probable,' he added, 'that your father and mother will soon join you there.' I always yield implicit obedience to the will of the palatine, and made no resistance in this case: I will go. The princess approves highly of my resolution. I will go, since they desire it; and yet the prince royal is ignorant of my approaching departure, and there is no one whom I could ask to inform him of it: he will hear it as one of the ordinary items of every-day news.
If I dared I would ask the princess to say farewell for me, and present my regrets to him; but I should never have the courage to confide in her—and, besides, will my departure cause him any pain? Will a single thought, a single remembrance follow me, when there are so many beautiful women in Warsaw?... Madame Potocka will still be here.... But I am called, and must hasten my preparations.
Sunday, March 15th.
I returned to Warsaw two days ago. I do not know how it was, but I forgot my journal, and was forced to abstain from the consolation of writing during my absence.
I remained three weeks at Sulgostow. I tell it to my shame, but the time weighed upon my soul as a lengthened torture. I did not see my parents, as they are not expected there for four days yet, and the prince palatine came for me in such haste that we made the journey in one day; fresh horses awaited us at each stopping place, so that we did not lose a single moment.
The prince royal came to see us the day after our arrival. He is much changed; he seems sad or suffering. He gave me to understand that my departure had given him great pain, and he said with some bitterness, that one should have some consideration for a friend.... A friend! this heartfelt word fell from his lips. Oh! how remorseful I felt for having made this journey! And yet I made it against my own will.
The prince palatine maintains that all is for the best. I must confess I can see no reason for making me suffer, and for afflicting the prince royal; but I have made a promise to myself to obey the palatine blindly; I believe him to be destined to play a large part in all the events of my life. The princess received me most kindly upon my return.
I have embroidered a cushion for the cathedral, with I.H.S. upon it. I found all that was needful for my work at Sulgostow, and I was so diligent that I finished it before my departure. I worked fervently, for I was accomplishing a secret vow; God alone knows my intention, God alone can grant my prayers.
The anniversary of Barbara's marriage was celebrated with great pomp at Sulgostow. How many changes in the space of a year! Before Barbara's marriage, I was always gay and always happy; that is to say, always calm. I enjoyed my insignificant liberty; my life was like a cloudless sky; I experienced none of those moments of bliss which are yet a real suffering, nor of those hours of torment possessing so strange a charm.
Thursday, March 19th.
The prince royal was as gay and amiable yesterday as during the first days of our acquaintance. He came in the morning and passed an hour with us; he could not remain longer, as he was obliged to accompany his father on a hunting party to the forest of Kapinos: but he returned in the evening when we least expected him; he came quietly, without any escort, and with an absence of ceremony, and an air of mystery which added to the charm of his presence.
The chase was successful, and quite a singular event took place. The forest of Kapinos borders upon that of Zaborow; the proprietor of the last-mentioned domain is said to be a gentleman of good family; he gave the king a splendid reception when his majesty passed through his lands, and the king promised the gentleman a starosty, as a recompense for his fidelity, on condition that he would first permit him to kill a bear upon his territory. Several bears were killed, but the starosty seemed forgotten; the poor gentleman, always hoping and always disappointed, killed a bear himself at the last hunt. He dragged it to the king's feet, and said to him, 'Sire, ursus est, privilegium non est.'
The king laughed heartily at this sally, and promised him solemnly that he should have the promised starosty.
The prince royal remained two hours with us: he is now freer, and can leave his father more easily, because his brothers, Albert and Clement, are in Warsaw. Every one says that Prince Clement is very good and very pious; he has a decided vocation for the ecclesiastical state, and it is presumed he will take orders. It is a proof of great wisdom on the king's part to consecrate one of his sons to God; but it is fortunate the choice did not fall upon Prince Charles.
Tuesday, March, 24th.
Notwithstanding it is Lent, my days pass quite gayly. The prince royal comes often to see us; he repeats unceasingly that the court etiquette weighs upon him; he is glad to be free from it: but to-morrow I am again to be separated from him. The princess is in the habit of making a retreat of a week before Easter, in order to prepare for her confession; all religious ladies do the same, and I must of course accompany the princess to the convent of the Holy Sacrament.
During a whole week we will see none but priests, we will read only books of prayer, and work only for the church or for the poor.
Holy Thursday, April 2d.
I have made my confession, and am now prepared to receive the holy communion. I never remember to have been so calm, or to have felt so much quiet in my soul. It is an inestimable blessing to be at peace with God and with one's self. How solemn and how sweet are the ceremonies of our holy religion! What a happiness to have been brought up in the knowledge of its mysteries! I have an excellent confessor, the Abbe Baudoin; he is very popular among the ladies of the court, because he is a Frenchman. But, popularity aside, he would still be the confessor of my choice; he is a worthy and a holy man, possessing all the virtues taught by Christ; one follows his counsels with respect; his views of religion console and show one the way to heaven without forcing one entirely to quit the earth. I passed several hours with him, and he knew how to reach my heart, even while condemning my faults. He caused me to feel humiliated for my sins, without crushing me, or driving me to despair; he showed me the futility of all human things, the sadness and emptiness of all pleasures arising from vanity and self-love.... Indeed, during a few moments, I thought seriously of consecrating my life entirely to God, and of becoming a gray nun in the convent under the Abbe Baudoin's direction.
I was measuring my cell, and counting the number of steps I could take in my new asylum; I thought my resolution nearly taken, when my maid entered and began to tell me some trifle concerning the prince royal's huntsman!... The chain of my holy thoughts was immediately broken, and I strove in vain to relink it; I could remember but one point, and that was, that the Abbe Baudoin had told me it was possible to secure one's salvation even while living in the great world, and that this difficult struggle, when brought to a victorious conclusion, was as pleasing to God as that virtue which had never dared the combat.
Why, then, should I throw myself into a world of sacrifices, whose extent is unknown to me, and perhaps beyond my strength? I will follow my destiny, while maintaining the purity of my conscience. Yes, I swear never to commit any action unworthy of the name of Krasinski. If I sin, alas! it is through too much pride; my desires are placed very high; the Abbe Baudoin does not blame me; he says that ambition is criminal only when it leads us from the path of virtue.... What God requires, is a heart prepared for every sacrifice—a will ready to yield all for His sake; and I feel that I possess this disposition; I experience an indefinable quietude, and my soul is comforted. This week has seemed to me a foretaste of heaven; I have seen no one but the nuns and my confessor, the sole confidant of my thoughts and feelings, and the time has passed rapidly and without tedium. To-day I am once more to find myself in the great world. I am to witness the ceremonies of Holy Thursday in the castle. I am very curious to see this religious solemnity.
Low the leaves lie in the forest; on the damp earth, brown and chill, Gather near the evening shadows. Hark! the wind is sorrowing still. Vanished are the pine-crowned mountains, hidden in a dusky cloud; See the rain, it falleth ever from the wan and dreary sky: Rusheth on the swollen streamlet, wildly whirling, foaming by; And the branches, leafless waving, in the Fall wind low are bowed.
See, the golden-rod no longer bends its yellow-plumed head, By the roadside lies it faded—'mid the grasses—pale and dead; While alone the stately mullein rears its brown and withered crest. Quiet skies of early Autumn mirrors now the lake no more, But its waters struggle fiercely, laden storm-clouds flying o'er, And the rain it falleth ever, and the wind will never rest.
Once the hills were clad in scarlet: vanished all their beauty now; Perished now the crown of glory that encircled then their brow; Low the crimson leaves are lying, and the withered boughs are chill; Faded are the purple daisies, and the little pool looks sad, Missing now the gentle flowers that once made it bright and glad; For the rain it falleth ever, and the wind is never still.
Closer fall the gloomy shadows, and the forests drearier seem, Still the leaden clouds are flying, rusheth wilder yet the stream; And the reckless wind is telling now a wild and fearful tale, While the trees all listen trembling, and the mullein bows its head, And the dusky lake grows angrier, and the dark pool mourns its dead; For the rain it falleth ever, and the winds but louder wail.
THE ASSIZES OF JERUSALEM.
There is in the Royal Library at Munich a room called the Cimelian Hall, in which the manuscripts and works with binding richly ornamented in gold and precious stones are kept. Many a visitor to this hall has felt deep interest as his eyes have rested upon an open manuscript, to be seen through the glass doors of its case, written with inverted strokes and adorned with various colored initial letters. The interest has risen on learning that this contains the 'Assizes of Jerusalem,' of which there are but few manuscripts in existence—one at Venice and several at Paris. This work is in the old French language, and the frequent recurrence on the open page of such words as jures, larcin, vol, meurtre, in connection with the word 'assises,' leads the visitor to suppose that this may be a judicial report of remarkable criminal cases—a kind of 'Pitaval.'
But these yellow leaves contain one of the most important documents connected with the history of civilization which the night of the middle ages has given us: it is indeed an invaluable inheritance from that period—nothing less than the laws of the kingdom of Jerusalem, as founded by the Crusaders at the end of the eleventh century.
The kingdom of Jerusalem! At the very mention of the name, there seems to pass over us a breeze from that charmed time when Christendom, inspired by its faith with heroic zeal, went forth to rescue from insult and ignominy the tomb of the Redeemer. Who does not feel a kind of longing after that romantic splendor of the Orient, which impelled the people of Europe to leave homes and families upon this great enterprise beyond the sea? Who does not gladly lose himself in contemplating the traditions of life and deeds, contests and poesy of those chivalrous times, and dream over again a short portion of that brief but beautiful dream of the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem?
Nor is it merely this feeling of romance which binds us to the law book of the Crusaders. It has important political and judicial significance. In the kingdom of Godfrey of Boulogne lived mixed up together, formed into a kind of variegated checkerwork, people of all lands and languages of the Occident—French, Italians, Spanish, English, and Germans. The system of law which united this mixed multitude was indeed the German, at least in its fundamental and leading forms and features, as this was before the time when the flourishing of the law school at Bologna had brought again everywhere into use the Roman law. There is, however, a perceptible influence of the Roman law in this work, and indeed an occasional reference to it as an authority. It has, therefore, its importance to jurists, but its general interest is deeper, disclosing, as it does, a view of a distant age, and of a land long since covered with the charm and glory of song.
This manuscript is in the old French tongue, was evidently written by an Italian hand in the latter part of the fourteenth century, and bears the title: 'Livres des assises et bons usages dou reaume de Jerusalem.'
'Assize,' primarily means an assembly of several wise men in the court of a prince for the making of laws; but it comes thence to mean that which they have determined upon as law, and is so used in the judiciary of the Christian Orient.
We shall see that the Munich manuscript does not fully make good its name. It is not in the proper sense a law book, but rather notes in regard to the judiciary of the kingdom, made by authors of unknown names. There are internal evidences that the original compilation must have taken place from 1170 to 1180 of the Christian era, that is, before the recapture of Jerusalem, and is therefore from the best of sources. It contains, however, but a single department of the judiciary system of Jerusalem, and the deficiency must be supplied from the Venetian manuscript. Still, however, there remains little to desire in regard to the completeness of the sources from which we learn the contents of these books of 'Assizes.'
Before passing to a notice of the law book of the Crusaders, it is necessary to premise a brief statement of the political condition upon which this system of law was based, since it is only by knowing this that we can understand the laws.
When the Christian kingdom of Asia was in its bloom, it consisted of four provinces, viz.: 1, the principality of Antioch; 2, the duchy of Edessa; 3, the principality of Syria or Jerusalem; and 4, the duchy of Tripolis. These four formed the kingdom of Jerusalem, of which they were feudal dependencies. The principality of Jerusalem was the home domain of the king of Jerusalem, as Hugh Capet, for instance, was duke of France and king in France.
The kings of Jerusalem, like those of France, surrounded themselves with four crown officers, viz.: the seneschal, constable, marshal, and chamberlain, whose authority and influence were the same as those of the name in Europe.
Each of the above-named divisions was again subdivided into baronies and greater fiefs, the holders of which were called 'men of the kingdom.' The lower vassals were designated by the name of 'liegemen.' Among them were, however, included the immediate servants of the king, ranking with the class from which higher officials are taken in Europe.
The king executed justice in a court constituted of peers, and called the high court, and the laws which governed its decisions were called 'assizes of the high court.'
Those barons who held courts and administered justice to their vassals scattered over the land, of which there were twenty-two in the principality of Syria, based their decisions also upon these assizes; they did not, however, sit in their own right as patrimonial judges, but by royal concession, and the king could at any time he chose preside over these courts, associating with himself any number of his liegemen to sit with him.
Besides these noble vassals, called also the 'chivalry of the kingdom,' there was a very considerable Latin population who held no fiefs, but still were perfectly free men, and were designated as citizens. We find in our work no statement of their political relations; we only know that they had their own law, and that in the issue of the ordinances for the government of their towns or cities, they had a right to participate, and were obliged, in case of need in the land of Jerusalem, to furnish, as were also the clergy, a certain quota of foot soldiers.
To this Latin population justice was administered by a court of sworn burghers, presided over in Jerusalem itself by the viscount of the kingdom, and elsewhere by the viscounts or bailiffs of the several cities. Of these courts there were thirty-seven in the principality of Jerusalem. This was called the lower court, or court of the burghers, and the laws which formed its rule of judgment, 'the assizes of the burghers' court.'
The jurisdiction of the two above-named courts did not, however, extend over all subjects, since that of the clerical courts embraced matters pertaining to the laity, which are now no longer regarded as ecclesiastical: for instance, the case of husband and wife treating each other with mutual blows; for it would seem that these connubial feuds were not quite prevented, either by the gallantry of this time of chivalry, or by the feeling which had animated the rushing crowds when they left Europe for the Orient, that they were going to a land elevated above the range of terrene sins and troubles—perhaps to that they had heard called heaven.
In the seaports, the Italians and people of Marseilles enjoyed the right of being tried by judges of their own, and in accordance with the usages of their own countries; and as if to make this checkerwork quite complete, the Syrian Christians were allowed trial before the rajis or presidents of their several towns. In this latter respect a change was introduced somewhat gradually, which was quite remarkable in view of the prevalent ideas of the times. Feudalism had tended to concentrate the power as much as possible in the same hands, without regard to the difference of matter in question—that is, to divide labor by quantity, and not by quality. But here we find for the first time a division of jurisdiction according to the matter, and in the later period of the kingdom, marine and commercial courts were established. The former, called 'courts of the chain' (from the chain by which the entrance to the harbor was closed), gave judgment in questions of freight or payment of sailors' wages, or in any questions which might arise between the ship-owners and captains. The commercial court, which, in addition to its own special functions, took the place of the properly Syrian courts, was constituted of four Syrian and two Frankish judges, under the presidency of a Frank. This was an important measure, and indicated great progress in international commercial intercourse, since in other matters the various nationalities of the kingdom were so strictly distinguished that the Syrian could not be witness against the Greek, or the Frank against the Armenian, or the Jacobite against the Nestorian, etc. In commerce and trade, the assizes held not so strictly in relation to religion and national descent; for whether Syrian or Greek, Jew or Samaritan, Nestorian or Saracen, they were still men, as well as the Franks, and must pay or serve according to judgment rendered, just as in the burghers' court, and hence it was determined that the court of commerce should apply the assizes of the burghers' court.
The above is given as the basis upon which the legislation of the kingdom rested, and now we may best hear the assizes themselves in regard to the beginnings of this legislation. In the first chapter of the assizes of the high court, as given us by John of Ibelin, we have the following:
'When the holy city of Jerusalem was won from the enemies of the cross, and restored to the true men of the Saviour, * * * when the princes and barons who conquered it had chosen, as king and lord of the kingdom of Jerusalem, Godfrey of Boulogne, * * * who was a man of understanding, and anxious to place the said kingdom in a good condition, and to have his people and all others who should come and go and dwell in the kingdom, guided, kept, ruled, sustained, held together, and judged according to justice and reason, he chose, upon the advice of the patriarch of the holy city and church of Jerusalem, and that of the princes, barons, and wisest men he could find, prudent men, whose business it should be to inquire and know from the people of various lands there present, what were the customs of their respective countries. All that these men could ascertain they wrote, or caused to be written, and laid before Duke Godfrey, who assembled the patriarch and the other people mentioned above, showed them the result, and caused the papers to be read to them. With their counsel and acquiescence he took from the report what seemed to him good, and made out from the same assizes and customs, which should be held, applied, and observed in the kingdom of Jerusalem.'
Our author further tells us that both Godfrey himself and the later kings, in their diets of the kingdom, extended and improved these laws. The diets were generally held at Acre, at the season of the arrival of the pilgrims from Europe, as this gave opportunity to ascertain what was the law of their several homes in relation to the matter in question; and it is even said that messengers were sent over the sea expressly for this purpose. William of Tyre, the celebrated chronicler of the time, has preserved to us an interesting case of this special legislation. He says that after the conquest of the holy city, and return home of most of the pilgrims, the danger from the Saracens having become imminent, many of the newly invested feudal tenants began to desert their fiefs, upon which Godfrey issued the following assize:
'Whoever shall hold such deserted fief in possession for one year, shall be considered as having gained it by prescriptive right, and shall be defended in its possession against the previous owner who has deserted it.'
The same William of Tyre tells us of a diet held at Neapolis in Samaria, in the year 1120, 'at which, in order to banish from the land the immoralities and crying abuses which had crept into it, there were issued comprehensive regulations, embraced in twenty-five chapters; and it seems from the form of the oath of the later kings that Amalrick I and his son Baldwin IV had undertaken a formal revision of the legislation.' It is therefore probable that we retain very little of the system established immediately upon the conquest. If we had no evidence of revisions and changes, the sad and unquiet times through which Godfrey had to pass would fully justify this conjecture.
But let us hear what tradition says in regard to the external condition of these laws:
'These assizes (vide chap. iv) were written each by itself in large Gothic letters. The first letter at the beginning was illuminated with gold, and all the rubrics and titles were written separately in red, as well all the other assizes as those of the higher and those of the burghers' court. Each sheet had the signature and seal of the king, the patriarch, and the viscount of Jerusalem, and these sheets were called 'Letters of the Sepulchre,' because they were kept in a great chest in the Holy Sepulchre. Whenever a question arose in court in regard to an assize, making it necessary to consult these writings, the chest was opened in the presence of nine persons. The king must either be there personally or be represented by a crown official, and then two vassals of the king, the patriarch of Jerusalem, or in his place the prior of the Holy Sepulchre, two canons, the viscount of Jerusalem, and two sworn citizens. So the assizes were made—so they were kept.'
These statements have proceeded upon the supposition that this law book was for the whole kingdom; but history has preserved facts which look to the conclusion that this was law only for the principality of Syria. But when we consider that these assizes actually procured for themselves a recognition beyond the bounds of the kingdom, and that no special law for the other three grand divisions has ever been found, we shall be constrained to regard this system of law as that of all the provinces.
The bloom of the Oriental kingdom of Jerusalem was but brief. On the 9th of October, 1187, Saladin captured the holy city, and the treasures of the Holy Sepulchre fell into infidel hands. The fate of the Lettres du Sepulcre in this catastrophe is in dispute. Most think that they were destroyed by the enemy; some, however, and among them Stephen of Lusignan, whose work, entitled, 'Chorography and brief General History of the Island of Cyprus,' which was printed at Bologna in 1573, maintain that they were saved and carried to Cyprus. It is certain that we no longer possess the originals; but the authority of these assizes was not extinguished by that catastrophe, but on the contrary, their sway became wider with the extension of the Frankish rule.
In this respect the isle of Cyprus is most important. As in the year 1193 this 'sweet land and sweet island' (as the poets of the time called it) was placed by Richard the Lion-hearted under the government of Guido of Lusignan, the assizes of Jerusalem went into force immediately as the law of the new kingdom. This effect was increased by the union of the two kingdoms which took place soon after, but was unfortunately of brief duration. Thus was preserved to this law book a flourishing period of life long after the Christian kingdom in Asia was lost.
Then, when in the year 1204 the Latin empire was established at Constantinople, the assizes of Jerusalem went into effect there. The following is an account of this event:
'As there were many peoples about Constantinople which had not been governed by the Roman law, and the situation of the conqueror himself required new ordinances, and because indeed the empire could not be governed otherwise than by the 'usages and assizes' as they are in the Orient, the emperor Baldwin determined to send a messenger to the king and patriarch of Jerusalem, praying them to send to him a copy of their 'usages and assizes.' When these arrived, they were read in the presence of all the barons, and it was thereupon resolved to administer minister justice in accordance with these, and especially those chapters adapted to times of peace.'
Hence there are translations of the assizes to be found in modern Greek, and the dukes of Athens, princes of Thebes, and other lords of that region, who appear in Shakspeare's comedies, applied this system of law, and perhaps many an obscure custom referred to in those plays might be explained by this fact.
It was especially the customs preserved in the principality of Achaia which the Venetian government of Negropont subjected to an examination by twelve citizens, and which, with a few exceptions, particularly in the parts relating to judicial combats, were sanctioned by the doge Francesco Foscari.
But the most romantic chapter in the history of the extension of this law, is the account of its introduction into the Frankish principality of the Morea. This principality was wrested from the Byzantine empire, in the year 1213, by William of Champlitte, at the head of a band of adventurers, and passed by intrigue into the hands of the family Ville Hardouin. An old chronicler of the times tells us that when the second prince of this family, Godfrey II, reigned in the Morea, an imperial squadron landed at Pontikos, carrying the beautiful Agnes, with her suite of ladies and knights, to James, king of Aragon, to whom her father had promised her in marriage on receiving from that king the promise of an auxiliary corps for his army. Godfrey was a man who well understood human life. He appeared at the port, testified his high veneration for the princess, and invited her to rest herself from the voyage in his land. The princess seems not to have regarded this journey to her unknown bridegroom as very pressing; she accepted the invitation, and on the second day Godfrey's friends suggested to him that he ought not to let slip so fine a chance to secure a beautiful wife. His decision was at once made. He presented himself as suitor to the princess, and succeeded in convincing her that it would be much better for her to marry him, whom she had seen and knew, than a man of whom she knew nothing, who might be crooked, or lame, or otherwise unworthy of her. She consented to be married at once. Her train of attendants returned pleased to Constantinople, bearing the tidings to the emperor, her father, whose rage on receiving this intelligence may be imagined. There was, however, but one thing to be done—he must bear it with the best grace he could. The parties met afterward at Larissa. Godfrey resigned his crown to his father-in-law, received it back again as a fief from him, and was required to accept the assizes of Jerusalem as the law by which he should govern it.
This system of law differs from others in this important respect, that the highest nobility and bravest heroes of the Christian Orient were the most zealous and successful jurists. We cannot give them a special notice. The most distinguished was John of Ibelin, count of Jaffa, Ascalon, and Rama, born about the year 1200. His attempts to restore the lost Lettres du Sepulcre has succeeded so well that his work has, until recently, been regarded as identical with those lost books, and even now, when the laws of the kingdom of Jerusalem are spoken of, the work of John of Ibelin is generally understood to be meant. It was this very book which the barons of the kingdom of Cyprus, in 1368, when Peter I, by his arbitrary rule, had subverted justice, set up in a solemn assembly as the code of the kingdom. In order to make it as like as possible to the Lettres du Sepulcre, it was sealed in the same manner, placed in a closed chest, and kept in the cathedral of Nicosia, and this chest was not allowed to be opened except in the presence of the king and four vassals.
When in the year 1489 the republic of Venice obtained, through Catharine Cornaro, possession of the isle of Cyprus, the republic bound itself by a solemn act to observe these assizes. The copy which had been preserved at Nicosia was subsequently lost by some unknown event, and when in the mean time the French language had ceased to be the prevailing one, there was a commission appointed in the year 1531 to make out a new text from the best manuscripts which could be found. This revision of the assizes of Jerusalem was translated into Italian, and was still in use in 1571, making the period during which it was in force almost five centuries.
Having thus traced the external history of this system, we now turn to its material contents.
No one any longer regards the forming of a system of law as an independent, arbitrary, or accidental thing. Every such must be a product and copy of the entire intellectual life of the age, and this piece of legislation is indeed a true mirror of the Christian world in Europe at the time; and the outline only rises more sharply, boldly, and clearly to view, because there is presented to us at the same time so rare a phenomenon in the march of civilization as the building up of a state organization, for which there is no foundation in the land where it is to be established.
The manner in which the spiritual elements fermented and boiled at that time in the Occident—how the most shocking rudeness and barbarism throve side by side with the most exalted religious enthusiasm—the lowest forms of materialism by the side of spiritual fanaticism—superstition, ignorance, and vile falsehood, side by side with energy, valor, and generosity—all this is drawn with sharpest features in the assizes.
The history shows us these men in their frantic cruelty, butchering the inhabitants of conquered Jerusalem, men, women, and children without distinction, delighting in their torment, and then, smeared with their blood, moving in procession to the holy places, singing their Christian songs of praise, all dissolved in tears of deepest emotion. They had left Europe in swarms, many so ignorant as not to know whether the holy land which they sought lay on this earth or in those regions which they had heard called heaven—so frenzied in their fanaticism as to forget that they might still have bodily wants, and hence throwing away their effects, and yet so low in their ideas as only to enjoy physical things. Such are very much the men for which these laws seem to have been made. Upon one leaf we read: 'That man is without sentiments of honor, though he be of highest rank, who, being called to stand as counsel by the lowest vassal, before a tribunal of justice, declines to do so; for they are all alike the true followers of Christ;' and by the side of this that most unchristian of all legal institutions, slavery, assumes a form so barbarous that the legislator does not blush to place slaves, though among them were Christians, on the same level with domestic animals.
This same irreconcilable opposition which appears in moral principles, shows itself again in the political foundation of the assizes. Originating in the clash of arms, grown up in the contests and necessities of war, on a soil where nothing but constant war could save it from annihilation, the system is purely martial—made for conflict and strife. And still it is but one side which shows this character; for, in the midst of this precarious existence of the new kingdom, is seen an elevation of commerce till then unknown—a pursuit of trade for which feudal ideas had provided no place. As Schiller declared that the Crusaders laid the foundation of civil liberty in Europe, so we may say that in the assizes of Jerusalem the narrow views in regard to civil life, which controlled the west of Europe in the middle ages, were exploded. Here the idea of the modern state dawned, though of course and singularly enough, side by side with its absolute antithesis, the feudal state in its purest form.
In the ancient view, it was natural that any man should rule who had the power, and incomprehensible that any one should allow himself to be ruled who could avoid it. Any other than a forced relation to a lord was nonsense to antiquity, and the moral duty of obedience was unknown.
The idea of voluntary obedience, however, having dawned and become penetrated with the light of Christianity, formed the first element of the feudal system. No prescribed series of duties within the cold enclosure of legal forms bound mutually to each other the lord and his vassal. They were bound by the all-embracing feeling of fidelity. Hence the Lombard law of feuds compares the relation to that of husband and wife.
While on the one hand, in the youth of this institution, the virtues which spring from reciprocal fidelity and love developed themselves from this relation—a relation inwardly and mutually binding lord and vassal, and resulting in holding together all the members of the state—so on the other hand, where there is no restraint to insolence and arbitrary despotism, except that found in the mere sense of moral obligation, they transcend all bounds, and find their natural reaction in the resistance of the subject, destroying the very idea of a state. In the feudal system, however, it is not the state which guarantees, secures, and defends the rights of the individual. Whoever claims protection and justice is referred to his immediate feudal superior, to whom alone, and not to the state, as a whole, he owes duty. The state, as a moral person—as a society—is entirely in the background.