collected a small body of riflemen who were lagging, foot-sore and weary, behind their commands, and posted them in a wood near the road-side.
Awaiting the near approach of the enemy, he poured into their ranks so effective a fire that a number of saddles were emptied, and a part of the survivors retired in confusion.
The remainder were carried past by their momentum
and even broke through the ranks of the rear regiment in a brigade of infantry,--that of Colonel Campbell
,--commanded since his wounding at Winchester
by Colonel J. M. Patton
But that officer, filing his next regiment from the road in good order, made way for the onset of the enemy, and, as they passed, gave them a volley which terminated their audacity.
Only one of the party returned alive to his comrades, the remainder being all killed or captured.
, while reporting the events of the day to the General
, at nightfall, remarked that he saw this party of foes shot down with regret.
He seemed to make no note of these words at the time, but pursued his minute inquiries into all the particulars of the skirmish.
After the official conversation was ended, he asked: “Colonel
, why do you say that you saw those Federal soldiers fall with regret?”
It was replied, that they exhibited more vigor and courage than anything which had been attempted by any part of the Federal
army; and that a natural sympathy with brave men led to the wish that, in the fortunes of the fight, their lives might have been saved.
The General drily remarked: “No; shoot them all: I do not wish them to be brave.”
It was thus that he was accustomed to indicate, by a single brief sentence, the cardinal thought of a whole chapter of discussion.
He meant to suggest reasonings which show that such sentiments of chivalrous forbearance, though amiable, are erroneous.
Courage in the prosecution of a wicked attempt does not relieve, but only aggravates, the danger to the innocent party assailed, and the guilt of the assailants.