never found the men too weary to assemble in large numbers at the evening prayer-meeting, and enter with hearty zest into the simple service.
At half-past 7 o'clock in the morning the day of the battle of Cross Keys
, a large part of Elzey
's Brigade promptly assembled on an intimation that there would be preaching; the chaplain of the Twenty-fifth Virginia Regiment (Rev. Dr. George B. Taylor
, now a missionary to Italy
) was interrupted at “thirdly,” in his able and eloquent sermon, by the advance of the enemy, and soon the shock of battle succeeded the invitations of the Gospel.
The morning Early
's Brigade was relieved from its perilous position at Warrenton White Sulphur Springs, on the second Manassas
campaign, and recrossed to the south side of the Rappahannock
, one of the largest congregations I ever saw, assembled for preaching.
A fierce artillery duel was going on at the time, across the river, and a shell would occasionally burst nearer than was entirely comfortable; but the service went on, despite this strange church music, and the woods rang with hundreds of strong voices, swelling the strains of an old hymn, which recalled precious memories of home, and the dear old church of other days, as, at the same time, it lifted tender hearts up to the God whom they worshiped.
Just as the last stanza of the last hymn, before the sermon, had been finished, and the preacher arose to announce his text, an immense rifle-shell fell in the very centre of the congregation, and buried itself in the ground, just between the gallant colonel of the Thirteenth Virginia and one of his captains.
Fortunately, it failed to explode, and only threw dirt over all around.
There was, of course, some commotion in that part of the congregation; but quiet was soon restored, and the chaplain announced his text, and was proceeding with his sermon, when Colonel Walker
informed him that, if he would suspend the service, he would move the brigade back under shelter of the hill.
Accordingly, the command was moved back (a member of an artillery company was wounded just as our rear left the ground), and I preached to one of the most solemnly attentive congregations it was ever my fortune to address.
At “early dawn” of the next day, we moved on that splendid match which threw “the foot cavalry” on Pope
's flank and rear, and compelled him (despite his general orders) to look to his “lines of retreat,” and to realize the now prophetic words of that famous order: “Disaster and shame lurk in the rear.”
Alas! many of those gallant fellows heard that day, on the Rappahannock
, their last message of salvation.
The night before the last day at the second Manassas