Yesterday I received a letter from my friend Lieutenant N. Bumpo
, Artillery Corps, P. A. C. S. To-day I have been thinking of the career of this young gentleman from the outset of the war.
“Representative men” are profitable subjects for reflection.
They embody in their single persons, the characteristics of whole classes.
is a representative man.
He represents the Virginia
youth who would not stay at home, in spite of every attempt to induce him to do so; who, shouldering his musket, marched away to the wars; who has put his life upon the hazard of the die a thousand times, and intends to go on doing so to the end.
I propose to draw an outline of Lieutenant Bumpo
The sketch shall be accurate; so accurate that he will be handed down to future generations-even as he lived and moved during the years of the great revolution.
His grandchildren shall thus know all about their at present prospective grandpa-and all his descendants shall honour him. His portrait over the mantelpiece shall
be admiringly indicated, uno digito
. The antique cut of his uniform shall excite laughter.
will live in every heart and memory!
He is now seventeen and a half.
Tall for his age; gay, smiling; fond of smoking, laughing, and “fun” generally.
I have said that he is an officer of the Artillery Corps, at present-but he has been in the infantry and the cavalry.
He was born in the Valley of Virginia
, and spent his youth in warring on partridges.
His aim thus early became unerring.
When the war broke out it found him a boy of some fifteen and a half-loving all mankind, except the sons of the famous “Pilgrim Fathers
Upon this subject Bumpo
absorbed the views of his ancestors.
April, 1861, arrived duly.
was in the ranks with a rifle.
Much remonstrance and entreaty saluted this proceeding, but Private Bumpo
, of the “--Rifles,” remained obstinate.
Why he was fifteen!
“The seed corn should be kept?”
But suppose there was no Southern soil to plant it in?
“A mere boy?” --Boy!!!
And Private Bumpo
stalked off with his rifle on his shoulder-outraged as Coriolanus
, who, after having “fluttered the Volsces in Corioli,” was greeted with the same opprobrious epithet.
Obstinacy is not a praiseworthy sentiment in youth, but I think that young Bumpo
He would have died of chagrin at home, with his comrades in the service; or his pride and spirit of haute noblesse
would have all departed.
It was better to run the risk of being killed.
He marched to Harper's Ferry
-and thenceforth “Forwardmarch!”
was the motto of his youthful existence.
continued thenceforth to march.
When not marching he was fighting.
The officer who commanded his brigade was a certain Colonel Jackson
, afterwards known popularly as “Old Stonewall.”
This officer could not bear Yankees, and this tallied exactly with Private Bumpo
He deeply sympathized with the sentiments of his illustrious leader, and loaded and fired with astonishing rapidity and animation.
At “Falling water” he “fought and fell back.”
Thereafter he marched back and forth, and was on the Potomac
A slight historic anecdote remains of this period in the Bumpo annals.
He was on picket near the river bank with a friend of ours, when suddenly an old woman, of hag-like, Macbeth-witch appearance, came in view on the opposite bank, gesticulating violently to hidden observers that yonder were the Rebels
The friend of our youth, in a jocose spirit, fired, as he said, ahead of the old hag to frighten her-or behind, to put a ball through her flying skirts-but Bumpo
upbraided him with his bloody real intentions.
We regret to say, however, that he afterwards retired behind a tree and indulged in smothered laughter as the Macbeth-witch disappeared with floating robes toward her den.
From the Valley
, Private Bumpo
proceeded rapidly to Manassas
, where he took part in the thickest of the fight, and was bruised by a fragment of shell.
Here he killed his first man. His cousin, Carey
--, fell at his side, and Bumpo
saw the soldier who shot him, not fifty yards off. He levelled his rifle, and put a ball through his breast.
He went down, and Bumpo
says with laughter, “I killed him!”
He was starved like all of us at Manassas
, and returning to the Valley
continued to have short rations.
He fought through all the great campaigns there, and wore out many pairs of shoes in the ranks of the Foot Cavalry.
he had just fired his gun, and as he exclaimed “By George!
I got him that time!”
received a ball which tore his coat-sleeve to pieces, and numbed his wrist considerably.
He regards himself as fortunate, however, and says Kernstown
was as hot as any fight he has seen.
Thereafter, more marching.
He had been back to the Fairfax
country, where I saw him two or three times-and now traversed the Valley
The Rommey march, he says, was a
hard one; no blankets, no rations, no fire, but a plenty of snow.
I saw him on his return at Winchester
, and compared notes.
The weather was bad, but Bumpo
's spirits good.
He had held on to his musket, remaining a high private in the rear rank.
Some of these days he will tell his grandchildren, if he lives, all about the days when he followed Commissary Banks
about, and revelled in the contents of his wagons.
Altogether they had a jovial time, in spite of snow and hunger and weariness.
The days hurried on, and Port Republic
continued to carry his musket about.
He had now seen a good deal of Virginia-knew the Valley
by heart — was acquainted with the very trees and wayside stones upon the highways.
Riding with me since, he has recalled many tender memories of these objects.
Under that tree there, he lay down to rest in the shade on a hot July day. On that stone he sat, overcome with weariness, one afternoon of snowy December.
There's the road we fell back on!
Yonder is the hollow where we advanced!
Consequent conclusion on the part of Private Bumpo
that he has graduated in the geography of that portion of his native State.
The lowland invited him to visit its sandy roads, after Cross Keys
The stones of the Valley
were exchanged for the swampy soil of the Chickahominy
On the morning of the battle of Cold Harbour, I saw a brigade in the pine woods as I passed, and inquiring what one it was, found it was Bumpo
's. I found the brave youth in charming spirits as ever; and surrounded by his good comrades, lying on the pine-tags, he told me many things in brief words.
, like his brave companions, had the air of the true soldier-cheerful, prone to jest, and ready for the fray.
He was clad in gray, or rather brown, for the sun had scorched his good old uniform to a dingy hue-and the bright eyes of the young gentleman looked at you from beneath an old drab-coloured hat. Bumpo
, I think, had an irrational admiration for that hat, and, I remember, liked his black “Yankee” haversack.
I had a fine new, shiny one which I had purchased, at only fifteen times its original cost, from a magnanimous shop-keeper of Richmond
and this I offered to Bumpo
But he refused it-clinging to his plainer and better one, but slenderly stocked with crackers.
Suddenly the drum rolled.
shouldered his musket.
And the brigade was on its march again.
A—! I pressed your hand that day, for “the first time and the last time!”
Your face was kind and smiling as you told me you would always be glad to see me at your camp-but four hours afterwards it was cold in death.
The fatal ball had pierced your breast, and your heart's blood dyed that hard-fought field with its crimson.
Such are the experiences of a soldier.
The battle was already raging — the brigade rapidly approached.
They arrived in time — the order passed along the line — the corps of General Jackson
went in with colours flying.
“Yesterday was the most terrific fire of musketry I ever heard.”
Such were the words of General Jackson
an hour past midnight.
On that succeeding morning, I set out to find Corporal Bumpo
--for to this rank he had been promoted.
I met General Jackson
on the way, his men cheering the hero, and ascertaining from him the whereabouts of the brigade, proceeded thither.
smiling and hungry — a cheerful sight.
He was occupied in stocking his old haversack with biscuits-excellent ones.
They had been sent to an officer of the command, but he was killed; and his comrades divided them.
had charged, with his company, at sundown, near the enemy's battery, on their extreme right.
A piece of shell had bruised him, and a ball cut a breast button of his coat in two.
The under side remained, with the name of the manufacturer still legibly stamped thereon.
They never interfere with “business.”
That button was an “advertising medium” --and even in the heat of battle they respected it.
ought to have preserved that jacket as a memorial of other days, for the honours of age. But its faded appearance caused him to throw it away, part company with
a good old friend.
What matter if it was discoloured, Bumpo
It had sheltered you for many months.
You had lain down in it on the pine-tags of the valley and the lowlands, in the days of July, and the nights of January; on the grass and in the snow; with a gay heart or a sad one, beating under it. I do not recognise you, Corporal, in this wanton act — for do not all the members of the family adhere to old friends?
The jacket may have been sun-embrowned, but so is the face of an old comrade.
Lastly, it was not more brown than that historic coat which the immortal Jackson
wore-whereof the buttons have been taken off by fairy hands instead of bullets.
After Cold Harbour, Corporal Bumpo
began marching again as usual.
Tramping through the Chickahominy
low-grounds, he came with his company to Malvern Hill
, and was treated once more to that symphony — an old tune now — the roar of cannon.
The swamp air had made him deadly sick-him, the mountain born-and, he says, he could scarcely stand up, and was about to get into an ambulance.
But well men were doing so, and the soul of Bumpo
revolted from the deed.
He gripped his musket with obstinate clutch, and stayed where he was-shooting as often as possible.
We chatted about the battle when I rode to see him, in front of the gunboats, in Charles City
; and, though “poorly,” the Corporal
was gay and smiling.
He had got something to eat, and his spirits had consequently risen.
came as we were talking, and Bumpo
Soon thereafter, I met the Corporal
in the city of Richmond
, whither he had come on leave.
I was passing through the Capitol Square
, when a friendly voice hailed me, and behold!
up hastened Bumpo
He was jacketless, but gay; possessor of a single shirt, but superior to all the weaknesses of an absurd civilization.
We went to dine with some elegant lady friends, and I offered the Corporal
a black coat.
He tried it on, surveyed himself in the glass, and, taking it off, said, with cheerful naivete
, that he believed he would “go so.”
I applauded this soldierly decision, and I know the fair dames liked the young soldier all the better for it. I think they regarded his military “undress” as more becoming than the finest broadcloth.
The balls of the
enemy had respected that costume, and the lovely girls with the brave, true hearts, seemed to think that they ought to, too.
I linger too long in these by-ways of the Corporeal biography, but remember that I write for the gay youth's grandchildren.
They will not listen coldly to these little familiar details.
marched northward again.
This time he was destined to traverse new regions.
invited him, and he proceeded thither, and, as usual, got into a battle immediately.
He says the enemy pressed hard at Cedar mountain
, but when Jackson
appeared in front, they broke and fled.
The Corporal followed, and marched after them through Culpeper
; through the Rappahannock
too; and to Manassas
A hard fight there; two hard fights; and then with swollen and bleeding feet, Bumpo
succumbed to fate, and sought that haven of rest for the weary soldier — a wagon not until he had his surgeon's certificate, however; and with this in his pocket, the Corporal
went home to rest a while.
I think this tremendous tramp from Winchester
, by way of Richmond
, caused Corporal Bumpo
His feet were swollen, and his mind absorbed.
He determined to try the cavalry.
Succeeding, with difficulty, in procuring a transfer, he entered a company of the Cavalry Division under Major-General Stuart
, whose dashing habits suited him; and no sooner had he done so than his habitual luck attended him. On the second day he was in a very pretty little charge near Aldie
The Corporal-now private again-got ahead of his companions, captured a good horse, and supplied himself, without cost to the Confederate States
, with a light, sharp, well balanced sabre.
Chancing to be in his vicinity I can testify to the gay ardour with which the ex-Corporal went after his old adversaries, no longer on foot, and even faster than at the familiar “double quick.”
His captured horse was a good one; his sabre excellent.
It has drawn blood, as the following historic anecdote will show.
was travelling through Culpeper
with two mounted servants.
He and his retinue were hungry; they could purchase no food whatever.
At every house short supplies-none
to be vended-very sorry, but could not furnish dinner.
The hour for that meal passed.
At many houses supper was demanded, with like unsuccess.
Then the soul of Bumpo
grew enraged-hunger rendered him lawless, inexorable.
He saw a pig on the road by a large and fine looking house; poor people living beside the road disclaimed ownership, and declined selling.
Impressment was necessary-and Bumpo
, with a single blow of his sabre, slaughtered the unoffending shoat.
Replacing his sword with dignity in its scabbard, he indicated the prostrate animal with military brevity of point, and rode on, apparently in deep reflection.
The retinue followed with a pig which they had found recently killed, upon the road-and bivouacking for the night in the next woods he reached, with the aid of some bread in his servants' haversacks, Bumpo
made an excellent supper.
This incident he related to me with immoral exultation.
It is known in the family as the “Engagement in Culpeper
was greatly pleased with the cavalry, and learned fast.
He displayed an unerring instinct for discovering fields of new corn for horse feed; was a great hand at fence rails for the bivouac fire; and indulged in other improper proceedings which indicated the old soldier, and free ranger of the fields and forests.
The “fortunes of war” gave me frequent opportunities of enjoying the society of Bumpo
at this time.
We rode together many scores of miles, with Augustus Caesar
, a coloured friend, behind; and lived the merriest life imaginable.
of the C. S. Artillery, do you ever recall those sunshiny days?
Don't you remember how we laughed and jested as we rode; how we talked the long hours away so often; and related to each other a thousand stories?
How we bivouacked by night, and halted to rest by day, making excellent fires, and once kindling the dry leaves into a conflagration which we thought would bring over the enemy?
Have you forgotten that pleasant little mansion in the woods, where a blazing fire and real coffee awaited us — where I purchased “Consuelo,” and you, “The Monk
You were Bumpo
“by looks” and Bumpo
“by character” that day, my friend,
for you feasted as though a famine were at hand!
Then the supper at Rudishill's, and the breakfast at Siegel
's old headquarters.
The march by night, and the apparition of Rednose
, emissary of Bluebaker!
Those days were rather gay — in spite of wind and snow — were they not, Lieutenant Bumpo
You live easier now, perhaps, but when do you see tableaux like Rednose
in your journey?
, superior to the Thane of Cawdor, inasmuch as he
was “not feared!”
will have to explain the above mysterious allusion to his grand-children.
I think he will laugh as he does so, and that a small chirping chorus will join in.
The young soldier soon left the cavalry.
He went to see a kinsman, was elected lieutenant of artillery in a battery which he had never seen, and on report of his merits only, and returned with his certificate of election in his pocket.
The old luck attended him. In a fortnight or so he was in the battle of Fredericksburg
, where he kept up a thundering fire upon the enemy --roaring at them all day with the utmost glee; and now he has gone with his battery, in command of a section, with plenty of brave cannoneers to work the pieces, to the low grounds of North Carolina
Such is the career of Bumpo
, a brave and kindly youth, which the letter received yesterday made me ponder upon.
Some portions of the epistle are characteristic:
Last night I killed a shoat which kept eating my corn; and made our two Toms scald it and cut it up, and this morning we had a piece of it for breakfast.
We call the other Tom ‘Long Tom,’ and Thomas ‘Augustus Caesar!’
! at your old tricks, I see. Shoat has always been your weakness, you know, from the period of the famous “Engagement in Culpeper
,” where you slew one of these inoffensive animals.
But here, I confess, there are extenuating circumstances.
For a shoat to eat the corn of a lieutenant of a battery, is a crime of the deepest and darkest dye, and in this case that swift retribution which visited the deed, was consistent with both law and equity.
The natural historian will be interested in the announcement
that he had killed a good many robins, but none were good, “as they live altogether on a kind of berry called gall-berry, which makes them bitter.”
“Bears, deers, coons, and opossum” there are; but the Lieutenant
has killed none.
“The weather,” he adds, “is as warm here as any day in May in the valley.
We are on a sort of island, bounded by dense swamp on each side, and a river before and behind, with the bridges washed away
. We are throwing up fortifications, but I don't think we will ever need them, as it is almost impossible for the Yankees to find us here.
Admire the impregnable position in which Lieutenant Bumpo
with two pieces of artillery, “commanding in the field,” awaits the approach of his old friends.
Dense swamps on his flanks, and rivers without bridges in his front and rear, across which, unless they come with pontoons, he can blaze away at them to advantage!
That he is certain to perform that ceremony if he can, all who know him will cheerfully testify.
If he falls it will be beside his gun, like a soldier, and “dead on the field of honour” shall be the young Virginian
But I do not believe he will fall.
The supreme Ruler of all things will guard the young soldier who has so faithfully performed his duty to the land of his birth.
“I think,” he adds in his letter before me, “if luck does not turn against us, we shall be recognised very soon.
I don't care how soon, but I am no more tired of it than I was twelve months ago.”
Is not that the ring of the genuine metal?
The stuff out of which the good soldier is made?
He is no more tired of it than he was a year ago, and will cheerfully fight it out to the end. Not “tired of it” when so many are “tired of it.”
When such numbers would be willing to compromise the quarrel — to abandon the journey through the wilderness to Canaan-and return a-hungered to the fleshpots of Egypt
Such, in rapid outline, is the military career of my friend.
I said in the beginning that he was a “representative man.”
Is he not?
I think that he represents a great and noble race to the lifethe true-hearted youths of the South
They have come up from
every State and neighbourhood; from the banks of the Potomac
and the borders of the Gulf
They laid down the school-book to take up the musket.
They forgot that they were young, and remembered only that their soil was invaded.
They were born in all classes of the social body.
The humble child of toil stood beside the young heir of an ancient line, and they lived and fared alike.
One sentiment inspired them in common, and made them brethren-love for their country and hatred of her enemies.
Their faces were beardless, but the stubborn resolution of full manhood dwelt in every bosom.
They fought beside their elders, and no worse, often better.
No hardships made them quail.
They were cheerful and high-spirited, marching to battle with a gay and chivalric courage, which was beautiful and inspiring to behold.
When they survived the bloody contest they laughed gaily, like children, around the camp fire at night.
When they fell they died bravely, like true sons of the South
I have seen them lying dead upon many battle-fields; with bosoms torn and bloody, but faces composed and tranquil.
Fate had done her worst, and the young lives had ended; but not vainly has this precious blood been poured out on the land.
From that sacred soil shall spring up courage, honour, love of country, knightly faith, and truth-glory, above all, for the noble land, whose very children fought and died for her!
So ends my outline sketch of the good companion of many hours.
Send him back soon, O Carolina
, to his motherland Virginia
, smiling, hearty, “gay and happy,” as he left her borders!