On the wing.
The days of “Camp no-camp” are numbered.
The cannon begin to move — the bugle calls — the hours of idleness and “outlines” are a thing of the past.
Whither will the winds of war now waft us?
That is a hard question to reply to; for a marked peculiarity of the Southern
military theory is mystery.
, of the time of Charles II, was so reticent, I have heard, that when any one said, “Good-morning, General,” he reflected for twelve hours, and then replied, “Good-evening;” which caused every one to wonder at the accuracy of the response.
That is an excellent example to be followed by officers; and thus-being ignorant-I carefully conceal the route we are about to take.
But we go, that is certain; and it is not without a feeling of regret that I leave this old familiar spot, where so many pleasant hours have passed away with song and laughter.
As I gaze around, I fall into a reverie, and murmur.
Strange that I ever thought the spot dull and commonplace.
It is really charming; and memory I know will make it still more attractive.
There is that music in the pines again — the band of the brigade, camped yonder in the green thicket.
I heard that band more than one thousand times, I suppose; strange that I thought it annoying, when it is evidently a band of unusual excellence.
It plays all day long, and the regiments are eternally
Do you hear that echoing shout?
You would think they were about to charge the enemy; but it is only an old hare that has jumped up, and the whole brigade is hot upon the trail, with uproar and excitement.
If there is no old hare, it is a stray horse — a tall woman riding behind a short man — a big negro mounted on a small mule-anything whatever.
The troops must cheer and make a noise; and the band must play.
How could I ever think it a little excessive in quantity, and deficient in quality?
“We are going!
We are going!! We are going!!!”
I imagine it says — the refrain of music, surging to me from the pine woods.
And as the brave musicians are about to leave me, they appear to excel all their brethren.
“That strain again!”
and I hear the brigade cheering.
They are Georgians-children of the sun, “with whom revenge is virtue.”
Brave fellows, they have got the order to move, and hail it with delight; for all the wood is burned, and they are going to fresher fields and forests, and a fight, perhaps.
Farewell, familiar band in the pines!
I have spent some happy moments listening to your loud, triumphant strains; some moments filled with sadness, too, as I thought of all those good companions gone into the dust — for music penetrates the heart, and stirs the fount of memory; does it not, good reader?
As I listened to that band, I often saw the old familiar faces; and the never-to-be-forgotten forms of loved friends came back.
They looked at me with their kindly eyes; they “struck a sudden hand in mine,” and once again I heard their voices echoing in the present, as they echoed in the happy days before!
So, sweet memorial music, floating with a wild, triumphant ardour in the wind, farewell!
Farewell, brave comrades cheering from the pines!
All health and happiness attend you!
In addition to the brass band above referred to, my days have been alive here with the ringing strains of the bugle.
The tattoo, reveille, and stable-call have echoed through the pine woods, making cheerful music in the short, dull days, and the winter nights.
It is singular how far you can hear a bugle-note.
That one is victor over space, and sends its martial peal through the forest
for miles around.
There is something in this species of music unlike all others.
It sounds the call to combat always to my ears; and speaks of charging squadrons, and the clash of sabres, mingled with the sharp ring of the carbine.
But what I hear now is only the stable-call.
They have set it to music; and I once heard the daughter of a cavalry officer play it on the piano-a gay little waltz, and merry enough to set the feet of maidens and young men in motion.
As there are no maidens in these fields of war-at least none in camp-we cannot dance to it.
The bugle takes its place among the old familiar sounds, which have not been sufficiently attended to and appreciated.
All these winter days, it has been but a call to rise or go to rest: now it is eloquent with poetry and battle!
So, blow old bugle!
Sound the tattoo, and the reveille, and stable-call, to your heart's content!
No “purple glens” are here to ring through, or to “set replying” --but the echoes in the pines are “dying, dying, dying,” with a martial melody and sweetness, and a splendid ardour, which are better than the weird sound of the “horns of elf-land faintly blowing!”
There is our banjo too-could I think of neglecting that great instrument in my list of “sights and sounds?”
It plays “O Johnny Booker
, help this Nigger,” “Wake up in the morning,” “The old gray Hoss
,” “Come back, Stephen,” “Hard times and worse a-comin,” “Sweet Evelina,” and a number of other songs.
It is a good banjo.
I hear it at present playing “Dixie” with a fervour worthy of Fhat great national anthem.
It is a “Yankee” instrument, captured and presented to the minstrel who now wields it, by admiring friends!
plays Southern ditties only, and refuses obstinately to celebrate the glories of the “Happy land of Lincoln
I have heard the songs of our minstrel which he plays on his banjo, something like a thousand times-but they always make me laugh.
They ring so gaily in the airs of evening that all sombre thoughts are banished-and, if sometimes I am tempted to exclaim, “There is that old banjo rattling again!”
I always relent, and repent me of my disrespect toward the good old friend; and go and listen and laugh at the woes of Booker
, or the colloquy with Stephen-above all, at the
“Old gray Hoss
,” noblest of melodies, and now adopted as the national air of all the dwellers in Camp No-Camp!
Good-by, jolly old Yankee banjo!
Rattle on gaily, and play all the old tunes!
It is singular how new and delightful they arewhat a world of mirth they contain.
All around the woods are deserted and lonely.
I say “the woods,” but there are scarcely any left; they have fallen before the ringing axes of the troops.
Your soldier is a foe to wood-lands.
Did you ever see a division, after a long and dreary march through rain, and nud, and mire, halt at evening and advance to attack a forest?
They carry it at the point of the bayonet, and cheer as they “close in.”
A moment ago, and the weary column lagged, and dragged its slow length along like a wounded snake-painfully toiling on without talk or laughter.
Now a party of children seem to have scattered through the woods.
Songs, shouts, and jests resound; the axes are ringing against a hundred trunks, huge monarchs of the forest crash down, roaring in their fall, and fires spring up everywhere like magic.
The bivouac-fire is the soldier's delight.
It warms his limbs and cheers his spirit, dries his wet clothes, cooks his rations, and dispels all his gloomy thoughts.
The gay groups pass the jest and sing their songs, and tell their stories.
Then they sleep; and sleep is so pleasant after a long tramp — the luxury of the gods!
War teaches many valuable lessons never learned in peace.
O Sybarite, tossing on your couch of down and grumbling at the rose leaf which destroys your slumber!
O good Lucullus
, searching for an appetite, though all the dainties of the earth are on your table-shoulder a musket and tramp all day without rest or food, and you will learn this truth — that the greatest of luxuries are bread and water and sleep!
I have said that the woods around camp are deserted and lonely.
Not long since they were filled with troops.
But the troops are gone.
Before the onslaught of the regiments and brigades the forest disappeared-vanished and floated off in smoke.
For miles you
can see through long vistas once impenetrably closed.
Many traces remain of the army which has moved.
Riding out the other day I came suddenly, in a hollow of the hills, on a deserted camp.
The soldiers had built the most excellent log cabins, with enormous chimneys, and stout roofs held down by cross-poles well secured; but just as they were finished, they were forced to leave them.
One curious structure I remember observing especially.
It was a large log chimney on the side of the declivity, with “flankers” of timber.
In the hillside the original genius who had planned this retreat had dug a sort of cave, piled dirt on the timber roof, and made his retreat bomb-proof!
He evidently designed retiring from the world to this comfortable retreat, extending his feet toward his blazing fire, and sleeping or reflecting without thought of the enemy's artillery.
One and all, these “winter quarters” were deserted, and I thought as I looked at them of those excellent houses which our forces left near Centreville
in March, 1862.
Dreary, bare, lonely, melancholy-such is the landscape around me.
It sounds “to horse!”
Camp No-Camp goes, and bkecomes a thing of the Past
The band, the bugle, the banjo, sound no more-at least in this portion of the world.
I leave with a sigh that excellent stable for my horse: I cast a last lingering look upon the good log chimney which I have mused by so often, pondering idly on the future or the past.
Farewell chimney, that does not smoke; and stable, which a new log floor has just perfected!
Farewell pine-trees and mud, and dreams and reveries, and recollections-at least here!
Strike the tent, O African
of the scriptural name!
Put my traps in the wagon-strap my blanket behind the saddle-give me my sabre and pistol, and hold my stirrup!
You will oblige me particularly if you will tell me where I am going, friend.
There is the bugle, and the colours are unrolled.
And so we depart.