when the early details of the first important collision between the contending forces in Virginia
, in 1861, began to come in, some prominence was given to the item relating how a certain brigade of Virginia
troops, recruited mostly from the Shenandoah valley and the region adjacent to the Blue Ridge
, had contributed, largely by their steadiness under fire, almost for the first time, to the sustaining of the hard-pressed and wavering Confederate left flank, and the subsequent conversion of what had threatened to be a disastrous defeat to the Southern
arms into a disorderly and utter rout of the opposing army.
War was a very new experience to most of that generation, and the capacity for absorbing sensational bulletins was commensurate with the popular expectation, if it did not exceed it. Those of us who were as yet doing the commonplace duty of detached garrisons, were consumed with envy of our more fortunate comrades who had taken part in what then seemed the great battle of the War
and which our inexperience even conjectured might determine the pending issues.
A man who had ‘been at Manassas
’ might quite safely draw upon his imagination to almost any extent in relating its happenings, with no fear that the drafts would not be duly honored by our credulity.
As to the civilian element, its appetite was bounded only by the supply; like poor little Oliver Twist, it continually presented its porringer, eagerly demanding ‘more!’
of this mass of fiction—of unthreshed grain—there remains yet one kernel of veracious history, and the incident was predestined to exercise significant and far-reaching influence