previous next

[251] enemy's loss was considerable, and a few prisoners and some ambulance and ammunition wagons fell into our hands. But, although beaten and driven from the field in great disorder, the enemy rallied within a mile and renewed the fight, at long range, with rifled cannon. Churchill's division was advanced a short distance on the left, while Preston Smith's was halted on the ground from which the enemy had been driven. The artillery of this division had exhausted its ammunition, and some delay occurred in bringing up the ordnance train.

General Smith now felt confident of victory, and ordered Scott to press forward with his cavalry, by a route to the left, and take position in the rear of Richmond, with the view of cutting off the enemy's retreat. At 1 P. M., our entire line advanced. The engagement began on the extreme left, and the firing was severe, even as we drove steadily backward the skirmish line.

The main force of the enemy was massed in front of Churchill. The country is open fields mainly, but intersected with fences overgrown with vines and bushes, through which the sight cannot penetrate. With their line prostrate behind one of these, the enemy was perfectly concealed, and attempted an ambuscade, which nearly proved disastrous. Rising from their concealment, they delivered a terrible fire at short range, and moved to the charge. Our line wavered, and its defeat and destruction seemed inevitable. But Churchill's voice rang out clear above the din, steadying the men, and ordered a counter charge, and the brave fellows sprang forward. The rattle of musketry deepened into a roar, furious and incessant, and as the smoke lifted, the enemy could be seen within less than a hundred paces of where we stood, but in full flight, broken almost at the point of the bayonet. It was at this moment that General Smith lost for an instant the admirable coolness which he had evinced throughout the day, and rushed to the front in the act and perfect spirit of charging with his staff alone, hardly looking even if they followed.

But Pegram's1 urgent remonstrances checked his pace, and the brave

1 Note.--May 1881.--Poor Pegram! his was a nature as amiable and kindly as the gentlest woman's. He was scarcely handsome, but neat and fresh as a new leaf on a spring morning, amid all the dust of the camp, with just the daintiest little touch of dandyism. Frank, open face, winning smile and manner, natural and graceful in every movement. No man's or woman's eye rested on Pegram without an emotion of pleasure. He was brave as a Paladin of old; a graduate of West Point, with all the coolness and presence of mind of the trained soldier. Notwithstanding his misadventures in the early months of the war in West Virginia, there was no doubt that he possessed very considerable abilities. His services in this campaign gained for him the rank of General of brigade. He was in love with, and I believe engaged to, a beautiful young lady of Baltimore. Never have I known of a more tender and devoted attachment than Pegram's. He wore her miniature in a little locket always next to his heart. They were afterwards married in Richmond. It was very sad. He was killed within a few months at the siege of Petersburg.

What a contrast between Pegram and another officer of the staff of nearly equal rank. Lieutenant-Colonel Polignac, or Prince Polignac, as he was usually called, was undeniably ugly, and he clothed his ugliness in garments neither tidy nor becoming, which certainly had no suspicion of Parisian elegance about them, and which helped to give him the mingled appearance of buffoon and Italian organ-grinder. Morose, unsociable, silent, perhaps melancholy, and misunderstood for the most part, and seemingly inclined to be tyrannic, the prince was anything but popular. He was devoted to mathematics. That was his greatest and only recreation. He carried his calculations on little slips of paper, in a pair of old leather bags, which were constantly strapped about his person; and no sooner was a halt called, or camp struck, than throwing himself upon the ground, face downwards, Polignac had out his papers, and utterly absorbed, pursued his logarithms by the sunlight, or the flickering flame of the camp fire, while jest and laugh circled merrily all around and about him. It was these boys that led Captain N------on one occasion, when the prince had treated some of his men as he thought with unnecessary harshness, to describe him in language more forcible than elegant, as “that------little French peddler.” Shades of ye Chevaliers! aux armes! ye tutelar saints of the noble house of Polignac! But Polignac was brave, and, doubtless, a genuine friend of freedom. He preferred the line, and the constant conflict of the field, to the generally lesser risks of the staff of the General-in-chief; and the writer recalls one occasion, the battle of Richmond, Kentucky, he thinks, when the prince with the permission of Kirby Smith left the staff, and placing himself at the head of a regiment, which had just lost its superior officers, fought it gallantly, and remained with it until some officer was fit for duty. He, too, gained his General's rank in Kentucky, or, very soon after, and following General Smith to the trans-Mississippi, won the affections of his men, it was said, in spite of strong natural prejudices, by the distinguished courage and judgment with which he led them in action.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
John Pegram (5)
Polignac (4)
Preston Smith (3)
John Churchill (3)
Kirby Smith (2)
Walter Scott (1)
Italian (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May, 1881 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: