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[422]

They would Mix on the picket line. Anecdote of the war.

General Gordon.

We were on the Rapidan River, where it was a little stream hardly one hundred feet wide. General Lee sent me word I must go out and break up the communication between our pickets and the enemy's.

They had got to trading with each other in newspapers, tobacco, lies, and whatever would vary the monotony of picket life. They would not shoot at each other, and so it was not military-like. So I started out one morning on my horse and rode the whole length of the picket line and just as I came to a certain point I saw that there was confusion and surprise, as if I had not been expected. “What is the matter men, here?” I asked. “Nothing, General, nothing is here.” “You must tell me the truth,” said I; “I am not welcome, I see, and there must be some reason for it. Now, what is the matter?” “ There has been nobody here, General. We were not expecting you; that is all.” I turned to two or three of the soldiers and said: “Beat down these bushes here.” They had to obey, and there suddenly rose up out of the weeds a man as stark naked as he had come into the world. “Who are you?” asked I. “I am from over yonder, General.” “Over yonder — where?” He pointed to the other side of the river. “What regiment do you belong to?” “The 104th Pennsylvania, General.” “What are you doing in my camp?” “Why, I thought I would just come over and see the boys.” “See the boys — what boys? Do you mean to say you have entered my camp except as a prisoner? Now, I am going to do this with you. I am going to have you marched to Libby Prison just as you are, without a rag of clothes on you!” “Why, General, you wouldn't do that just because I came over to see the boys! I didn't mean any harm! I felt lonesome over there and wanted to talk to the boys a little. That is all.” “Never mind, sir: you march from this spot clothed as you are, to Libby Prison!” “General” said the man, “I had rather you would order me to be shot right here.” “No, sir, you go to Libby!” Then several of my soldiers spoke up: “General, don't be two hard on him, he's a pretty good fellow! He didn't mean any harm; he just wanted to talk with us.” “This business must be broken up,” said I--“mixing on the picket line.”

It had not been in my heart, however, to arrest the man from the beginning. I only wanted to scare him, and he did beg hard. “I'll tell you what I will do with you this time,” for I saw that he was a brave good humored fellow. “If you will promise me that neither you nor any of your men shall ever come into my lines again except as prisoners, [423] I'll let you go.” “God bless you, General!” said the man, and without any more adieu he just leaped into that stream and came up on the other side, and took to the woods.

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