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[185] The vigor of his frame had carried him through the crisis, but the wound was not perfectly sealed; he was still weak and could only move on crutches.

No sooner was he apprised of what was contemplated, than he sought to join the enterprise. The remembrance of comrades pining in loathsome dungeons — of men with whom he had ridden side by side amid the deadly conflict, and a strong conviction of their sufferings animating every pulse of his gallant heart, he felt that duty called him there, and the reluctant consent of the authorities was at last yielded to his earnest entreaties.

It is not my purpose here to narrate the whole course of this noble enterprise; that will be the duty of a future day; but no one had seen Colonel Dahlgren in his full vigor sit his charger more gracefully or better endure the incessant and multiplied hardships of that ride, by day and by nigt, in shine and storm.

The failure of his column to connect with that of General Kilpatrick led to the failure of the expedition and the death of as noble a soldier as ever gave life to a great cause.

On Tuesday night, March first, after dark, Colonel Dahlgren was close to Richmond, and came in contact with the rebel infantry stationed at the outer works. At such a time of peril, far away from help of any kind, with a small force of cavalry, hardly a gunshot from the stronghold of rebeldom, the splendid courage of the young leader never blazed more brightly. An officer who was nearest to him, but who had never served with him before, writes in admiration of the perfect self-possession with which he rode in front of the line, and spoke to his men under a storm of bullets. Then came the charge, scattering the rebels like chaff.

This done, it only remained to ride on from Richmond and endeavor to gain the Union lines below. The night was dark, the rain fell in torrents, and the cloaks of the men were stiffened with sleet, but the column spurred on at full speed. Sad to say. the advance, with Colonel Dahlgren, became separated from the main body, and at dawn of Wednesday he found himself, with a little party of seventy men, in the very midst of a hostile country.

Still holding on the swift tenor of his way, he crossed the Pamunkey and reached the Mattapony not long after noon. The men and horses had been crossed over the river, the few videttes had been called down from their posts and also sent across, Colonel Dahlgren remaining alone on the southern bank. The chivalry had now gathered in the bushes, and deliberately opened fire on him, though they saw plainly that he was crippled by the loss of a leg and only stood erect by aid of the crutches on which he leaned; the waters of the river separated him from every helping hand, and it were easy for a strong and resolute man to rush forward and bear away by main force the enfeebled frame of the weary officer. But any manly deed was a flight far above what the chivalry contemplated; they could assassinate him from the ambush, because it attained their base purpose without risk to their own craven carcasses. In utter scorn of such abject fear Colonel Dahlgren bid them come out from their hiding-places and discharged his pistol at them defiantly.

The contrast thus presented might well inspire the pencil of the artist.

But the young warrior was not to close his glorious career there; the ferry-boat bore him over unharmed; he mounted, and once more led his band onward. It was at this time, by their own accounts, that the chivalry had an opportunity of numbering exactly the force that was with him, and ascertained that this remnant did not exceed seventy men. So they contrived to collect various scattered parties from the neighborhood until they mustered three or four times the force of our retreating cavalry. Even with this advantage the miserable creatures dare not offer Colonel Dahlgren a fair field in open day. There were those of them who knew him — the gallant Ninth Virginia--had faced him in Fredericksburg with quite as great a superiority of numbers, and had been driven in every direction until they skulked out of the town like whipped curs. So they confederated in force where the road wound through a deep forest, and awaited the coming of the Union troop.

This happened about midnight, and repeated volleys from these miscreants did their work all too well.

The gallant youth fell, pierced by many balls at the head of his men, and even while his brave spirit still lingered about its shattered tenement, the chivalry began to strip off his clothing. Whether this detestable purpose was accomplished before he was dead I know not, nor whether the infamous wretches paused to make sure that life was extinct before they severed a finger from his hand in order to secure a ring given by a departed sister, and dearly prized by the heart that now is as still as her own.

It was not until daylight disclosed the utter helplessness of the survivors, that the victors took heart of grace and consummated their brave deed by marching the wearied and famished troopers along the road, regardless of the fact that this led them by the body of their young chief, just as it lay, stripped and covered with mud, but yet honored by the sad tokens which it exhibited of love and loyalty to the cause of his country. The absent limb told of recent battle-fields, and the breathless body gave assurance that the last sacrifice had been made. The young life, rich in promise, had been laid down, and thus was redeemed the solemn oath of fealty to the Union.

No respect for the well-known gallantry of their victim, no feeling for his extreme youth, entered into the thoughts of these atrocious ruffians, and only when sated with the mournful

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Ulric Dahlgren (6)
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