This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 A drowsy and a curious scene: The Lieutenant-General here, at the foot of a tree, one leg of his trowsers slipped above his boots, his hands limp, his coat in confusion, his sword equipments, sprawling on the ground; not even the weight of sleep erasing that persistent expression of the lip which held a constant promise of something to be done. And there at the foot of another tree, is General Meade--a military hat, with the rim turned down about his ears, tapping a scabbard with his fingers, and gazing abstractedly into the depths of the earth through eye-glasses that should become historic. General Humphreys, Chief of Staff--a spectacled, iron-gray, middle-aged officer, of a pleasant smile and manner, who wears his trowsers below after the manner of leggins, and is in all things independent and serene, paces yonder to and fro. That rather thick-set officer, with closely trimmed whiskers, and the kindest of eyes, who never betrays a harsh impatience to any comer, is Adjutant-General Williams. General Hunt, Chief of Artillery, a hearty-faced, frank-handed man, whose black hair and whiskers have the least touch of time, lounges at the foot of another tree, holding lazy converse with one or two members of his staff. General Ingalls, Chief Quartermaster of the army, than whom no more imperturbable, efficient or courteous presence is here, plays idly and smilingly with a riding-whip, tossing a telling word or two hither and thither. Staff officers and orderlies, and horses, thickly strew the grove. The sunlight streams in, a little breeze begins to sigh, a little thought of peace has come, perhaps, to the minds of these men overladen with thoughts of war. Not long I For war is in all the land, and the news of it outside of this little scene of the greatest struggle, is presently brought by a messenger — the Assistant Secretary of War, just from the North. As the Lieutenant-General, after proper greeting, hears the news of Sherman's and Butler's movement, ordered just previous to the march, his face wears just the faintest complaisant smile. “We shall have a little thunder elsewhere presently,” he thinks. There is the cannonade again, right in our front! And here they come, one by one, the vilest missiles ever hurled against a foe. There can be on earth no more unearthly sound than the suppressed, vindictive scream of an approaching bombshell. Standing in the forest, when you cannot see it, but can only hear it, the noise of its coming is a hideous threat. It may be death giving you a wild warning ere it strikes; it may be that it comes to strike the companion beside you low out of life; to make some spot of ground near, where a group is standing, a place of disfigured shapes and appalling cries. The first shell of the cannonade strikes with a somewhat startling nearness, bursting just beside the grove where headquarters are lounging, killing an orderly, and wounding his horse. Headquarters do not move; the shells recede, two or three fall or burst in the air without damage, but finally one plunges into a mess of artillerymen, on a hillside behind the grove, demolishing the dinner between them, and wounding three or four men. A sort of radiating skedaddle prevails from that spot on the instant, and even a line of infantry drawn up on the crest of a hill is seen to slightly waver. It is difficult for troops to stand quiet under such a fire. They feel too much at an enemy's mercy. They would rather be in a position to give back blow for blow. This is only an episode. The day wears on, and before night there are signs of something to be done. At dusk of this day, Saturday, the seventh instant, an order was issued for the whole army to move toward Spottsylvania Court-house, via Todd's tavern. The Fifth corps marched in advance, the Sixth-corps next, Hancock and Burnside following. The Sixth corps marched on the Chancellorsville road, reaching Piney Branch Church toward the latter part of Sunday forenoon. Soon after dark, Saturday evening, a subdued and impressive murmur began to rise from the encampments of the army. A strong picket line was pushed to the front, and an appearance of strength was kept up along the whole line. The fires burned brightly, and at a distance, upon the wooded hillsides, looked like the lights of a city. Standing upon an eminence at the junction of the Germania, Chancellorsville, and Orange Court-house roads, along which the tramp of soldiers and the rumble of wagon trains made a smothered din, one could almost imagine himself peering down through the darkness on the streets of a metropolis in peace. Back in the forest, from the hospitals, from the fields, from the roadside, the wounded were being gathered in ambulances for the long night-journey. That part of the army not on the move was slumbering by its fires, waiting for the signal. A cheer in front of the junction of the Fifth and Sixth corps, followed by a crackle of musketry, broke in upon this slumber. The enemy felt of our position, got badly hurt in the process, and retired. The march went on. All through the night, hurrying, hurrying; for there was danger that the enemy be marching too. The privilege .of rank on that march was to sleep a little by the roadside, while rank and file moved on. Down from the backs of horses into dusky thickets a general and his staff occasionally descended, to slumber sweetly for an hour, and then move forward. The root of a tree, the rut of a road, was a comforting pillow; blessed was the slightest billow of sleep, after the work past, and before the work of the morrow. The morning came, misty and dull; but it was not long before the sun burnt the fog out of the air and set the earth a simmering. And then: I do not speak of the sufferings of men and horses, unhurt and able to tramp, even though each step was heavy with a weight like lead. I only think, but forbear to tell minutely, of the pangs of the hundreds of wounded, rocked and
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.