—the noblest army (I hesitate not calmly to affirm, after the lapse of years) that ever marched under any banner or fought for any cause ‘in all the tide of time.’
But I do not propose, in this volume, to attempt even a sketch of the military exploits of this noble army of heroes.
I revert rather to another and far different scene from the one I have sketched.
Over a year has rolled by, and that fair-haired, rosy-cheeked boy, ‘mother's darling,’ of April, 1861—now a bronzed veteran of the Army of Northern Virginia, who has followed the ‘stars and bars’ on many a victorious field—returns to his boyhood's home.
But he comes not back with light, elastic step and erect carriage as when he marched forth so gayly at his country's call.
He is borne on a litter—he has been shot through the lungs, his life-tide is ebbing away, and he has come home to die. On that memorable 27th day of June, 1862, at Cold Harbor, when ‘Stonewall
issued his crisp order, ‘Tell General Ewell
to sweep the field with the bayonet,’ and our whole line pressed grandly forward, carried every position before it, and persuaded General McClellan
that it was indeed time to ‘change base’ from before Richmond
to the shelter of his gun-boats at Harrison's Landing
, our youthful hero fell in the very forefront of the battle in one of the most splendid charges of the famous old Thirteenth Virginia Infantry.
The surgeons gave us no hope, but God spared him to reach home and linger for over six months to illustrate how a Christian soldier could be patient under suffering, and how, when he came to die, a smile could light up his countenance, joy could beam from his eye, and peace reign within his heart.
The camp had not proven to him a ‘school of vice,’ but on the contrary he had learned there the preciousness of his mother's Bible, and had gone with simple faith to her Saviour.
And as the last hour drew near he met death with calm resignation, said to the weeping loved ones who stood around: ‘I trust in Jesus and am not afraid to die,’ and left, in his triumphant death as well as in the peaceful hours of his later life, the fullest assurance that he went to join his sainted mother—for she had ‘gone before,’ a few weeks prior to his death—in that brighter, better home above, where ‘war's rude alarms’ never disturb, and loved ones never part.
The fears of that Christian mother, as her boy left the parental roof to encounter the peculiar temptations of soldier life, were the fears of our wisest and best men. Armies had been hitherto