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[256] battery and the Rebels were retreating. We then proceeded up the river as fast as possible, taking the flags off the forts, and hoisting our own. When we got up to the city, they were just setting fire to it. We chased two steamers that were running off, but one of them was fired before we could get to it. The other we took, with about a dozen sailing vessels. It was the most exciting scene I ever saw in my life,—people running and fires starting up in every direction. In an hour the bridge was burned down, cutting off our army entirely from the town, and we thought the city would certainly be burned to the ground. But we soon found that the fires were pot so bad as they seemed; for they had set fire to the cotton and tar on the wharves, which made a tremendous smoke and blaze. So we set the negroes to work; and as fortunately there was no wind, by night the fires were all out.

Soon after this, Robeson's eyes being much inflamed, he was compelled to leave the signal service and rejoin his regiment in Virginia. The Second had been employed, meantime, in severe guard and picket duty and reconnoissances, and during its winter encampment near Frederick had perfected itself in drill and discipline to a remarkable degree; and in the spring had taken part in movements upon Winchester and Jackson, at which latter place it was engaged with the enemy. The following extracts from his letters give some account of his earlier experiences after returning to his regiment.

Newmarket, April 27.

. . . . We have had a pretty hard time since I wrote, and for the last two or three days I have been a little under the weather, and have had to lie by in a house; but I am a good deal better today, and hope to join the regiment to-morrow. I will try to tell you what we have been about. It is very humble work, and does not look like much on paper, but it is a great deal harder than fighting, I can tell you. A week ago last Thursday morning reveille was beaten at two o'clock, with orders to take one day's ration and be ready to march at four, leaving tents and baggage. So I put a tooth-brush and a silk pocket-handkerchief in my pocket, and sent my overcoat to an ambulance, and at four we were off.

The Rebels were known to be at Mount Jackson, about eight miles off, and we were in great hopes that they would make a stand there. We arrived there about ten without seeing any signs


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