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[140] to which my regiment belonged, Smith's brigade, Cleburne's division, was detached and operating with General N. B. Forrest in the vicinity of Murfreesboro. Hood's retreat in the direction of Columbia placed the enemy on the direct line between our little force and the main body of the army, and in consequence we were obliged to make a wide detour by a forced march across the country to regain our place in our division line. In this march the men suffered terribly, as large numbers of them were barefooted and there were not half a dozen overcoats in the brigade, while the weather was intensely cold and the whole earth covered with sleet and snow. We reached Columbia at about nine o'clock at night, at least the head of the column did; but ‘the lame and the halt’ were coming up by ones and twos all night.

Early the next morning we were formed to march through the town, the First Georgia in the lead. In the first file of fours was a young fellow of about twenty years, who on the march of the day before had been compelled by physical weakness to throw away a part of his burden as a soldier. He had parted with his blanket and held on to his musket. Now, as we marched, with indomitable pluck he was at the head of the regiment though his trowsers were worn to a fringe from the knees down, and his bare feet cracked and bleeding left their marks upon the frozen road. At this moment a private of cavalry came riding by—he turned and looked at the poor lad— then reining in his horse he threw his leg over the pommell of the saddle and took off first one shoe and then the other, and throwing the pair of them down at the poor fellow's feet with these words: ‘Friend, you need them more than I do,’ he galloped away. Who he was I never knew, but surely no knight of old ever bore himself more like a true gentleman than he. I thought at the time of Philip Sydney and the acts and words that have made him immortal as he passed the cup of water from his own fevered and dying lips to those of another. And it almost startles me now to think that the words were nearly identical. Sydney said, ‘Friend, thy need is greater than mine.’ The same noble spririt of self-sacrifice was in both men, separated though they were by centuries of time. And both gave equal evidence that the divine spark in their natures was indeed ‘a living fire.’

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