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‘ [332] of them through the muzzle of my gun,’ was the response as the prisoner unbuckled the strap, ‘and if you had waited awhile longer I would have given you the rest.’ By this time the Confederates saw that the prisoner was not a deserter, and one raised his gun as if to shoot, ‘Hold on,’ said the Lieutenant, the only officer there, ‘He is my meat.’ To his intervention the writer considers his life due; his name was, if memory is correct, McIlvain, of Liberty Va., a third Lieutenant in the Sixty-First Virginia. ‘What do you want me for?’ asked the prisoner. ‘Oh, my sister wants a Yankee for a plaything.’ ‘What will she do with me.’ ‘She will put you up in a corner and spit tobacco juice in your eyes.’ ‘All right, I will stay there till the war is over.’ So jesting, they went back to the Lieutenant-Colonel in command of the regiment, who interrogated the prisoner as to the number of Union troops. The prisoner mentally multiplied them by as large a multiple as he thought they could stand, and answered accordingly.

The officer seemed satisfied, and led the prisoner to the Colonel in command of the brigade. He was a perfect gentleman, and generously said to the prisoner, ‘If you feel that in honor you ought not to tell me the truth, do not say anything.’

The prisoner never blinked, and assented to the righteousness of that course and then lied to him outrageously. Lied! What is called a mistake in a lady, a falsehood among the educated. A lie by plain men is merely diplomacy in statesmanship and strategy in war. The prisoner strategized. If he had told them the weakness of the two regiments, with no field artillery, they could have thrown a line across the only road out of the village and captured the entire number. Hence he said there were 4,000 in the village and 10,000 more below, about 10,000 too strong.

That night the Union forces burned their commissary stores, and marched unmolested to the nearest reinforcements—ten miles away.

The afternoon was spent by the prisoner in talking with officers about the war. They treated him well and endured some things which politeness should have kept him from saying. A man was led past the group of officers with a look of intense pain on his features, and a bullet hole precisely in the middle of his forehead. The Colonel expressed his sympathy, and calling him by name, said, ‘It will be an honorable wound if you get over it.’

‘It would be if gained in an honorable cause,’ said the prisoner. ‘It is an honorable cause,’ said the officer emphatically. ‘There's where we differ,’ was the reply.


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