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[511]

The hot tears streamed over my face. My heart ached as if it would break. How cruel, how hard it all seemed.

‘Oh, Liberty!’ I cried in those words of historic eloquence, ‘what crimes are committed in thy name!’

My companion was silent with a great sympathy. I saw his broad chest heave, and he hid his face from the distressing sights around. He had been one of that noble band. ‘The Old Maryland Line,’ and his heart was with the cause for which he was expatriated. When we drew up at last before the door of my home, he held out his hand, ‘God be with you!’ he said, ‘for man has no comfort for grief like yours.’

Then the coach drove away, and I never saw him again.

I must pass over that meeting with dear ones in the desolated home. It was enough that we were ‘all there’ once more; brothers from the war, sisters from exile, father from long wandering in search of food for a dependent family, and a heroic mother, who had met single-handed and alone under this roof the vandals of the notorious Fifteenth Army Corps. I heard her story a few days later, and though it may be similar in some points to many others, there are details so characteristic that I cannot forbear the recital.

‘On that fatal day, February 16th, hearing of the approach of Sherman, I went,’ she said, ‘to the third story, and, looking across the river, caught the gleam of bayonets and heard the echo of sharpshooting. About noon the servants came flying in breathless, exclaiming that the Yankees were entering the city. A triumphant burst of brilliant music was the first verification of what seemed a hideous dream. Down the main street they came, with waving banners and resounding bands. A few moments later the stars and stripes floated over the State-house. That sight was too much for me. I went down to my own room and remained there alone with my only Refuge and Comforter.’

During the day a few stragglers appeared, and demanded food or drink; the orchard and garden were filled with bivouacs and campfires. With closed doors but steadfast heart the lonely woman awaited the worst. She saw the signal-rockets go up which announced the inauguration of a night of license and diabolic orgies unparalleled in the annals of civilization. She heard the wild shouts of frenzied bacchanals mingled with the shrieks of women and children surrounded by a belt of fire, and yet freezing under the pall of a wintry sky. She saw the glare of burning homes, and the huge debris hurled by a pitiless wind through the lurid air, like


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