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An incident of Gettysburg. [from the New haven evening Register.]


And its pleasant sequel in Washington eleven years later.

The advance of the Confederate line of battle commenced early on the morning of July I, 1863, at Gettysburg. The infantry division, commanded by Major-General John B. Gordon, of Georgia, was among the first to attack. Its objective point was the left of the Second corps of the Union army. The daring commander of that corps occupied a position so far advanced beyond the main line of the Federal army that, while it invited attack, it placed him beyond the reach of ready support when the crisis of battle came to him in [338] the rush of charging lines more extended than his own. The Confederate advance was steady, and it was bravely met by the Union troops, who, for the first time, found themselves engaged in battle on the soil of the North, which, until then, had been virgin to the war. It was ‘a far cry’ from Richmond to Gettysburg, yet Lee was in their front, and they seemed resolved to welcome their Southern visitors ‘with bloody hands to hospitable graves.’ But the Federal flanks rested in air, and, being turned, its line was badly broken, and despite its bravely resolute defence against the well-ordered attack of the Confederate veterans, it was forced to fall back.

Gordon's division was in motion at a double-quick to seize and hold the vantage ground in his front from which the opposing line had retreated, when he saw directly in his path the apparently dead body of a Union officer. He checked his horse, and then observed, from the motion of the eyes and lips, that the officer was still living. He at once dismounted, and seeing that the head of his wounded foeman was lying in a depression in the ground, placed under it a near-by knapsack. While raising him at the shoulders for that purpose, he saw that the blood was trickling from a bullet-hole in the back, and then knew that the officer had been shot through the breast. He then gave him a drink from a flask of brandy and water, and as he revived, said, bending over him:

‘I am very sorry to see you in this condition. I am General Gordon. Please tell me who you are. I wish to aid you all I can.’

The answer came in feeble tones: ‘Thank you, General. I am Brigadier-General Barlow, of New York. You can do nothing more for me; I am dying.’ Then, after a pause, he said: ‘Yes, you can; my wife is at the headquarters of General Meade. If you survive the battle, please let her know that I died doing my duty.’

General Gordon replied: ‘Your message, if I live, shall surely be given to your wife. Can I do nothing more for you?’

After a brief pause, General Barlow responded: ‘May God bless you. Only one thing more. Feel in the breast-pocket of my coat—the left breast—and take out a packet of letters.’ As General Gordon unbuttoned the blood-soaked coat and took out the packet, the seemingly dying soldier said: ‘Now please take out one and read it to me. They are from my wife. I wish that her words shall be the last I hear in this world.’

Resting on one knee at his side, General Gordon, in clear tones, but with tearful eyes, read the letter. It was the missive of a noble [339] woman to her worthy husband whom she knew to be in daily peril of his life, and with pious fervor breathed a prayer for his safety, and commended him to the care of the God of battles. As the reading of the letter ended, General Barlow said: ‘Thank you. Now please tear them all up. I would not have them read by others.’

General Gordon tore them into fragments, and scattered them on the field, ‘shot-sown and bladed thick with steel.’ Then, pressing General Barlow's hand, General Gordon bade him good-bye, and, mounting his horse, quickly joined his command.

He hastily penned a note on the pommel of his saddle, giving General Barlow's message to his wife, but stated that he was still living though seriously wounded, and informing her where he lay. Addressing the note to ‘Mrs. General Barlow, at General Meade's headquarters,’ he handed it to one of his staff, and told him to place a white handkerchief upon his sword and ride in a gallop towards the enemy's line and deliver the note to Mrs. Barlow. The officer promptly obeyed the order. He was not fired upon, and on being met by a Union officer who advanced for that purpose, the note was received and read, with the assurance that it should be delivered instantly.

Let us turn from Gettysburg to the Capitol at Washington, where, eleven years later, General Gordon held with honor, as now, a seat as senator of the United States, and was present at a dinner party given by Orlando B. Potter, a representative in Congress from the State of New York. Upon Mr. Potter's introducing to him a gentleman with the title of General Barlow, General Gordon remarked:

‘Are you a relative of the General Barlow, a gallant soldier, who was killed at Gettysburg?’

The answer was: ‘I am the General Barlow who was killed at Gettysburg, and you are the General Gordon who succored me.’

The meeting was worthy of two such brave men—every inch American soldiers.

I should add that on receiving her husband's note, which had been speedily delivered, Mrs. Barlow hastened to the field, though not without danger to her person, though the battle was still in progress. She soon found her husband, and had him borne to where he could receive surgical attendance.

Through her devoted ministrations he was enabled to resume his command of the Excelsior Brigade, and add to the splendid reputation which it had achieved under General Sickles, its first commander.

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