Gallant deed of the Babes of the Confederacy.
Mr. Howard Morton
, a Federal soldier, writes the following account of the Virginia Military Institute cadets' action in the battle of Newmarket
, which appeared in the Pittsburg Dispatch
Opposite is the enemy's line of gray, belching forth fire and smoke.
Those immediately in front of us are comparatively inactive.
They have not yet mended their broken fences.
We look to the further end of the rebel line.
Out from an orchard steps a small body of gray-clad troops.
Something about them attracts attention; their marching and alignment are perfect, their step is unlike that of the veterans who marched against our front.
Their movements are those of a crack battalion on dress parade.
They look like boys; the strong glass shows they are boys.
It is the battalion of pupils from the Virginia Military Institute, 225 in number.
These little fellows, whose ages range from fourteen to sixteen years, drawn from the best families of the Old Dominion, have closed their books for the summer vacation, but instead of returning to their homes and making glad the hearts of fond parents and brothers and sisters, were told to take their cadet muskets and join the army in the Valley
They have just arrived, and are eagerly marching to their baptism of blood.
War is cruel at best, but who can excuse the cruelty that risks such bright young lives even in a righteous cause?
Opposite them, holding the right of our line, is a battery of six twelve-pounders.
The commander has observed the cadet battalion, and opened fire on it. The shells burst among the boys, but they don't seem to be disturbed in the least.
Forward towards the black monsters the line moves, as though parading on the smooth lawn of the military institute whence they came.
Palings are being knocked from their fence; but they close up and present an unbroken line.
We ask ourselves: Can they be so rash as to charge the battery?
It is commencing to look that way. On, on they march, their line as straight as a rule, more palings are knocked from their living fence, and repairs are made as before, but the fence is shorter.
They are almost in canister range.
Surely they will face about and retrace their steps, but no, the little heads bend lower as they face the iron storm.
The little muskets are
grasped tighter as on, on they rush.
God have mercy on them.
The deadly canister sweeps through their rank, shorter and shorter grows their line.
Heaven pity their poor mothers, whose prayers are even now rising to heaven for their darlings' safety.
Oh! that some pitying hand would stretch out to stay them, but on, on, on, they march right into the jaws of the black monsters.
Now they enter the smoke, they disappear.
The thunder of six great guns is silenced.
A juvenile shout is heard, and the survivors of that little band of heroes have captured the battery.
Scarcely have we realized that they are victors until we find that they man the captured guns and turn them down our lines.