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[105] and who delivered in whispers to us all her guard had disclosed of the things we sought to know.

We were now close on Custer's men. One field lay between us; coarse voices, camp songs, laughter, blazing camp-fires, and now and then the ringing sounds of the axe cutting rails.

Custer had already taken the middle road. General Torbert and staff were still further down the road in a small house, asleep, without a single sentinel, all the staff horses picketed in the yard. Here was a temptation. But we did not have time now to carry their fine horses with us. The night was far spent. Already some streaks of light began to lace the eastern sky.

Our fair young friend, too, had begged us not to touch the guardsman's horse lest he should then burn her father's barn. Poor child! we said, ‘know that your barn is as good as burned right now—the preparation was all made by your noble guard before he went upstairs to pleasant sleep last night.’ Our words were verified next morning.

Thus ended a fearful day in the Valley of Virginia—a day neither of us and none of our little band can ever forget in all its scenes and incidents and sounds to the latest day of life. The plaintive lowing of kine, the bleating of sheep driven from their hillside, the rude shouts of foreign voices, and the tramp of cavalry, the blazing buildings everywhere, the blackened sites of once spacious barns, the smoke that all that day obscured the sun, and flying cinders of shingle and of straw; the countenances of women and little children, holding them by the hand, looking on!

And then that night. From one fine point of observation on that ride, for miles glowing spots of still burning buildings visible—tongues of flame still licking about heavy beams and sills—flames sometimes of many colors from burning grain and forage. These, with the numerous camp-fires lying nearer, bright-spotting the black face of night, it seemed to us the firmament had descended—the stars had fallen. It looked just that way. Think of it, we said: Looking downward to see the stars! The sight was unique, wonderful, awe-inspiring. Until this day no such desolation had been witnessed since the war began. What were we coming to? What would all this end in?

We found General Rosser before sunrise at a mill near the appointed place. This done, your friend was ordered to return posthaste to Harrisonburg and fix up his office and the wires again.


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