The next morning, I met our Adjutant Turner
sitting by the side of the railroad, recalling to my mind some lines of patience on a monument.
I then made for Louisburg
, about twenty-five miles, saw and overtook many of Lee
's soldiers trugging their way on foot to different portions of the State
, and saw several splendid teams belonging to the quartermaster department of the government, which had been out foraging, but whose drivers seemed to be at sea as to where to go or what to do. One man, who told me that he lived in one of the far Southern States, and who had been out with a fine team and wagon, of four mules, begged me to take them, saying that he was certainly going to leave them on the road that day or the next and make his way home afoot as well as he could.
Of course I had no more use for the team than he had, and no more right to it, and I declined.
About midday, I came to a camp which some cavalry had occupied the night before.
Amongst other odds and ends they had hurriedly left was a bolt of fine imported jeans, which I picked up and tied behind my saddle.
From it was fabricated the only change of underclothing I had.
I reached Louisburg
about 6 o'clock the evening of that day, rode up to the house, where, two years before, I sent my wife and children, and soon had my loved ones in my arms.
Four years before, almost to the day, at my home in Petersburg
, I had taken them in my arms, and, giving a last kiss and God bless you, I had gone out with my comrades and compatriots to the war, with brilliant uniforms and flying banner, with heart full of hope, if full of sorrow, with no fear of defeat, and no reckoning but that we should save to them, if not to ourselves, our fair Southern land, a heritage the best that Heaven ever gave; and now alone, ragged, unaccompanied by one single comrade, unheralded, without country, without home, without faith, and without bread, I was before them, even a stranger to my children.
I leave the picture—let some other finish it. But the bitterest of all, was a selfish, crabbed old man, who had done nothing for the cause and continually prated at home his lugubrious prophecies, met me with the stinging welcome, ‘I told you so. How do you feel now?’
I never could look at that man, or hear of him, or think of him again, with Christian forbearance, and it was a load taken from my life, when I knew that a few years after he had paid the penalty of nature, and that he and I did not live in the same world together.
And now, comrades, one word more.
If those men whom we