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At Washington city.

We passed through Rockville, and marched, under a very hot sun, towards Washington. Halted two miles from the inner fortifications, [266] where we were exposed to a close and rapid shelling all the afternoon. The men are full of surmises as to our next course of action, and all are eager to enter the city. We can plainly see the dome of the capitol and other prominent buildings, Arlington Heights (General Lee's old home), and four lofty redoubts well manned with huge, frowning cannon. Several hundred pound shells burst over us, but only one or two men in the entire division were hurt. All the houses in our vicinity were vacated by their inmates on our approach, and the skirmishers in front were soon in them. Many articles of male and female attire were strewn over the ground. This conduct was against orders, but a few men led by an Italian, known as ‘Tony,’ who was once an organ grinder in Mobile, and now belonging to the Guards LaFayette Company of my regiment, exerted themselves to imitate the vandalism of Hunter and Milroy, and their thieving followers, while they occupied the fair valley of Virginia. Private property ought to be—and is generally—respected by Confederate soldiers, and any other course is unmanly and unsoldiery. Yankee soldiers are not expected to appreciate such gentility and self respect. United States Postmaster Blair's house and farm were less than 100 yards from my regiment. General Breckinridge is an old acquaintance of General Blair, and had placed a guard around it, and forbade any one to enter the house, or at all disturb the premises. This course was in great contrast to that pursued by General Hunter when he caused the destruction of the residence of his cousin, Hon. Andrew Hunter, near Halltown, Va. Breckinridge is the very soul of honor, as are all our leading Generals. The meanest private in our army would not sanction the conduct of Milroy and Hunter.

Some heavy skirmishing occurred on the 12th and one of my regiment was wounded. The sharpshooters and Fifth Alabama, which supported them, were hotly engaged. Some of the enemy, seen behind breastworks, were dressed in citizens clothes and a few had on linen coats. I suppose these were home guards, composed of treasury, postoffice and other department clerks. I went to Roche's and other houses near the picket line, and was shown some very disreputable letters, received and written by young ladies which had been found in the houses, and which exhibited the decadence of moral sentiment in the masses of the North. It was a day of conjecture and considerable excitement, in our momentary expectation of being ordered ‘forward.’ But we were disappointed in our [267] expectation and wishes, and, late at night, we evacuated our position and left Washington and its frightened inhabitants. The object of the daring expedition was no doubt accomplished, and Grant was forced to send large re-enforcements to the threatened and demoralized capital from his army, and thus largely diminish his force and lessen his ability to act upon the offensive. I believe we could have taken the city when we first reached it, but the delay brought heavy battalions from Grant, ten times our small number, who could have readily forced us to abandon it. About 12 o'clock at night we commenced falling back towards Rockville, and, I regret to say, our march was brilliantly illuminated by the burning of the magnificent Blair mansion. The destruction of the house was much deplored by our general officers and the more thoughtful subordinates, as it has been our policy not to interfere with private property. It was set on fire, either by some thoughtless and reckless sharpshooter in the rear guard, or by some careless soldier stationed about the house.

Marched in retreat the remainder of the night, passed through the friendly southern town of Rockville and halted near Darnestown. At dusk we commenced marching, via Poolsville, to White's Ferry on the Potomac. Did not march over five miles the entire night, though kept awake, and moving short distances at intervals of a few minutes. Re-crossed the Potomac on the 14th, wading it, and halted near the delightful little town of Leesburg. We have secured, it is said, over three thousand horses and more than twenty-five hundred head of beef cattle by this expedition, and this gain will greatly help the Confederate government. The Yankee cavalry made a dash upon our wagon train and captured a few wagons. General Cook's Georgia and Battle's Alabama brigades were double-quicked, or rather ran, about two miles after them, but of course could not succeed in overtaking them. The idea of Confederate infantry trying to catch Yankee cavalry, especially when the latter is scared beyond its wits, is not a new one at all, and though attempted often in the past, and doubtless to be repeated scores of times in the future, I venture to predict, will never be successful. Indeed it is a demonstated fact that demoralized and retreating Yankee infantry cannot be overtaken by Confederate cavalry, vide battles of Bull Run, Manassas, first and second, etc. A frightened Yankee is unapproachable. We finally gave up the pursuit and marched through Snicker's Gap. The Twelfth Alabama picketed [268] on the mountain top. Next day we left our picket post and waded across the Shenandoah. The water rose to our waists and was quite swift, and as the bed of the river was rocky and uneven we had a good deal of fun. Some practical jokes were indulged in, which all seemed to enjoy. Rodes' division was hurriedly ordered out to meet the enemy, who had crossed the Shenandoah under General Crook, and in an incredibly short time we were hotly engaged in battle. The fight lasted over two hours, and was quite warmly contested. The Yankee force was three times greater than ours. Private Eberhart of my company was instantly killed. We had driven the enemy to the bank and in the river, and, having halted on a little eminence were peppering them with bullets as they rushed into and attemped to cross the river. They replied as best they could, but under great disadvantange. A large number remained concealed near the river, at the foot of the hill, and did some execution, firing at our men, as they exposed themselves. They escaped under cover of darkness. When Eberhart was killed, private Tom Kimbrough called me earnestly to him, and, through a heavy shower of bullets, I went to him and inquired what he wanted. ‘Nothing,’ he replied, ‘just thought you would like to see Eberhart after he was dead.’ A rather poor reason, I thought, for causing a man to unnecessarily expose himself to death-dealing missiles, I took care of his pocket book, his wife's ambrotype and Bible, and will send them to her. Eberhart was a brave, uncomplaining, good soldier, sent to my company as a conscript. Private G. P. Ware, was severely wounded in the leg. Lieutenant Majors, of Company E, and two others of the regiment, were killed, and ten or fifteen wounded. Lieutenant Majors and I were running near each other in quick pursuit of the enemy, when he exclaimed that he was shot, but continued to run for some distance and then fell. I stopped by his side and offered him some water from canteen, which he hastily drank, and then sank down and instantly expired. A minie ball had cut an artery in his leg, but such was his determined courage, and eagerness in following the fleeing foe, that he ran on, his lifeblood all the time gushing from his wound, and stopped only when sheer exhaustion and faintness from such great and rapid loss of blood compelled him, and the grim monster death claimed him for his own.

Majors had been but recently promoted, and was an officer of decided promise. In this action Col. Pickens commanded our brigade, [269] and Lieut-Colonel Goodgame the regiment. While the routed and demoralized Yankees were crossing the river, I ordered my company, and those adjoining it, to fire by rank and by command, as in ordinary manual drill, the only instance of such an event, to my knowledge, during the war. I gave the words of command, ‘front rank,’ ‘ready,’ ‘aim,’ ‘fire,’ ‘load;’ ‘rear ranks,’ ‘ready,’ etc., by consent of Col. Goodgame, and I confess I took much pleasure in it. While we were engaged burying our dead comrades, under a large tree near where they fell, Gen. Early and staff rode by, and the old hero spoke to us gently, and kindly suggested that we ‘dig the graves deep enough.’ A brave North Carolinian had somehow and somewhere come in possession of a silk hat, and had made himself conspicuous by wearing it, despite the advice and warning of his companions, and indeed of the whole division, as the men used to frequently to tell him, as he passed by, ‘to come down out of that hat,’ ‘I see your feet hanging from that stove pipe,’ etc., all of which he heard with cheerful good humor, generally making some witty reply. In walking over the battle field I was pained to see the well known tall hat, and upon nearing it, recognized the handsome, good natured face and manly form of the gallant wearer, lying cold in death. He had been shot in the head.

On July 24th we were suddenly summoned to leave our picket post for Winchester, marching very rapidly, forming line of battle near Kernstown, and moving quickly after the enemy, through Winchester, and five miles beyond, being in less than half a mile of the routed and flying Yankees almost the whole time. They, in their flight and haste to escape, burned up thirty five or forty wagons and caissons, and abandoned a few cannon. The entire movement was a very successful one. We marched fully thirty miles during the day. But, as I have said before, it seems to be impossible to catch a running Yankee. They are as fleet as race horses.

To-day, July 29 we marched to Williamsport, Md., where our cavalry crossed the Potomac and captured large quantities of commissary and quartermasters' stores.

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