But if the halt was
for a few minutes only, and the marching had not been relieved by the regular rests usually allowed, the men stiffened up so much that, with their equipments on, they could hardly arise without assistance, and, goaded by their stiffened cords and tired muscles and swollen or chafed feet, made wry faces for the first few rods after the column started.
In this manner they plodded on until ordered into camp for the night, or perhaps doublequicked into line of battle.
During that dismal night retreat of the Army of the Potomac from Chancellorsville
, a little event occurred which showed what a choleric man General Meade
was on occasion, and to what an exhausted bodily condition the rigors of a campaign often reduced men. While the general was sitting with General Warren
at one of those camp-fires always found along the line of march after nightfall, a poor jaded, mud-bedraggled infantrymen came straggling and stumbling along the roadside, scarcely able, in his wet and wearied condition, to bear up under his burden of musket and equipments.
As he staggered past the camp-fire, the struck, by the merest accident, against General Meade
, who jumped immediately to his feet, drew his sabre, and made a lunge at the innocent offender, which sent him staggering to the ground.
There he lay motionless, as if dead.
At once Meade
began to upbraid himself for his hasty temper, and seemed filled with remorse for what he had done.
Whereat General Warren
made efforts to calm his fears by telling him it was probably not as serious as he supposed, and thereupon began to make investigation of the nature of the injury done the prostrate veteran.
To General Meade
's great gratification, it was found that while his sabre had cut through the man's clothing, it had only grazed his side without drawing blood, but so completely worn out had the soldier become through the exactions of the recent campaign that matter dominated mind, and he lay in a double sense as if dust had returned to dust.