- The expedition into Pennsylvania. -- life at “the Bower” during General Stuart's absence. -- the General's own report of the expedition. -- camp life at “the Bower” continued, and threatened final departure, with an Interlude of two days fighting near Kearneysville. -- a Vivacious visitor. -- military review. -- at last we break up camp at “the Bower.”
The day came, the 9th of October, and with its earliest streakings of light the bustle of preparation for departure. Arms were cleaned, horses were saddled, and orderlies were busy. About eight o'clock the bugle sounded to horse, and soon afterwards I, and the rest of my comrades who had been left with me behind, saw, with great depression of spirits, the long column disappear behind the distant hills. We determined, however, with a soldier's philosophy, to accept the situation, and to forget our disappointment by indulging, as much as was compatible with the performance of duty, in rides, drives, shooting, and social visiting at “The Bower.” So I resumed my field-sports with very great success, except in respect of the turkeys, often accompanied by Brien, who was an excellent shot. I had now also the satisfaction of greeting on his return  to headquarters my very dear friend and comrade, Major Norman Fitzhugh, who had been captured, it will be recollected, near Verdiersville in August, and had spent several weeks in a Northern prison. There was much for us to talk over in the rapid vicissitudes which had been brought about by the progress of the war during our separation. Fitzhugh had been pretty roughly handled at the beginning of his captivity, and the private soldiers of the enemy that took him-provoked, probably, by his proud bearing-had illtreated him in the extreme; but he soon met officers whom he had known before the war in the regular army, and afterwards fared better. On the 10th arrived Major Terrell, who had formerly served on General Robertson's staff, and was now under orders to report to General Stuart, and we had again a pleasant little military family at our headquarters. From General Stuart we heard nothing for several days. There were some idle rumours, originating doubtless with the Yankee pickets, that he had been killed, that his whole command had been dispersed, captured, &c. Though we certainly did not in the least credit this nonsense, we were yet not without a good deal of anxiety as to the result of the expedition; and as I was under the necessity, in any event, of inspecting our line of outposts, I rode on the zth to Shepherdstown, in the hope of obtaining some more trustworthy information. Here I received the earliest tidings of the General's successful ride through Pennsylvania, the capture of Chambersburg, and his great seizure of horses, and also learned that our daring band of horsemen was already on its rapid return to Virginia. I availed myself of the opportunity while in Shepherdstown of paying my respects to Mrs L., by whom and the other ladies of her household I was welcomed with the utmost kindness. On the morning of the 13th General Stuart arrived again safely at “The Bower,” heralding his approach from afar by  the single bugler he had with him, whose notes were somewhat oddly mingled with the thrum of Sweeney's banjo. Our delight in being again together was unspeakable, and was greatly enhanced by the glorious issue of the expedition. Many prisoners had been taken; he had secured large numbers of horses and mules, and he had inflicted great material damage upon the enemy. All my comrades had mounted themselves on fresh horses, and they came back with wonderful accounts of their adventures across the border, what terror and consternation had possessed the burly Dutch farmers of Pennsylvania, and how they groaned in very agony of spirit at seeing their fine horses carried off — an act of war which had been much more rudely performed for months and months, not to mention numberless barbarities, never sanctioned in civilised warfare, by the Federal cavalry in Virginia. General Stuart gave me a gratifying proof that he had been thinking of me in Pennsylvania, by bringing back with him an excellent bay horse which he had himself selected for my riding. As I am fortunate enough to have General Stuart's own official report in Ms. of this memorable enterprise among my papers, I give it here, in the belief that the reader will be glad to follow our horsemen upon their journey in the words of the dashing raider himself.
All now went merrily again at “The Bower.” General Stuart, who had been blessed with the satisfaction of “winning golden opinions from all sorts of people,” was the lightest-hearted of the whole company. On the 15th another ball was given in honour of the expedition, and the ladies of the neighbourhood were brought to the festivity in vehicles captured in the enemy's country, drawn by fat Pennsylvania  horses. Stuart was, of course, the hero of the occasion, and received many a pretty compliment from fair lips.2 Yielding to the urgent solicitations of the ladies and the General, Brien and I again produced our popular extravaganza, which was received, as at its first representation, with the greatest applause. The beams of the morrow's sun were just making their way through the intricacies of foliage above our heads, as we lay in camp resting from the fatigues of the night's dancing, when a blast of the bugle brought the whole command to their feet, with its summons to new and serious activity. The enemy in strong force, with cavalry, infantry, and artillery, had crossed the Potomac during the latter part of the night, had driven in our pickets, and were resolutely advancing upon the main body of our cavalry, which, having been duly advised of their approach, confronted the far superior numbers of the Yankees in a tolerable position on the turnpike between Shepherdstown and Winchester, near the small hamlet of Kearneysville. General Stuart had already with great promptness reported their advance to Generals Lee and Jackson, asking for reinforcements; our horses were now saddled, and we soon passed at a full gallop the mansion-house of “The Bower,” where only a few hours before the violin and banjo had sent forth their enlivening strains, riding forward to the scene of action, which already resounded with wilder music. We found a full division of the Federal infantry moving upon us in admirable order, their cavalry operating on either flank, and their artillery seeking to get into position upon some heights in our front, where several pieces had already  arrived and had opened a brisk and annoying fire upon our horsemen. Large clouds of dust rising all along the road towards Shepherdstown indicated the approach of other bodies of the enemy, and it was quite plain that our resistance to odds so overwhelming could be only of short duration. A great part of our men had been dismounted as sharpshooters, and General Stuart and myself endeavoured to place them to the greatest advantage, and to animate them to the utmost obstinacy in the fight by our own example, on horseback as we were, and exposed to the continuous fire of the Federal tirailleurs; but we were compelled to withdraw from position to position, all the time happily well protected in our retreat by the excellent service of our horse-artillery under the untiring Pelham. During the afternoon we were reinforced by a brigade of infantry, which aided in checking for a time the onward movement of the enemy, but which did not accomplish as much as we had hoped for, and the order for a still further retreat had just been given, when about dusk the Federals came to a halt, and, to our infinite surprise, turned slowly back for a mile and a half, where we soon saw the main body go quietly into bivouac, and became convinced from their numerous camp-fires that no further attack was to be apprehended during the night-if, indeed, satisfied with their success, they had not determined to return the following day into Maryland. General Stuart himself directed the placing of a strong double cordon of outposts, and, having planted two pieces of artillery on a crest of the road, gave orders for the remainder of his troops to bivouac and cook their rations. The General then proceeded with his Staff to headquarters at “The Bower,” which was only a few miles distant. Before we reached there we were overtaken by a drenching shower of rain, and we thankfully accepted Mr D.‘s kind invitation on our arrival to dry our dripping garments and warm our  chilled bodies before a roaring wood-fire in his large and comfortable family drawing-room. Here we found two Englishmen, the Hon. Francis Lawley, the well-known Richmond correspondent of the Times, and Mr Vizetelly, who was keeping the readers of the Illustrated London news informed of the events of the war with pen and pencil, with both of whom we were to spend many pleasant hours in camp. These gentlemen were at the time guests at General Lee's headquarters, and had undertaken the long ride to “The Bower” for the satisfaction of one day with Stuart. This satisfaction had been greatly marred by the troublesome advance of the Yankees; but by snatching a few hours from the night, we secured time enough for a delightful parley, of which the news from the old country formed a considerable part. The fighting was renewed at an early hour the next day; and, as the enemy was also reported to be advancing in strength upon Charlestown from Harper's Ferry, it appeared to be a general movement of the whole Federal army. At “The Bower” the breaking up of our camp seemed to indicate a final departure from our soldier's paradise. The tents were struck, the waggons were packed, and every preparation was made for starting at any moment. Our amiable guests, who had come only for a day, had now an additional reason for taking leave, as they were not prepared for accompanying us upon any extended military adventure. The Yankee, fully conscious of their own strength and our comparative weakness, were pressing slowly forward, and General Stuart had given orders to our troops to offer only a feeble resistance, and retired deliberately to an easily defensible position, about a mile and a half from “The Bower,” where our artillery had been eligibly posed on a range of hills forming a wide semicircle. About nine o'clock General R. E. Lee arrived at this point; A. P. Hill's division was on the  march to reinforce us; and it seemed clear that the further progress of the Federals, certainly any attempt on their part to cross the Opequan, would be energetically opposed. At this time I received orders from General Stuart to proceed with a number of couriers at once to the little town of Smithfield, about twelve miles distant, where we had a small body of cavalry, to watch the enemy's movements on our right, and establish frequent communications with Jackson at Bunker Hill only a few miles off. En route I had to pass in the immediate neighbourhood of “The Bower,” where I found the ladies of the family all assembled in the verandah, in a state of great excitement and anxiety. I did my best to console my fair friends, who wept as they saw me; but I could not help feeling a good deal of solicitude with regard to their position, since they would certainly be within range of the artillery fire; and should the enemy get possession of the place by any accident, it could hardly be hoped that they would not revenge themselves savagely upon the household for all the kindness we had received at their hands. It was about mid-day when I reached Smithfield, which I found occupied by a squadron picketing the turnpike to Shepherdstown and Harper's Ferry. Our brigade stationed at Charlestown had evacuated the place before the superior numbers of the enemy, and retired in the direction of Berryville, so that there was nothing in the way of the Federal advance but these our pickets, and the dreaded blue uniforms were expected by the excited inhabitants to make their appearance every minute. Accordingly, I had not been more than an hour in the village, when our outposts from the Shepherdstown road came galloping along in furious haste, reporting a tremendous host of Yankee cavalry right behind them in hot pursuit. I rode forward immediately with about fifty men to meet the enemy, but found, as is usual in such cases of alarm, that the danger was by no means so imminent  as had been represented, the Yankees having halted on a little hill about two miles from town, and their whole force consisting of a squadron of horsemen, which turned back on my approach, and moved off when a few carbine-shots had been exchanged. This squadron had come from Harper's Ferry, along a by-road which struck the turnpike at a point about midway between Kearneysville and Smithfield, which point they had reached just ten minutes after General Lee with a very small escort had passed by. Our Commander-in-Chief had thus very narrowly escaped falling into the hands of the enemy, and I thought it necessary to despatch a courier at once to General Stuart to inform him that the road was not clear. During the afternoon the alarm was renewed, this time in the direction of Charlestown; but industriously as I endeavoured to discover the whereabouts of the Yankee infantry, who had been plainly seen advancing along the turnpike with glistening bayonets, and the dust rising on their line of march, I could obtain no trace of them whatever, after a ride of four miles towards their supposed quarter of approach. Late in the evening I received a report from Colonel Jones, now commanding Robertson's brigade, that the hostile forces were retreating again towards Harper's Ferry, and that he hoped to be again in occupancy of Charlestown even before his message could reach me. The firing in the direction of “The Bower” had now ceased; and as I felt well assured that the two Federal columns were in corresponding movement, I rightly conjectured that the Yankees were also retreating there. So I established my men and myself at the house of an interesting young widow, who, with her sister, enlivened our evening with songs and spirited discourse. Agreeably with my expectation, I received orders early next morning to return to “The Bower,” which not a little delighted me. It was a sparkling, beautiful morning of  autumn, and I enjoyed the ride home the more for being fortunate enough-firing from my horse's back with my revolver — to kill a grey squirrel, which, as our mess arrangements had been thrown into utter disorder by the events of the last two days, was gladly welcomed the same evening on our dinner table. Meanwhile our tents had been again put up at “The Bower,” and no one who had not visited the place in our absence would have supposed that any change had occurred in the interim. The Federal army, after considerable fighting the previous day, had recrossed the Potomac, their rearguard being badly cut up by a dashing charge of Lee's cavalry. The Federal newspapers called the movement a “grand and successful reconnaissance in force,” and it had evidently been undertaken to counteract a little the effect, and abate the ill-feeling, that had been produced all over the North by Stuart's expedition into Pennsylvania. Once more established in quietude at “The Bower,” we received from our kind friends, Mr D. and his family, numberless proofs of their great satisfaction in having us near them. In accordance with his promise, Mr Vizetelly came now to pay us a longer visit, unaccompanied, however, to our regret, by Mr Lawley, who had been obliged to go to Richmond for the purpose of sending off his regular letter to the “Times.” Our new guest was an old campaigner, who accommodated himself very readily to the hardships of camp life, and was soon established in his own tent, which I had caused to be erected for him in the immediate neighbourhood of that of Blackford and myself. He was not long in becoming a general favourite at headquarters. Regularly after dinner, our whole family of officers, from the commander down to the youngest lieutenant, used to assemble in his tent, squeezing ourselves into narrow quarters to hear his entertaining narratives, which may possibly have received a little embellishment in  the telling, but which embraced a very wide circle of human experience, and had a certain ease and brilliancy beyond most such recitals. The “ingenuous youth” of our little circle drank in delightedly the intoxications of Mabille and the Chateau des Fleurs, or followed the story-teller with eager interest as he passed from the gardens and the boudoirs of Paris to the stirring incidents and picturesque scenery of the Italian campaign, which he had witnessed as a guest of Garibaldi. V. was greatly pleased with our musical entertainments; and when, after talking for several hours, he had become exhausted, and when, from the gathering darkness, we could only distinguish the place where he was reclining by the glow of his pipe, and thus lost all the play of the features in his rehearsal, we proceeded to our great central camp-fire, there to renew the negro dances to the music of the banjoscenes which Vizetelly's clever pencil has placed before the European public in the pages of the “Illustrated London news.” Less successful was our friend in his efforts to improve the cuisine of our negro camp cook, and we often had the laugh upon him-especially when one day he produced in triumph a roast pig, with the conventional apple in its mouth, which we found to be raw on one side and burned to a cinder on the other. This work of art had been prepared under his own personal management, and was served as cochon a l'italienne, but it proved by no means so happy an accident as the original roast pig, done a la Chinoise. Our supplies now began to fail in the country around “The Bower.” The partridges had grown exceedingly wild, and we were obliged, each in his turn, to make long excursions into the woods and fields to keep our mess-table furnished. I was therefore very much gratified when my friend Rosser appeared early one morning at my tent, with the news that there was to be a large auction sale of native wines and other  supplies that very day, at a plantation only eight miles off in the direction of Charlestown. As all was quiet along our lines, we at once determined to attend the sale, so the horses were hitched to the yellow-painted waggon, and we were soon proceeding at a rapid trot over the rocky road, amid the loud outcries and bitter complaints of my gallant Colonel of the 5th Virginia Cavalry, who declared that he had never in his life experienced such joltings. Arrived at the place of destination, we bought largely, making frequent trials and tastings of Corinth and blackberry wines, and returned to camp with our waggon well filled with stores of various kinds. Among our purchases was an immense pot of lard, which we placed in the back part of the waggon, regarding it as an acquisition of great value for our camp biscuit-bakery. We had not, however, counted on the melting influence of the sun upon the lard, and the consequences was that with every jolt of the waggon over the frequent stones in the road, the fluid mass sent its jets of grease in a fountain over the hams, potatoes, and apples that covered the bottom of the vehicle. This annoyance, provoking as it was, little disturbed our temper, which had been somewhat mellowed by the frequent inhibitions of the country wine (in the way of tasting); and we continued our drive at a rattling pace, varying our discourse from the gay to the sentimental. We had just reached the topic of the tender passion, when, all unheeding the roadway before us, I bumped the waggon against a large stone with so severe a shock that Rosser was thrown out far to the left, while I settled down, after a tremendous leap, far to the right. Fortunately, beyond some slight contusions, neither of us sustained any damage by this rude winding — up of our romantic conversation. The horses were reasonable enough not to run off, and we quietly continued our drive to headquarters, but we talked no more sentiment on the way. Major Terrell, having been ordered to Winchester in  attendance on a court-martial, had left his excellent horses to my exclusive use, and my own animals, enlarged in number by the addition of the stout Pennsylvanian, had very much improved by their long rest and rich grazing, so that my stable was now extensive, and we had many a pleasant ride with our fair lady friends. On Sunday, the 26th of October, there was a grand review of Hampton's brigade, which was attended by the ladies from far and near, and as the day was lovely, it proved a fine military spectacle. When the review was over, the officers of our own and Hampton's Staff assembled to witness the trial of a diminutive one-pounder gun, which turned out to be of very little account, and afterwards we had some equestrian sports, matches in horseracing, fence-jumping, &c. Captain Blackford, who, with a thoroughbred chestnut mare, attempted to take a high fence just in advance of Stuart and myself, had a severe fall, which was fortunately unattended with serious consequences. Remarking upon it, that, in my opinion, the fault lay not so much with the horse as with the rider, Stuart said, “Hear old Von, how grand he talks!” Then turning to me, he added, in a banter, “Why don't you jump the fence yourself, if you know how to do it better?” I had never leaped my heavy-built Pennsylvanian as yet, and I was in doubt whether he was equal to the lofty barrier, but as there was no possible escape from Stuart's challenge, I struck my spurs into his sides, and over he went like a deer, amidst the loud applause of the General himself and other spectators. I had now the laugh on my side, and very soon afterwards the opportunity of bantering Stuart, when he could say and do nothing in reply. Returning to camp, we took, as a short cut, a road that led through a field of Indian corn; upon getting to the farther end of which, we found that the fence, usually pulled down at this place, had been recently put up, making a formidable barrier to our farther progress. Stuart and others observing this,  turned off to the right, towards the main road; but seizing my opportunity, I cried out to him, “General, this is the way;” and clearing the five-barred fence in a splendid leap, I arrived at headquarters several minutes in advance of my comrades, whom I welcomed upon their approach, rallying my chief very much for not having followed my example. Our long and delightful sojourn now drew rapidly to its close. Guest after guest departed, and every day the indications of a speedy departure became plainer. At length, on the 29th of October, a hazy, rainy autumn day, the marching orders came, and the hour arrived for the start. A number of the Staff did not fail to indulge in the obvious reflection that nature wept in sympathy with us at the separation. With heavy hearts indeed, we left the beautiful spot, and bade adieu to its charming, kindly inhabitants. Silently we rode down the hill, and along the margin of the clear Opequan stream, musing on the joyous hours that had passed awayhours which those few of our dashing little band of cavaliers that survived the mournful finale of the great war, will ever hold in grateful remembrance.