Chapter 24:

  • Commencement of the summer campaign.
  • -- forward movement of the army of Virginia. -- cavalry fights in Loudon and Fauquier counties. -- the cavalry fight near Middleburg, 19th of June. -- I am severely wounded. -- stay at Upperville, and retreat from there to Mr B.‘s plantation. -- the last eighteen months of my stay in the Confederacy. -- departure for Richmond, and sojourn at the capital and in the vicinity. -- winter 1863-64. -- Stuart's death. -- departure for England.

General Lee had by this completed his preparations for an advance into the enemy's country, whither the theatre of war was now to be transferred; and, whilst a comparatively small body of troops still maintained a show in front of the Federals at Fredericksburg, the bulk of our army was being concentrated in the vicinity of Culpepper, apparently without any suspicion of the fact on the part of the enemy's commander-in-chief. The first object General Lee sought to compass, was to clear the valley of Virginia of its hostile occupants and to capture the town of Winchester. Ewell with his troops had already started in that direction some days before, and on the 15th the rest of our infantry began to move forward. Stuart was ordered to cover the movements of [425] our army and protect its flank by marching on the Fauquier side of the Blue Ridge Mountains; and accordingly the morning of the 16th found us betimes en route, and in high glee at the thought of once more invading Yankeedom. Having crossed the Hazel and Rappahannock rivers, we marched on in the same line we had followed in our retreat of November ‘62, and at noon halted for an hour to feed our horses at the little town of Orleans, where General Stuart and his Staff made a point of visiting our old friend Mrs M., by whom we were received with her usual kindness and hospitality. Our march thence lay through the rich and beautiful county of Fauquier, which as yet showed but little signs of suffering from the war, and at dark we reached the Piedmont Station of the Baltimore-Ohio Railway, where we bivouacked. Next morning as soon as it was light the famous guerilla chief Major Mosby, who had selected this part of the country for the scene of his extraordinary achievements, made his appearance in camp, reporting that the enemy's cavalry, which till recently had fronted us near Culpepper, was rapidly following a line of march parallel to our own, although as yet only small detachments were occupying the neigbouring county of Loudon. Our march was continued accordingly towards the village of Upperville, where our cavalry separated into several commands, with instructions to move by different roads towards the Potomac. Stuart, taking with him Robertson's and Fitz Lee's commands, the latter of which turned off towards Aldie, proceeded in the direction of Middleburg, which place he and his Staff, galloping ahead of the troops, reached late in the afternoon. We were received in this pleasant little town with marked demonstrations of joy; and as my friends here had heard from Richmond the news of my death, but not its contradiction, I underwent another ovation at my quasi-resurrection. While paying one of the many visits I had to make to give bodily assurance of my [426] presence in the world of the living, and relating my adventures to a circle of pretty young ladies, the streets suddenly resounded with the cry of “The Yankees are coming!” raised by a party of horsemen who galloped through the town in frantic excitement, having formed part of one of our pickets, on whom the enemy, not supposed to be so near, had rather suddenly fallen. I had just time to rush out of the house and mount my horse when the enemy's cavalry poured into the town from various directions. I soon joined General Stuart, however, and the remainder of his Staff, who were riding off as fast as their steeds could carry them in the direction of our advancing troops, which we soon reached; and General Stuart gave orders that General Robertson should move his regiments at a trot upon Middleburg, and drive the enemy from the town without delay. As I had a better knowledge of the country than Robertson I was ordered to accompany the General, who was an old friend, and gladly consulted me as to the best mode of attack. It was already dark by the time we came up with our advanced pickets, about half a mile from Middleburg, and we found them supported by their reserve, under the command of Captain Woolridge of the 4th Virginia, engaged in a lively skirmish with the hostile sharpshooters. We were informed by this brave officer that the Federals held the town in considerable force, and had erected a barricade at its entrance, which he begged as a favour to be allowed to storm. This was of course granted; and with a cheer forward went the gallant little band, driving the tirailleurs rapidly before them, and taking the barricade after a short but sanguinary struggle. At the same moment our sabres rattled from their scabbards, and the main body of the brigade dashed forward to the charge at a thundering gallop along the broad turnpike road and down the main street, while two of our squadrons went round outside the village to protect us from a flank attack. As I had felt rather ashamed [427] at having been forced to run from the enemy under the very eyes of my fair friends, and was naturally anxious to afford them a spectacle of a totally different character, I assumed my place of honour, leading the charge with General Robertson, and to my intense satisfaction plunged into the enemy's ranks opposite the precise spot whence I had commenced my flight, and whence, regardless of danger, the ladies now looked on and watched the progress of the combat. It lasted but a few seconds, for the enemy, unable to withstand the shock of our charge, broke and fled in utter confusion — a part of the fugitives taking the straight road along the main street, and the other turning off by the shorter route out of the town to the right. Leaving General Robertson to pursue the former with one of his regiments, I took upon myself the responsibility of following the latter with several squadrons, anticipating that the Federal reserves were in this direction. My supposition proved only too correct, for they were soon at hand to rescue their comrades, and in a few minutes we were engaged in a severe conflict. Bullets whizzed from either side-men and horses fell dead and wounded amidst unavoidable confusion through the extreme darkness of the night, and for a time it seemed doubtful whether I should be able to hold my ground against numbers so far superior. Fortunately General Robertson, hearing the firing, soon came up with his regiment, and, taking now the offensive, we charged the Federals with our united force in front, while the squadron we had sent round the village to the right took them in flank, the effect of which was to force our antagonists into a rapid retreat, in the course of which we took several officers and 75 privates prisoners. On our return to Middleburg the General an I remained another hour with our lady friends, who, with their accustomed devotedness, were busy nursing the wounded, large numbers of whom were collected in several of the residences. It was late in the night by the time [428] we reached Mr Rector's plantation, about two miles to the rear, when our troops encamped. This spot is situated on a formidable hill, and being the crossing point of several of the principal roads, was a point of considerable strategical importance.

Early the following morning a report was received from Fitz Lee announcing an encounter with a strong body of Federal cavalry near Aldie, which had ended in the repulse of the enemy and the capture of 60 prisoners, among whom was a colonel and several other inferior officers. Our own loss had been heavy in killed and wounded, and among the former I lost my poor friend Major Eales of the 5th Virginia, who was struck by several bullets while leading his men to the charge. We got news also from William Lee's troops, commanded by Chamblis, who had come quite suddenly and unexpectedly on the cavalry we had driven from Middlesburg, killing and wounding a great number and taking 140 prisoners. The glorious accounts had meantime reached us of the capture of Winchester and Martinsburg by Ewell, with more then 4000 prisoners, 30 pieces of artillery, and innumerable stores of ammunition and provisions, rendering the opening of the campaign as favourable to its prospects as possible. As the prisoners taken during the last few days amounted to several hundreds, I was sent to Upperville, whither they had been despatched, to superintend their transfer by detachments to Winchester — a duty in which I was occupied the greater part of the day, until toward evening the sound of a brisk cannonade recalled me back to the front. There I found that the Federals had advanced in strong force on Middleburg, had driven back our troops, and were once more in possession of the town, and that all our efforts to retake it had been vain — the cause of these failures being attributed to General Stuart's hesitation to direct the fire of our artillery on the village, fearing to inflict too much damage on the patriotic [429] little place. The fighting was kept up till midnight, when, finding the enemy showed no intention of pushing their advantage any further for the present, our troops, with the exception of a strong cordon of pickets, were withdrawn towards Rector's cross-roads, where we all encamped.

The morning of the 19th dawned with all the bright beauty of the month of June, but the rising of the sun was also the signal for the recommencement of hostilities, and before we had had time to breakfast, a rapid succession of cannon-shots summoned us to the front. The enemy in strong force were advancing upon a patch of wood about a mile from Middleburg, which was held by our troops, consisting of Robertson's and William Lee's commands; the dismounted sharpshooters on both sides were exchanging a lively fire, and the shells from a number of hostile batteries were bursting with a sharp crack in the tree-tops. General Stuart took up his position on a hill about half a mile to the rear, commanding a good view of the plain in front, and over the fields to the right and left. Our Chief of Artillery being engaged in another direction, I received orders to place our batteries in position; and the nature of the ground allowed this to be done so favourably that the cross-fire of our guns at a later period saved us from serious disaster. I then rode forward to the extreme front, and, carefully reconnoitring the position of the enemy, I found that their force was far superior to our own, and that they were overlapping us on either wing. General Stuart gave me so little credit for the accuracy of my report that he was for some time convinced that he could hold his ground with ease, and even entertained the intention of sending off the greater part of William Lee's troops towards Aldie. Through my earnest remonstrances this was deferred, however, and I was again despatched to the front to see if I had not overrated the forces of the enemy. What I saw only too thoroughly confirmed my first observations; and I reported [430] to General Stuart that in my opinion he would be forced to retreat, even if he kept the whole of his force together. But again he refused credit to the result of my observations, and said laughingly, “You're mistaken for once, Von; I shall be in Middleburg in less than an hour,” requesting me at the same time to write out a permit for Longstreet's Commissary, Major N., who wished to visit his friends in the town, to go there unmolested. I was just writing the document, and remarking to the Major that I was afraid he would not be able to make use of it, when suddenly the firing increased in heaviness, and we saw our men hastening from the woods in considerable confusion, followed by a dark mass of Federals in close pursuit. “Ride as quickly as you can, and rally those men; I will follow you immediately with all the troops I can gather,” were Stuart's hasty instructions to me as he suddenly, though rather late, became convinced that I had all along been right. Just as I reached our breaking lines, the 9th Virginia, which had been in reserve, dashed forward in a magnificent charge; the batteries I had previously posted opened a well-directed cross-fire on the Federal horsemen; the flying regiments responded to my call, and turned upon their pursuers, whom we drove rapidly back into the woods, killing and wounding a large number, and taking many prisoners, until a severe fusillade from the enemy's sharpshooters, posted on the outskirts of the wood, protected their retreat. I had just succeeded in re-forming our own men, about 200 yards from the woods, when Stuart came up, and, riding along the lines of his troops, who always felt relieved by his appearance in the moment of extreme danger, was received by them with enthusiastic cheers. He now ordered the regiments to withdraw by squadrons to a better position — a movement which was executed under cover of a spirited fire from our batteries. The General and his Staff being the last to remain on the spot, we soon became [431] a target for the Federal sharpshooters, who, by the cheering, had become well aware that Stuart was in that small group of officers. Being dressed in the same fashion as the General-a short jacket and grey hat, with waving ostrich plume, and mounted on my handsome new charger — I was mistaken for him, and my tall figure soon engaged their particular attention, for the bullets came humming round me like a swarm of bees. A ball had just stripped the gold-lace from my trousers, and I was saying to the General, riding a few steps before me on my left-“General, those Yankees are giving it rather hotly to me on your account,” --when I suddenly felt a severe dull blow, as though somebody had struck me with his fist on my neck, fiery sparks glittered before my eyes, and a tremendous weight seemed to be dragging me from my horse. After a few moments of insensibility, I opened my eyes again, to find myself lying on the ground, my charger beside me, and a number of officers and men pressing round and endeavouring to raise me. My left arm hung stiff and lifeless, and the blood was spouting from a large wound on the side of my neck, and streaming from my mouth at every breath. Unable to speak, I motioned to my comrades to leave me, and save themselves from the hail of bullets the enemy were concentrating on them, two of the soldiers about me having already fallen lifeless. At the same moment, I saw the Yankees charging towards us from the woods; and, certain that a few minutes more would leave me a prisoner in their hands, the hateful thought inspired me with the courage to summon all my strength and energy, and, managing to regain my legs, with the assistance of Captain Blackford and Lieutenant Robertson of our Staff, I mounted my horse, and rode off from the field, supported by these two officers, whose devoted friendship could not have been proved by a more signal act of self-sacrifice. After a painful ride of more than a mile, coming across an ambulance, my comrades placed me in it, gave [432] orders to the driver to carry me further to the rear, and then galloped off in another direction in search of our surgeon, Dr Eliason. Meanwhile the Federals were rapidly advancing, and numbers of their shells burst so near the ambulance that the driver was seized with fright, and, believing that anyhow I was nearly dead, drove off at a gallop over the rocky road, regardless of my agonised groans, every movement of the vehicle causing a fresh effusion of blood from my wound. At last I could stand it no longer, and, crawling up to him, I put my cocked pistol to his head, and made him understand that I should blow out his brains if he continued his cowardly flight. This proved effectual, and, driving along at a moderate pace, we were overtaken by Dr Eliason, who at once examined my wound, and found that the ball had entered the lower part of my neck, cut through a portion of the windpipe, and, taking a downward course, had lodged somewhere in my right lung, and that my left arm was entirely paralysed by the same shot. A shadow passed over the Doctor's face as he examined me, for he had a liking for me; and reading in my eyes that I wished to have his undisguised opinion, he said, “My dear fellow, your wound is mortal, and I can't expect you to live till the morning,” offering at the same time to execute my last wishes. This was sad enough intelligence for me; but the very positiveness of the opinion aroused within me the spirit of resistance, and I resolved to struggle against death with all the energy I possessed. In this determined mood I was enabled to attend to some matters of duty, and to give orders on a piece of paper for our ordnance-waggons, which we met on the road. I was conveyed to Dr Eliason's house, where a bed was put up for me in the parlour, and I was attended by the ladies of the family, who nursed me as though I had been a son of the house, whilst the Doctor's blind child was sobbing by my bedside. A dose of opium procured me a kind of half slumber or trance, during which, [433] though unable to move, I could see and hear everything that was going on about me. One after the other all my comrades dropped in during the afternoon, and seeing my face and neck swollen and disfigured by an accumulation of air, while my features were deadly pale, I could see by their expression that they believed me dead already, and could hear the Doctor answer the repeated question, “Is he alive yet?” with “Yes, but he will not live over the night.” At last Stuart himself came, and, bending over me, he kissed my forehead, and I felt two tears drop upon my cheek as I heard him say, “Poor fellow, your fate is a sad one, and it was for me that you received this mortal wound.” I would have given anything to have had the power of grasping my friend's hand, and pronouncing a few words of thankfulness for his heartfelt sympathy; and when, in later times, I stood by his own deathbed, these friendly words came vividly before my recollection. I passed the night in a calm sleep, and the following morning found me, to the astonishment and delight of the Doctor and my comrades, not only alive, but wonderfully refreshed and strengthened by my long sleep. The whole of the day I was much excited by the sound of a heavy cannonade, and received frequent information through a courier who was detached to me as to the progress of a severe fight, in which the Yankees, supported by infantry, were pressing Stuart slowly back towards Upperville. The next night I again passed favourably, and on the forenoon of the 21st I had the extreme gratification of seeing General Stuart again, who told me how much he had missed me during the action, of which he gave me a minute account. He told me, at the same time, it was quite possible that during the day he might be forced to fall back beyond Upperville, in which case I should be informed in time by one of his officers, and an ambulance would be in readiness to carry me out of reach of the enemy. [434]

In the early part of the forenoon the fighting re-commenced, the thunder of the cannon and the rattle of musketry sounded closer and closer, wounded men and stragglers began to pass through the village, and I became more and more nervous and excited. As hour after hour passed while I awaited full dressed the arrival of Stuart's promised conveyance and message, I repeatedly sent my courier out into the street, but the report was always, “Nothing heard of the General yet.” The battle seemed raging in the immediate vicinity, and the shells bursting right over the village, when, to my great joy, my Prussian friend Captain Scheibert entered my room. At the first news of my misfortune, he had hastened from the distant headquarters of our army, bringing along with him General Longstreet's private ambulance, which the latter had placed at my disposal, sending me at the same time many kind messages urging me to start at once. This I declined to do, however, as I was anxious to hear from General Stuart, for whose safety I entertained apprehensions. At last Captain Clarke, temporarily attached to our Staff, galloped in and informed me that General Stuart, wishing to avoid my being moved unnecessarily, and hoping to be able to hold his ground for a day longer, had delayed his message as long as possible; but the Federal cavalry, strongly supported by infantry, having suddenly attacked with overwhelming numbers, he had been forced to a precipitate retreat, which rendered it necessary that I should be moved away without an instant's delay. It was certainly a moment of no small excitement, when, after a cordial leave-taking with my kind host, I was carried by my friends to the ambulance, in the midst of shells bursting in the streets and crashing through the house-tops, fugitives rushing wildly by, wounded men crawling out of the way, riderless horses galloping distractedly about, whilst close at hand were heard the triumphant shouts of the pursuing foe. As my condition would not admit [435] of my being conveyed so far as the infantry reserves, which were eight miles away in the direction of the Shenandoah, it was decided that I should be carried to Mr B.‘s plantation, not more than two miles off, which, being only accessible by a small road, it was hoped the enemy would not visit. Turning to the left after leaving Upperville, we had, on our way thither, to pass for a short distance along the main road, whence I could see a great part of the battle-field and our men everywhere in rapid retreat; the Federals, in hot pursuit, being not more than 500 yards from us, and their bullets frequently whizzing round our ears. The ambulance-driver did his best to get out of the way, while Scheibert and my servant Henry, who was leading my horses, in trying to keep up with us, presented a scene in which over-anxiety assumed a comical aspect. The Captain with the flat of his sword was thrashing the mule Kitt, who was kicking and plunging in an obstinate mood, while Henry in front was dragging her forward, and answering the Captain's intimations, that he was doing more harm than good, with a grin of obtuse satisfaction. At last Mr B.‘s plantation was reached without accident, and we found the proprietor waiting for us at the gate. He was very willing to receive me into his house, but instead, to avoid discovery, that my ambulance and escort should leave as quickly as possible, and, while I was being carried into the mansion by two old negroes, I saw them just plunging amidst the dense foliage of the neighbouring woods. A room was prepared for me on the ground-floor; and so utterly exhausted was I, it was almost in a fainting condition that I fell upon the bed. Scarcely, however, had I been half an hour there, when I was awakened by the trampling of horses and the rattling of sabre scabbards, and an old servant entered, telling me in a whisper that the Yankees had come, and were surrounding the house. This alarming intelligence darted like an electric shock through my frame; and knowing [436] that to be captured in my shattered state would be certain death, I resolved, with desperate energy, not to die without resistence. I reached down my arms with a painful effort, and placing my unsheathed sword, and revolver ready cocked, on the bed, prepared to shoot down the first of the enemy's troopers who should enter. Fully convinced that my last hour was come, I lay waiting to see the Yankees come in every moment; but although I could hear them talking, and see them passing to and fro on the verandah, through the jalousies of the window, close to which my bed was placed, I was astonished to find they did not make their appearance. After about half an hour of the most thrilling anxiety, all seemed to have become suddenly quiet again; and my kindhearted host made his appearance, with the news that the Federals had gone for the present, but were still in the neighbourhood, and had stationed a picket on a hill a few hundred yards off. He added that the hostile soldiers, whose hearts he had won by a liberal supply of every kind of refreshment, had mentioned that they had been searching every house in Upperville and the vicinity for the prominent Confederate (supposed for some time to be Stuart himself), who had fallen severely wounded, but that to all appearance he had died, and his body had been buried by the rebels previous to their retreat.1 The rest of the evening passed rapidly away, nor were we again disturbed by the Federal soldiers, one or two only coming on separate occasions to fetch milk or other eatables. Next morning I was greatly surprised at the appearance of my servant Henry, who, in his anxiety about my fate, had crossed over from the opposite side of the Shenandoah, where he had left my horses in safety, [437] and, hiding the mule in the woods about a mile off, had managed to steal unobserved through the Federal lines. I was quite touched at the fidelity of my negro, who sat all day at my bedside, anxiously watching every breath I drew. Later in the evening, to my great astonishment and delight, I received a visit from Dr Eliason, who informed us that the enemy was retreating, Stuart having retaken Upperville, and being in pursuit of the Federals in the direction of Middleburg. The Doctor was satisfied with my progress towards recovery, and told me if I reached the ninth day he believed my wound would get quite well. The following day my friends from all parts of the army called in large numbers, among them Generals Stuart, Hampton, and Robertson; and I was delighted to have recovered my voice sufficiently to thank them for all their kindness and friendship. General Longstreet sent his three doctors, with all of whom I was intimate, and they brought me a message from him, stating that he was sorry he could not come himself, but that he would have advanced a whole division to get me out of the enemy's hands had they not retreated. Our army had in the mean time continued steadily advancing through the valley; and on the 25th all our troops left the vicinity of Upperville to march onward to the Potomac, leaving me behind, sad that I was no longer able to share in their fatigues, their dangers, and their glory.

Henceforward my strength improved very rapidly; the outer wound had nearly closed; from only being able to swallow a little cream I could now take more substantial food, and was allowed to sit up an hour or two in the verandah to enjoy the cool aromatic breeze travelling hither from the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Every kindness was shown me by Mr B. and his family, and I received many kind messages from the ladies of the neighbourhood, who sent me nosegays every day; so that I should have felt perfectly happy had not my mind been troubled with the [438] thought of being away from my comrades, and had not, moreover, the frequency of the Federal scouting parties crossing the Potomac rendered it dangerous that I should remain, my presence having become much more widely known in the vicinity. After postponing my departure several times I at last took leave of my kind hosts, and started off in an ambulance which General Robertson had placed at my disposal, accompanied by a courier who had been detached to me, and by Henry with my horses. The journey to Culpepper was a tedious one, and the jolting of the ambulance along the rough roads was so painful that I had to ride on horseback the greater part of the way. I arrived, however, without accident, except, indeed, the upsetting of my vehicle in the swollen waters of the Hazel river, through which I lost all my traps, with the exception of my arms and a little bag in which I kept my diary, and which I saved by jumping into the foaming stream at the imminent peril of my life. Leaving Henry with my horses behind me at Culpepper, I went in a hand-car to Orange, and thence by rail to Richmond, where I met with a kind and cordial reception under the hospitable roof of Mr P., which for some time was to become my home. With the heat of the month of June my sufferings commenced, and were greatly aggravated by the conflicting rumours which reached me from Lee's army after the battle of Gettysburg. I could scarcely draw my breath, and coughed continually night and day, bringing up quantities of blood with small fragments of the shattered rings of my windpipe, and pieces of clothing which the bullet had carried along with it. I was frequently attacked with fits of suffocation, which sometimes came upon me while walking in the street, and were so violent that I had to be carried home in a state of insensibility resembling death. At last my doctor, who had but little hope of my recovery, recommended me to try the effects of country air; and having received pressing invitations [439] from my friends at Dundee, in Hanover County, I went there towards the end of August. The very day after my arrival, my attacks, accompanied by severe fever, became so violent that I was prostrated on a sick-bed for two long months, every day of which my kind friends expected would be my last. The natural strength of my constitution, however, carried me through all these trials; and about the middle of October I was allowed to leave my room, but reduced to a skeleton, having lost ninety pounds in weight, and so weak I had to be carried about in a chair. On the first day I left my bed I was startled by the report that a body of Federals was approaching the house; and, dreading the danger of capture more than the consequences of exposure, I insisted, against the earnest entreaties of my friends, on immediate departure. A fatiguing ride in a buggy over eighteen miles of rough road to Richmond produced, as was anticipated, a relapse, and I was again laid prostrate for nearly two months, during which I received the kindest attentions from the inhabitants of Richmond, principally Mr and Mrs P. and their family, at whose house I was staying, and who nursed and tended me as though I had been their own son. I had frequent tidings from General Stuart and my comrades, and received from them letters full of friendship and affection. In one of these the general said:--“My dear Von, my camp seems dull and deserted to me since you left. On the battle-field I do not know how to do without you, and I feel as if my right arm had been taken away from me.” My chief had, even before I was wounded, tried to have me promoted to a Brigadier-Generalship, to which rank he considered me entitled, in consideration of my services and the facility with which on several occasions I had shown I could handle large bodies of troops. These recommendations for promotion were approved by General Lee, and desired, I am proud to say, by all the officers and men of the cavalry crops; but the repeated [440] applications made by my General with this object were as often rejected by the officials at Richmond, who hesitated, as it seemed, to promote a foreigner too rapidly. Great satisfaction, however, was afforded me by the public acknowledgment of my insignificant services, which took place during the month of January 1864, in the form of a joint resolution of thanks by both Houses of the Confederate Congress. Lafayette was the last foreigner to whom this honour was accorded in America, and out of courtesy the resolution was couched in the same words as had been used on that occasion, and which were as follows:--

“Whereas Major Heros Von Borcke of Prussia, Adjutant and Inspector-General of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, having left his own country to assist in securing the independence of ours, and by his personal gallantry on the field having won the admiration of his comrades, as well as of his Commanding General, all of whom deeply sympathise with him in his present sufferings from wounds received in battle, therefore-Resolved by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, that the thanks of Congress are due, and the same hereby tendered to Major Heros Von Borcke for his self-sacrificing devotion to our Confederacy, and for his distinguished services in support of our cause. Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be transmitted to Major Von Borcke by the President of the Confederate States.”

This document I received with a very flattering autograph letter from the President, which was followed by hundreds of congratulatory epistles from my comrades in the army, and from friends in all parts of the country. My health was progressing but slowly, although I daily gained strength, and I was gradually recovering the use of my left arm, the revivification of which, however, was attended with severe nervous pain. The winter in Richmond passed gaily away amidst a [441] succession of balls, dinner-parties, and private theatricals; and being in my invalid state an object of sympathy, I had the luxury of being much petted by fair residents and visitors of the capital. I had frequently the pleasure of seeing Stuart during the winter months, and once or twice visited him in his camp near Culpepper, where I was received on all hands, from the General down to the last courier, with so much tender attention that I was deeply touched, and felt it hard to tear myself from the gallant fellows to whom I was attached by so many ties of past association. As my health grew stronger I tried repeatedly, after the opening of the spring campaign, to take the field again, but each time I was severely punished for my imprudence by being thrown upon a sickbed for weeks, and I had to confine my ambition to the discharge of office duty in Richmond, while General Lee was fighting the grand battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania, and Stuart was adding to his fame by new victories.

On the morning of the 11th May 1864, Richmond was thrown once more into a state of excitement by the rapid advance against it of the Federal cavalry under General Sheridan, who had managed to march round our lines. Several brigades of infantry hastened from the south side of the James river to the defence of the city; the militia was called out, and all expected that the outer lines of fortifications would every moment become the scene of a serious combat. Everything continued quiet, however, in that direction until about eleven o'clock, when a sudden cannonade sounded in the rear of the enemy — the indefatigable Stuart having followed in their track, and with the small force, which was all he had been able, owing to the rapid marching, to take with him, being now enabled to cut off the Federal line of retreat. The sound of our light guns, which I recognised so well, did not fail to rouse me into a state of excitement; and as an old war-horse prances and curvets at [442] the shrill ringing of the trumpet, I felt the blood pour like electric fire through my veins, and rushed about in feverish uneasiness. I fancied I heard my sword rattling in its scabbard to summon me to the scene of conflict by my General's side; but, as I was separated from my own chargers, I tried to borrow a horse for the occasion from one of my many friends. All my endeavours to this effect, however, were vain; everybody had already hastened to the front, and, unable to bear the suspense any longer, I impressed by force one of the horses from the first Government team I came across, and, throwing my saddle on its back, hurried off to the scene of action. The animal I had laid hold of was a miserable little pony, but I managed to spur him forward at a tolerably swift pace; and rapidly passing our double line of intrenchments, I soon reached our last infantry pickets, where I endeavoured to ascertain the exact position of our own troops and of the enemy. As the hostile force lay immediately between ours, it was not easy to get this information; but a road was pointed out to me with such assurance that it would take me to General Stuart without bringing me into collision with the Yankees, that I galloped along it with very little precaution, and had just crossed over a bridge, when, from the woods on the right and left, a scattered band of Federal cavalry bore down upon me with loud shouts, firing their revolvers at me, and demanding my surrender. I immediately turned my pony's head round, and galloped off to the rear with all the speed I could, and an exciting chase now ensued for several miles, till it was put a stop to by the fire of our pickets, whom I reached completely exhausted, and thoroughly surprised at my narrow escape. It was sufficiently evident, by the sound of the firing, that Stuart was hardly pressed, and I hastened at once to General Bragg, commanding our infantry, which, from a succession of reinforcements, was now of considerable strength, begging him at once to advance several [443] brigades to the assistance of Stuart. The cautiousness characteristic of that general, however, induced him to resist my appeals, and finding further effort useless, I slowly retraced my steps to Richmond. The rapid run and the excitement of my pursuit had proved too much for my strength, and I had scarcely reached the outskirts of the town when, as I approached a friend's house, the blood began to stream from my mouth, and I was carried, half fainting, to my temporary domicile at Mr. P.‘s, where I was immediately put to bed. After a long and refreshing sleep, I was awakened suddenly about daybreak by the voice of Dr Brewer, Stuart's brotherin-law, who informed me that my General had been wounded severely, and carried during the night to his place, where he was anxious to see me. Forgetting my own condition at these sad tidings, I dressed myself in a few minutes and hastened to the bedside of my dear friend, whom I found in a small room of the Doctor's house, surrounded by most of the members of his Staff. He received me with a smile, saying, “I'm glad you've come, my dear Von; you see they've got me at last, but don't feel uneasy. I don't think I'm so badly wounded as you were, and I hope I shall get over it as you did.” He then recounted to me all the incidents of the combat, and the manner in which he had been wounded. Hoping every hour to hear of General Bragg's attack, which in all probability would have resulted in the annihilation of the whole force of the enemy, he had successfully resisted their efforts to break through his lines, and for more than six hours had fought with eleven hundred men against eight thousand. At about four o'clock, the Federals succeeded by a general charge in breaking and driving back one of our regiments which General Stuart was rallying in an open field. When continuing their advance the enemy were met by the 1st Virginia and driven back again in confusion. Seeing near him some of the dismounted Federal cavalry, who were running off on the [444] opposite side of a high fence, Stuart rode up to them calling on them to surrender, and firing at them as they continued their flight. He had just discharged the last barrel of his revolver when the hindmost of the fugitives, coming close up to the fence, fired his revolver at him, the ball taking effect in the lower part of the stomach and traversing the whole body. Stuart, finding himself severely wounded, and the enemy at the same time renewing their attack, turned his charger quickly round and galloped half a mile further to the rear, where he was taken from his horse nearly insensible from loss of blood, and sent in an ambulance to Richmond. During the early part of the morning the General felt comparatively easy, and the physician entertained great hope that the wound might not prove fatal. Towards noon, however, a change took place for the worse, and our fears began to be greatly excited. About this time President Davis visited the prostrate hero; taking his hand, the President said, “General, how do you feel?” He replied, “Easy, but willing to die if God and my country think I have fulfilled my destiny and done my duty.” As evening approached mortification set in, and no hopes could any longer be entertained. He became delirious, and his mind wandered over the battle-fields where he had fought, then to his wife and children, and again to the front. Mrs Stuart was absent with her children in the country, and several messages had been despatched informing her of her husband's state, and urging her instant return to Richmond; and in the intervals of relief from pain and delirium, the General frequently inquired if she had not yet come, beginning now to doubt the possibility of his recovery. About five o'clock the General asked Dr Brewer, his brother-in-law, how long he thought it possible he could live, and whether he could survive through the night; and being told that death was rapidly approaching, he nodded, and said, “I am resigned, if it be God's will; but I should like to see my wife. But [445] God's will be done.” He then made his last dispositions, and took leave of us all, I being the last. I had been sitting on his bed, holding his hand in mine, and handing him the ice, which he ate in great abundance, and which was applied to his burning hot wounds to cool them. Drawing me towards him, and grasping my hand firmly, he said, “My dear Von, I am sinking fast now, but before I die I want you to know that I never loved a man as much as yourself. I pray your life may be long and happy; look after my family after I'm gone, and be the same true friend to my wife and children that you have been to me.” These were the last connected words he spoke; during the next few hours the paroxysms of pain became more frequent and violent, until at about seven o'clock death relieved the suffering hero from his agonies. Poor Mrs Stuart arrived an hour after the General's death. Of all the messages sent to her, my telegram alone had reached; but the operator hearing, after I had left the office, that Stuart was getting better, altered the words “the General is dangerously wounded,” and substituted “slightly wounded.” The poor lady arrived at Dr Brewer's house, unaware of her husband's death; and when, on asking if she could see the General, and receiving an affirmative answer, she rushed up-stairs, expecting to find him alive, it was only in the most cruel manner, by the spectacle of her husband's cold pale brow, that she learned the terrible misfortune which had befallen her and her children. I myself mourned my chief as deeply as if I had lost a beloved brother; and so many of my friends being soon after called away, I really felt possessed with a longing that I might die myself. On the evening of the 3th, in the midst of the roaring of the enemy's cannon, which reached us from Drewry's Bluff, we carried Stuart's remains to the beautiful cemetery at Hollywood, near Richmond, where he lies in a simple grave by the side of his beloved little daughter Flora. Of a calm summer evening I frequently rode out to this quiet [446] spot, sitting for hours on my leader's grave, recalling his excellent qualities, and musing over the many glorious battles through which we had fought side by side.

General Lee announced the death of General Stuart in the following order:--

Headquarters of the Army of Northern Virginia, May 20, 1864.
The Commanding General announces to the army with heartfelt sorrow the death of Major-General J. E. B. Stuart, late Commander of the cavalry corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. Among the gallant soldiers who have fallen in this war, General Stuart was second to none in valour, in zeal, in unflinching devotion to his country. His achievements form a conspicuous part of the history of this army, with which his name and services will be for ever associated. To military capacity of a high order, and all the noble virtues of the soldier, he added the brighter graces of a pure life, sustained by the Christian's faith and hope. The mysterious hand of an allwise God has removed him from the scene of usefulness and fame. His grateful countrymen will mourn his loss and cherish his memory. To his comrades in arms he left the proud recollection of his deeds, and the inspiring influence of his example.

R. E. Lee, General.

My grief at the death of Stuart, and the excitement of the last few days, had a very injurious effect on my health for months afterwards, and again I had to resign the hope of once more taking the field. During the month of June, General Randolph wrote to General Lee in the name of several prominent citizens by whom, as well as by himself, it was considered a measure of safety for the capital, requesting [447] that I might be put in command of a brigade of cavalry, to be stationed near Richmond. This application was strongly seconded by General Hampton, Stuart's worthy successor, and by General Lee himself, but it was rejected at the War-Office, on the score of my health, and an infantry officer was afterwards put in command of the same troops. Under these circumstances, instead of doing service in the field I had to spend the summer and autumn in light duties, inspections, &c., filling up the rest of my time with visits to friends in the mountains of Virginia, where my poor suffering lungs had the benefit of the cool aromatic breezes. As winter approached, a proposal already mooted several times-namely, that of sending me abroad on Government duty, but which, till then, I had always refused, hoping soon to be able to go into active campaigning — was renewed. There being very little chance of active service during the cold weather, and General Hampton, General Lee, and President Davis, urging me to go on a mission for the Government to England, I at last yielded to their wishes, hoping to be back for the spring campaign. My commanding officer had in the mean time urgently requested that my rank should be raised to that of Colonel, and the day before my departure I had the gratification of receiving my promotion from the hands of the President. After a tedious journey of four days and four nights, I reached Wilmington on Christmas-day; and while the heavy guns were roaring at the first bombardment of Fort Fisher, I ran the blockade in the late Confederate war-steamer Talahassee, arriving in England, after a circuitous route by the West India Islands, in the month of February 1865. There I was saved the grief of being an eyewitness of the rapid collapse of the Confederacy, and the downfall of a just and noble cause.

Lee's glorious army is no longer in existence: the brave men who formed it have, after innumerable sufferings and privations, [448] bowed to the enemy's power and numbers, and dispersed to follow peaceful pursuits. But those who have survived the fearful struggle for independence, can look back upon a series of battles and victories unequalled in history; and every one of us will for ever speak with pride of the time when he was a soldier of the army of Northern Virginia. I myself am still an invalid. The ball which I carry in my lungs gives me frequent suffering, and has broken my once so robust health; but as every renewal of my pains reminds me of the past, they are alleviated and almost effaced by the pleasure with which I revert to the time when I fought side by side with those brave men; and I shall ever rejoice that I drew my sword for the gallant people of the late Confederacy.

The End.

1 The same story was published afterwards in the Northern papers. “The big Prussian rebel, who was Stuart's right arm,” they said, “had been killed at last, and his body buried at Upperville.”

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