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Chapter 4:

  • Ride to Richmond.
  • -- expedition on the James river. -- a prisoner of the ninth Virginia cavalry. -- fishing and shooting. -- Sunday in camp. -- headquarters at Hanover Court. -- house. -- camp scenes. -- fights and Reconnaissances. -- rattlesnake and Bull-Frog -- departure from Dundee.

During the night which followed the battle of Malvern Hill, we encamped in the orchard of a small farmhouse near the field, but our repose was made exceedingly uncomfortable by heavy showers of rain following one another in rapid succession until the dawn. Profiting by the darkness of the night and the disturbance created by the storm, a spy, who had been captured by some of our men, and who had been condemned to be hanged the next morning, contrived to make his escape. I was rather glad of it. He was an old man of more than sixty, and I had seen him riding along with us all the day on a miserable mule, his hands tied behind him, with such a terrified expression upon his ashy features, that I regarded the poor sinner as sufficiently punished by the agony he had already undergone. The morning opened heavily with rain, and I rose shivering from the damp ground to attend on General Stuart, from whom I received orders to ride at once into Richmond for the purpose of executing [53] some important duties there. As my old grey was very nearly broken down by hard riding, and I might hope to exchange him in Richmond, my captured horse having been lost in the rapidity of our recent movements-and as, in all probability, fighting was not to be renewed — I started gladly upon this expedition. My ride took me over the battle-field and along a portion of the line of the enemy's former retreat. I looked with astonishment at the effect of the heavy artillery-fire of the enemy upon some portions of the forest. Hundreds of the largest trees were riven and shattered, and lay in fragments around, as if all the thunderbolts of heaven had been hurled against them; and in many places the fallen trunks and branches barricaded the road so that it was difficult to get along at all. For miles the ground was thickly strewn with muskets, knapsacks, blankets, and other equipments that had been thrown away in their flight by the soldiers of the retreating Federal army. It was nearly night when I reached Richmond. Wet, cold, and weary, I rode immediately to the hotel and sought my bed — a luxury which no one can thoroughly appreciate until he has long been deprived of it, and compelled as I had been for several nights to sleep in his clothes on the hard ground.

The Spotswood Hotel at this time was crowded with guests, among whom, a neighbour of my own, was no less distinguished a person than a Federal General, McCall, who had been taken prisoner in one of the recent battles. As might naturally have been expected, the joy of the people of Richmond was very great at the deliverance of their city from the hands of the enemy; but they took their good fortune with a very becoming composure, and spoke and acted just as if, in their judgment, with such an army as that of General Lee, under such commanders, between them and the invading force, the struggle for the Confederate capital could have had no other result. No powder was wasted in salutes over the [54] victory, no bonfires blazed, no windows were illuminated, and the general appearance of Richmond was in all respects unchanged from what it had been a month before.

My business in Richmond was speedily transacted, and the following day, having procured an excellent horse, I set out with fresh courage and spirits to rejoin my General. Our army in the mean time had been pushed forward towards the James river, being close upon the enemy's formidable positions at Westover; and as I rode along, I heard from time to time the heavy ordnance of the gunboats, which threw their tremendous projectiles wherever the grey uniforms came in sight. Generals R. E. Lee, Longstreet, and Stuart had established their headquarters together in the extensive farmyard of a Mr Phillips, which spot I reached late in the evening, after a long and dusty ride. Here for a few days we enjoyed rest and comparative quiet. Our generals were often in council of war, undecided whether or not to attack the enemy. On the morning of the 6th, General Stuart removed his headquarters about two miles lower down the river to the plantation of a Mr C., old friends of ours, where we were received, especially by the ladies, with great kindness and enthusiasm.

About dusk on the 6th the General started with two of our regiments, the 4th and the 9th, and six pieces of our horseartillery, to lay an ambush for the Federal gunboats, which every night came steaming up the river with fresh troops and supplies for their army. Having been detained by some duty at headquarters, I left about an hour later than the column, quite alone, and had on my ride a little adventure which gave rise to a great deal of merriment at my expense. I had been informed by one of our patrols that detachments of the enemy's cavalry had been seen in the neighbourhood, and I had therefore moved on with no little vigilance and circumspection. It was a beautiful night, the air was full of the [55] fragrance of the wild-flowers and forest-blossoms, and myriads of fire-flies glittered in the surrounding darkness. Suddenly, through the profound stillness of the night, there struck upon my quick ear the sound of hoofs upon my right hand, and out of a small dark bridle-path on the side of the road there emerged a horseman, who wore, as well as I could distinguish, the Federal uniform. “Halt!” said I. The stranger halted. “What is your regiment?” Eighth Illinois (hostile cavalry). The answer had no sooner been given than, putting spurs to my horse, I rushed upon my antagonist, who, seeing my revolver levelled with uncomfortably accurate aim at his breast, surrendered himself without the least hesitation as my prisoner. As I was conducting my capture to the spot where the 9th Virginia Cavalry was stationed, I perceived that he was riding an admirable horse, which I regarded with infinite satisfaction as already my property. He entertained me on the way with many stories about the Yankee army, how long he had served in it, &c. &c. When we had reached our regiment, however, he came out suddenly in the new character of a member of the corps, a private in the ranks, who had replaced his own tattered Confederate uniform with the uniform and cap of a captured Federal soldier, and who had taken me, from my foreign accent, for a Federal officer. As he made this recital, not without a certain latent satire at my prowess in making a prisoner of a private of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, I confess that, recalling his extreme terror at the moment of his surrender, I lost all patience with him, and again levelling my pistol at him, I gave him to understand that I would make short work of him at any future repetition of his jests. But I did not get my fine horse; for upon turning over my prisoner, whom I still supposed to be a Yankee, to Colonel Fitzhugh Lee, he recognised in him at once a man of his own command, who had most imprudently assumed one of the captured Federal uniforms. This substitution of dress [56] was unfortunately very often done by our men, and many a poor fellow has been killed by his own friends because he could not resist the temptation of discarding his duty rags for a new blue coat and trousers. In addition to the loss of my captured horse, I was very much teased for my mistake, and General Stuart often laughingly asked me, “How many prisoners of the 9th Virginia have you taken lately?”

Pursuing my ride, after having disposed of the Confederate prisoner, I found General Stuart at a point upon the riverbank where Captain Stephen D. Lee, who later distinguished himself as a general at Vicksburg and in the Western campaigns, had placed the six pieces of artillery in a very favourable position. We had not long to wait before opening fire. The expected Yankee transports, five in number, soon came in sight, and passed us slowly not more than one hundred yards distant from our battery. Our pieces thundered all together, and kept up an incessant discharge. The effect on the transports, which were densely crowded with Federal troops, cannot be described. We could distinctly hear our balls and shells crashing through the sides of the vessels, the cries of the wounded on board, and the confused random commands of the officers. One of the smaller transports sank in a few minutes, the others escaped more or less injured. In a very short time, hearing the approach of a whole flotilla of gunboats, under very heavy pressure of steam, for the protection of the transports, we quickly limbered up, and were already a mile nearer to our encampment, when, to our amusement, the enemy, with his ponderous 100-pounder guns, concentrated an appalling fire upon the point we had just left.

During the next few days nothing disturbed the quiet of our camp, and on the 8th I had the pleasure of receiving from the Post-Quartermaster at Richmond a noble black horse to replace the chestnut disabled in the battle of Coal Harbour--an [57] animal which, by its speed and magnificent jumping, saved my life several times during my later campaigns.

It would be impossible to give an idea of the impoverishment and utter destitution of the country, which the presence of two immense armies had deprived of everything, and which the recent battles had devastated with fire. The sad and sickening evidences of the shock of arms were only too plainly visible on every side. Upon the numberless festering carcasses of horses and mules the sun poured down with a tropical blaze, while the air was also poisoned with the stench from human bodies that had been hastily buried but a few inches below the surface. For many miles around nothing could be procured to support life. I well recollect that Captain Stuart of our Staff and myself were digging for a whole day in the garden of a little farmhouse for a few miserable onions and diseased potatoes to appease our hunger. Such is the condition of a region of country, no matter how fertile and productive it may have been in former days, over which war has expended its fury.

On the evening of the 9th we were suddenly brought to horse again by a fierce demonstration of the enemy, who drove in our pickets, but was repulsed without much difficulty. On the 10th we received information that General McClellan had determined to embark his army on his transports at Harrison's Landing, and at the same time orders to march to Hanover county, on the opposite side of Richmond, to recruit our horses, and organise some better system of procuring forage and provisions.

Leaving the regiments behind us, General Stuart and I galloped off together along the road to Richmond. On our way we stopped at the house of the Irish family, where, more than a month before, we had spent some anxious hours, on the occasion of our midnight ride to hold a rendezvous with the spy just previous to the Pamunkey expedition, and where [58] we were now received with abundant chit-chat by the loquacious landlady, who supplied us with fresh milk and blackberries. It was late in the evening when we reached the city, where the General pressed me to accompany him in a visit to the President — a pleasure which I was compelled to deny myself in consequence of the shabby condition of my garments. As we remained in town the whole of the next day, I took advantage of the opportunity to fit myself out with a full uniform of the newest gloss, consisting of a light grey frock-coat with buff facings, dark blue trousers, and a little black cocked-hat with sweeping ostrich plume, the regulation dress for staff-officers, which is as picturesque as it is suitable for active service.

On the morning of the 12th we set out for Hanover county, where our headquarters had been established upon the farm of a Mr Timberlake, near Atlee's Station, on the line of the Virginia Central Railway. Mr Timberlake's house was situated in the midst of a forest of lofty oak and hickory trees, around which stretched fertile fields. The proprietor himself was a pleasant, jovial old gentleman, who had two sons in our cavalry; and as he remitted no exertions to make us comfortable, we had really nothing to desire. On the 14th Mrs Stuart arrived at a neighbouring mansion, and as she had accepted the General's invitation to share our camp dinner, I galloped over — the faithful mulatto “Bob” following with a led horse — to escort her to our headquarters. It was always a pleasure to me to ride with the Virginia ladies, who, with rare exceptions, are admirable horsewomen, to whom no fence is too high and no ditch too wide. Mrs Stuart was often with us, coming whenever we could look forward to a few days of inactivity. Her children were the pets of the whole camp; and during those brief but frequent interludes of domesticity, we were all united together as members of one family.

On the 17th we had a brigade drill and a review of our [59] entire cavalry force, which demonstration was attended by a large number of spectators, principally the ladies of the neighbourhood, among whom General Stuart had many acquaintances and admirers, for he was always the hero and idol of the gentle sex. When the military performance was over, he galloped around from carriage to carriage, presenting us in turn to the fair inmates, and inviting them to drive over and take a look at our camp, which was not more than a mile distant. As several families accepted the invitation, Captain Fitzhugh and myself were sent in advance to make suitable preparations for their reception. With Mr Timberlake's kind permission, assisted by a little army of negro servants, we plundered his house of its chairs and sofas, which were disposed in a semicircle beneath an immense tent-fly that had been among the spoils taken from the enemy at the White House; and our hastily improvised al fresco drawing-room was quite complete and effective in its arrangements when the carriages arrived upon the ground. For refreshment we had cool fresh milk and ginger-cakes for the ladies, and the Virginia mint-julep for the gentlemen; animated talk alternated with patriotic songs on all sides, and our guests took away with them the impression that camplife was not so bad after all.

We occupied ourselves now chiefly with fishing and shooting, as had the red Indians of those woods and streams two hundred years ago. The Chickahominy afforded us abundance of perch and cat-fish, which were welcome additions to the supplies of our mess-table; but taking the fish was attended with many discomforts and difficulties. From the peculiar formation of the river-banks, high and densely skirted with trees, we were forced to wade about in the shallow stream, where we are vigorously attacked by the most voracious horse-leeches, which fastened themselves on our exposed legs in such numbers as to make it necessary to [60] go ashore every five minutes to shake them off. The small hare of Virginia darted about in every direction in the fields and thickets; but shooting the grey squirrel, which was quite new to me, afforded me the best sport; and from the great agility of the animal, it was by no means so easy a matter as one might suppose. The foliage of the hickory, in which the grey squirrel has his favourite abode, is very dense, and the active little creature knows so well how to run along the opposite side of the limb from the gentleman with the gun, that one must be as much on the alert as his game to fire exactly at the moment when it is in sight and unprotected. The grey squirrel is smaller than the red or fox squirrel, and as it subsists principally on chestnuts and hickory-nuts, its meat is very delicate. I had some repugnance to eating them at first, as disagreeably suggestive, in their appearance, of rats; but I soon learned to appreciate the game, and it became one of my most highly valued dishes.

On the 18th, about noon, as I had just returned from one of my little shooting expeditions, General Stuart having gone off to Richmond on duty, I found Captain Fitzhugh engaged in entertaining an Englishman, Lord Edward St Maur, who had given us the pleasure of being our guest for the day. As our mess supplies were limited, I was not a little concerned as to the materials for a dinner; but William, our negro cook, hearing that I had two squirrels in my game-bag, undertook to make a pie of them, and did this so successfully that I had the satisfaction to find the pate highly relished by my lord, who said he had never tested anything better in his life.

On Sunday the 19th we had divine service in the camp. The officiating clergyman was the Rev. Mr Landstreet, chaplain of the 1st Virginia Cavalry, and the spot was an open place in the midst of the primitive forest. I was deeply impressed by the peculiar solemnity of the scene. It was indeed a striking picture,--hundreds of bearded warriors lying about on the [61] grass, and listening with the utmost attention to the eloquent words of the preacher, beneath the green dome formed by the interlacing branches of the gigantic trees over their heads.

On the 21st July we received orders again to remove our encampment, and the spot chosen for it was in the immediate neighbourhood of the Court-house of the county of Hanover, which we reached the evening of that day. The Court-house building was erected in the year 1730, and any structure dating from this period is regarded in America as a very ancient and venerable edifice. Within its walls, in the palmy day of his imperial declamation, the great orator Patrick Henry, “the forest-born Demosthenes,” had pleaded the celebrated “Parsons' cause” in a speech the traditions of which yet live freshly in Virginia. It is a small building of red brick, pleasantly situated on a hill commanding a pretty view, several miles in extent, of fertile fields and dark-green woods, and a clear stream, which winds like a silvery thread through the distant valley. The Court-house and several offices belonging to it are surrounded by a shady enclosed grove of locust and plantain trees, about five acres in area. Here we established our headquarters. The cavalry regiments and horse-artillery were encamped in full view all around usnearly 8000 men, with their grazing horses, white tents, and waving battle-flags — an animated panorama of active military life. Here our position was one of great comfort and enjoyment. Our tents were all put up with some regard to regularity; our mess arrangements were better ordered; we made frequent visits to the houses of the neighbouring planters, and we might have dismissed the war and its hardships from our minds, had not the enemy, who already occupied Fredericksburg in heavy force, made it necessary for us, as a matter of proper precaution, to maintain an extended line of pickets.

The occurrence of my birthday on the 23d was the [62] occasion to me of a pleasant little surprise in the presentation of a beautiful bouquet and the congratulations of my comrades on the Staff, and I had hoped to spend the day in social delights and dolce far niente; but about ten A. M. we received intelligence that the enemy, advancing in strength from Fredericksburg, had fallen, about fifteen miles distant, upon one of our squadrons on picket, dispersed it, and taken off with them a number of prisoners and horses. At twelve o'clock we started in pursuit with three regiments, amounting to about 2000 men, and two pieces of artillery. We reached the scene about dusk, and found, to our great disappointment, that the enemy had taken the back track about mid-day, and that there was now no chance of overtaking them. But General Stuart, having proceeded so far, determined to extend his expedition to a more thorough reconnaissance, and accordingly encamped for the night upon the farm of a Mr Anderson, whence we made an early departure on the following morning. When I came to mount my horse for the march, I found with infinite annoyance that my saddle-bags, containing articles of great value to me, had been stolen by one of the negro camp-followers, who were always lounging in large numbers about our encampments. But one soon becomes accustomed to these little personal losses in war. To-day you lose something of utility, to-morrow you take it back from the enemy with usury; indeed, the whole of my equipments consisted of spoils taken from the Yankees.

Our march was continued throughout the day on the 24th, and we arrived about dusk at a point ten miles from Fredericksburg, where we halted and fed our horses in a large clover-field. General Stuart threw forward his pickets with great caution, so that we might not be observed by the enemy, intending during the night to make a sudden attack on Fredericksburg, in the hope of driving the Yankees out of the [63] town, or at least of alarming the garrison. This enterprise, however, was not favoured by the elements. About eleven P. M. there burst upon us a tremendous thunderstorm, with such a deluging downpour of rain, that the Mataponi, with its four tributaries, the Ma, Ta, Po, and Ni, in our rear, which we had forded easily, must soon have become so much swollen as to make recrossing impossible. It was therefore necessary to start on a rapid retreat. The Indian name Mataponi is made up of four separate names of one syllable, as the river which bears this name is made up of the four several rivulets which become confluent at one point, and it furnishes us with a proof how practical the aboriginal inhabitants of America were in their nomenclature. We managed to ford the last of these streams with difficulty, and arrived only in the afternoon of the following day at our latest point of departure, Mr Anderson's. Here we left our command to rest the fatigued men and horses, and Captain Blackford of our Staff and myself accompanied General Stuart upon a hand-car, propelled by two negroes, along the railroad directly to Hanover Court-house, which place we reached at sunset.

A few days now passed in perfect tranquillity, and we had the pleasure of paying occasional visits to our friends in the neighbourhood, most frequently of all at the hospitable mansion of Dr P., known as Dundee, which was one of the most charming places in the fair land of the Old Dominion. The house is situated on an elevated point in the midst of a beautiful oak grove which opens on the garden side, affording a lovely vista over richly-cultivated fields, with a blue range of hills for background in the far distance. Around the house there was a profusion of flowers, and the entire locale was so sweet a paradise, that it was the highest of satisfactions to us soldiers, accustomed to the roar of cannon and images of death and carnage, to enjoy the serene quiet that [64] reigned in its grounds and apartments, and the charming society of the family circle that dwelt there.

On Sunday evening the 26th we were assembled as usual on the verandah, enjoying the coolness of the twilight hours, delicious after the fierce heats of the summer day, when suddenly our attention was attracted by flames issuing from the roof of one of the farm stables, about 500 yards distant. As most of the negroes were absent, paying their Sunday visits, or otherwise spending their weekly holiday, the lightlybuilt stables and the cattle in them were in imminent danger of destruction. Of course we eagerly hastened to the spot to render what aid we could in extinguishing the fire or saving the property. After half an hour's hard work we succeeded in getting the fire under; and though all of us, and myself especially, were more or less burned in the face and hands, we felt highly gratified to have rendered some service to people who had shown us the most marked and constant kindness. General Stuart, who always had his joke, gave the ladies a most absurd and extravagant account of my individual exertions, declaring that he had seen me running out of the burning building with a mule under one arm and two little pigs under the other.

On the 29th we had another brigade drill, which drew together a considerable number of spectators. The place was an extended level plain, very favourable for manceuvres, and the whole drill was executed with as much precision as would have been exhibited by regular troops, and afforded indeed a most brilliant spectacle. The fine day ended with the most terrible hurricane I ever witnessed. Thousands of trees were torn up by their roots and hurled in the air. Houses were everywhere unroofed. It may well be supposed that every tent of our encampment was prostrated, and that general confusion and disorder marked the spot. [65]

The next day General Stuart surprised and gladdened me inexpressibly by placing in my hands my commission as major and adjutant-general of cavalry, which he had brought with him from Richmond. The General himself had been created a Major-General. Our cavalry, strongly reinforced by regiments from North and South Carolina, had been formed into a division consisting of three brigades, commanded by Brigadier-Generals Hampton, Fitz Lee, and Robertson, with three batteries of horse-artillery, amounting in all to about 15,000 well-mounted men.

On the 4th of August the trumpet sounded again for the march, as a reconnaissance in force was to be undertaken in the direction of Port Royal and Fredericksburg. With four regiments and one battery we pushed on all day until we reached the village of Bowling Green, about twenty miles distant, where we made a bivouac for the night. On the 5th, the hottest day of the whole summer, we continued our march, and arrived at Port Royal at eleven o'clock in the morning, just after a squadron of the enemy's cavalry, already apprised of our approach, had retreated lower down the Rappahannock. The joy of the inhabitants at our coming was touching to witness. The ladies, many of them with their cheeks wet with tears, carried refreshments around among our soldiers, and manifested, with the deepest emotion, their delight in seeing the grey uniforms, and their gratitude at their deliverance from the oppressor. At one P. M. we resumed our march, halting only for a few minutes at the charming cottage of a lady, where, at a later period, I was to spend some pleasant days, which had just then been left by a band of Yankee marauders, one of whom had robbed an old negro servant of the family of his silver watch. The negro, who recognised Captain Blackford as an old friend of the household, complained to him most piteously of this treatment, [66] and implored him to enforce restitution of his property. About three o'clock we overtook these marauders, whom our advance-guard had made prisoners, and upon one of the skulking fellows we at once discoveredthe watch, which, to the satisfaction of us all, and to the grinning delight of its rightful owner, Captain Blackford restored to him.

At sunset we reached Round Oak Church, only twelve miles distant from Fredericksburg, where we bivouacked, taking the precaution to form a long cordon of pickets and vedettes, who took care that the enemy should not be informed of our movements from any of our followers, by allowing no one to pass outside their line. At the same time we sent forward some of our Texan scouts, who, soon returning, reported the enemy encamped in large numbers about five miles from Fredericksburg. One of the scouts, a man famous in his profession, had been shot by one of the Yankee sentinels, and brought back with him an arm badly shattered.

In our bivouac I met with a little adventure that turned out fortunately enough, but might have cost me my life. Fatigued by the long ride, and exhausted by the intense heat of the day, I had spread my blanket, soon after my arrival, near an old log, which in former days had been used as a step by the ladies in mounting and dismounting on their rides to church, but which I now proposed, in its decay, should serve me as a pillow. Resting my head upon it I fell at once into a deep sleep, from which I was presently awakened by something crawling over my hand. I quickly shook off the object, which gave out a sharp, clear, rattling sound, and which I perceived in the bright light of the moon to be a snake more than four feet in length that raised itself at me in an attitude that meant mischief. Sleeping, as I always did, with my arms by my side, it was the work of a moment to draw my keen Damascus [67] blade1 and sever the reptile in twain. Excited, however, by this unfamiliar hostile attack, and finding that the dissevered parts of the body continued to manifest vitality in wriggling about on the grass, I dealt yet several heavy blows at my enemy, and the noise of the encounter aroused the General with the whole of his Staff. Arms in their hands, they hastened to the scene of action, believing that not fewer than a hundred Yankees had fallen upon me. A roar of laughter burst from them at the nature of my mid-night combat; but the affair seemed less ridiculous when they discovered that I had killed one of the largest specimens of the American rattlesnake, a reptile as venomous as the East Indian cobra, whose bite is certain and speedy death — a fate which I had very narrowly escaped. I could obtain little sleep during the remainder of the night; and was ready to move before sunrise when the command was given to mount.

Our march lay in the direction of Massaponax Church, about eight miles distant from Fredericksburg, on the Telegraph Road — a wide plank turnpike leading directly to Richmond. We had been informed by our spies and patrols that a Federal force of 8000 men, with the usual complement of artillery, under the command of Generals Hatch and Gibbon, was on an expedition to destroy the most important line of railway communication with our army, and burn the depots of supplies at Hanover Junction. Riding as usual with the advance-guard, I was the first to discover the hostile column when we had reached a point within half a mile of the Telegraph Road. I immediately gave the order to halt, and [68] rode back to give information of the enemy's presence to General Stuart, who made his dispositions with his accustomed celerity. The main body of the enemy had already passed the spot where the road along which we were moving intersected the Telegraph Road, and only their long waggontrain with its escort remained behind. Two regiments, with two pieces of artillery, were ordered to turn to the left in pursuit of the column; one regiment, the 3d Virginia, was ordered to attack the waggon-train; and one regiment, with the rest of the artillery, was kept in reserve. I joined in the attack on the waggon-train, and the surprise and confusion of the escort cannot be described, when with a yell the horsemen in grey dashed out of the dark wood, and the Yankees knew at once that the so-much-dreaded Stuart was again upon them. Many of the drivers endeavoured to turn back with their waggons and seek safety in the speed of their teams, while for a time the escort maintained a feeble defence; but the waggons were rapidly overtaken, the escort cut down, captured, or dispersed; and the whole of the heavily-loaded train, with ninety prisoners, fell into our hands-our own loss having been two men mortally wounded.

General Stuart now collected his whole force, except a single squadron left on picket at Massaponax Church, and pressed with all possible haste upon the main body of the enemy, who in the outset were totally surprised, and fled in disorderly rout before us for several miles. As soon as they discovered, however, that they had only cavalry and a few pieces of artillery against them, they made a stand, and [69] became in turn the assailants. Numerous batteries opened fire upon us; and their long lines of tirailleurs advanced in beautiful order. On this occasion I had a good laugh at General Stuart. Among other novelties in offensive warfare, the enemy employed against us in the fight one-pounder cannons, the balls of which being curiously shaped made a peculiar sound in their passage through the air. Just as the General and I had been placing two of our pieces in favourable position, and were riding nearer to the front, one of these exasperating little balls passed directly between us; and my brave General, whom many a time I had seen, amid the heaviest artillery-fire, perfectly indifferent to shot and shell hissing around him, now, as the new projectile whizzed past us with its unfamiliar music, made it the politest bow imaginable.

In this combat I also saw for the first time exploding rifle-balls used in action. They fell on all sides, bursting with a crackling noise in the trees and on the ground, without doing much execution. After a short but sharp contest, General Stuart gave orders for the retreat, which was conducted with his usual skill along by-paths through the woods; and our disappearance from the field was so sudden and complete, that the enemy could not possibly imagine what had become of their recent antagonists. I was myself sent to give the necessary advice to the squadron left on picket, with orders then to follow the command in the direction it had taken. Returning to join my companions, I was compelled to cross an open field over which the enemy were advancing, and saw at once that their first line of tirailleurs had been pushed forward so far, that for the length of 300 yards I must pass in front of them at a distance of not more than 150 paces. I immediately set my horse in rapid gallop; and though the bullets whistled around my head with every stride of the animal, I escaped unhurt, and soon overtook the General. [70]

The success of our expedition had indeed been brilliant. Besides the damage done to the enemy in killing and wounding many of their men, and in capturing 200 prisoners and a valuable waggon-train, we had defeated their plans, saved the railway and our supply depots from destruction, and so demoralised them, by making them feel that the vigilant and indefatigable Stuart was always in their rear, that they never organised another such raid from Fredericksburg. Late at night we again arrived at Bowling Green, where we encamped, and the next day returned to Hanover Court-house. The General, Captain Blackford, and myself, galloping ahead of the troops, reached headquarters late in the afternoon, but in time to pay a visit in the evening to the family at Dundee. Here we found Mrs Stuart and her children, and Mrs Blackford, who had arrived during our absence, and who remained as guests at the hospitable mansion for several weeks.

During the past week our army, principally Jackson's corps, had been moving along the Central Railway towards Gordonsville and Orange Court-house, as the new Federal commander, General Pope, had been concentrating a large army in the neighbourhood of Culpepper to try a new route in the Federal “On to Richmond.” The next day, after our arrival at headquarters, Stuart received a dispatch summoning him to meet Jackson at Gordonsville, to which place he went off alone by rail, leaving us to the enjoyment of an interval of repose.

It was a delightful period, filled up with visits at camp from the gentlemen of the region around, long evening rides with our lady friends, and pleasant reunions. In the mornings I amused myself with my revolver shooting the tremendous bull-frog of the swamps, nearly as large as a rabbit, the legs of which were esteemed a great delicacy by my American friends, and appeared every day upon our breakfast-table. I [71] ate them twice, and found the meat in flavour and appearance very similar to young chicken, but I could never overcome my early prejudice against them,--a little weakness for which I was often derided by my comrades.

An incident now happened to me annoyingly illustrative of the treachery and ingratitude of the negro character. My servant Scott came to me with an affecting story of the serious illness of his wife, which so excited my sympathy that I not only obtained permission for him to visit his suffering spouse, but supplied him liberally with money, the contributions of myself and companions, to pay the expenses of his journey. The rascal disappeared, carrying off with him the greater part of my wardrobe, and we never saw him again.

Our days of inaction were now drawing rapidly to an end. General Stuart, having taken a distinguished part in the battle of Cedar Run, where Jackson had utterly routed the advanced corps of Pope's army, came back with marching orders on the 15th. Our regiments were to be in motion early next morning, and the General and Staff were to overtake him in the afternoon by rail. We dined for the last time at Dundee, and with grateful hearts took leave of our kind friends. I need not describe the parting scene between General Stuart and his family. I will only say that his dear lady did not suffer me to quit the house until I had promised to watch over her husband in the hour of battle, and do all in my power to prevent him from rashly exposing himself to danger.

1 This Damascus blade, which will be frequently mentioned hereafter in my narrative, was a straight double-edged sword of tremendous size and excellent temper, which I had worn from the commencement of my military career in the Prussian Cuirassiers of the Guards. It was even better known in the Confederate army than myself; and many who were unable to pronounce my foreign name correctly used to speak of me as “the Prussian with the big sword.” Stuart wrote to me after the battle of Gettysburg, in which, being prostrated by wounds, I did not participate, referring to the operations of his cavalry, “My dear Von, I cannot tell you how much I missed you and your broad blade at Gettysburg.”

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