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[499] saw at once it was their mess-room; then tried right-hand door, found it locked; sent two men to watch in the rear of the house.

The rest of the party kept watch, while the Captain and I went up the stairs. (How the dogs did bark over the way about this time!) We went into an apartment on the landing, and were lighting a match, when we heard the door below slam violently, amid the crashing of glass. I said: “Captain, there's a row below; we must fight or go to Richmond!” We rushed down stairs, (a pretty good load of excitement on, as you may imagine;) coxswain told me a man had jumped out of the window, and was making off! I started to run back of the house to head him off, when I heard sounds of struggling in another room back — went in, and found the Captain had a fellow by the arm — revolver close to his head. “One word and you die!” said our Captain. This prisoner was in his drawers; two beds in the room, and one man had escaped. We asked prisoner if he was the General. He replied, “No; the General went to Wilmington this morning;” that he was “Captain Kelley, of the Engineer Corps, and on the staff of the General;” that “the officer who had escaped was Adjutant-General Hardeman,” etc. Captain ordered him to dress himself without delay, and prepare to go with us. He (Captain Kelley) was terribly excited, and exclaimed: “What, you take me, surrounded by my own troops! For God's sake, who are you!” Up went the pistol to his head, and on went his clothes — quick was our play. He could not believe we were from the fleet outside. My feet were wet and cold; the sight of a fine red blanket on the Adjutant-General's bed was too much for me; I took it as a memento and comforter. We ran Captain Kelley down to the boats, expecting every moment to hear the alarm, and to be surrounded or attacked: but luck was with us. We shoved off with our prisoners--(the Captain and two contrabands)--all right so far.

Now to get by the forts. Kelley said “we never could do it — would be blown out of the water,” etc. We pulled about twenty minutes down the river, when the enemy commenced making their night signals. Gracious! how the lights were flashing from all points, above and below us. Kelley understood these signals, of course; said they had telegraphed to the forts--“The enemy inside in boats.” We pulled along slowly; just about this time the moon was obscured by a thick bank of clouds — now was our time. If ever I saw boats jump, 'twas then; every man knew his danger, but was cool. How grim old Fort Caswell loomed up as we passed her! We knew that a thousand eyes were watching the river for us; but, thank God! we got by undiscovered, and got on board our good ship by four o'clock A. M., all safe.

We were much disappointed at finding the General “not at home;” we would surely have had him. Had not the Adjutant-General escaped, we would have paid a quiet visit to several other houses in Smithville, and also intended to spike a four-gun battery which lay very handy to that vicinity.

Next morning I went over in charge of a flag-of-truce boat, to arrange affairs with the commandant of Fort Caswell, (Colonel Jones,) so as to get the effects of Captain Kelley; landed on the beach under guns of the Fort. Colonel Jones and several of his officers were there to receive me. I introduced myself, and at once made known the object of the flag of truce, etc. I was obliged to wait there until they could send to Smithville for Captain Kelley's clothes, etc., etc. At first Colonel Jones was very reserved in his manner, and of course I was on my dignity as well. I could see that they felt a good deal mortified at our success. At last Colonel Jones (by the by, he is from Virginia — was a captain in the regular army when the war broke out) remarked: “Sir, you did a brave and gallant thing last night, and deserve great credit not only for the plan, but for the cool and daring manner in which it was executed. We know your object was to get our General, but, thank God! he was gone,” etc., etc. After this they became quite sociable. The Colonel said he much regretted he could not invite me into the Fort; but said he: “You have already seen more than I wish you had.” Refreshments were brought on, and we had a very pleasant chat. Adjutant-General Hardeman, who was there, (I told him I had his blanket, and the circumstances connected with my taking it,) laughingly said that any body who could think of being cold at such a time, etc., deserved an admiral's commission. The Colonel said that the sleepy sentries would be shot, and that some of the officers would be hauled over for negligence. He was surprised when I told him how many there were of our party. I told him “we were few but very select,” etc.

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