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Jackson at West Point.

I entered the Military Academy at West Point in June, 1842. A week afterwards a cadet sergeant passed, escorting a newly-arrived cadet to his quarters. The personal appearance of the stranger was so remarkable as to attract the attention of several of us, who were [310] standing near and chatting together. Burkett Fry, A. P. Hill, and George Pickett, all Virginians, and destined to be distinguished generals, made our group. The new cadet was clad in gray homespun, a waggoner's hat, and large, heavy brogans; weather-stained saddlebags were over his shoulders. His sturdy step, cold, bright gray eye, thin, firm lips, caused me say, ‘That fellow looks as if he had come to stay,’ and on the return of the sergeant I asked him who that cadet was. He replied: ‘Cadet Jackson, of Virginia.’ Whereupon I at once ascended to his room to show him my interest in him, a fellow-countryman in a strange land. He received my courteous advances in a manner so chilling that it caused me to regret having made them, and I rejoined my companions with criticisms brief and emphatic as to his intellectual endowments. Days and weeks went by, with no change in the ‘spap-shot’ estimate then imparted.

One evening, Fry and Hill and I were lolling upon our camp bedding, the evening police were going on, and ‘Cadet Jackson, from Virginia,’ was upon duty about our tent, when I, desirous again to be affable and playful with our countryman, lifted the tent wall, and addressed him with an air of authority, and mock sternness, ordering him to be more attentive to his duty, to remove those cigar stumps, and otherwise mind his business. His reply was a look so stern and angry as to let me know that he was doing that job. Whereupon, I let that tent wall drop and became intensely interested in my yellow-back novel. So soon as police was over I arose and girded my loins, saying I had made Cadet Jackson, of Virginia, angry, and must at once humble myself and explain that I was not really in command of that police detail. I found him at the guard tent, called him out, and said:

Mr. Jackson, I find that I made a mistake just now in speaking to you in a playful manner—not justified by our slight acquaintance. I regret that I did so.’

He replied, with his stony look, ‘That is perfectly satisfactory, sir.’ Whereupon I returned to my comrades, and informed them that, in my opinion, ‘Cadet Jackson, from Virginia, is a jackass,’ which verdict was unanimously concurred in; and we all with one accord began to array ourselves for the next duty in order, and thenceforward nobody in that tent ‘projected’ with that cadet until our four-years' course was ended, and we were emancipated from the military prison of West Point, for we all liked and respected him. [311]

After our encampment of two months was over we went into barracks and were arranged in sections alphabetically, and thus it was McClellan and I sat side by side; for a very brief space, though. Next week he went up till he became head, while I remained tutisimus in medio for four blessed years. I was very sorry to lose Mac. from my side, especially during recitations, for he used to tell me things, and was a great help; besides he was such a little bred and born gentleman, only fifteen years and seven months, while I-God save the mark—was twenty.


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