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Chapter 8:

  • Change of headquarters.
  • -- fighting resumed. -- camp life at “the Bower.” -- Pleasantries with Pleasanton. -- we lose and Recapture Martinsburg. -- Osculatory ovation at Shepherdstown. -- with a flag of truce into the enemy's lines. -- field-sports and Dramatic entertainments. -- new uniform coat for General Jackson.

General Stuart had meanwhile shifted his headquarters to a point exactly in rear of the centre of our outpost lines, and much nearer to Jackson than my own position at Charlestown, thus rendering my further detached duty unnecessary. Accordingly, on the morning of the 28th, orders reached me to join him at “The Bower,” a plantation eight miles from Martinsburg, and about ten from Charlestown. Two-thirds of our march thither had been already accomplished, and we were just entering the little village of Leetown, when a heavy cannonade was heard from the neighborhood we had left, and Stuart soon came galloping towards us. His orders now were that I should return with him at once to the scene of the conflict.

Riding at full speed, in an hour's time we reached the spot, where our troops were hard pressed by the far superior numbers of the foe. General Stuart immediately sent instructions [187] to Fitz Lee to come with all haste to his support, and determined upon trying to maintain his position until his reinforcements should arrive. Munford and his men had been fighting with their accustomed gallantry; but the Yankees receiving again and again fresh troops from Harper's Ferry, and their numerous batteries pouring upon us a most destructive fire, we were compelled to retreat and abandon Charlestown, which was instantly occupied by the enemy, who halted there, and did not seek to push their success farther. Their possession of the town, however, was of very short duration; for Fitz Lee suddenly appearing on their right flank at the same moment that we attacked them vigorously in front, they were now driven in turn to their stronghold of Harper's Ferry; and before nightfall we had regained our old lines and re-established our pickets. As a renewed attack on the morrow was not to be expected, General Stuart with his Staff and escort started at dusk for our new headquarters in the elysian fields of “The Bower,” of the beauty of which spot my comrades had given me such glowing accounts, that I waited with great impatience and curiosity the light of the morning, arriving there, as we did, after midnight in utter darkness.

When I arose from my grassy couch at sunrise on the 29th, I found, indeed, that the half had not been told me of “The Bower.” Our headquarters were situated on a hill beneath a grove of lofty umbrageous oaks of primitive growth, which extended, on the right, towards the large mansion-house, the thick brick walls of which, in the blush of the early sunlight, were just visible in little patches of red through the rich verdure of the embosoming garden. At the foot of this hill, skirting a main road to which the slope was smooth and gradual, ran the bright little river Opequan, its limpid waters breaking through and tumbling over cliffs and rocks, thus forming a cascade of considerable height, with rainbows in [188] its spray as the sun changed every falling drop into a ruby or a diamond. This lovely entourage was now enlivened and diversified by the white tents of our encampment, the General's, with its fluttering battle-flag, in the centre, by the smoke of the camp-fires where the negroes were busily engaged in cooking breakfasts, by the picturesque groups of officers and men who were strolling about or cleaning their arms, and by the untethered horses and mules which were quietly grazing all over the ground. One may be pardoned some extravagance of language in attempting to describe a scene which brought a feeling of thankful happiness to the soldier, weary of the excitement, the toil, the hardships, and the anguish of war. We had now plenty of food for our exhausted animals, which had undergone so much fatigue and privation, and our own commissariat was far more abundant than it had been for many weeks. The long mess-table, at which we dined together in the open air, was loaded with substantials that seemed dainties and luxuries to us, who often for days together had gone without food, and at best could secure only a meagre repast.

The plantation of “The Bower” had been long in the possession of the family of Dandridge, one member of which, more than a century ago, was the pretty widow Martha Custis, nee Dandridge, afterwards the wife of George Washington, whose beauty and amiability have been preserved in history and fiction, who was delineated by the pencil of Stuart in one generation, and the pen of Thackeray in another. Nowhere, perhaps, in the wide limits of the State, could one have formed a better idea of the refined manners and profuse hospitable life of dear old Virginia, and before the breaking-out of the war “The Bower” had rarely been without its guests. The proprietor at the time I knew the place was a kind-hearted intelligent gentleman of fifty or thereabouts, whose charming wife retained, in a remarkable [189] degree for America, the personal attractiveness of her youthful bloom. The rest of the numerous family consisted of grown and growing sons and daughters and nieces. Of the boys, three were in the army fighting bravely for cause and country. The girls, some of whom were exceedingly handsome, and all of whom were pleasing and accomplished, remained beneath the rooftree of the old homestead. With these amiable people I soon contracted a very intimate friendship, which time nor distance can ever weaken.

Frequently, when the mocha, of which we had captured a large supply from the enemy, was smoking invitingly on our breakfast-table, we had the pleasure of greeting the proprietor as a welcome guest at our morning meal at headquarters; later in the day a lady's skirt might even be seen in the streets of our encampment; but regularly every night we proceeded with our band to the house, where dancing was kept up till a late hour. The musical director of our band was a private of one of our regiments, whom Stuart had detached to his military family for his musical talent alone, Bob Sweeney, a brother of the celebrated banjo-player, Joe Sweeney, forerunner of all the Christy's;--Bob Sweeney, who also played this favourite instrument of the family with amazing cleverness; who knew sentimental, bibulous, martial, nautical, comic songs out of number; who was carried about with him by the General everywhere; who will have a conspicuous place in some of our later adventures; and who, after having safely passed through many accidents of war, died at last of small-pox, regretted by everybody, but most of all by “Jeb. Stuart.” Bob was assisted by two of our couriers who played the violin, musicians of inferior merit; but his chief reliance was in Mulatto Bob, Stuart's servant, who worked the bones with the most surprising and extraordinary agility, and became so excited that both head and feet were in constant employment, and his body twisted about so rapidly and [190] curiously that one could not help fearing that he would dislocate his limbs and fly to pieces in the midst of the break-down. General Stuart was himself always the gayest and noisiest of the party, starting usually at the close of the festivity the famous song-

If you want to have a good time,
Join in the cavalry,
Join in the cavalry, &c.-

the whole of the excited company, young and old, uniting in the chorus, the last notes of which sounded far through the still air of the night as we walked back to our tents. General Stuart did not like it at all if any one of his Staff officers withdrew himself from these innocent merry-makings, after the fatigues of the day, to seek an early rest, and would always rouse him from his slumbers to take part in the revelry.

On the 29th Stuart turned over to my care and attention a Federal deserter, who pretended to have been an officer of Engineers in the Prussian army, and professed a competent knowledge of topography, but who turned out to be a great humbug, of whom I got rid as soon as possible. I have recently seen in the Northern newspapers that this fellow was used as a witness for the Federal Government in the great conspiracy trial at Washington.

I had now taken up my quarters in the same tent with my comrade, Captain Blackford, who had a wonderful talent for making himself comfortable; and in a short time we had so improved our habitat that is was quite a model establishment. My former tent (one of the so-called dog-tents), which was very narrow and contracted, insomuch that when I lay in it at full length either my head or my feet must be exposed to the night air and the dews, I turned over to our two negroes [191] William and Gilbert, who enlarged it greatly, and it now stood immediately in the rear of our own.

The first day of October brought a sudden change in our life of happy quietude and social enjoyment. At an early hour we received a report from our pickets near Shepherdstown that the enemy were showing themselves in large numbers on the opposite bank of the Potomac, to which about noon succeeded the intelligence that several brigades of Federal cavalry under General Pleasanton had crossed the river, driven in our pickets, and were rapidly advancing upon Martinsburg. This put us at once in the saddle, and we proceeded at full gallop to the headquarters of Colonel William H. F Lee (son of General Robert E. Lee), who was temporarily in command of the brigade of his cousin Fitz Lee, this officer having a few days before received a kick on the leg from a malicious mule, which disabled him for a considerable time. Colonel Lee had already hastened towards Martinsburg, whither we followed him, and where General Stuart found, to his intense disgust, that the place had been abandoned,--a fact first made apparent by the whizzing bullets of the Yankee sharpshooters on approaching the outskirts of the town. Colonel Lee had retired a short distance upon the turnpike leading to Winchester; General Hampton with his brigade rested on the road leading to Hainesville, both commands still keeping up a connection with each other. General Stuart sent at once for the brigade commanders, and, expressing his great dissatisfaction, said, “Gentlemen, this thing will not do; I will give you twenty minutes, within which time the town must be again in our possession.” Lee's brigade was ordered to open the attack in front, supported by a corresponding movement of Hampton's command on the enemy's right flank. Our brave horsemen, who were happy to have their bold commander with them again, received us as we galloped up to [192] their lines with tremendous cheers, which struck terror into the hearts of the Federals.

Our column of attack (column of platoons, as the road leading into Martinsburg, being lined on either side by stone walls, rendered the formation in line impossible) was soon formed, the sabres leapt rattling from their scabbards, and with a loud yell the mighty body of many hundred horsemen dashed forward at a full gallop down the turnpike. Hampton starting simultaneously on the Hainesville road, and our horse-artillery opening a spirited fire over our heads, the effect was too much for the Yankees, who turned in rapid flight in the direction of Shepherdstown.

I was the first of our command to enter Martinsburg, but determinedly as I spurred my horse, I arrived there only in time to see the last of the blue-jackets disappearing on the opposite side of the village. Hampton now received orders to occupy Martinsburg and gradually re-establish his pickets, Lee's brigade continuing the pursuit, followed by Pelham with four of his guns, which he posted on a hill a mile beyond the town, and opened with them a rapid and very effective fire upon the dense columns of the enemy.

Stuart would have given a great deal to capture the commander of the Federal horse and annihilate his command. He had been with General Pleasanton at West Point, and they had there been bitter enemies. Pleasanton had annoyed Stuart greatly in the olden days by his foppish vanity, and in the latter days by his dash and enterprise. But this was not to be. The Yankees in their flight, recovering from their panic, often turned round and showed determined fight; and their numerous horse-artillery, which was admirably served, by its destructive fire covered excellently well their retreat. The increasing darkness also interfered much with the celerity of our movements; but the indefatigable Stuart, leading everywhere in person, carried his men forward again [193] and again, driving the enemy through Shepherdstown into the waves of the Potomac. The rear-guard of the Federals was, by a determined attack at the last moment, completely dispersed; but, protected by the intense darkness of the night, most of the men made their escape, and only thirty prisoners fell into our hands. But the killed and wounded of the Federals must have reached a large figure.

On our return through Shepherdstown, we stopped for an hour at the house of a lady, a friend of General Stuart, Mrs L., who had lost her husband, one of his former classmates, at the first battle of Manassas. To her and her sisters I was presented; at a later period I became well acquainted with them. The General's presence was no sooner known in the village than a mob of young and pretty girls collected at Mrs L.‘s house, all very much excited — to such an extent, indeed, that the General's uniform was in a few minutes entirely shorn of its buttons, taken as souvenirs; and if he had given as many locks of his hair as were asked for, our commander would soon have been totally bald. Stuart suffered all this very gracefully, with the greater resignation as every one of these patriotic young ladies gave him a kiss as tribute and reward. This latter favour was unhappily not extended to the Staff-officers, and it may be readily imagined that it was tantalising for us to look on and not take part in the pleasant ceremony. We arrived at “The Bower” at a late hour of the night, but found our kind host yet awake, the excitement and anxiety of the day having prevented him from retiring. Here we obtained compensation for the loss of our dinner in an abundant supply of cold meat, and cut into a capital Virginia ham with a greater amount of destruction than we had done during the day into the ranks of the enemy.

The following day there came some important documents and letters from General R. E. Lee to be transmitted to General McClellan, and I had the honour to be selected by [194] our commander-in-chief as the bearer of them into the Federal lines. To make a favourable impression upon “our friends the enemy,” I fitted myself out as handsomely as the very seedy condition of my wardrobe would allow; and as all my own horses were, more or less, broken-down, I borrowed a high-stepping, fine-limbed chestnut from one of my comrades of the Staff for the occasion. General Stuart took advantage of the opportunity to send under my charge a batch of prisoners for exchange, and, intrusting me with some private messages to McClellan, bade me proceed as far as possible into the enemy's lines, and employ all my diplomacy to obtain a large insight into his positions — to as great an extent, at least, as was consistent with the proprieties of my mission. About ten o'clock in the morning, my fifty or sixty Yankee prisoners were turned over to me by Colonel W. H. F Lee at his camp, and at noon I reached the Potomac near Shepherdstown, escorted by a cavalcade of our officers, who were interested in accompanying me as far as the river with my flag of truce. This imposing ensign consisted of a white pocket-handkerchief on a long pole, and was borne most loftily by one of our couriers, a handsome martial-looking fellow, who crossed the river with it, and soon brought me the permission to come to the opposite shore. I was greatly amused, during our passage of the ford, by the bitter complaints of the Yankee prisoners, that they were forced to wade through the cold waters of the Potomac, which wet them from head to foot. I answered them, that I was not myself unmoved by the cruel compulsion, and that I should be yet more deeply affected by it, had not all the boats along the river been seized and burned by their army. On the Maryland shore I was received by a major, who was in command of the outposts at this part of the Federal lines, who handed me his proper written acknowledgment for the prisoners, and said, that as for the papers and documents I [195] might deliver them to him, and he would forward them at once. This, of course, I politely declined, giving him to understand that despatches of such importance I could only deliver to General McClellan, or, should this be impossible, to some other general of his army; and adding, that as I supposed General Pleasanton to be supreme in command of this portion of the lines, I should be glad to be conducted to him. The Major here betrayed some embarrassment, and spoke of impossibilities, &c., but at last concluded to send off a mounted officer for further instructions.

Meanwhile all the Yankee soldiers who were not on duty came running towards me, impelled by curiosity to see the “great big rebel officer,” in such numbers that the Major was compelled to establish a cordon of sentries around me to keep them at a respectful distance. The only camp-stool that could be produced having been politely offered me for a seat, I soon found myself engaged in a lively and pleasant conversation with a group of Federal officers. Upon one matter only that was brought into the discourse we were unable to agree. They claimed the battle of Sharpsburg as a brilliant victory for their arms. I could not see it in that light.

At length, after a weary time of waiting, came the answer to the Major's message that I might proceed; and a goodlooking young cavalry officer was reported to me as guide and protector. Eager to anticipate a disagreeable and awkward formality, I now asked to be blindfolded, but this was politely waived. Starting from the ford, I took a tall and singularly shaped pine-tree, which reared itself far above the tops of its neighbours, as a landmark, and with this constantly in sight, it was not difficult for me to discover that I was purposely carried about in a circle, up hill and down dale, through dense woods and vast encampments of troops. The Federal army at this time certainly appeared to the greatest advantage in its camps. Everywhere was observable [196] the most beautiful order. The soldiers were well dressed, and had the look of being well fed; their arms were in excellent condition; and the whole of their cantonments spoke of a high degree of military discipline, the absence of which I had so often regretted in our own bivouacs.

My companion proved to be a very pleasant young gentleman but inexperienced officer, who, during a ride of eight miles, which brought us to somebody's headquarters, voluntarily gave me much information that he should have kept to himself. Here I saw at a glance a considerable display of the pomp and circumstance of war. What a contrast it presented to the headquarters of our general officers, especially to the simple encampment of our great commander-in-chief, who, with his Staff and escort, occupied only a few small tents, scarcely to be distinguished from the tent of a lieutenant! Here a little town of canvass surrounded the magnificent marquee of the General, from which floated the stars and stripes in a reckless extravagance of bunting; numerous sentries were pacing their beats; mounted officers, resplendent with bullion, galloped to and fro; and two regiments of Zouaves in their gaudy uniforms were drawn up for parade.

I had already found out that this was General Fitzjohn Porter's headquarters, and it was evident enough that some very great personage was expected there. Adjoining the General's marquee there had been erected a beautiful pavilion, under which was stretched out a long table laden with luxuries of every description, bottles of champagne in silver ice-coolers, a profusion of delicious fruit, and immense bouquets of flowers. A balloon (I have mentioned before that this means of observation was much in use with the Federal army) was rising every few minutes to the height of several hundred feet, the car, secured by ropes, filled with officers, who, with all kinds of glasses, were looking out narrowly in the direction of Harper's Ferry. I was not mistaken in my [197] conjectures. As I afterwards learned, no less a dignitary than President Lincoln was momentarily looked for. Escorted by General McClellan, the President had already inspected a great portion of the Federal army of the Potomac; and as this was to be kept a secret, my visit was necessarily to be a short one.

During the time my young companion was announcing my presence to General Porter, I directed my eye towards the river, and there stood my pine-tree, not more than three miles distant in a straight line, plainly in view.

From General Porter's tent I could now hear the sound of voices in excited conversation; indeed, I caught several very angry expressions before my guide returned with a flushed face, in which one could read plainly the reprimand that had been given him, and desired me to enter. General Porter, as he rose to receive me, I found to be a man of rather above the middle height, with a frank and agreeable face, the lower part of which was covered with a luxuriant black beard, and in his whole bearing and appearance the soldier. The floor of his ample tent was carpeted, easy-chairs and a couch offered their accommodations, and his headquarters had all the comfort of a well-furnished drawing-room. After a brief interchange of salutations, ensued the following colloquy:--

Federal General.-“You will allow me to express my regret that you have been brought here, and to say that a grave fault has been committed in your coming.”

Confederate Major.--“General, I have been long enough a soldier to know that a grave mistake has been committed, but I also know that the fault is not on my side.”

Fed. Gen.-“You are right — I ask your pardon. But why did you inquire for General Pleasanton, and what in the world induced you to suppose that he was in command here? I do not myself know where General Pleasanton is-at this moment he may be on your side of the Potomac.” [198]

Confed. Major.-“Where General Pleasanton is to-day I am certainly not able to tell; but as I had the pleasure of seeing him with my own eyes last night returning with considerable haste to this side of the river, I had the right to suppose that he was here.”

Fed. Gen. (laughing).-“I can have no objection to your conjecture. When do you think to join General Stuart again?”

Confed. Major.-“Should I ride all night, I may hope to reach him some time to-morrow morning.” (I was dancing at half-past 10 o'clock that same night at “The Bower.” )

Fed. Gen. (again laughing).-“You seem to enjoy riding at night.”

Confed. Major.-“Very much, at this delightful season of the year.”

The General now very courteously offered me some refreshments, which I declined, saving and excepting a single glass of brandy-and-water. I then delivered my despatches, pocketed my receipt for them, and took leave of a man whom I could not help admiring for his amenity of manners and high soldierly bearing. General Fitzjohn Porter proved to be too much of the gentleman for the Northern Government. He was very soon afterwards dismissed from the service for faults alleged to have been committed during Pope's campaigns, but I have pleasure in bearing my testimony (that of an enemy) to his qualities as a gallant soldier and an excellent fighter.

I availed myself of this opportunity of writing from the tent of the Adjutant-General a private note to Major Von R., a former brother officer of mine in the Prussian army, who was serving on McClellan's Staff, looking to an interview, possibly under similar circumstances as had now brought me into the Federal lines, which interview, however, never took place. Starting now upon my return, I could not help expressing to my escort how very much I regretted he should have incurred [199] the displeasure of his general by conducting me to him. He had the amazing effrontery to deny that this was the case; but I knew better. Soon afterwards he offered me a cigar, which I thankfully accepted, and, finding it excellent, praised very highly; whereupon he said, that having a large supply of them, he should be only too happy if I would consent to take a few boxes as a present, adding that he believed we were entirely cut off from luxuries of this kind. I thanked him cordially, but declined his friendly proposal, assuring him that he was altogether mistaken as to this matter, inasmuch as the steamers that were constantly running the blockade kept us abundantly provided with havannas. This was not strictly true, and I made the little sacrifice to pride with an almost broken heart.

We had the same long roundabout ride on our return, and it was late in the evening when we arrived on the bank of the Potomac, through whose waters I was conducted half-way by my friendly foe, who, as we shook hands at parting, regretted that we were enemies to each other, and said that he hoped we should meet again, “when this cruel war was over,” under happier circumstances. I thanked him for his kindly feeling, and begged him to take a lesson from me as a farewell offering. Showing him my pine-tree on the Maryland shore which had served me as landmark, I said to him-“My young friend, General Fitzjohn Porter's headquarters in a straight line are not three miles from that tree-he is in command of your right wing: to deceive me, you have conducted me all around the country, but I have always known where I was, and I have passed three divisions of your army; moreover, an important personage is every moment expected at General Porter's tent, and this personage is no other than President Lincoln.” My courteous adversary laughed heartily at this, and said, “Well, I did not believe that in any other nation of the world there was a man who could [200] fool a Yankee; you have shown me the contrary, and I accept the lesson.” We then shook hands for the last time, and returned to our respective lines.

Darkness had already set in as I reached Shepherdstown; nevertheless I stopped for a short time at the house of Mrs L., where the recital of my adventures greatly interested a crowd of young ladies. It was half-past 10 o'clock when I arrived again at “The Bower,” from the brightly illuminated windows of which there came the merry sound of music and the dance. General Stuart listened with great amusement and satisfaction to my report and the particulars of my interview with General Porter; and upon my concluding, said, “My dear Von” (one of his many forms of salutation to me), “you shall have thirty minutes dancing, and then a fresh horse shall be saddled for you, and you must be off at once to make your reports to Generals Jackson and Lee.” I used my thirty minutes well, and had just taken my place opposite a very pretty girl in a Virginia reel, when J. E. B. suddenly usurped it, saying, “Be off, my dear fellow; I will do your duty here.” And he did, what time I was galloping through the woods in the darkness of the night.

One o'clock had passed when, after a ride of fourteen miles, I reached Jackson's headquarters, where everybody was fast asleep. The lightest touch of my hand awoke old Stonewall, and, recognising my voice, he cried out, “Ah! there you are, my dear Major; you must bring us important news from the Yankees.” I replied that I did, but that fortunately I had nothing alarming to report. Then, availing myself of the General's kind invitation, I stretched myself on the blanket by his side and quietly told my story, to which he listened attentively, interrupting me several times in his peculiar way with “Good, good!” which was always the highest expression of his satisfaction. Thanking me much for my report, he said that he would himself ride over to General [201] Lee's headquarters at daybreak, and thus save me the ride there for the present; that some time during the day I could proceed to Falling Waters, but above all things he desired my immediate return to Stuart, that he might be summoned to an interview at General R. E. Lee's. The sun had just peeped above the eastern horizon as I galloped up the hill to the tent of General Stuart, whom I had great difficulty in rousing from his slumbers. The General proposed to me to ride back with him as soon as his horse was saddled, but this I respectfully declined, saying that I desired first to get the few hours' sleep which I was under the impression I had richly deserved.

The day was already far advanced, when, after long and ineffectual efforts on the part of my negro William to bring me into a waking condition, I was at last stirred to consciousness by the aroma of my morning cup of coffee. The rich sunlight of October lay full over the landscape, as, refreshed by a hearty breakfast, I again rode along the highway towards Winchester. General Lee's headquarters were exactly in the centre of our army in its encampment, about midway between Bunker Hill and Winchester, at a little place called Falling Waters. On either side of the turnpike stretched for miles the camps of our troops, who plainly showed, in their healthy appearance and by their jokes and songs, how soon they had forgotten the fatigues and hardships of the recent campaign. I reached General Lee's tents in the afternoon, and was cordially greeted by my comrades, the officers of his Staff, whom I had not seen since the battle of Sharpsburg. The Commander-in-Chief himself received me at once with his invariable kindness, and heard my report of yesterday's proceedings with the liveliest interest.

The Quartermaster of the army, Colonel Corley, having received a large supply of common English boots of yellow leather for officers and men, I seized the opportunity of [202] purchasing a pair for the very moderate sum of sixteen dollars, and threw them across the pommel of my saddle, where they seemed almost as huge as the seven-league boots of the pantomime. Just as I was returning home I had the good fortune to encounter Lieutenant Channing Price, of our Staff, who had come to headquarters on a special bootmission of his own, and we enjoyed a most delightful ride back to “The Bower” through the woods, then gay with autumnal tinges.

For days afterwards there was perfect quiet at our headquarters. No cannonade shook the air, and the lazy, listless life we led was in harmony with the serenity of the season, which charmed us with the repose and loveliness of the American Fall. The wooded hills and rich fields around “The Bower” abounded in game-partridges, pheasants, wild turkeys, hares, and grey squirrels-so that I could indulge to the fullest extent my passion for sport. Unfortunately for my bag, my ambition led me to direct my attention chiefly to the wild turkey, which is by no means so easy to kill as I had imagined. It differs very much from the domestic turkey, having a taller and slighter frame, with plumage of varied tints from a rich green to a darkish brown. These birds live in flocks of from six to eight, or even more where several families unite. The hen lays her eggs during the month of April in the nest, which is usually built in the open fields, and the young are fully grown abut the end of October, at which time they are quite fat from the abundant nourishment they have derived from the fields of Indian corn. The meat is much darker and of more decided flavour than that of the domestic turkey. The best way of getting a shot at them in the autumn is to call them, but a very good way is to hunt them with dogs, which must be trained for the purpose, and which, as soon as a flock has been started, disperse it and pursue the single birds so long and with such loud barking that they fly [203] in affright to the tree, where the sportsman finds it a simple matter to bring them down. They fly only when pressed in this manner or when suddenly driven out of a thicket, but they run with the celerity of the greyhound, and are extremely wary and cunning. If in Europe one uses the proverb “As stupid as a turkey,” in America one says “As smart as a wild gobbler.” The American pheasant is a fine bird, about the size of the English grouse, but the meat is far superior, and I thought it the best game I had ever eaten. The Virginia hare is of very small size, and resembles the European rabbit in habits and appearance. It is an easy prey for any fast pointer dog, but the meat is of very inferior quality.

Very near “The Bower,” on the opposite side of the Opequan, I had discovered a charming little valley, through which ran a sparkling rivulet, a tributary of the larger stream. This valley was nearly two miles in length, with a breadth of from fifty to one hundred yards, and was enclosed by high rocky cliffs, covered with a dense growth of oaks and pines. In the ravine the richest grass grew abundantly, and alternated with little patches of thick undergrowth and groups of paw-paw trees, the banana-like fruit of which was just ripening. On the immediate banks of the creek gigantic tulip-poplar, hickory, and walnut trees rose to an immense height, interlacing their branches so as to form a leafy arch over the sequestered glen. Here I found always a large quantity of game, especially the wild turkey, which came at sunrise and at dusk for water; and here I often directed my steps, or rather the steps of my pretty grey mule “Kitt.” This very small but exceedingly strong animal I used always for my shooting excursions, and I was often laughed at by my comrades as I made my appearance upon her with my legs dangling nearly to the ground. But “Kitt” carried me excellently well for all that, and, with my weight of fifteen stone ten, took all the ordinary fences and ditches with the greatest [204] ease. She stood perfectly quiet when I shot from her back, and I could throw the reins on her neck and go off for hours together, with the assurance that on my return she would be found grazing or lying down composedly at the spot where I had left her. Sometimes Bob Sweeney, the banjo-player, accompanied me on my expeditions with the fowling-piece. Bob had the good sense to confine his efforts to the grey squirrels and the partridges, of which he killed large numbers, while I was running my legs off after the larger game. Nevertheless I enjoyed even my unsuccessful turkey-hunting very much, and was frequently rewarded for my trouble by bagging a pheasant or a hare. But we had other diversions during this period of military inactivity. Pelham and I had got hold of a yellow-painted army waggon, captured from the Yankees, to which we hitched our horses and drove about all over the country, though the rapid motion of the vehicle with its hard springs over the rough rocky roads nearly shook our souls out of our bodies.

At headquarters we had some very agreeable guests, among whom were Colonel Bradley T. Johnston, and an intimate friend of General Stuart and myself, Colonel Brien, who had formerly commanded the 1st Virginia Cavalry, and had resigned his commission in consequence of his failing health. Every evening before starting for the mansion-house we all assembled-guests, officers, couriers, and negroes-around a roaring wood-fire in the centre of our encampment, where Sweeney, with his banjo, gave us selections from his repertoire, which were followed by a fine quartette by some of our soldiers, who had excellent voices, the al fresco concert always concluding with the famous chorus of “Join in the cavalry” already mentioned, which was much more noisy than melodious. But every evening the negroes would ask for the lively measures of a jig or a breakdown — a request invariably granted; and then these darkies danced within the [205] circle of spectators like dervishes or lunatics — the spectators themselves applauding to the echo.

On the 7th, a grand ball was to take place at “The Bower,” to which Mr D. had invited families from Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, and Charlestown, and in the success of which we all felt a great interest. As an exceptional bit of fun, Colonel Brien and I had secretly prepared a little pantomime, “The Pennsylvania farmer and his wife,” in which the Colonel was to personate the farmer and I the spouse. Accordingly, when the guests had all assembled and the ball was quite en train, the immense couple entered the brilliantly lighted apartment-Brien enveloped in an ample greatcoat, which had been stuffed with pillows until the form of the wearer had assumed the most enormous proportions; I dressed in an old white ball-dress of Mrs D.‘s that had been enlarged in every direction, and sweetly ornamented with half-a-bushel of artificial flowers in my hair. Our success greatly outran our expectations. Stuart, exploding with laughter, scrutinised me closely on all sides, scarcely crediting the fact that within that tall bundle of feminine habiliments dwelt the soul of his Chief of Staff. Again and again we were made to repeat our little play in dumb show, until, getting tired of it and wishing to put a stop to it, I gracefully fainted away and was carried from the room by Brien and three or four assistants, amid the wild applause of the company, who insisted on a repetition of the fainting scene. When, in a few moments, I made my appearance in uniform, the laughter and applause recommenced, and Stuart, throwing his arms around my neck in a burlesque of pathos, said, “My dear old Von, if I could ever forget you as I know you on the field of battle, your appearance as a woman would never fade from my memory.” So the joyous night went on with dancing and merriment, until the sun [206] stole in at the windows, and the reveille sounding from camp reminded us that the hour of separation had arrived.

From a long rest, after the dissipations of the past night, I was roused about noon by General Stuart, with orders to ride, upon some little matters of duty, to the camp of General Jackson. I was also honoured with the pleasing mission of presenting to old Stonewall, as a slight token of Stuart's high regard, a new and very “stunning” uniform coat, which had just arrived from the hands of a Richmond tailor. The garment, neatly wrapped up, was borne on the pommel of his saddle by one of our couriers who accompanied me; and starting at once I reached the simple tent of our great general just in time for dinner. I found him in his old weather-stained coat, from which all the buttons had been clipped long since by the fair hands of patriotic ladies, and which, from exposure to sun and rain and powder-smoke, and by reason of many rents and patches, was in a very unseemly condition. When I had despatched more important matters, I produced General Stuart's present, in all its magnificence of gilt buttons and sheeny facings and gold lace, and I was heartily amused at the modest confusion with which the hero of many battles regarded the fine uniform from many points of view, scarcely daring to touch it, and at the quiet way in which, at last, he folded it up carefully, and deposited it in his postmanteau, saying to me, “Give Stuart my best thanks, my dear Majorthe coat is much too handsome for me, but I shall take the best care of it, and shall prize it highly as a souvenir. And now let us have some dinner.” But I protested energetically against this summary disposition of the matter of the coat, deeming my mission, indeed, but half executed, and remarked that Stuart would certainly ask me how the uniform fitted its owner, and that I should, therefore, take it as a personal favour if he would put it on. To this he readily assented with a smile, and having donned the garment, he escorted me [207] outside the tent to the table where dinner had been served in the open air. The whole of the Staff were in a perfect ecstasy at their chief's brilliant appearance, and the old negro servant, who was bearing the roast-turkey from the fire to the board, stopped in mid-career with a most bewildered expression, and gazed in wonderment at his master as if he had been transfigured before him. Meanwhile, the rumour of the change ran like electricity through the neighbouring camps, and the soldiers came running by hundreds to the spot, desirous of seeing their beloved Stonewall in his new attire; and the first wearing of a fresh robe by Louis XIV., at whose morning toilet all the world was accustomed to assemble, never created half the sensation at Versailles, that was made in the woods of Virginia by the investment of Jackson in this new regulation uniform.

Reaching our camp again in the evening, I was informed by General Stuart that he was to start the next day with a portion of his cavalry on an extended military expedition, and that, much as he regretted being constrained to leave me behind, it was yet necessary that I should remain, to fill his place in his absence, to act for him in case of emergency, and to keep up frequent communications with General Lee. With how much pain and discontent I received this information, I do not care to say; but I had profited too much by my experience in that excellent school of military discipline, the Prussian army, to make any remonstrance.

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