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Facetiae of the camp: souvenirs of a C. S. Officer.


Nothing is more tiresome than a “Collection of anecdotes;” nothing more wearying than the task of gathering them from the four winds.

In the memory of every human being, however, linger many “trifling incidents” which he is loth to have completely disappear from the sum of things. Unrecorded they are forgottenrecorded they live. They may not be “important,” but they are characteristic. They were witnessed by the narrator; hence he writes or tells them with an interest infinitely greater than he feels in repeating what he has read, or has heard passing from mouth to mouth. For him the personages live, the localities exist; the real surroundings frame the picture, however valueless it may appear. If therefore, worthy reader, the following trivia seem dull to you, it is because you did not “know the parties,” as the writer did. Turn the page if they weary you-but perhaps you will laugh. They are “trifles,” it is true; but then life is half made up of trifles — is it not?

General Fitz Lee, one day in the fall of 1863, sent a courier up from the Lower Rappahannock, to ask General Stuart why General Pleasanton of the U. S. Army “had been sent to Georgia?” --a dispatch by signal from corps headquarters having communicated that intelligence.

Grand tableau when the affair was explained! [300]

General Stuart had signalled: “Meade's Headquarters are at Wallack's, and Pleasanton's at Cumberland George's” --names of persons residing near Culpeper Court-house.

The signal flags had said: “Meade's headquarters are at Wallack's, and Pleasanton's at Cumberland Georgia!”


In November, 1863, Lieutenant — was in an old deserted mansion near Culpeper Court-house, with some prisoners confined in the upper rooms; the enemy not being far distant. While waiting, a blaze shot up from a fire which some soldiers had kindled near, and threw the shadow of the Lieutenant on the wall. Thinking the shadow was a human being he called out:

Halt! there!

No reply from the intruder.

“Answer, or I fire!”

The same silence-when the Lieutenant drew a pistol from his belt. The shadow did the same. The pistol was levelled: the opposing weapon performed the same manoeuvre. The Lieutenant thereupon was about to draw trigger, when one of his men called out:

Why law! Lieutenant, it ain't nothin‘ but your own shadow!

Immense enjoyment in camp, of this historic occurrence. Colonel — , our gay visitor, drew a sketch of the scene, appending to it the words:

Now by the Apostle Paul: shadows to-night
Have struck more terror to the soul of--
Than could the substance of ten thousand soldiers
Armed all in proof and led by shallow Buford!


Captain F-- was the best of good fellows, and the most amiable of signal officers. He was visiting his signal posts near Culpeper one day, when an infantry-man, clad in a “butternut” [301] costume lounged up, and looked on with the deepest interest while the man on duty was “flopping” away right and left with his flag. Butternut continued to gaze with ardour upon the movements of the signal-man's flag; then he suddenly drawled out in a tone of affectionate interest:

I sa-a-y, str-a-nger! Are the fli-ies a pestering of you?


In 1863 the enemy caught an old countryman near Madison Court-house, and informed him that he must do one of two things-either take the oath of allegiance to the United States Government or prepare to be buried alive. He declined taking the oath, when his captors deliberately proceeded in his presence to dig a grave, and when it was finished they led him to it, and said:

Will you take the oath?

“No!” responded the prisoner.

“You had better!”

“I won't!”

“If you don't take that oath you'll be buried alive in that grave, in the next five minutes!”

The old fellow approached nearer, looked with attention at the pit yawning before him, and then turning round with his hands in his pockets replied calmly:

Well, go on with your d-d old funeral!

Laughter from the blue-birds, and release of the prisoner as, in the fullest acceptation of the phrase, a “hard case.”


General Order to Inspector-General V— , from Corps Headquarters:--

“Cry aloud-spare not-show my people their transgressions!”


General — made a true cavalier's speech, one evening at our camp on the Rapidan. He had ridden to headquarters on his beautiful mare “Nelly gray,” whom he had had ever since the [302] first battle of Manassas, and had thus become warmly attached to. When he went to mount again, he found the mare wince under him, and after riding a few yards, discovered she was lame, and limped painfully.

Thereupon the General dismounted, examined the hoof, rose erect again, and uttering a deep sigh exclaimed:

Poor Nelly! I wish they could fix it some way, so as you could ride me home!

That ought to find a place in the biography of the brave officer who uttered it.


While I was in the Valley in 1863, I heard an incident which was enough to “tickle the ribs of Death,” and for its truth I can vouch. A body of the enemy's cavalry had advanced to the vicinity of Millwood, and two or three men left the column to go and “forage,” that is, take by the strong hand what they wanted for supper, from the first house. Very soon they came in sight of a cabin in the woods, and cautiously approachingfor the Confederate scouts were supposed to be everywhere --knocked at the low door.

A negro woman came at the summons, exhibiting very great terror at the sight of the blue coats-and the following colloquy ensued:

We want some supper.

“Yes, sir.”

“But, first, is there anybody here?”

“No, sir.”

“Are you sure?”

“Oh! They ain't nobody here but me-‘cept-”

“Except who?”

“Only Colonel Mosby, sir.”

Colonel Mosby!!!” exclaimed the speaker, with at least three exclamation points in his accent, and getting hastily into the saddle.

“Are you joking?” he added. “You better not. Is Colonel Mosby here?” [303]

“Ye-s, sir,” stammered the woman in great terror; and at the same moment a low noise like that produced by the footstep of a man was heard within.

No sooner did they hear this than the men turned their horses' heads, hurried off, and, rejoining their command, reported that Colonel Mosby, the celebrated partisan and “guerilla,” was alone in a house in the woods — to which house they could easily conduct a party for his capture.

The information was promptly conveyed to the officer in command, and as promptly acted upon. A detachment was immediately ordered to mount, and, led by the guides, they advanced straight towards the house, which they soon saw rise before them.

It was then necessary to act with caution. Colonel Mosby was well known to be an officer of desperate courage, and it was certain that before permitting himself to be captured he would make a resolute resistance. This was to be counted on, both from the soldierly nerve of the individual and from the fact that he was regarded by many of his enemies as a “bushwhacker” and outlaw, and might be hanged to the first tree, if captured, not treated as a prisoner of war. From this resulted the conviction that the celebrated partisan would sell his life dearly; and the party bent upon his capture omitted no precautions in advancing to attack the wild animal in his lair.

An advance-guard was thrown forward; carbineers were dismounted, and directed to make a circuit and approach the house, from front, flanks, and rear; and having thus made his dispositions, the officer in command pushed up at the head of his men to the house, at the door of which he gave a thundering knock.

No sooner had the trembling negro woman laid her hand on the latch to reply to this summons, than the force burst in, cocked pistols in hand, ready to capture Mosby.

He was not visible. In fact there was no other human being in the cabin except a negro baby, lying in a cradle, and sucking its thumb.

“Where is Mosby?” thundered the officer.

“Oh! There he is!” was the trembling reply of the woman. [304]


“There, sir!”

And the woman pointed to the cradle.

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, sir! I don't mean — I didn't mean nothin‘! I call him ‘Mosby,’ sir-‘Colonel Mosby,’ sir-that's his name, sir!”

And awaiting her doom, she stood trembling before the intruders. Those personages looked from the woman to the baby, sucking away at his thumb; scowled, growled, took another look; saw that the woman told the truth; and then a roar of laughter followed, which continued until they had mounted and were out of sight.

It is said that this incident was not mentioned by the men upon their return; they only reported Mosby “not found.” I have mentioned it, however, and I vouch for it. The mother of “Colonel Mosby,” Black and Jr., was a servant of the hospitable mansion in which I tarried; the family declared the incident exactly true; and the hero of the affair, the black baby, namely, is still living. Lastly, I know the woman, she is very worthless, but all are.


There was down in Stafford, during the war, a youthful negro of six or eight years of age, who excited the admiration of everybody by his passionate devotion to the Confederacy, and the “big words” which he used. In fact, his vocabulary was made up of what Mr. Thackeray calls “the longest and handsomest words in the dictionary.”

Still he could be terse, pointed, epigrammatic, and hard-cutting in speech. Of these statements two illustrations are given. 1. When an artillery fight took place near the mansion which had the honour of sheltering him, the young African was observed to pause, assume an attitude of extreme attention, remove his hat, scratch his head, and listen. Then turning to his master, he said with dignity, “Hear that artillery, sir. Those are, beyond a doubt, the guns of Stonewall Jackson.” [305] 2. Second illustration. A Federal officer of high rank and character, a bitter Democrat and opponent of the negro-loving party, with an extreme disgust, indeed, for the whole black race; this gentleman visited the house where the young Crichton lived, and taking a seat in the parlour, began conversing with the ladies.

While so doing he was startled by a voice at his elbow, and a vigorous clap upon the back of his splendid uniform. Turning quickly in extreme wrath at this disrespect, he saw the grinning face of young ebony behind him; and from the lips of the youth issued the loud and friendly address:

Hallo, Yank! Do you belong to Mr. Lincoln? You are fighting for me-ain't you?

The officer recoiled in disgust, looked daggers, and brushing his uniform, as though it had been contaminated, growled to the lady of the house:

You taught him this, madam!”


In June, 1863, General Lee was going to set out for Gettysburg. To mask the movement of his infantry from the Lower Rappahannock, a cavalry review was ordered, on the plains of Culpeper.

That gay and gallant commander, General Fitz Lee, thereupon, sent word to General Hood to “come and see the review, and bring any of his people” --meaning probably his staff and headquarters.

On the second day the gray masses of Hood's entire division emerged, with glittering bayonets, from the woods in the direction of the Rapidan.

“You invited me and my people,” said Hood, shaking hands with General Fitz, “and you see I have brought them!”

Laughter followed, and General Fitz Lee said:

Well, don't let them halloo, ‘Here's your mule!’ at the review.


“If they do we will charge you!” interrupted General Wade Hampton, laughing.

For all that the graybacks of Hood, who duly attended the review, did not suppress their opinions of the cavalry. As the horsemen charged by the tall flag under which General R. E. Lee sat his horse looking at them, a weather-beaten Texan of Hood's “Old Brigade” turned round to a comrade and muttered:

Wouldn't we clean them out, if Old Hood would only let us loose on 'em!

The infantry never could forgive their cavalry brethren the possession of horses-while they had to walk.


General W— gave me, one day, a good anecdote of Cedar Run. He was then Colonel of artillery, and when the Confederates' left wing was thrown into disorder, strenuously exerted himself to induce the stragglers to return to the fight. This was not an easy task — the troops were demoralized for the moment by the suddenness of the attack.

In consequence, the Colonel had small success; and this enraged him. When enraged the Colonel swore, and when he swore he did so with extraordinary vehemence and eloquence. On this occasion he surpassed all his previous performances, uttering a volley of oaths sufficient to make a good Christian's hair rise up.

He had just grasped the collar of a straggler, who would not stop at his order, and was discharging at him a perfect torrent of curses, when, chancing to turn his head, he saw close behind him no less a personage than the oath-hating and sternly-pious General Stonewall Jackson.

Jackson's aversion to profanity was proverbial in the army. It was known to excite his extreme displeasure. Colonel Wtherefore stopped abruptly, hung his head, and awaited in silence the stern rebuke of his superior.

It came in these words, uttered in the mildest tone:

That's right, Colonel-get 'em up!



Another anecdote of Jackson-but this one, I fear, has crept into print. Some readers, however, may not have seen it.

After Port Republic, the General was riding along the line when he heard the following colloquy between two soldiers of the Stonewall Brigade.

“Curse the Yankees! I wish they were in hell, every one of them!”

“I don't.”

“Why don't you?”

“Because if they were, Old Jack would be following 'em up close, with the old Stonewall Brigade in front!”

Jackson's face writhed into a grin; from his lips a low laugh issued; but he rode on in silence, making no comment.


General C— was proverbial for his stubborn courage and bulldog obstinacy in a fight. In every battle his brigade was torn to pieces — for he would never leave the ground until he was hurled back from it, crushed and bleeding.

The views of such a man on the subject of military courage are worth knowing. He gave them to me briefly one day, on the battle-field.

Here is the statement of General C-.

“The man who says that he likes to go into an infantry charge, such as there was at Spotsylvania — is a liar!”

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