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How I was arrested


I was sitting in my tent one day in the year 1863, idly gazing over a newspaper, when my eye fell upon the following paragraph:

Killed on the Blackwater.-We learn that Captain Edelin, of the old First Maryland Regiment, but who recently joined the Confederate forces in North Carolina, was killed a few days since in a skirmish on the Blackwater.”

I laid down the paper containing this announcement, and speedily found myself indulging in reverie.

“Thus fall,” I murmured, “from the rolls of mortality the names we have known, uttered, been familiar with! The beings with whom we are thrown, whose hands we touch, whose voices we hear, who smile or frown as the spirit moves them, are to-morrow beyond the stars. They are extinguished like the fitful and wandering fires of evening-like those will-o‘--wisps which dance for an hour around the fields and then disappear in the gathering darkness!”

This “Captain Edelin, of the old First Maryland Regiment,” I had chanced to know. It was but a moment-his face passed before me like a dream, never more to return; but reading that paragraph announcing his death recalled him to me clearly as I saw and talked with him one night on the outpost, long ago.

Captain Edelin once arrested me at my own request. [322]

Let me recall in detail, the incidents which led to this acquaintance with him.

It was, I think, in December, 1861.

I was at that time Volunteer A. D. C. to General Stuart of the cavalry, and was travelling from Leesburg to his headquarters, which were on the Warrenton road, between Fairfax and Centreville.

I travelled in a light one-horse vehicle, an unusual mode of conveyance for a soldier, but adopted for the convenience it afforded me in transporting my blankets, clothes, sword, and other personal effects, which would certainly have sunk a horseman fathoms deep in the terrible mud of the region, there to remain like the petrified Roman sentinel dug out from Pompeii.

The vehicle in question was drawn by a stout horse, who was driven by a cheerful young African; and achieving an ultimate triumph over the Gum Spring road, we debouched into the Little River turnpike, and came past the “Double Toll-gate” to the Frying Pan road.

Here the first picket halted me. But the Lieutenant of the picket took an intelligent view of things, and suffered me to continue the road to Centreville.

Toward that place, accordingly, I proceeded, over the before-mentioned “Frying Pan,” which, like the “Charles City road” below Richmond, means anything you choose.

Night had fully set in by the time I reached Meacham's, a mile from Centreville; and I then remembered for the first time that general orders forbade the entrance of carriages of any description into the camp.

This general order, in its special application to myself, was disagreeable. In fact, it was wanton cruelty, and for the following good reasons. , i. I was tired and hungry. 2. That was my route to the headquarters I sought. 3. By any other road I should arrive too late for supper.

This reasoning appeared conclusive, but there was the inexorable order; and some method of flanking Centreville must be devised. [323]

The method presented itself in a road branching off to the left, which I immediately turned into. A small house presented itself, and inquiring the way, I was informed by a cheerfullooking matron that the road in question was the very one which “led to the turnpike.”

Never did Delphic oracle make a more truthful or a falser announcement. It was the Warrenton turnpike which I desired to reach by flanking Centreville, and cutting off the angle-and lo! with a cheerful heart, I was journeying, as will be seen, toward other regions!

The vehicle proceeded on its way without further pause, merrily gliding along the forest road between dusky pine thickets, the heart of the wandering soldier inspired by the vision of an early supper.

The evening was mild for December--the heavens studded with stars. Now that I had found the road, and would soon arrive, the landscape became picturesque and attractive.

Lonely cavalrymen appeared and disappeared; scrutinizing eyes reconnoitred the suspicious vehicle as it passed; noises of stamping horses were heard in the depths of the thicket. But accustomed to these sights and sounds, the adventurous traveller in search of lodging and supper did not disquiet himself.

Mile after mile was thus traversed. Still the interminable road through the pines stretched on and on. Its terminus seemed as distant as the crack of doom.

Most mysterious of mysteries! The Warrenton turnpike did not appear, though I knew it was but a mile or two through to it. Where was it? Had it disappeared under the influence of some enchantment? Had I dreamed that I knew the country thoroughly, from having camped there so long, and had I never in reality visited it? It so appeared; I was certainly travelling over a road which I had never before traversed.

One resource remained-philosophy. To that I betook myself. When a traveller of philosophic temperament finds that he has lost his way, he is apt to argue the matter with cheerful logic as follows: i. The road I am following must lead somewhere. [324] 2. At that “somewhere,” which I am sure eventually to reach, I shall find some person who will have the politeness to inform me in what part of the globe I am.

Having recourse to this mode of reasoning, I proceeded through the pines with a cheerful spirit, entered a large field through which the road ran, and at the opposite extremity “stumbled on a stationary voice.”

This voice uttered the familiar “Halt! Who goes there?”

“Friend without the countersign.”

“Advance, friend!”

I jumped out and walked to the voice, which remained stationary.

“I am going to General Stuart's headquarters. Came from Leesburg and have no countersign. This is a picket?”


“Where is the officer of the picket?”

“At the fire yonder. I will go with you.”

“Then you are not the sentinel?”

“No; the serjeant.”

And the serjeant and myself walked amicably towards the picket fire, which was burning under a large tree, just on the side of the turnpike.

The turnpike! Alas!

But, as the novelists say, “let us not anticipate.”


At the picket fire I found half-a-dozen men, neatly dressed in Confederate gray.

“Which is the officer of the picket?” I said to the Serjeant.

“The small man-captain Edelin.”

As he spoke Captain Edelin advanced to the foreground of the picture, and the ruddy firelight gave me, at a glance, an idea of the worthy.

He was about five feet six inches/high, with a supple figurelegs bent like those of a man who rides much-and a keen pair [325] of eyes, which roved restlessly. His boots reached to the knee; an enormous sword clattered against them as he walked. The worthy Captain Edelin was no bad representative of Captain D'Artagnan, the hero of Dumas' “Three Guardsmen.”

When the Captain fixed his eyes upon me, he seemed to aim at reading me through. When he questioned me he evidently scrutinized my words carefully, and weighed each one.

Such a precaution was not unreasonable. The period was critical, the time “dangerous.” Our generals entertained well grounded fears that the enemy designed a flank movement on Centreville, up this very road, either to attack Johnston and Beauregard's left, or to cut off Evans at Leesburg, and destroy him before succour could reach him. I was personally cognizant of the fact that General Evans suspected such an attack, from conversation with him in Leesburg, and was not surprised to find, as I soon did, that the road over which the enemy must advance to assail him was heavily picketed all along its extent in the direction of Fairfax.

If this “situation” be comprehended by the reader, he will not fail to understand why the Captain scrutinized me closely. I was a stranger to him, had passed through the Confederate lines, and was now far to the front. If I was in the Federal service I had learned many things which would interest General McClellan. Spies took precautions in accommodating their dress and entire appearance to the role they were to play; and why might I not be a friend of his Excellency President Lincoln, wearing a Confederate uniform for the convenience of travelling?

So Captain Edelin scanned me with great attention, his eyes trying to plunge to the bottom of my breast, and drag forth some imaginary plot against the cause.

Being an old soldier of some months' standing, and experiencing the pangs of hunger, I rapidly came to the point. Something like the following dialogue passed between us:

Captain Edelin, officer of the picket?

I inquired.

“Yes, sir,” returned the worthy, with a look which said, as plainly as any words, “Who are you?” [326]

I responded to the mute appeal:

I am Aide to General Stuart, and in search of his headquarters. I have no countersign. I left Leesburg this morning, and to-night lost my way. What road is that yonder?

“The little river turnpike.”

“The little river turnpike?”


Then it all flashed on my bewildered brain! I had missed the road which cut off the angle at Centreville, had taken a wrong one in the dark, and been travelling between the two turnpikes towards Fairfax, until chance brought me out upon the Little River road, not far from “Chantilly.”

I stood for a moment looking at the Captain with stupification and then began to laugh.

“Good!” I said. “I should like particularly to know how I got here. I thought I knew the country thoroughly, and that this was the Warrenton road.”

“Which way did you come?” asked the Captain, suspiciously.

“By the Frying Pan road. I intended to take the short cut to the left of Centreville.”

“You have come three or four miles out of the way.”

“I see I have-pleasant. Well, it won't take me much longer than daylight to arrive, I suppose, at this rate.”

The Captain seemed to relish this cheerful view of the subject, and the ghost of a smile wandered over his face.

“How far is it to General Stuart's headquarters?” I asked; “and which road do I take?”

“That just what I can't tell you.”

“Well, there's no difficulty about going on, I suppose? Here are my papers; look at them.”

And I handed them to him. He read them by the firelight, and returning them said:

That's all right, Captain, but-sorry-orders-unless you have the countersign —

“The countersign! But you are going to give me that?”

The Captain shook his head.

“Hang it, Captain, you don't mean to say you have the heart to keep me here all night?” [327]

“Orders must be obeyed —”

“Why, you are not really going to take possession of me? I don't mind it for myself, as I have my blankets, and you will give me some supper; but there's my horse without a mouthful since morning.”

“That's bad; but-”

“You don't know me; I understand you. These papers, my uniform, all may be got up for the occasion; still —”

“That's a fact; and you know orders are orders. On dutycan't know anybody; and I'd like to see the man that can catch Edelin asleep. My boys are just about the best trained fellows you ever saw, and can see in the dark.”

“I have no doubt of it, Captain.”

“Just about the best company to be found.”

“I believe you.”

This cheerful acquiescence seemed to please the worthy.

“We're on picket here, and a mouse couldn't get through.”

“Exactly; and I wouldn't mind staying with you the least if I had some supper.”

“Sorry you didn't come a little sooner; I could have given you some.”

“See what I've missed; and after travelling all day, one gets as hungry as a hawk. I'm afraid General Stuart's supper will be eat up to the last mouthful.”

This seemed to affect the Captain. He had supped; I, his brother soldier, had not.

“I'll tell you what,” he said, “I'll pass you through my picket, but you can't get on to-night. Major Wheat's pickets are every ten yards along the turnpike, and it would take you all night to work your way.”


“The best thing is to stay here.”

“I'd much rather get on.”

“But I can't even tell you the road to turn off on. I have no one to send.”

As he spoke an idea struck me.

“What regiment is yours, Captain?” I asked.

“The first Maryland--as fine a regiment-” [328]

“Who's your Colonel?”

Bradley Johnson.”

“Well, arrest me, and take me to him.”

The Captain laughed.

“That would be best,” he said. “The Colonel's headquarters are in a small house just across the field. I'll go with you.”

So we set out, the huge sword of the worthy clattering against his tall boots as he strode along. On the way he related at considerable length the exploits of his Maryland boys, and renewed his assurances of sympathy with my supperless condition-lamenting the disappearance of his own.

In fact, I may say with modest pride that I had conquered the worthy captain. Eloquence had reaped its reward-had had its “perfect work.” From frigid, the Captain had become lukewarm; from lukewarm, quite a pleasant glow had diffused itself through his conversation. Then his accents had become even friendly: he had offered me a part of his Barmeside supper, and proposed to pass me through his picket.

I remember very well his short figure as it moved beside me; his gasconades a la D'Artagnan; and his huge sabre, bobbing as he walked. The end of it trailed upon the ground-so short was the Captain's stature, so mighty the length of his weapon.

He strode on rapidly, talking away; and we soon approached a small house in the middle of the large field, through whose window a light shone.

In this house Colonel Bradley Johnson had established his headquarters.


The Captain knocked; was bidden to enter, and went in — I following.

“A prisoner, Colonel,” said the Captain.

“Ah!” said Colonel Bradley Johnson, who was lying on his camp bed.

“At my own request, Colonel.”

And pulling off one of a huge pair of gauntlets, I stuck a paper at him. [329]

Colonel Johnson-than whom no braver soldier or more delightful companion exists-glanced at the document, then at me, and made me a bow.

“All right. From Leesburg, Captain?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Any news?”

“None at all. All quiet.”

“Are you going to General Stuart's headquarters to-night?”

“If I can find the road.”

“I really don't know it. I know where it is, but-”

“It will be necessary to send me, I suppose, Colonel?”


“I am a prisoner, you know, and I think General Stuart is in command of the outpost.”

The Colonel began to laugh.

“That's true,” he said.

And turning round, he uttered the word-


Now “courier” was evidently the designation of a gentleman who at that moment was stretching himself luxuriously in one corner of the room, drawing over his head a large white blanket, with the air of a man who has finished his day's work, and is about to retire to peaceful and virtuous slumber.

From several slight indications, it was obvious that the courier had just returned after carrying a dispatch, and that he experienced to its fullest extent the grateful sensation of having performed all the duty that could be expected of him, and regarded himself as legally and equitably entitled to at least six hours sleep, in the fond embrace of his white blanket.

Alas for the mutability of mundane things!-the unstable character of all human calculations!

Even as he dismounted, and took off his saddle for the night, Fate, in the person of the present writer, was on his track. As he lay down, and wrapped himself luxuriously in that white blanket, drawing a long breath, and extending his limbs with Epicurean languor, the aforesaid Fate tapped him on the shoulder, and bade him rise. [330]


And the head rose suddenly.

“Saddle up, and go with this gentleman to General Stuart's headquarters.”

A deep sigh-almost a groan — a slowly rising figure rolling up a white blanket, and this most unfortunate of couriers disappeared, no doubt maligning the whole generation of wandering aides-de-camp, and wishing that they had never been born.

With a friendly good-night to Colonel Johnson, whose hard work in the field since that time has made his name familiar to every one, and honourable to his State, I returned in company with Edelin to the picket fire.

The courier disconsolately followed.

On the way I had further talk with Captain Edelin, and I found him a jovial companion.

When I left him, we shook hands, and that is the first time and the last time I ever saw “Captain Edelin of the old first Maryland regiment.” It was Monsieur D'Artagnan come to life, as I have said; and I remembered very well the figure of the Captain when I read that paragraph announcing his death.

He was a Baltimorean, and I have heard that his company was made up in the following manner:

When the disturbances took place in Baltimore, in April, 1861, the leaders of the Southern party busied themselves in organizing the crowds into something like a military body, and for that purpose divided them into companies, aligning them where they stood.

A company of about one hundred men was thus formed, and the person who had counted it off said:

Who will command this company?

Two men stepped forward.

“I can drill them,” said the first.

“I have been through the Mexican war. I can fight them,” said the other.

The command was given to the latter, and this was Edelin. When the war commenced, he marched his company out, and joined the Southern army. [331]

Poor Edelin! He did not know he was arresting his historian that night on the outpost!


A few words will terminate my account of “How I was arrested.” I have spoken of the courier supplied me by Colonel Johnson, and this worthy certainly turned out the most remarkable of guides. After leaving Captain Edelin's picket, I proceeded along the turnpike toward Germantown-continuing thus to follow, as I have said, the very road I had travelled over when the first picket stopped me at the mouth of the “Frying Pan.”

I had gone round two sides of a triangle and was quietly advancing as I might have done over the same route!

There was this disagreeable difference, however, that the night was now dark; that the pickets were numerous and on the alert; that neither I nor the courier knew the precise point to turn off; and that Wheat's “Tigers,” then on picket, had an eccentric idea that everybody stirring late at night, at such a time, was a Yankee, and to be fired upon instantly. This had occurred more than once — they had shot at couriers-and as they had no fires you never knew when a picket was near.

This was interesting, but not agreeable. To have a friendly “Tiger” regret the mistake and be sorry for killing you is something, but not affecting seriously the general result.

Such appeared to be the view taken by my friend the courier. He was in a tremendous state of excitement. I was not composed myself; but my disquiet was connected with the idea of supper, which I feared would be over. A day's fasting had made me ravenous, and I hurried my driver constantly.

This proceeding filled my friend the courier with dire forebodings. He several times rode back from his place some fifty yards in advance to beg me pathetically to drive slower-he could not hear the challenge if I drove so fast, and “they would shoot!” This view I treated with scorn, and the result was, that my guide was nearly beside himself with terror.

He besought me to be prudent; but as his idea of prudence [332] was to walk slowly along listening with outstretched neck and eager ears for the challenge of the pickets from the shadow of the huge trees, and to shout out the countersign immediately upon being halted, with a stentorian voice which could be heard half a mile; as his further views connected with the proprieties of the occasion seemed to impel him to hold long and confidential conversations with the “Tigers,” to the effect that he and I were, in the fullest sense of the term, “all right;” that I was Aide to General Stuart; that I had come that day from Leesburg; that I had lost my way; that I was not a suspicious character; that he was in charge of me — as this method of proceeding, I say, seemed to constitute the prudence which he urged upon me so eloquently, I treated his remonstrances and arguments with rude and hungry disregard.

Instead of waiting quietly while he palavered with the sentinels, I broke the dialogue by the rough and impolite words to the sentinel:

Do you know the road which leads in to General Stuart's headquarters?

“No, sir.”

“Drive on!”

And again the vehicle rolled merrily along, producing a terrible rattle as it went, and filling with dismay the affrighted courier, who, I think, gave himself up for lost.

But I am dwelling at too great length upon my “guide, philosopher, and friend,” the courier, and these subsequent details of my journey. I have told how I was arrested — a few words will end my sketch.

We soon reached the “Ox Hill road,” and here some information was obtained.

A friendly and intelligent “Tiger,” with a strong Irish brogue, declared that this was the route, and I proceeded over a horrible road into the woods.

A mile brought me to camp fires and troops asleep — no answer greeted my shout, and, getting out of the carriage, I went through a sort of abattis of felled trees, and stirred up a sleeper wrapped to the nose in his blanket. [333]

“Which is the road to General Stuart's headquarters?” I asked.

“Don't know, sir.”

And the head disappeared under the blanket.

“What regiment is this?”

The nose re-appeared.


Then the blanket was wrapped around the peaceful Tiger, who almost instantly began to snore.

A little further the road forked, and I took that one which led toward a glimmering light. That light reached, my troubles ended. It was the headquarters of Major Wheat, who poured out his brave blood, in June, 1862, on the Chickahominy, and I speedily received full directions. Ere long I reachd Mellen's, my destination, in time for supper, as well as a hearty welcome from the best of friends and generals.

So ends my story, gentle reader. It cannot be called a “thrilling narrative,” but is true, which is something after all in these “costermonger times.”

At least, this is precisely “How I was arrested.”

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