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Annals of the “third.”


Sad but pleasing are the memories of the past! Gay and grotesque as well as sorrowful and sombre, are the recollections of the “old soldiers” who, in the months of 1861, marched to the rolling drum of Beauregard!

At that time the present writer was a Sergeant of Artillery, to which high rank he had been promoted from the position of private: and the remembrance of those days when he was uniformly spoken to as “Sergeant” is by no means unpleasing. The contrary is the fact. In those “callow days” the war was a mere frolic — the dark hours were yet unborn, when all the sky was over-shadowed, the land full of desolation — in the radiant sunshine of the moment it was the amusing and grotesque phase of the situation that impressed us, not the tragic.

The post of Sergeant may not be regarded as a very lofty one, compared with that of field or general officers, but it has its advantages and its dignity. The Sergeant of Artillery is “Chief of piece” --that is to say, he commands a gun, and gun-detachment: and from the peculiar organization of the artillery, his rank assimilates itself to that of Captain in an infantry regiment. He supervises his gun, his detachment, his horse picket, and is responsible for all. He is treated by the officer in command with due consideration and respect. A horse is supplied to him. He is, to all intents and purposes, a commissioned officer. [378]

But the purpose of the writer is not to compose an essay upon military rank. From the Sergeant let us pass to the detachment which he commanded. They were a gay and jovial set-those young gentlemen of the “Third detachment” --for they were for the most part youths of gentle nurture and liberal education, wh6 had volunteered at the first note of the bugle. They fought hard to the end of the war, but in camp they were not energetic. Guard duty and horse-grooming were abominable in their eyes; and the only pursuits to which I ever saw them apply themselves with activity and energy were visiting young ladies, and smoking pipes. From this it may be understood that they were bad material for “common soldiers,” in the European acceptation of the term; and their “Chief” was accustomed to appeal rather to their sense of propriety than the fear of military punishment. The appeal was perfectly successful. When off duty, he magnanimously permitted them to do what they chose; signed all their passports without looking at them; and found them the most orderly and manageable of soldiers. They obeyed his orders when on duty, with energy and precision: were ready with the gun at any alarm before all the rest, the commanding officer was once pleased to say; and treated their Chief with a kindness and consideration mingled, which he still remembers with true pleasure.

The battery was known as the “Revolutionary ducks.” This sobriquet requires explanation, and that explanation is here given. When John Brown, the celebrated Harper's Ferry “Martyr,” made his onslaught, everything throughout Virginia was in commotion. It was said that the “Martyr” and his band were only the advance guard of an army coming from Ohio. At this intelligence the battery-then being organized in Richmond by the brave George W. Randolph, afterwards General, and Secretary of War-rushed quickly to arms: that is, to some old muskets in the armory, their artillery armament not having been obtained as yet. Then commanded by the General to be, they set out joyously for Harper's Ferry, intent on heading off the army from Ohio. In due time they landed from the boat in Washington, were greeted by a curious and laughing crowd, [379] and from the crowd was heard a voice exclaiming, “Here's your Revolutionary ducks!” The person who had uttered this severe criticism of the ununiformed and somewhat travel-worn warriors was soon discovered to be an irreverent hackman; but the nick-name made the youthful soldiers laugh — they accepted it. They were thenceforth known to all their friends and acquaintances as the “Revolutionary ducks.”

The Revolutionnaires marched to Manassas at the end of May, 1861, and a few days after their arrival one of the South Carolinians camped there, asked me if I had “seen the little General,” meaning General Beauregard, who had just assumed command. The little General visited the battery, and soon dispatched it with his advance-force under Bonham to Fairfax Court-House, where it remained camped on a grassy slope until the middle of July, when it came away with unseemly haste. In fact, a column of about fifty-five thousand blue-coats were after it; and the “Third detachment,” with their gun, had a narrow escape. They were posted, solus, near the village of Germantown, with the trees cut down, four hundred and thirty yards by measurement, in front to afford range for the fire. Here they awaited with cheerfulness the advance of the small Federal force, until a horseman galloped up with, “Gentlemen! The enemy are upon you,” which was speedily followed by the appearance of blue uniforms in the wood in front. The infantry supports were already double-quicking to the rear. The odds of fifty-five thousand against twenty-five was too great for the “Third;” and they accordingly limbered to the rear, retiring with more haste than dignity. A friend had seen the huge blue column passing from Flint Hill toward Germantown, and had exclaimed with tragic pathos that the present historian was “gone.” He was truly “gone” when the enemy arrived-gone from that redoubt and destined to be hungry and outflanked at Centreville.

The Revolutionnaires had but an insignificant part in the great battle of Manassas. The “little General” intended them to bear the brunt, and placed them in the centre at Mitchell's Ford. From this position they saw the splendid spectacle of the Federal Cavalry dividing right and left to unmask the artillery [380] which speedily opened hotly-but beyond this shelling they were not assailed. Caissons blew up all around, and trees crashed down; but the blue infantry did not charge the breastworks. Then Beauregard resolved to advance himself with the Revolutionnaires and Bonham straight on Centreville, and sent the order --but it never arrived. Thus the “Third” was cheated of the glory which they would have won in this great movement; and despite the shells which burst for four days in the trenches, they are not entitled to inscribe “Manassas” on their flag.

Two days after the battle they were ordered to advance with General Bonham to Vienna. All obeyed but the “Third,” which being seized with a violent desire to go to Alexandria instead of Vienna, gave the rest the slip, joined Colonel Jeb Stuart's column of cavalry and infantry, going toward Fairfax, and never stopped until they reached that village, wherein they had made a number of most charming friends. They made their reentrance amid waving handkerchiefs from the friends alluded to, and cheering joyously-but were speedily desired to explain their presence in the column of Colonel Stuart, who thus found himself in command of a surplus gun, of which he knew nothing. The present writer at once repaired to the Colonel's headquarters, which consisted of a red blanket spread under an oak, explained the wishes of the “Third,” and begged permission to accompany him to Washington. The young Colonel smiled: he was evidently pleased. We should go, he declared-he required artillery, and would have it. The “Chief” received this reply with extreme satisfaction; put his gun in battery to rake the approach from Annandale; and was just retiring to his blanket, with the luxury of a good conscience, when an order came from General Bonham to repair with the gun, before morning, to Vienna! The General ranked the Colonel: more still, the gun was a part of the General's command. With heavy hearts the “Third” set out through the darkness for the village to which they were ordered.

As the writer is not composing a log-book of his voyages through those early seas, he will only say that at Vienna the Revolutionnaires saw for the first time the enemy's balloons [381] hovering above the woods; turned out more than once, with ardour, when Bonham's pickets fired into Stuart's; and smoked their pipes with an assiduity that was worthy of high commendation. Soon the order came to move; they hung their knapsacks with energy upon the guns, for the horses to pull, and thus returned to Centreville, where they were ordered to join the hardfighting Colonel Evans at Leesburg.

At the name of Leesburg, every heart of the “Noble third” still beating, will beat faster. Leesburg! Paradise of the youthfull warrior! dear still to the heart of him who writes, and to all his brave companions! Land of excellent edibles, and beautiful maidens! of eggs and romance, of good dinners and lovely faces! No sooner had the ardent cannoneers reached camp, and pitched their tents, than they hastened into Leesburg to “spy out the land.” The reconnoissance was eminently satisfactory. The report brought back by the scouts thus thrown forward, represented the place as occupied in force by an enemy of the most attractive description-and from that time to the period of their abrupt departure, the brave young artillerists were engaged in continuous skirmishes with their fair faces, not seldom to their own discomfiture.

When the “Third” with another detachment went to camp at Big Spring, in a beautiful grove, they applied themselves to the military duties above specified with astonishing ardor. The number of horses which required shoeing at the blacksmith's in town was incredible; and such was their anxiety to rush to combat, that the young soldiers surreptitiously knocked shoes from the horses' feet, to be “ordered to the front,” toward the foe.

The Revolutionnaires had a little skirmish about this time with the Federal force at White's Ferry, and the “Third” had the satisfaction of setting a house or barn on fire with shell, and bursting others in the midst of a blue regiment. These exploits were performed with a loss of one man only, wounded by sharpshooters; the “Third” having dodged the rest of the enemy's bullets with entire success. They were highly pleased with the result of the combat, and soon afterwards were called [382] to new fields of glory. This time the locality was at Loudoun Heights, opposite Harper's Ferry; and having dragged their gun up the rugged mountain road with great difficulty, they opened from the summit at the moment when the brave Ashby charged. The result was cheering. Ashby sent word that the shells were falling among his own troops, but directed the fire to proceedit was admirable: and thus encouraged, the “Third” continued at their post until the enemy's batteries on Maryland Heights had gotten our range, and their rifle shell began to tear the ground near by. Concluding that the distance was too great to render a reply necessary, the “Third” came away soon after this-but the order to retire had been previously given, and the piece did not move off at a faster gait than a rapid trot-it might have been a gallop.

This little affair was in October, and on our return to Leesburg the enemy were preparing to cross and attack us. General Evans put on the road to Edwards' Ferry all the guns, with the exception of the “Third,” which was sent with the Eighth Virginia regiment to repel an assault from General McCall, who was approaching Goose Creek, on our right, with a Division, and twelve pieces of artillery. The “Third” undertook this with alacrity, and remained in position at the “Burnt bridge” with ardour, hoping that the enemy would have the temerity to approach. He did not do so, and at mid-day General Evans sent down for the regiment and the gun, and ordered them at “double-quick” and “trot-march” to the vicinity of Ball's Bluff. The regiment — the Eighth Virginia--was ordered to “drive the enemy from those woods,” and the “Third” was directed to open fire, “when the Eighth fell back.” Owing to the circumstance that the Eighth never fell back, this order was not carried out, and the Revolutionnaires in general had no part in one of the most desperate and gallant battles of the whole war. For the second time they were held in reserve, in a great combat, and they chafed at it: but the enemy in Leesburg remained to be conquered, and after the battle, they immediately commenced attending to the deficiency of horseshoes as before.

These raids upon the territory of the foe were now made from [383] their camp at “Fort Evans,” on the hill. Fort Evans was on the top of a commanding eminence. Looking northward, you beheld the winding Potomac, and on the upland beyond, were seen the tents of the enemy, and their watch-fires at night-their tattoo and reveille being heard distinctly, and affording an economical measurement of time to their foes. East, south, and west, was a beautiful country of field, and forest, and meadow, and hill-and Leesburg rose with its white houses and spires, in the midst of it, about a mile away.

Thus the Revolutionnaires had around them all the elements of comfort. An enemy to reconnoitre through spy-glasses, across the river, and another enemy in the town to keep up a brisk assault upon. Many “solitary horsemen” were seen at sunset and other hours, dotting the road which led to the borough;--and these returned in various moods, as “the day” had been adverse or triumphal for them. They delivered battle with astonishing regularity, and looked after the shoeing of the artillery horses with an efficiency which reflected the highest credit on the corps.

In the performance of this duty the “Third” was not behind its companions-indeed took the lead. To smoke pipes and attack the enemy in Leesburg were the chosen occupations of the “Third.” To dress in full costume for battle — with white collar, and dress uniform-seemed indeed the chief happiness of these ardent young warriors: and then they lost no time in advancing upon the foe. When circumstances compelled them to remain inactive at Fort Evans for a day or days, they grew melancholy and depressed. Their pipes still sent up white clouds of smoke-but the ashes were strewed upon their heads.

“Fort Evans” was not an inspiring locality. The view was superb; but the wind always blowing there, nearly removed the hair from the head, and the mud was of incredible depth and tenacity. In addition to this, Fort Evans got all the rain and snow. But these were provided against. A distinguished trait of the Revolutionnaires was a strong propensity for making themselves comfortable; and they soon discovered that, in winter at least, tents were vanity and vexation of body. From the realization of the want, there was only a step to the resolution to [384] supply it. They cut down trees, and hauled the logs; tore down deserted houses, and brought away the plank; carried off old stoves, and war-worn tables, and then set to work. A log hut rose suddenly — the abode of the “Brigand of the Cliff,” who was a most excellent companion and uncommonly jovial for a bandit --many plank cabins were grouped near it, stoves were set up, log chimneys built, and the bold Revolutionnaires were in winter quarters.

Fort Evans was in process of construction anew, under the supervision of General D. H. Hill-and the workmen were encouraged by the presence and approval of the “Third” and their companions. They rarely failed to visit it several times a day; and generously instructed General Hill's engineer how to lay it out without charge. They did not mind the deep mud, and perseveringly remained for hours, looking on while the infantry “detail” worked. Personne, one of the “Third,” superintended the filling and revetting-and it was whispered around that the General had assured him that “This work would remain to speak of him.” At this the worthy Personne is said to have smiled as only he could smile. He no doubt does so still.

In these virtuous and useful occupations-mingled with much smoking, and close attention to horseshoes — the hours and days sped away, there near Leesburg, in the fall and winter of the good year 1861. Posted on the far Potomac there, to guard the frontier, the “Third” and their companions had a large amount of time upon their hands which it was necessary to dispose of. Sometimes the enemy opposite amused them — as when they ran a gun down to the river, and in a spirit of careless enjoyment, knocked a hole with a round shot in the gable end of the abode of the “Brigand of the Cliff.” But these lively moments were the exception. The days generally passed by without incident; and when debarred from visiting Leesburg, the Revolutionnaires visited each other.

Among gentlemen so well-bred as themselves there was no neglect of the amenities of life. You never entered a cabin, but the owner rose and offered you the best seat. You never got up to depart, but you were feelingly interrogated as to the occasion [385] of your “hurry,” and exhorted to remain. If boxes came from home, their contents were magnanimously distributed; when anybody got leave of absence, which was exceedingly seldom, his return was greeted with acclamations-perhaps because the transaction was a good precedent. Lounging was the habitual amusement, except when they aroused themselves to contend with the enemy-at Leesburg. The town was their favourite arena for combat. They delighted to visit, and early established a dining acquaintance there-selecting those houses where, between the courses, they could gaze into fair eyes, and “tempt their fate.” When they returned after these expeditions in search of horseshoes, they revelled in descriptions of ham and turkey and dessert-making ration-beef tougher, and camp flat-cake more like lead than ever. On the main street of Leesburg, near Pickett's tavern, the “Third” especially congregated. They wore the snowiest shirt bosoms, the bluest gray jackets, and the reddest cuffs imaginable. Thus armed to the teeth, and clad for war and conquest, they would separate in search of young ladies, and return at evening with the most glowing accounts of their adventures.


A glance at the headquarters of the “Third,” and a brief notice of one of those worthies, may prove of interest to the descendants of these doubty Revolutionnaires.

They dwelt in three or four cabins of considerable size, constructed of plank — the middle and largest one being the headquarters of their commander. These cabins were warmed by old stoves, obtained on the Rob Roy principle from deserted houses; and were fitted up with berths, popularly known as “bunks,” filled with straw. The space above the cornice afforded an excellent shelf for clothes, which were then economically washed whenever it rained-but the great feature of the headquarter mansion was the crevice at the summit of the roof. This permitted the smoke to escape without difficulty, and on windy nights when others were suffering, ventilated the [386] apartment superbly. Nor did the advantages stop there. The crevice was no mere crack, but an honest opening; and when a snow-storm came on, the snow entered without difficulty, driving downward, and enveloping the sleepers in its close white mantle. As the warmth which snow communicates to a sleeper is well known, this circumstance will be duly appreciated.

From the headquarters let us pass to the inhabitants. The “Third,” as I have said, were a gay and social set, and possessed of many peculiarities, which their “Chief,” sitting apart with a borrowed volume (from Leesburg) in his hand, was accustomed to watch with a covert smile. A marked feature of the young warriors was their devotion to the habit of eating. Rations were ample and excellent then, but they did not satisfy the youths. They foraged persistently: brought back eggs, butter, pies, every delicacy; and these they as persistently consumed. They always ate butter all day long, toasting slices of bread upon the roaring stove with a perseverance that was truly admirable. The announcement of dinner by the polite mulatto who officiated as cook, was uniformly received with rapture; and the appearance of a “box from home” supplied the fortunate possessor with the largest and most affectionate circle of visiting friends.

Among the “characters” of the detachment, Corporal Personne, my gunner-he who superintended the construction of the breastworks-occupied a prominent place. He was tall and gaunt, with a portentous moustache; had the imposing air of a Field-Marshal on parade, and a fund of odd humour that was inexhaustible. To hear Personne laugh was to experience an irresistible desire to do likewise; to listen while he talked was better than to attend a theatrical performance. Personne rarely relaxed into that commonplace deportment which characterizes the great mass of dull humanity. He could not have been dull even if he had tried, and his very melancholy was humorous. In his tone of voice and hearing he was sui generis-“whole in himself and due to none.” All his utterances were solemn and impressive; his air deeply serious-when he laughed he seemed to do so under protest. He generally went away after laughing; no doubt to mourn over his levity in private. One of Personne's [387] peculiarities was a very great fondness for cant phrases, and odd turns of expression. These afforded him undisguised delight, and he handled them with the air of a master. He was never known to ask for smoking tobacco in any other words than, “Produce the damned invention!” which he uttered with a truly teriffic scowl, and an accent of wrath which was calculated to strike terrour to the stoutest heart. A form of logic in which he evidently reposed the fullest faith was, “An ought's an oughta figure's a figure-therefore you owe me a dollar and a half;” and another mysterious phrase, “Speak to me, Gimlet,” was a fund of unending enjoyment to him. His comparison of distance was, “As far as a blue-winged pigeon can fly in six months;” his measure of cold was, “Cold enough to freeze the brass ears on a tin monkey;” his favourite oath, “Now, by the gods who dwell on high Olympus!” and his desire for a furlough was uniformly urged upon the ground that he wished to “go home and see his first wife's relations.”

Personne was thus the victim of a depraved taste for slang, but he was a scholar and a gentleman — a travelled man and a very elegant writer. When the war broke out he was residing in New York; but at the call of Virginia, his native State, he had left all the delights of Broadway and the opera; abandoned bright waistcoats, gay neckties, and fine boots, to put on the regulation gray, and go campaigning with the Revolutionnaires. The contrast was great, but Personne did not grumble; he adapted himself to his new sphere with the air of a philosopher. It was only at long intervals that he spoke of his travels-only occasionally that he broke forth with some opera air heard at the Academy of Music, and now hummed with great taste and delicacy. He supplied the stage action to these musical airs, but his powers in that department were defective. The performance, it is sufficient to say, would have done honour to a-windmill.

To witness Personne in the character of “Sergeant of the guard” was a superb spectacle. The stern and resolute air with which he marshalled his guard; the hoarse and solemn tones in which he called the roll; the fierce determination with which he took command, and marched them to their post, was enough to [388] “tickle the ribs of death.” Once having posted them, Personne returned as solemnly to his quarters, from which soon afterwards would be heard his low guttural laugh. The great tableau, however, was Personne in Leesburg, mounted. He was a study at such moments, and attracted general attention. He sat sternly erect upon his horse, never indulged in a smile even, and had the air of a Field-Marshal at the head of an army. It was only when he entered the presence of the ladies that his brows unbent, his features relaxed. With these he was a very great favourite, and he cultivated their regard in a manner which exhibited a profound knowledge of human nature. A proof of this assertion is here given. One day Personne, with a friend of his, went forth on a foraging expedition, rations running low, and appetite rising. But the neighbourhood had been ransacked by a whole brigade, and by what device could they operate upon the female heart? Personne found the device he wished, and proceeded to execute it, having first drilled his friend in the part assigned him. Before them was a modest mansion; through the window were seen the faces of young ladies; the friends entered the yard, bowed politely, and lay down upon the grass. Then the following dialogue took place in the hearing of the ladies:

Personne, carelessly.-“A charming day, my friend; humwhat were you saying?”

friend, with deference.-“I was saying, Mr. Personne, that the remarkable feature in the present war is the rank and character of the men who have embarked in it — on the Southern sideas privates. Take yourself, for instance. You belong to one of the first families of Mississippi; you have three or four plantations: you are worth very nearly half a million of dollars-and here you are, serving in the ranks as a private soldier.”

Personne, with an air of careless grandeur.-“No matter! no matter! The cause is everything. My estates must take care of themselves for the present, and I expect to live hard and fight hard, and starve — as we are doing to-day, my friend. When the war is over, things will be different. I intend to enjoy myself, to live in luxury-above all, to marry some charming creature-and I am now looking out for one to suit me. I do not ask riches, my [389] friend; a plain country girl would please me best-one who is warm-hearted and kind to the soldier!”

A few moments afterwards a smiling face appeared at the door; a pair of female lips said, “Walk in, gentlemen;” and starting from a deep reverie into which he had fallen, Personne rose, bowed, and accepted the invitation, bowing low again as he entered, with his lofty air of Field-Marshal. Is it necessary to continue the narrative, to say that Personne and his friend nearly produced a famine, and when they retired had their haversacks filled with every delicacy? It was only when well beyond earshot that he laughed his low laugh, and exclaimed with solemn earnestness, “Now by the gods that dwell on high Olmpus!-we are in luck to-day!”

Such was Personne, the pride of the “Third,” the object of the admiring affection and regard of all the Revolutionnaires! The writer designed drawing more than one additional portrait of odd characters in his old detachment, but the figure of Personne has pushed all others from the canvas — the brush moves in the air. That canvas, it may be, perchance, is already too extensive; not every one will find in these familiar recollections of the “Third” that interest which the writer does; and terrible is the crime of producing yawns! Do you think you never wearied anybody, my dear reader, with your recollections? Do you fancy that your past amuses others as it amuses you? But, for fear this mass of logic will rebound upon the head of him who sets it in motion, the “Annals of the third” are here concluded.

As he closes up those Annals, and sets forward on his way, the writer waves his hat in friendly farewell, salutes each one, and calls out, “Good-by, Personne!-good-by, warriors of the ‘Noble Third!’ --all health and happiness attend you in the coming years!-and never call your old commander anything but ‘Sergeant!’ ”

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