Scenes at a flag of truce.
In the Trenches, Near Petersburg, Va., Aug. 4, 1864.
To the Editor of the Richmond Dispatch:
As you have been furnished with accounts of our brilliant "Little affair" of Saturday last by abler writers than your humble servant, I will not undertake to give another description of that day's performances; but if you deem these scraps from my notebook of any interest to yourself or readers, they are respectfully submitted.
Early yesterday morning (Monday) a truce was granted the Yankees
for the purpose of burying their dead, who were lying just in front of our works in heaps; and already the fumes from their black and swollen corpses were rendering our position almost "untenable"--more so by far than could their artillery and Minnie muskets.
Accordingly, at 5 A. M. firing along the lines was suspended, and operations begun.
Curiosity caused the men of both sides to cluster on their respective sides of the flag, and officers and men who had so long opposed each other at more respectful distances were brought face to face and side by side in front of the yearning chasm, which had proved fatal to a few of our noble boys.
This crater now is the resting-place of a large number of Yankees — black
— and is, to all appearances, nearly as before the explosion, having been filled up and levelled.
who were killed within our lines, or rather to the rest of our lines, are buried together in a ravine, and their graves occupy a very considerable space of ground.
Their total number of killed, black
, will foot up between 700 and 800.
After carefully examining with a sick heart this upheaved funeral pyre of our brave boys, I crossed to the front and though I have seen many of our battle-fields, never did I witness such a horribly sickening sight.
From the top of our works for a very considerable distance, lay the swollen, black, and putrid masses of who were but a few hours before Union soldiers.
In many places the bodies were lying across each other, negro and white barely distinguishable save by their uniforms and hair.
In one place I noticed the unmistakable wool attached to one rotting corpse resting across another wearing a Captain
's uniform, who had owned a large sandy beard.
Amongst these corpses there were some six or eight of our own gallant Southerners, who had been thrown over by the explosion.
The flag, as is the custom, was planted midway between the opposing lines, and officers of all grades, and men, walked freely about on their respective sides; and we were glad to see that many of our officers refused to encourage that impudent communicative trail which the Yankees
endeavored as usual to display.
I noticed particularly one Yankee Major
who exerted himself especially to become most familiar with an artillery Major
of our army.
By way of initiating himself into the good graces of our rebel Major
, and proving that he wished to be most friendly, the Yankee
drew from under his coat a bottle marked "cognac," at the same time tapping his new acquaintance familiarly on the shoulder, when the following dialogue ensued:
.--"I say, Major
, here is something 'extra' I guess we can take a friendly nip"
.--"I am obliged to you sir. but I can no
take a friendly nip with you."
.--"Oh, paliaw, Major
, lay aside your prejudices; I assure you its prime good."
.--"I do not doubt it in the least, but I do not wish to drink with you, sir. "
.--"Well, now, Major
, I guess if you and me had the settlement of it is war we could soon step aside and have the thing all right, with the dice."
.--"I should not be satisfied, sir, to rest the fate of the Confederacy
upon the chance of the dice.
I prefer the mode of settlement you
have seen fit to adopt — that of fighting it out."
.--"I guess, Major
, you fellows went on the principle of not shooting a white man when you could kill a 'nigger,' hey!"
.--"You are much mistaken — we almost try when we get the blacks and whites together to kill the whites and catch the negroes."
.--"Well, now, I hold that a white man is better than a nigger."
.--"So do we, sir; but it depends altogether upon who the white man is.
Though it seems that you regard them all alike."
Yank., (changing the subject)--"Major
, I guess some of your friends would like a 'nip' won't you ask them up."
.--"Thank you, Major
, if I see any one hunting for liquor I'll send him up, " and, touching his cap respectfully, our rebel mixed in with the crowd.
I noticed a regular specimen of a New York upstart striding about over the fields with a stage stride, hands rammed down in the pockets of his loose sack.
His uniform denoted the surgeon.
Stepping to a coarse-looking major in blue, he bawled out, "Ah, Betcher, my boy, how d' yo do? " His manner was so New Yorky and disgusting that I did not think it at all probable anything good could emanate from his brainless skull; so I moved on. Near the flag stood a particularly interesting group, evidently "done up" for inspection.
I asked who these animals were, and ascertained that the one on the left, a little, stiff, dried up man, in a large blue sack, with straggling hair, about the color of a rotten rope, and eyes about the color of spoilt oysters, was General White
, the same who surrendered Harper's Ferry
to us on a certain occasion — so the Yankees
told me. To his right stood, looking as though it was the occasion of one of his famous matinee entertainment, the former dancing master, now General Ferrero
His fondness for dress has not forsaken him, for he looked as nice as a frizzly-headed Bowery
boy. The time is not far distant, I hope, when he may be called upon to "trip it on the light fantastic toe" to the rear, to the music of our guns.
Next him stood a tall, lean, endeavors man, who resembled an ostentatious tombstone, set up by some afflicted wife six weeks before her second marriage in memory of her departed first.
He wore his whiskers a lamilitaire,
cut close, as was his hair.
His eyes were of that peculiar color which it is impossible to describe.
But I once saw a valuable dog which was being practiced on by an optician for a disease called the "hooks." His eyes closely resembled those of this General Potter
They were truly the meanest, most sneaking eyes I have ever seen; and a mouth which resembled an opening to a sepulchre, were the only features worthy of note.
How prond it made me feel to turn my head towards our own work, on the frank, open countenances of our own Hill
, and Saunders
, so plainly dressed that it would have been impossible to have recognized them but for their bearing.
But enough; I've written more than you care to read, much less publish.