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Robert E. Lee Portrait
To the Editor of
I ENLISTED as a private in
Company C, Captain Blank, —th Regiment, New York State Volunteers, April 30,
1861, to serve the State for two years. When I enlisted the Captain promised my
friends that he would never leave his company, but take care of his men to the
end of the war. The people of our town promised that they would take care of my
wife and child and see that they wanted for nothing. The Government promised me
good clothes, eleven and a half dollars a month, good fare, and the best of care
if I was sick or wounded. All these things I did not care about. I was poor, but
I thought if I might leave to my boy my name with the legacy "killed in battle
for the Union," that he would be richer than any thing else his father could
give him would make him. Every thing was new and exciting to us till a few days
after we were mustered into the United States service. Much to our
disappointment we were only mustered for three months, because we were
two-years' men and not three-years' men. After we were mustered we got our
shoddy clothes and old muskets—flint locks altered to percussion. Our Colonel
was green, and our Captain began to drink too much. Some of the men wanted to
see all the places we marched through, and went off to look without permission
and got severely punished. I thought it was not right to go off so, but I
thought they ought to have been learned their duty by the company officers
before they were punished for not knowing it. It seemed to us that as fast as
the Colonel or Captain learned any thing out of the Tactics, or the Army
Regulations, or the Articles of War, they set traps for us to catch us on it and
punish us. We all got a good deal discouraged at first, but after a while we got
a new Colonel and Captain, who told us we could be good soldiers, orderly,
decent, and do all the drudgery and suffer all the hardship of a soldier's life
and yet be men. That to obey orders was no disgrace, but, on the contrary, to be
undisciplined and disorderly made us only brutes and slaves.
Most of our officers and men were
in good spirits and determination after this. We expected to have a good fight,
and go home after the three months were over.
The Government had not the means
to provide for us very well at first, and our quarter-master spent his time
riding about for fun instead of getting for us what he might have got, and the
Government did not pay us any thing because we were three-months' men. All this
we did not care for because it was summer time, and in three months we would be
It was pretty hard sometimes. We
had nothing to eat, our tents were taken away, and we slept on the wet ground
just as we could catch it. Some of us got sick, and there were no hospitals
except such as the surgeon carried in a wagon. Some of the men grumbled a good
deal at this. But I told them this was not manly. If we died doing our duty it
was just as good as being shot in battle.
But it was pretty tough when our
three months were nearly up—and we had never had a fight, and it seemed as if we
never should—to be claimed for the rest of the two years, and taken for it
without our consent. We were volunteers before; now we were pressed. We offered
two years at first; the Government would only take three months. If a new
bargain was to be made we thought we had a right, the same as at the first, to
volunteer instead of being forced. This made us a good deal of trouble; but I
thought that the Government would not take us if they did not need us; and I
made up my mind if this great nation needed a poor man like me it could have me
in its own way. And, besides, we had learned just what we ought to know to be
good for something, and had got toughened to it. For one I felt rather proud
that we was considered good enough to be kept. And if it had not been for Sally
and Johnny, who got nothing from the neighbors and had a hard look for the
winter coming on, I should not have cared to be any where else. Some of our
young fellows asked me how I liked being pressed away from my wife and boy.
Well, I said, I should be glad to go home and see them; but if it was to sneak
out and have somebody else fight for my wife and boy while I staid at home, I
should be ashamed to have my John call me father at that.
After a while we all got over
grumbling, and began to take pride in standing hardship and keeping ourselves as
comfortable and clean as possible, no matter how bad the weather and how hard
One day last December, after a
long march in the snow, which slipped, and slushed, and melted on our shoes, and
then froze the shoes stiff, we got in late at night and slept in a big barn in
the hay without supper or breakfast next morning, for the roads were so bad the
wagons could not get up. Well, that morning our Brigadier-General rode down to
see us. We heard he was coming, and every man had his musket bright and his
clothes brushed up, the snow had cleaned our shoes, and our cotton
"dirt-covers," as the boys called their gloves, were very comfortable in holding
a musket on a frosty morning. So we were paraded in line as for dress parade,
and when we presented arms to the General it went like the tick of a clock, for
we were vexed, and we would have done it fine that morning if we had died. "Ah,
hah, my fine fellows," the General said, "somebody has been lying about you.
They said you had no supper or breakfast, and that your feet were frozen off
you, and that you slept in a barn last night." We heard how he bragged about us
afterward, and said that there was not a hay seed on our coats or a ration in
the bellies of the whole regiment. The next day we went into Clear Spring, in
Maryland, and that is a place for Union soldiers I must say. The people gave us
the whole town, and all they had was welcome. It is only a village town, but, as
one of the girls said to Pat Mahoney, that though there was not a big heap,
there was right smart of
folks there. Here we had a good
rest, plenty to eat, and a hearty welcome.
The first time we had a scrimmage
with the secesh was not a long while after this. We forded the Potomac and
Martinsburg. Cold and wet was nothing now, and
hungry was not to be talked of. We were at last going to fight Jackson and Co.
We thought our first fight was beautiful. The secesh all ran away as soon as we
began firing. They were Virginia Militia. Some of our officers wrote home
flaming accounts about it, but our Colonel became all at once very severe on us,
and said such nonsense would spoil us. He ordered us and ordered us till day and
night seemed nothing but orders, and he was very severe on any disobedience. I
guessed afterward what he meant. For the next fight we had I think I found out
that obeying orders meant not running away. I was scared and no mistake. We were
marching in column of divisions expecting work, when suddenly a secesh battery
opened on us and one or two balls came plowing through the column. We looked at
one another just ready to run, when the Colonel's voice came down the column as
sharp as a knife: " Battalion halt. On third division deploy column. Battalion
by right and left flanks. March!" Now as much scared as we were, I really
believe that we would have all skedaddled if we had not been more afraid to
disobey orders. I trembled all over, but our company was in third division, and
we had to stand fast while the rest formed on us and the old habit kept us all
there. A cold sweat stood all over me, but I had not time to think before the
other division were double-quicking it through some open woods into line of
battle, when we were ordered to lie down till our battery came up. Pretty soon a
Georgia regiment advanced on us down through a dip in the ground, halting
occasionally and loading and firing as they came on. The bullets whistled all
around but done no harm. Our battery on our right drew the fire of the secesh
battery and we had an open chance before us. By forming on third division we had
just a slight roll of ground between us and the dip in the meadow in front, and
when we lay down the balls from the battery would ricochet over us, or go over
our heads without striking. A few men got hit with pieces of shell, but nearly
all we lost by artillery was from the first firing. The Colonel stood leaning
against a tree at the right, and on the crown of the knoll, as cool as a
cucumber, watching the enemy. The surgeon, and assistant, and band were picking
up the wounded men and carrying them to the rear out of fire. Every now and then
the Colonel would turn and look at us lying along the ground, and I could see
him from where I was show his teeth with a fierce-looking kind of grin as he
looked at us. The same as to say, it seemed to me, just wait 'till I order these
fellows at you. It seemed a very short time before the order came. We fired a
single volley at 100 yards distance and then fixed bayonets, and down we went at
double-quick charge, every man yelling to suit himself. The Georgians stood till
we were twenty paces from them, and then broke and run for a worm fence, where
they tried to rally, but in climbing the fence we came up with them, and the
rails flew off and we after them right up on to their battery, which could not
hit us without hitting them. So we took the battery of four brass guns. This is
all I know about the first battle of Winchester. After we were ordered up to
fire and charge I did not see any body that looked scared; for my part I did not
think any thing about it then, though, 'till the secesh broke, men were every
now and then dropping out of the ranks hit or killed.
Our Brigadier-General came down
to see us next morning, and we were ordered out to receive him, and he made us
another short speech. Says he: "Boys, we have been just learning you how a
little here, and you have done very well. But I am going to take you over into
McClellan's corp one of these days, and then I
shall expect you to fight in real earnest. But I see your clothes look as nice
as usual this morning." We had a bold talking Sergeant in the color guard, who
spoke up and said: "That's more than yours do, General," which made us all grin.
For the skirt of his coat had a hole through it, and his baggage had been
started toward Manassas the day before the fight, and he had no change, and the
hole could only be mended with a patch; but I suppose for as cool as he would
talk to us he was rather proud of that hole in his coat. If he wasn't we was. We
Winchester some days before we marched across
the Shenandoah for Manassas, and while lying there I went into the hospitals
where our boys and the secesh wounded were being taken care of. And here I saw
something that made me feel pretty bad. One of our corporals had a bullet
through his thigh. He was wounded on picket the night before the battle. He had
an Irishman on his picket-guard who would smoke his pipe through any thing and
every thing. Well, it was cold and damp this night, so Pat lighted his pipe and
smoked away, lying down with his shoulders against a fallen tree, for it was not
his relief, and as he could not sleep he said he would take it out in a good
smoke. This spark of fire made a good mark, and pretty soon a bullet struck the
corporal who was standing some distance from Pat. "Bless the pipe, thin," says
Pat, "for if you had been smoking it, corporal, he would have fired at you and
hit me." The guard fired back by chance, and afterward approached cautiously
toward the place from which the shot had been fired. They heard groans which
guided them, and soon came to a badly wounded man, in a farmer's dress, with a
large bore rifle lying by his side. They stopped the bleeding as well as they
could, and turned out Pat's relief to carry him and the corporal to the nearest
house in our lines. This turned out to be the farmer's own house. But it was
deserted of every body except an old darkey and a little girl about nine years
old. It turned out that they had been sent to the house by the girl's mother,
thinking nobody would disturb them, to get some clothes, left behind when they
ran away from their home, which they did on hearing that Jackson was coming back
to drive us
out of Winchester. They went into
the mountains, for the father was suspected of Unionism. The father had started
from his hiding-place for news, when he was impressed by the secesh and made to
serve as guide for placing the pickets as he knew the neighborhood. He said that
he had his rifle to protect himself, and I believed him. But when they saw Pat's
pipe, knowing him to be a good shot, they compelled him to fire at the light, he
purposely aimed one side and hit the corporal. Our return fire drove away their
picket, but wounded him in the chest, and he died in a few clays. The darkey
went back to the mountains but the little girl would not leave her father, and
he was carried to the hospital along with the corporal. She staid with him
giving him water, bathing his head, and saying, "Poor daddy! poor daddy!" all
the while till he died. Pat got a pass to go and see the poor man buried, and
the next roll call he was among the missing, and nobody saw any thing of Pat for
the next four days, when he came into camp and reported to the Colonel, and
pulled out his pass as innocent as a baby. Upon being questioned about such an
absurd pretense as the pass being good for four days, Pat said he had to go home
with the mourner from the funeral. And the fact was, the fellow had taken the
little girl home to her mother in the mountains.
I do not know if you will think
what I say of any interest worth publishing. But I thought a plain soldier's
account of what did happen really in this war might encourage some others to
enlist just now when we want them; for we have got thinned out somewhat from
what we were at first, and if our people will come into our old regiments with
names already on their flags, or get up new ones that will do better than we
have, why then it seems to me we can kill out rebellion before it gets old
enough to go alone. And if they don't come and join us now, why a great many
more will have to come by-and-by.
I am yours, very respectfully,
Corporal Company C.
—th N. Y. S. Volunteers.
WHO doesn't now read the papers
More than ever he read before;
Eagerly watching the symptoms
Of our great political sore?
Some only to croak and grumble,
To sleep and loaf and chew,
Doing nothing to ease the
I wouldn't do that—would you?
Some canvass their rulers'
While they hint, with a lofty
What they in their wiser wisdom
Would do if they filled their
They keep aloof from the
They choose to talk, not do,
While others are fighting their
I wouldn't do that—would you?
Some peck at our noble generals
As a cockerel would at the sun,
And understand their movements
About the same each one.
They stay 'neath pleasant home
While others dare and do,
And from lack of their aid are
I wouldn't do that—would you?
When voices are calling loudly
For help in the contest at hand,
Some back in the blacken'd shadow
Of their idol self-hood stand;
Willing the few brave spirits
Fight the fearful conflict
And sow the land with their
ashes; I wouldn't do that—would you?
There's many a noble woman
Would stand by her husband's
And face the foe bravely with him
Through the battle's fearful
Others there are withholding,
When they fain would follow too,
Their husbands, sons, or
I wouldn't do that—would you?
Some only remember the circle
That gathers about their board,
While the sick and suffering soldier
There's nothing they can afford;
Their ear is shut to the wailing
That is piercing our country
While our bravest and best are
I wouldn't do that—would you?
THE tall white pine-trees in
front of the antique red brick house were motionless in the balmy air; the
sunshine lay in latticed gleams athwart the piazza floor; and far off, on upland
meadows, the voice of the distant reapers floated down, like sounds in a dream,
to the ear of Ellice May, as she sat in the door-way, her work lying idly in her
lap, and her eyes fixed on the hazy August hills. Beautiful eyes they were—soft,
large, and intensely black, fringed with dark lashes that almost shadowed her
cheek. There was something Eastern in the style of Ellice May's beauty—the olive
cheek stained with rose; the small, scarlet mouth; and the serene, straight
features. As for the little hands—taper-fingered and pink-tipped—they certainly
seemed made expressly to beckon dark-skinned slaves and wield a jeweled sceptre.
Nature owns no law of climate; and sometimes you are startled by finding this
Arabian Nights' type
of face among dove-eyed New
England damsels, just as a fiery pomegranate blooms amidst meek blue-bells and
mountain daisies on a farm-house window-ledge.
"Now, don't look off into vacancy
so provokingly, Ellice!" said a tall, handsome man who was leaning against one
of the columns of the piazza. "Do be gracious to a fellow who has driven all the
way from town this broiling day just to catch a glimpse of your bright eyes!"
Ellice turned her head and
smiled, but thoughtfully still: it was plain she was thinking of something else.
"How do you like my new pair of
grays, Ellice?" pursued her companion. "I bought them with a special eye to your
preferences. See them toss their heads under the pine branches. I can tell you
there's blood there!"
"They are very pretty," said
"Very pretty! and is that all you
have to say? Ellice, what ails you to-day? I don't believe you care half so much
for me as you used. Give me one of your old smiles, now—do—or I shall fancy that
you haven't entirely forgotten your old penchant for Hugh Irving. I met him just
below the turn of the road as I drove over—didn't stop to speak, however.
By-the-way, Ellice, I've done a pretty smart stroke of business to-day that, I
imagine, will put Hugh Irving effectually down for the present."
"What do you mean, Frazer?" said
Ellice, suddenly rousing herself from her temporary abstraction.
"I mean that we manoeuvred the
mortgage on the old Irving Place into our hands a week or two ago, and I
foreclosed to-day at twelve o'clock, just half an hour after it became due."
"Yes, and I defy Mr. Hugh to help
himself. Of course they had no idea of the thing; I kept it prodigiously close,
for I have always wanted a chance to break Hugh Irving's pride, and fortune has
favored me! I should not wonder if he were en route this moment to give
directions to that old-times lawyer of his, blessedly unconscious! The Irving
Place must go, for it will be next to an impossibility for them to raise the
money at so short a notice; and, with all the rest, it won't be a bad
arrangement for me, pecuniarily speaking."
But Ellice had risen from her
seat with reddened cheeks, and eyes that were literally wells of angry sparkle.
"Frazer Martin, you are not in
earnest?" "Never more so in my life, my love!"
"You would not stoop to such a
dishonorable, underhand proceeding, surely?"
"Not at all dishonorable, Ellice;
only a trick of the trade. To be sure it isn't generally done; but I would
stretch a point or two to make Hugh Irving feel my power."
"Despicable! base!" reiterated
Ellice, wringing her hands passionately. "Frazer, I never would have believed
this of you!"
"Scold away, darling!" said
Martin, caressingly touching her braids of shining black hair, as you might pet
a child. "You've no idea how sweet you look with those cheeks blazing and the
great eyes dilated. I like to see you get excited!"
"If it is really so, Frazer,"
pursued the girl, eagerly, "go immediately and undo the work of evil. Do not let
Hugh Irving suffer for a mere legal technicality. Remember the Place is his
home—his all. Hasten back to the city, for Heaven's sake!"
"Never!" said Martin, decidedly,
and with an almost demoniac light in his eye. "I tell you, Ellice, I hate the
man, and I will not bate my hold upon him!"
"Then, Frazer," said Ellice,
calmly, "our engagement is at an end. I will never marry a man who has taught me
to despise him!"
"Now, my darling, don't talk so!"
said Frazer Martin, coaxingly. "You know very well that you love me—that you are
my affianced wife. Tell the truth, now; own up that you only want to tease me!"
He would have passed his arm
about her waist, but she drew back with dignity.
"I might have loved you once,
Frazer, or fancied that I did; but your own words have dispelled the illusion.
Henceforward you are no more than the merest stranger to me."
Martin's handsome brow darkened.
"Are you serious, Ellice May?"
"And you really dismiss me from
"Very well. I accept the
dismissal. Return to your first love, if you choose; but remember, my fickle
fair one, that you can not smile me back again when you are wearied of playing
the coquette. Make your election now, or never!"
"It is made; good-evening, Mr.
Martin!" said Ellice, calmly. And calmly she stood there—her white dress
fluttering in the sunset breeze, while Martin twitched the reins of his splendid
grays from the post and sprang into his carriage, driving off like a whirlwind.
Noble little Ellice! she was true
to her womanhood, true to herself; and even at the time when Hugh Irving lost
his ancestral patrimony he gained a wife who had learned to love him for himself
alone. It was a ray of hope in the darkness; and with a brave heart he set to
work to build up the fallen fabric of fortune once more.
"Quite romantic, upon my word!"
sneered Frazer Martin, as he read the marriage of Hugh Irving and Ellice May in
the newspapers. "Just as they can afford! But," he added, between his clenched
teeth, "if the days of Faust were here once more I would sell myself to the Evil
One, soul and body, for the chance of striking that man's cup of happiness to
Twenty years had wrought but
little change in the dark beauty of Ellice Irving. One or two threads of silver
had, perhaps, interwoven themselves in the abundant braids of ebon hair, and the
peach-blossom color of girlhood had given place to