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Robert E. Lee Portrait
however remote, that the Trust
might be hidden in any one of the locked repositories in the East wing, it was a
possibility to be put to the test. When? Her own experience answered the
question. At the time when no prying eyes were open, and no accidents were to be
feared—when the house was quiet—in the dead of night.
She knew enough of her changed
self to dread the enervating influence of delay. She determined to run the risk,
headlong, that night.
More blunders escaped her when
dinner-time came; the admiral's criticisms on her waiting at table were sharper
than ever. His hardest words inflicted no pain on her; she scarcely heard him
—her mind was dull to every sense but the sense of the coming trial. The
evening, which had passed slowly to her on the night of her first experiment
with the keys, passed quickly now. When bedtime came, bedtime took her by
She waited longer on this
occasion than she had waited before. The admiral was at home; he might alter his
mind and go down stairs again, after he had gone up to his room; he might have
forgotten something in the library, and might return to fetch it. Midnight
struck from the clock in the servants' hall before she ventured out of her room,
with the keys again in her pocket, with the candle again in her hand.
At the first of the stairs on
which she set her foot to descend, an all-mastering hesitation, an
unintelligible shrinking from some peril unknown, seized her on a sudden. She
waited and reasoned with herself. She had recoiled from no sacrifices, she had
yielded to no fears, in carrying out the stratagem by which she had gained
admission to St. Crux; and now, when the long array of difficulties at the
outset had been patiently conquered—now, when by sheer force of resolution the
starting-point was gained, she hesitated to advance. "I shrank from nothing to
get here," she said to herself. "What madness possesses me that I shrink now?"
Every pulse in her quickened at
the thought, with an animating shame that nerved her to go on. She descended the
stairs, from the third floor to the second, from the second to the first,
without trusting herself to pause again within easy reach of her own room. In
another minute she had reached the end of the corridor, had crossed the
vestibule, and had entered the drawing-room. It was only when her grasp was on
the heavy brass handle of the sliding door—it was only at the moment before she
pushed the door back—that she waited to take breath. The Banqueting Hall was
close on the other side of the wooden partition against which she stood: her
excited imagination felt the death-like chill of it flowing over her already.
She pushed back the sliding-door
a few inches, and stopped in momentary alarm. When the admiral had closed it in
her presence that day she had heard no noise. When old Maxey had opened it to
show her the rooms in the East wing she had heard no noise. Now, in the night
silence, she noticed for the first time that the door made a sound—a dull,
rushing sound, like the wind.
She roused herself and pushed it
further back —pushed it half way into the hollow chamber in the wall constructed
to receive it. She advanced boldly into the gap, and met the night-view of the
Banqueting Hall face to face.
The moon was rounding the
southern side of the house. Her paling beams streamed through the nearer
windows, and lay in long strips of slanting light on the marble pavement of the
Hall. The black shadows of the pediments between each window, alternating with
the strips of light, heightened the wan glare of the moonshine on the stone
floor. Toward its lower end the Hall melted mysteriously into darkness; the
ceiling was lost to view; the yawning fire-place, the overhanging mantle-piece,
the long row of battle-pictures above, were all swallowed up in night. But one
visible object was discernible besides the gleaming windows and the moon-striped
floor. Midway in the last and farthest of the strips of light the tripod rose
erect on its gaunt black legs, like a monster called to life by the moon—a
monster rising through the light, and melting invisibly into the upper shadows
of the Hall. Far and near all sound lay dead, drowned in the stagnant cold. The
soothing hush of night was awful here. The deep abysses of darkness hid abysses
of silence more immeasurable still.
She stood motionless in the
door-way, with straining eyes, with straining ears. She looked for some moving
thing, she listened for some rising sound—and looked and listened in vain. A
quick ceaseless shivering ran through her from head to foot. The shivering of
fear? or the shivering of cold? The bare doubt roused her resolute will. "Now,"
she thought, advancing a step through the door-way—"or never! I'll count the
strips of moonlight three times over, and cross the Hall."
"One, two, three, four, five.
One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five."
As the final number passed her
lips, at the third time of counting, she crossed the Hall. Looking for nothing,
listening for nothing—one hand holding the candle, the other mechanically
grasping the folds of her dress—she sped ghost-like down the length of the
ghostly place. She reached the door of the first of the eastern rooms, opened
it, and ran in. The sudden relief of reaching a refuge, the sudden entrance into
a new atmosphere, overpowered her for the moment. She had just time to put the
candle safely on a table before she dropped giddy and breathless into the
Little by little, she felt the
rest quieting her. In a few minutes she became conscious of the triumph of
having won her way to the east rooms. In a few minutes she was strong enough to
rise from the chair, to take the keys from her pocket, and to look round her.
YEAR IN THE SERVICE.
I LOVE excitement. It was mainly
to gratify this passion that I joined the army.
"The army! Just the place for a
young man of spirit! What a field for adventure is the army! It is the straight
road to glory and a woman's heart! Venus and Mars! Helen and Paris! Cleopatra
and Antony! Love and war! Fame and patriotism!"
It was such ideas buzzing through
my brain that prevented me from making out correctly a rather mixed-up account;
and, in a mercurial freak, I dashed down the pen, seized my hat, and skedaddled
from the counting-room. When I reached the side-walk it flashed across my brain
that an old school chum was recruiting a company, and I at once struck a bee
line for his rendezvous, and enrolled myself as one of the defenders of the
Constitution and the Union.
When this became known I received
sundry congratulations from sundry friends, all professedly strong Union men, to
the effect—"You've ruined yourself"— "Thrown yourself away"—"Gone as a
private"—" Too bad," etc., etc. But I "didn't see the point" on any Unionism in
the remarks of these heroic lip-defenders of the nation —one of whom was
self-sacrificing enough to hold an office under the Federal Government—and I
returned their greeting as follows:
"Gone as a private! Yes. Am proud
of it. Greater the sacrifice greater the patriotism. Go thou and do likewise!"
Then I wheeled to the right about
and was off at double-quick, leaving them alone in their glory to speculate upon
the rise of molasses, the fall of soap, or whether whisky was steady, and to
manifest their patriotism by shouting at Union meetings for the purpose of
encouraging enlistments. I was now a soldier of the nation, and did not care a
straw about the opinion of the world, his wife, or any other man concerning the
step I had taken. Softly—there was just one person whom I was somewhat
interested to know how the news of my enlistment would be received.
Jennie Tracy was a handsome,
spunky, coquettishly-inclined piece of humanity, and with whom I was deeply
smitten; but I didn't intend that she should know it until I was well assured
that Jennie was "willin'." With all the knowledge I had flattered myself that I
possessed of the thousand-and-one meandering paths to a pretty woman's heart, I
had been unable to hit upon the right one to reach hers. However, I resolved to
let my love lie concealed in the bud until such time as it would have a fair
chance to bloom without being nipped by a coquette's laugh.
It was on the eve of our
regiment's departure that I called, in full regimentals, to say farewell to the
Tracy family. Jennie received me in a manner altogether different than usual
heretofore; her countenance wore a more sober cast, and I thought that I could
read something of feeling in her full hazel eyes. At least I was conceited
enough to believe that I was an object of interest to her; and this feeling was
more fully confirmed as I detected something glisten in the corner of her eyes
as I took her extended hand and said farewell, and especially as I perceived a
sort of huskiness in her voice as she re-echoed the words.
I returned to camp with increased
elasticity. I felt that I had at last made an impression on Jennie, and I was
happy; my spirits were as buoyant as a newly-made life-boat. I was about to take
the field, and I would carve out a niche in the temple of glory for her sake.
I was attached to the cavalry
branch of the service, and being a prime horseman, and quick at picking up the
drill, I soon attracted attention; and it was not long before I received a
warrant in appreciation of my services.
For the first few months I
considered that there was more reality than poetry in a soldier's life; but
gradually I became used to it, and liked it better as I grew older and saw a
fair chance for promotion. The sacred soil of Virginia was hospitable to us if
the people were not, for it often took us in, both man and beast, to a
considerable depth, and it was frequently the cause of at least one of the Ten
Commandments being broken while we were endeavoring to break the back-bone of
It was not until I reached that
region which has become famous for its Stonewall, the Shenandoah Valley, that I
had my senses thoroughly awakened so that I could see the foundation upon which
the superstructure of the rebellion has been raised in its true light, without
the aid of a Congressional dissertation or a leader in the organ of the party.
A portion of our regiment had
been detached for scouting purposes—a service just suited to my nature, full of
excitement, hair-breadth escapes, ad infinitum; and while thus engaged I
witnessed many scenes that caused the blood to tingle in my veins, and which
entirely changed my views in regard to a question that has long disturbed the
peace of my country.
It was toward sundown of a
pleasant day that a detachment under my command halted at a farmhouse to procure
refreshments, if possible, for ourselves and horses. On entering the kitchen my
attention was attracted toward two young girls, who appeared to shrink away in
one corner as if in terror that somebody was about to tear them from each other.
They were apparently about fifteen or sixteen years of age, neatly clad in dark
dresses, and their countenance bore fresh evidence of grief, and I at once
concluded that they were mourning the death of some near relative who had lost
his life in this unholy rebellion. But when it was announced that we were Union
soldiers I observed their features momentarily light up as if with joy, and I
was at once impressed that they, at least, were not "Secesh." The striking
resemblance between them, and the manner in which they seemed to cling to one
another, reminded me so forcibly of the twins in "The Wandering, Jew," that I
instantly christened them, in
my mind, as Rose and Blanche. An
old negress, perceiving how intently I was watching them, approached, and with a
countenance beaming with motherly love as she looked up into my face, in a low
"Dey am gwine to tuk 'em 'way
down South for specumlashun, an' to keep de Linkcum sogers from stealin' em,
massa; an' dey don't want to go, poor dear, bressed little souls. Poor tings!
Dere ole massa only jest dead."
I started, clutched my hands,
while a peculiar tremor crept through my veins as I heard these words; while the
old negress, casting a mournful look toward the objects of her sympathy, shook
her head as expressive of her sorrow, and I involuntarily ejaculated:
"Great God! is it possible! Are
The old negress, with a
significant look, nodded her head in the affirmative, and then bustled away.
The fair beings before me slaves!
Such things I had never dreamed of in my political philosophy. A slave had
always been associated in nay mind with a coarse creature with a black skin, an
uncouth countenance, a woolly head, and a chain attached to the leg; and the
beings before me were fair enough to be my sisters, with finely-shaped features,
and a luxuriant head of hair that might cause the envy of any Caucasian belle,
while a refined sensitiveness was evident in their every action; and it was some
moments before I could bring my mind to realize the truth of what I had just
When I had somewhat recovered
from my astonishment I called the old negress one side, being anxious to learn
more concerning the two beings in whom I now began to feel a deep interest. She
informed me that they, until recently, were ignorant of the stain attached to
their birth; that they had been educated and brought up "as white folks;" that
their master, whose children "some folks reckoned dey whar," had lately died,
and "dat he didn't leab no freedom papers for dem," and that they were seized
upon as part of the estate, and were about being taken to Richmond for safety;
that they were to leave that night, in company with some other slaves, under an
escort from Ashby's rangers.
Here was a dilemma! What was I to
do? Take the girls away with me? If so, I would be charged with negro-stealing,
and denounced as false to the Constitution and the Union. Allow them to be taken
to Richmond? If so, I would be false to my manhood. I thought of Jennie, and
could not do it. No, they must not go to Richmond. They must escape from the
life that there awaited them, even at the expense of my commission, which I had
but a few days before received.
My companions in arms were men of
intelligence, and I resolved to lay the matter before them. This I proceeded to
do. When I had finished my story they to a man swore that it was my duty to
prevent the girls from going to Richmond. If I did not do so I would be giving
aid and comfort to the rebels. This was partly my own view of the case.
My plans were soon decided upon;
and when our horses were refreshed we left the house without even communicating
our intentions to the sisters, for fear they might be whispered to others and
thereby reach the enemy. Taking a circuitous route so as to deceive those at the
house, we came to a narrow part of the road, admirably suited for an ambush, and
along which the rangers would pass, and there posting my little force as
advantageously as possible, we quietly awaited their approach. The evening was
clear, enabling us to see a considerable distance and pick off the rangers with
our carbines without endangering those under their guard.
We awaited in this spot nearly
three hours before the word was passed around that the foe were approaching. On
they came, totally unconscious of their danger, and were taken completely by
surprise. Several of their number were slain, three taken prisoners, and three
or four succeeded in effecting their escape. The slaves, among whom were some
intelligent men, were uninjured, and were rejoiced at their deliverance. But
what to do with them was a question. We could not encumber our future movements
with them, that was certain, and it would not do to leave them where they might
fall an easy prey to the rebels. It was finally decided that all we could do was
to point out the direction of our lines and bid them make their best speed
toward freedom. This we did.
After this event I began to feel
that I, as a member of the human family, had a greater interest in this war than
I had hitherto supposed. My whole demeanor changed; my buoyant spirits gave way
to a terrible earnestness of character as I began to realize the under-strata of
this rebellion. I now fervently prayed God that in this upheaving of political
bodies the whole social system of the South might be swept away and the Union
reconstructed on a basis that would be perpetual—one that would never cause a
blush to mantle the cheek of an American citizen. This change of character was
noted not only by my company but by the regiment, and it was generally
attributed to disappointment in love.
I had been nearly a year in the
service, and during that time had not heard from Jennie. But though we did not
correspond she was not absent front my thoughts. It was just on the eve of an
important battle that I learned from an officer who had returned to the regiment
after several weeks' absence, who I knew was somewhat acquainted with the Tracy
family, that Jennie was to be married. This information I obtained in course of
casual conversation. He gave it as a piece of gossip among his female friends.
He further remarked that she had made particular inquiries of him concerning a
Mr. — (mentioning my real name—I had enlisted under my middle name only), and
that he was unable to give her any satisfaction.
That night I dreamed of Jennie. I
saw her the bride of another, and the torment I endured I can not describe. The
next day found me in the midst of battle, careless of life, dashing on where
danger seemed greatest and death more certain. Night
found me on the battle-field
severely wounded. Great God, what a night was that! The storm raged furiously;
but far above its raging I could hear the moans, shrieks, and cries of wounded
and dying comrades. As I lay there I thought that the hour for my departure from
earth was fast approaching. My mind wandered back to my boyhood's days. Then my
whole life seemed to pass panoramically before use. There was Jennie, Rose, and
Blanche. I beheld Jennie as the wife of an ugly, vicious-looking man, and Rose
and Blanche in a slave-pen. Then the picture passed on, and I beheld Jennie,
Rose, and Blanche together in one group surrounded by smiling faces, and I made
an effort to rise and join them; but the effort was too much for my strength,
and I fell back exhausted. and saw no more.
When I awoke to consciousness I
found myself in a hospital. Here I passed three long and dreary weeks, at the
end of which time I received a commission as Captain, with the intelligence of
"promoted for gallantry on the field of battle." It bore date of just one year
from the time of my entering the service. The surgeon assuring me that it would
be some time before I would be able to resume active duty, I obtained a
furlough, resolved to return and ascertain something definite about Jennie.
Just as I reached the city I met
an old friend, who insisted so strenuously upon may making one of a party at his
house that evening that I consented.
"Do not fail to come, for they
will be there," he said, as we parted.
Who were they? He laid great
stress upon the word. Could it be Jennie and her husband? Yes —it was them. But
I would go: as well meet her there as at any other place. It would be better
than calling at her residence, for it would appear as if it were accidental.
That evening found me true to my
appointment. When I entered the room I saw a number of ladies and gentlemen
grouped in a circle, apparently so intent upon listening to a conversation that
my announcement was scarcely noticed. In a moment afterward I heard—
"And you never learned the
This was followed by a sudden
shriek—a confusion—and the next instant Rose and Blanche were clinging to my
well arm, and as I gazed about 1 beheld Jennie a short distance off looking the
picture of amazement.
Explanations soon followed. Rose
and Blanche had just finished a narrative of their escape as I entered. They,
with the other slaves, had succeeded in reaching our lines, and attracting
attention soon reached the city, and were under the patronage of the church to
which my friend as well as the Tracy family belonged. Jennie had taken an
especial interest in their welfare, and they were the objects of much attention—
the lions of the hour.
That evening was a happy one to
me—not only in seeing Rose and Blanche in safety and surrounded by friends, but
in hearing that Jennie was still unmarried and that I occupied a warm place in
I am soon to rejoin my regiment,
not as a single man but as the husband of Jennie, and write this to encourage
young men who are in love that before they despair they should join the army.
That is the true road to glory and a woman's heart. Do not wait for a
commission; go as a private; for if you do your duty a year in the service will
make a great change.
BATTLE AS SEEN BY THE
WE publish on
pages 824 and 825 a
picture of a battle drawn from the station occupied by the reserve. As a general
rule, battle pictures represent the shock of the actual conflict; the scenes in
the back-ground are often quite as striking and worthy of being preserved. Our
artist thus describes his picture:
"The drawing represents a general
view of the battle-field as seen by the reserve, the line of battle off in the
distance, next the artillery and second line of infantry. To the right there is
a battery planted on a little hill. Across the road fresh troops are seen
rapidly marching into the woods toward the front to reinforce our worn-out
soldiers. Near the centre are generals, with their staffs, watching the fate of
the day. The road is blocked up with cavalry, infantry, artillery, and
ambulances, going to and fro, carrying their burden of wounded to the rear. On
the house seen near the centre are stationed officers with signal flags. To the
left is a house used as a hospital, and still further are a batch of prisoners
taken off by a file of our men.
"All this and more is seen by the
reserve, patiently waiting until their turn shall come to take part in the
struggle of the day. The wounded are brought past them, carried so that their
injuries are terribly apparent to those who are forced to stand still and coolly
view their sufferings, not knowing how soon the same fate may be theirs. The air
resounds with shrieks of agony, and the ground near the
surgeon's table is
amputated limbs. Such sights as these make some hearts sicken and
sink despairingly; while in others it makes the desire to be avenged burn only
the more fiercely, especially whenever and anon passes by the familiar form of a
late comrade in arms, fearfully mutilated or crippled for life, or perhaps
dying. One poor soldier is borne along, who, in spite of his pain, renders his
last tribute of respect to his commander and cheers him as he passes.
"Out of the ambulance and
supply-wagon, nearest the hospital, the wounded are lifted one after another,
and laid side by side to wail wearily until the surgeon can attend to them. One
loyal soldier, who has charge of the prisoners, has captured a rebel flag, and
is significantly trailing it in the dust as he walks along."