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Robert E. Lee Portrait
Page) was ordered up to support the Ninth. They did their duty well.
This was about ten o'clock. The enemy having brought his artillery into action,
we returned a similar and much more effective fire from Captain Morrison's
battery, of the Third New York artillery, the latter being posted in a small
field, on a rise of ground, within 800 yards of the enemy. Soon after Captains
Schenck's and Janey's batteries were brought into play, from different and the
best available positions on either side of the road. The engagement having
become more general, Brigadier-General Wessell's brigade was ordered up. It
comprised the 85th, 101st, and 103d Pennsylvania, and the 88th, 92d, and 96th
New York. After the 45th, 17th, and 23d Massachusetts regiments had been ordered
up General Wessell, who was on the field, ordered the execution of a flank
movement on the enemy's battery. So it was that while a small portion of this
force operated to the left, the remainder moved through a woods to the right,
also flanking a swamp, and got a position on the line of an open field that
enabled our men to play upon the enemy with intense effect and remarkable
execution. The Ninth New Jersey, after sustaining a terrific fire from the
enemy, obtained a position close to the bridge, being handsomely supported by
the 17th Massachusetts; and then it was that we found ourselves almost on the
bank of the Neuse River, with a long fortification on the opposite side. This
fortification, 175 feet long, thoroughly commanded all the approaches to the
bridge. In it and supporting it were three companies of light artillery, four
companies of heavy artillery, two North Carolina regiments, the 2d, 17th, 18th,
and 23d South Carolina regiments, a portion of the 3d North Carolina cavalry,
part of Major Nethercote's battalion, and the Raleigh detachment, under command
of Colonel Molett, who was wounded in the leg—in all about 6000 strong.
After a sharp engagement for over
three hours we drove the enemy from his intrenchments and got possession of the
bridge. The latter was fired in three places; but the Ninth New Jersey, a few of
the Third New York artillery, and the Provost Marshal, Major Franklin, advanced
in haste and put out the flames before the fire had done any material injury.
Immediately our advance regiments crossed, when the Tenth Connecticut advanced
upon the enemy and drove him over the fields, forcing him to retreat to the
further end of the town.
BATTLE OF WHITEHALL.
This was fought on 16th. As our
troops approached the town an open space revealed our approach to the enemy, the
latter being concealed in a thick woods on the opposite side of the river. Heavy
skirmishing immediately ensued between the Ninth New Jersey and three regiments
of rebels. Major Garrard, who was in advance of the column, with three pieces of
artillery and a squadron of cavalry, passed over a high hill behind the
skirmishers, in full sight of the enemy, until he got to the left of those in
action, and then opened with his artillery. In a few minutes other artillery
came up, when the Major ceased firing. Although his cavalry force was in a
position of great exposure, under a heavy fire for quite a while, still the loss
was quite trifling. The battle lasted for over three hours. The enemy operated
against us with a force of about five or six thousand infantry and three
batteries of artillery. The Ninth New Jersey Volunteers, General Wessel's
brigade, and a couple of Massachusetts regiments, were engaged in the fight. A
few other regiments were brought under fire.
BATTLE OF GOLDSBOROUGH.
Thus General Foster made his way
to his destination, which was Goldsborough. On December 17 he found the enemy
there, and opened on him with shell. For a very short space of time the rebels
stood their ground; but so accurately did we get the range of their position,
rapidly throwing in the shells, that the enemy broke front and line, and
commenced a precipitate retreat across the river on the railroad bridge. We kept
up our firing with considerable rapidity, and by that means cut off the retreat
of two rebel regiments, who fell back into thick woods on the other side of the
Colonel Ledley then moved a
battery to within less than half a mile of the enemy's position. The Ninth New
Jersey was sent to support the battery across an open field and afterward beyond
it, until the regiment got close to the right of the railroad bridge, and a
short distance from the enemy and the river. While these operations were being
carried out, the Seventeenth Massachusetts, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel
Fellows, moved to the left, into the woods, waded through a mill stream, and
came out on the railroad line directly in front of the enemy.
By this time, and while the
Seventeenth was slowly advancing, the enemy commenced a rapid fire of shot and
shell from a battery concealed in the woods across the river, and to the left of
the bridge, looking from our position, as also from their iron-clad railroad
car, occupying a position on the other side of the river, close to the entrance
to the bridge. At this point they also had sharp-shooters, who tried hard, but
did not well succeed in picking off our men.
The object of General Foster's
penetrating on far inland being to destroy this railroad bridge, he now gave
orders to have it burned. Colonel Hickman, who got the order, called for
volunteers to carry into effect the General's desire. Many volunteered from the
Seventeenth Massachusetts and Ninth New Jersey regiments, so the Colonel
selected some from each regiment to go and do the work. Several advances were
made to fire; but our men were driven back.
Finally, Lieutenant Graham, of
the rocket battery, and now acting aid to Colonel Hickman, and William C. Semons,
a private in the Ninth New Jersey, advanced under the enemy's heavy firing, when
Lieutenant Graham got near enough to and did fire the bridge.
As soon as we saw the bridge in
flames the General gave orders to have the railroad track destroyed. Two
Massachusetts regiments, who had been lying in reserve, stacked arms and rushed
up on the track with a yell and a cheer, and did the work of destruction at
short notice. The rails and ties were thoroughly destroyed by physical power and
the effect of fire.
General Foster having
successfully accomplished all his plans and more, to-day determined to withdraw
his force from the field, and to fall back to the first convenient camping place
for the night.
FIGHTING AND WAITING.
"OH, and did you know Luther is
She grew just a shade paler, the
pretty little creature who listened, but she answered calmly,
"Indeed! I think he has enough of
the combative element in his composition to make a good soldier."
Ella Mason was disappointed. She
had expected a scene. She had fired no random shot. It was one aimed straight at
her listener's heart, sure to find its mark, she thought. She had not been quick
enough to note that sudden pallor, and Mrs, Letchworth's cheeks were blooming a
moment after. We have all read of the general who never reeled in his saddle
till the fierce charge was over, though the first shot tore its way to his heart
with a mortal wound. If men would take lessons from women they would do such
"Yes, he is a lieutenant in the
Thirteenth. I heard that he persuaded his brother, who thought of going, out of
the notion, and went in his stead. He said that men with happy firesides ought
to stay at home until all those who had nothing to leave, and no one to mourn
for them, had been used up."
"Used up!" Mrs. Letchworth winced
again at those words, but Miss Mason was not sharp-sighted enough to perceive
it, or skillful enough to hold her ground when her hostess adroitly turned the
conversation. Presently she took her leave, and marched
off with an uncomfortable sense
of defeat. It was well that she did not bethink herself to look back through the
window. She would have seen pretty Ada Letchworth frozen into a pulseless calm,
like some pale statue of despair. She sat there, no one ever knew how long, with
clasped hands and dry lips, and eyes that longed to weep but could not. She did
not realize what had paralyzed her. She had not fainted; but, for the time,
thought and sense were blotted out utterly.
At length her limbs shook with a
sudden shudder. Passionate tears started from her eyes, and she sat there with
thought only too active, a helpless, sorrow-stricken girl.
She was only seventeen, five
years before, when Luther Letchworth married her. She was only twenty-two now,
poor desolate little thing, all alone in the world. How had it happened? She
asked herself this question, as a stranger might have done, with a sad wonder.
Surely she and Luther had loved
each other when they married. She was an orphan, and he had taken her and her
fortune from her guardian's hands, and promised to be to her instead of all lost
ties—father, mother, brother, as well as tender lover, cherishing husband. Whose
fault was it that after three years he had given her back her fortune
unimpaired, and they had each gone again on ways as separate as if their lives
had never been joined together by God and man? There was a bond between them, it
is true, however widely they might be parted. He could never give her back the
light, care-free heart of youth; and, for the present, she could form no other
ties, for there was no loop-hole by which even the law could give her absolute
freedom. Whose fault was it all? Not hers, she had always said positively,
hitherto, in answer to all such questionings of her own heart. Now she hesitated
a little, and tried to think honestly where the just blame lay.
I wonder if all such doubtful
points will be clear in the light of the last great day? They puzzle one sadly
now. They had loved each other, she and Luther, but—; and where the disjunctive
conjunction began she could scarcely tell. In the first place, perhaps,
seventeen ought not to have wedded thirty. Luther Letchworth was a grave,
scholarly man of affairs. He had been used to be master of himself and of
others. His habits were fixed, his tastes matured. He thought the fair, sweet
child he loved and. had chosen would have no will of her own. It was the old
dream of moulding a wife—was there ever a case in which it was not a failure?
Ada was not made of material so
flexible as he had imagined. She had been used to her own way also. Her tastes
were as decided as his own. Her guardian had been a bachelor, for whom a maiden
sister had kept house. These two quiet, middle-aged people had never thought of
counteracting their ward's wishes, or opposing even her whims. They had not been
sentimental over her, but they had been kindly careful of her health and her
beauty, for the rest letting her please herself. It did not suit her, after her
honey-moon was over, to be expected to submit her judgment to her husband's,
though she would have been ready enough to acknowledge that he was wiser and
more judicious than she. He had given up every thing to her in their wooing
days—nearly all men do—and then, after they have won a bride on such false
pretenses, they wonder, when the mask falls, that she turns a Kate on their
hands instead of a Griselda.
She was happy a little while.
They traveled a few weeks, and Mr. Letchworth had no thought or care but to
pleasure his young bride. When they went home he thought it time for the reign
of common sense to commence, while her six weeks of indulgence had only
strengthened her belief in her right to rule. Then, like most men who marry at
thirty, Letchworth really held the reins more tightly than reason warranted. An
older and better-disciplined woman than Ada might have been pardoned for growing
It would be too long a story to
trace the growth of the bitter root. At first there were quarrels, alternating
with reconciliations so sweet, so tender, that Letchworth half longed to anger
her again for the bliss of such a making-up. She could not sleep at first
without the good-night kiss which sealed her pardon. She would rage internally,
or weep, or say some bitter words; but it always ended by her creeping to his
side and putting up her innocent child's lips, with the penitent whisper,
"I shall not sleep, Luther,
unless you are friends with me."
But after a while, naturally
enough, she grew tired of this. When she was conscious that the fault had been
hers she was ready to make atonement; but it was not quite so easy when she was
well persuaded that the blame was on the other side. She went to sleep one night
without the kiss, because she waited obstinately for Luther to offer it. She
slept well—did not cry, except a few silent tears once, when she woke in the
middle of the night, and saw by the moonlight which came in at the window how
much at ease he looked, and how sound his sleep was.
After that the periods of
alienation grew longer. She began to be proud and petulant—ah! looking back now
she could see that she had been far from faultless. She made no allowance for
his pride, that would not bend because it could not. She expected the oak to
sway with the wind like the aspen, and called strength coldness and want of
So it went for three wretched
years, until they both began to believe that they hated each other. And then she
had taunted him one day with having married her without knowing or caring
whether they could make each other happy, because she was rich. She had not been
prepared for the stern change that darkened his face, the steel glint in his
eyes. Yet he spoke calmly:
"You think so, do you?"
"Yes, and it was your blame. I
was too young to judge about it. I only believed you when you said you would
devote your life to making me happy. You have cheated me!"
She wondered to see how calmly he
took her words. It was a suspicious mildness. He did not commit himself. He
looked at her quietly, and only asked,
"What would you wish now? I can
not change the past. Dead is dead."
"Now!" she cried, confronting him
with glittering eyes and cheeks aflame—"now I want what I am not likely to
get—to be left mistress of myself and my fortune. I ask nothing from you. Give
me only my own, and I will go away from you. It will be what the law calls
desertion; so that by-and-by you can get your freedom again, and find a better
He only smiled, a calm smile
touched with scorn, and went out.
For three days after that, except
in the necessary courtesies of the joyless meals to which they sat down
together, he never spoke to her. Nights she heard him moving round restlessly in
the room over her head. Sometimes thoughts of their olden love would be almost
too strong for her, and she would half resolve to go to him, like a penitent
child, and beg him to take her back on any terms. She would shiver with
exquisite pain to think how near he was—only a few words of confession, of
entreaty, and she might be taken home to that only heart in the world upon which
she had a claim, which had been such a haven of rest so many times. But some sly
demon—which she baptized by the names of proper pride, womanly self-respect—came
to her aid, and she would only weep some passionate tears and crush her own
hands fiercely against the heart whose mad throbs she could not still, though
she forced herself to stay away from Luther.
The morning of the fourth day he
spoke to her, courteously as one might to a stranger, calling her Mrs.
Letchworth. Would she favor him with five minutes' attention? He had something
to say to her.
She followed him into the parlor
with a terrible foreboding, a sense of coming doom, that almost choked her. He
laid before her some papers which she tried to look at; but she could not see
"All your fortune is there," he
said, quietly. "Invested in your own name, precisely as it was when I married
you. All except this house. and furniture. I have spent the past three days in
effecting a transfer of every thing I had held differently. I waited to consult
you before making any arrangements about this house. I did not know but you
might prefer living here to going back to your guardian's."
"Shalt I? Would it be
proper—alone? Had I better?"
Few things could have touched him
as did those helpless, child-like questions. He knew how poorly she was fitted
to decide for herself. It was the old confiding tone, used by habit and
unconsciously, in which she had appealed to him in so many of her little
perplexities. His heart smote him. His conscience pricked him. Was he doing
right to leave her to struggle with all the difficulties and disheartenments of
life alone—that child! Then he hardened himself again. She was rich, he thought.
She had that fortune by which she had accused him of being won. She need not be
helpless in a world where Money is King. He answered her coldly,
"It is for you to decide what you
prefer. The house is yours, deeded to you in your own name. With such a
housekeeper as you could easily secure there would be no impropriety in your
living here, if you like that way best."
"I think—I am sure I should," she
Did he guess that she clung to
that house, even then, for his sake; because no other spot could ever be to her
like that one, consecrated by the ghost of so dear a love! He showed no emotion.
"There is nothing more to be
done, then," he said, quietly. "My own effects are already arranged for removal.
I will send a man for them at noon. They are in the room over yours. If you will
be kind enough to let them stay there three hours longer, I will give you no
She longed to sob, to shriek, to
wail out her agony; but he was so calm it made her calm also. She half put out
her hand toward him, and she said gently, humbly even,
"Good-by, then, and may God bless
you by-and-by with some one that will make your life happier than I could!
Remember, Luther, I do not blame you. It was only because we ought never to have
Was he afraid to touch those
little fingers? He pretended not to see the outstretched hand. He made short
work of his good-by; but when he was out of her sight he stopped a moment in the
hall, and looked round for some token of her. He saw only one, a little blue bow
which had been used to fasten her collar, and fallen unnoticed to the floor. She
would never miss it. He picked it up, and thrust it into his bosom.
No matter what she felt when he
was gone—how she wore her sackcloth and ashes—what cry of mortal pain was forced
from her lips by the pressure of her crown of thorns. Her sorrow developed a
strength unknown before. She felt that inaction would kill her. Before night she
had suited herself with a housekeeper; given to her guardian the only
explanation of her situation which she would ever vouchsafe to any one; and
settled down to her lonely life in the house which would be no longer a home.
Hearing of all this, of course
Luther Letchworth misjudged her, as men almost always do misjudge women, and
thought that she was not suffering.
It was a nine days' wonder to the
good people of Sturbridge, one and all. Mr. Letchworth added to the excitement
by quietly removing his business to Boston; and, as the absent are always wrong,
his going away transferred to his wife the sympathy even of the women. He had
ill-used her dreadfully, they were sure. They began to besiege her with visits
of condolence. When they found that she resolutely refused to open her lips
upon the subject the tide of
popular feeling turned again, and they were confident that she must have been
altogether to blame because she had nothing to say for herself.
Ella Mason was Mr. Letchworth's
cousin. She liked him, had loved him even, as such selfish natures do love,
before Ada's fair face won him. When the separation took place she would have
cut Mrs. Letchworth's acquaintance but that she could not deprive herself of the
happiness of going to see how she bore her trouble. She stifled her resentment
for the solace of her curiosity, and had kept up a sort of one-sided intimacy
with Ada ever since, making her frequent visits which were never returned. They
were borne patiently, because she was the only one who ever spoke in that
dwelling the name which still had power to thrill all the pulses of that lonely,
When the war broke out some dumb,
foreboding instinct had told Ada that sooner or later he would go; therefore
Miss Mason's words had not surprised her. Perhaps they would not so much have
pained her but for the insinuation that he went because he had no happy home to
leave. If he had been her loving husband still, she thought she would not have
held him back. She could have blessed him and sent him forth to do the noblest
work of the centuries—work for God and man. Then, if he had fallen, she could
have gone to him some time —hers hereafter as here. But how if he went now —went
because his life was blighted and worthless? Would not a curse lie at her door?
If he died would not his blood be required at her hands? and would she ever
dare, in all the ages, to creep to his side and pray for pardon? Alas! she felt
now that unless she could be at peace with him she should hardly know whether
even heaven was bright. And again she asked herself whose the blame had been,
and grew more and more ready to bear it all herself.
It was nightfall of the day on
which she had heard of his enlistment when a light—a sort of inspiration,
twin-born of hope and agony—came to her. A Lieutenant in the Thirteenth! Had
they yet left Boston? Might she not be in time to see him before he went? She
would try. She could tell when she met him whether his heart clung to her still.
If any love was in his soul it would look out at her through his eyes. If those
eyes were pitiless she would only ask him to forgive her for all the pain she
had ever given him, and go away home again with no kiss or blessing, only that
prayer for pardon. But if she saw love in his looks—she fell a-weeping there at
the thought of what might be, of a full reconciliation, of feeling his arms
close round her, his lips on her cheek, hearing his whispers in her ear. Would
it not kill her to be so happy? In such an hour even death would not be
The next morning she went to
Boston. She took a carriage from the depot to the State-House, making sure of
learning there all she wished to know. As they were about to turn into
Washington Street the driver drew up his horses and stopped. Impatient of the
delay she looked out. A regiment was marching by. She heard the martial music
pealing exultantly. She saw the banners wave, the bright arms glitter in the
sun; and straining her eyes to watch each man as he marched she saw him—Luther.
She shrieked aloud, calling his name with a passionate cry, which she thought
should have gone straight to his heart; but the exultant music swallowed up her
weak woman's voice in its great waves of melody, and her husband marched on with
the rest. When the last man had gone by she wrenched open the carriage door and
made the driver hear her. He dismounted respectfully, and wondered why she was
so pale, and what had changed her so in such brief while.
"I have altered my mind," she
gasped, huskily. "You may drive back again to the depot. I shall not go to the
She went home again—poor desolate
child, only twenty-two, and so solitary in the world. She wondered how she was
going to live, and was surprised, after a day or two, to find that she was less
listless and miserable than before. She had an interest now in watching the
movements of the Thirteenth; and, though she hardly confessed it to herself, she
lived on one hope. Tie might not be killed; he might come back; he might forgive
her. She would account no humiliation too great now which could restore him to
Months after months passed on.
She was not idle. Womanhood grew on her rapidly. She used her wealth and her
time for the war. Perhaps something she sent might help him. This was motive
enough in itself, though I think even without that motive she would have done
her utmost, for she had just begun to learn the meaning of life.
She shivered when the autumn
leaves fell and the winter came. Where was he? how sheltered? how faring? The
spring brought her, for his sake only, a flutter of rejoicing. For herself,
bird-song and springing verdure, breath of blossoms, murmurous music of stream
and fountain, passed by unheeded. She lived only in her work and her waiting.
So it went till the breathless,
turbulent days of the raid into Maryland, when every heart stood still in a
wordless silence of terror and expectation. Then one night she read his name in
the list of the dangerously wounded. She waited for no confirmation, no farther
tidings. The next morning she started. She hurried on night and day, without
pause or rest, guided by some subtle instinct which seemed to tell her where her
way led, until at length she reached the temporary hospital where lay the
sufferers after one of those fierce fights. She went toward it with fainting
heart but firm pulses—they would not think her fit to take care of him else.
A tall man in the uniform of a
lieutenant was just coming out. She met him on the threshold. She fell fainting
across his arms, which opened involuntarily to support her. Surely he knew that
white face? but how three years had changed it! He gathered her close to him
jealously. He took