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Robert E. Lee Portrait
"How kind you have been!" said
the young soldier, gratefully.
There was something in his voice
and glance which affected Margaret strangely, but with an effort she suppressed
all outward signs of emotion.
"Do you think I could write a
letter?" he asked, the next day.
"You have not the strength to
write yourself; but if you will dictate I will write for you."
Writing materials were brought,
and Margaret seated herself at a small table by the bedside.
"It is to my father," the young
The letter was commenced. After
an account of his falling sick and being brought to the hospital, the young
soldier turned to Margaret, and said, suddenly, "You have never told me your
name. I shall wish to remember in after-years to whom I am indebted for my
"My name is Margaret Thorpe," was
the answer somewhat hesitatingly given.
"I shall mention to my father how
much I am indebted to you."
"No, no!" said Margaret, hastily.
The young man looked at her in
"Promise me," she said, eagerly,
"never to mention my name to your father."
"Why should you be unwilling?"
"Regard it as a whim, if you
please; I can not explain it."
The letter was finished, and no
further allusion was made to the subject. Only on the margin of the letter
Herbert Wentworth—for it is time to give his name—contrived, unobserved by
Margaret, to write, "Come."
Some days passed. The fever had
turned, and Herbert was rapidly regaining his health. Margaret was seated by his
bedside reading to him when steps were heard approaching. Supposing it to be the
physician, she looked up, composedly. The next minute she had arisen from her
seat, and with uncertain steps strove to leave the room.
"Margaret," said the new-comer in
a low, clear, penetrating voice.
She turned, irresolutely.
"Now that we have met after so
many years, would you leave me so soon?"
"Why should you wish me to
remain, Henry? You have had good cause to forget me."
"But I have not forgotten you,
Margaret. I have never wished to forget you."
"Even when I wronged you most?"
"Not even then."
He came forward and took her
hand. It trembled in his own.
"Ought I to take your hand? Am I
worthy?" said Margaret, humbly.
"You have repented the wrong you
did me—you have nursed my son back to life. If you sinned you have atoned also.
I think you have suffered, Margaret." He said this gently, noting regretfully
the changes which time and grief had wrought.
"If you have forgiven me, Henry,
I shall live happier henceforth. Yet I wronged myself not less than you. No
sooner had I uttered the bitter words that parted us than I would have given
worlds to recall them. But my unhappy pride prevented that. From that day we
have not met. In solitude I have mourned over hopes which I myself had blighted.
My punishment has been not less great than my sin."
"Let both be forgotten. When I go
back to Wisconsin, Margaret, will you go with me?"
"As my wife, Margaret."
"No, no, it can not be."
"When I tell you that it will
promote my happiness—that I have a family of young children to whom you can be a
second mother—will not that alter your resolution?"
"Give me time to think—it is all
so sudden. It is not right that so much happiness should fall to my lot."
Margaret's scruples were at
length silenced. At the altar she plighted her faith to him who had so long
possessed her heart. The cross which she had so long borne fell from her
shoulders. A sweet and grateful peace softened the gravity of her face. When she
returned to Nortonville to arrange her affairs previous to her transfer of
residence, the villagers hardly recognized in her the cold, statue-like woman
who had repelled all by her coldness. They knew not that the lost harmony had
been restored to her soul, and that with her the way of duty had led into the
path of peace.
SOMETHING LIKE CAMPAIGNING.
"I REMEMBER one evening near
Maryland, which stands out in my memory like an oasis in the
desert. We were marching hard, driving Stuart before us. Day and night, with
hardly an interval, we had been at it steadily, and every body was in a chronic
state of sleepiness. My orderly, Thompson, fell into an uneasy slumber on
horseback, and soon afterward his horse followed the example, while in the very
act of marching. I heard a sudden shriek behind me, and, looking back, saw
Thompson very wide awake sticking his heels violently into his horse's side as
the animal, with nodding head, was gently subsiding to the earth. Of course,
there were several halts as the column straggled, or got too close. On one
occasion, the whole battery, men and horses, who led us in the line of march,
got so fast asleep that they did not hear the troops ahead move on; and so we
remained stationary for an hour or two, with no idea what could be the matter.
The men slid to the ground and lay on the road-side by their horses, and some of
the officers followed their example. I, however, felt very wide awake, in a mood
for supper and society. Just where we halted was one of those nice snug little
villages of Northern Maryland, which are such a contrast to the collections of
houses called towns in Virginia. The house nearest to me was cheerful with
lights, and had altogether a cozy, home look that was irresistible to
a man who had been on rough
service at the front for a couple of years. I did not attempt to resist the
attraction but moved boldly forward, knocked at the door, and entered.
"Bright lights, soft carpets,
pretty furniture, were all pleasant sights to one used to decay and devastation;
and a table spread with a white table-cloth, covered with country fare neatly
arranged, was by no means disagreeable to a hungry man; but there was something
in the room which was more attractive than any of these. There were pretty faces
smiling out of nice curled or braided hair, dainty forms rustling in fresh
muslin, sweet voices uttering hearty welcome from such charming lips, that my
heart gave a bound and throb which made me for a moment lose my appetite. I can
not say exactly how many girls there were in that room; I only know that I was
encircled in a halo of muslin, my hands grasped by yielding palms, and myself
escorted in triumph to the tea-table. There were three or four other officers
there already, but I did not find time to speak to them. An angel in curls was
asking me if I took sugar and milk, while an ethereal being with black eyes was
heaping my plate with cold beef, ham, and pickles. Then a darling little
creature, whose beauty did not suggest any thing but pure flesh and blood, was
sitting by my side helping me to butter, and asking me with such a sympathizing
expression, whether I was not very tired and hungry, that my appetite came back
with a vengeance, only disturbed by my desire to talk to her and bring her eyes
back to mine. Such eyes! my dear fellow. They did not sparkle or flash or any of
that nonsense; but there was such a steady, gentle light in their blue depths
that I would have fallen fatally in love then and there, if a pair of black orbs
had not done my business a year or two previous.
"Well, Sir, I made an uncommonly
good supper; and after that was over, of course, I flirted, or was flirted with,
whichever you choose to call it; the first is the proper form of words, the
other is most accordant with the facts. And it was all right too. I am sure we
had fought enough to win some little attention; and it would have been very
unkind in them not to treat us in a different style from the home-keeping youths
with very homely wits who were the usual recipients of their little delicate
affections. There was a pretty, artless, mischievous-looking damsel of seventeen
who soon took possession of me. She sat down on a dear little sofa by my side,
and very close indeed, asking me all sorts of questions about marching and
fighting, fingering my sabre, and trying to draw it with her little hands. How
she thrilled when I told about Brandy Station; what a glow lit up her face as I
described our charge; and how sadly she dropped a tear or two as I mentioned our
last sight of our dead Major lying across a rebel corpse, his sabre still in his
hand! Her head drooped so that it almost rested on my shoulder, and I really
could find no place for my left arm except around her waist.
"There was a tall young gentleman
in the room, who looked as civilians are apt to look on such occasions, as if he
did not know what to do with himself. The young ladies neglected him; we did not
want to talk with him; he had no sabre to play with, and no spurs to finish off
his boots; and consequently he did not know what to do with his hands and feet
or tongue, while he was not civilized enough to keep quiet with a good grace.
This tall young gentleman, therefore, chose to occupy himself with me and my
companion, and our proceedings did not appear to yield him particular
gratification. So, as I rose to take leave, he tried to interpose between us,
with some whispered remonstrances to the young lady. Whew! didn't he catch a
look! And then the girl flashed out, 'You stay at home, and make money, and have
all your comforts about you, and then choose to be jealous of our feelings for
those who are giving their lives for us, whom we shall never see again, and may
hear of to-morrow as lying dead upon the battle-field! I am not ashamed of what
I feel for them, and I am not afraid to show it. Major, good-by! I kiss the
sword which I know that you will use well for us, and I kiss you for doing so.'
As she said this she put her little hands on my shoulders to lift her face to
mine. It was not very hard to bring the two together. And then all the other
girls came up and kissed us, and I went away decidedly happy, with something to
think about for the rest of the night. That girl gave me a new idea of the duty
of young ladies to cavalry officers; and though I did not require others to kiss
my sabre, I always insisted on their saluting myself during the remainder of the
"I had about forgotten the tall
young man by the next afternoon, when a rather dashing-looking fellow, in a sort
of extemporaneous uniform, mounted on a very good horse, and well armed and
equipped, came riding after our column. As soon as he came to where I was he
drew rein and addressed me. I then saw that it was the same person who had
involuntarily done me such a favor the night before.
" 'Major,' he said, 'I ain't much
of a soldier or a fine-spoken man, but I am mighty fond of that same little
piece that was so smart last night. She got so set up about you fighting fellows
that I don't expect to have much of a show, unless I make an offer at the secesh
on my own hook. I suppose it won't hurt you much to let me go along and see
what's going on, will it? It's only another man dead or alive, you know.'
"It was a queer sort of a
proposition, and I took a good look at the fellow to see whether he was a fool
or in sensible earnest; for a man of the former kind would have been a perfect
nuisance, of course. The man stood my scrutiny well. By daylight, and on
horseback, he looked active, vigorous, and intelligent; and there was a gleam of
cool daring and perfect self-reliance in his eye which assured me that, though
no soldier, he would not be behindhand in a fight. So I told him that, if he
chose to act as an orderly to me, he might do so, though, of course, I could not
put him in the ranks. I could see, as he assented, that he had a sort of
notion that he might enter into a
sort of rivalry with me in the next fight, and that he intended to do something
heroic at the first opportunity. Naturally amused by the fancy, I turned round
to take a fresh look at him as he rode in his citizen fashion beside my other
orderly, and I could hardly keep from laughing at the expression with which he
and the soldier were contemplating one another. Each had such a perfect
conviction of his own superiority, and each was so afraid that the other would
not admit it; and at the same time they were each conscious of certain
weaknesses in their respective panoplies.
"If I wanted to, I could employ
half an hour in detailing the amusing circumstances attending Dan Simpson's
campaign with the Jersey cavalry; but they would be merely episodes, and in no
way connected with the main incident of my story. So I shall hurry on to the
fight at Gettysburg.
"We got on to the field for the
second day's fight, and lay behind the right of the line. The rebels at one time
drove our infantry from the crest of the hill above us, and we were deployed as
skirmishers, dismounted to assist in checking them. I never feel at home or
self-reliant on foot, and so I kept the saddle; and though Thompson wisely
dismounted, Simpson felt too heroic to descend from his saddle while I remained
in mine. The lines were only about two hundred yards apart, and the firing was
heavy; but our men, snugly ensconced behind a fence, and lying down, were
perfectly safe, and managed to inflict considerable damage upon the enemy. It
was the first time that Dan had ever heard the peculiar noise of a Minie ball,
and you know the sensation produced by that sound when the shot is approaching
you. I heard a laugh from my men, in which the grim chuckle of Thompson was
particularly distinguishable; and, looking round, I saw Simpson's heels in the
air, while his head was descending toward his horse's crupper. How he had
managed to twist himself into such an extraordinary attitude I do not know, but
no circus rider could have struck it more promptly. It seems that just as he
mounted the hill a particularly vicious discharge was sent from the opposing
skirmishers. The balls came humming on. Simpson gave a start, then a dodge
forward on his horse's neck; then, suddenly thinking that that brought him in
closer range, he rapidly reversed his position. This, accompanied by a plunge of
the horse, brought him helpless over the animal's tail, which he clutched
frantically, and with one foot still held by the stirrup, the other around the
horse's neck, he writhed in shame and dismay. Thompson released him from his
predicament, led him into a corner of the fence, and proceeded to give him good
counsel as to the evil of indiscriminate dodging, and the way to accomplish the
same with prudence and good judgment. In the mean time both parties kept popping
away vigorously, and presently poor Simpson got a little used to the sound of
the bullets, and was able to hear one fifty yards off without thinking that his
hour was come. Then his indignation against the enemy, who had made him appear
ridiculous, was excited, and he began to pop away at them as fast as he could.
He shot well too, and once or twice won the applause of the men by a quick shot
and fatal aim. So ultimately he came out of the engagement a little subdued as
to his heroical impulses, but still without the crushing humiliation attending
his first appearance.
"That, however, was mere play for
the cavalry. It was the next day that our serious work began. At the extreme
right of our position, beyond the
Gettysburg turnpike, between a large stone
barn and a small line of wood, occurred one of the sharpest cavalry fights ever
witnessed, and yet so fierce was the main engagement that this combat of some
fifteen or twenty thousand mounted men has been scarcely noticed. Our regiment
had the honor of opening the ball, most of us dismounted as skirmishers, while a
squadron, under Hart, was held mounted in the little woods before-mentioned. I
was with the skirmish line, and this time Simpson and Thompson both attended me.
The men went up boldly, through ground intersected by stone-walls; but on rising
the crest of a little hill they were saluted by such a storm of balls that they
could not go forward. The enemy had filled the stone barn with
who were, of course, completely protected from our fire. A battery was
immediately brought into position on the hills behind us, and opened on the
barn. As we counted afterward, the barn was hit twenty-five times, and though
there were plenty of wooden buildings around it, not one of them was touched. I
call that pretty accurate gunnery. The enemy had to evacuate those premises
rapidly, and then our boys went forward with a rush. It is curious, but the
moment our men get off their horses they seem almost insensible to danger in
this sort of skirmishing. Right on we pushed, driving the enemy before us from
every point until we had actually made a gap in their lines. The Third
Pennsylvania worked with us as skirmishers, and kept pace with us well. After a
while word was sent to the General that our ammunition was giving out, and some
other regiments were sent to relieve us. It was a curious fact that they could
not be got up to the point where our men were standing. Their officers formed
them behind a fence several hundred yards in our rear, and then we were ordered
to fall back behind them. This gave the enemy a chance which he was quick to
take advantage of. Across the space thus left free he charged a brigade. The
Michigan troops were ordered to meet it. They rode up gallantly to a stone-wall;
but, instead of pushing across it, they stopped and commenced firing with their
repeating rifles. The enemy came on in spite of their fire. The Michigan men (it
was either the Fifth or the Seventh) held their ground until the rebels got
through the wall, and then turned, the enemy pressing them sharply. Just then
the First Michigan (old troops) charged. They broke the rebels completely, and
drove them back pell-mell, suffering severely from the rifles of the other
regiments. I had remained in that part of the field, allowing the skirmishers to
under charge of a captain; and I
had been made very indignant by the reluctance of the relieving regiments to
advance; so when the charge took place I joined in. My little sorrel mare took
me right over a six-barred fence, upon the flank of the rebels, close to where
their guidon was. A few bounds more and I could have had it; but I had only my
two orderlies with me, and the rebels clustered thick around it; so I had to
draw in with the head of the Michigan. Then all tried who could be first. And
now Simpson had another chance to distinguish himself. His horse was very fast,
and the first thing that I knew he was dashing past me with a hurrah. Some of
the rebels were just beginning to rally as our men tailed off in the pursuit;
and at a party of three of these he rode, waving his sabre high in air. Making
for the foremost of them, he drew rein and dealt him a tremendous blow.
Unfortunately he had not been drilled in the manual, and consequently instead of
cutting, he merely whacked his opponent. The next thing I saw was the rebel's
horse coming down upon Dan's, and rolling him in the dust. I was making as much
haste as I could; but the rebel's sabre would have put an end to poor Simpson
before I got there, had not Thompson fortunately put a bullet through him. The
other two fellows had hesitated whether to run or fight. Before they had quite
made up their minds I came thundering up, giving point at one of them as I
passed. My weapon slipped into his throat with a sound that I shall never
forget, and he fell, bleeding like a slaughtered bullock. At the same moment
Simpson regained his feet, and sprang at the other one. The fellow threw up his
arms and surrendered, and Dan, mounting his horse, proudly conducted him to the
"By this time the Second Brigade
of the rebels was coining down at the charge, and
General Custer was gathering
his men to meet them. They outnumbered us heavily, but still we went boldly at
them. It was curious to see the two bodies approach. First came the steady trot;
then each took the gallop, gradually quickening as they approached. Then, as we
got nearer and nearer, I could feel how our men closed together, and how, almost
involuntarily, there was a slight holding in of the horses. Then there was an
evident check and wavering among the rebels. Instantly our fellows let out their
horses with a yell, and the ranks in front of us broke and turned. At the same
moment Hart with his few men dashed at their flank, as if he had a regiment
behind him; and then the whole field was covered with their flying squadrons.
There was no more fighting. All that we could overtake yielded themselves
prisoners, and we drew off just in time to avoid a savage fire from their
"As I went back to hunt for the
regiment I came upon Dan quietly sitting on the fence, with his prisoner in
front of him.
" 'Hallo, Sir!" said I, "why have
you not taken that man to the rear and given him up?'
" 'Well, Major,' answered my
amateur, 'I was thinkin' of taking this chap back home to show to Amandy. You
see, she'll think then that I really did something; but if I don't have any
thing to show for it, why I might as well have staid back.'
"I could not help laughing at the
cool way in which he had converted a rebel horseman into his own private
property; but, much to his indignation, obliged him to resign his prize to the
"Immediately on the retreat of
the rebels we were pushed in pursuit, and Simpson prepared to return to his home
covered with time glory which he had acquired. The last that I saw of him was
when he was bidding adieu to Thompson, who made him a short farewell address in
the following terms:
" 'You see, my friend, you're a
very nice young man at home; but you made a little mistake. I don't speak of
your natural objection to hard tack, and your slight disinclination to attend to
your horse. Neither do I lay much weight on your finding the ground less
comfortable than a feather-bed. But you though you could come and be a soldier
right off without any trouble; that it was easy to stand fire without being used
to it; and that fighting came natural to a man. I know you thought I was a
coward when I got off my horse and got behind a fence the other day; but you
yourself found it wasn't pleasant to be on horse-back. I don't say any thing
about the Major, for he's an officer, and as such has to take a few more risks
than we for the good of the regiment; but what was the use of your putting
yourself up as a mark first, and making a fool of yourself afterward?
"Now you go home to that nice
young woman that you talks about, and get married, and talk as big as you like;
but you just take my advice, and don't you come out soldiering again until in
the nature of things you gets tired of her, and takes to it in the way of
"With these words they parted,
and we saw Simpson's face no more.
"A few days ago, however, I got a
letter very prettily written, but with rather questionable spelling. It was
signed 'Amanda Simpson,' and gave me to understand that she had rewarded
Daniel's valor with her hand. She was still uncommonly affectionate in her
language to me, and ended by promising me another kiss when I came back—'in
spite of Dan.' Immediately after these words came the following postscript: 'He
says that he can spare you one kiss, for that after he came back from the battle
I gave him twenty, all of my own accord. The wretch! And if I did it's a shame
for him to make me tell you about it. And he says that he's going to make the
same bargain about the other one; and I say that he sha'n't.' Here there was a
big blot, and after it the explanation: 'That came there because he has been
taking them beforehand; but didn't I slap his ears!' I think Mr. Dan is going to
have some trouble in bridling that rather skittish young woman. Don't you? I
hope, at any rate, that we will have another invasion of the North, for then
there is really something like campaigning."