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Robert E. Lee Portrait
Army of the Potomac, taking advantage of the
cessation of hostilities during the winter, indulges now and then in a festive
entertainment. The presence of soldiers' wives with their husbands in camp
gives, of course, the crowning charm to these gatherings. We present our readers
this week, on page 116, a sketch of a
ball lately given by the Third Army Corps. The
upper compartment of the picture will give our readers some idea of the
difficulties which failed to prevent the arrival of visitors. Below this is the
dancing-hall, made up of tents, and decorated with
flags and evergreens. Another portion of the
sketch gives a view of the supper-room. While the fortunate soldiers who have
partners are at supper with their ladies, those not so successful are engaged in
what is called the "gander" dance, which our artist has faithfully represented
on the same page.
This ball was quite a success; a
Generals attended; and it was altogether an
event to break up the monotony of every-day dreariness in camp. It was the first
opportunity that gave the ladies staying with their husbands in camp a chance to
BECKY VANE'S VALENTINE.
THE rain was pattering with
steady, sighing monotone against the little square window of the long wooden
building—a window from which the only prospect, a range of far-off hills veiled
in heavy mist, was dreary enough. Nor was it strange that Allan Revere, thinking
of the orange-groves and jasmine swamps of his own bright land, turned with a
groaning sigh upon his pillow, and closed his burning eyes.
"This pain is perfectly
intolerable!" he muttered, with momentary irritation; for Allan Revere, who
would have thrown himself upon the bristling bayonets of a regiment of soldiers
without flinching, and had fought like a tiger even while the scarlet blood
ebbed from his life's fountains until insensibility came to his relief, was a
very child in hospital, like many another brave soldier. "It throbs and burns
with every breath I draw: the bandages are heated through. Why does not some one
come to bind on fresh ones?"
"Can't say, I'm sure, Sir," said
the little sergeant in the next bed, who had been whiling away the tedious hours
with quavering snatches of song. "My leg feels as though it were on fire."
"Oh no, it doesn't," said the
spectacled surgeon, who had entered from the next ward just in time to catch the
last words. "All your fancy, my man! And how are you getting along, my
"I'm getting very cross, Doctor,
if that will do you any good," said Allan, sharply.
"Hum-m-m!" commented the surgeon,
gravely, feeling the young man's pulse: "considerable fever—inflammation running
"It'll run away with me
altogether before a great while," said Allan. "Why, Doctor, I have lain here
four hours, and not a soul has been near me to change the bandages or bathe the
wounds! If you intend to kill me I wish you'd do it at once, and not keep me
"Well, there has been rather a
lack of nurses latterly," said Dr. Gower, skillfully unfastening the fevered
wrappings; "but I'm expecting a Vermont lady here to-night—"
"Yankee nurse!" said Allan
Revere, with an indescribable curve of his mustache.
"Yes; just that," said the
Doctor, rather shortly; he was a Massachusetts man himself, and nothing but the
chivalric sense of delicacy which pertains to every true gentleman restrained
him from a cutting retort.
"Will she wear cowhide shoes and
talk through her nose, Doctor?" persisted the invalid, maliciously.
"Really I don't know. Will you
have the kindness to turn a little more on your left side?"
"There; will that do? Don't bring
her into this ward, Doctor, please; I feel a presentiment that a Yankee nurse is
all that is needed to finish me."
"Aren't you a little cross
to-night, Mr. Revere?" asked the surgeon, smiling. "Now lie still and be a good
boy, while I attend to Charley Bryan's leg."
Allan Revere mentally made up his
mind to intercept the Doctor on his returning way and "quarrel it out" with him;
but the cool lotions and quieting draughts, added to the weak languor of his
frame, proved too much for any belligerent intentions, and he drifted away into
a quiet sleep, that carried him back to Floridian everglades and sun-bathed
savannas, while the chill rain played its ceaseless tune on the wooden roof over
his head, and the wind moaned around the lonely hospital like a homeless spirit.
It was nearly midnight when he
woke, with a convulsive start, and a strange fancy that every vein in his
wounded arm was filled with molten fire.
"Water—ice—water!" he cried; "my
arm is burning up! Help, some one, for mercy's sake! don't let me die here like
There was a slight rustle through
the fire-lit darkness; a shaded lamp glowed along the aisle, and he saw the
hazel shine of a woman's pitying eyes beaming down on his face.
"You are the wounded Floridian,"
said a soft voice. "Dr. Gower told me about you. Stay—I see what the matter is;
your bandages have become loosened."
Light and cool as a falling
snow-flake her quick hands wet the cloths in healing lotions, and replaced their
"Now, the other one!" pleaded
"Not now. Dr. Gower says it will
injure it to be opened again at present."
"But it burns like a live coal!"
"I am sorry; but it will be
"You will not bathe it?" said the
young man, contracting his brows.
"Then I shall do it myself!" he
asserted, raising himself on one elbow.
"Lie down again; you must not."
Allan Revere looked defiantly at
the melting hazel eyes and the little firm mouth. The next minute she had passed
her arm lightly under his shoulder and laid him back, like a helpless child, on
the pillow. He flushed and frowned, but could not help smiling.
"How strong you are, little
"Now will you lie still?" she
asked, gravely regarding him.
"I suppose I shall have to," he
And this was Allan Revere's first
experience of the Yankee nurse.
"What are you thinking about,
What was she thinking about? That
would have been rather a hard question to answer the dark-eyed young
Confederate; for, sitting in the dreary hospital ward, with all her fretful
patients soothed, and tended, and coaxed into momentary quiet, she was back
among the box-borders and snow-fringed cedars of the farm-house garden at home,
the sunset burning redly over the rocks, and the little brook slipping noisily
across mossy ledges and greenish-smooth masses of stone past the very door yard
"I am not quite sure, Mr. Revere;
I believe I was thinking about going home."
"Then you are going?"
Allan Revere was sitting up in a
cushioned chair, having obtained the privileges of convalescence, but he was
very pale still.
"And I believe," went on Becky
Vane, who was the very soul of candor, "that I was also thinking of this being
St. Valentine's Eve."
"One of your Yankee saints?"
"Pardon me, Miss Vane; I know I'm
a petulant brute. But go on; tell me about St. Valentine."
"As if you didn't know! I was
only remembering how the country boys and girls observe the day up in those
grand old wildernesses where modern innovations are unknown."
"Tell me about it," said Allan.
"I am interested in these legends of your frozen North."
"Well," said Becky, stitching
away calmly at her work, "just to prove that chivalry is not necessarily a
growth of Southern soil, I'll gratify you, Mr. Revere, with the recital of how
our youthful swains think nothing of watching all night long under their
lady-love's window, so that her first glance may fall on their faces in the
light of St. Valentine's dawn, thereby entitling them to the privilege of being
her Valentine all the year."
And I suppose a Valentine
sometimes turns into a husband?"
Becky Vane rose as she spoke, and
went across the room to bathe the forehead of a poor teamster-lad, whose piteous
call had reached her ear.
"Confound the fellow!" muttered
Revere; "I wish his head was in Jericho!"
You see Mr. Allan Revere had
forgotten the days when Becky's soft fingers cooled the pain beneath his jetty
curls. So selfish are we all; and yet Allan had a noble heart after all.
The stars of the chill February
night hung like golden shields over the red glow that announced the near
approach of sunrise when Becky Vane, wrapped in a gray shawl that made her look
like a little nun, carne out of her tiny cabin to begin the day's labors in
those long, blank-looking hospital wards. For poor Charley Bryan had floated
down the turbid currents of the river Death with the turn of the night, and
Becky knew that she must make his shroud by noon! Do not shrink, reader; these
are but the veritable records of hospital life! She had seen death in many,
shapes during this last winter, and ceased to fear his ghastly accessories—this
As she crossed the threshold a
tall figure with the auroral glow of sunrise on its pallid features met her
glance. She started, with a stifled cry.
"I have won the meed, have I not,
Miss Vane? I may be your Valentine?"
He could see her cheek blaze
scarlet in the dim light—he could feel the little hand striving to escape from
"I do not know what you mean, Mr.
"Becky Vane, you have not been
deaf or blind —you must know how dearly I love you! Becky, my dear little
Valentine, will you promise to be my wife some day? I never knew how necessary
you were to my existence until you spoke of going away —and, Becky, I shall go
"But, Mr. Revere—"
"Allan, if you please."
"Allan, then—I am a Yankee girl."
"Listen, Becky. I have given my
parole until the end of the war; shall I parole myself to you until my life's
"I can trust you, Allan," she
"Then I may go home with you?"
"Why, if you will go, I can not
help it!" she answered, with edifying demureness.
"But give me one loving word,
Becky, before you go."
"Indeed I shall not, Mr. Revere.
Go back to your ward; the idea of a wounded man standing out in this cold air.
What would Dr. Gower say?"
"I don't care a fig for Dr.
"But for my sake, Allan."
He bent over her hand a second,
leaving the reverent touch of his lips on the velvet fingers, and went in like a
And Becky Vane, with dewy hazel
eyes and cheeks that burned like rubies, slipped away to work on poor Charley
Bryan's shroud, and Love and Death went side by side, as they have done many a
"Why, yes," said Dr. Gower, "I'll
your discharge any day; there's
no objection now that you are doing so well. So you are going North, eh?
By-the-way, Mr. Revere, what do you think of Yankee nurses now?"
"What do they think of me? is the
most important question I should think, Doctor," laughed the Floridian. "But
from this day henceforward I shall believe in patron saints."
"Indeed! and who may yours be?"
I COULD never think of Jem as
dead, though I certainly had no definite grounds for my belief to stand on—in
the very teeth, too, of the formidable fact that all effort to find him—and many
and strenuous ones had been made—had thus far proved futile. He had enlisted as
a private—Jem had always a dash of romance about him—and had thereby nothing to
distinguish him in that awful mangled heap at Gettysburg; and yet I could never
fancy his poor body lying under that mournful slab raised for "the unknown,"
though bankrupt of reasons for my conviction.
So when I found myself at
Richmond, with that curious aptness of the soul for winnowing out the few grains
of good perdue in a whole harvest of evil, my heart gave a quick upward bound at
the thought, "Perhaps I shall find Jem here"—Jem was my younger brother, and my
pet from petticoats up—otherwise the outlook wasn't too bright.
rebels had made a dash on our
hospital, which was in about as good fighting condition as the general run of
hospitals, took fifty of our boys out of their beds, among them one poor fellow,
Simms I think, with his leg just off, and their surgeons; probably by way of
padding for an article in the Examiner—I know of no other reason, as we were all
non-combatants, and they had already mouths enough to feed—and there we were,
huddled together in the street, Eugene Delacroix, a cool, resolute fellow,
Robert Allan, and myself, with our poor men lying all about, some groaning and
ghastly with pain, and the most merciless sun beating down upon us, scorching
out our very lives as we stood there three mortal hours. Probably some red tape
was to be unwound somewhere—but at last they brought carts into which they
huddled our sick and wounded and dashed off, jolting and jostling them as they
drove recklessly over the rough pavement very much after the manner of a butcher
with a load of calves.
Allan said something about it and
was immediately overhauled by the Chief of Police, the Provost Marshal, and
Heaven knows what all; and then we were relieved by the Richmond authorities of
whatever money we were so unfortunate as to have about us, and marched with
lighter pockets, if not hearts, to
Libey Prison. Then I began to look out for Jem and got my first sup of disappointment. They had placed us of course in the
officers' room. Jem was a private, and might be one of the hundred and fifty
tramping noisily over our heads, or in some of the rooms below, or in some other
prison; and in either case he might almost as well have been in Soudan for all
hope of meeting him; or, and it was my last hope, he might be in the hospitals,
where it was possible that we should be allowed to do service. Delacroix
The room, our future prison, was
in the third story and crowded, for there were already some two hundred officers
confined there. The air was stifling, loaded with so many breaths; the hot
glaring sun beat in pitilessly at the broken unshaded windows, added to which,
at that moment, were the fumes of the single stove allowed for the cooking of
the rations. Ah! if the tender, white-handed mothers and wives, if the gay girls
dancing in Northern ball-rooms could but have looked in this bare, cheerless,
unceiled room, with unglazed panes at best, and frequently only bits of canvas
and strips of boards nailed over the openings, unplastered walls, unevery thing
belonging to common decency or comfort, I think their merriment would have grown
half-terrible to them, and, through the sweet delirious waltz-music, would sound
out something like a wail! Each day a certain number among us were detailed for
cooking and scrubbing service, and in due course of time I had my turn at both,
and fell into it, I think, quite naturally; but I could never get over my secret
wonder at Delacroix when similarly employed, he was so precisely the man that it
was impossible to imagine in any such predicament —I had always an undefined
notion that the laws of nature contained a special clause for his benefit, and
that no dilemma would ever dare face him, much less offer him its horns.
As for poor Allan he succumbed at
once, and went about in a very miserable way indeed, though men of more calibre
might be pardoned for being a little down on their luck. There were put up bare
wooden bunks for about half of us; the rest must sleep on the floor: pillows and
mattresses there were none—a blanket you might have if you were fortunate enough
to have brought one with you—otherwise none. The rations were scanty; but water,
the muddy, brackish water of the James River, was even more sparingly dealt out.
I thought of the old border-riders vowing candles as long as their whingers to
St. Mary when in a scrape. I would have given one as long as the Bunker Hill
monument to St. Croton could he have interfered in our behalf. Not specially
heroic this, but still I maintain worth the chronicling; for to keep up good
heart and firm courage, as the majority of our mein did, unwashed, unrested,
half-starved, as we soon were, and treated like dogs through long monotonous
days of a dreary and cheerless captivity, needs more pluck—enduring pluck of the
kind that will bear a strain on it, than ever was required for a forlorn hope.
Meanwhile the days crawled
on—dragged is too fast a word for prison time—and constantly I was on the sharp
look-out for fun. As Delacroix had said, we soon obtained access to the
hospitals for Union soldiers, visiting them daily. They were three in number,
and from the first hour of our entrance
I should have thought complaint a
blasphemy. They used to bring there the poor wretches from the tobacco factories
and Belle Isle, worn almost to skeletons, sometimes with the skin literally
dried on the bone, moving masses of filth and rags, snatching at any article of
food as they passed, groveling and struggling weakly for it like dogs, many of
them actually in the agonies of death, taken there that they might be said to
have died in hospital. In one day the ambulance brought us eighteen, and eleven
out of them died; in fact, we saw little but such sombre processions. We had
little medicine to give them, and no food but a scanty measure of corn-bread and
sweet potatoes; and this for men down with dysentery and typhoid pneumonia.
These, too, were men in the last stages of disease; hundreds more, fit subjects
for hospital treatment, were left on the island awl in the prisons for lack of
hospital accommodation. In the three Union hospitals the average of deaths was
forty a day. We lived in an atmosphere of death; corpses were on every side of
us. We did what we could; but after all it was little more than standing with
our hands fast bound to witness sufferings that we could not alleviate. I had
done looking for Jem. I hoped now that he was dead. Better that his handsome
head lay low among a heap of unknown slain than to have been tortured all these
months in a Richmond prison.
Our own condition was not
improving. The weather was growing colder, and the wind whistled most
unpromisingly through our broken windows. Stoves were put up, but no fuel was
given to burn in them; and sleeping on bare planks, without mattress or
covering, was getting to be a problem. There was a failing off also in the
matter of rations—corn-bread and two ounces of rice now was our daily allowance;
added to this, daily brutality and insolence on the part of the under-keepers,
dead silence from home, find the long, hopeless winter setting in; but the edge
of all this was blunted for me by the hospital horrors. My very sleep was
dreadful with dying groans and pitiful voices calling on those who, thank God!
will never know how they died.
One morning the ambulance had
brought a load of fourteen from the island, and when I came to the hospital, a
little later than usual, I found Delacroix standing by the side of one of them—a
young man, judging from the skeleton-like but still powerful frame—an old one,
from the pinched and ghastly face—a dying one, at all events. Used as we were to
horrors, I saw that Delacroix was laboring under some unusual emotion. He was
white to the very lips. I understood why when he muttered in my ear the word
"Starving!" Low as it was uttered, the poor boy caught the word.
"Yes," he said, feebly. "It is
quite useless, gentlemen—no," turning from the bread that Delacroix offered, "I
loathe it now. For days and days I have been mad for it. I have had murder in my
heart. I thought if one died the rest night live. Once we caught a dog and
roasted him, and quarreled over the bits. We had no cover; we lay on the
scorching sand, and when the terrible heats were over came the raw fogs and
He stopped, seemingly from
exhaustion, and lay a few moments silent; then the pitiful voice commenced
"We were very brave for a while;
we thought help was coming. We never dreamed they could go on at home eating,
lying soft, and making merry while we were dying by inches. I think if my
brother knew— If ever you get back I charge you, before God, find out Robert
surgeon of the — Maine. Tell him that his brother Jem starved to death on
Belle Isle, and that thousands more are—Ah! just Heaven! the pain again! O
Christ! help me! have—"
The words died away in
inarticulate ravings. He tossed his arms wildly over his head; his whole frame
racked with the most awful throes. And this was my poor boy; so wasted, so
horribly transformed, that I had not known him. His glazing eyes had not
recognized me. His few remaining hours were one long, raving agony. He never
knew that his brother was by his side. I died over and over again, standing
there in my utter helplessness. I had never so thanked God as when his moaning
fell away into the merciful silence of death.
Delacroix, who had remained with
me, vented his grief and wrath in the bitterest curses; but I was stunned. My
grief was so vast that I could not then fully comprehend it. There were in store
for me days of future horror, hours of sickening remembrance of this agony, of
maddening thought of that most awful and protracted torture; cold, hunger,
disease, despair, all at once; but then I waited in silence till they had taken
him away, with the nine others dead out of the fourteen brought there in the
morning, and then went mechanically back with Delacroix. It was after sundown,
but the first sight that saluted us in the prison was a row of pails and
brushes, and the keepers detailing the officers for the duty of scrubbing. At
that Delacroix burst out, angrily,
"How the devil do you think we
are going to sleep on these floors after they are scrubbed, and without fires to
dry them? is your Government trying to kill us with sleeplessness, since it
can't starve us out? Already we have walked all one night this week, because
lying down was impossible."
The keeper turned, with an ugly
grin on his brutal face:
"Since you are so delicate you
can try the dungeons for a day or two. You won't be troubled with scrubbing
there; and you will find the company that is fit for a Yankee—in the vermin."
So Delacroix was marched off to
the dungeons, as poor Davies had been the week before, though scarcely over the
typhoid fever—as Major White and Colonel Straight have since been, and many
another hapless officer, for a trivial offense or none at all. They kept him
there three days in that noisome hole. He came out looking a little pale, but
plucky as ever. The spite of a brutal man is a hound that never tires. The
keeper watched his opportunity, swore that he saw Delacroix looking