Savannah suffered least of the fair Atlantic sisterhood, from the blockade. The early capture of her river forts blocked access to her wharves, almost effectually; though occasional steamers still slipped up to them. Yet, she was in such easy reach of her more open neighbors, as to reap part of the bad fruits with which they were so over-stocked.
These proud southern cities had ever been famed throughout the land, for purity, high tone and unyielding pride. At the first bugle-blast, their men had sprung to arms with one accord; and the best blood of Georgia and the Carolinas was poured out from Munson's Hill to Chickamauga. Their devoted women pinched themselves and stripped their homes, to aid the cause so sacred to them; and on the burning sand-hills of Charleston harbor, grandsire and grandson wrought side by side under blistering sun and galling fire alike!
How bitter, then, for those devoted and mourning cities to see their sacred places made mere marts; their cherished fame jeopardied by refuse stay-at-homes, or transient aliens; while vile speculation—ineffably greedy, when not boldly dishonest—smirched them with lowest vices of the lust for gain! Shot-riddled Charleston—exposed and devastated—invited nothing beyond the sterner business of money-getting. There, was offered neither the leisure nor safety for that growth of luxury and riotous living, which at one time possessed Wilmington.
Into that blockade mart would enter four ships to one at any other port; speculators of all grades and greediness flocked to meet them; and money was poured into the once-quiet town by the million. And, with tastes restricted elsewhere, these alien crowds reveled in foreign delicacies, edibles and liquors, of which every cargo was largely made up. The lowest attache of a blockade-runner became a man of mark and lived in luxury; the people caught the infection and—where they could not follow—envied the fearful example set by the establishments of the "merchant princes."
Was it strange that the people of leaguered Richmond—that the worn hero starving in the trench at Petersburg—came to execrate those vampires fattening on their life-blood; came to regard the very name of blockade-runner as a stench and the government that leagued with it as a reproach? For strangely-colored exaggerations of luxury and license were brought away by visitors near the centers of the only commerce left. Well might the soul of the soldier—frying his scant ration of moldy bacon and grieving over still more scant supply at his distant home—wax wroth over stories of Southdown mutton, brought in ice from England; of dinners where the pates of Strasbourg and the fruits of the East were washed down with rare Champagne.
Bitter, indeed, it seemed, that—while he crawled, footsore and faint, to slake his thirst from the roadside pool—while the dear ones at home kept in shivering life with cornbread—degenerate southerners and foreign leeches reveled in luxury untold, from the very gain that caused such privation!
This misuse of that blockade-running—which strongly handled had proved such potent agency for good—bred infinite discontent in army and in people alike. That misdirection—and its twin, mismanagement of finance—aided to strangle prematurely the young giant they might have nourished into strength;—
"And the spirit of murder worked in the very means of life!"
But the Chinese-wall blockade was tripartite; not confined to closing of the ocean ports. Almost as damaging, in another regard, were the occupation of New Orleans, and the final stoppage of communication with the trans-Mississippi by the capture of Vicksburg.
The Heroic City had long been sole point of contact with the vast productive tracts, beyond the great river. The story were twice-told of a resistance—unequaled even by that at Charleston and beginning with first Union access to the river, by way of New Orleans. But, in May, '62, the combined fleets of Porter and Farragut from the South, and Davis from the North, rained shot and shell into the coveted town for six terrible weeks. Failing reduction, they withdrew on June 24th; leaving her banners inscribed—Vicksburg victrix!
In May of the next year, another concentration was made on the "key of the Mississippi;" General Grant marching his army one hundred and fifty miles from its base, to get in rear of Vicksburg and cut off its relief. The very audacity of this plan may blind the careless thinker to its bad generalship; especially in view of the success that at last crowned its projector's hammer-and-tongs style of tactics. His reckless and ill-handled assaults upon the strong works at Vicksburg—so freely criticised on his own side, by army and by press—were but preface of a volume, so bloodily written to the end before Petersburg.
Under ordinary combinations, Johnston had found it easy to crush Grant and prevent even his escape to the distant base behind him. But, unhappily, Government would not re-enforce Johnston—even to the very limited extent it might; and Mr. Davis promoted Pemberton to a lieutenant-generalcy and sent him to Vicksburg. But this is no place to discuss General Pemberton's abilities—his alleged disobedience of orders—the disasters of Baker's creek and Big Black; or his shutting up in Vicksburg, hopeless of relief from Johnston. Suffice it, the dismal echo of falling Vicksburg supplemented the gloom after Gettysburg; and the swift-following loss of Port Hudson completed the blockade of the Mississippi; and made the trans-river territory a foreign land!
The coast of Maine met the waters of the Ohio, at the mouth of the Mississippi; and two sides of the blockade triangle were completed, almost impervious even to rebel ingenuity and audacity. It needed but careful guard over the third side—the inland border from river to coast—to seal up the South hermetically, and perfect her isolation.
That perfection had long been attempted. Fleets of gunboats ploughed the Potomac and all inland water-approaches to the southern frontier. A shrewd detective system, ramifying from Washington, penetrated the "disaffected" counties of Maryland; spying equally upon shore and household. The borders of Tennessee and Kentucky were closely picketed; and no means of cunning, or perseverance, were omitted to prevent the passage of anything living, or useful, into the South. But none of this availed against the untiring pluck and audacity of the inland blockade-breakers. Daily the lines were forced, spies evaded, and bold "Johnny Reb" passed back and forth, in almost guaranteed security.
Such ventures brought small supplies of much-needed medicines, surgical instruments and necessaries for the sick. They brought northern newspapers—and often despatches and cipher letters of immense value; and they ever had tidings from home that made the heart of exiled Marylander, or border statesman sing for joy, even amid the night-watches of a winter camp.
Gradually this system of "running the bloc." systematized and received governmental sanction. Regular corps of spies, letter-carriers and small purchasing agents were organized and recognized by army commanders. Naturally, these also made hay while the sun shone; coming back never—whatever their mission—with empty hands. Shoes, cloth, even arms—manufactured under the very noses of northern detectives and, possibly, with their connivance—found ever-ready sale. The runners became men of mark—many of them men of money; for, while this branch never demoralized like its big rival on the coast, the service of Government was cannily mixed with the service of Mammon.
Late in the war—when all ports were closed to its communication with agents abroad, the Richmond Government perfected this spy system, in connection with its signal corps. This service gave scope for tact, fertility of resource and cool courage; it gave many a brave fellow, familiar with both borders, relief from camp monotony, in the fresh dangers through which he won a glimpse of home again; and it gave a vast mass of crude, conflicting information, such as must come from rumors collected by men in hiding. But its most singular and most romantic aspect was the well-known fact, that many women essayed the breaking of the border blockade. Almost all of them were successful; more than one well nigh invaluable, for the information she brought, sewed in her riding-habit, or coiled in her hair. Nor were these coarse camp-women, or reckless adventurers. Belle Boyd's name became historic as Moll Pitcher; but others are recalled—petted belles in the society of Baltimore, Washington and Virginia summer resorts of yore—who rode through night and peril alike, to carry tidings of cheer home and bring back news that woman may best acquire. New York, Baltimore and Washington to-day boast of three beautiful and gifted women, high in their social ranks, who could—if they would—recite tales of lonely race and perilous adventure, to raise the hair of the budding beaux about them.
But it may be that the real benefits of "running the bloc." were counterbalanced by inseparable evils. The enhancement of prices and consequent depreciation of currency may not have felt this system appreciably; but it tempted immigration of the adventurous and vicious classes, while it presented the anomaly of a government trading on its enemy's currency to depreciation of its own. For the trade demanded greenbacks; and the Confederacy bought these—often the product of illicit traffic—from the runners themselves, at from twenty to one thousand dollars C.S., for one U.S.!
Such is the brief, and necessarily imperfect, glance at the triple blockade, which steadily aided the process of exhaustion and ruin at the South. Such were its undeniable effects upon the Government and the people. And that these, in part at least, might have been averted by bold foresight and prompt action—while the blockade was yet but paper—is equally undeniable!
With this, as with most salient features of that bitter—gallant—enduring struggle for life; with it, as in most mundane retrospects—the saddest memories must ever cluster about the "might have been!"
PRESS, LITERATURE AND ART.
However much of ability may have been engaged upon it, the press of the South—up to the events just preceding the war—had scarcely been that great lever which it had elsewhere become. It was rather a local machine than a great engine for shaping and manufacturing public opinion.
One main cause for this, perhaps, was the decentralization of the South. Tracts of country surrounding it looked up only to their chief city, and thence drew their information, and even their ideas on the topics of the day. But there it ceased. The principal trade of the South went directly to the North; and in return were received northern manufactures, northern books and northern ideas. Northern newspapers came to the South; and except for matters of local information, or local policy, a large class of her readers drew their inspiration chiefly from journals of New York—catholic in their scope as unreliable in their principles.
These papers were far ahead of those of the South—except in very rare instances—in their machinery for collecting news and gossip; for making up a taking whole; and in the no less important knowledge of manipulating their circulation and advertising patronage. The newspaper system of the North had been reduced to a science. Its great object was to pay; and to accomplish this it must force its circulation in numbers and in radius, and must become the medium of communicating with far distant points. Great competition—application of il faut bien vivre—drove the drones from the field and only the real workers were allowed to live.
In the South the case was entirely different. Even in the large cities, newspapers were content with a local circulation; they had a little-varying clientele which looked upon them as infallible; and their object was to consider and digest ideas, rather than to propagate, or manufacture them.
The deep and universal interest in questions immediately preceding the war, somewhat changed in the scope of the southern press. People in all sections had intense anxiety to know what others, in different sections, felt on vital questions that agitated them; and papers were thus forced, as it were, into becoming the medium for interchange of sentiment.
An examination of the leading journals of the South at this period will show that—whatever their mismanagement and want of business success—there was no lack of ability in their editorial columns. Such organs as the New Orleans Delta, Mobile Advertiser, Charleston Mercury and Richmond Examiner and Whig might have taken rank alongside of the best-edited papers of the country. Their literary ability was, perhaps, greater than that of the North; their discussions of the questions of the hour were clear, strong and scholarly, and possessed, besides, the invaluable quality of honest conviction. Unlike the press of the North, the southern journals were not hampered by any business interests; they were unbiased, unbought and free to say what they thought and felt. And say it they did, in the boldest and plainest of language.
Nowhere on the globe was the freedom of the press more thoroughly vindicated than in the Southern States of America. And during the whole course of the war, criticisms of men and measures were constant and outspoken. So much so, indeed, that in many instances the operations of the Government were embarrassed, or the action of a department commander seriously hampered, by hostile criticism in a paper. In naval operations, and the workings of the Conscript Law, especially was this freedom felt to be injurious; and though it sprang from the perfectly pure motive of doing the best for the cause—though the smallest southern journal, printed on straw paper and with worn-out type, was above purchase, or hush money—still it might have been better at times had gag-law been applied.
For, with a large proportion of the population of different sections gathered in huge army communities, their different newspapers reached the camps and were eagerly devoured. Violent and hostile criticisms of Government—even expositions of glaring abuses—were worse than useless unless they could be remedied; and when these came to be the text of camp-talk, they naturally made the soldiers think somewhat as they did.
Now, the greatest difficulty with that variously-constituted army, was to make its individuals the perfect machines—unthinking, unreasoning, only obeying—to which the perfect soldier must be reduced. "Johnny Reb" would think; and not infrequently, he would talk. The newspapers gave him aid and comfort in both breaches of discipline; and in some instances, their influence against the conscription and impressments was seriously felt in the interior. Still these hostilities had their origin in honest conviction; and abuses were held up to the light, that the Government might be made to see and correct them.
The newspapers but reflected the ideas of some of the clearest thinkers in the land; and they recorded the real and true history of public opinion during the war. In their columns is to be found the only really correct and indicative "map of busy life, its fluctuations and its vast concerns" in the South, during her days of darkness and of trial.
These papers held their own bravely for a time, and fought hard against scarcity of labor, material and patronage—against the depreciation of currency and their innumerable other difficulties. Little by little their numbers decreased; then only the principal dailies of the cities were left, and these began to print upon straw paper, wall papering—on any material that could be procured. Cramped in means, curtailed in size, and dingy in appearance, their publishers still struggled bravely on for the freedom of the press and the freedom of the South.
Periodical literature—as the vast flood of illustrated and unillustrated monthlies and weeklies that swept over the North was misnamed—was unknown in the South. She had but few weeklies; and these were sturdy and heavy country papers—relating more to farming than to national matters. Else they were the weekly editions of the city papers, intended for country consumption. Few monthly magazines—save educational, religious, or statistical ventures, intended for certain limited classes, were ever born in the South; and most of those few lived weakly and not long.
De Bow's Review, the Southern Quarterly, and the Literary Messenger, were the most noteworthy exceptions. The business interests of the larger towns supported the first—which, indeed, drew part of its patronage from the North. Neither its great ability nor the taste of its clientele availed to sustain the second; and the Messenger—long the chosen medium of southern writers of all ages, sexes and conditions—dragged on a wearisome existence, with one foot in the grave for many years, only to perish miserably of starvation during the war.
But any regular and systematized periodical literature the South never had. The principal reason doubtless is, that she had not the numerous class of readers for amusement, who demand such food in the North; and of the not insignificant class who did indulge in it, nine-tenths—for one reason, or another, preferred northern periodicals. This is not altogether unnatural, when we reflect that these latter were generally better managed and superior in interest—if not in tone—to anything the South had yet attempted. They were gotten up with all the appliances of mechanical perfection; were managed with business tact, and forced and puffed into such circulation as made the heavy outlay for first-class writers in the end remunerative.
On the contrary, every magazine attempted in the South up to that time had been born with the seeds of dissolution already in it. Voluntary contributions—fatal poison to any literary enterprise—had been their universal basis. There was ever a crowd of men and women among southern populations, who would write anywhere and anything for the sake of seeing themselves in print. And while there were many able and accomplished writers available, they were driven off by these Free-Companions of the quill—preferring not to write in such company; or, if forced to do it, to send their often anonymous contributions to northern journals. These two reasons—especially the last—availed to kill the few literary ventures attempted by more enterprising southern publishers. The first of these two in a great measure influenced the scarcity of book-producers, among a people who had really very few readers among them; and even had the number of these been larger, it seems essential to the increase of authors that there should be the constant friction of contact in floating literature.
Good magazines are the nurseries and forcing houses for authors; and almost every name of prominence in modern literature may be traced back along its course, as that of magazinist, or reviewer.
The South—whether these reasons for it be just or not, the fact is patent—had had but few writers of prominence; and in fiction especially the names that were known could be numbered on one's fingers. W. Gilmore Simms was at once the father of southern literature and its most prolific exemplar. His numerous novels have been very generally read; and, if not placing him in the highest ranks of writers of fiction, at least vindicate the claims of his section to force and originality. He had been followed up the thorny path by many who stopped half-way, turned back, or sunk forgotten even before reaching that far.
Few, indeed, of their works ever went beyond their own boundaries; and those few rarely sent back a record. Exceptions there were, however, who pressed Mr. Simms hard for his position on the topmost peak; and most of these adventurous climbers were of the softer sex.
John Esten Cooke had written a very clever novel of the olden society, called "Virginia Comedians." It had promised a brilliant future, when his style and method should both ripen; a promise that had not, so far, been kept by two or three succeeding ventures launched on these doubtful waters. Hon. Jere Clemens, of Alabama, had commenced a series of strong, if somewhat convulsive, stories of western character. "Mustang Gray" and "Bernard Lile," scenting strongly of camp-fire and pine-top, yet had many advantages over the majority of successful novels, then engineered by northern publishers. Marion Harland, as her nom de plume went, was, however, the most popular of southern writers. Her stories of Virginia home-life had little pretension to the higher flights of romance; but they were pure, graphic and not unnatural scenes from every-day life. They introduced us to persons we knew, or might have known; and the people read them generally and liked them. Mrs. Ritchie (Anna Cora Mowatt) was also prolific of novels, extracted principally from her fund of stage experience. Piquant and bright, with a dash of humor and more than a dash of sentiment, Mrs. Ritchie's books had many admirers and more friends. The South-west, too, had given us the "Household of Bouverie" and "Beulah;" and it was reserved for Miss Augusta Evans, author of the latter, to furnish the only novel—almost the only book—published within the South during continuance of the war. The only others I can now recall—emanating from southern pens and entirely made in the South—were Mrs. A. de V. Chaudron's translation of Muelbach's "Joseph II.," and Dr. Wm. Sheppardson's collection of "War Poetry of the South."
This is not an imposing array of prose writers, and it may be incomplete; but it is very certain that there are not many omissions.
In poetry, the warmer clime of the South would naturally have been expected to excel; but, while the list of rhymsters was longer than Leporello's, the poets hardly exceeded in number the writers of prose. Thompson, Meek, Simms, Hayne, Timrod and McCord were the few names that had gone over the border. Up to that time, however, the South had never produced any great poem, that was to stand aere perennius. But that there was a vast amount of latent poetry in our people was first developed by the terrible friction of war.
In the dead-winter watches of the camp, in the stricken homes of the widow and the childless, and in the very prison pens, where they were crushed under outrage and contumely—the souls of the southrons rose in song.
The varied and stirring acts of that terrible drama—its trying suspense and harrowing shocks—its constant strain and privations must have graven deep upon southern hearts a picture of that time; and there it will stand forever, distinct—indelible—etched by the mordant of sorrow!
Where does history show more stirring motives for poetry? Every rood of earth, moistened and hallowed with sacred blood, sings to-day a noble dirge, wordless, but how eloquent! No whitewashed ward in yonder hospital, but has written in letters of life its epic of heroism, of devotion, and of triumphant sacrifice!
Every breeze that swept from those ravished homes, whence peace and purity had fled before the sword, the torch and that far blacker—nameless horror!—each breeze bore upon its wing a pleading prayer for peace, mingled and drowned in the hoarse notes of a stirring cry to arms!
But not only did our people feel all this. They spoke it with universal voice—in glowing, burning words that will live so long as strength and tenderness and truth shall hold their own in literature.
For reasons thus roughly sketched, no great and connected effort had been made at the South before the war. Though there had been sudden and fitful flashes of rare warmth and promise, they had died before their fire was communicated. That the fire was there, latent and still, they bore witness; but it needed the rough and cruel friction of the war to bring it to the surface.
What the southron felt he spoke; and out of the bitterness of his trial the poetry of the South was born. It leaped at one bound from the overcharged brain of our people—full statured in its stern defiance mailed in the triple panoply of truth.
There was endless poetry written in the North on the war; and much of it came from the pens of men as eminent as Longfellow, Bryant, Whittier and Holmes. But they wrote far away from the scenes they spoke of—comfortably housed and perfectly secure. The men of the North wrote with their pens, while the men of the South wrote with their hearts!
A singular commentary upon this has been given us by Mr. Richard Grant White—himself a member of the committee. In April, 1861, a committee of thirteen New Yorkers—comprising such names as Julian Verplanck, Moses Grinnell, John A. Dix and Geo. Wm. Curtis—offered a reward of five hundred dollars for a National Hymn! What hope, feeling, patriotism and love of the cause had failed to produce—for the lineal descendants of the "Star Spangled Banner" were all in the South, fighting under the bars instead of the stripes—was to be drawn out by the application of a greenback poultice! The committee advertised generally for five hundred dollars' worth of pure patriotism, to be ground out "in not less than sixteen lines, nor more than forty."
Even with this highest incentive, Mr. White tells us that dozens of barrelfuls of manuscript were rejected; and not one patriot was found whose principles—as expressed in his poetry—were worth that much money! Were it not the least bit saddening, the contemplation of this attempt to buy up fervid sentiment would be inexpressibly funny.
Memory must bring up, in contrast, that night of 1792 in Strasbourg, when the gray dawn, struggling with the night, fell upon the pale face and burning eyes of Rouget de Lisle—as with trembling hand he wrote the last words of the Marseillaise. The mind must revert, in contrast, to those ravished hearths and stricken homes and decimated camps, where the South wrought and suffered and sang—sang words that rose from men's hearts, when the ore of genius fused and sparkled in the hot blast of their fervid patriotism!
Every poem of the South is a National Hymn!—bought not with dollars, but with five hundred wrongs and ten times five hundred precious lives!
To one who has not studied the subject, the vast number of southern war poems would be most surprising, in view of restricted means for their issue. Every magazine, album and newspaper in the South ran over with these effusions and swelled their number to an almost countless one. Many of them were written for a special time, event, or locality; many again were read and forgotten in the engrossing duties of the hour. But it was principally from the want of some systematized means of distribution that most of them were born to blush unseen.
Before my little collection—"South Songs, from the Lays of Later Days"—went to press, over nineteen hundred poems had accumulated on my hands! And since that time the number has greatly increased. There were battle odes, hymns, calls to arms, paeans and dirges and prayers for peace—many of them good, few of them great; and the vast majority, alas! wretchedly poor. Any attempted notice of their authors in limits like this would be sheer failure; and where many did so well, it were invidious to discriminate. The names of John R. Thompson, James Randall, Henry Timrod, Paul Hayne, Barron Hope, Margaret Preston, James Overall, Harry Lyndon Flash and Frank Ticknor had already become household words in the South, where they will live forever.
Wherever his people read anything, the classic finish of his "Latane," the sweet caress of his "Stuart" and the bugle-blast of his "Coercion" and "Word with the West," had assured John R. Thompson's fame. The liltful refrain of "Maryland, my Maryland" echoed from the Potomac to the Gulf; and the clarion-call James R. Randall so nobly used—"There's Life in the Old Land Yet!"—warmed every southern heart, by the dead ashes on its hearth. Who does not remember "Beechenbrook," that pure Vestal in the temple of Mars? Every tear of sympathy that fell upon its pages was a jewel above rubies, in the crown of its gentle author.
Paul Hayne had won already the hearts of his own readers; and had gained transatlantic meed, in Tennyson's declaration that he was "the sonneteer of America!" And the yearning sorrow in all eyes that looked upon the fresh mound, above what was mortal of tender Henry Timrod, was more eloquent of worth than costly monument, or labored epitaph.
But not only the clang of action and the freedom of stirring scenes produced the southern war-poems. Camp Chase and forts Warren and Lafayette contributed as glowing strains as any written. Those grim bastiles held the bodies of their unconquered inmates; while their hearts lived but in the memory of those scenes, in which their fettered hands were debarred further portion. Worn down by confinement, hunger and the ceaseless pressure of suspense; weakened by sickness and often oppressed by vulgar indignity—the spirit of their cause still lingered lovingly around them; and its bright gleams warmed and lighted the darkest recesses of their cells.
That bugle blast, "Awake and to horse, my brothers!", Teackle Wallis sent from the walls of Warren, when he was almost prostrated by sickness and mental suffering. Another poem, more mournful but with a beautiful thought of hope beyond, comes from that dismal prison-pen, Camp Chase. Colonel W. S. Hawkins, a brave Tennesseean, who was held there two long years, still kept up heart and ministered to his fellow-sufferers day and night. The close of the war alone released him, to drag his shattered frame to "his own, fair sunny land," and lay it in the soil he loved so well. But he has left a living monument; and the tender pathos of "The Hero without a Name"—and the flawless poetical gem that closes his "Last of Earth," will be remembered as long as the sacrifices of their noble author. The pent walls of other military prisons sent forth plaintive records of misery, as well as stirring strains of hope unconquered; but the two here named are easily first of the rebel-prisoner poets.
Dirges for the great dead became a popular form, in which the spirit of southern song poured itself out. I had in my collection no fewer than forty-seven monodies and dirges on Stonewall Jackson; some dozens on Ashby and a score on Stuart. Some of these were critically good; all of them high in sentiment; but Flash's "Jackson"—heretofore quoted, when noting that irremediable loss—stands incomparably above the rest. Short, vigorous, completely rounded—it breathes that high spirit of hope and trust, held by that warrior people; and, not alone the finest war dirge of the South, it is excelled by no sixteen lines in any language, for power, lilt and tenderness!
Perhaps Thompson's "Dirge for Ashby," Randall's song of triumph over dead John Pelham and Mrs. Margaret Preston's "Ashby," may rank side-by-side next to the "Jackson." The modest author of the last-named did not claim it, until the universal voice of her people called for her name; and it is noteworthy that large numbers of war-song writers hid from their just meed, behind the sheltering anonymous. And the universal characteristic of this dirge-poetry is not its mournful tenderness—while nothing could be more touching than that; but its strong expression of faith in the efficacy of the sacrifice and in the full atonement of the martyrdom!
The battle-breeze bore back to the writers no sound of weak wailing. It wafted only the sob of manly grief, tempered by a solemn joyousness; and—coming from men of many temperaments, amid wide-differing scenes and circumstance—every monody bears impress of the higher inspiration, that has its origin far beyond the realm of the narrow house!
Sacred to one and all—in the Dixie of yesterday, in the southern half of the cemented Union of to-day—is the memory of that past. Sweet and bitter commingled, as it is, we clasp it to our heart of hearts and know—that were it bitterer a thousand fold—it is ours still! So I may not leave the field of southern song, unnoting its noblest strain—its funeral hymn! Father Ryan's "Conquered Banner" is so complete in fulfillment of its mission, that we can not spare one word, while yet no word is wanting! Every syllable there finds it echo far down in every southern heart. Every syllable has added significance, as coming from a man of peace;—a priest of that church which ever held forth free and gentle hand to aid the cause of struggling freedom!
In hottest flashings of the fight; in toilsome marches of winter; in fearful famine of the trenches—the Catholic soldiers of the Confederacy ever acted the motto of the Douglas; their deeds ever said—"Ready! aye, ready!"
And, in fetid wards of fever hospital; in field-tents, where the busy knife shears through quivering flesh; on battle-ground, where shattered manhood lies mangled almost past semblance of itself; at hurried burial, where gory blanket, or rough board, makes final rest for some "Hero without a name;"—there ever, and ever tender and tireless, the priest of Rome works on his labor of love and consolation! And the gentlest daughter of the eldest church was there as well. All southern soldiers were brothers, in her eyes; children of the One Father. And that noble band of Sisters of Mercy—to which our every woman belonged; giving light and hope to the hospital, life itself to the cause—that band knew no confines of ministry—no barriers of faith, which made charity aught but one common heritage!
Over the border, too; in struggling Maryland, in leaguered Missouri, and far into the North, the Catholic clergy were friends of the southern cause. They ceased never openly to defend its justice; quietly to aid its sympathizers. They helped the self-exiled soldier to bear unaccustomed hardships, on the one side; carried to his lonely mother, on the other, tidings of his safety, or his glory, that "caused the heart of the widow to sing for joy!"
Fitting, then, it was that a father of that church should chant the requiem for the dead cause, he had loved and labored for while living; that Father Ryan should bless and bury its conquered banner, when the bitter day came that saw it "furled forever."
But is that proud flag—with the glory and the pride wrought into its folds, by suffering, honor and endurance unexcelled—really "furled forever?" The dust of centuries may sift upon it, but the moth and the mold may harm it not. Ages it may lie, furled and unnoted; but in her own good time, historic Justice shall yet unfold and throw it to the breeze of immortality; pointing to each glorious rent and to each holy drop that stains it!
The war-poetry of the South has been dwelt upon, perhaps, at too great length. But it was, in real truth, the literature of the South. To sum it up may be repeated, after a lapse of twenty-five years—that sentence from the preface to my "South Songs," which raised such ire among irreconcilables of the southern press:—"In prose of all kinds, the South stood still, during the war; perhaps retrograded. But her best aspiration, 'lisped in numbers, for the numbers came!'"
Even then her poetry proved that there was life—high, brave life—in the old land yet; even then it gave earnest that, when the bitter struggle for bread gave time for thought, reason and retrospect, southern literature would rise, in the might of a young giant, and shake herself wholly free from northern domination and convention.
In art and her twin sister, music, the South displayed taste and progress truly remarkable in view of the absorbing nature of her duties. Like all inhabitants of semi-tropic climes, there had ever been shown by her people natural love and aptitude for melody. While this natural taste was wholly uncultivated—venting largely in plantation songs of the negroes—in districts where the music-master was necessarily abroad, it had reached high development in several of the large cities. Few of these were large enough, or wealthy enough, to support good operas, which the wealth of the North frequently lured to itself; but it may be recalled that New Orleans was genuinely enjoying opera, as a necessary of life, long before New York deemed it essential to study bad translations of librettos, in warmly-packed congregations of thousands.
Mobile, Charleston, Savannah and other cities also had considerable latent music among their amateurs; happily not then brought to the surface by the fierce friction of poverty. And what was the musical talent of the Capital, has elsewhere been hinted. When the tireless daughters of Richmond had worked in every other way, for the soldiers themselves, they organized a system of concerts and dramatic evenings for benefit of their families. At these were shown evidences of individual excellence, truly remarkable; while their average displayed taste and finish, which skilled critics declared would compare favorably with any city in the country.
The bands of the southern army—so long as they remained existent as separate organizations—were indisputably mediocre, when not atrociously bad. But it must be recalled that there was little time to practice, even in the beginning; literally no chance to obtain new music, or instruments; and that the better class of men—who usually make the best musicians—always preferred the musket to the bugle. Nor was there either incentive to good music, or appreciation for it, among the masses of the fighters. The drum and fife were the best they had known "at musters;" and they were good enough still, to fight by. So, recalling the prowess achieved constantly, in following them, it may be wondered what possible results might have come from inspiration of a marine band, a Grafulla, or a Gilmore!
Likewise, in all art matters, the South was at least a decade behind her northern sisterhood. Climate, picturesque surrounding and natural warmth of character had awakened artistic sense, in many localities. But its development was scarcely appreciable, from lack of opportunity and of exemplar. The majority of southern girls were reared at their own homes; and art culture—beyond mild atrocities in crayon or water-color, or terrors bred of the nimble broiderer's needle—was a myth, indeed. A large number of young men—a majority, perhaps, of those who could afford it—received education at the North. Such of these as displayed peculiar aptitude for painting, were usually sent abroad for perfecting; and returning, they almost invariably settled in northern cities, where were found both superior opportunities and larger and better-paying class of patrons. But, when the tug came, not a few of these errant youths returned, to share it with their native states; and some of them found time, even in the stirring days of war, to transfer to canvas some of its most suggestive scenes.
Of them, the majority were naturally about Richmond; not only as the great army center, but as the center of everything else. Among the latter were two favorite pupils of Leutze, William D. Washington and John A. Elder. Both Virginians, by birth and rearing, they had the great advantage of Dusseldorf training, while they were thoroughly acquainted and sympathetic with their subjects. Some of Washington's figure-pieces were very successful; finding ready sale at prices which, had they continued, might have made him a Meissonnier in pocket, as well as in local fame. His elaborate picture, illustrating the "Burial of Latane"—a subject which also afforded motif for Thompson's most classic poem—attracted wide attention and favorable verdict from good critics. Mr. Washington also made many and excellent studies of the bold, picturesque scenery of his western campaigning, along the Gauley and Kanawha.
Elder's pictures—while, perhaps, less careful in finish than those of his brother student—were nothing inferior as close character-studies of soldier-life. Their excellence was ever emphasized by prompt sale; and "The Scout's Prize" and the "Raider's Return"—both horse and landscape studies; as well as a ghastly, but most effective picture of the "Crater Fight" at Petersburg, made the young artist great reputation.
Washington's "Latane" had post-bellum reproduction, by the graver; becoming popular and widely-known, North and South. The three of Elder's pictures, named here, were purchased by a member of the British parliament; but, unfortunately, were destroyed in the fire of the Dies irae. The two first were duplicated, after the peace; and they gained praise and successful sale in New York.
Mr. Guillam, a French student, worked carefully and industriously, at his Richmond studio; producing portraits of Lee, Jackson and others; which, having exaggerated mannerisms of the French school, still possessed no little merit. A remarkable life-size picture of General Lee, which produced much comment in Richmond, was done by a deaf-mute, Mr. Bruce. It was to have been bought by the State of Virginia; possibly from sympathy with the subject and the condition of the artist, rather than because of intrinsic merit as an art-work.
But, perhaps, the most strikingly original pictures the war produced were those of John R. Key, a Maryland lieutenant of engineers; one of those descendants of "The Star Spangled Banner," early noted in this chapter. Young, ambitious and but little educated in art, Mr. Key made up that lack in boldness of subject and treatment. His school was largely his own; and he went for his subjects far out of the beaten track, treating them afterward with marked boldness and dash.
"Drewry's Bluff" was a boldly-handled sketch of what the northern army persisted in calling "Fort Darling." It showed the same venturesome originality in color-use, the same breadth and fidelity that marked Mr. Key's later pictures of Sumter, Charleston harbor and scenes on the James river.
These pictures named in common, with minor sketches from pencils less known at that time—among them that of William L. Sheppard, now famous as graphic delineator of southern scenes—illustrate both the details of the unique war, and the taste and heart of those who made it. Amid battles, sieges and sorrows, the mimic world behind the Chinese wall revolved on axis of its own. War was the business of life to every man; but, in the short pauses of its active strife, were shown both the taste and talent for the prettiest pursuits of peace. And the apparently unsurmountable difficulties, through which these were essayed, makes their even partial development more remarkable still.
The press, the literature and the art of the Southern Confederacy—looked at in the light of her valor and endurance, shining from her hundred battle-fields—emphasize strongly the inborn nature of her people. And, while there were many whom the limits of this sketch leave unnamed, that sin of omission will not be registered against the author; for the men of the South—even in minor matters—did their work for the object and for the cause; not for self-illustration.
WIT AND HUMOR OF THE WAR.
If it be true that Sir Philip Sidney, burning with fever of his death-wound, reproved the soldier who brought him water in his helmet, that "he wasted a casque-full on a dying man," then humor borrowed largely of heroism.
Many a ragged rebel—worn with hunger and anxiety for the cause, or for those absent loved ones who suffered for it—was as gallant as Sidney in the fray; many a one bore his bitter trial with the same gay heart.
We have seen that the southron, war-worn, starving, could pour out his soul in noble song. Equally plain is it, that he rose in defiant glee over his own sufferings; striving to drown the sigh in a peal of resonant laughter. For humorous poetry abounds among all southern war-collections; some of it polished and keen in its satire; most of it striking hard and "straight-from-the-shoulder" blows at some detected error, or some crying abuse.
One very odd and typical specimen of this was the "Confederate Mother Goose;" only catch verses of which appeared in the "Southern Literary Messenger," when under editorial charge of rare George Bagby. It was born of accident; several officers sitting over their pipes, around Bagby's editorial pine, scribbled in turn doggerel on some war subject. So good were a few of these hits that they astonished their unambitious authors, by appearance in the next issue of the magazine. As a record of war-humor, a few of them may be of interest at this late day. This one shows the great terror struck to the hearts of his enemies by the war-gong of General Pope:
"Little Be-Pope, he came at a lope, 'Jackson, the Rebel,' to find him. He found him at last, then ran very fast, With his gallant invaders behind him!"
"Jackson's commissary" was a favorite butt for the shafts of rebel humor. Another "Mother Goose" thus pictures him:
"John Pope came down to our town And thought him wondrous wise; He jumped into a 'skeeter swamp And started writing lies. But when he found his lies were out— With all his might and main He changed his base to another place, And began to lie again!"
This verse on McClellan does not go to prove that the South respected any less the humane warfare, or the tactical ability of him his greatest opponents declared "the North's best general."
"Little McClellan sat eating a melon, The Chickahominy by, He stuck in his spade, then a long while delayed, And cried 'What a brave general am I!'"
Or this, embalming the military cant of the day:
"Henceforth, when a fellow is kicked out of doors, He need never resent the disgrace; But exclaim, 'My dear sir, I'm eternally yours, For assisting in changing my base!'"
Perhaps no pen, or no brush, in all the South limned with bolder stroke the follies, or the foibles, of his own, than did that of Innes Randolph, of Stuart's Engineer staff; later to win national fame by his "Good Old Rebel" song. Squib, picture and poem filled Randolph's letters, as brilliant flashes did his conversation. On Mr. Davis proclaiming Thanksgiving Day, after the unfortunate Tennessee campaign, Randolph versified the proclamation, section by section, as sample:
"For Bragg did well. Ah! who could tell What merely human mind could augur, That they would run from Lookout Mount, Who fought so well at Chickamauga!"
Round many a smoky camp-fire were sung clever songs, whose humor died with their gallant singers, for want of recording memories in those busy days. Latham, Caskie and Page McCarty sent out some of the best of the skits; a few verses of one by the latter's floating to mind, from the snowbound camp on the Potomac, stamped by his vein of rollicking satire-with-a-tear in it:
"Manassas' field ran red with gore, With blood the Bull Run ran; The freeman struck for hearth and home, Or any other man! And Longstreet with his fierce brigade Stood in the red redan; He waved his saber o'er his head, Or any other man! Ah! few shall part where many meet, In battle's bloody van; The snow shall be their winding-sheet, Or any other man!"
Naturally enough, with a people whose nerves were kept at abnormal tension, reaction carried the humor of the South largely into travesty. Where the reality was ever somber, creation of the unreal found popular and acceptable form in satiric verse. Major Caskie—who ever went into battle with a smile on his lips—found time, between fights, for broad pasquinade on folly about him, with pen and pencil. His very clever parody of a touching and well-known poem of the time, found its way to many a camp-fire and became a classic about the Richmond "hells." It began:
"You can never win them back, Never, never! And you'd better leave the track Now forever! Tho' you 'cut' and 'deal the pack' And 'copper' every Jack, You'll lose 'stack' after 'stack'— Forever!"
Everything tending to bathos—whether for the cause, or against it—caught its quick rebuke, at the hands of some glib funmaker. Once an enthusiastic admirer of the hero of Charleston indited a glowing ode, of which the refrain ran:
Beau sabreur, beau canon, Beau soldat—Beauregard!
Promptly came another, and most distorted version; its peculiar refrain enfolding:
Beau Brummel, Beau Fielding, Beau Hickman—Beauregard!
As it is not of record that the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia ever discovered the junior laureate, the writer will not essay to do so.
Colonel Tom August, of the First Virginia, was the Charles Lamb of Confederate war-wits; genial, quick and ever gay. Early in secession days, a bombastic friend approached Colonel Tom, with the query: "Well, sir, I presume your voice is still for war?"
To which the wit replied promptly: "Oh, yes, devilish still!"
Later, when the skies looked darkest and rumors of abandoning Richmond were wildly flying, Colonel August was limping up the street. A quidnunc hailed him:
"Well! The city is to be given up. They're moving the medical stores."
"Glad of it!" called back Colonel Tom—"We'll get rid of all this blue mass!"
From the various army camps floated out stories, epigrams and anecdotes unnumbered; most of them wholly forgotten, with only a few remembered from local color, or peculiar point. General Zeb Vance's apostrophe to the buck-rabbit, flying by him from heavy rifle fire: "Go it, cotton-tail! If I hadn't a reputation, I'd be with you!"—was a favorite theme for variations. Similarly modified to fit, was the protest of the western recruit, ordered on picket at Munson's Hill:
"Go yander ter keep 'un off! Wy, we'uns kem hyah ter fight th' Yanks; an' ef you'uns skeer 'un off, how'n thunder ez thar goan ter be a scrimmidge, no how?"
A different story—showing quick resource, where resources were lacking—is told of gallant Theodore O'Hara, who left the noblest poem of almost any war, "The Bivouac of the Dead." While he was adjutant-general, a country couple sidled shyly up to headquarters of his division, one day; the lady blushingly stating their business. It was the most important one of life: they wanted to marry. So, a council of war was held, no chaplain being available; and the general insisted on O'Hara tying the knot. Finally, he consented to try; the couple stood before him; the responses as to obedience and endowment were made; and there O'Hara stuck fast!
"Go on!" prompted the general—"The benediction."
The A.A.G. paused, stammered; then, raising his hand grandly, shouted in stentorian tones:
"In the name and by the authority of the Confederate States of North America, I proclaim you man and wife!"
A grim joke is handed down from the winter camps before Atlanta, when rations were not only worst but least. A knot round a mess-fire examined ruefully the tiny bits of moldy bacon, stuck on their bayonet-grills, when one hard old veteran remarked:
"Say, boys! Didn't them fellers wot died las' spring jest git th' commissary, though!"
Another, not very nice, still points equally the dire straits of the men, from unchanged clothing, and their grim humor under even that trial. Generals Lee and Ewell—riding through a quiet road in deep consultation, followed by members of their staff—came suddenly upon a North Carolinian at the roadside. Nude to the waist, and careless of the august presences near, the soldier paid attention only to the dingy shirt he held over the smoke of some smoldering brush. The generals past, an aide spurred up to the toilet-making vet, and queried sharply:
"Didn't you see the generals, sir? What in thunder are you doing?"
"Skirmishin'!" drawled the unmoved warrior—"An' I ent takin' no pris'ners, nuther!"
After this lapse of time—when retrospect shows but the gloom and sorrow which shadowed the dark "days of storm and stress," while none of the excitement and tension in them remains—it may seem incomprehensible that the South could laugh in song, while she suffered and fought and starved. Stranger still must it be to know that many a merry peal rang through the barred windows of the fortress-prisons of the North. Yet, many a one of the exchanged captives brought back a rollicking "prison glee;" and some sing, even to-day, the legend of "Fort Delaware, Del."
The "Prison Wails" of Thomas F. Roche, a Marylander long captive, is a close and clever parody on General Lytell's "I am dying, Egypt," which came through the lines and won warm admirers South. It describes prison discipline, diet and dirt, with keen point and broad grin. From its opening lines:
"I am busted, mother—busted! Gone th' last unhappy check; And th' infernal sutlers' prices Make my pocket-book a wreck!—"
to the human, piteous plaint that ends it:
"Ah! Once more, among the lucky, Let thy hopeful buy and swell; Bankers and rich brokers aid thee! Shell! sweet mother mine, Oh! shell!—"
the original is closely followed and equally distorted.
But strangest, amid all strange humors of the war, was that which echoed laughter over the leaguered walls of scarred, starving, desperate Vicksburg! No siege in all history tells of greater peril and suffering, borne with wondrous endurance and heroism, by men and women. It is a story of privation unparalleled, met by fortitude and calm acceptance which recall the early martyrdoms for faith! And, indeed, love of country grew to be a religion, especially with the women of the South, though happily none proved it by stress so dire as those of her heroic city; and they cherished it in the darkest midnight of their cause, with constancy and hope that nerved the strong and shamed the laggard.
That history is one long series of perils and privations—of absolute isolation—sufficient to have worn down the strongest and to have quenched even
The smile of the South, on the lips and the eyes— Of her barefooted boys!
Yet, even in Vicksburg—torn by shot and shell, hopeless of relief from without, reduced to direst straits of hunger within—the supreme rebel humor rose above nature; and men toiled and starved, fought their hopeless fight and died—not with the stoicism of the fatalist, but with the cheerfulness of duty well performed! And when Vicksburg fell, a curious proof of this was found; a manuscript bill-of-fare, surmounted by rough sketch of a mule's head crossed by a human hand holding a Bowie-knife. That memorable menu reads:
HOTEL DE VICKSBURG, BILL OF FARE, FOR JULY, 1863.
SOUP: Mule tail.
BOILED: Mule bacon, with poke greens; mule ham, canvassed.
ROAST: Mule sirloin; mule rump, stuffed with rice; saddle-of-mule, a l'armee.
VEGETABLES: Boiled rice; rice, hard boiled; hard rice, any way.
ENTREES: Mule head, stuffed a la Reb; mule beef, jerked a la Yankie; mule ears, fricasseed a la getch; mule side, stewed—new style, hair on; mule liver, hashed a l'explosion.
SIDE DISHES: Mule salad; mule hoof, soused; mule brains a l'omelette; mule kidneys, braises on ramrod; mule tripe, on half (Parrot) shell; mule tongue, cold, a la Bray.
JELLIES: Mule foot (3-to-yard); mule bone, a la trench.
PASTRY: Rice pudding, pokeberry sauce; cottonwood-berry pie, a la iron-clad; chinaberry tart.
DESSERT: White-oak acorns; beech-nuts; blackberry-leaf tea; genuine Confederate coffee.
LIQUORS: Mississippi water, vintage 1492, very superior, $3; limestone water, late importation, very fine, $3.75; spring water, Vicksburg bottled up, $4.
Meals at few hours. Gentlemen to wait upon themselves. Any inattention in service should be promptly reported at the office.
JEFF DAVIS & CO., Proprietors.
CARD: The proprietors of the justly-celebrated Hotel de Vicksburg, having enlarged and refitted the same, are now prepared to accommodate all who may favor them with a call. Parties arriving by the river, or by Grant's inland route, will find Grape, Cannister & Co.'s carriages at the landing, or any depot on the line of entrenchments. Buck, Ball & Co. take charge of all baggage. No effort will be spared to make the visit of all as interesting as possible.
This capture was printed in the Chicago Tribune, with the comment that it was a ghastly and melancholy burlesque. There is really a train of melancholy in the reflection that it was so little of a burlesque; that they who could endure such a siege, on such fare, should have been compelled to bear their trial in vain. But the quick-satisfying reflection must follow of the truth, the heroism—the moral invincibility—of a people who could so endure and—laugh!
But it was not only from the soldiers and the camps that the humor of the South took its color. Spite of the strain upon its better part—from anxiety, hope-deferred and actual privation—the society of every city keeps green memories of brilliant things said and written, on the spur of excitement and contact, that kept the sense of the whole people keenly alert for any point—whether serious or ridiculous.
The society of the Capital was marked evidence of this. It preserved many epigrammatic gems; often coming from the better—and brighter—half of its composition. For Richmond women had long been noted for society ease and aplomb, as well as for quickness of wit; and now the social amalgam held stranger dames and maidens who might have shown in any salon.
A friend of the writer—then a gallant staff-officer; now a grave, sedate and semi-bald counsellor—had lately returned from European capitals; and he was, of course, in envied possession of brilliant uniform and equipment. At a certain ball, his glittering blind-spurs became entangled in the flowing train of a dancing belle—one of the most brilliant of the set. She stopped in mid-waltz; touched my friend on the broidered chevron with taper fingers, and sweetly said:
"Captain, may I trouble you to dismount?"
Another noted girl—closely connected with the administration—made one of a distinguished party invited by Secretary Mallory to inspect a newly-completed iron-clad, lying near the city. It was after many reverses had struck the navy, causing—as heretofore shown—destruction of similar ships. Every detail of this one explained, lunch over and her good fortune drunk, the party were descending the steps to the captain's gig, when this belle stopped short.
"Oh! Mr. Secretary!" she smiled innocently—"You forgot to show us one thing!"
"Indeed?" was the bland query—"Pray what was it?"
To which came the startling rejoinder:
"Why your arrangement for blowing them up!"
There was one handsome and dashing young aide, equally noted for influence at division-headquarters, which sent him constantly to Richmond; and for persistent devotion, when there, to a sharp-witted belle with a great fortune. One night he appeared at a soiree in brand new uniform, his captain's bars replaced by the major's star on the collar. The belle, leaning on his arm wearily, was pouting; when another passed and said: "I congratulate you, major. And what are your new duties?"
The officer hesitated only one instant, but that was fatal; for the lady on his arm softly lisped: "Oh! he is Mrs. General ——'s commissary, with the rank of major!"
It is needless to add that the epigram—unjust as it was—had its effect; and the belle was no more besieged.
But of all the bright coteries in Richmond society—its very arcanum of wit, brilliance and culture—rises to memory that wholly unique set, that came somehow to be called "the Mosaic Club." Organization it was none; only a clique of men and women—married as well as single—that comprised the best intellects and prettiest accomplishments of the Capital. Many of the ladies were Will Wyatt's "easy goers;" ever tolerant, genial and genuine at the symposia of the Mosaics, as they showed behind their chevaux-de-frise of knitting-needles elsewhere. Some of them have since graced happy and luxurious homes; some have struggled with poverty and sorrow as only true womanhood may struggle; some have fought out the battle of life, sleeping now at rest forever. But one and all then faced their duty—sad, bitter, uncongenial as it might be—with loyalty and tender truth; one and all were strong enough to put by somber things, when meet to do so, and enjoy to the full the better pleasures society might offer.
And the men one met wore wreaths upon their collars often; quite as likely chevrons of "the men" upon their sleeves. Cabinet ministers, poets, statesmen, artists, and clergymen even were admitted to the "Mosaics;" the only "Open sesame!" to which its doors fell wide being that patent of nobility stamped by brain and worth alone.
Without organization, without officers; grown of itself and meeting as chance, or winter inactivity along army lines dictated—the Mosaic Club had no habitat. Collecting in one hospitable parlor, or another—as good fortune happened to provide better material for the delighting "muffin-match," or the entrancing "waffle-worry," as Will Wyatt described those festal procedures—the intimates who chanced in town were bidden; or, hearing of it, came to the feast of waffles and the flow of coffee—real coffee! without bids. They were ever welcome and knew it; and they were likewise sure of something even better than muffins, or coffee, to society-hungry men from the camps. And once gathered, the serious business of "teaing" over, the fun of the evening began.
The unwritten rule—indeed, the only rule—was the "forfeit essay," a game productive of so much that was novel and brilliant, that no later invention of peace-times has equaled it. At each meeting two hats would be handed round, all drawing a question from the one, a word from the other; question and word to be connected in either a song, poem, essay, or tale for the next meeting. Then, after the drawing for forfeits, came the results of the last lottery of brain; interspersed with music by the best performers and singers of the city; with jest and seriously-brilliant talk, until the wee sma' hours, indeed.
O! those nights ambrosial, if not of Ambrose's, which dashed the somber picture of war round Richmond, with high-lights boldly put in by master-hands! Of them were quaint George Bagby, Virginia's pet humorist; gallant, cultured Willie Meyers; original Trav Daniel; Washington, artist, poet and musician; Page McCarty, recklessly brilliant in field and frolic alike; Ham Chamberlayne, quaint, cultivated and colossal in originality; Key, Elder and other artists; genial, jovial Jim Pegram; Harry Stanton, Kentucky's soldier poet—and a score of others who won fame, even if some of them lost life—on far different fields. There rare "Ran" Tucker—later famed in Congress and law school—told inimitably the story of "The time the stars fell," or sang the unprecedented ballad of "The Noble Skewball," in his own unprecedented fashion!
It was at the Mosaic that Innes Randolph first sang his now famous "Good Old Rebel" song; and there his marvelous quickness was Aaron's rod to swallow all the rest. As example, once he drew from one hat the words, "Daddy Longlegs;" from the other, the question, "What sort of shoe was made on the Last of the Mohicans?" Not high wit these, to ordinary seeming; and yet apparent posers for sensible rhyme. But they puzzled Randolph not a whit; and—waiving his "grace" until the subsequent meeting, he rattled off extempore:
"Old Daddy Longlegs was a sinner hoary And punished for his wickedness, according to the story. Between him and the Indian shoe, this likeness doth come in, One made a mock o' virtue, and one a moccasin!"
Laughter and applause were, in mid-roar, cut by Randolph's voice calling:
Corollary first: If Daddy Longlegs stole the Indian's shoe to keep his foot warm, that was no excuse for him to steal his house, to keep his wigwam.
And again he broke down—only to renew—the chorus with:
Corollary second: Because the Indian's shoe did not fit any Mohawk, was no reason that it wouldn't fit Narragansett!
Such, in brief retrospect was the Mosaic Club! Such in part the fun and fancy and frolic that filled those winter nights in Richmond, when sleet and mud made movements of armies, "Heaven bless us! a thing of naught!"
The old colonel—that staff veteran, so often quoted in these pages—was a rare, if unconscious humorist. Gourmet born, connoisseur by instinct and clubman by life habit, the colonel writhed in spirit under discomfort and camp fare, even while he bore both heroically in the flesh; his two hundred and sixty pounds of it! Once, Styles Staple and Will Wyatt met him, inspecting troops in a West Virginia town; and they received a long lecture, a la Brillat Savarin, on enormities of the kitchen.
"And these people have fine wines, too," sadly wound up the colonel. "Marvelous wines, egad! But they don't know how to let you enjoy them!"
"'Tis a hard case," sympathized Styles, "I do hear sometimes of a fellow getting a stray tea, but as for a dinner! It's no use, colonel; these people either don't dine themselves, or they imagine we don't."
"Did it ever strike you," said the colonel, waxing philosophic, "that you can't dine in but two places south of the Potomac? True, sir. Egad! You may stumble upon a country gentleman with a plentiful larder and a passable cook, but then, egad, sir! he's an oasis. The mass of the people South don't live, sir! they vegetate—vegetate and nothing else. You get watery soups. Then they offer you mellow madeira with some hot, beastly joint; and oily old sherry with some confounded stew. Splendid materials—materials that the hand of an artist would make luscious—egad, sir; luscious—utterly ruined in the handling. It's too bad, Styles, too bad!"
"It is, indeed," put in Wyatt, falling into the colonel's vein, "too bad! And as for steaks, why, sir, there is not a steak in this whole country. They stew them, colonel, actually stew beefsteaks! Listen to the receipt a 'notable housewife' gave me: 'Put a juicy steak, cut two inches thick, in a saucepan; cover it well with water; put in a large lump of lard and two sliced onions. Let it simmer till the water dries; add a small lump of butter and a dash of pepper—and it's done!' Think of that, sir, for a bonne bouche!"
"Good God!" ejaculated the colonel, with beads on his brow. "I have seen those things, but I never knew how they were done! I shall dream of this, egad! for weeks."
"Fact, sir," Wyatt added, "and I've a theory that no nation deserves its liberties that stews its steaks. Can't gain them, sir! How can men legislate—how can men fight with a pound of stewed abomination holding them like lead? 'Bold and erect the Caledonian stood,' but how long do you think he would have been 'bold,' if they had stewed his 'rare beef' for him? No, sir! mark my words: the nation that stews its beefsteaks contracts its boundaries! As for an omelette——"
"Say no more, Will!" broke in the colonel solemnly. "After the war, come to my club and we'll dine—egad, sir! for a week!"
That invincible pluck of the southron, which carried him through starvation and the sweltering march of August, through hailing shot and shell, and freezing mud of midwinter camps—was unconquered even after the surrender. Equally invincible was that twin humor, which laughed amid all these and bore up, even in defeat. Some of the keenest hits of all the war—tinctured though they be with natural bitterness—are recalled from those days, when the beaten, but defiant, Rebel was passing under the victor's yoke.
Surprising, indeed, to its administrators must have been the result of "the oath," forced upon one green cavalryman, before he could return to family and farm. Swallowing the obnoxious allegiance, he turned to the Federal officer and quietly asked:
"Wail, an' now I reck'n I'm loyil, ain't I?"
"Oh, yes! You're all right," carelessly replied the captor.
"An' ef I'm loyil, I'm same as you 'uns?" persisted the lately sworn. "We're all good Union alike, eh?"
"Oh, yes," the officer humored him. "We're all one now."
"Wail then," rejoined Johnny Reb slowly, "didn't them darned rebs jest geen us hell sometimes?"
City Point, on the James river, was the landing for transports with soldiers released from northern prisons, after parole. A bustling, self-important major of United States volunteers was at one time there, in charge. One day a most woe-begone, tattered and emaciated "Johnnie" sat swinging his shoeless feet from a barrel, awaiting his turn.
"It isn't far to Richmond," suddenly remarked the smart major, to nobody in particular.
"Reck'n et's neer onto three thousin' mile," drawled the Confed. weakly.
"Nonsense! You must be crazy," retorted the officer staring.
"Wail, I ent a-reck'nin' adzact," was the slow reply—"Jest tho't so, kinder."
"Oh! you did? And pray why?"
"Cos et's took'n you'uns nigh onto foore year to git thar from Wash'nton," was the settling retort.
In the provost-marshal's department at Richmond, shortly after surrender, was the neatest and most irrepressible of youths. Never discourteous and often too sympathetic, he was so overcurious as to be what sailors describe as "In everybody's mess and nobody's watch." One day a quaint, Dickensesque old lady stood hesitant in the office doorway. Short, wrinkled and bent with age, she wore a bombazine gown of antique cut—its whilom black red-rusty from time's dye. But "Aunt Sallie" was a character in Henrico county; and noted withal for the sharpest of tongues and a fierce pair of undimmed eyes, which now shone under the dingy-brown poke bonnet. Toward her sallied the flippant young underling, with the greeting:
"Well, madam, what do you wish?"
"What do I wish?" The old lady grew restive and battle-hungry.
"Yes'm! That's what I asked," retorted the youth sharply.
"What do I wish?" slowly repeated the still-rebellious dame. "Well, if you must know, I wish all you Yankees were in —— hell!"
But not all the humor was confined to the governing race; some of its points cropping out sharply here and there, from under the wool of "the oppressed brother"—in-law. One case is recalled of the spoiled body servant of a gallant Carolinian, one of General Wheeler's brigade commanders. His master reproved his speech thus:
"Peter, you rascal! Why don't you speak English, instead of saying 'wah yo' is'?"
"Waffer, Mars' Sam?" queried the negro with an innocent grin. "Yo allus calls de Gen'ral—Weel-er?"
Another, close following the occupation, has a spice of higher satire. A Richmond friend had a petted maid, who—devoted and constant to her mistress, even in those tempting days—still burned with genuine negro curiosity for a sight of everything pertaining to "Mars' Linkum's men"—especially for "de skule."
For swift, indeed, were the newcome saints to preach the Evangel of alphabet; and negro schools seemed to have been smuggled in by every army ambulance, so numerously did they spring up in the captured Capital. So, early one day, Clarissa Sophia, the maid of color, donned her very best and, "with shiny morning face," hied her, like anything but a snail, to school. Very brief was her absence; her return reticent, but pouting and with unduly tip-tilted nose. After a time negro love for confidences conquered; and the murder came out.
The school-room had been packed and pervaded with odors—of sanctity, or otherwise—when a keen-nosed and eager school-marm rose up to exhort her class. She began by impressing the great truth that every sister present was "born free and equal;" was "quite as good" as she was.
"Wa' dat yo's sain' now?" interrupted Clarissa Sophia. "Yo' say Ise jess ekal as yo' is?"
"Yes; I said so," was the sharp retort, "and I can prove it!"
"Ho! 'Tain't no need," replied the lately disenthralled. "Reck'n I is, sho' nuff. But does yo' say dat Ise good as missus?—my missus?"
"Certainly you are!" This with asperity.
"Den Ise jess gwine out yere, rite off!" cried Clarissa Sophia, suiting action to word—"Ef Ise good as my missus, I'se goin' ter quit; fur I jess know she ent 'soshiatin' wid no sich wite trash like you is!"
And so—under all skies and among all colors—the war dragged its weary length out; amid sufferings and sacrifices, which may never be recorded; and which were still illumined by the flashes of unquenchable humor—God's tonic for the heart!
Had every camp contained its Froissart—had every social circle held its Boswell—what a record would there be, for reading by generations yet unborn!
But—when finished, as this cramped and quite unworthy chronicle of random recollections is—then might the reader still quote justly her of Sheba, exclaiming:
"And behold! the one-half of the greatness of thy wisdom was not told me!"
THE BEGINNING OF THE END.
While neither in itself—perhaps not the combination of the two—was final and conclusive, the beginning of the end of the Confederacy may be dated from the loss of Vicksburg and the simultaneous retreat from Gettysburg. For these two disasters made all classes consider more deeply, both their inducing causes and the final results that must follow a succession of such crushing blows.
There can be little doubt that a complete victory at Gettysburg, vigorously followed up, would have ended the war; and the generally-accepted belief in the South was that the exhaustive defeat was proportionately bad. The war had been going on two years and a half. Every device had been used to put the whole numerical strength of the country into the field and to utilize its every resource. The South had succeeded to a degree that stupefied the outside world and astonished even herself. But the effort had exhausted, and left her unfit to renew it. Over and again the armies of the East and West had been re-enforced, reorganized and re-equipped—and ever came the heavy, relentless blows of the seemingly-exhaustless power, struggled against so vainly. The South had inflicted heavy loss in men, material and prestige; but she wasted her strength in these blows, while unhappily she could not make them effective by quick repetition.
The people, too, had lost their early faith in the Government. They had submitted to the most stringent levy of conscription and impressment ever imposed upon a nation. They had willingly left their fields to grow weeds, their children to run wild and perhaps to starve; they had cheerfully divided their last supplies of food with the Government, and had gone to the front steadily and hopefully. But now they could not fail to see that, in some points at least, there had been gross mismanagement. The food for which their families were pinched and almost starved, did not come to the armies. Vast stores of provision and supplies were blocked on the roads, while speculators' ventures passed over them. This, the soldiers in the trench and the laborer at the anvil saw equally.
They saw, too, that the Government was divided against itself; for the worse than weak Congress—which had formerly been as a nose of wax in Mr. Davis' fingers—had now turned dead against him. With the stolid obstinacy of stupidity it now refused to see any good in any measure, or in any man, approved by the Executive.
Under the leadership of Mr. Foote—who wasted the precious time of Congress in windy personal diatribes against Mr. Davis and his "pets"—nothing was done to combine and strengthen the rapidly sundering elements of Confederate strength. Long debates on General Pemberton; weighty disquisitions on such grave subjects as the number of pounds of pork on hand when Vicksburg was surrendered; and violent attacks on the whole past course of the administration, occupied the minds of those lawgivers. But at this time there was no single measure originated that proposed to stop the troubles in the future.
Therefore, the people lost confidence in the divided Government; and losing it began to distrust themselves. Suffering so for it, they could not fail to know the terrible strain to which the country had been subjected. They knew that her resources in men and material had been taxed to the limit; that there was no fresh supply of either upon which to draw. This was the forlorn view that greeted them when they looked within. And outside, fresh armies faced and threatened them on every side—increased rather than diminished, and better armed and provided than ever before.
This state of things was too patent not to be seen by the plainest men; and seeing it, those became dispirited who never had doubted before. And this time, the gloom did not lift; it became a settled and dogged conviction that we were fighting the good fight almost against hope. Not that this prevented the army and the people from working still, with every nerve strained to its utmost tension; but they worked without the cheery hopefulness of the past.
Fate seemed against them. Had they been Turks they would have said: "It is kismet! Allah is great!" As they were only staunch patriots, they reasoned: "It is fearful odds—but we may win." And so solemnly, gloomily—but none the less determined—the South again prepared for the scarcely doubtful strife.
The stringent addenda to the Conscription law—that had come too late—were put into force. All men that could possibly be spared—and whom the trickery of influence could not relieve—were sent to the front; and their places in the Government were filled by the aged, the disabled, and by women. In the Government departments of Richmond—and in their branches further South—the first ladies of the land took position as clerks—driven to it by stress of circumstances. And now as ever—whether in the arsenals, the factories, or the accountant's desk—the women of the South performed their labor faithfully, earnestly and well. Those men who could not possibly be spared, were formed into companies for local defense; were regularly drilled, mustered into service, and became in fact regular soldiers, simply detailed to perform other work. When the wild notes of the alarm bell sent their frequent peals over Richmond, and warned of an approaching raid—armorer, butcher and clerk threw down hammer and knife and pen, and seized their muskets to hasten to the rendezvous. Even the shopkeepers and speculators, who seemed conscription-proof, were mustered into some sort of form; driven to make at least a show of resistance to the raid, by which they would suffer more than any others. But it was only a show; and so much more attention was paid in these organizations to filling of the commissary wagon than of the cartridge-box, that the camps of such "melish," in the woods around Richmond, were converted more into a picnic than a defense.
Supplies of war material, of clothing, and of arms, had now become as scarce as men. The constant drain had to be supplied from manufactories, worked under great difficulties; and these now were almost paralyzed by the necessity for their operatives at the front. Old supplies of iron, coal and ore had been worked up; and obtaining and utilizing fresh ones demanded an amount of labor that could not be spared. The blockade had now become thoroughly effective; and, except a rare venture at some unlooked-for spot upon the coast, no vessel was expected to come safely through the network of ships. Blankets and shoes had almost completely given out; and a large proportion of the army went barefoot and wrapped in rugs given by the ladies of the cities, who cut up their carpets for that purpose.
Yet, in view of all this privation; with a keen sense of their own sacrifices and a growing conviction that they were made in vain, the army kept up in tone and spirits. There was no intention or desire to yield, as long as a blow could be struck for the cause; and the veteran and the "new issue"—as the new conscripts were called in derision of the currency—alike determined to work on as steadily, if not so cheerily, as before.
And still Congress wrangled on with Government and within itself; still Mr. Foote blew clouds of vituperative gas at President and Cabinet; still Mr. Davis retained, in council and field, the men he had chosen. And daily he grew more unpopular with the people, who, disagreeing with him, still held him in awe, while they despised the Congress. Even in this strait, the old delusion about the collapse of Federal finance occasionally came up for hopeful discussion; and, from time to time, Mr. Benjamin would put out a feeler about recognition from governments that remembered us less than had we really been behind the great wall of China.
After Gettysburg and Vicksburg, came a lull in the heavier operations of the war. But raids of the enemy's cavalry were organized and sent to penetrate the interior South, in every direction. To meet them were only home guards and the militia; with sometimes a detachment of cavalry, hastily brought up from a distant point. This latter branch of service, as well as light artillery, now began to give way. The fearful strain upon both, in forced and distant marches, added to the wearing campaigns over the Potomac, had used up the breed of horses in the South. Those remaining were broken down by hard work and half feed; so that one-half the cavalry was dismounted—belonging to "Company Q" the men called it—and the rest was scarcely available for a rapid march, or a very heavy shock.
But the cavalry of the enemy had increased wonderfully in drill, discipline and general efficiency. Armed with the best weapons, mounted upon choice horses, composed of picked men and officered by the boldest spirits in the North, Federal cavalry now began to be the most potent arm of their service. Men sadly recalled the pleasant days when the brilliant squadrons of Hampton, or Fitz Lee—the flower of the South, mounted on its best blood stock—dashed laughingly down upon three times their force, only to see them break and scatter; while many of their number rolled over the plain, by the acts of their own steeds rather than of hostile sabers. Even much later, when the men were ragged and badly armed, and the horses were gaunt from famine, they still could meet the improving horsemen of the enemy and come off victors—as witness the battles of the Fords. But now the Yankees had learned to fight—and more incomprehensible still to the Reb, they had learned to ride! They were superior in numbers, equipment, and—to be honest—in discipline; and could no longer be met with any certainty of success. It was a bitter thing for the Golden Horse Shoe Knights; but like many ugly things about this time, it was true. So the Yankee raids—aimed as a finality for Richmond, but ever failing approach to their object—still managed to do incalculable mischief. They drove off the few remaining cattle, stole and destroyed the hoarded mite of the widowed and unprotected—burned barns—destroyed farming utensils; and, worse than all, they demoralized the people and kept them in constant dread.
As a counter-irritant, and to teach the enemy a lesson, General Morgan, early in July, started on a raid into the Northwest. With 2,000 men and a light battery, he passed through Kentucky and on to the river, leaving a line of conquest and destruction behind him—here scattering a regiment of the enemy—there demoralizing a home guard; and, at the river, fighting infantry and a gunboat, and forcing his way across into Indiana. Great was the scare in the West, at this first taste the fine fruits of raiding. Troops were telegraphed, engines flew up and down the roads as if possessed; and in short, home guards, and other troops, were collected to the number of nearly 30,000 men.
Evading pursuit, and scattering the detached bands he met, Morgan crossed the Ohio line—tearing up roads, cutting telegraphs, and inflicting much damage and inconceivable panic—until he reached within five miles of Cincinnati. Of course, with his merely nominal force, he could make no attempt on the city; so, after fourteen days of unresting raiding—his command pressed, worn out and broken down—he headed for the river once more. A small portion of the command had already crossed, when the pursuing force came up. Morgan made heavy fight, but his men were outnumbered and exhausted. A few, following him, cut their way through the enemy and fled along the north bank of the Ohio. The pursuit was fierce and hot; the flight determined, fertile in expedients, but hopeless in an enemy's country, raised to follow the cry. He was captured, with most of his staff and all of his command that was left—save the few hundred who had crossed the river and escaped into the mountains of Virginia.
Then for four months—until he dug his way out of his dungeon with a small knife—John Morgan was locked up as a common felon, starved, insulted and treated with brutality, the recital of which sickens—even having his head shaved! There was no excuse ever attempted; no pretense that he was a guerrilla. It was done simply to glut spite and to make a dreaded enemy feel his captors' power.
Meantime General Bragg, at Tullahoma, faced by Rosecrans and flanked by Burnside's "Army of the Cumberland," was forced to fall back to Chattanooga. Rosecrans pressed him hard, with the intent of carrying out that pet scheme of the North, forcing his army down through Georgia and riddling the Cotton States. It is inessential here to recount the details of these movements. Rosecrans had a heavy and compact force; ours was weak and scattered, and Bragg's urgent appeal for men met the invariable answer, there were none to send. For the same reason—insufficient force—Buckner was forced to abandon Knoxville; and a few weeks later Cumberland Gap, the key-position to East Tennessee and Georgia, was surrendered!
At this critical juncture the loss of that position could scarcely be exaggerated; and the public indignantly demanded of Government why it had been lost. The War Department shifted the responsibility, and declared that no reason existed; that the place was provisioned and impregnable, and that the responsibility rested alone with the officer in command, who was now a prisoner with his whole force.
This hardly satisfied the public clamor; and so ill-omened a commencement augured badly for the success of the campaign for position, in which both armies were now manoeuvring. The real details of these preliminary movements are scarcely clear to this day. General Bragg's friends declare that he forced Rosecrans to the position; his enemies, that Rosecrans first out-generaled him and then laid himself open to destruction, while Bragg took no advantage of the situation.
However this may be, we know that on the morning of the 19th September, '63, the battle of Chickamauga was commenced by the enemy in a series of obstinate division engagements, rather than in a general battle; Bragg's object being to gain the Chattanooga road in the enemy's rear, and his to prevent it. The fighting was heavy, stubborn and fierce, and its brunt was borne by Walker, Hood and Cleburne. Night fell on an undecided field, where neither had advantage; and the enemy perhaps had suffered more heavily than we.
All that night he worked hard to strengthen his position; and our attack—which was to have commenced just at dawn—was delayed from some misapprehension of orders. At length Breckinridge and Cleburne opened the fight, and then it raged with desperate, bloody obstinacy, until late afternoon. At that time the Confederate right had been repulsed; but Longstreet's left had driven the enemy before it. Then the whole southern line reformed; moving with steady, resistless sweep upon the confident enemy. He fought obstinately—wavered—rallied—then broke again and fled toward Chattanooga. The rout was complete and the enemy so demoralized that Longstreet—feeling that he could be crushed while panic-struck—ordered Wheeler to intercept his flight. It was stated that Longstreet's order was countermanded by General Bragg; but—whatever the reason—there was no pursuit!
The fruits of the hard-won victory were 8,000 prisoners, 50 pieces of artillery, near 20,000 muskets—plus a loss of life barren of results. For, instead of crushing the enemy and completely relieving the state and the Georgia frontier, the failure to press Rosecrans at the moment left him free communication with his rear and full time to recuperate. Instead of pressing on, General Bragg took position on Missionary Ridge; and criticism of the hour declared that he thus invested the Federals in the town, which—by a rapid advance—might already have been his, without a fight.
It is neither the intent, nor within the scope of these papers—even did their author possess the ability for it—to enter into detailed criticism of military events; far less to reopen those acrimonious partisanships, so bootless at the time and worse than useless now. But, to comprehend the state of public feeling at the South, it is essential to have the plain data, upon which it was based; and to have plainly stated the causes to which popular opinion ascribed certain results.
After Chickamauga, there was very general—and seemingly not causeless—discontent. The eternal policy of massing great armies, at any sacrifice; fighting terrible battles; and then failing to close the grasp upon their fruits—apparently already in hand—had worn public patience so threadbare, that it refused to regard Chickamauga as anything more than another of those aimless killings, which had so often drenched the West, to no avail.
Strong and open expression was made of the popular wish for General Bragg's removal; but Mr. Davis refused—as ever—to hear the people's voice, in a matter of policy. He retained General Bragg, and the people held him responsible for what they claimed was the result—Lookout Mountain!
Fas est ab hoste doceri. Public clamor at the North declared that loss of command should reward Rosecrans for loss of the battle; and, in mid-October, he was superseded by General Grant.
Like all popular heroes of the war, Grant had become noted, rather through hard-hitting than strategic combination. His zenith was mounted on the capture of Vicksburg; a project which northern generals denounced as bad soldiership and possible of success, only through an enemy's weakness. At this time, he was certainly not in high estimation of his own army, because of dogged disregard of loss in useless assaults; and it will be recalled that General McClernand was court-martialed for his declaration that he "could not be expected to furnish brains for the whole army!" The estimate of Grant's compeers is not refuted by any evidence in the War Department that, from Shiloh to Appomattox, he ever made one combination stamped by mark of any soldiership, higher than courage and bull-dog tenacity. Even scouting the generally-accepted idea, in the army of Vicksburg and later in that of Chattanooga—that McPherson provided plans and details of his campaigns; and dismissing McClernand's costly taunt as mere epigram—this was the accepted estimate of General Grant's tactical power.
But he inaugurated his command at Chattanooga with boldness and vigor. He concentrated 25,000 troops in the town; opened his communications; and then—to prevent any possible movement flanking him out of them—boldly took the initiative.
Meantime, Longstreet had been detached by General Bragg, for that badly-provided, badly-digested and wholly ill-starred expedition to Knoxville; one which seemed to prove that the history of misfortune was ever to repeat itself, in impracticable diversions at precisely the wrong time. For, even had this corps not been badly equipped and rationed, while almost wholly lacking in transportation, it certainly depleted a daily-weakening army, in the face of one already double its numbers and daily increasing.
On November 18th—spite of management that forced him to subsist on precarious captures—Longstreet reached the enemy's advanced lines, at Knoxville; drove him into the city and completely isolated him from communication. Capitulation was a mere matter of time; but disastrous news from the main army drove the Confederate to the alternative of assault, or retreat. Choosing the former, he made it with the same desperate gallantry displayed at Gettysburg, or Corinth; illustrated by brilliant, but unavailing, personal prowess. The strength of the enemy's works—and openness of approach, with wire netting interlaced among the stumps of the new clearing, was too much for the southern soldiers. Several times they reached the works, fighting hand-to-hand; but finally Longstreet fell back, in good order and carrying his subsistence. He chose his own line of retreat, too; and with such good judgment as to be within reach of any new combination of Bragg—from whom he was now cut off—or, failing that, to keep his rear open through Virginia, to Lee's army.
Meantime, Grant massed troops in Chattanooga, sufficient in his judgment to crush Bragg; and, learning of the latter's detachment of Longstreet's corps, determined to strike early and hard. On the 25th he attacked with his whole force, in two grand columns under Thomas, Sherman and Hooker. The little southern army of less than forty thousand was judiciously posted; having advantage of being attacked. The terrible shock of the double attack was successfully repulsed on the right by Hardee, on the left by Buckner. Broken, reeling—shattered—he was hurled back, only to form again with splendid courage. Once more checked and driven back, after desperate fighting on both sides, the Federals made a third advance with steady, dogged valor. Then constancy was rewarded; they broke the Confederate center; swung it in disorder upon the wings; and, holding the ground so hotly won, had the key to the position.