Historical Tales, Vol. 2 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality
by Charles Morris
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Chambersburg, the goal of the expedition, was reached on the evening of the 10th, after a day's hard ride. So rapid and well conducted had been the journey that as yet scarce one enemy had been seen; and when the town was called on to surrender within thirty minutes, under penalty of a bombardment, resistance was out of the question; there was no one capable of resisting, and the troops were immediately marched into the town, where they were drawn up in the public square.

The bank was the first place visited. Colonel Butler, under orders from his chief, entered the building and demanded its funds. But the cashier assured him that it was empty of money, all its cash having been sent away that morning, and convinced him of this by opening the safe and drawers for his inspection. Telegraphic warning had evidently reached the town. Butler had acted with such courtesy that the cashier now called the ladies of his family, and bade them to prepare food for the men who had made the search. That the captors of the town behaved with like courtesy throughout we have the evidence of Colonel A. K. McClure, subsequently editor of the Philadelphia Times, who then dwelt in the near vicinity of Chambersburg. Though a United States officer and subject to arrest or parole, and though he had good opportunity to escape, he resolved to stay and share the fate of his fellow-townsmen. We quote from his description of the incidents of that night. After speaking of an interview he had—as one of the committee of three citizens to surrender the town—with General Hampton, and the courteous manner of the latter, he proceeds:

"With sixty acres of corn in shock, and three barns full of grain, excellent farm and saddle horses, and a number of best blooded cattle, the question of property was worthy of a thought. I resolved to stay, as I felt so bound by the terms of surrender, and take my chances of discovery and parole....

"I started in advance of them for my house, but not in time to save the horses. I confidently expected to be overrun by them, and to find the place one scene of desolation in the morning. I resolved, however, that things should be done soberly, if possible, and I had just time to destroy all the liquors about the house. As their pickets were all around me I could not get it off. I finished just in time, for they were soon upon me in force, and every horse in the barn, ten in all, was promptly equipped and mounted by a rebel cavalryman. They passed on towards Shippensburg, leaving a picket force on the road.

"In an hour they returned with all the horses they could find, and dismounted to spend the night on the turnpike in front of my door. It was now midnight, and I sat on the porch observing their movements. They had my best corn-field beside them and their horses fared well. In a little while one entered the yard, came up to me, and after a profound bow, politely asked for a few coals to start a fire. I supplied him, and informed him as blandly as possible where he would find wood conveniently, as I had dim visions of camp-fires made of my palings. I was thanked in return, and the mild-mannered villain proceeded at once to strip the fence and kindle fires. Soon after a squad came and asked permission to get some water. I piloted them to the pump, and again received a profusion of thanks....

"About one o'clock, half a dozen officers came to the door and asked to have some coffee made for them, offering to pay liberally for it in Confederate scrip. After concluding a treaty with them on behalf of the colored servants, coffee was promised them, and they then asked for a little bread with it. They were wet and shivering, and, seeing a bright, open wood-fire in the library, they asked permission to enter and warm themselves until their coffee should be ready, assuring me that under no circumstances should anything in the house be disturbed by their men. I had no alternative but to accept them as my guests until it might please them to depart, and I did so with as good grace as possible.

"Once seated round the fire all reserve seemed to be forgotten on their part, and they opened a general conversation on politics, the war, the different battles, the merits of generals of both armies. They spoke with entire freedom upon every subject but their movement into Chambersburg. Most of them were men of more than ordinary intelligence and culture, and their demeanor was in all respects eminently courteous. I took a cup of coffee with them, and have never seen anything more keenly relished. They said that they had not tasted coffee for weeks before, and that then they had paid from six to ten dollars per pound for it. When they were through they asked whether there was any coffee left, and finding that there was some, they proposed to bring some more officers and a few privates, who were prostrated by exposure, to get what was left. They were, of course, as welcome as those present, and on they came in squads of five or more until every grain of brown coffee was exhausted. Then they asked for tea, and that was served to some twenty more.

"In the mean time a subordinate officer had begged of me a little bread for himself and a few men, and he was supplied in the kitchen. He was followed by others in turn, until nearly a hundred had been supplied with something to eat or drink. All, however, politely asked permission to enter the house, and behaved with entire propriety. They did not make a single rude or profane remark, even to the servants. In the mean time the officers who had first entered the house had filled their pipes from the box of Killikinick on the mantel—after being assured that smoking was not offensive—and we had another hour of free talk on matters generally....

"At four o'clock in the morning the welcome blast of the bugle was heard, and they rose hurriedly to depart. Thanking me for the hospitality they had received, we parted, mutually expressing the hope that should we ever meet again, it would be under more pleasant circumstances. In a few minutes they were mounted and moved into Chambersburg. About seven o'clock I went into town....

"General Stuart sat on his horse in the centre of the town, surrounded by his staff, and his command was coming in from the country in large squads, leading their old horses and riding the new ones they had found in the stables hereabouts. General Stuart is of medium size, has a keen eye, and wears immense sandy whiskers and moustache. His demeanor to our people was that of a humane soldier. In several instances his men commenced to take private property from stores, but they were arrested by General Stuart's provost-guard. In a single instance only, that I heard of, did they enter a store by intimidating the proprietor. All of our stores and shops were closed, and with a very few exceptions were not disturbed."

This was certainly not like the usual behavior of soldiers on foreign soil, and the incident at once illustrates the strict control which General Stuart held over his men and the character of the men themselves, largely recruited, as they were, from the higher class of Southern society. Though Colonel McClure evidently felt that the lion's claws lay concealed under the silken glove, he certainly saw no evidence of it in the manners of his unbidden guests.

Return was now the vital question before General Stuart and his band. Every hour of delay added to the dangers surrounding them. Troops were hastily marching to cut off their retreat; cavalry was gathering to intercept them; scouts were watching every road and every movement. Worst of all was the rain, which had grown heavy in the night and was now falling steadily, with a threat of swelling the Potomac and making its fords impassable. The ride northward had been like a holiday excursion; what would the ride southward prove?

With the dawn of day the head of the column set out on the road towards Gettysburg, no damage being done in the town except to railroad property and the ordnance store-house, which contained a large quantity of ammunition and other army supplies. This was set on fire, and the sound of the explosion, after the flames reached the powder, came to the ears of the vanguard when already at a considerable distance on the return route.

At Cashtown the line turned from the road to Gettysburg and moved southward, horses being still diligently collected till the Maryland line was crossed, when all gathering of spoil ceased. Emmittsburg was reached about sunset, the hungry cavaliers there receiving a warm welcome and being supplied with food as bountifully as the means of the inhabitants permitted.

Meanwhile, the Federal military authorities were busy with efforts to cut off the ventursome band. The difficulty was to know at what point on the Potomac a crossing would be sought, and the troops were held in suspense until Stuart's movements should unmask his purpose. General Pleasanton and his cavalry force were kept in uncertain movement, now riding to Hagerstown, then, on false information, going four miles westward, then, halted by fresh orders, turning east and riding to Mechanicstown, twenty miles from Hagerstown. They had marched fifty miles that day, eight of which were wasted, and when they halted, Stuart was passing within four miles of them without their knowledge. Midnight brought Pleasanton word of Stuart's movements, and the weary men and horses were put on the road again, reaching the mouth of the Monocacy about eight o'clock the next morning. But most of his command had dropped behind in that exhausting ride of seventy-eight miles within twenty-eight hours, only some four hundred of them being still with him.

While the Federals were thus making every effort to cut off the bold raiders and to garrison the fords through a long stretch of the Potomac, Stuart was riding south from Emmittsburg, after a brief stop at that place, seeking to convey the impression by his movements that he proposed to try some of the upper and nearer fords. His real purpose was to seek a crossing lower down, so near to the main body of the Federals that they would not look for him there. Yet the dangers were growing with every moment, three brigades of infantry guarded the lower fords, Pleasanton was approaching the Monocacy, and it looked as if the bold raider was in a net from which there could be no escape.

Stuart reached Hyattstown at daylight on the 12th, having marched sixty-five miles in twenty hours. The abundance of captured horses enabled him to make rapid changes for the guns and caissons and to continue the march without delay. Two miles from Hyattstown the road entered a large piece of woodland, which served to conceal his movements from observation from any signal-tower. Here a disused road was found, and, turning abruptly to the west, a rapid ride was made under cover.

Soon after the open country was reached again a Federal squadron was encountered; but it was dispersed by a charge, and from this point a rapid ride was made for White's Ford, the nearest available crossing. All now seemed to depend upon whether this ford was occupied in force by the enemy. As Colonel Lee approached it this question was settled; what appeared a large body of Federal infantry was in possession, posted on a steep bluff quite close to the ford. It seemed impossible to dislodge it, but foes were closing up rapidly from behind, and if all was not to be lost something must be done, and done at once.

To attack the men on the bluff seemed hopeless, and before doing so Lee tried the effect of putting a bold face on the matter. He sent a messenger under a flag of truce, telling the Federal commander that Stuart's whole force was before him, that resistance was useless, and calling on him to surrender. If this was not done in fifteen minutes a charge in force would be made. The fifteen minutes passed. No sign of yielding appeared. Lee, with less than a forlorn hope of success, opened fire with his guns and ordered his men to advance. He listened for the roar of the Federal guns in reply, when a wild shout rang along the line.

"They are retreating! Hurrah! they are retreating!"

Such was indeed the case. The infantry on the bluff were marching away with flying flags and beating drums, abandoning their strong position without a shot. A loud Confederate cheer followed them as they marched. No shot was fired to hinder them. Their movement was the salvation of Stuart's corps, for it left an open passage to the ford, and safety was now assured.

But there was no time to lose. Pleasanton and his men might be on them at any minute. Other forces of the enemy were rapidly closing in. Haste was the key to success. One piece of artillery was hurried over the dry bed of the canal, across the river ford, and up the Virginia bluff, where it was posted to command the passage. Another gun was placed so as to sweep the approaches on the Maryland side, and soon a stream of horsemen were rapidly riding through the shallow water to Virginia and safety. With them went a long train of horses captured from Pennsylvania farms.

Up came the others and took rapidly to the water, Pelham meanwhile facing Pleasanton with a single gun, which was served with all possible rapidity. But there was one serious complication. Butler with the rear-guard had not yet arrived, and no one knew just where he was. Stuart, in deep concern for his safety, sent courier after courier to hasten his steps, but no tidings came back.

"I fear it is all up with Butler," he said, despondently. "I cannot get word of him, and the enemy is fast closing in on his path."

"Let me try to reach him," said Captain Blackford, to whom the general had spoken.

After a moment's hesitation Stuart replied,—

"All right! If we don't meet again, good-by, old fellow! You run a desperate chance of being raked in."

Away went Blackford at full speed, passing the lagging couriers one by one, and at length reaching Butler, whom he found halted and facing the enemy, in complete ignorance of what was going on at the front. He had his own and a North Carolina regiment and one gun.

"We are crossing the ford, and Stuart orders you up at once," shouted Blackford. "Withdraw at a gallop or you will be cut off."

"Very good," said Butler, coolly. "But how about that gun? I fear the horses can't get it off in time."

"Let the gun go. Save yourself and your men."

Butler did not see it in that light. Whip and spur were applied to the weary artillery horses, and away they went down the road, whirling the gun behind them, and followed at a gallop by Butler and his men. As they turned towards the ford they were saluted by the fire of a Federal battery. Further on the distant fire of infantry from down the river reached them with spent balls. Ten minutes later and the rear-guard would have been lost. As it was, a wild dash was made across the stream and soon the last man stood on Virginia soil. The expedition was at an end, and the gallant band was on its native heath once more.

Thus ended Stuart's famous two days' ride. The first crossing of the Potomac had been on the morning of the 10th. The final crossing was on the morning of the 12th. Within twenty-seven hours he had ridden eighty miles, from Chambersburg to White's Ford, with his artillery and captured horses, and had crossed the Potomac under the eyes of much superior numbers, his only losses being the wounding of one man and the capture of two who had dropped out of the line of march—a remarkable record of success, considering the great peril of the expedition.

The gains of the enterprise were about twelve hundred horses, but the great strain of the ride forced the men to abandon many of their own. Stuart lost two of his most valued animals—Suffolk and Lady Margrave—through the carelessness of his servant Bob, who, overcome by too free indulgence in ardent spirits, fell out of the line to take a nap, and ended by finding himself and his horses in hostile hands.

The value of the property destroyed at Chambersburg, public and railroad, was estimated at two hundred and fifty thousand dollars; a few hundred sick and wounded soldiers were paroled, and about thirty officials and prominent citizens were brought off as prisoners, to be held as hostages for imprisoned citizens of the Confederacy.

On the whole, it was eminently a dare-devil enterprise of the type of the knightly forays of old, its results far less in importance than the risk of loss to the Confederacy had that fine body of cavalry been captured. Yet it was of the kind of ventures calculated to improve the morale of an army, and inspire its men to similar deeds of daring and success. Doubtless it gave the cue to Morgan's later and much less fortunate invasion of the North.


Foremost in dash and daring among the cavalry leaders of the Confederacy was Lieutenant-General Nathan B. Forrest, a hero in the saddle, some of whose exploits were like the marvels of romance. There is one of his doings in particular which General Lord Wolseley says "reads like a romance." This was his relentless pursuit and final capture of the expedition under Colonel Abel D. Streight, one of the most brilliant deeds in the cavalry history of the war. Accepting Wolseley's opinion, we give the story of this exploit.

In General Rosecrans's campaign against General Bragg, it was a matter of importance to him to cut the railroad lines and destroy bridges, arsenals, etc., in Bragg's rear. He wished particularly to cut the railroads leading from Chattanooga to Atlanta and Nashville, and thus prevent the free movement of troops. The celebrated Andrews expedition of scouts, described in a previous volume of this series, failed in an effort to do this work. Colonel Streight, a stalwart, daring cavalry leader, made a second effort to accomplish it, and would doubtless have succeeded but for the bulldog-like persistence with which "that devil, Forrest" clung to his heels.

Colonel Streight's expedition was made up of four regiments of mounted infantry and two companies of cavalry, about two thousand men in all. Rome, Georgia, an important point on the railroad from Chattanooga to Atlanta, was its objective point. The route to be traversed included a barren, mountainous track of country, chosen from the fact that its sparse population was largely composed of Union sympathizers. But the road was likely to be so steep and rocky, and forage so scarce, that mules were chosen instead of horses for the mounts, on account of their being more surefooted and needing less food.

The expedition was sent by steamboat from Nashville, Tennessee, to Eastport, Alabama, which place was reached on the 19th of April, 1863. This movement was conducted with all possible secrecy, and was masked by an expedition under General Dodge, at the head of a force of some ten thousand men. The unfortunate feature about the affair was the mules. On their arrival at Eastport these animals, glad to get on solid land again, set up a bray that trumpeted the story of their arrival for miles around, and warned the cavalry of General Rodney, who had been skirmishing with General Dodge, that new foes were in the field.

When night fell some of Rodney's cavalry lads crept into the corral, and there, with yells and hoots and firing of guns and pistols, they stampeded nearly four hundred of the mules. This caused a serious delay, only two hundred of the mules being found after two day's search, while more time was lost in getting others. From Eastport the expedition proceeded to Tuscumbia, General Rodney stubbornly resisting the advance. Here a careful inspection was made, and all unfit men left out, so that about fifteen hundred picked men, splendidly armed and equipped, constituted the final raiding force.

But the delay gave time for the news that some mysterious movement was afoot to spread far and wide, and Forrest led his corps of hard riders at top-speed from Tennessee to the aid of Rodney in checking it. On the 27th he was in Dodge's front, helping Rodney to give him what trouble he could, though obliged to fall back before his much greater force.

Streight was already on his way. He had set out at midnight of the 26th, in pouring rain and over muddy roads. At sunset of the next day he was thirty-eight miles from the starting-point. On the afternoon of the 28th the village of Moulton was reached without trace of an enemy in front or rear. The affair began to look promising. Next morning the mule brigade resumed its march, heading east towards Blountsville.

Not until the evening of the 28th did Forrest hear of this movement. Then word was brought him that a large body of Union troops had passed Mount Hope, riding eastward towards Moulton. The quick-witted leader guessed in a moment what all this meant, and with his native energy prepared for a sharp pursuit. In all haste he picked out a suitable force, had several days' rations cooked for the men and corn gathered for the horses, and shortly after midnight was on the road, leaving what men he could spare to keep Dodge busy and prevent pursuit. His command was twelve hundred strong, the most of them veterans whose metal had been tried on many a hard-fought field, and who were ready to follow their daring leader to the death, reckless and hardy "irregulars," brought up from childhood to the use of horses and arms, the sturdy sons of the back country.

Streight was now in the ugly mountain country through which his route lay, and was advancing up Sand Mountain by a narrow, stony, winding road. He had two days the start of his pursuer, but with such headlong speed did Forrest ride, that at dawn on the 30th, when the Federals were well up the mountain, the boom of a cannon gave them the startling notice that an enemy was in pursuit. Forrest had pushed onward at his usual killing pace, barely drawing rein until Streight's camp-fires came in sight, when his men lay down by their horses for a night's rest.

Captain William Forrest, a brother of the general, had been sent ahead to reconnoitre, and in the early morning was advised of the near presence of the enemy by as awful a noise as human ears could well bear, the concentrated breakfast bray of fifteen hundred hungry mules.

The cannon-shot which had warned Colonel Streight that an enemy was near, was followed by the yell of Captain Forrest's wild troopers, as they charged hotly up the road. Their recklessness was to be severely punished, for as they came headlong onward a volley was poured into them from a ridge beside the road. Their shrewd opponent had formed an ambuscade, into which they blindly rode, with the result that Captain Forrest fell from his horse with a crushed thigh-bone, and many of his men and horses were killed and wounded before they could get out of the trap into which they had ridden.

The attack was followed up by Forrest's whole force. Edmonson's men, dismounted, advanced within a hundred yards of the Federal line, Roddy and Julian rode recklessly forward in advance, and Forrest's escort and scouts occupied the left. It was a precipitous movement, which encountered a sudden and sharp reverse, nearly the whole line being met with a murderous fire and driven back. Then the Federals sprang forward in a fierce charge, driving the Confederates back in confusion over their own guns, two of which were captured with their caissons and ammunition.

The loss of his guns threw Forrest into a violent rage, in which he made the air blue with his forcible opinions. Those guns must be taken back, he swore, at the risk of all their lives. He bade every man to dismount and tie their horses to saplings—there were to be no horse-holders in this emergency. Onward swept the avengers, but to their surprise and chagrin only a small rear-guard was found, who fled on their mules after a few shots. Streight, with the captured guns, was well on the road again, and Forrest's men were obliged to go back, untie their horses, and get in marching order, losing nearly an hour of precious time.

From this period onward the chase was largely a running fight. Forrest's orders to his men were to "shoot at everything blue and keep up the scare." Streight's purpose was to make all haste forward to Rome, outriding his pursuers, and do what damage he could. But he had to deal with the "Rough Riders" of the Confederate army, men sure to keep on his track day and night, and give him no rest while a man on mule-back remained.

Forrest's persistence was soon shown. His advance troopers came up with the enemy again at Hog's-back ridge an hour before dark and at once charged right and left. They had their own guns to face, Streight keeping up a hot fire with the captured pieces till the ammunition was exhausted, when, being short of horses, he spiked and abandoned the guns.

The fight thus begun was kept up vigorously till ten o'clock at night, and was as gallant and stubbornly contested as any of the minor engagements of the war, the echoes of that mountain desert repeating most unwonted sounds. General Forrest seemed everywhere, and so fearlessly exposed himself that one horse was killed and two were wounded under him, though he escaped unhurt. In the end Colonel Streight was taught that he could not drive off his persistent foe, and took to the road again, but twice more during the night he was attacked, each time repelling his foes by an ambuscade.

About ten o'clock the next morning Blountsville was reached. The Federals were now clear of the mountains and in an open and fertile country where food and horses were to be had. Both were needed; many of the mules had given out, leaving their riders on foot, while mules and men alike were short of food. It was the first of May, and the village was well filled with country people, who saw with dismay the Yankee troopers riding in and confiscating all the horses on which they could lay hands.

Streight now decided to get on with pack-mules, and the wagons were bunched and set on fire, the command leaving them burning as it moved on. They did not burn long. Forrest's advance came on with a yell, swept the Federal rear-guard from the village, and made all haste to extinguish the flames, the wagons furnishing them a rich and much-needed supply. Few horses or mules, however, were to be had, as Streight's men had swept the country as far as they could reach on both sides of the road.

On went the raiders and on came their pursuers, heading east, keeping in close touch, and skirmishing briskly as they went, for ten miles more. This brought them to a branch of the Black Warrior River. The ford reached by the Federals was rocky, and they had their foe close in the rear, but by an active use of skirmishers and of his two howitzers Straight managed to get his command across and to hold the ford until a brief rest was taken.

The Yankee troopers were not long on the road again before Forrest was over the stream, and the hot chase was on once more. The night that followed was the fourth night of the chase, which had been kept up with only brief snatches of rest and with an almost incessant contest. On the morning of the 2d the skirmishing briskly began again, Forrest with an advance troop attacking the Federal rear-guard, and fighting almost without intermission during the fifteen miles ride to Black Creek.

Here was a deep and sluggish stream walled in with very high banks. It was spanned at the road by a wooden bridge, over which Colonel Streight rushed his force at top speed, and at once set the bridge on fire, facing about with his howitzers to check pursuit. One man was left on the wrong side of the stream, and was captured by Forrest himself as he dashed up to the blazing bridge at the head of his men.

Colonel Streight might now reasonably believe that he had baffled his foe for a time, and might safely take the repose so greatly needed. The stream was said to be too deep to ford, and the nearest bridge, two miles away, was a mere wreck, impassable for horses. Forrest was in a quandary as to how he should get over that sluggish but deep ditch, and stood looking at it in dismay. He was obliged to wait in any event, for his artillery and the bulk of his command had been far outridden. In this dilemma the problem was solved for him by a country girl who lived near by, Emma Sanson by name. Near the burning bridge was a little one-storied, four-roomed house, in which dwelt the widow Sanson and her two daughters. She had two sons in the service, and the three women, like many in similar circumstances in the Confederacy, were living as best they could.

The girl Emma watched with deep interest the rapid flight, the burning of the bridge, and the headlong pursuit of the Confederate troop. Seeing Forrest looking with a dubious countenance at the dark stream, she came up and accosted him.

"You are after those Yankees?" she asked.

"I should think so," said Forrest, "and would give my best hat to get across this ugly ditch."

"I think you can do it," she replied.

"Aha! my good girl. That is news worth more than my old hat. How is it to be done? Let me know at once."

"I know a place near our farm where I have often seen cows wade across when the water was low. If you will lend me a horse to put my saddle on, I will show you the place."

"There's no time for that; get up behind me," cried Forrest.

In a second's time the alert girl was on the horse behind him. As they were about to ride off her mother came out and asked, in a frightened tone, where she was going. Forrest explained and promised to bring her back safe, and in a moment more was off. The ride was not a long one, the place sought being soon reached. Here the general and his guide quickly dismounted, the girl leading down a ravine to the water's edge, where Forrest examined the depth and satisfied himself that the place might prove fordable.

Mounting again, they rode back, now under fire, for a sharp engagement was going on across the creek between the Confederates and the Federal rear-guard. Forrest was profuse in his thanks as he left the quick-witted girl at her home. He gave her as reward a horse and also wrote her a note of thanks, and asked her to send him a lock of her hair, which he would be glad to have and cherish in memory of her service to the cause.

The Lost Ford, as the place has since been called, proved available, the horses finding foothold, while the ammunition was taken from the caissons and carried across by the horsemen. This done, the guns and empty caissons were pulled across by ropes, and soon all was in readiness to take up the chase again.

Colonel Streight had reached Gadsden, four miles away, when to his surprise and dismay he heard once more the shouts of his indefatigable foemen as they rode up at full speed. It seemed as if nothing could stop the sleuth-hounds on his track. For the succeeding fifteen miles there was a continual skirmish, and, when Streight halted to rest, the fight became so sharp that his weary men were forced to take to the road again. Rest was not for them, with Forrest in their rear. Streight here tried for the last time his plan of ambuscading his enemy, but the wide-awake Forrest was not to be taken in as before, and by a flank movement compelled the weary Federals to resume their march.

All that night they rode despondently on, crossing the Chattanooga River on a bridge which they burned behind them, and by sunrise reaching Cedar Bluff, twenty-eight miles from Gadsden. At nine o'clock they stopped to feed, and the worn-out men had no sooner touched the ground than they were dead asleep. Forrest had taken the opportunity to give his men a night's rest, detaching two hundred of them to follow the Federals and "devil them all night." Streight had also detached two hundred of his best-mounted men, bidding them to march to Rome and hold the bridge at that place. But Forrest had shrewdly sent a fast rider to the same place, and when Russell got up he found the bridge strongly held and his enterprise hopeless.

When May 3 dawned the hot chase was near its end. Forrest had given his men ten hours' sleep while Streight's worn-out men were plodding desperately on. This all-night's ride was a fatal error for the Federals, and was a main cause of their final defeat. The short distance they had made was covered by Forrest's men, fresh from their night's sleep, in a few hours, and at half-past nine, while the Federals were at breakfast, the old teasing rattle of small-arms called them into line again. About the same time word came from Russell that he could not take the bridge at Rome, and news was received that a flanking movement of Confederates had cut in between Rome and the Yankee troopers.

The affair now looked utterly desperate, but the brave Streight rallied his men on a ridge in a field and skirmishing began. So utterly exhausted, however, were the Federals that many of them went to sleep as they lay in line of battle behind the ridge while looking along their gun barrels with finger on trigger.

The game was fairly up. Forrest sent in a flag of truce, with a demand for surrender. Streight asked for an interview, which was readily granted.

"What terms do you offer?" asked Streight.

"Immediate surrender. Your men to be treated as prisoners of war, officers to retain their side-arms and personal property."

During the conversation Streight asked, "How many men have you?"

"Enough here to run over you, and a column of fresh troops between you and Rome."

In reality Forrest had only five hundred men left him, the remainder having been dropped from point to point as their horses gave out and no new mounts were to be had. But the five hundred made noise enough for a brigade, it being Forrest's purpose to conceal the weakness of his force.

As they talked a section of the artillery of the pursuers came in sight within a short range. Colonel Streight objected to this, and Forrest gave orders that the guns must come no nearer. But the artillerymen moved around a neighboring hill as if putting several small batteries into position.

"Have you many guns, general?" asked Streight.

"Enough to blow you all to pieces before an hour," was the grandiloquent reply.

Colonel Streight looked doubtfully at the situation, not knowing how much to believe of what he saw and heard. After some more words he said,—

"I cannot decide without consulting my officers."

"As you please," said Forrest, with a sublime air of indifference. "It will soon be over, one way or the other."

Streight had not all the fight taken out of him yet, but he found all his officers in favor of a surrender and felt obliged to consent. The men accordingly were bidden to stack their arms and were marched back into a field, Forrest managing as soon as he conveniently could to get his men between them and their guns. The officers were started without delay and under a strong escort for Rome, twenty miles away. On their route thither they met Captain Russell returning and told him of what had taken place. With tears in his eyes he surrendered his two hundred men.

Thus ended one of the most striking achievements of the Civil War. Forrest's relentless and indefatigable pursuit, his prompt overcoming of the difficulties of the way, and his final capture of Streight's men with less than half their force, have been commended by military critics as his most brilliant achievement and one of the most remarkable exploits in the annals of warfare.

The outcome of Colonel Streight's raid to the South was singularly like that of General Morgan's famous raid to the North. Morgan's capture, imprisonment, and escape were paralleled in Streight's career. Sent to Richmond, and immured in Libby Prison, he and four of his officers took part in the memorable escape by a tunnel route in February, 1864. In his report, published after his escape, he blames his defeat largely on the poor mules, and claims that Forrest's force outnumbered him three to one. It is not unlikely that he believed this, judging from the incessant trouble they had given him, but the truth seems established that at the surrender Forrest had less than half the available force of his foe.


There were no more daring adventures and hair-breadth escapes during the Civil War than those encountered in running the blockade, carrying sadly-needed supplies into the ports of the Confederacy, and returning with cargoes of cotton and other valuable products of the South. There was money in it for the successful, much money; but, on the other hand, there was danger of loss of vessel and cargo, long imprisonment, perhaps death, and only men of unusual boldness and dare-devil recklessness were ready to engage in it. The stories told by blockade-runners are full of instances of desperate risk and thrilling adventure. As an example of their more ordinary experience, we shall give, from Thomas E. Taylor's "Running the Blockade," the interesting account of his first run to Wilmington harbor.

This town, it must be premised, lies some sixteen miles up Cape Fear River, at whose principal entrance the formidable Fort Fisher obliged the blockading fleet to lie out of the range of its guns, and thus gave some opportunity for alert blockade-runners to slip in. Yet this was far from safe and easy. Each entrance to the river was surrounded by an in-shore squadron of Federal vessels, anchored in close order during the day, and at night weighing anchor and patrolling from shore to shore. Farther out was a second cordon of cruisers, similarly alert, and beyond these again gunboats were stationed at intervals, far enough out to sight by daybreak any vessels that crossed Wilmington bar at high tide in the night. Then, again, there were free cruisers patrolling the Gulf Stream, so that to enter the river unseen was about as difficult as any naval operation could well be. With this preliminary statement of the situation, let us permit Mr. Taylor to tell his story.

"The 'Banshee's' engines proved so unsatisfactory that, under ordinary conditions, nine or ten knots was all we could get out of her; she was therefore not permitted to run any avoidable risks, and to this I attribute her extraordinary success where better boats failed. As long as daylight lasted a man was never out of the cross-trees, and the moment a sail was seen the 'Banshee's' stern was turned to it till it was dropped below the horizon. The look-out man, to quicken his eyes, had a dollar for every sail he sighted, and if it were seen from the deck first he was fined five. This may appear excessive, but the importance in blockade-running of seeing before you are seen is too great for any chance to be neglected; and it must be remembered that the pay of ordinary seamen for each round trip in and out was from L50 to L60.

"Following these tactics, we crept noiselessly along the shores of the Bahamas, invisible in the darkness, and ran on unmolested for the first two days out [from the port of Nassau], though our course was often interfered with by the necessity of avoiding hostile vessels; then came the anxious moment on the third, when, her position having been taken at noon to see if she was near enough to run under the guns of Fort Fisher before the following daybreak, it was found there was just time, but none to spare for accidents or delay. Still, the danger of lying out another day so close to the blockaded port was very great, and rather than risk it we resolved to keep straight on our course and chance being overtaken by daylight before we were under the fort.

"Now the real excitement began, and nothing I have ever experienced can compare with it. Hunting, pig-sticking, steeple-chasing, big-game shooting, polo—I have done a little of each—all have their thrilling moments, but none can approach 'running a blockade;' and perhaps my readers may sympathize with my enthusiasm when they consider the dangers to be encountered, after three days of constant anxiety and little sleep, in threading our way through a swarm of blockaders, and the accuracy required to hit in the nick of time the mouth of a river only half a mile wide, without lights and with a coast-line so low and featureless that, as a rule, the first intimation we had of its nearness was the dim white line of the surf.

"There were, of course, many different plans of getting in, but at this time the favorite dodge was to run up some fifteen or twenty miles to the north of Cape Fear, so as to round the northernmost of the blockaders, instead of dashing right through the inner squadron; then to creep down close to the surf till the river was reached; and this was the course the 'Banshee' intended to adopt.

"We steamed cautiously on until nightfall; the night proved dark, but dangerously clear and calm. No lights were allowed—not even a cigar; the engine-room hatch-ways were covered with tarpaulins, at the risk of suffocating the unfortunate engineers and stokers in the almost insufferable atmosphere below. But it was absolutely imperative that not a glimmer of light should appear. Even the binnacle was covered, and the steersman had to see as much of the compass as he could through a conical aperture carried almost up to his eyes.

"With everything thus in readiness, we steamed on in silence, except for the stroke of the engines and the beat of the paddle-floats, which in the calm of the night seemed distressingly loud; all hands were on deck, crouching behind the bulwarks, and we on the bridge, namely, the captain, the pilot, and I, were straining our eyes into the darkness. Presently Burroughs made an uneasy movement.

"'Better get a cast of the lead, captain,' I heard him whisper.

"A muttered order down the engine-room tube was Steele's reply, and the 'Banshee' slowed, and then stopped. It was an anxious moment while a dim figure stole into the fore-chains,—for there is always a danger of steam blowing off when engines are unexpectedly stopped, and that would have been enough to betray our presence for miles around. In a minute or two came back the report, 'Sixteen fathoms—sandy bottom with black specks.'

"'We are not in as far as I thought, captain,' said Burroughs, 'and we are too far to the southward. Port two points and go a little faster.'

"As he explained, we must be well to the north of the speckled bottom before it was safe to head for the shore, and away we went again. In about an hour Burroughs quietly asked for another sounding. Again she was gently stopped, and this time he was satisfied.

"'Starboard, and go ahead easy,' was the order now, and as we crept in not a sound was heard but that of the regular beat of the paddle-floats, still dangerously loud in spite of our snail's pace. Suddenly Burroughs gripped my arm,—

"'There's one of them, Mr. Taylor,' he whispered, 'on the starboard bow.'

"In vain I strained my eyes to where he pointed, not a thing could I see; but presently I heard Steele say, beneath his breath, 'All right, Burroughs, I see her. Starboard a little, steady!' was the order passed aft.

"A moment afterward I could make out a long, low black object on our starboard side, lying perfectly still. Would she see us? that was the question; but no, though we passed within a hundred yards of her we were not discovered, and I breathed again. Not very long after we had dropped her, Burroughs whispered,—

"'Steamer on the port bow.'

"And another cruiser was made out close to us.

"'Hard-a-port,' said Steele, and round she swung, bringing our friend upon our beam. Still unobserved, we crept quietly on, when all at once a third cruiser shaped itself out of the gloom right ahead, and steaming slowly across our bows.

"'Stop her,' said Steele, in a moment; and as we lay like dead our enemy went on and disappeared in the darkness. It was clear there was a false reckoning somewhere, and that instead of rounding the head of the blockading line we were passing through the very centre of it. However, Burroughs was now of opinion that we must be inside the squadron, and advocated making the land. So 'slow ahead' we went again, until the low-lying coast and the surf-line became dimly visible. Still we could not tell where we were, and, as time was getting on alarmingly near dawn, the only thing to do was to creep down along the surf as close in and as fast as we dared. It was a great relief when we suddenly heard Burroughs say, 'It's all right. I see the Big Hill.'

"The 'Big Hill' was a hillock about as high as a full-grown oak, but it was the most prominent feature for miles on that dreary coast, and served to tell us exactly how far we were from Fort Fisher. And fortunate it was for us we were so near. Daylight was already breaking, and before we were opposite the fort we could make out six or seven gunboats, which steamed rapidly towards us and angrily opened fire. Their shots were soon dropping close around us, an unpleasant sensation when you know you have several tons of gunpowder under your feet.

"To make matters worse, the North Breaker Shoal now compelled us to haul off the shore and steam farther out. It began to look ugly for us, when all at once there was a flash from the shore followed by a sound that came like music to our ears,—that of a shell whirring over our heads. It was Fort Fisher, wide awake and warning the gunboats to keep their distance. With a parting broadside they steamed sulkily out of range, and in half an hour we were safely over the bar.

"A boat put off from the fort, and then—well, it was the days of champagne cocktails, not whiskeys and sodas, and one did not run a blockade every day. For my part I was mightily proud of my first attempt and my baptism of fire. Blockade-running seemed the pleasantest and most exhilarating of pastimes. I did not know then what a very serious business it could be."

On the return trip the "Banshee" was ballasted with tobacco and laden with cotton, three tiers of it even on deck. She ran impudently straight through the centre of the cordon, close by the flag-ship, and got through the second cordon in safety, though chased by a gunboat. When Nassau was reached and profits summed up, they proved to amount to L50 a ton on the war material carried in, while the tobacco carried out netted L70 a ton for a hundred tons and the cotton L50 a bale for five hundred bales. It may be seen that successful blockade-running paid.

It may be of interest to our readers to give some other adventures in which the "Banshee" figured. On one of her trips, when she was creeping down the land about twelve miles above Fort Fisher, a cruiser appeared moving along about two hundred yards from shore. An effort was made to pass her inside, hoping to be hidden by the dark background of the land. But there were eyes open on the cruiser, and there came the ominous hail, "Stop that steamer or I will sink you!"

"We haven't time to stop," growled Steele, and shouted down the engine-room tube to "pile on the coals." There was nothing now but to run and hope for luck. The cruiser at once opened fire, and as the "Banshee" began to draw ahead a shot carried away her foremast and a shell exploded in her bunkers. Grape and canister followed, the crew escaping death by flinging themselves flat on the deck. Even the steersman, stricken by panic, did the same, and the boat swerved round and headed straight for the surf. A close shave it was as Taylor rushed aft, clutched the wheel, and just in time got her head off the land. Before they got in two other cruisers brought them under fire, but they ran under Fort Fisher in safety.

One more adventure of the "Banshee" and we shall close. It was on her sixth trip out. She had got safely through the fleet and day had dawned. All was joy and relaxation when Erskine, the engineer, suddenly exclaimed: "Mr. Taylor, look astern!" and there, not four miles away, and coming down under sail and steam, was a large side-wheel steamer, left unseen by gross carelessness on the part of the look-out.

Erskine rushed below, and soon volumes of smoke were pouring from the funnels, but it was almost too late, for the chaser was coming up so fast that the uniformed officers on her bridge could be distinctly seen.

"This will never do," said Steele, and ordered the helm to be altered so as to bring the ship up to the wind. It took them off the course to Nassau, but it forced their pursuer to take in her sails, and an exciting chase under steam right into the wind's eye began. Matters at length became so critical that no hope remained but to lighten the boat by throwing overboard her deck-load of cotton—a sore necessity in view of the fact that the bales which went bobbing about on the waves were worth to them L50 or L60 apiece.

In clearing out the bales they cleared out something more, a runaway slave, who had been standing wedged between two bales for at least forty-eight hours. He received an ovation on landing at Nassau, but they were obliged to pay four thousand dollars to his owner on their return to Wilmington.

The loss of the cotton lightened the boat and it began to gain in the race, both craft plunging into the great seas that had arisen, yet neither slackening speed. A fresh danger arose when the bearings of the engine became overheated from the enormous strain put upon them. It was necessary to stop, despite the imminence of the chase, and to loosen the bearings and feed them liberally with salad oil mixed with gunpowder before they were in working order again. Thus, fifteen weary hours passed away, and nightfall was at hand when the chaser, then only five miles astern, turned and gave up the pursuit. It was learned afterward that her stokers were dead beat.

But port was still far away, they having been chased one hundred and fifty miles out of their course, and fuel was getting perilously low. At the end of the third day the last coal was used, and then everything that would burn was shoved into the furnaces,—main-mast, bulwarks, deck cabin, with cotton and turpentine to aid,—and these only sufficed to carry them into a Bahama Island, still sixty miles from Nassau. They were not there two hours before they saw a Federal steamer glide slowly past, eying them as the fox eyed the grapes.

The adventure was still not at its end. Mr. Taylor hired a schooner in the harbor to go to Nassau and bring back a cargo of coal, he and Murray Aynsely, a passenger, going in it. But the night proved a terrible one, a hurricane rising, and the crew growing so terrified by the fury of the gale and the vividness of the lightning that they nearly wrecked the schooner on the rocks. When the weather moderated the men refused to proceed, and it was only by dint of a show of revolvers and promise of reward that Taylor and his passenger induced them to go on. On reaching Nassau they were utterly worn out, having been almost without sleep for a week, while Taylor's feet were so swollen that his boots had to be cut off.

Thus ended one of the most notable chases in the history of blockade-running, it having lasted fifteen hours and covered nearly two hundred miles. Fortunate was it for the "Banshee" that the "James Adger," her pursuer, had no bow-chasers, and that the weather was too ugly for her to venture to yaw and use her broadside guns, or the "Banshee" might have there and then ended her career.


The Civil War was not lacking in its daring and interesting adventures of scouts, spies, despatch-bearers, and others of that interesting tribe whose field of operations lies between the armies in the field, and whose game is played with life as the stake, this being fair prey for the bullet if pursued, and often for the rope if captured. We have the story of one these heroes of hazard to tell, a story the more interesting from the fact that he was a cripple who seemed fit only to hobble about his home. It is the remarkable feat of Lamar Fontain, a Confederate despatch-bearer, which the record of the war has nothing to surpass.

Fontain's disability came from a broken leg, which had left him so disabled that he could not take a step without a crutch, and in mounting a horse was obliged to lift the useless leg over the saddle with his right hand. But once in the saddle he was as good a man as his fellow, and his dexterity with the pistol rendered him a dangerous fellow to face when it became a question of life or death.

We must seek him at that period in 1863 when the stronghold of Vicksburg, on which depended the Confederacy's control of the Mississippi, was closely invested by the army of General Grant, the siege lines so continuous, alike in the rear of the town and on the Mississippi and its opposite shore, that it seemed as if hardly a bird could enter or leave its streets. General Johnston kept the field in the rear, but Grant was much too strong for him, and he was obliged to trust to the chapter of chances for the hope of setting Pemberton free from the net by which he was surrounded.

Knowing the daring and usual success of Lamar Fontain in very hazardous enterprises, Johnston engaged him to endeavor to carry a verbal message to General Pemberton, sending him out on the perilous and seemingly impossible venture of making his way into the closely beleaguered city. In addition to his message, he took with him a supply of some forty pounds of percussion caps for the use of the besieged garrison.

On the 24th of May, 1863, Fontain set out from his father's home, at a considerable distance in the rear of the Federal lines. He was well mounted, and armed with an excellent revolver and a good sabre, which he carried in a wooden scabbard to prevent its rattling. His other burdens were his packet of percussion caps, his blanket, and his crutches.

That night he crossed Big Black River, and before dawn of the next day was well within the lines of the enemy. Travel by day was now out of the question, so he hid his horse in a ravine, and found a place of shelter for himself in a fallen tree that overlooked the road. From his hiding-place he saw a confused and hasty movement of the enemy, seemingly in retreat from too hot a brush with the garrison. Waiting till their columns had passed and the nightfall made it safe for him to move, he mounted again and continued his journey in the direction of Snyder's Bluff on the Yazoo.

Entering the telegraphic road from Yazoo City to Vicksburg, he had not gone far before he was confronted and hailed by a picket of the enemy. Spurring his spirited steed, he dashed past at full speed. A volley followed him, one of the balls striking his horse, though none of them touched him. The good steed had received a mortal wound, but by a final and desperate effort it carried its rider to the banks of the Yazoo River. Here it fell dead, leaving its late rider afoot, and lacking one of his crutches, which had been caught and jerked away by the limb of a tree as he dashed headlong past.

With the aid of his remaining crutch, and carrying his baggage, Fontain groped his way along the river side, keenly looking for some means of conveyance on its waters. He soon found what he wanted in the shape of a small log canoe, tied to a tree on the river bank. Pressing this into his service, and disposing himself and his burden safely within, he paddled down the stream, hoping to reach the Mississippi and drift down to the city front before break of day.

Success was not to come so easily. A sound of puffing steam came from down the river, and soon a trio of gunboats loomed through the gloom, heading towards Yazoo City. These were avoided by taking shelter among a bunch of willows that overhung the bank and served to hide the boat from view. The gunboats well past, Fontain took to the current again, soon reaching Snyder's Bluff, which was lighted up and a scene of animation. Whites and blacks mingled on the bank, and it looked like a midnight ball between the Yankee soldiers and belles of sable hue. Gunboats and barges lined the shore and the light was thrown far out over the stream. But those present were too hilarious to be watchful, and, lying flat in his canoe, the scout glided safely past, the dug-out not distinguishable from a piece of driftwood. Before the new day dawned he reached the backwater of the Mississippi, but in the darkness he missed the outlet of the Yazoo and paddled into what is called "Old River."

The new day reddened in the east while he was still vainly searching for an opening into the broad parent stream. Then his familiarity with the locality showed him his mistake, and he was forced to seek a hiding-place for himself and his boat. He had now been out two days and nights. The little food he brought had long been devoured, and hunger was assailing him. Sleep had also scarcely visited his eyes, and the strain was growing severe.

Getting some slumber that day in his covert, he set out again as soon as night fell, paddling back into the Yazoo, from which he soon reached the Mississippi. He was here on a well-peopled stream, boats and lights being abundant. As he glided on through the gloom he passed forty or fifty transports, but had the good fortune to be seen by only one man, who hailed him from the stern of a steamer and asked him where he was going.

"To look after my fishing-lines," he replied.

"All right; hope you'll have a good catch." And he floated on.

Farther down in the bend of the stream above Vicksburg he came upon a more animated scene. Here were the mortar-boats in full blast, bombarding the city, every shot lighting up the stream for a wide space around. But the gun crews were too busy to pay any attention to the seeming drift-log that glided silently by the fleet or to notice the man that lay at full length within it. On he went, trusting to the current and keeping his recumbent position. The next day's dawn found him in the midst of the Confederate picket-boats in front of the city. Here, tying a white handkerchief to his paddle, he lifted it as a flag of truce, and sat upright with a loud hurrah for Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy. As may well be imagined, his cheers were echoed by the boatmen when they learned his mission, and he was borne in triumph ashore and taken to General Pemberton's head-quarters. He received a warm welcome from the general, alike for the message he brought and the very desirable supply of percussion caps. It was with no little admiration that Pemberton heard the story of a daring feat that seemed utterly impossible for a cripple on crutches.

During the next day the scout wandered about the beleaguered city, viewing the animated and in many respects terrible scene of warfare which it presented,—the fierce bombardment from the Federal works, extending in a long curve from the river above to the river below the city; the hot return fire of the defendants; the equally fierce exchange of fire between the gunboats and mortars and the intrenchments on the bluffs; the bursting of shells in the city streets; the ruined habitations, and the cave-like refuges in which the citizens sought safety from the death-dealing missiles. It was a scene never to be forgotten, a spectacle of ruin, suffering, and death. And the suffering was not alone from the terrible enginery of war, but from lack of food as well, for that dread spectre of famine, that in a few weeks more was to force the surrender of the valiantly defended city, was already showing its gaunt form in the desolated streets and the foodless homes.

Fontain was glad enough after his day and night among the besieged to seek again the more open field of operations outside. Receiving a despatch from General Pemberton to his colleague in the field, and a suitable reward for his service, he betook himself again to the canoe which had stood him in such good stead and resumed his task of danger. He was on a well-guarded river and had to pass through a country full of foes, and the peril of his enterprise was by no means at an end.

The gloom of evening lay on the stream when he once more trusted himself to its swift current, which quickly brought him among the craft of the enemy below the city. Avoiding their picket-boats on both sides of the river, he floated near the gunboats as safer, passing so near one of them that through an open port-hole he could see a group of men playing cards and hear their conversation. He made a landing at length at Diamond Place, bidding adieu to his faithful dug-out and gladly setting foot on land again.

Hobbling with the aid of his crutch through the bottom-lands, the scout soon reached higher ground, and here made his way to the house of an acquaintance, hoping to find a mount. But all the useful horses and mules on the place had been confiscated by the foe, there remaining only a worthless old gelding and a half-broken colt, of which he was offered the choice. He took the colt, but found it to travel so badly that he wished he had chosen the gelding.

In this dilemma fortune favored him, for in the bottom he came upon a fine horse, tied by a blind bridle and without a saddle. A basket and an old bag were lying close by, and he inferred from this that a negro had left the horse and that a camp of the enemy was near at hand. Here was an opportunity for confiscation of which he did not hesitate to avail himself, and in all haste he exchanged bridles, saddled the horse, turned loose the colt, mounted, and was off.

He took a course so as to avoid the supposed camp, but had not gone far before he came face to face with a Federal soldier who was evidently returning from a successful foray for plunder, for he was well laden with chickens and carried a bucket of honey. He began questioning Fontain with a curiosity that threatened unpleasant consequences, and the alert scout ended the colloquy with a pistol bullet which struck the plunderer squarely in the forehead. Leaving him stretched on the path, with his poultry and honey beside him, Fontain made all haste from that dangerous locality.

Reaching a settlement at a distance from the stream, he hired a guide to lead him to Hankerson's Ferry, on the Big Black River, promising him fifty dollars if he would take him there without following any road. They proceeded till near the ferry, when Fontain sent his guide ahead to learn if any of the enemy were in that vicinity. But there was something about the manner and talk of the man that excited his suspicion, and as soon as the fellow was gone he sought a hiding-place from which he could watch his return. The man was gone much longer than appeared necessary. At length he came back alone and reported that the track was clear, there being no Yankees near the ferry.

Paying and dismissing the guide, without showing his suspicions, Fontain took good care not to obey his directions, but selected his course so as to approach the river at a point above the ferry. By doing so he escaped a squad of soldiers that seemed posted to intercept him, for as he entered the road near the river bank a sentinel rose not more than ten feet away and bade him to halt. He seemed to form the right flank of a line of sentinels posted to command the ferry.

It was a time for quick and decisive action. Fontain had approached, pistol in hand, and as the man hailed he felled him with a bullet, then wheeled his horse and set out at full gallop up the stream. A shower of balls followed him, one of them striking his right hand and wounding all four of its fingers. Another grazed his right leg and a third cut a hole through his sword scabbard. The horse fared worse, for no fewer than seven bullets struck it. Keeling from its wounds it still had strength to bear up for a mile, when it fell and died.

He had outridden his foes, who were all on foot, and, dividing his arms and clothes into two packages, he trusted himself to the waters of the Big Black, which he swam in safety. On the other side he was in friendly territory, and did not walk far before he came to the house of a patriotic Southern woman, who loaned him the only horse she had. It was a stray one which had come to her place after the Yankee foragers had carried off all the horses she owned.

Fontain was now in a safe region. His borrowed horse carried him to Raymond by two o'clock the next morning, and was here changed for a fresh one, which enabled him to reach Jackson during the forenoon. Here he delivered his despatch to General Johnston, having successfully performed a feat which, in view of its difficulties and his physical disability, may well be classed as phenomenal.


In the opening chapter of General John B. Gordon's interesting "Reminiscences of the Civil War" he tells us that the bayonet, so far as he knew, was very rarely used in that war, and never effectively. The bayonet, the lineal descendant of the lance and spear of far-past warfare, had done remarkable service in its day, but with the advent of the modern rifle its day ended, except as a weapon useful in repelling cavalry charges or defending hollow squares. Fearful as their glittering and bristling points appeared when levelled in front of a charging line, bayonets were rarely reddened with the blood of an enemy in the Civil War, and the soldiers of that desperate conflict found them more useful as tools in the rapid throwing up of light earthworks than as weapons for use against their foes.

Later in his work Gordon gives a case in point, in his vivid description of a bayonet charge upon the line under his command on the bloody field of Antietam. This is well worth repeating as an illustration of the modern ineffectiveness of the bayonet, and also as a story of thrilling interest in itself. As related by Gordon, there are few incidents in the war which surpass it in picturesqueness and vitality.

The battle of Antietam was a struggle unsurpassed for its desperate and deadly fierceness in the whole war, the losses, in comparison with the numbers engaged, being the greatest of any battle-field of the conflict. The plain in which it was fought was literally bathed in blood.

It is not our purpose to describe this battle, but simply that portion of it in which General Gordon's troops were engaged. For hour after hour a desperate struggle continued on the left of Lee's lines, in which charge and counter-charge succeeded each other, until the green corn which had waved there looked as if had been showered upon by a rain of blood. But during those hours of death not a shot had been fired upon the centre. Here General Gordon's men held the most advanced position, and were without a supporting line, their post being one of imminent danger in case of an assault in force.

As the day passed onward the battle on the left at length lulled, both sides glad of an interval of rest. That McClellan's next attempt would be made upon the centre General Lee felt confident, and he rode thither to caution the leaders and bid them to hold their ground at any sacrifice. A break at that point, he told them, might prove ruinous to the army. He especially charged Gordon to stand stiffly with his men, as his small force would feel the first brunt of the expected assault. Gordon, alike to give hope to Lee and to inspire his own men, said in reply,—

"These men are going to stay here, general, till the sun goes down or victory is won."

Lee's military judgment, as usual, was correct. He had hardly got back to the left of his line when the assault predicted by him came. It was a beautiful and brilliant day, scarcely a cloud mantling the sky. Down the slope opposite marched through the clear sunlight a powerful column of Federal troops. Crossing the little Antietam Creek they formed in column of assault, four lines deep. Their commander, nobly mounted, placed himself at their right, while the front line came to a "charge bayonets" and the other lines to a "right shoulder shift." In the rear front the band blared out martial music to give inspiration to the men. To the Confederates, looking silently and expectantly on the coming corps, the scene was one of thrilling interest. It might have been one of terror but for their long training in such sights.

Who were these men so spick and span in their fresh blue uniforms, in strange contrast to the ragged and soiled Confederate gray? Every man of them wore white gaiters and neat attire, while the dust and smoke of battle had surely never touched the banners that floated above their heads. Were they new recruits from some military camp, now first to test their training in actual war? In the sunlight the long line of bayonets gleamed like burnished silver. As if fresh from the parade-ground they advanced with perfect alignment, their steps keeping martial time to the steady beat of the drum. It was a magnificent spectacle as the line advanced, a show of martial beauty which it seemed a shame to destroy by the rude hand of war.

One thing was evident to General Gordon. His opponent proposed to trust to the bayonet and attempt to break through Lee's centre by the sheer weight of his deep charging column. It might be done. Here were four lines of blue marching on the one in gray. How should the charge be met? By immediate and steady fire, or by withholding his fire till the lines were face to face, and then pouring upon the Federals a blighting storm of lead? Gordon decided on the latter, believing that a sudden and withering burst of deadly hail in the faces of men with empty guns would be more than any troops could stand.

All the horses were sent to the rear and the men were ordered to lie down in the grass, they being told by their officers that the Federals were coming with unloaded guns, trusting to the bayonet, and that not a shot must be heard until the word "Fire!" was given. This would not be until the Federals were close at hand. In the old Revolutionary phrase, they must wait "till they saw the whites of their eyes."

On came the long lines, still as steady and precise in movement as if upon holiday drill. Not a rifle-shot was heard. Neither side had artillery at this point, and no roar of cannon broke the strange silence. The awaiting boys in gray grew eager and impatient and had to be kept in restraint by their officers. "Wait! wait for the word!" was the admonition. Yet it was hard to lie there while that line of bayonets came closer and closer, until the eagles on the buttons of the blue coats could be seen, and at length the front rank was not twenty yards away.

The time had come. With all the power of his lungs Gordon shouted out the word "Fire!" In an instant there burst from the prostrate line a blinding blaze of light, and a frightful hail of bullets rent through the Federal ranks. Terrible was the effect of that consuming volley. Almost the whole front rank of the foe seemed to go down in a mass. The brave commander and his horse fell in a heap together. In a moment he was on his feet; it was the horse, not the man, that the deadly bullet had found.

In an instant more the recumbent Confederates were on their feet, an appalling yell bursting from their throats as they poured new volleys upon the Federal lines. No troops on earth could have faced that fire without a chance to reply. Their foes bore unloaded guns. Not a bayonet had reached the breast for which it was aimed. The lines recoiled, though in good order for men swept by such a blast of death. Large numbers of them had fallen, yet not a drop of blood had been lost by one of Gordon's men.

The gallant man who led the Federals was not yet satisfied that the bayonet could not break the ranks of his foes. Reforming his men, now in three lines, he led them again with empty guns to the charge. Again they were driven back with heavy loss. With extraordinary persistence he clung to his plan of winning with the bayonet, coming on again and again until four fruitless charges had been made on Gordon's lines, not a man in which had fallen, while the Federal loss had been very heavy. Not until convinced by this sanguinary evidence that the day of the bayonet was past did he order his men to load and open fire on the hostile lines. It was an experiment in an obsolete method of warfare which had proved disastrous to those engaged in it.

In the remaining hours of that desperate conflict Gordon and his men had another experience to face. The fire from both sides grew furious and deadly, and at nightfall, when the carnage ceased, so many of the soldiers in gray had fallen that, as one of the officers afterward said, he could have walked on the dead bodies of the men from end to end of the line. How true this was Gordon was unable to say, for by this time he was himself a wreck, fairly riddled with bullets.

As he tells us, his previous record was remarkably reversed in this fight, and we cannot better close our story than with a description of his new experience. He had hitherto seemed almost to bear a charmed life. While numbers had fallen by his side in battle, and his own clothing had been often pierced and torn by balls and fragments of shells, he had not lost a drop of blood, and his men looked upon him as one destined by fate not to be killed in battle. "They can't hit him;" "He's as safe in one place as another," form a type of the expressions used by them, and Gordon grew to have much the same faith in his destiny, as he passed through battle after battle unharmed.

At Antietam the record was decidedly broken. The first volley from the Federal troops sent a bullet whirling through the calf of his right leg. Soon after another ball went through the same leg, at a higher point. As no bone was broken, he was still able to walk along the line and encourage his men to bear the deadly fire which was sweeping their lines. Later in the day a third ball came, this passing through his arm, rending flesh and tendons, but still breaking no bone. Through his shoulder soon came a fourth ball, carrying a wad of clothing into the wound. The men begged their bleeding commander to leave the field, but he would not flinch, though fast growing faint from loss of blood.

Finally came the fifth ball, this time striking him in the face, and passing out, just missing the jugular vein. Falling, he lay unconscious with his face in his cap, into which poured the blood from his wound until it threatened to smother him. It might have done so but for still another ball, which pierced the cap and let out the blood.

When Gordon was borne to the rear he had been so seriously wounded and lost so much blood that his case seemed hopeless. Fortunately for him, his faithful wife had followed him to the war and now became his nurse. As she entered the room, with a look of dismay on seeing him, Gordon, who could scarcely speak from the condition of his face, sought to reassure her with, the faintly articulated words, "Here's your handsome husband; been to an Irish wedding."

It was providential for him that he had this faithful and devoted nurse by his side. Only her earnest and incessant care saved him to join the war again. Day and night she was beside him, and when erysipelas attacked his wounded arm and the doctors told her to paint the arm above the wound three or four times a day with iodine, she obeyed by painting it, as he thought, three or four hundred times a day. "Under God's providence," he says, "I owe my life to her incessant watchfulness night and day, and to her tender nursing through weary weeks and anxious months."


The story of the battle of Chancellorsville and of Jackson's famous flank movement, with its disastrous result to Hooker's army, and to the Confederates in the loss of their beloved leader, has been often told. But these narratives are from the outside; we propose to give one here from the inside, in the graphic description of Heros Von Borcke, General J. E. B. Stuart's chief of staff, who took an active part in the stirring events of that critical 2d of May, 1863.

It is a matter of general history how General Hooker led his army across the Rappahannock into that ugly region at Chancellorsville, with its morasses, hills, and ravines, its dense forest of scrub-oaks and pines, and its square miles of tangled undergrowth, which was justly known as The Wilderness; and how he strongly intrenched himself against an attack in front, with breastworks of logs and an abattis of felled trees. It is equally familiar how Lee, well aware of the peril of attacking these formidable works, accepted the bold plan of Stonewall Jackson, who proposed to make a secret flank movement and fall with his entire corps on Hooker's undefended rear. This was a division of Lee's army which might have led to disaster and destruction; but he had learned to trust in Jackson's star. He accordingly made vigorous demonstrations in Hooker's front, in order to attract his attention and keep him employed, while Jackson was marching swiftly and stealthily through the thick woods, with Stuart's cavalry between him and the foe, to the Orange plank-road, four miles westward from Chancellorsville. With this introductory sketch of the situation we leave the details of the march to Von Borcke.

"All was bustle and confusion as I galloped along the lines on the morning of the 2d, to obtain, according to Stuart's orders, the latest instructions for our cavalry from General Lee, who was located at a distance of some miles to our right. Anderson's and McLaws's sharp-shooters were advancing and already exchanging shots with the enemy's skirmishers—the line of battle of these two divisions having been partially extended over the space previously occupied by Jackson's corps, that they might cover its movements.

"This splendid corps meanwhile was marching in close columns in a direction which set us all wondering what could be the intentions of old Stonewall; but as we beheld him riding along, heading the troops himself, we should as soon have thought of questioning the sagacity of our admired chief as of hesitating to follow him blindly wherever he should lead. The orders of the cavalry were to report to Jackson and to form his advanced-guard; and in that capacity we marched silently along through the forest, taking a small by-road, which brought us several times so near the enemy's lines that the stroke of axes, mingled with the hum of voices from their camp, was distinctly audible.

"Thus commenced the famous flank march which, more than any other operation of the war, proved the brilliant strategical talents of General Lee and the consummate ability of his lieutenant. About two o'clock a body of Federal cavalry came in sight, making, however, but slight show of resistance, and falling back slowly before us. By about four o'clock we had completed our movement without encountering any material obstacle, and reached a patch of woods in rear of the enemy's right wing, formed by the Eleventh Corps, Howard's, which was encamped in a large open field not more than half a mile distant.

"Halting here, the cavalry threw forward a body of skirmishers to occupy the enemy's attention, while the divisions of Jackson's corps—A. P. Hill's, Colston's, and Rode's, numbering in all about twenty-eight thousand men—moved into line of battle as fast as they arrived. Ordered to reconnoitre the position of the Federals, I rode cautiously forward through the forest, and reached a point whence I obtained a capital view of the greater part of the troops, whose attitude betokened how totally remote was any suspicion that a numerous host was so near at hand.

"It was evident that the whole movement we had thus so successfully executed was regarded as merely an unimportant cavalry raid, for only a few squadrons were drawn up in line to oppose us, and a battery of four guns were placed in a position to command the plank-road from Germana, over which we had been marching for the last two hours. The main body of the troops were listlessly reposing, while some regiments were looking on, drawn up on dress parade; artillery horses were quietly grazing at some distance from their guns, and the whole scene presented a picture of the most perfect heedlessness and nonchalance, compatible only with utter unconsciousness of impending danger.

"While complacently gazing on this extraordinary spectacle, somewhat touched myself apparently with the spell of listless incaution in which our antagonists were locked, I was startled with the sound of closely approaching footsteps, and, turning in their direction, beheld a patrol of six or eight of the enemy's infantry just breaking through the bushes and gazing at me with most unmistakable astonishment. I had no time to lose here, that was certain; so quickly tugging my horse's head round in the direction of my line of retreat, and digging my spurs into his sides, I dashed off from before the bewildered Yankees, and was out of sight ere they had time to take steady aim, the bullets that came whizzing after me flying far wide of the mark.

"On my return to the spot where I had left Stuart, I found him, with Jackson and the officers of their respective staffs, stretched out along the grass beneath a gigantic oak, and tranquilly discussing their plans for the impending battle which both seemed confidently to regard as likely to end in a great and important victory for our arms. Towards five o'clock Jackson's adjutant, Major Pendleton, galloped up to us and reported that the line of battle was formed and all was in readiness for immediate attack. Accordingly the order was at once given for the whole corps to advance. All hastened forthwith to their appointed posts, General Stuart and his staff joining the cavalry, which was to operate on the left of our infantry.

"Scarcely had we got up to our men when the Confederate yell, which always preceded a charge, burst forth along our lines, and Jackson's veterans, who had been with difficulty held back till that moment, bounded forward towards the astounded and perfectly paralyzed enemy, while the thunder of our horse-artillery, on whom devolved the honor of opening the ball, reached us from the other extremity of the line. The more hotly we sought to hasten to the front, the more obstinately did we get entangled in the undergrowth, while our infantry moved on so rapidly that the Federals were already completely routed by the time we had got thoroughly quit of the forest.

"It was a strange spectacle that now greeted us. The whole of the Eleventh Corps had broken at the first shock of the attack; entire regiments had thrown down their arms, which were lying in regular lines on the ground, as if for inspection; suppers just prepared had been abandoned; tents, baggage, wagons, cannons, half-slaughtered oxen, covered the foreground in chaotic confusion, while in the background a host of many thousand Yankees were discerned scampering for their lives as fast as their limbs could carry them, closely followed by our men, who were taking prisoners by the hundreds, and scarcely firing a shot."

That the story of panic here told is not too much colored by the writer's sympathy for his cause, may be seen by the following extract from Lossing's "Civil War in America," a work whose sympathies are distinctly on the other side. After saying that Jackson's march had not passed unobserved by the Federals, who looked on it as a retreat towards Richmond, and were preparing for a vigorous pursuit of the supposed fugitives, Lossing thus describes the Confederate onset and the Federal rout:

"He (Jackson) had crossed the Orange plank-road, and, under cover of the dense jungle of the wilderness, had pushed swiftly northward to the old turnpike and beyond, feeling his enemy at every step. Then he turned his face towards Chancellorsville, and, just before six o'clock in the evening, he burst from the thickets with twenty-five thousand men, and, like a sudden, unexpected, and terrible tornado, swept on towards the flank and rear of Howard's corps, which occupied the National right; the game of the forest—deers, wild turkeys, and hares—flying wildly before him, and becoming to the startled Unionists the heralds of the approaching tempest of war. These mute messengers were followed by the sound of bugles; then by a few shots from approaching skirmishers; then by a tremendous yell from a thousand throats and a murderous fire from a strong battle line. Jackson, in heavy force, was upon the Eleventh Corps at the moment when the men were preparing for supper and repose, without a suspicion of danger near. Deven's division, on the extreme right, received the first blow, and almost instantly the surprised troops, panic-stricken, fled towards the rear, along the line of the corps, communicating their emotions of alarm to the other divisions.... In the wildest confusion the fugitives rushed along the road towards Chancellorsville, upon the position of General Carl Schurz, whose division had already retreated, in anticipation of the onset, and the turbulent tide of frightened men rolled back upon General A. Von Steinwehr, utterly regardless of the exertions of the commander of the corps and his subordinate officers to check their flight. Only a few regiments, less demoralized than the others, made resistance, and these were instantly scattered like chaff, leaving half their number dead or dying on the field."

With this vivid picture of an army in a panic, we shall again take up Von Borcke's personal narrative at the point where we left it:

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