Let us go close to the water. How charming! The grass grows heavy and green from the road-side under the dense shade of the oaks and willows to the very lips of the water; and the ground under our feet is so level and smooth that we have as perfect a walk as the Central Park can offer; and this is all the work of Nature. How clear the water is! We can see everything on the bottom with perfect distinctness. Rich green water plants bend their limbs gracefully to the force of the current. Old dead sticks lie stiff and stark, that once were living branches swaying and singing above their present burial places, not dreaming of death and decay, so beautiful were they. Great rocks heave their brown backs up to the very top of the water. Beds of gravel still and clear, glisten in the depths. Here the cool shade, there the warm sunshine. Here the smooth water, there the troubled current.
The temptation is great; dive in we must. The water, how cool it is and refreshing! But so shallow that in attempting to swim there is danger of abrading the knees against the bottom. We wash, we splash about with rollicking freedom, we lie down flat letting the water cover us and lift us again buoyant on its bosom, and bear us on with its current. What an infinite charm resides in the water about us! Beautiful the great trees under whose shade we lie. Beautiful the grassy bank—but lo! a small heap of dirty clothes on the greensward! We turn away with disgust and laughter. Insignia of glory!—a shilling's worth to the rag-picker. What a contrast they present to the loveliness of the common things around us!
Yonder other wanderers are having a more various enjoyment. They have fished out of the mud an old dug-out, leaky and every way disabled. But by dint of skillful engineering they have got her afloat and are pulling and paddling about, as happy, as free from care, and to complete the picture, as naked as any South Sea Islander in his merriest aquatic mood. Hither and thither, up and down, they float at their own sweet wills, having no orders from superior officers to obey. And this is part of a column supposed to be watching a vigilant and powerful enemy! What if the assembly should beat suddenly now! There would be a pretty scampering truly.
Crawling reluctantly ashore again, we transform ourselves into United States soldiers, and trudge along the road by the river bank for a further reconnoissance. Others are going the same way; some are returning. We come to a farm house presently. A crowd is there; among them a bevy of girls—healthy-looking, fair-skinned daughters of Pennsylvania farmers. They have been baking all day for the soldiers who never ceased coming, the stream increasing rather as the day advanced; and as they must stop sometime, they have concluded to stop before they reach the bottom of the flour barrel. So we get nothing. They tell us there is a house on the other side of the river; and at the foot of the lane just down yonder we may find a boat to take us across. The boat is found, the ferry accomplished, the house reached, and there behold another crowd! It would be interesting to know what farm house for miles around the central halting place was unvisited on that day by some representative of the New York or Brooklyn militia. We find our comrades seated decently at table, positively eating with knives and forks, and drinking tea whitened with real cream! The turn of our crowd came soon. Fresh bread and butter, ham, sweetmeats, pickles, tea, and all without stint; and besides, clean white dishes to eat off! It seemed ridiculous; nevertheless, war or no war, enemy or no enemy, there was the staring fact! The thrifty housewife seemed disposed to be sociable while we were regaling ourselves, but not knowing how to go about it, was silent. Thus the onus fell upon us. So we began;—the crops, the weather, the soil, the neighbors, the invasion, the Great City. We had to ransack our heads for topics, each being quickly exhausted. We ate all our sharp appetites asked for; sharp they were, for it was now the middle of the afternoon, and we had been up since 3 o'clock A.M. Rising to go we offered money but the patriotic lady refused to look at it,—we were welcome to all she could do for us. So we addressed ourselves to the small fry of the family, and distributed little souvenirs among them. In this way all were made happier; and with a feeling of immense satisfaction we saluted our hospitable host adieu and made our way back without further delay to the regiment. The column was already moving,—their faces still turned toward Harrisburg. Accordingly we climbed under our fifty pounds of lumber again, and plunged along after with renewed vigor.
This absolute freedom of the country which appears to have been at the disposal of all, and indulged to such an extraordinary degree, may seem to cast a grave reflection either upon the discipline of the division or upon the efficiency of regimental officers. But it is plain that no blame justly attaches to either. For, the halt was made as a simple rest; and when, as the minutes multiplied, a provost guard was at length set, the men had already begun to straggle off little distances by ones, twos, and threes, to get better shade, or to fill canteens, or to seek better provender; and so the precaution came too late. Besides we had not yet established disciplinary habits as a moving column; and in the absence of all instructions or cautions on the subject from head-quarters, no regimental officer, however intelligent, and however familiar theoretically with his duties, could be expected, if devoid of experience in active service, to foresee the exigincies of such an unusual occasion. The day in all its aspects was a surprise and an enigma to officers and men alike.
 On the next day Major-General Couch wrote the following order upon this important subject, which, strangely enough, was first promulgated, at least to the Twenty-Third, while we were lying at Waynesboro; indeed it was not published to the 52d until July 16th. This fact is a striking evidence of the vigor of the campaign on which we were entering.
Head-Quarters Department of the Susquehanna, } Harrisburg, July 3d, 1864. }
GENERAL ORDERS NO. 5.
The General commanding calls the attention of all the officers and soldiers in this Department to the vice of pillaging, which as yet exists only to a small extent. He trusts that all will unite in frowning upon the disgraceful practice, and in a determination to put an entire stop to it.
All military organizations of whatever extent, whether Army, Corps, Regiment, or Company, must remember that in order to gain for themselves a good reputation, it is essential that they preserve their record free from such stains.
Commanding officers will be held strictly accountable that private property is sedulously respected by every officer and man under them. They will also see that there is no straggling permitted on the march, or from the camps. If soldiers or officers fail in their duties, they should be at once arrested and reported to these Head-Quarters; and besides the military punishments provided, their names, with the number and designation of the regiment to which they belong, shall be furnished as a further disgrace, to the Adjutant-General of the State to which they belong.
By command of
MAJOR GENERAL D. N. COUCH.
JOHN S. SCHULTZE, Ass't-Adj't-Gen'l.
The column continued its retrograde movement and about sunset turned down a road that crosses the Conedoguinet at a place called Orr's Bridge, not far from a mile distant from the spot where we had lain all day; and on the hither bank of the river stacked arms for the night. It was a pretty place for a bivouac. The river, a hundred yards or more in breadth, here makes a sweep forming an arc of water, one-third of a mile long, which flows placidly. The opposite shore, forming the inner curve of the arc, is tame, being covered for the most part with a straggling growth of timber; but on this side the river is flanked by a ridge along the top of which runs the Harrisburg and Carlisle pike. In the near distance, now lengthened by the deepening twilight, this ridge melts off into rolling hills, embrowned with ripe standing grain; while where the Twenty-Third made their bivouac it rises rough and precipitous, and is thickly wooded. All along the water's edge lies a narrow belt of lawn, thirty to forty feet wide, beautifully green and level, on which the brigade was halted. About midway of the arc of water, the stream is spanned by a bridge. As the darkness crept on, the picture presented from our bivouac was in the highest degree charming, and might be supposed to realize some sylvan poet's dream.
"No bird-song floated down the hill, The tangled bank below was still.
No rustle from the birchen stem, No ripple from the waters hem.
The dusk of twilight round us grew, We felt the falling of the dew."
The lawn on which we sat down was in such harmony with the smooth water on one side, and in such contrast with the unsightly rocks on the other that one might be led to wonder whether some dreamer of old did not plant the spot for his evening walk and musing; nor was it strange that Fancy should bear us on her wings far back to the Golden Age of Story, and that we should dream of wood nymphs and water sprites, and the clime of Arcady.
Looking up stream the centre of the picture was occupied by the bridge, one hundred and fifty yards distant, with woods at either end. In the left foreground lay massed by foreshortening the long lines of stacked arms, with crowds of figures, some moving but most of them at rest. In the distance, under the bridge, this line bent gracefully around to the right of the picture. Half a hundred fires were blazing along the edge of the water, growing brighter every minute as the darkness thickened. Directly over the bridge hung the planet Venus, now moving in that part of her orbit where she shines with the greatest splendor. There were no clouds, the wind had fallen, and the air was delightfully cool. Supper being over we had sat down in companies upon the grassy bank to smoke and enjoy the incomparable scene. Every present influence tended to make us forget the enemy, and to call to mind only associations of the beautiful. Under such inspirations it was impossible to resist the impulse to sing. It was a thing of unsophisticated nature. Music came to our lips as if it were an instinct, as if it were the very condition of our being, just as if we had been birds. It will be difficult for any one not of that company to realize with what tender, touching pathos the simplest home melodies melted over those waters, though the words and airs might be trite and even trivial.
Some one started Morris' popular song of "Annie of the Vale";—
"The young stars are glowing, Their clear light bestowing! Their radiance fills the calm, clear summer night! Come forth like a fairy, So blithesome and airy, And ramble in their soft mystic light!"
The chorus, by spontaneous impulse, welled out tenderly yet with grand effect:—
"Come, come, come, Love, come! Come, ere the night-torches pale! Oh! come in thy beauty, Thou marvel of duty, Dear Annie, dear Annie of the Vale!"
Then all was hushed to listen to the melody again:—
"The world we inherit Is charmed by thy spirit, As radiant as the mild, warm summer ray! The watch dog is snarling, For fear, Annie darling, His beautiful young friend I'd steal away!"
And the chorus broke in as before. A pause—and like a variation in the song of the nightingale, rose the pathetic air of the "Poor Old Slave";—
"'Tis just one year ago to-day That I remember well, I sat down by poor Nelly's side, A story she did tell; 'Twas about a poor unhappy slave That lived for many a year, But now he's dead and in his grave, No master does he fear."
All joining with subdued voices gave the chorus:—
"The poor old slave has gone to rest, We know that he is free; Disturb him not, but let him rest 'Way down in Tennessee."
There were several favorite melodies which we had often sung in camp, when, as on a pleasant Sunday evening, we were met together in little knots, to mingle our emotions in plaintive song, thinking of dear friends at home. One of these was a simple ballad describing the following incident—one of the most touching of the war. A youthful soldier from the state of Maine died in New Orleans, with none but strangers—as has been the lot of many—to watch over him in his dying hours, or to perform the sad rites of burial. When the funeral service was over, and the coffin was about to be closed, an elderly lady present approached the remains, saying: "Let me kiss him for his mother."
"Let me kiss him for his mother, Let me kiss his dear youthful brow; I will love him for his mother, And seek her blessing now. Kind friends have sooth'd his pillow, Have watched his ev'ry care; Beneath the weeping willow, Oh! lay him gently there.
CHORUS: Sleep, dearest, sleep; I love you as a brother; Kind friends around you weep, I've kissed you for your mother."
The words and melody harmonised with our feelings and lent them a deeper tone as our united voices floated out upon the soft, still evening air.
With songs of pathos, of love, and of home we mingled strong patriotic airs. But it was curious to observe how by a common instinct everything like coarseness and drollery was avoided. The absurd rollicking songs, most popular on the march, were now scarcely hinted at. And in this way an hour passed into oblivion as softly as if we had been asleep dreaming of home which then was heaven, or near it. The bridge had become shadowy in the gathered darkness, the curve line of the bivouac was invisible except as it was dotted out by the blazing fires, the water gleamed with the dancing images of flame, and overhead thousands of stars had come out to be witness of our flow of soul. And now as the spirit of stillness was creeping over the enchanted valley, we spread our rubber blankets under the trees or the open sky, drew on our overcoats, and lay down to sleep.
Looking back over the events of that day of waiting, and our rose-colored bivouac in that lovely valley of the Conedoguinet, it is curious and instructive to observe how pretty a trap we had walked into unconsciously. It is suspected that the commander selected this spot for our bivouac from its cage-like character, being prompted thereto by the provoking experience of the day. However that may be, it is plain that had the enemy been as near us as we were led to suppose, and had they known our position, they might have captured the whole column without firing a shot. The ribbon of land on which we had our bivouac could be swept by a battery planted at the head of the bridge—which was the only way of egress, while the place was too narrow to maneuvre a platoon even. A small detachment of cavalry dashing through our line of pickets might have sprung the trap upon us before we could have extricated ourselves. But as good luck would have it the enemy were nowhere near us, being well on their way to Gettysburg. Though the force whose presence near Carlisle alarmed our commander and induced him to countermarch the column, was, as already stated, no more than a small cavalry escort of a rebel train of plunder on its way to the main rebel army, yet it is probable that the large cavalry force of General Stuart was not far off; for Stuart had been detached, as General Lee states in his report of this his second Cis-Potomac campaign, "to follow the movements of the Federal army south of the Potomac after our own (rebel) had entered Maryland."
On that Thursday afternoon while our small column was loitering on the Carlisle road, our backs turned upon that city, the terrible struggle was renewed at Gettysburg, closing at sunset—about the time we came to a halt in the romantic vale of the Conedoguinet for our night's bivouac, supposing the enemy to be within striking distance of us!
Friday.—Up at half-past three o'clock, and on the march at five, after having braced ourselves for a solid day's work with hot coffee and bread, or hard tack and butter—the bread and butter being the fruit of yesterday's foraging. Some even fared on chicken, goose, lamb, etc., though it is feared the rightful owners thereof were not always invited to the feast.
Emerging from the valley we set our faces again toward Carlisle; and being disencumbered of knapsacks and woolen blankets, which were ordered to be brought forward in wagons, we jogged along in fine spirits. This light marching order, as the phrase is, involves a weight of some thirty pounds, musket included. At ten o'clock, having advanced some seven miles, our regiment was halted in a grove just out of the village of Kinston, for a noon-rest. By the persuasive force of greenbacks the villagers and outlying farmers were induced to unearth a goodly supply of bread, butter and eggs, hidden relentlessly doubtless from the holders of confederate shinplasters during the late sojourn of King Jeff's hungry subjects. Cherry pies were also added to our regimental bill of fare, which was due to the energies of an enterprising officer who had them baked for us and brought in hot! There had been no issuance of rations since we left Bridgeport Heights, and accordingly each company had to depend for supplies on its enterprise in foraging. This was a lesson easily learned and daily improved upon, though many a poor fellow, doubtless, of less adroit companies, had spare diet oftener than he considered was healthy. We sprinkled ourselves over the grove in knots or alone, and slept, sang, read, wrote, rambled, ate and drank, or did whatever other thing was most pleasing to ourselves.
About one o'clock we again took up our line of march. The sun was blazing fiercely, there was but little breeze, and the danger of sunstroke to many of us was imminent. But as the emergency was pressing and orders peremptory, the column was pushed along with but short rests, and we made Carlisle safely at sunset, having travelled since morning some thirteen miles. We were halted in a field near the town, and found no other traces of the visit of an enemy than the ruins of the United States barracks, and a few carcasses of horses near us. The condition of these latter made it necessary as a sanitary precaution to cover them with earth. Accordingly spade parties were quickly detailed for this service.
"The Valley"—as this whole region is known to the inhabitants thereof—through the midst of which our road lay, is one of the most beautiful farming countries imaginable. Vast reaches of level, now golden with grain, stretch from the Blue Ridge on the west to the Blue Mountains on the east, eight to ten miles apart. Looking over the country from any point of the road the things one sees at this period of the year which fix themselves in the memory, are grain, granaries and mountains; the whole scene suggesting the Happy Valley of Amhara, the prescriptive residence of Rasselas and the other princes of Abyssinia. The barns are surprising structures, though of a piece with the country. Such fields need and presuppose such granaries. They are usually built of brick or stone, of huge dimensions, having sheds near the ground as a cover for cattle. In the distance they loom up like vast warehouses, completely dwarfing the adjacent farm-houses. Many of the residences we found deserted; and of those that were occupied but few gave us greeting. But the welcome of this few was so hearty and substantial as to put us in a humor to forgive the meanness of the rest.
While we were making our morning march, the hostile armies at Gettysburg were ordering their lines for a resumption of battle; and at the moment of our emergence from the woods where we had our delightful noon-rest, that tremendous fire of artillery from "over one hundred and twenty-five guns," opened upon the Union army, preparatory to the last grand assault, which was made while we were on our way to Carlisle; the disastrous repulse of which terminated the contest, and left the heroic Army of the Potomac master of the field.
Fourth of July.—At 3 A.M. we were called up to resume our march. The previous day had been a trying one to us, and our bivouac was refreshing accordingly. As we marched through Carlisle we greeted the day with patriotic airs without exciting the slightest demonstration beyond an occasional waving of a handkerchief. The people gathered to see us pass, looking on listlessly. We did not notice a rag of bunting flying except our own colors, though it was the nation's birth-day!
We turned down the road leading to Mount Holly Gap, a pass in South Mountain. Five miles out we got a fine view of the range we were to cross. It rose a couple of miles ahead of us, like a Cyclopean wall, running directly athwart our path. At the base of it nestled Papertown; but as yet only the brown church spire and a few house-tops were visible against the back-ground of the blue mountain. At this village we were greeted for the first time on our march with cheers! But perhaps the people had an especially strong motive for feeling patriotic and demonstrative, Stuart's cavalry having passed through a day or two before, on its way to join the main rebel army at Gettysburg. The road was paved with their hoof prints.
Entering the gap we shortly came upon a mountain stream which flowed along the road-side, and here we were permitted to stop and bathe our travel-bruised feet. But our business was urgent, and we were soon in line again pressing on up the mountain. When eight or nine miles distant from Carlisle we halted for a noon-rest. At this point the two lips of the gap approach at the base within one hundred feet of each other—two-thirds of which space is occupied by the brook, and the remainder, for the most part, by the road. This place is a Thermopylae but being only a side-door of the State of Pennsylvania, no step had been taken to close it against invaders. The day was beautiful, and we stretched ourselves along the shady bank to rest, sleep, write, nibble on our hard tack, or do whatever pleased us best. All about us being
"A forest primeval,"
there was no near chance for foraging, and so we all rested. Some with surprising versatility improvised hook and line, and went a-fishing—their luck ranging from a nibble to the smallest variety of minnow. Others equally enterprising hunted for blackberries in places where a blackberry would have been frightened to death to find itself growing—whether they climbed trees for them is not positively known.
Reports now began to come in of a great battle going on, of which we had abundant proof before the day was ended. Up to this time our campaign had been quite an innocent one; and though we had had some wearisome marching, yet benignant skies had uniformly attended us. But now all was to be suddenly changed. First came the hot rumors of battle, and we realized the urgency of the moment, and wondered whether we should be in time to help in our feeble way to win the great victory we hoped for, little dreaming that the contest was already decided—the great victory already won. Next came clouded skies; and as we rested, there rose to our ears the distant mutter of thunder, and soon big drops began to fall. Presently a mist was seen to gather around the top of the mountain far above our heads; and soon the top disappeared in the shroud which crept ominously down, down the mountain side. We began to think of shelter, and unrolled our overcoats and rubber cloths. The thunder grew louder, the lightning flashed more and more vividly and the rain fell in torrents. A poor little cabin on the road-side gave shelter to a few. A leaky shed treacherously invited others. Some seemed to think it unsoldier-like to shrink before the elements, and doggedly grinned and bore it. But the greater part of us crouched to the ground under the trees, hauling our rubber blankets over our heads so as to shed the rain. Like the victims of the first deluge, we suspected it would not be much of a shower, and were only less mistaken than those wretched beings.
Over against the mountain wall before and above us there hung in mid-air a vast sheet of water which the howling wind flapped to and fro in the gorge terrifically; while the blinding lightning and crashing thunder seemed to issue together from the mountain itself. The creek, before clear and placid, quickly became turgid and agitated. It began to creep up the banks. Presently a dark, strange-looking mass came floating down—it was a soldier's knapsack! The rain fell, if possible, in increased torrents. The stream continued to rise rapidly. Other knapsacks came floating down. It was not long before the water stood two feet above its former level. Would it keep on raining till it flooded the road and us? For two hours the rain poured down with only momentary abatement to renew itself as furiously as before. The calm mountain brook had become a raging torrent, threatening the whole gorge with overflow, carrying angrily down a stream of knapsacks, officers' valises, etc. As we afterward found, the torrent had caught them where they had been piled together; the rising water having isolated them and put them beyond the reach of their owners.
There being no signs of the storm abating the order came to "Forward." We fell in resignedly and even with good humor, having by this time got pretty thoroughly soaked—every expedient of shelter failing; indeed we had given up trying to keep dry, and many of us had taken to sauntering up and down the road watching the baggage drift by, and laughing to see one another's forlorn appearance. With trailing arms we marched cheerily up the mountain, singing with infinite gusto, "Marching along," "John Brown" and kindred airs—our choruses sounding out grandly in that wild place, and amid that terrific storm. A little further on we came to a manufacturing hamlet in a sort of cup of the mountain, the stream on which the mill stood flowing over the edge of the cup at one side as it were. At this point, or near it, we left the Carlisle pike and took the mountain road on our right, following up the course of the Mountain Creek. We now began to fall in with a stream of men, dressed in U.S. uniform, but without arms. They reported themselves to be paroled prisoners captured in Wednesday's battle of Gettysburg. They told us the battle was still raging and that we should soon be in the midst of it. This was definite, the first definite information we had had from the Army of the Potomac, since we began our march. We were now convinced that a great battle was going on, or had just been fought, and whether lost or won, we felt we must be needed. This news animated every bosom—some with anxiety—some with courage; and we pressed on with renewed vigor.
Two miles further on, at the point where Hunter's Run crosses the road, the column was delayed on account of some obstruction in front. Working our way along slowly we presently came in sight of the trouble. It was a sea of water, covering the road waist-deep, in which men and horses were seen to be floundering promiscuously. A portion of the column succeeded in getting through, though at imminent peril of being washed away and it was thought prudent to postpone further attempts at crossing till the water subsided. A countermarch was accordingly ordered to the paper mill, which being deserted gave us ample quarters. It was an extensive establishment, and looked as if work had been suspended unexpectedly and suddenly. Here were great bins of rags washed and sorted ready for conversion; here vats of bleached pulp, like snow-drifts; here piles of white paper, as it dropped from the calender, with a sheet hanging half issued. We built fires, dried our clothes, cooked coffee—the little we had left—and regaled ourselves as best be could with the assistance of a morsel of hard tack which the rain had reduced to semi-pulp—though of this delicious viand many of us had not a sample. The hamlet could furnish us but a very limited supply of creature comforts, the rebels having got there ahead of us, and made themselves quite at home in kitchen and larder. About 5 P.M., the rain having ceased, though the skies still threatened, we again took up the line of march, leaving behind several poor fellows, whom the march had put hors de combat, quartered among the good people of the place.
On again reaching the point of danger we found the water had subsided but little; but orders were imperative, and we plunged in. The passage was perilous. The road lay along the side of the mountain down which the stream poured in a torrent, unseen till it came roaring out of the forest at the road-side, surging furiously across the road, and disappearing down the tangled wood on the opposite side with the roar of a cataract. A distance of not more than a hundred feet of its course was visible. We heard it coming, saw it rush by us, and heard its awful leap into the depths of the wilderness again. It was the leap of a tiger from covert to covert across a traveller's path; or like a hyena at night, disclosed only by the glare of his eyeballs.
We followed the trail cautiously feeling our way along, and not daring to look to the right or left—our ears filled with the din of the waters, and half carried off our feet by the impetuous flood. Crossing a gully—probably the natural bed of the stream—by a foot bridge, which our engineers had doubtless thrown across, we saw beneath us with a start and a shudder of horror the head of a drowned horse and the pole of a wagon sticking up above the torrent. All else was out of sight. It proved to be a loaded commissary wagon with its team, which had been swept away! A number of muskets were lost, and a drum or two; but excepting these casualties we all got across safely with no other ill fortune than to be wet again to the skin, which, as night was falling gave us a comfortless prospect. The drum corps of the Twenty-Third was at this point sent back to Carlisle with the remainder of the drums, thirteen in number.
In this part of the mountain the road runs level for several miles along its slope, and being cut down on both sides is for long distances little better than a ditch. The soil being a stiff clay, the tremendous rain-fall having insufficient escape converted the road into a canal—six inches to a foot of water overlying six inches to a foot of mire. And into this infernal passage we plunged as night closed upon us. For a couple of hours we floundered along with desperate energy, losing shoes sucked off by the tenacious slime, and some even throwing away their blankets. It was pitch dark; it had begun to rain again; we were hungry—having had nothing but a little wet hard tack and one small ration of coffee since we left Carlisle—and many, many of us not so much; we were very jaded, having marched already a dozen miles, much of it up the mountain, and much of it through mud that would challenge the admiration of a veteran of the Army of the Potomac; and the floods of air and earth had soaked us to the skin. Still we kept up our courage and pressed forward; for now we had reason to believe that a great battle was raging, which would, we hoped, be decisive of the salvation of the Republic, and we prayed that if any exigency had arisen or should arise—which seemed not improbable—in which the militia reserve should be needed to turn the fortunes of the day in favor of our arms, we might not be too late.
Some three miles beyond Hunter's Run we passed a poor cabin—the first human tenement we had seen since leaving the Mount Holley paper mill. Pitch darkness was now fallen upon us. Here were gathered a motley crowd of stragglers—thirty or forty in number—from regiments in advance of us. They had built fires in different parts of the premises, and looked, as they sat and stood huddled around them, like gipsies—their faces red in the ghastly fire-light. Some were moving about under the trees of the door-yard, like phantoms. At a short distance in rear of the cabin thin parallel streaks of light were visible, as if shining through the chinks of a barn. Here, it was evident, another squad was quartered. As we passed this group of shadows, and plunged again into the gloomy darkness, the spectral sight, as we looked back, seemed like a phantasmagoria of Hades.
A mile further and we halted—a thicket along the road-side offering a retreat only less forlorn than the miry road. Rubber cloths were spread and we lay down for a little sleep. But the work of the day was not yet ended. About midnight we were roused again by the order "Forward column!"—a forced march indeed! The exigency, it was evident, must be great! On, on, through rain and mire, one mile, two miles, three miles to the hamlet of Laurel Forge, indistinguishable in the darkness, which gave refuge to all that remained of what was twelve hours before a proud regiment, filling the mountains with the echoes of its fervid patriotic song, now a forlorn, exhausted handful of men clutching greedily the shelter and the hope of rest which the grimy forge offered. From this category must be excepted one company which, occupying the right of the column, had forced the passage of the flood at Hunter's Run when we first reached it on our march, the imminent peril attending which had caused the order of countermarch to be given to the rest of the regiment. They reached the dusky hamlet before dark and passed the night in comparative comfort.
Thus closed at Laurel Forge—now forever associated in our memories with the Valley Forge of the Fathers by reason of a common suffering—our Fourth of July in the wilderness. If those immortal patriots who gave us the day fared worse for our sakes, we who kept the day are content to know that we fared about as badly as was in our power for the sake of those who are to follow us. To think of friends at home setting off rockets and the like in honor of the day, and very likely in our honor too, seemed so ridiculous in connection with our sorry plight as to provoke laughter irresistibly. It was like trying to cheer a mourning friend at a funeral by telling him stories.
To sum up our Fourth of July work:—Distance travelled, including the countermarch, half of it through frightful mire, seventeen miles; weight carried, allowing for the additional weight given to overcoat, tents and clothes by their being soaked through and through a good deal of the time, thirty-two and a half pounds; with insufficient food, and bad feet under most of us.
At Gettysburg there was a cessation of hostilities throughout the day, both armies remaining in position, apparently taking a breathing spell preparatory to renewing the struggle on the morrow. During the night, however, the rebel retreat began by the Fairfield road. The rear of the column did not get away till after daylight on the 5th.
Sunday, July 5th.—In the early morning, which it were a satire to call the Sabbath day, as it had seemed ridiculous to us to think of the day before being the jubilee day of our boyhood, we scratched open our eyes and looked about us to see what sort of a place it was we had fallen upon. Half a dozen small, unpainted, dingy wooden cabins stuck along the road-side, an iron furnace and a few other buildings, appendages of the latter, or non-descripts, greeted our sight. But there was one thing we saw which made us glad—a fine mill-stream, where though the water was turbid and yellow we bathed, and washed the mud and grit out of our clothes. Some of us found in the miserable settlement a little coffee and some flour, the latter of which we were at no loss how to use—for what soldier has not heard of flap-jack? Entering a cabin, and taking possession of the family cooking stove—the women of the establishment meekly withdrawing—a small party of us prepared our repast. One brought water from a neighboring spring; another mixed the dough; another fed the fire from the wood-pile in the corner; another found a dish-cloth and swabbed off the top of the stove preparatory to laying on the dough; for we thought of our sweethearts, and our mothers and sisters, and could not endure the idea of dirty cookery! Then we spread out the ready paste flat on the place appointed to receive it, where it went to cooking at once with most obliging promptitude. We sat around the stove, on the wood-pile, on chairs, on stools, on baby's cradle, on the floor.
Another crowd, having no pecuniary interest in the transaction, formed an outer circle, accommodated with standees. All watched the growing prodigy in silence and with greedy eyes. First it began to brown around the edges. Then it began to puff up. After that the swelling went down again, leaving the surface all wrinkled like the face of a monkey. Then a fine smoke rose from it, as it were, incense. Could it be "done"? and was this the sign from the gods? Perhaps; at any rate it was the sign of something; probably the sign of scorching on the under side. Then it ought to be turned. But how turned? Ah, how, indeed! It had been easy to spread it on—but the turning!
"Facilis descensus Averni; Noctes atque dies patet atri janua Ditis; Sed revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras, Hoc opus, his labor est."
A knife was brought; too short and too narrow. A spoon; better, but still inadequate. An outsider suggested that all hands lay hold of the thing on one side and flop it over suddenly. But the jealous proprietors demurred, fearing that the movement might not be simultaneous and that thus a flap-jack rupture might ensue, followed by possible skedaddling of the shrewd operators bearing off the spoil. Meanwhile the smoke was alarmingly on the increase and something must be done at once. While we were in this quandary, the principal partner in the concern, a long, lank fellow with tong-like fingers, in a fit of desperation seized the thing in one hand with an old rag, and over it went k-e-r-f-l-o-p! The danger was past, and we congratulated the skillful operator and one another on the auspicious result. Mr. Flapjack after that proceeded soberly to do himself brown, whereupon we all partook, smearing each mouthful with molasses which a miraculous cupboard furnished, and pronounced it good—in fact excellent. At home not one of us but would as soon think of eating the stove itself, both as to cleanliness and digestibility.
While we were recuperating at Laurel Forge on that strange Sabbath morning a constant stream of stragglers and fragmentary companies of different regiments were coming in. One of them reported meeting a party on the road whose situation very fairly represented the degree of wretchedness which all—officers and men alike—underwent on that eventful day and night of the Fourth of July. It was just at daybreak. The men were wading along through the mire as a staff officer rode by and drew rein at the road-side a little ahead of them, in front of a party of some three or four officers who were evidently having their bivouac there in miserable isolation. The officer whom the messenger saluted as his superior was bare-headed, having evidently just risen from the ground where his rubber cloth and blanket still lay. His dress was wet and begrimed with mud; his hair was frowsy, lying in ropy tangles upon his head and hanging over his brows; and his face was haggard with anxiety and suffering. It was Brigadier-General ——; and here in this solitary wilderness had actually been his bivouac, in company with a few of his staff. Taking what was overheard as a clue, something like the following colloquy passed between the messenger and the General:
"General, a complete company, or anything like it cannot be found on the road—much less a regiment of the brigade. They are scattered everywhere—sick, exhausted, famished; and if they were together, they could not be fed." "Where are the wagons?" "Stuck in the mud, sir, miles back. The teams are broken down and others cannot be procured. I don't see how we can possibly get the wagons up." "Ah, *** h'm, *** Did you see no farmers' houses around anywhere?" "The country here, sir, is a perfect wilderness. The only habitations are a few cabins of poor people, scattered along the road at long intervals; and even of these there is but one for the whole seven or eight miles between the paper mill and Laurel Forge."
It was palpable enough that the situation was alarming. The column broken up into a vast stream of stragglers—regiments and brigades mixed promiscuously together—men and officers half-famished, jaded out, buried in the depths of a mountain wilderness—the subsistence trains mired far in the rear and no prospect of their getting up; all this rushing at once upon the mind of a conscientious commander wholly unused to the hardships of real campaigning, and before he had had time to throw off the incubus of the dismal night he must have endured, was enough to crush any but a heroic spirit.
The skeleton of the Twenty-Third having gone forward early in the morning, our little private "breakfast party" hastened its departure from the now to us historic hamlet of Laurel Forge, after gratifying the poor woman who presided over the dingy domicil with the sight of more money in her hands, doubtless, than she was accustomed to seeing at one time. The road now began to improve at once. We were getting "out of the wilderness" apparently. A few miles brought us to Pine Grove, another settlement with its furnace and shops. Then shortly after we began to ascend again; and we wondered with fear and trembling whether we were entering upon a second mountain road which it would be our wretched fate to climb. There rose indeed before us, two or three miles off, a formidable range whose crest must have towered well nigh a thousand feet above us; and though it did not lie directly across the path we were going, the road bent suspiciously toward it. We had little strength left for such a renewal of our toils. Up—up—up; nearer and nearer the crest of the mountain, till it became at length evident that we were actually on its flank, and that our road lay over its very top. The rain had ceased, the sun was fighting his way out from among torn clouds, and the air was sultry. The road was filled with a vast stream of stragglers intermixed with officers on horseback, and wagons. Along the road-side weary soldiers were resting. Here one had fallen out alone, exhausted and disheartened, and another coming up had sat down beside him on the greensward for a moment, though wearing the uniform of a different regiment. The latter, with a true soldier's feeling, was giving the poor fellow a drink from his canteen, and administering the cheap but precious solace of kind and encouraging words, while big tears rolled down the cheeks of the other. Such scenes were frequently observed. Common sufferings had broken down all barriers and we felt for one another the tenderness of brothers.
Slowly and wearily we toiled on—one mile—two miles. The road stretched up steep and stony. It was a comfort to be rid of the mire, but the stones were afflicting enough to our bruised feet. How the batteries were ever dragged up that mountain road so soon after emerging from those miles and miles of mire is one of the wonders of equine endurance. But so it was. We found on the summit that incomparable Philadelphia Battery which had accompanied us from the fort, and had won golden opinions from all by the unfailing promptitude and uncomplaining endurance with which the little company had borne more than their share of toil and privation. At the top of the mountain the road was blocked up for long distances with infantry and artillery at a halt; and here a good portion of our stragglers came up with the now rehabilitated regiment. The enemy was reported to be near. What enemy or in what force we could not learn. This much, however, was understood;—the Eleventh Brigade, or all that was left of it was ordered to the front! At length the order "Forward" ran along the line, and on we marched again. We soon came to a cross-roads in an open wood. Here cannon were planted to command both approaches, hid in front by leafy branches of trees laid up against them. These were masked batteries, and it was to be our duty to support them. This looked like business. One hundred rods or so further brought us to a pretty opening where we were halted and ordered to pitch tents in the adjoining timber. Foragers were at once despatched, great fires built, tents pitched, and preparations made for such supper as was possible under the circumstances, just as if our pleasant arrangements were not liable to be stopped at any moment by the appearance of the enemy. But we were too exhausted to feel nervous with anxiety. At length the foragers returned with gratifying reports, the substantial fruits of which were fresh bread and butter, together with a supply of live stock next morning. During the night the commissary wagons came up, and in the morning we had coffee once more, and new rations of hard-tack were given out.
The 5th was spent by Lee at Gettysburg in making good his escape, a large portion of his immense trains moving by the Cashtown road guarded by a force of cavalry under General Imboden. As soon as General Meade discovered the enemy's retreat he sent General Sedgwick with the Sixth Corps in pursuit; but the latter was not able to accomplish much.
Monday, 6th.—Our approach and preparations to meet the enemy had not developed his presence, though some straggling rebels were brought in who had been picked up by our scouts in the mountains, to whom they had given themselves up without resistance. Accordingly about the middle of the forenoon we were ordered to advance again. Some of us had cherished the hope that we would be permitted to rest over Monday; for we sorely needed it, and felt that, should we be marched then into the van of battle—what with our physical exhaustion and our wasted ranks—we could make but a poor show of fight. But it seemed the exigency was too urgent to admit of delay. We therefore pulled up stakes again, strapped our luggage to our backs, shouldered our pieces, and marched forward in the direction of Gettysburg.
A hard march of fifteen miles over a rough mountain road that pretty much all the time went up or down, and occasionally by long stretches, brought the column to Cashtown, a cross-roads settlement, ten miles north-west from Gettysburg, where the mountain road meets the Gettysburg and Chambersburg pike. Here we bivouacked in an orchard. This place is memorable to the Twenty-Third regiment on account of a sad disaster there befalling, in which one of our number was the unhappy actor. He fired off a musket charged with ball cartridge, supposing he was only snapping a cap, directly into the ranks of the Twenty-Eighth regiment of our brigade, wounding two men—one of them mortally. No sooner was the lamentable event known to the regiment than they took instant steps to make the only reparation in their power. They subscribed on the spot a purse of some twelve hundred dollars, which they duly paid, for the relief of the families of the victims.
We had thought to make this spot memorable in a very different and happier way, viz., by the capture of the rebel train bearing the precious spoils which the enemy had taken from our people. But we were too late; it had all got safely past before we came up. That furious storm which had broken over us in the mountains, rendering the roads impassable or extremely difficult, had been the agent of Providence to hold us back. However disposed on the spur of the moment and in the vexation of disappointment we may have felt to regard our delay as an unmitigated misfortune, depriving us of a golden opportunity of earning a direct share, however small, in the glories of Gettysburg, still we may be sure a wiser hand than ours guided the issues of those memorable days. It is probable that the cavalry force of Imboden, guarding that important train, was large; at any rate large enough to have trampled out our handful of men had we made an attack. Had the skies favored we could hardly have reached Cashtown a day sooner than we did without making forced marches; much straggling must have ensued; and the column thus reduced would have come up in an exhausted condition. To be sure we might have harassed the enemy, caused confusion among the teams, and perhaps destroyed or compelled him to destroy a part of his train. But we were too late, and speculation or regret is now unavailing.
When General Meade despatched Sedgwick's corps in pursuit of the flying enemy on the Fairfield road, he sent at the same time a force of cavalry on the Cashtown road to capture or destroy the rebel train. They "captured," in the words of Lee himself, "a number of wagons and ambulances; but they (the rebel wagon train) succeeded in reaching Williamsport without serious loss." Sedgwick appears to have been unsuccessful in seriously harassing the retreat of Lee, the Fairfield pass, up to which place he pushed the pursuit, being so strong a natural position as to enable a small force holding it to check for a considerable time any pursuing foe. General Meade remained at Gettysburg with the bulk of the army during the 5th and 6th, "engaged in succoring the wounded and burying the dead."
Sunday, 7th.—Our attempted exploit of capturing or destroying the enemy's train having thus miscarried, we resumed the chase, taking the Chambersburg pike. In thus turning our backs upon Gettysburg, whither we supposed we were bound, we might naturally wonder "what next?" That this supposition was correct, witness the following order:
(Pine Grove), July 7th, (6th), 1863.
In compliance with Division Orders this command will take up line of march for Gettysburg forthwith.
This Brigade will take the advance—regiments in the following order:—7th, 8th, 56th, 52nd, 23rd.
By order of
J. C. SMITH, Brigadier-General Commanding.
We followed the Chambersburg pike as far as Greenwood where we turned to the left down a road leading southerly. The remains of a caisson and a forge which had been knocked to pieces so as to be unserviceable to the finder, and unused rifle shells scattered along the road indicated the haste of the retreat of the enemy. To facilitate their escape they had moved in two columns, one by the road, the other through the adjoining fields, where the ripe grain for long distances lay trampled for the breadth of the line.
About 4 P.M., we came to a halt in a grove just out of the little village of Altodale, (erroneously called Funcktown by Col. VARIAN of the 8th and Col. TRAFFORD of the 71st in their published reports of the campaign), having accomplished a distance of some fourteen miles from Cashtown. Here we realized more keenly than we had yet done that we were coming upon classic ground. Through the grove flowed a brawling brook named the Little Antietam. The waters which there soothed our travel-bruised feet and refreshed our weary limbs were destined to bathe the historic field where the patriot army hurled back the first rebel invasion. But the neighborhood is itself memorable for a prior transaction, connected with one of the most pregnant events in the history of the country. Near the place of our bivouac, John E. Cook, one of the unfortunate confederates of John Brown of Harper's Ferry, was arrested. Cook, it will be remembered, escaped from Harper's Ferry by taking to the mountains of Maryland on foot; and after having reached a spot where he expected to find sympathizing friends, was treacherously seized by one Logan, and sent back to a Virginia gallows. This execrated wretch now lives, poor and despised by his neighbors, in this village of Altodale. But it is pleasant to be able to say that his wife, as if an atoning angel, opened her doors, (Logan was absent on a distant journey at the time), and showed to our men—they being ignorant of who their entertainer was—a generous hospitality. She fed the hungry and nursed the sick with christian charity.
On this Tuesday morning the entire rebel army reached Hagerstown; and at the same moment General Meade set on foot from Gettysburg a flank movement by way of Middletown.
The skies threatening we pitched tents for the night along the Little Antietam. Toward morning the rain fell furiously. It dripped through the canvas above us, it crept in under the edges of the tents, and soaked the rubber cloths on which we lay. When our situation under cover had become sufficiently miserable, seized with insane impatience we crawled out into the open air, only to find that our neighbors had been as insane as ourselves. It was then early daybreak. You could dimly see, gathered around the faintly burning embers of the company fires, a few strange-looking objects, black and utterly shapeless except near the ground where a pair of legs protruded. As you moved through the wood you everywhere met forms like these wandering about aimlessly and in moody silence. Squat on the ground were others—mere black shapeless heaps. Some were collected around the trunks of trees. Some were scattered about on rocks and stumps. Wherever you went they were directly in front and on either side of you. As the beams of morning crept through the grove the phantasmagoria became still more striking. Distant objects were brought to light, and those near you, faintly descried or not observed before, became distinct. The whole extended wood was seen to be filled with these black shapeless heaps, strewn on the ground indiscriminately everywhere. They encircled the smouldering fires, which ever and anon would shoot up a sparkling blaze as if some one had stirred them. Some taller than the rest were moving about slowly and solemnly. Here and there were commissary and quartermaster wagons, the teams unhitched and turned about like Barnum's equine monster—their heads where their tails ought to be—and looking demurely into the wagons, where, on boxes and barrels, were other dismal black heaps. Observe one of these. It is crowned with a soft felt hat, the rim bent down all around, from which the water is dripping drearily. Looking under it you see the large, sad, careworn visage of Colonel Everdell, ever watchful of his men, and now sharing with them this extremity of discomfort and exposure.
As the morning waxes light the camp-fires flame up stronger if not brighter, and now you see real human figures moving about. These ominous black heaps scattered everywhere are, as it were, eggs, and out of each of them will crawl in due time a full-fledged biped. See yonder by that fire; one of them is even now in violent motion—evidently in the pangs of birth. Presto! a man emerges from it as it collapses to the ground. He goes straight to the fire, stirs it up, blows the sick embers, cuts slivers for kindling and lays them on, takes the axe, splits a rail in pieces which he piles on the now quivering spires of flame, and goes to other black heaps and shakes them with reproachful summons. Lo, these too split apart, and out from each appears a man! These take black iron pots and go off. Presently they come swinging back with the pots filled with water. Meantime the fire is finely started, the pots are slung astride a long pole set over the fire, the wood crackles, the flames shoot up wrapping the pots around. And now the camp is all astir. The black objects are twice as numerous as before, moving about with increased animation. You imagine Little Antietam to be the Acheron of fable, and all these to be poor ghosts, strangely clad in the mortal habiliments of woe, crowding the banks of the fateful river, and waiting, sick with hope deferred, their turn to cross; and your eyes wander curiously along the swollen, dashing stream to catch sight of the unclean grizzly beard, Charon, the ferryman, and his crazy skiff:—
"There stands Charon, who rules the dreary coast— A sordid god: down from his hoary chin A length of beard descends, uncomb'd, unclean:
* * *
He spreads his canvas; with his pole he steers; The freight of flitting ghosts in his thin bottom bears
* * *
An airy crowd came rushing where he stood, Which filled the margin of the fateful flood—
* * *
Thick as the leaves in autumn strew the woods, Or fowls, by winter forced, forsake the floods, And wing their hasty flight to happier lands— Such and so thick the shiv'ring army stands, And press for passage with extended hands. Now these, now those, the surly boatman bore: The rest he drove to distance from the shore.
* * *
A hundred years they wander on the shore; At length, their penance done, are wafted o'er."
Then you fancy them a collection of howling dervishes; or a congregation of monks in Purgatory, the figures about the fires being the working devils preparing to roast the poor monks for their morning's course of expiatory torment.
While you are trying to drown your misery in this sort of musing the fire is doing its work, and soon the pots boil, the fixens are tossed in, and the coffee. Near by your own company fire—that is what most interests you now—there is spread on the ground a rubber cloth, whose irregular protuberant shape suggests agreeable things. The busy figure at the fire approaches the mystery, raises the covering at one end and draws forth bread, which he cuts in chunks, loaf after loaf; a crock of apple butter—a Pennsylvanian Dutch dish somewhat analagous to the apple sauce of the Yankees; and a can of brown sugar—a luxury which only the prudent forethought of enterprising officers rendered possible, intended doubtless for their own mess, but generously devoted to the comfort of the company, now struggling under the terrible triple load of fatigue, privation and exposure. For be it remembered that, although we had had fresh meat rations served out to us only forty-eight hours previously, sufficient to last us a couple of days if not wasted, yet the unexpectedness and suddenness of our resumption of the march had prevented us, in our inexperience, from availing ourselves of the provision. Indeed it rarely happened that we carried in our haversacks from bivouac to bivouac anything more than half a dozen hard-tack, if so many, which we snatched up hastily as we fell into line for the forward march. So that the only real refreshment we found within our reach at the end of each day's march, when, weary, hungry and sore we dropt down on the rough ground of bivouac, was night itself and its sweet gift of sleep. Whatever may be the theories of physiologists on the subject, we felt, as a matter of daily experience, that a good, wholesome, appetizing meal half an hour or an hour after coming to a halt would have enabled us to endure much harder marches with much less fatigue than is here recorded.
All being ready, the boiling pots are slipped off the fire, and the viands set on the ground in order before the master of ceremonies. A shout goes forth, "Fall in for rations!" But the call is needless. For the last half hour fifty pairs of eyes have been following every motion of the cook and his volunteer aids, and tin plates and cups been giving forth their dulcet strains. A long cue of black headless devils stands merry before the flourishing disciple of Soyer. He dips into the smoking pot of stew and raises a cupful, dripping and delicious; a plate is ready to receive it. He dips again; another is ready. The supernumeraries dispense the coffee, bread, apple-butter, and sweetnin'. The black cue shortens one by one till the last hungry devil is supplied, and all have assumed the squat posture, and the grove is filled with black heaps again. But not now as before. Then all were glum, silent, motionless—the rain pelting them remorselessly. Now every one is alive with movement and talk. By and bye the weather clears up a little. One after another, human forms reappear upon the scene. The drummers sound their call;—it is the Assembly—the summons to forward march. Tents are struck quickly; luggage rolled and shouldered; arms taken; and away goes an army of brave youths, three short hours ago utterly and miserably "played out", now ready to make a long day's march, or to move upon the enemy, singing as they pass under Logan's windows, "Marching along," "John Brown," etc., ignorant at the moment of the poetic justice which their mighty chorus celebrates.
A member of the Twenty-Third left behind at Altodale, sick and in care of a kind mater-familias, related an amusing experience which illustrates the semi-civilization of the people of those regions. His bed was provided with but one sheet; and the hostess kindly enquired whether he would rather have a counterpane or a blanket next him—"some people prefers one, and some the other!" she remarked. He thanked her blandly and chose the counterpane. During the two days and nights of his stay he did not hear the sound of a piano, nor a note of music from the inhabitants, though he was in the heart of the village, and at twilight saw young ladies promenading the street. In lively contrast to this neglect of the divine gift of music, he heard, on the second evening, a company of soldiers who were dallying in the place, singing patriotic songs, which were received by their comrades with a familiar "Hi! Hi!" This sudden irruption of democratic New York into a Pennsylvania Dutch village, whose only idea of the great city was, doubtless, what had been derived from rose-colored descriptions and fanciful pictures of its great hotels or its streets of palaces, must have seemed to the inhabitants about as strange as the unheralded appearance on Broadway, some fine afternoon, of a caravan of Bedouins from Arabia.
Another instance was narrated to show the primitive taste of the villagers; one more to the point than that just recorded, which may have been accidental. Opposite the room where he lay sick was the residence of one of the rich men of the place. His house was of brick, commodious and painfully plain. The roadway extended to the very door, the only marks of division between the portion to be used for vehicles and that intended as a walk being a locust tree and a bridle post. The door was raised some two feet above the ground, and was reached by a partly hewn log, from around which the rain had washed away quite a depth of gravel, so that it now presented an awkward step for a lady. Though there was abundant room for a door yard there was no enclosure, no sign of shrub or flower. Here dwelt one of the upper-tendom of Altodale.
This same soldier, on his way to rejoin his regiment met a Pennsylvania youngster with whom he had the following colloquy:—
"Many more back?" inquired the boy, who evidently wanted to know whether there were many more troops coming forward. Carlyle might envy such terseness of language.
"No, not many. Did many pass here yesterday?"
"No, not so very many. But last night there was quite a drove of 'em."
This language was either not complimentary to the discipline of the New York militia while on the march, or not complimentary to the school-masters of Franklin County, Pa. Imagine such a conversation in a rural district of Massachusetts!
As an offset to this promising lad, he heard of another who was chopping wood by the road-side when the rebel army was passing. One of the rascally tatterdemalions coming close to him made a grab for his hat—it was a fashion they had of helping themselves to the head-gear of everybody they passed—but missed it. The boy turned, raised his axe, and "dared" the rebel "to try that again!"
From Altodale the column followed the course of the Little Antietam in a south-westerly direction to Waynesboro', and came to camp two miles beyond on the Waynesboro' and Hagerstown pike. The day was pleasantly cool, and the march of eleven miles was made in comparative comfort, notwithstanding the roads were heavy and our wet luggage and clothes added greatly to our burden, As to rations we were learning to get along with the scantiest supply, like the horse of the enterprising economist which was trained to subsist at last on one oat a day, and was on the point of getting along on nothing when he unexpectedly gave up the ghost. Whether our lot would have been similar had our term of service continued a few days longer can never be positively known.
At Waynesboro' we fell in with the Sixth Corps of the army, which, as before mentioned, had been despatched by General Meade from the field of Gettysburg, on the 5th instant, in pursuit of the enemy by the Fairfield Road—their line of march being thus nearly parallel to ours. Here we were, then, in the midst of the world-renowned Army of the Potomac—in fact incorporated with it, being now subject to the orders, as we understood, of that gallant soldier, Major-General Sedgwick, who fought his corps so splendidly at Fredericksburg in Hooker's unfortunate Virginia campaign. We felt a genuine soldierly pride in such an association. We were now the comrades in arms of men whose business was fighting, and who attended to their business like men; and them we trusted to show us the way we were to follow. Our expectation that, notwithstanding all our forced marching, we were destined to return home without getting sight of the armed enemy was partially dissipated; and now that a live fighting man had got us in hand, there were few of us, it may well be supposed, who were any longer "spilin' for a fight." The veterans regarded our grey suits curiously, and advised us to exchange them for Uncle Sam's blue before we went into action; otherwise, we should most likely be taken for Grey Backs, (as the rebels were sometimes called by the Union soldiers from the color of their dress), and be shot by our comrades. This was not an over-pleasant suggestion; still, in the absence of present danger, we tried to "borrow no trouble".
General Meade, in his report of the Battle of Gettysburg, makes the following allusion to our arrival, though he erroneously makes Boonesboro' instead of Waynesboro' the place where we first joined him:—
"It is my duty as well as my pleasure to call attention to the earnest efforts at co-operation on the part of Major-General D. N. Couch, commanding the Department of the Susquehanna, and particularly to his advance of 4,000 men under Brigadier-General W. F. Smith, who joined me at Boonesboro' just prior to the withdrawal of the Confederate army."
We pitched our tents in a pleasant hillside grove, where we rested the next day, employing our leisure in putting our arms in order. The morning report gave 519 officers and men as present and fit for the duty in the Twenty-Third regiment; the strongest muster the regiment could show during the campaign. Many of us got passes to go to Waynesboro' where, notwithstanding the rebels had, a few days before, seized all they could lay hands on, we found pretty much all we wanted; and having just come "out of the wilderness", we wanted pretty much everything that soldiers can use at once, or can carry away with them. The Little Antietam still kept us company, and bathing in its waters greatly refreshed our wearied limbs.
Friday, 10th.—Ordered out on a reconnoissance with the New York Seventy-First. The column moved out on the Waynesboro' and Greencastle pike, and took position on a bare hill some two or three miles east of Waynesboro'. Here we stacked arms and roasted in the sun all day; at night returned to camp.
Saturday, 11th.—Rested again, though we were on the qui vive all the afternoon for a forward movement, the following order having been promulgated:—
Head-Quarters First Division, } Department of the Susquehanna, }
Waynesboro', July 11th, 1863.
The Brigadier-General Commanding calls the attention of the command to the certainty of an early engagement with the enemy, and it is strictly enjoined upon Brigade, Regimental and Company commanders to attend at once to the condition of the arms and ammunition of the men under them.
No time is to be lost in putting the arms in perfect order and seeing that the boxes are filled with cartridges.
The rations on hand must be cooked and put in haversacks, so that no detention will ensue when the order to march is given; and also that the men may not suffer for food, when it is impossible for the supply trains to reach them.
By order of
Brig.-Gen. W. F. SMITH.
It was found that few or none of us had the full complement of forty rounds of ball cartridges in good order, our stock never having been replenished since we left Fort Washington. Our ammunition pouches being of insufficient capacity we had been obliged to carry a portion of the cartridges in our haversacks, which, in common with the clothes we wore, had been repeatedly soaked by the rain.
About the middle of the afternoon we heard distinct cannonading, which proved to proceed from a skirmish arising out of the movement of General Meade toward the front of the enemy's position at Williamsport. Reports were current, and credited, of another general battle on yesterday, in which Lee had been worsted, and it was expected that it would be renewed to-day. Thus we had on the whole a good prospect of being present, and having a share, in the enactment of another scene in the glorious drama. Toward sunset came marching orders. We proceeded in the direction of Hagerstown. Some two miles or more out the road crosses the Antietam, the bridge over which the rebels had destroyed. We waded the stream without wetting our trowsers, and marched our feet dry before coming to a halt for the night, some three or four miles further on. We were now on the soil of Maryland, the bridge over the Antietam being a little south of "Masonandicksun"; and we accordingly set up the air of "Dixie" with Yankee variations and a rousing chorus.
Just at dark we turned into a clover field and bivouacked noiselessly, spreading our rubber cloths and lying down, each man behind his piece, ready to seize arms instantly on an alarm. No fires were built, no loud talking allowed. It was like the crouching of a tiger making ready to spring upon its prey. These hints of the proximity of the enemy were quite enough to satisfy our curiosity on the subject, particularly as the Twenty-Third had the right of the line. Still we stretched ourselves for sleep without alarm, though not without emotion, and perhaps, anxiety. A few rods off, in a hollow of the field, a cloud of fog lay along the ground—its ominous grey just visible in the deepening twilight—and it was plainly creeping up to envelop us in its chilly arms. The night bade fair to be a foul one—to use a hibernicism—and none of us coveted the post of the picket in those black woods in front of us. But some one had to perform that trying duty; and it fell to the lot of Company "B" of the Twenty-Third to be detailed with others to the service, the command of the detachment being entrusted to Captain Goldthwait. The delicacy and danger of this service are well told in the words of the captain commanding:—
Cavetown, Md., July 12th, 1863.
In compliance with your orders I left the bivouac of the regiment on the Hagerstown road beyond Lietersburg last evening, and reported to General Knipe for picket duty. Upon filing into the road we found a company of the Seventy-First, N.Y., and a squad of the Third Pennsylvania Cavalry awaiting us. Reporting to the General we took the right of the Seventy-First, and with the cavalry in advance moved out on the Hagerstown road across a stone bridge to a point designated on the diagram by a haystack, at which point, by direction of the General, the reserve was stationed. After giving me instructions as to the direction in which he wished the line of pickets extended, and orders to hold the point to the latest possible moment, and under no circumstances to lose the bridge in our rear, the General returned to the brigade, and I proceeded to post the picket line.
The cavalry in the mean time had pushed forward on the road to hill (No. 1 on the diagram) when they encountered a vidette of the enemy's cavalry, which they drove from the position.
The hill being an excellent point for observation, a vidette of our cavalry was posted at that point. A chain of infantry pickets was thrown out on either flank towards the woods on our right and left, the sentinels for which were furnished in due proportion from my own and the company of the Seventy-First. The cavalry vidette reported that the rebels could be heard moving about all night.
At daylight we stood to arms, and the cavalry were sent out as far as the second hill, but found no enemy in sight.
I learned from a man living just beyond our line that the rebels in force, of all arms, had passed, the afternoon before (the 11th), in two columns, one keeping the road, and the other following the fields in a line parallel with the road. From this and other information obtained, I have no doubt that the main body of the rebels were last night in and around Hagerstown, which is about four miles from where our pickets were posted. At six o'clock this morning I was ordered to draw in the pickets and return to the column, which we found lying in the road where we rejoined it.
In closing this brief report, Colonel, I beg leave to say that while I never had a doubt as to the behavior of the Twenty-Third as a regiment, I was unprepared to meet with the cheerful obedience to orders which sent individuals into almost isolated positions where they had every reason to suppose that the enemy was within a few rods of them, and where the darkness was so intense as to limit the vision to a space of a few feet.
C. E. GOLDTHWAIT, Capt. Co. "B", 23d Reg. N.G.S.N.Y., Com'g Pickets.
Recalling to mind all the circumstances of the case, there is something in the thought of that night's bivouac which is awe-inspiring;—three or four thousand men massed in a field sleeping; their stacked arms standing over them like sentinels; a thick fog encompassing them, and affording cover to an enemy to approach unseen; that enemy within easy striking distance, at bay, and watching doubtless for an opportunity to strike a sudden blow. The night passed quietly however, nothing being heard of the enemy, and we slept pretty well with the ghostly fog for our coverlet.
Sunday, 12th.—About six o'clock, after breakfasting very soberly and contentedly on hard tack and water, we got in motion again. A countermarch of a mile brought us to Lettersburg, a poor village of a dozen indifferent houses, through which we passed the evening before almost without noticing it. Here we turned off to the right, taking the Cavetown road. We crept along, continually halting, and reached Cavetown at noon, some seven miles south-east of Lettersburg, our path for the last mile being across fields and up hill to an extended plateau overlooking the village. Here, while resting, we were overtaken by a fierce thunder-storm. Six or eight miles in front of us to the eastward, South Mountain stood out in bold relief; and the peals of thunder reverberating against its sides made the valley ring again. The place takes its name from a natural cave near the spot where we were halted, and which afforded shelter to some of us from the shower. Here a cow, as wise as ourselves in this particular, had taken refuge, and kindly supplied us a few drops of milk. The art of extracting this nutritious liquid we learned at the outset of our campaign, and found the knowledge useful not unfrequently as we went along. Hard tack was no such delicious viand as made us despise the free gift of the cow. We found in the cave also what refreshed us almost as much—pure cold water. It was held in honey-comb cells or cups formed in the rock, twenty or more in number, holding three to six gallons each, the whole together forming an irregular shelf along one side of the cavern. There were dark passages and mysterious inner chambers, vaguely reported to be half a mile in extent, but we had no time to make further explorations. Before the shower ceased we were ordered to move, and proceeded down the face of the hill to the selected halting ground on the Hagerstown pike, a little out of the village. Here the column made bivouac, and guns were planted commanding the road to the front.
The rain continued to fall, and in such torrents as to inundate the camping ground. The air was filled with electricity, the crashing thunder reverberating almost incessantly for half an hour through the valley; and mournful to relate, some poor fellows of the Fifty-Sixth Regiment, N.Y., who had imprudently taken refuge under a tree, were struck by the electric fluid, and one of them killed.
The state of the ground compelled us to improvise dry beds, which we did by taking fence rails and laying them side by side on the ground. The idea of lying down to sleep on such a style of mattress was preposterous to most of us; still we could not deny that it had the first requisite of a bed, viz., dryness. Any one who has slept directly upon ploughed, stony ground, as was often our lot, knows how difficult it is to adjust the weary body to the crags and canyons of the surface—for the irregularities grow to be such before morning—and how the rest continues to be broken, night after night, until the flesh has become ferruginous, and the nerves indifferent to the welfare of the body, which no longer demands a nice adjustment of particulars, but finds sound sleep on a pile of big stones with the head resting on a stump. As we were most of us yet in our infancy as campaigners, we had not reached this perfection of indifference; and accordingly were delighted to find how nicely we could fit ourselves in among the rails.
Our sole reliance for rations appearing now to be upon the hard tack in our haversacks, eked out by an occasional loaf of bread, a jar of butter, apple sauce, or plum sauce which the company foragers were lucky enough to pick up, there was great temptation whenever we came to a halt to indulge in a little desultory foraging on private account; and as we were now in a farming country there was considerable of this done. But if the sight of a distant farm house, with the hope of chickens and cherry trees swimming before the mind, tempted any of us to indulge without leave in this agreeable recreation so long as to miss a roll-call, we had a vivid consciousness of sundry extra detail duties of police or guard awaiting us on our return. This gave a zest to the enjoyment of the stolen furlough, though it was not apt to be considered a severely "healthy" termination of an hour off duty. These penalties were a wiser disciplinary regimen than a rigid system of provost guards would have been, since it saved the strength of the regiment for the next day's march, and put the drudgeries of camp duty upon those who had fairly earned the right, and were also best able to perform them.
Before the afternoon had passed, however, our commissariat was amply provided for. Several fat steers were driven into camp, slaughtered and divided up among the hungry regiments; while the company cooks were not slow in doing their parts. Some of us had got by hook or by crook a cake of chocolate, and some a little coffee or tea, which gave rise to a good deal of lively cup and kettle boiling on private account, which kept the fires going briskly till dark.
The principal ingredient of some of the beverages which tasted so deliciously on that occasion, as well as some of the soups, etc., it may not be amiss to reveal, now that it is all past; though at the time it was judiciously kept a secret, doubtless. In a field near by there was a pretty brook half hidden among grass and bushes. The men of various regiments soon spied it out, and straight-way it was lined with bipeds, of whom it is enough to say that they were travel-stained, who stood washing in it their persons and their clothes. Its course lay across the field to the road, where it was caught in a horse-trough. To this trough came file after file of men with great black kettles to be filled. The color of the water was such as to excite the indignant protest of every one who came there to draw, against the scores of animals in United States uniform who went above the trough to wash, instead of below. But it was of no avail; the fringe of washers was constantly replenished by fresh comers, and the water was constantly drawn below; and there was made of it, no doubt, excellent soup, coffee, tea, chocolate, and whatever other delicious thing the regimental or private commissariat afforded. But lest some reader should be offended by this peep behind the scenes, it may be stated that there was another fountain whence some of the regiments drew,—a well at a neighboring farm-house which gave pure water, until it was pumped dry!
By this time General Meade with the bulk of his army was confronting the enemy, who had taken up "a strong position on the heights near the marsh which runs in advance of Williamsport". Lee had been busily engaged securing his retreat by rebuilding the pontoon bridge at Falling Waters which General French had partially destroyed, and was, no doubt, anxiously awaiting the subsidence of the Potomac to enable him to use the fords so as to escape suddenly under cover of the darkness.
Monday, 13th.—We were up bright and early, none the worse it is believed for the rough accommodations of the night; some of the most ailing, indeed, having had furloughs granted them till early morning, and having succeeded in finding more comfortable quarters in barns, or in the houses of the village. The rain having ceased we got our things well dried before the fires, and broke camp at 6-1/2 o'clock, setting out in the direction of Boonesboro'. The morning was comfortable, the sun was obscured, and a cool breeze was blowing. Before noon we came to a halt in a wood, having made some six miles. Here a pleasant sight greeted Company A, of the Twenty-Third. Foragers had been sent out in advance when we broke camp, one or two for each company it was said. One of these now made his appearance, having in company a poor farmer whom he had found up in the mountains. He was dressed in jean blouse and overalls, wore a slouched hat, and sat astride a small imitation of a horse, which bore also two well-filled bags slung across his back, before and behind the rider. These bags disgorged lima beans, onions, radishes, a pile of fresh bread and a crock of butter; none of which, it may well be believed, were wasted. On this halt we were treated to our usual daily ration of shower—the only ration we received regularly. It rained for several hours, wetting us enough to make us miserable. Early in the afternoon we got started again, much to our relief.
As we were now entered upon the last week of our term of service, and as there did not appear to us to be any immediate prospect of further fighting—at least of fighting in which we should be engaged—we had been thinking all day that our faces were at length set toward home, and that Boonesboro' was to be the next stage of our journey; then some point between Boonesboro' and Frederick; then Frederick, where we should find railroad transportation direct for Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. This was a pretty fancy, and we discussed it with great vivacity. It beguiled the march and helped us amazingly over the abominable roads and through the more abominable rain. There was but little singing, however, "Homeward Bound" being as yet far from fait accompli. Besides, we had not been in singing mood, as a general thing, these many days—marching along usually with a quiet, dogged, philosophic endurance of discomfort.
But these visions of home with which we had filled one another's hearts we knew hardly deserved any better name than day-dreams; for though we were marching toward home, we were also marching toward the enemy, General Meade being at that very moment, though happily for our dreams we knew it not, feeling the enemy and preparing for a vigorous attack upon him on the morrow; in which prospective event we were doubtless looked to as a portion of the reserve force. This tended to sober the exuberance of our hopes. It was interesting to watch in the spirit of the men the play of this struggle between hope and fear. We had marched but a mile or two from the wood when we made another halt in a field by the road. In a certain part of the line a little company fell together worthy of brief mention. One, a singer, had spread out his rubber cloth upon the wet ground, and was reclining upon it. Eight others had joined him, also singers, sitting down on the edges of the cloth; and they were singing together. A row of listeners sat perched on a rail fence five or six feet in front of them, and others were ranged around in various picturesque situations and attitudes. These swelled the choruses and joined in the melody according to their skill and knowledge. And what did they sing? "Gideon's Band"? "Hail Columbia"? "Kingdom Coming"? or any of those songs with which we were wont days before to greet the larks and the freshly risen sun when resuming the march after an uncomfortable bivouac? No, nothing of the sort. But in soft low tones they warbled the most plaintive songs. Because of our hope, we counted over and over again the remaining days of wandering allotted to us by the terms of our enlistment, and beguiled one another with scenes of home revisited. But because there was fear and uncertainty mingled with our hope, we thought of that home tenderly, and were in no mood of exultation in our singing. Those who remember that little chance way-side festival will have no difficulty of recognising the spirit which animated it in the following melodies, which were always great favorites with us when we were in a plaintive mood:—
Why am I so weak and weary? See how faint my heated breath! All around to me seems darkness; Tell me, comrades, is this death? Ah! how well I know your answer; To my fate I'll meekly bow, If you'll only tell me truly, Who will care for mother now?
CHORUS: Soon with angels I'll be marching, With bright laurels on my brow; I have for my Country fallen, Who will care for mother now?
Who will comfort her in sorrow? Who will dry the falling tear? Gently smooth her wrinkled forehead? Who will whisper words of cheer? Even now I think I see her Kneeling, praying for me! How Can I leave her in her anguish? Who will care for mother now?
Let this knapsack be my pillow, And my mantle be the sky; Hasten, comrades, to the battle! I will like a soldier die. Soon with angels I'll be marching, With bright laurels on my brow; I have for my Country fallen. Who will care for mother now?
The following is inserted, like the rest not on account of any intrinsic merit it may be thought to have, nor indeed on account of any sympathy for the slave which it might have been employed to express—though there was probably no lack of that—but because it illustrates, in words and music, a certain sentimental vein of feeling which found frequent utterance, not very soldier-like it must be confessed, nor indulged when serious work was before us to do, but quite natural to us now that we had caught half-visions of home, albeit in the intervening sky there were omens of doubtful import.
There's a low green valley on the old Kentucky shore; There I've whiled many happy hours away, A sitting and a singing by the little cottage door Where lived my darling Nelly Gray.
Oh, my poor Nelly Gray, they have taken you away, And I'll never see my darling any more, I'm sitting by the river and I'm weeping all the day, For you've gone from the old Kentucky shore.
One night I went to see her, but she's gone, the neighbours say, The white man has bound her with his chain; They have taken her to Georgia for to wear her life away, As she toils in the cotton and the cane.
My eyes are getting blinded and I cannot see my way, Hark! there's somebody knocking at the door; Oh, I hear the angels calling and I see my Nelly Gray; Farewell to the old Kentucky shore.
Oh, my Nelly Gray, up in heaven there they say They will never take you from me any more; I'm a coming, coming, coming as the angels clear the way; Farewell to the old Kentucky shore.
We had dropped down on the ground with our harness on expecting to hear the "Fall in" at any moment; but it was in the edge of the evening before we were summoned to resume the march. A mile or two further brought us to camping ground in a rough, ploughed field within about a mile of Boonesboro'. As dark was fast coming on all hands set to, on breaking ranks, and brought rails for fires and bedding! It was astonishing to watch the effect of this instantaneous assault upon the fences. They melted away before the eyes very much like a flake of snow does on the warm ground; it disappears while you are looking at it, almost before you have half realized that it is going! The pots were on in a trice, and by the time we had tents pitched we were saluted with the "Fall in" for soup. The bustle over, we had time to look about us, and then for the first some of us saw what caused a sudden change to come o'er the spirit of our dreams. It was now dark. In the distance in front and on the right appeared the gleam of camp fires; and on the left far up in mid-air a bright light was blazing which we knew at once to be a beacon on South Mountain, many miles distant, though it was too dark to see even the outline of the range. That spot of fire, hanging aloft there in the pitchy darkness like a great meteor, had in it somewhat of portentous awe to us. It seemed the eye of a Cyclops watching the foe. Our imaginations had not yet taken in the scope of a vast army, nor the stupendous movements of a great battle like Gettysburg. The apparition of extended camp fires and a great beacon afar off came suddenly upon us as out of the very darkness. We had been beguiling the day with visions of home, and cheating ourselves with the dream that we were even then homeward bound; and now to have thrust upon us without warning the spectral lights of a great army, and to be set down in the midst of them was startling. But the surprise over, the sight was exhilarating, Close about us lay encamped the several regiments comprising our column, where a hundred fires were blazing. Around them figures were moving like Indians, whose faces the flames lit up with ghastly distinctness. The neighboring wood was made visible and gloomy at once by the fires under the trees, the foliage reflecting the light dismally. Elsewhere all was in darkness, and we lay down to sleep wondering what the morrow would bring forth. Frederick City and home were forgotten, and the thoughts that now possessed us were of marching and counter-marching, of lines of battle, of reserves, of battery supports, and the like.
General Meade had spent the day in making "reconnoissances of the enemy's position and preparations for an attack" on the morrow; and General Lee in completing his preparations to withdraw to the south side of the river, which he expected to accomplish during the night; but "owing to the condition of the roads the troops (rebel) did not reach the bridge until after daylight on the 14th, and the crossing was not completed until 1 P.M., when the bridge was removed."
Tuesday, 14th.—The morning dawned but brought to us no appearance of impending battle; and probably in the event of a battle, the first intimation we should have had of it would have been the distant roar of artillery. And this we heard about noon—doubtless the attack of General Kilpatrick's cavalry upon the enemy's rear-guard at Falling Waters, which resulted in the fall of the rebel general Pettigrew, who was in command of the rear-guard, and the capture of two pieces of artillery and fifteen hundred prisoners.
About this time we were ordered under arms again. By slow, short stages we crept across the fields to the Boonesboro' and Hagerstown pike, which we followed toward the latter city two miles. We passed a spot where there had lately been a great camp—the fences all gone, the fields one vast common and trampled foul, and the air loaded with stench from putrid carcasses. There were some troops still remaining, also a park of army wagons, hundreds in number, and a large drove of fat cattle. When we thought of our starved commissariat, this sight made us inclined to envy the lot of the soldiers of the Grand Army.
We halted in a field, through which runs a considerable stream called Beaver Creek, a tributary of the Antietam, within thirty rods of where there had been a cavalry fight a few days before. It was stated that our men buried some bodies of rebel soldiers that afternoon. Toward evening news came that put an entirely new face upon affairs.
By late Baltimore papers we learned of the great riot in New York; that Chief of Police Kennedy had been killed; that the militia, called out in defence of the city, had been disarmed by the mob; that the office of the Tribune had been torn down; besides a great many other things to match. This created somewhat of a stir in camp as may be imagined. It was not pleasant to think of our firesides and our property and those of our fellow-citizens exposed to the mercies of mob law, and we, to whom the city was accustomed to look for protection against such violence, unable to defend them. Under purely patriotic impulses we had rushed to the rescue of an invaded sister state to do the little we could toward destroying the great enemy of our country; and now to be assailed by this dastardly fire in the rear made us turn with even a sharper vengeance against the insurgents at home than we felt towards the armed hosts which confronted us. Nor had home-sickness anything to do with this feeling. It is true, the idea which was involved, of going home, modified secondarily the tone of our spirits and made us jubilant, without, however, diluting our eagerness to be seen marching up Broadway with firm step to the rescue of our own dishonored metropolis. During the remainder of the afternoon this news was the staple of our talk, and we chafed to be off at once. Some of the regiments appeared to be in possession of specially gladdening news; for they filled the camp with cheering and hilarious singing. This spirit was contagious, and a remarkably buoyant feeling quickly overspread the whole encampment. But
"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley;"
and like sensible men we put not our trust in princes. Accordingly the opportunity of getting a fresh supply of delicacies being presented, we availed ourselves of it precisely as if we understood that we were to resume pursuit of the enemy on the morrow. Boonsboro' was only some four miles distant, and men were detailed to go thither, and get what they could, though the supply of store goods was extremely problematical since the rebels, with maws more insatiable than ours, had occupied the place but a few days previously, and must have lovingly visited the shops. Commissions were given for the purchase of all sorts of things—things to eat, things to drink, things to wear, things to cook in.
Toward evening the chaplain held a prayer-meeting under a spreading tree. These meetings which had been so acceptable to us while we lay at Fort Washington were now grown almost totally into disuse. During the severities of the campaign it would have been a forlorn task to meet together either at the close or the beginning of the day for even the solemn services of religion. Our strength was always near the point of exhaustion, and it was doubtless the feeling of all who thought about it that we were serving our Maker better by husbanding all our physical powers for use against the armed enemies of law and order, of republican government and personal liberty, of society and religion, than we should be by spending in public prayer, singing and exhortation the precious hours that would otherwise be given to rest. In silence of the heart with brief and often painful ejaculations, and in the nakedness of truth, which no public ceremony can so much as imitate, did worship go up to heaven from every devout heart among us, during those days and nights of suffering. The sharpness of our tribulation was our best chaplain, pointing to us the way and helping our feeble wills to walk in it. We needed then no other.