The Spirit of Old West Point

(1858-1862)

VI

BY MORRIS SCHAFF

XVIII

WAR BREAKS

WHEN the colonies met “in order to form a more perfect union,”they planted unconsciously the acorn of nationalism, which has grown up into a mighty oak, its network of roots penetrating and binding the states into an apparently indissoluble Union. This national oak now towers over all the states, shadowing deeply their childhood independence. And so long as justice for the weak and the love of peace, of wisdom and righteousness breathes through its mighty limbs, the states will be loyal and its leaves will stay green. But, to change the simile, let the sinful lusts and the moral cowardice of wealth take the place of courage and manly innocence in our country’s eye, with their companions, arrogance and godliness, then, let there be no mistake, the last rally of Democracy — the simple, honest, upright Democracy of our forefathers — against the tyranny and political degradation which must inevitably follow, will be on the childhood theory of the indestructible independence of the states. But, however this may be, the dogma of their sovereignty which prevailed — and it may be said, generally unchallenged at the adoption of the Constitution — had all of its vitality at West Point long after it had become hopelessly involved with the inexorable destiny of the country.

The reason runs back to several sources: one branch to the isolation of West Point and the exuding crust of colonial conservatism; the other, deeper, more dangerously procreative and farreaching, to a text book on the Constitution, by William Rawle of Philadelphia, a jurist of national reputation, at one time a United States district attorney, to whom, it is claimed, Washington offered the attorney-generalship.

Without qualification Rawle 1 maintained, “It depends on the state itself to retain or abolish the principle of representation, because it depends on itself whether it will continue a member of the Union. To deny this right would be inconsistent with the principle on which all our political systems are founded, which is, that the people have in all cases a right to determine how they will be governed. . . . And the doctrine heretofore presented to the reader in regard to the indefeasible nature of personal allegiance is so far qualified in respect to allegiance to the United States. . . . The states then may wholly withdraw from the Union. . . . The secession of a state from the Union depends on the will of the people of such state.”

In view of the predominance of Southern views and ideals, together with the fact that the statesmen of the South were fulminating Rawle’s doctrine with more and more impressive seriousness as the commercial power of the North and its antagonism to slavery became more and more obvious, is it any wonder that the theory should stay green at West Point ? On the contrary, should not the wonder be that any graduate from the South remained loyal ? And yet over half of the Southern graduates living at the breaking out of the war stood by the Union — a number to lose their lives, many to be wounded and maimed, and about all to be cast off and disowned by blood and kin. Those loyal Southerners I have always thought were our greatest moral heroes. For what days of mental trial and nights of bitter anguish they went through! Put yourself in their places — all the yearning ties of home, boyhood’s friends, sweethearts, the old plantations beckoning from their fields and runs and woods, the firesides, the churchyards whose silent dust had called their boyish tears to flow fast as they stood beside the freshly dug graves — all appealing to them to go with their section, come what may. Ah! young husbands and mothers of to-day, happy among those you love and, happily, too, unacquainted with trouble, the writer knows what he is telling about of the trials of the loyal Southerners in those days. He sees the tears standing in the eye, and then on their way down the cheeks, of one of the sweetest daughters of the far South, as in her quarters at Fortress Monroe, in 1862, she told him of her cross. Not a drop of Northern blood in her veins or those of her knightly Virginian husband, and not a connecting link by marriage with a Northern family. Her only child, a little girl, was playing on the floor and wondered why her mother’s face should be so wet. But such pure, smiling courage and gentle loveliness! the foot of a rainbow in a meadow, moonlight on clouds, never were lovelier or purer than the light which glinted those falling tears as she said, “Oh, nothing, dear Katie,” and kissed the child. That woman was the wife of my first commanding officer; and the writer never thinks of her or of him that he does not see Hampton Roads, hear the lonely bells of the warships proclaiming the hours of the night, — the famous little Monitor was lying low and dark among them, — and the waves coming in and murmuring along the starlit beach. O kindest and best of friends, friends in sunshine and in shadow, your young subordinate trusts that from time he may be allowed to visit you in that upper and better world.

Can there be any question that those who fell on the field or died in the hospital or at home had a heavenly comforter at their side as the earth began to fade away ? Or that the spirit of West Point hastened to accompany each one up to the very gates, saying with swimming eyes to the Keeper, “I wish you would let him in — he has followed the path of duty to the end, and I feel tenderly for him.” “ Did you say he followed the path of duty to the end?” asks the Keeper. “Yes, to the very end.” And as the gates open and turn on their hinges they break out into a triumphant psalm. And behold! he enters the Valley of Vision.

It would be unworthy of the writer, after accompanying any one, even in thought, to the gates of Heaven, to come back to earth harboring the least spirit of faultfinding or reproach for those Southerners who followed their section. No, he found no fault when he parted with them; he finds no fault now; nor does he wish to discuss the question of right or wrong. The war that divided us looms, like an extinct volcano, far away against the skyline of the past. But as I view it through its azure veil, it is covered with green, with magnolia and cypress, with holly and sassafras, with beech, maple, and elm, with laurel and oak, to its soaring rim, and over its once firebelching crater soft clouds are floating, tinged with the hopes and the glory of a common country.

But not so did it look in March, 1861, to us at West Point, or to the community at large. I wish that this pen was in the hand of some one who is on such terms with words — those immortal heralds of thought who at the touch of genius become radiant — that at a beck from him out from their ranks they would step and marshal themselves so as to convey to the reader born since the war a true, deeply calm, and spiritually informing vision of those days; of how they looked to us and to eyes that had seen much more of the world than ours. For just think for a moment what mighty elements were involved. Civilization and the destiny of the Republic moving on under the impulse of God’s holy purposes. From the scene — black smoke pouring out of the chimneys of public opinion, showing that the fates were firing up; the land overhung with the clouds of war, their gray, inky abysses lit up from time to time by quick, angrily swerving flashes, followed by a dull outburst of thunder muttering into a foreboding silence —I turn away with a sigh. For I would like to set it forth as it was, — not only to gratify a longing to give as complete expression as Providence has vouchsafed me to give of what appeals to my heart, but much more, to instruct, enlighten, and mercifully to soften future judgment on the conduct of all, of North and South, in whatsoever one or the other did that was wrong. But as I turn reluctantly from the scene I know full well that in due time and for all time it will at last have its interpreter, and take its place among the fountains of inspiration.

On the 11th of March my roommate, John Asbury West of Georgia, resigned; and on the same day Pierce Young, “Joe” Blount, and “Joe” Alexander, all of Georgia, handed in their resignations. General Young has been mentioned; Blount and Alexander were both of my class, and both were very dear friends. The former lived on the same floor with me, and many was the pleasant hour we passed together, and I associate him with one very funny thing that used to take place in that angle. It so happened that Blount, West, Comly, “Jim” Drake, and three or four others of my closest friends, were in the “immortals,” — the last section in French, — and their preparation for recitation consisted in gathering in our room about five minutes before the bugle blew and having me translate the reading lesson. If I read over the Benefactor Recompensed to that crowd once, I read it a dozen times. If any one were to stop me with an inquiry, “How’s that, Morris?” or, “What’s that, Schaff?” he would be squelched immediately by all the others exclaiming indignantly, “ Oh, for God’s sake! what’s the use of stopping him for that! Go on, Morris, go on ! the bugle will blow in a minute; ” and on would go the translator. Dear, dear fellows! I believe one and all of you are Immortals now, far, far above the reach of any earthly bugle, and should we ever meet again, if one of you will produce the old French Reader, we ’ll try to reread the Benefactor Recompensed for the sake of West Point memories and this dear old lark-singing earth.

Of course, West and myself talked the state of affairs over and over again, sometimes long after taps had sounded and the only light in the room was that of the stars or the moon. It meant so much for him : and more than once he broke out into the bitterest denunciation of all fire-eaters and abolitionists. His congressman was his fellow-townsman of Madison, Georgia , — Honorable Joshua Hill, — and if the proceedings in Congress be consulted, it will be found that he was among those who tried to hold the South back from precipitating war. West’s letters from his family were all of a peaceful tenor, too, yet brimming with anxiety for the outcome — and they were not the only letters filled with care and dread and sorrow in the Southland. Early in March the papers of his state published a list of the officers of the newly, or to be, organized forces of Georgia, and his name and those of all the other Georgia cadets appeared in the lists.

Well, events were moving fast. Louisiana seized the United States Arsenal at Baton Rouge, and Alabama, after seizing that at Mt. Vernon, went marching in a fierce spirit against Fort Pickens. Day after day South Carolina added to the height and strength of her batteries bearing on Sumter, and an orgie of wild, frenzied, delirous cheering hailed every step toward revolution. Meanwhile the Southern Confederacy at Montgomery, elated by the extended hand of Europe and blind to the hollow treachery of her smile, began to drink deeply of the cups of fate, and grew more and more defiant, leaving no doubt of war in the minds of whoever contemplated her almost savage glee over the prospect of a death grapple with the North. How little she dreamed in her new, shining, and rustling robes that her pall was weaving in the deep silence of the North! Oh, what sarcasm there is in the irony of Fate.

One day there was a meeting of a company of Georgians; when my roommate came back from it, he told me with sadness that he had resigned. In due time came the packing of his trunk, and one after another of his things we laid away in it, as boys will pack a trunk. When the hour came he went and said good-by to all of his close friends, returning with moist eyes. And while he was out of the room I stood at my window. Below me lay Douglas Garden, and beyond rose the hills, their rocky ribs partially hid by cedars and stunted forest trees. I can see them all now as I wondered whether I would ever have so close a friend again; for until I knew him well — I made friends slowly — a deep sense of loneliness would come over me at intervals as a cadet — a longing for something, and I suppose that something was a friend.

When the hour had come to part, I went with him to the cadet limits near the library, and I do not believe there was a word said by either as together we walked side by side for the last time. And now we were at the end. He threw his arms around me and almost sobbed, “God bless you, Morris.” “Farewell, dear John.” Soon he disappeared down the roadway to the landing. I waited. The little ferry boat set out for Garrison’s, and soon I saw a figure waving a handkerchief, and I fluttered mine. And those little colors of boyhood’s love floated till the river was crossed; then his came down and he disappeared forever from my view. Oh, find your way alone as well as you can, dear pen; you and the paper are both dim, for there is a deep mist in my eyes.

West died long ago — but from a leaning field of shocked wheat that faces a setting sun my heart is beckoning to me. What is it, Heart? “As long as I beat, in me the friend of your youth shall live.”

Upon the departure of West I was moved to the 8th Division, to room with Wharton of my class. On the floor below lived Custer in the tower room, and Rosser in the one facing the area. I have already referred to Custer, and I would like to refer to him again, if only to speak of those streams which rise so far up among the hills of our common natures. I have in mind his joyousness, his attachments to the friends of his youth, and his never-ending delight in talking about his old home. I sometimes think that the sense of immortality is not vouchsafed to man alone. Why should not the old home with its garden, its fields with their flocks, their lilies, and their tasseling corn, even the little, light-hearted brooks themselves, all have those dreams of immortality too ? And I wonder if they do not find it in a boy’s memory.

I should like to refer also to Rosser, the great Confederate cavalryman, who was Custer’s antagonist on so many fields. Once, when the former was visiting me, he told me of the fight at Trevillian Station, when his command and Custer’s were in a hand-to-hand battle: at some time in the combat, after both had emptied their pistols, they abused each other most outrageously across the dustcovered canvas top of an old armywagon. Rosser was a good and great fighter. He was a good and a warm friend. May the sunset of his life be soft and dear!

And now this narrative, after winding through so many fields, has reached the very eve of the Great Rebellion.

West left on March 12, and on April 12 South Carolina opened her batteries on Fort Sumter; and the war began. Those thirty days at West Point, and, for that matter,everywhere,were days of portent. It is true we were mere boys, but nevertheless we were more or less conscious of the country’s impending trial; for like a mighty cross it threw a shadow over all the land. And I wonder if I may say that, as in imagination I put myself back under that shadow, a feeling of deep awe comes over me as one after another of the mighty forces getting ready for the struggle of four years dimly reveals itself. And as they break on the writer with more and more clearness with every beat of imagination’s wings,— it really seems as if I could hear the lull on the shores of “the isle that is called Patmos,” — there is a great temptation to let his pen tell what it sees. But these transfigurations embracing the country, pale and hesitating on the threshold of a starry course: Liberty, her eyes filled with a lofty innocence, standing between the pillars of the world’s hope, the smoke of the sacrificial altars that look so like winding sheets; Slavery on a waste that spreads far and wide facing her end under a sullen sky, — for she knows that the days of her course are numbered; the sun-bursts of glory on the West Point men and every man in whose breast is the bird singing of honor and truth and courage and duty;—however vivid all these may be, they belong to the domain of Poetry and not to Prose. And yet so close lies the province of prose to that of poetry in the kingdom of art, that whenever a new furrow is ploughed in one of its old fields the ploughman is very apt to turn up the seeds of a celestial flower that has blown across the line. However this may be, whosoever wishes to enjoy a poet’s vision of those days, let him read In State, by Forceythe Wilson.

The news of the firing on Sumter, which roused the North into a mighty passion, — its like probably no future generation will ever feel,—reached West Point some time between eight and halfpast nine in the morning. For when my section was dismissed at half-past nine, the area was spotted with cadets talking anxiously about it. Who the first one was to communicate the news to me I am not right sure, but my impression is that it was either Custer or Elbert of Iowa; but at any rate I recall just where I was, in the area almost in front, but a little beyond the guardhouse toward the 8th Division. It is only necessary to refer to the New York papers of that morning to feel the excitement that swept the country. And here let the writer quote a letter from Tully McCrea, to whom he is indebted for many refreshing memories in the preparation of these articles : —

“The next thing that stands out with distinctness was the splendid effect produced, instantaneously, when the news of the firing on Fort Sumter was received. It was the same there as everywhere: every Northern cadet showed his colors and rallied that night in Harris’s room in the 5th Division. One could have heard us singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ in Cold Spring. It was the first time I ever saw the Southern contingent cowed. All of their Northern allies had deserted them, and they were stunned. You remember how the superintendent sent them off in a body the next morning by way of Albany, for fear that they would be mobbed if they went through New York City.”

It may seem strange, but the writer does not remember that patriotic gathering in Harris’s room, and for the very good reason that he was n’t present. Where or with whom he was that night has gone completely from his memory. Had he been with them, something tells him that their voices would be ringing now in his memory. It would have been a great honor to join in singing The StarSpangled Banner’on a night like that and with a crowd like that — some of whom gave their lives for it so soon and so gallantly too. No, I was not there. I am sure I was not in mischief; but what I was thinking about as their voices were ringing in the old Division, Heaven only knows. Was I with one of the stunned Southerners ? Perhaps.

The cadets referred to by McCrea as having been sent by way of Albany had submitted their resignations and were waiting for their acceptance. And I think the current of the narrative may eddy for a moment about a touching incident connected with one of the number.

I was walking with him, a classmate, a few years after the war, on a moonlight night in his own war-stricken city. In the course of our rambles — and for a month we met almost nightly — he opened his heart to me and told me of his life in the Confederacy. He said that neither he nor his family ever believed that secession was the South’s remedy, but that public opinion forced them to acquiesce and him to resign. Well, he served in a staff corps until about, the middle of the war, then got a short leave of absence, and with such funds as his family could spare, arrayed in the clothes of a Southern “cracker,” he floated down one of the Southern rivers, — its softly musical Seminole name would be recognized at once, — tying up his dug-out by day and making the rest of the lonely journey by night till he reached the coast. Thence he found his way north, and when the war was over he went back to his old home. And now comes the pathos of it. Let me say that from the moment you met him you were sure that you were in the presence of a man modest in mind and manners and of a gentle and refined nature; his smile and his greeting were both winsomely natural. Well, no hand reached out to greet him when he got home, and his old friends were formal with him, and he as much as said that he was more of an exile than if he were beyond the sea. Not many years after our meeting death came, and his delicate, wearied spirit found rest. I pitied him. And now, as I turn away from this incident, whose deeply tragic features are obvious, but which only the soldier can appreciate fully, there is a feeling of loneliness and a vague consciousness of some immeasurable sadness in the world; a feeling not unlike that which comes over us when, in the dead hours of a dimly starlit night, we hear a house dog mourning pitifully far away in a dooryard, or the single long low of a bereaved animal far up in the woods.

Before the current began its increasingly melancholy eddy around the foregoing incident, there was music stirring in the narrative — the Northern cadets challenged by the firing on Sumter were singing “ The Star-Spangled Banner.” But this is Good Friday, and, while the above was being penned, now and then a youth bearing a pot of Easter lilies has passed the window. Oh, how the shadows come and go in the mind! now darkening and now blending gloom into sweet hope of a Resurrection morning for us all, where neither loyalty to a Confederacy nor services under this flag or that have any meaning.

XIX

SERGEANTS AND OTHERS

The first shot that was fired on Fort Sumter was from a mortar battery at Fort Johnson, at 4.30 A. M., April 12, 1861. General Crawford, one of the garrison, whom I saw often at the head of a division of the Fifth Corps, says that the stars were still up — but they must have been paling at that hour — and that the sea was calm. The battery was commanded by Captain G. C. James, and the shell was fired by the hand of his lieutenant, Wade Hampton Gibbes — the Gibbes whose historic encounter with Upton has already been mentioned. It was a strange coincidence that he should be in the first distinctively political combat at West Point, and the first Southerner, if not American, to send a shot at the flag of his country that had “covered both sections with glory and protection.” Oh, the futures, and too often the hardships, of the children around the hearth of fate ! A bird or a squirrel will carry an acorn or a hickory nut to the top of some bald, soaring ridge; there it will grow, — very like its only companion, a grim boulder, brooding over eons of time, — and there in solemn loneliness will it spread its leafless limbs against a fading sky. So, it seems to me, Gibbes stands against the darkening twilight sky of the Confederacy, and there he will stand alone whenever the student of history looks for the first step in the tragedy of our war between the states, while wrapped in their windingsheets far below in the shadowed valleys of oblivion lie in peace his gallant contemporaries.

The New York newspapers — they reached the Point between eight and nine in the morning — gave every particular of the bombardment as it went on, keeping us keyed to the very pitch. We could see the shells bursting over the fort. We could see the buildings burning, the black smoke surging angrily up over the flagstaff, and then, smitten by a south wind, driven hot with its cinders into the perspiring, begrimed faces of the resolute gunners. We wondered how soon the flames would reach the magazine. We knew that the little garrison was practically without food. How long could the loyal Kentuckian, Major Anderson, and his regulars hold out ? How our hearts beat when we read that, when the flagstaff was shot down, Sergeant Hart, having secured a little spar, nailed the flag to it and hoisted it again over the stormy parapet. Oh, officers of the regular army, let us keep in tender memory our first sergeants, for they were closer to us than we or they knew. For we know well that no company ever honors its commander in peace times except through its first sergeant; and surely how was it in the war? Oh, gallant and grim old fellows, the law made a difference between us: you had to stand uncovered in our presence, you had to go at our bidding, no social or unstudied word could pass between us; but we knew, when the colors went forward, and we each faced our duty, that there was no difference then, no difference between us as we met the final test of our courage and manliness. Your steadying voice, your stern “Forward, Company G;” your encouraging “Stand up to it, men,” as the shells burst in your faces; your “Let ’s take those colors, men;” “Pick up the captain tenderly, corporal, and carry him back, but right on, regulars!” Oh, first sergeants! Heroes, makers of armies, winners of victory, I hope that every officer who draws a sword in your presence will be just and kind, and give you the honor you deserve.

When the Confederates destroyed my ordnance depot at City Point by exploding a tornado in it, August, 1864, killing over one hundred and fifty persons and about half of my detachment, I found my first sergeant, Harris, who had been so faithful, lying dead under the timbers of the great wharf building. A child asleep in a cradle or on a mother’s lap could not have worn a sweeter or more innocent face as he lay with eyes closed, at rest. I know what it is to have and to lose a good first sergeant. And while I am writing these lines of captains and colonels and generals, some of whose names are dear to fame, a voice comes to me from every field I saw, from Chancellorsville to Petersburg, saying, “Don’t forget the first sergeants.” And now comes a voice to me closer and dearer than all, — that of West Point herself, — I believe I know the tenderness of that voice well. “For the sake of their manliness, for the sake of their courage and devotion to duty, let them stand with me in the light of your little lamp as long as it burns on your page.”

And now from tattered colors comes another voice: “Pray do not forget the men who bore us, the color sergeants.” Dear old banners! I have not forgotten them — but like yourselves they have passed through the gates, and there is on their faces the transfiguring light that comes from the sense that they bore you well. You or they have no need for my little lamp; poetry and art have lit their eternal lamps all along the line for you and them.

Referring to the relation of a West Point officer to a sergeant, perhaps the following incident will illustrate it well. When Grant came to Watertown Arsenal just after the war, Corporal or Sergeant Hunt of the detachment came to me and said that he would like a chance to speak to the general, that he had served in the same regiment with him before the war. I told him to come along, and took him into the office, where Grant was talking with the commandant. Mrs. Grant and Stanton — the only time I ever saw him — were standing nearby.

“I do not know whether you remember me or not, general. I was Corporal Hunt of Captain ——’s company, with you at Fort Vancouver, Oregon, before the war,” said the old soldier.

Grant reached out his hand and in his quiet voice said, “Sergeant, I remember you well;” — and there was that simple, honest look in Grant’s face which never belied the warmth of his heart when he met a friend.

To return to that shot of Gibbes,— Crawford says that it burst right over the centre of Fort Sumter. Yes, but it burst in the heart of every Northerner, too, and the like never has been seen. The North rose to its feet, and, ready to lose every dollar it had in the world, putting aside every fear of poor mortality, pain, hunger, weariness, and every fear of death itself, it picked up the challenge. On Sunday, the 14th, Anderson marched out, after saluting the flag he had defended so well, and on Monday, the 15th, Lincoln called for 75,000 men; within forty-eight hours Massachusetts men. equipped and armed, were on their way. There was no discussion now at West Point, but I recall a feeling of awe. It was obvious to every one in close social relations with the South that all depended on Virginia. Only one or two of her cadets had resigned. Field and FitzHugh Lee were still on duty, and a number of cadets from North Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, and elsewhere in the South, were holding on, and among them were perhaps my closest friends. But on the 22d the Old Dominion slipped her anchors and headed straight for the tempest of rebellion. And with her went all of her sons at the Academy, and, except a very few, every one from the South. Among those from Virginia was my classmate, Dearing, James Dearing of Lynchburg.

The mention of his name will recall to every one who was at West Point with him, and to every old Confederate artilleryman or cavalryman who served with him, his tall figure, his naturally hearty greeting, and his naturally happy face. Moreover, to those who were his close friends — I am sure to every one who was in D Company with him — there will come into their vision groups of fellow cadets in gray and white, now in barrack and now on stools in camp, and in their midst will be Dearing playing on his banjo and singing “ Dixie.” The first time I ever heard that song, so consecrated to the Confederacy, it was sung by him. I wonder how many camp fires he enlivened with that same banjo. But what went far beyond the crackling-toned instrument to light up the wan face of the Confederacy, was his cheerful and naturally buoyant voice. He became a brigadier-general, and was mortally wounded at the battle of High Bridge just a few days before Appomattox. Our fellow classman, Mackenzie, then a major-general and in command of a division of cavalry, learning that Dearing was seriously wounded, went to see him. And one spring day after the war was over, when we were walking through the Common in Boston, talking of bygone days, he told me that Dearing, although near his end, greeted him with all of his old-time cordiality, and inquired affectionately for us all. The gallant, fine-hearted, cheery-voiced fellow lived only a few days, then passed away.

His photograph, which he sent me from New York when on his way home from West Point, is now in an old album. To the living the album will soon mean nothing, but it means and recalls a great deal to me every time my eye falls on the dimming faces of some of my early and dear friends.

Among those who resigned the same day with Dearing, April 22, was Niemeyer of Virginia, who was killed during Grant’s Rapidan and Richmond campaign in 1864; Willet, a very modest and lovable man from Tennessee, who fell, I believe at Shiloh, and Graves at Chickamauga. And now as I look over the long list, — there were thirty-three of them, — Twyman and Lovejoy, W. R. Jones and Faison, Clayton and Washington, Logan, Marchbanks, and Kinney, “ Bob ” Noonan, “ Rube” Ross, and Taliaferro, a feeling of sadness comes over me, and I wish I could see them all. Yes, I wish that all of my class might meet again, and, drawing the benches under the elms into a circle not far from the evening gun, be once more the happy boys we were ; I am sure the old flag on the staff over us would ripple out joyfully. I am sure too we could talk over the war without a single jar; and should Hardee and Reynolds come along arm in arm, we would all rise and give them a right hand salute; but should old Bentz, the bugler, reappear off across the plain, on the walk which he always followed when he blew the calls for chapel, we would yell to him to come right over, and we would shake the hand of the dear old soldier well.

And now, as so often happened with my Uncle Toby when he described his sieges and war experiences, the reunion has become a reality and we are about all there. Moreno of Florida, with his soft liquid Castilian eyes, — Senator Mallory, Confederate Secretary of the Navy, married his sister, — has brought along his guitar and is singing once more the sweet little Spanish song, “ Leugo al instante; ” Dearing is about to give us “ Dixie; ” but who are those coming across the plain — and who is that at their head, swinging his cap? Oh, it is “Jim” Rollins of Missouri ! the sun is shining on his golden hair, the dimple is in his cheek, affection is glowing in his handsome face, and on his brow is the same old seal of the gentleman. We throw our arms around him, for he was the darling of us all. And upon my soul! here comes Van Buren, with all of his old-time courtly good manners, the same to one and all, and there is a general cheer of hurrah for Van. And here come Drake and Riddle and little Wetmore, who, if he had stayed, would have graduated at the head of our class,— in about every way he was the most brilliant youth I ever saw, — and here comes George McKee. I have a little book in which some of the men who resigned wrote their names as they came to bid me good-by; in it is McKee’s, whose Kentucky mother stopped his resignation just in time. It is written on the blade of a savage bowie-knife with, “Good-by, Morris, God bless you ! ” over it. Mac takes his place as of old in the very centre of the class, his distinguished, handsome face and black eyes lit up with all the old-time fervor as he greets us all. And here come Joe Blount and Lovejoy and little Jim Hamilton and Clayton and Semmes, and we are all hands round the dear Southerners. And who is that drawing near with that natural sweet smile ? Why, boys, that’s Jasper Myers; and every fellow jumps up and cries, “Make way for dear old Jasper!” and there is n’t a hand that has n’t a heart in it as all the Class of 1858 welcome him again. Hats off, boys ! here comes Sep Sanderson, who fell between his guns at Pleasant Hill; and with tears in our eyes we hug the dear fellow who is blushing like a girl with modesty. And now West, who is sitting between McCrea and myself on the same bench, turns to me and says, “Morris, where is Murray?” And I lean over and say in low tones, “John, don’t you know that he was captured the day Hood made his attack on Sherman’s left at Atlanta, the day McPherson was killed ? He died in one of your Southern prisons — and, John, they say he died hungry.” Whereupon my impulsive old roommate rises and with his high tenor voice calls the class to attention:—“Men, we are all here but little Murray, and Morris tells me that he died in one of our Southern prisons. I offer this hope for the sake of the name of Southerners, that in all future wars in which our countrymen are involved, there will be no Andersonvilles or Salisburys.” But before he can go a word further, Sanderson exclaims, “Let me add, for the sake of the name of Northerner, West, that there will never be another Elmira with its horrible mortality;” and,“No more Camp Mortons,” shout Beebe and Fred James. The writer, who with a pensive heart leaned more than once on the fence that enclosed the Confederate burial-ground at Rock Island, the little headboards in weather-worn ranks rising pleadingly out of the matted grass, — there are two thousand of them who hear no trumpets now, — the writer said, “And may there be no more Rock Islands, John.” “Allow me to finish, men,” says the Georgian. “Let us, the Class of 1858, assembled at West Point here under the flagstaff, and in the presence of all that is sacred to the Christian and to the honor of the soldier and the gentleman, let us beg our countrymen who are to follow us to see to it that all who fall into their hands, no matter who the enemy may be, black or white, civilized or uncivilized, shall be treated with mercy; and that no prisoner of war shall ever die for want of food, or clothing, or kindness. War is horrible enough at best, let us appeal to the higher nature of mankind for its redemption— so far as it may be—from barbarity and from a cold indifference to the unfortunate. I think I can pledge to such a prayer every one who followed the Confederate flag with me.” And every Southerner present exclaims, “We stand by you, West, on that sentiment.” And hardly have they uttered their assent, when, behold! out of a cloud comes Murray himself, escorted by angels who for a moment sing, “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” around us ere they rise. And who is this standing just outside the circle, with a band of heavenly light across her brow? Behold ! it is the little chapel. “Young gentlemen, I heard your voices and I thought I’d join you all once more.” And off go our caps as to a sweetheart, and she is escorted to the very midst.

Just then the architect of the new West Point came along and said, rather fiercely we thought, “What are you doing over here, Chapel ? Get right back to your place.” Her eyes fell before the stern gaze of the architect; but before she could turn to obey or lift them upon us, knowing that her days were numbered, the class cried out, “Stay right where you are, dear sweetheart —you are our guest to-day, stay where you are! ” Clayton, of North Carolina, who had been dreaming, his eyes off up the river, feasting as in the days gone by on the old heavenly view, hearing the stern voices, turned and asked, “Schoaff, who is that little fellow, smoking the cigarette and ordering the chapel around?” “Why, Clayton, he is one of Boston’s most able and distinguished architects. He will be immortal by his new West Point.” But without waiting for any further commendation, the North Carolinian broke in, — “See here, you gentleman of the Right Line Pen and Yards of Tracing Paper, please to go way back to Boston. We are the old class that entered in 1858, before you were born; some of us were on one side and some of us were on the other, but we are all on one side to-day and having a reunion. We are celebrating the days of West Point’s glory, we are again at her fountains of truth, honor, and courage.” — “But who authorized you to come over here ? ” inquired the architect, addressing the chapel coldly. “I heard their voices, and without getting a permit, I thought I’d like to join them once more,” she said almost tearfully; “ we have been dear friends for many a day.” Hearing this touching appeal, the Battle Monument came down and put his arm gently in that of the architect and started to escort him over to Garrisons. But I adore he had gone many paces Mackenzie hurried alongside, saying to the Battle Monument, “The men to blame, if there be any, for plans that affect you or the chapel, are the officials who accepted them, and not the architect; he only submitted his plans, and if they did not like them they need not have taken them. The chances are that the new West Point will in stateliness far exceed the old. And however that may be, this is not a day to be marred by hurting the feelings of any one. We are about to march, come and join us.” Bentz, the old soldier, hearing the word “March!” instinctively took the attitude of a soldier and lifted his bugle to his lips; then, facing toward the quarters of the Academy band, sounded the first call for parade. The full band appeared, we all fell in in two ranks, then formed in two platoons, Hearing in command of the second, McCrea in command of the first, Mackenzie in command of all; and then, with the band at the head, we escorted the little chapel, who had stood with her arm in that of the Battle Monument,— directing her talk kindly to the architect at her side from time to time,— back to her place, cheering all our old professors and the stern old barracks as we passed them on our way.

(To be continued.)

  1. On July 1, 1886, Jefferson Davis wrote to Hon. R. T, Bennett, late Colonel of the 13th North Carolina Infantry, a judge of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, and the Confederacy’s calmest yet most profoundly eloquent memorialist, “ Rawle on the Constitution was the text book at West Point, but when the class of which I was a member entered the graduating year Kent’s Commentaries were introduced as the text book on the Constitution and International Law.” (See Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. xxii. p. 83.)