The Battle of the Wilderness


JUNE, 1909

FROM time to time, one or two friends have urged me to write of the war between the States, in which, as a boy, I took a humble part just after graduating at West Point; but I have always answered that nature had not given me the qualifications of an historian; and, moreover, that every nook and corner of the field had been reaped and garnered. So I kept on my way. But not long ago, while in a meditative mood, a brooding peace settled over my mind, and lo! across a solemn gorge, and far up and away against the past, lay the misting field of History. While my inward eye was wandering bewitched over it, a voice hailed me from a green knoll; adjacent was a little pond refreshed by a spring whose light-hearted current wimpled away from the foot of the knoll. “ Come over here,” said the voice, beckoning; and seeing that I stood still, and wore a perplexed look, it added feelingly, “ You have written your boyhood memories of your old home, and you have written those of your cadet days at West Point; am I not dear to you, too ? I am your boyhood memories of the War.” At once, from the fields of Virginia the Army of the Potomac lifted as by magic and began to break camp to go on its last campaign; its old, battlescarred flags were fluttering proudly, the batteries were drawing out, the bronze guns that I had heard thunder on many fields were sparkling gayly, and my horse, the same wide-nostriled, broad-chested, silky-haired black roan, stood saddled and bridled before my tent. I heard the trumpets sounding; and, as their notes died away, I picked up the pen once more.

Upon graduating at West Point in June, 1862, I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Ordnance Corps and assigned to duty under Captain T. G. Baylor, commanding the Arsenal at Fort Monroe. Fort Monroe, or Old Point Comfort (which is the loving and venerable historic name of the place), at that time and throughout the war was the port and station of greatest importance on our Southern seaboard. Situated practically at the mouth of the James, it not only commanded the outlet from the Confederate capital at Richmond, but also the navigation of the Chesapeake and the Potomac, and offered a safe point for the assembly of fleets and armies preparatory to taking the offensive. When I reached there, it was the base of supplies for the Army of the Potomac, then on its last stage of the disastrous Peninsula campaign, and also for Burnside’s army operating on the coast of North Carolina. Moreover, it was the rendezvous of our Atlantic fleets and of the foreign men-ofwar, which, drawn as eagles to the scene of our conflict, came in and cast their anchors, though the hearts of most of them were not with us. The little Monitor was lying there, basking in her victory over the huge, ungainly Merrimac; and alongside of her, their yards towering far above her, lay the pride of the old navy, the Wabash, the Colorado, and the Minnesota. Vessels, sail and steam, were coming and going, and the whole harbor was alive with naval and military activity. Nor did it cease when night came on; at all hours you could hear the deep and rumbling movements of ships loading and unloading. It was my first acquaintance with the sea, and I think I was fortunate in the spot where I gained my first impressions of it. For never yet have I stood on a beach where the water, rocking in long, regular beats, as if listening to music in its dreams, spread away in such mild union with the clouds and sunshine.

The Army of the Potomac, whose fortunes I was to share on many a field, had just been through the fierce battles of Fair Oaks, Gaines’s Mill, Glendale (or Frazer’s Farm as it is called by the Confederates), and Malvern Hill. In these desperate engagements it had been driven from the Chickahominy, and was then huddled around Harrison’s Landing on the north bank of the James, about twenty-five miles below Richmond. The army had suffered terribly in this campaign, known as that of the Peninsula, but the government, though cast down and sorely disappointed at the outcome, immediately responded with vigor to its needs, and the river and Hampton Roads were lined day and night with transports taking supplies of all kinds to it, and bringing back the sick and wounded, of whom there were very, very many. Its commander was McClellan, perhaps the war’s greatest marvel as an example of personal magnetism, and one of Fortune’s dearest children; yet one who, when Victory again and again poised, ready to light on his banner, failed to give the decisive blow.

When Pope’s army on the upper Rappahannock was threatened with disaster, the Army of the Potomac was recalled to Washington. It marched down the Peninsula to Old Point Comfort, where transports had been gathered to meet it. During that time McClellan and his staff were at our officers’ mess for several days, and on one occasion I lunched almost alone with him. So sweet and winsome was he, that I ever after was one of his sympathetic and ardent admirers. Later on I served with Hooker, Burnside, Meade, and Grant, each of whom in turn followed him at the head of the Army of the Potomac, but were that old army to rise from its tomb, not one of them would call out such cheers as those which would break when “ Little Mac,” as it loved to call him, should appear.

It took three or four days to embark the troops, and meanwhile I visited the camps of many of my West Point friends, and for the first time heard the trumpets of the dear old army. At last they were all aboard, and I watched them heading off up the Chesapeake and longed to go with them, with my friends of cadet days, Custer, Cushing, Woodruff, Bowen, Kirby, Dimmock, and others, — all of whose cheery, young faces seemed to diffuse the very air of glory, while the colors of Regulars and Volunteers seemed to beckon me to follow as they were borne away.

The Army of the Potomac had come to be recognized at home and abroad as the country’s chief safeguard, the one firm barrier to be relied upon to keep the South at bay. For, the National Capital once in the hands of the Confederates, the cause of the Union would be irretrievably lost. None saw this fact clearer than the commercial power of the North; its cold eyes lit up and its heart throbbed with the common love of the country’s ideals. It showed that it had a civic pride also, and was ready to pour out its last cent for the cause. So, all over the North, and especially in the region east of the Alleghanies where the most of its rank and file were reared, the people were proud of the Army of the Potomac; and at sunrise and sunset, and around every fireside offered their prayers for it. Fearful indeed had been, and were to be, its trials. It had lost much blood, but the people knew that it was ready to lose still more before it would yield to a truce or ignominious peace.

From the parapets of Fortress Monroe I saw that army move away. It soon met its old antagonist, the Army of Northern Virginia, the flower of the Southern armies, on the field of Manassas, and then, at Antietam, just as autumn’s golden glow began to haze the fields, and at last in the short, cold days of December, it made its frightful assault on Lee’s entrenchments along Marye’s Heights, back of Fredericksburg. It never showed greater valor, and its losses were sickening. The army wintered on the Rappahannock, opposite Fredericksburg, and in sight of the lines it had vainly tried to carry. From time to time I heard from my friends with the army, and day after day continued my duties in the shops, or testing big guns on the beach, wondering if the war would be over before I should see any active service in the field. Thus winter passed and spring came — and nowhere does her face wear such a smile as at Old Point. The last of the migrating birds had passed, the sun was brightening, and I knew that the army would soon be moving again, and longed more and more to be with it. But my wonder and longing were soon to end.

On April 16, Captain Baylor called me into the office, and with a smile handed me the following: —

War Department,
Adjutant-General’s Office,
Washington, April 15, 1863.

Special Orders No. 173
24. First Lieut. Morris Schaff, Ordnance Department, is hereby assigned to duty with the Army of the Potomac, and will report in person without delay to Major-General Hooker, Commanding.
By Order of the Secretary of War,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

What a joy ! I was in my twenty-second year, but what a mere, undeveloped boy!

I bade good-by to Captain and Mrs. Baylor, and I never think of them without the tenderest emotion. He and a little group of friends, — in those days, as now, I made friends slowly, — all of whom were my seniors, went with me to the boat, and soon I was on my way.

Hooker’s headquarters were at the Phillips house on one of the hills known as the hills of Stafford, which shoulder up in array along the north bank of the Rappahannock. On reporting to him I was assigned as assistant to his chief of Ordnance, the big-hearted Captain D. W. Flagler, with whom I had been at West Point for three years, thereby becoming a part of the headquarter-staff of the army. I never saw Hooker’s equal in soldierly appearance; moreover, it had a certain air of promise, — at least so he impressed me, — as he came riding up to headquarters just after I got there. His plans were made, and he was almost ready to move.

A few days after I had reported, Hooker sent for my chief — at that time Captain Flagler — and gave him orders to have a supply of ammunition at the White House on the Pamunkey, which, as every one knows, is not far from Richmond, remarking that he had Lee’s army in his grasp, and could crush it like that, — closing his hand firmly. When Flagler came back to the tent, and told me what the general had said, the big fellow smiled; and, in the light of what happened, well he might: for within a few weeks, at Chancellorsville, lying just within the eastern border of the Wilderness, Hooker met a crushing defeat, and his laurels, like those of his predecessors, McClellan, Burnside, and Pope, were permanently blasted.

The outlook from our headquarters, a truly venerable Virginia manor-house, was commanding and interesting. Before it on the other side of the river. and dreaming of its historic past, lay the old colonial town of Fredericksburg, in whose graveyard Washington’s mother is buried. In front and below was the Rappahannock, bearing on peacefully between its willow-fringed banks. Starting at the southern side was a plain running off level as a floor, nearly a mile, to a line of encircling hills known as Marye’s Heights. Back of the hills were fringes of timber, and then the rim of the bending sky. There lay Lee’s intrepid army, under the command of Longstreet, Hill, and Stonewall Jackson. The view had a great charm for me, and I could look at it hour after hour.

At last all was ready, and Hooker, masked by the hills, moved up the river, crossed, and entered the Wilderness with boldness. He no sooner breathed its air than he lost all vigor, became dazed, and at Chancellorsville met his fate. In this savage encounter three of my young friends were either killed or mortally wounded, Marsh, Kirby, and Dimmock.

It will be remembered that Stonewall Jackson, conceded by friend and foe to be the most glowing star of the Rebellion’s war constellation, lost his life by a volley from his own men at this battle of Chancellorsville, when on the very verge of delivering what might have proved a mortal blow to the Army of the Potomac. As the circumstances of this event, so momentous to the Confederacy, repeated themselves with startling fidelity just a year later on the same road, and not two miles away, in the battle of the Wilderness, stopping again, but this time for good and all, Lee’s hour-hand of victory, there is established a mysteriously intimate and dramatic relation between the two battles, which will be revealed in its entire significance, we hope, as the narrative makes its way.

After Chancellorsville the defeated army staggered back to its old encampments, and the writer returned to the ordnance depot at Aquia Creek. There I saw Abraham Lincoln for the first and only time. He was seated in an ordinary, empty freight-car, on a stout plank supported at each end by a cracker-box. Halleck, in undress uniform, was on his left, a big man with baggy cheeks and pop eyes. Mr. Lincoln was gazing off over the heads of the starving groups of soldiers and laborers, white and black, to the silent, timbered Virginia shore of the Potomac. He seemed utterly unconscious of all who had gathered about him. He was on his way to Hooker’s headquarters, and looked, and doubtless felt, sad enough. The world knows his features, the commonest and most preclusive that nature ever spread, it seems to me, over genius, winged with one of the kindest and most lyric hearts that ever beat.

Elated by his victory, Lee, within a month, began the movements toward the upper Potomac which culminated in the battle at Gettysburg, where for a time I remained, collecting the arms that were left on the field. I little dreamed then, as I rode and walked over that famous field, what an epoch it marked in the history of the war. Through the vast amount that has been written about the battle, and the devoted spirit in which the field has been preserved, and the services of those who fell commemorated, an impression prevails that the fate of the Confederacy was sealed that day,—an impression which a comprehensive view of the situation will, I believe, challenge if not remove. Let me state the grounds of my disbelief, and, if they do not convince, they may at least serve as a background for the narrative, aiding us to weigh the issues hanging on the campaign of ’64.

When Grant was brought on from the West, and took virtual command of the Army of the Potomac, in the spring after Gettysburg, the war had been raging for three years. First and last, the North had put into the field rising two million men; and, although important victories, such as Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and Missionary Ridge, had been won, and obviously the North had had the best of it, yet there is no gainsaying that her disappointments were great. She had hoped and had sincerely believed that long ere that time she would have put down the Rebellion. But, notwithstanding her supreme efforts, three battling years had passed, and the South was in some respects closer knit than ever, and far from being conquered.

Keen were the North’s disappointments and unrealized hopes, but keener still and harder to bear were the incipient sneers of the Old World looking on, day in and day out, with cold, unsympathetic eyes, while she struggled for existence. Moreover, her bodily wounds had been deep; and in more ways than one she had been sorely tried. Volunteering, which had begun spontaneously and with burning enthusiasm, had stopped; and the administration had been forced to resort to the draft. To make matters worse, successive defeats had bred factions within and without the cabinet,—factions made up of governors, editors, and senators, all secretly denouncing Mr. Lincoln and his administration, and actively plotting to defeat him at the forthcoming convention.

On the other hand, the government, fretted by repeated reverses, had become more and more irritable, and, as was natural with the continuance of the war, more and more arbitrary. Those in official life who criticised its policies were turned upon fiercely; the press, never an easy friend or foe to deal with in time of peril, was threatened with muzzling, and some papers were actually suppressed, and their proprietors imprisoned; the provost-marshals, of necessity invested with wide but delicate military authority, often became despotic in their arrests, and almost habitually haughty in parading of their office, — their haughtiness aggravated by ignorance, vanity, and bad manners. Under it all, discontent had grown and spread, until, by the time the campaign of 1864 was ready to open, in the states bordering on the Ohio there was a secret organization said to have had over four hundred thousand members, a coagulation of all phases of political hatred and tainted loyalty, only waiting for a substantial defeat of the Union army to break out into an open demand for an armistice, which, of course, meant the recognition of the South.

As a proof of the depth and reality of this overhanging danger, see the action of some of the courts, and the attempt of the legislature of Indiana to transfer the control of the state’s arsenal, with its eighteen thousand arms, — directly, to be sure, to three trustees, but in the end to that ostensibly peace-seeking yet practically traitorous organization. Meantime throughout the North patriotism was smothering under the bitterness of faction, and the blighting evil of indifference to the country’s glory, an indifference that nurses always at the breast of commercial prosperity. Corruption in official life, and dissipation in various forms, ran riot and made their way into the heart of civic morals and private manly virtues. Never were gambling-houses so common, low theatres so crowded, never streets gayer, or the rotundas of hotels and the richly furnished rooms of fashionable clubs more frequented by young, ablebodied, well-dressed “ high rollers ” and champagne-drinkers. Yet, let the sound of a drum be heard in the street at the head of some returning body of veterans, whom not one of them had had the courage or manliness to join in defense of the country, and lo! up would go the windows of the clubs, and the balcony of every hotel would be filled with cheering men.

This being the state of affairs, let us suppose that Lee, at the outset of the campaign of 1864, had defeated the Army of the Potomac decisively, and had driven Grant back across the Rappahannock, as he had driven Burnside, Pope, and Hooker, — where would the government have found men, with the virtues and courage of those of ’61, to go to the front ? How loud and almost irresistible would have been the cry for an armistice, supported (as it would have been) by Wall Street and all Europe! Where, then, would have been the victory of Gettysburg ? Was it possible for Lee, in view of the disparity of numbers and the depleted resources of the Confederacy, to have given such a blow? Yes, and had not Fate registered her decree that at the critical moment Longstreet was to fall in the Wilderness as Jackson had fallen at Chancellorsville, he would have come near doing so.

But, however this may be, it must not be forgotten that, counterbalancing the incongruous gayety and dissipation that prevailed in our large cities, the dying down of early ardor, and the disloyal hives that were ready to swarm, there were thousands of pure-minded, resolute men and women who remained faithful to their ideals and kept the national spirit alive; who, in sunshine and shadow, for the glory of the country and their generation, upheld Mr. Lincoln’s hands and stood by him to the last most loyally. Neither defeat, pleas for peace, nor desire for ease prevailed against their heaveninspired and steel-hardened determination to fight the Confederacy to an end; and on them and the army in the field, we think, the honors of carrying the country through its perils should fall.

It is true that a great majority of those steadfast, loyal people of the North had felt that slavery was wrong and altogether out of harmony with civilization and the spirit of a free government. Yet in the beginning of the war they had no desire or intent to interfere with it in the states; so dear were the memories of the Revolution, and so deep their reverence for Washington and his fellow slaveholding compatriots who had joined Puritan New England in establishing the independence of the colonies. Moreover, and notwithstanding those galling irritations which always attend the concession of social and political dominance, the North had not inherited any active hates or vindictiveness, although it had felt deeply of late the repeated scorn and increasing arrogance of the political leaders of the South, manifested in the discussion of slavery that had been going on for twenty or thirty years. It is needless to say that the language of Congress grew more and more heated, and that it was marked by asperity of criticism and ugliness of temper. Neither side was fair in judging the convictions or the situation of the other. The Disunionist was blind to the inevitable wreck of all that was dear in social and political life if he destroyed the Union; the Abolitionist was blind, utterly blind, to the immediate and lasting evils of having his way with slavery.

So it went on, till at last, burning with a raging fever over the John Brown raid, and lashed by a savage press, the South burst into delirium upon the election of Lincoln, and madly and vauntingly fired on the flag, unfolding in joyful, unmenacing peace with every breeze that blew over Sumter. It was meant for a stinging challenge, and it was so understood. Every beech and maple and stronglimbed oak in the North, every one of her hills and streams, every one of the old fields and the liberty-enjoying winds that swept them, said, “ Accept the challenge. Go, Northerners, go and assert your manhood ! ” But Southerners! let me tell you that as they passed down the walks of the old home dooryards and out of the gates, followed by eyes that were dimmed with tears — the evils or the abolition of slavery did not enter the mind of one in a thousand. Their country and their honor were at stake, not the destruction of slavery. So it was generally, far and wide among the great body of the people. But with the progress of the war, and under the severe defeats of one army after another, as the South, out of the depths of her resolution struck again and again, the belief took root that God would not bless their arms while slavery had a recognized legal existence. Inasmuch as it became obvious that its death would be at the same hour as that of the Confederacy, the influence of long-accepted legal defense and the golden ties of friendship melted before the warmth of moral and patriotic emotion. As a result, Lincoln, sensitive in a marvelous degree to what was going on deep in the hearts of the common people, carved emancipation across the sky of those solemn days; while the army that had left home without pronounced feeling against slavery said, “ Amen! ” And “ Amen! " said all the civilized world.

There was also, coincident with this change, which in a sense was political, another in the army, which was spiritual. Gradually, for in the divine ordering of progress consecrating spirits reveal themselves slowly, the consciousness broke at last on the minds of officers and men that the dearest hopes of mankind were appealing to them individually in the name of duty and honor and all that was sacred, not to despair or to yield, come weal, come woe, till the country’s supremacy was unchallenged, and the way cleared for her future. Of nothing am I surer than of this visitation and the consequent serious, deep, and exalted mood; and I am fain to believe that every drop of blood that strained through a heart that listened to these spiritual heralds and welcomed the vow, was permanently heightened in its color. When we realize how meagre had been the advantages among the rank and file, and how generally humble and obscure their homes, the marvel grows, and our hands reach instinctively for garlands for every one of them who gave up his life or who bore his part manfully.

Now, a word as to the South. If the disappointments of the North over the outcome of three years of war had been deep, those of the South had been deeper. So sure was she of the poltroonery of the North, and the indomitable courage of her own sons, that she had expected at the beginning to achieve her independence long, long ere the date of the campaign of May 1, 1864. In fact, thousands and thousands of her soldiers believed, as they set off in the spring of ’61 for the Potomac and the Ohio, that the southern banks of these beautiful rivers were to be the northern boundaries of their proud and victorious confederacy; and this before the cotton, then ready to branch, should all be picked. But there had been Gaines’s Mill, Malvern Hill, Antietam, and Gettysburg in the east; Shiloh, Missionary Ridge, Stone River, and Vicksburg, in the west. No, they did not get back in time to see the cotton picked; many of them were never to see it bloom again. Year after year they had followed the drum, and were still far from home fighting for their wan, unacknowledged Confederacy, or sleeping in their graves.

There is pathos in the contrast, as we think of them walking their sentry-posts to and fro, half-fed and half-clothed, now under drenching rains, now shivering under northern winds, their hearts beating low, — so completely had the scene shifted and their hopes vanished. And what surprises they had, too! Where was the evidence of that poltroonery in their enemies that they were so sure of? Lo, as when the heavens at night are troubled, and lightning from some black cloud flashes as from a suddenly opened furnace door, revealing to us across a field a wood standing resolute in burnished glory, so in the light of their own follies again and again they had seen the North. More than once, also, they had witnessed Northern courage, as when the volunteers came on at Fort Donaldson and Fredericksburg, leaving the ground they passed over blue with dead. No, they had discovered that there was steel and iron in the Northern blood when it came to battling for their self-respect and a cause which they believed to be holy.

Again, when the Confederacy was launched at Montgomery, the South had the keen pleasure of seeing it hailed by several of the governments of Europe as a coming sister in the family of nations. While in buoyant self-confidence she was sure that all of them would recognize her sooner or later, yet it was her chief expectation and desire that England, with whose landed aristocracy the slave-holders had made themselves believe there was a natural sympathy, would be the first to reach out a welcoming hand. But days, months, and years had passed, and no hand had been extended. On the contrary, either through fear or interest, all, including England, had yielded to the demands of her despised adversary and drawn the mantle of neutrality closely around them. Before the first day of May, 1864, she had seen through the sarcasm and mockery of their greeting smiles. The situation was humiliating to the last degree. Moreover, the North had driven the Southern armies back from the Potomac and the Ohio, it had wrested from them the control of the Mississippi Valley, and had overrun and desolated a great share of their home country.

In addition, the Confederacy’s financial system, to their distress and mortification, had broken down completely, and about all their ports had been sealed up, thus cutting them off from both military and hospital supplies, and — at the time with which this narrative is dealing — humanity’s pleading cry from their hospitals was heard day and night. They had the means neither to succor their own sick and wounded, nor to discharge their duties to the prisoners they held. The luxuries, too, once so abundant and so hospitably shared, were all gone; rich and poor were living from day to day on the plainest and most meagre food. As in the case of the North, the high wave of volunteering for service in the field had passed, and the conscripting officer had become a visitor at every door, no matter how secluded in the woods or remote in the mountains the home might be. At his first visit he called for the boys of eighteen and the men up to forty-five. Later he came again, and demanded this time the boy of seventeen and the man of fifty. Northern men, who after engagements went over the fields where the Southern dead lay, will recall the young faces and the venerable gray hairs among the fallen. I saw a boy with a sweet face, who could not have been over sixteen or seventeen years old, lying on his back in a clover field on the Beverly farm, within sight of Spottsylvania. He had just been killed. We had had two or three days of heavy rains, but that morning it had cleared off smilingly. Only a few drifting white clouds were left, and I am sure that they and the door of Heaven opened tenderly for his spirit as it mounted from the blooming clover. Well, so it was, — the boys and all the old men had been gleaned.

While these bitter experiences and disappointments were following one another year after year with their deepening gloom, a profound seriousness, which is reflected, I think, in the prayers, sermons, and diaries of the time, spread over the entire South. As a result, the war’s passions and the grounds of its justification underwent a progressive metamorphosis in the minds and hearts of the Southern people, and especially of its armies, not unlike that which was going on simultaneously in the North. I sometimes think that a history of the Rebellion cannot be full, just, or truly enlightening, that does not try to give us as close and real a view as it can of these spiritual changes. In the case of the South, it accounts, or so it seems to me, for two very impressive things, namely, the gallantry with which Lee’s army battled on, when the chance of success was almost hopeless; and the dearness of the memory of the Confederacy to all of them, notwithstanding that they see now, as we all see, that it was best that it should fail.

This temperamental change of the South in regard to the war and its issues embodied itself finally, as in the North, in a spirit of consecration. And to what? Her ports closed, her resources nearly exhausted, her dwindling armies suffering for food and clothing, a wide zone of desolation along her northern border, and unfriended by one of all the nations of the world, the South in her chagrin, humiliation, and despair turned for comfort to mind and heart, as we all do at last, invoking the guidance and help of her naturally religious better nature. In that solemn hour, banishing from her presence the hitherto baneful companions Arrogance and Disdain, who had caused her to drink of the full stream of trouble, she summoned back that master workman, Judgment, to whom in her delirium she had not listened; and behold, there came with him an immortal youth whose name is The Future. The former, facing the cold realities, pronounced slavery dead, whether the Confederacy lived days or years; and Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation, not the decree of one man, but the fiat of the civilized world.

While Judgment’s verdict grew weightier and more certain as clearer and clearer became the writing on the wall, the immortal youth slowly drew back one of his curtains, revealing slavery becoming more and more abhorrent as mankind rose in intelligence and gentleness. Honor and Manliness, those two high-minded brothers in the Southerner’s character, shrank back at the sight, and declared their unwillingness to leave as the ultimate verdict of history that the Southland, the home of Washington and Jefferson, had fought for the preservation of an institution so repellent. Then up spoke that mighty, but not over-scrupulous advocate called Reason, and on this occasion he spoke with sincerity unfeigned, saying, “ If there are wrongs, there are also rights. Mankind knows that we of to-day are not responsible for slavery. It descended to us from our fathers, and through generations it has knit itself into our homes, our social and our political life. We cannot separate ourselves from it at once, if we would, without chaos and possibly universal massacre. But if our slaves are entitled to freedom, then we are entitled to govern ourselves; for that is the first of the heaven-born rights in the hands of freemen. In other words, we are asking only for our natural rights incorporated in the rights of our states, which underlie the foundations of the Union; ” — and in majesty before the Southern mind the original sovereignty of the old colonies, with Washington and Adams at the head, passed in review.

“ No, whatever may have been our delirium at the beginning of the war, we are not fighting for the defense of property in human beings, but for the ineradicable and unconquerable instinct of self-government as states; and for our homes.”

And lo! at this point of the argument, the light of their burning homes flashed across the scene; for hardly a day or night passed that somewdiere the Southern sky was not lit by them. Whereupon, leader and officer and man in the ranks rose as one, and facing the immortal Youth, in whose eyes lay the question of justification, exclaimed resolutely, “ On the ground of the right of self-government we will stand; and committing our souls to God and our memories to those who follow us, let history record what it may as to our justification in the years and days to come.” And thus having answered the question in the eyes of The Future, resolutely but calmly, they fell on their knees and asked God to bless them. There, reader, we have the spring of their fortitude, and there we touch the tender chords which keep the memory of the Confederacy dear.

And really, friends, in the shadow of the clouds that overhung them, addressed by all the voices of their and our common nature, and moved by those deep currents which flow in every heart, could any other possible conclusion be expected of a proud people ? I think not.

And now, having set forth, I trust with fidelity, I know with charity, the state of affairs North and South, as well as I can; and having brought into view, as faithfully and vividly as lies in my power, the spirits which animated both armies, my narrative will go on.

After Gettysburg, Lee, with what must have been a heavy heart, led his sorely wounded army back into Virginia. Then, passing through the upper gaps of the Blue Ridge, he took his stand once more behind the Rappahannock, near whose banks lower down he had played as a boy. Meade followed him, and when I was recalled from Gettysburg and rejoined his headquarters, I found them near Fayetteville, a little hamlet between Bealeton and Warrenton. They were pitched on a rise in a heaving old clearing more or less shadowed by a scattered growth of young pines. I was glad to get back. The month I had passed at Gettysburg, however, was very interesting, and has left many memories, most of them dear to me. But after a battle is over and the army gone, you see the obverse side of glory so plainly that you long to get away from the blood-stained fields, and back from the loneliness of the shallow graves, to the cheering camp-fires and your young, light-hearted friends around them.

A few days after my return an incident took place which I think I should have laughed over whether we had gained a victory at Gettysburg or not. It was this. The tent I occupied was nearly opposite that of Colonel Shriver, inspector-general on the staff. The old Colonel, one of the cool officers of the army, was rather spare, very stern, and always neatly arrayed. About church time, one very sunshiny Sabbath morning, I noticed him walking back and forth before his tent in high and brilliantly polished cavalry boots, with prayer-book in hand, reading his prayers. I thought what a splendid example of a follower of Jesus he was, and wished that I had the courage to perform my devotions so openly, and acknowledge my religion. Suddenly I heard him call out, “ James! James! ” James was his vigorous young colored boy, and had a very nappy head. I looked up. The Colonel had halted, and his eyes were glaring across his well-defined nose toward James, who, sprawled out and bareheaded, was sunning himself with several other headquarter darkies behind the tent, and had probably gone dead asleep. “ What are you up to there, you damned black rascal! ” roared the Colonel. “ Lift those tent-walls! ” James was on his feet with startling rapidity, and dived for the tent-ropes. Up came the prayer-book, out went the Colonel’s left foot, and when I saw his lips begin moving again reverently, boylike, I tumbled down on my bed and nearly died laughing. Even now a smile ripples as I recall the scene. Surely, our inconsistencies are a blessing, for they are one of the perpetual fountains of amusement.

The army was occupying the north bank of the Rappahannock from Kelly’s Ford, a few miles below where the Orange and Alexandria Railroad crosses the river, up to Warrenton. It had almost recovered from its severe engagement, and was beginning to realize the magnitude and significance of the victory it had won. That mild and deep joy which a soldier always feels when he has met danger and done his duty was in the hearts of all. Camp was bound to camp, corps to corps, and officer to private, by the ties of a new sense of high fellowship which proved to be abiding. This inspiring relation, the most valuable in an army’s life, had been smelted, so to speak, in those three trying days at Gettysburg when cavalry, infantry, and artillery, line officers, staff officers, and privates in the ranks, had witnessed each other’s steady, heroic conduct. And the result of this supreme test of courage was that officers and privates of the Army of the Potomac felt that respect for one another and that pride in one another that only a battlefield can create. Whoever will read Colonel Haskell’s account of that day, far and away the best of all that has been written, will gain a notion how and why these ties were formed. Every living veteran who was there will recall Webb, Cushing, Woodruff, and Hall, who carried as mild a face as graced the West Point battalion while I was there. I saw Haskell frequently, and I have no doubt that Duty and Courage visit often, and linger fondly, around the spot where he fell at Cold Harbor. Allow me to add what I know to be true, that no matter how high or how low may be an officer’s rank, no matter where he was educated, what name he bears, what blood may be in his veins, or what wealth at his command, if, when he is going up under fire, mounted or dismounted, a private or noncommissioned officer near him advances beside him with undaunted face, — more than once it was a lad from a farm or humble walk in life, — all the claims of rank, wealth, and station are lost in admiration and sympathetic comradeship. What is more, he never forgets the boy.

In this connection I trust I may refer with propriety to what a member of the Supreme Court of the United States, a learned judge who carries some of the country’s best blood, and who spilled some of it on several fields, told me one evening, before a quietly burning woodfire, of an impression made on him at the Wilderness. In the midst of darkness and widespread panic, veteran regiments and brigades of the Sixth Corps breaking badly, an officer who had only casually gained his attention called out above the din, in a voice of perfect control, “ Steady, steady — Massachusetts! ” The gallant regiment steadied, and the incident left, as an enduring memory, the cool voice of the obscure officer still ringing across the vanished years.

Nay, we think, in fact, we know, that the final test of the soldier is when the colors move forward or the enemy comes on at them. Thank God for all the tender and iron-hearted young fellows who have stood it.

From that camp dates my first deep interest in the unfortunate Warren, for it was there, while messing with him and his fellow engineer officers on the staff, that I saw him day after day at close range. The glory of having saved Round Top was beginning to break around him, and shortly after, as a reward, Meade assigned him to the command of Hancock’s corps, Hancock having been wounded at Gettysburg. But it made no difference in his bearing, — which was unmistakably more scholarly than soldierly, — nor did it kindle any vanity in look or speech. It may have accounted, however, for the manifestation of what seemed to me a queer sense of humor, namely, his laughing and laughing again while alone in his tent over a small volume of “ limericks,” the first to appear, as I remember, in this country. He would repeat them at almost every meal, and, I think, with wonder that they did not seem nearly so amusing to others as they did to him. I am satisfied that it takes a transverse kind of humor to enjoy limericks.

There was a note of singular attraction in his voice. His hair, rather long and carried flat across his well-balanced forehead, was as black as I have ever seen. His eyes were small and jet black also, one of them apparently a bit smaller than the other, giving a suggestion of cast in his look. But the striking characteristic was an habitual and noticeably grave expression which harbored in his dusky, sallow face, and instead of lighting, deepened as he rose in fame and command. Now, as I recall his seriousness and almost sympathy-craving look as an instructor at West Point, and think over his beclouded, heart-broken end, I never see the name of Five Forks that I do not hear Sheridan peremptorily relieving him just after the victory was won, and while the smoke of battle still hung in the trees. From my youth, I have seen Fate’s shadow falling across events, and I incline to believe that evil fortune took up its habitation in that deeply sallow, wistful face long before he or any one else dreamed of the great Rebellion. But, be that as it may, in that sunny field at headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, I gained my first boyhood impressions of Warren, whose sad fate haunts that army’s history.

And now, on those soft mountain and valley winds of memory, which always set in when anything pensive warms the heart, are borne the notes of the bugles sounding taps in the camps around us on those long-vanished August nights. Camp after camp takes up the call, some near, some far. The last of the clear, lamenting tones die away sweetly and plaintively in the distance, and back comes the hush of night as of old. Again the sentinels are marching their beats slowly, most of them thinking of home, now and then one, with moistened eyes, of a baby in a cradle. Peace to the ashes of Warren, peace to those of the sentinels of the Army of the Potomac who walked their posts on those gone-by, starry nights.

(To be continued.)