Brave Deeds of Union Soldiers by Scoville, Samuel
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[Illustration: Sergeant Hunter Charging the Confederates]
Brave Deeds of Union Soldiers
By SAMUEL SCOVILLE, JR.
PHILADELPHIA GEORGE W. JACOBS & COMPANY PUBLISHERS
COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY GEORGE W. JACOBS & COMPANY _Published November, 1915_
_All rights reserved_ Printed in U.S.A.
_To Theodore Roosevelt_
_Commissioner, Governor, Colonel and President, who believes in peace with honor, but never in peace at the price of righteousness and whose own life has been full of deeds of physical and moral courage, this book of brave deeds is dedicated._
In these days when even our skies are shadowed by wars and rumors of wars, it is fitting to remember what men and women and children of our blood have done in the past. In this chronicle have been included not alone the great deeds of great men, but also the brave deeds of commonplace people. May the tale of their every-day heroism be an inspiration to each one of us to do our best endeavor when we find ourselves in the crisis-times of life.
I. THE BARE BRIGADE 11
II. THE ESCAPE FROM LIBBY PRISON 19
III. TWO AGAINST A CITY 39
IV. BOY HEROES 51
V. THE CHARGE OF ZAGONYI 79
VI. THE LOCOMOTIVE CHASE 95
VII. SHERIDAN'S RIDE 121
VIII. THE BLOODY ANGLE 141
IX. HEROES OF GETTYSBURG 163
X. THE LONE SCOUT 185
XI. RUNNING THE GAUNTLET 213
XII. FORGOTTEN HEROES 229
XIII. THE THREE HUNDRED WHO SAVED AN ARMY 253
XIV. THE RESCUE OF THE SCOUTS 273
XV. THE BOY-GENERAL 311
XVI. MEDAL-OF-HONOR MEN 325
Sergeant Hunter Charging the Confederates _Frontispiece_
Libby Prison _Facing page_ 24
Captain Bailey and Midshipman Read Facing the New Orleans Mob " " 46
Sheridan Hurrying to Rally his Men " " 136
The Battle of Gettysburg " " 174
Corporal Pike " " 190
In the Woods Near Chancellorsville " " 264
Attacking the Inner Traverses of Fort Fisher " " 320
THE BARE BRIGADE
Kipling wrote one of his best stories on how Mulvaney and his captain with an undressed company swam the Irriwaddy River in India and captured Lungtungpen. It was a brave deed. The average man can't be brave without his clothes.
In the Civil War there was one unchronicled fight where a few naked, shoeless men swam a roaring river, marched through a thorny forest and captured a superior and entrenched force of the enemy together with their guns. This American Lungtungpen happened on the great march of General Sherman to the sea. He had fought the deadly and lost battle of Kenesaw Mountain, and failing to drive out the crafty Confederate General Johnson by direct assault outflanked him and forced him to fall back. Then the Union Army celebrated the Fourth of July, 1864, by the battle of Ruffs Station and drove Johnson back and across the Chattahoochee River. The heavy rains had so swollen this river that all the fords were impassable, while the Confederates had destroyed all boats for miles up and down the river to prevent them from being used by the Union Army and had settled down for a rest from their relentless pursuers. General McCook was commanding the part of the Union line fronting directly on the river. Orders came from General Sherman to cross at Cochran's Ford and Colonel Brownlow of the First Tennessee Regiment was ordered to carry out this command. He was the son of Fighting Parson Brownlow and had the reputation of not knowing what fear was. The attempt was made at three o'clock in the morning. It was raining in torrents and the men at the word of command dashed into the river. The water kept getting deeper and deeper and the bottom proved to be covered with great boulders over which the horses stumbled and round which the cross torrents foamed and rushed. When the men had finally reached the middle of the river and were swimming for dear life, suddenly a company of Confederates on the other side opened up on them at close range. As the bullets zipped and pattered through the water, the floundering, swimming men turned around and made the best of their way back, feeling that this was an impossible crossing to make. Once safely back they deployed on the bank and kept up a scattering fire all that morning against the enemy.
As the day wore on, Colonel Dorr, who commanded the brigade, made his appearance and inquired angrily why the First Tennessee was not on the other side and in possession of the opposite bank. Colonel Brownlow explained that he had made the attempt, that there was no ford and that to attempt to make a swimming charge through the rough water and in the face of an entrenched enemy would be to sacrifice his whole regiment uselessly. Colonel Dorr would listen to no explanations.
"If you and your men are afraid to do what you're told, say so and I'll report to General Sherman and see if he can't find some one else," he shouted and rode off, leaving Colonel Brownlow and his command in a fighting frame of mind. The former called nine of his best men to the rear and it was some time before he was calm enough to speak.
"Boys," he said at last, "we've _got_ to cross that river. It's plain it can't be forded. We've no pontoons and I am not going to have my men slaughtered while they swim, but you fellows come with me and we'll drive those Rebs out of there before dark."
He then gave directions for the rest of his men to keep up a tremendous fire to divert the attention of the enemy. In the meanwhile he and his little squad marched through the brush to a point about a mile up the river behind a bend. There they stripped to the skin and made a little raft of two logs. On this they placed their carbines, cartridge boxes and belts and swam out into the rough water, pushing the little raft in front of them. It was hard going. The water was high, and every once in a while the fierce current would dash and bruise some of the men against the boulders which were scattered everywhere along the bed of the river. The best swimmers, however, helped the weaker ones and they all worked together to keep the precious raft right side up and their ammunition and rifles dry. After a tremendous struggle they finally reached the opposite bank without having seen any Confederates. There they lined up, strapped on their cartridge belts, shouldered their carbines and started to march through the brush. Every step they took over the sharp stones and twigs and thorns was agony and the men relieved themselves by using extremely strong language.
"No swearing, men!" said Colonel Brownlow, sternly.
At that moment he stepped on a long thorn and instantly disobeyed his own order. He halted the column, extracted the thorn and amended his order.
"No swearing, men,--unless it's absolutely necessary," he commanded.
They limped along through the brush until they reached a road that led to the ford some four hundred yards in the rear of the enemy whom they could see firing away for dear life at the Union soldiers on the other side. The Confederate forces consisted of about fifty men. Colonel Brownlow and his nine crept through the brush as silently as possible until they were within a few yards of the unconscious enemy. Then they straightened up, cocked their carbines, poured in a volley and with a tremendous yell charged down upon them. The Confederates upon receiving this unexpected attack from the rear sprang to their feet, but when they saw the ten white ghostly figures charge down upon them, yelling like madmen, it was too much for their nerves and they scattered on every side. Twelve of them were captured. The last one was a freckle-faced rebel who tried to hide behind a tree. When seen, however, he came forward and threw down his gun.
"Well, Yanks, I surrender," he said, "but it ain't fair. You ought to be ashamed to go charging around the country this way. If you'd been captured, we'd have hung you for spies because you ain't got any uniforms on."
Colonel Brownlow hustled his prisoners up the river to the raft and made them swim across in front of them and then reported to General McCook that he had driven the enemy out of the rifle-pits, captured twelve men, one officer and two boats. Shortly afterward the Confederates withdrew from their position for, as some of the prisoners explained, they felt that if the Yanks could fight like that undressed, there was no telling what they'd do if they came over with their clothes on.
THE ESCAPE FROM LIBBY PRISON
It takes a brave man to face danger alone. It takes a braver man to face danger in the dark. This is the story of a man who was brave enough to do both. It is the story of one who by his dogged courage broke out of a foul grave when it seemed as if all hopes for life were gone and who rescued himself and one hundred and eight other Union soldiers from the prison where they lay fretting away their lives.
Libby Prison, the Castle Despair of captured Union officers, stood upon a hilltop in Richmond, the capital and center of the Confederacy. It was divided into three sections by solid walls, also ringed around by a circle of guards and there seemed to be no hopes for any of the hundreds of prisoners to break out and escape.
In September, 1863, Colonel Thomas Rose, of the 77th Pennsylvania Volunteers, was taken prisoner at the terrible battle of Chickamauga. From the minute he was captured he thought of nothing else but of escape, although he had a broken foot which would have been enough to keep most men quiet. On the way to Richmond, he managed to crawl through the guards and escape into the pine-forests through which they were passing. There he wandered for twenty-four hours without food or water and suffering terribly from his wound. At the end of that time he was recaptured by a troop of Confederate cavalry and this time was carefully guarded and brought to Libby Prison. This prison was a three-story brick building which had formerly been occupied by Libby & Company as a ship-chandlery establishment. There were several hundred Union officers imprisoned there when Colonel Rose arrived. First he was taken into the office of the commandant. Back of his desk was a United States flag fastened "Union down," an insult for every loyal Union man that had to pass through this office.
"We'll teach you to take better care of the old flag," remarked Colonel Rose as he stood before the commandant's desk for examination.
The commandant scowled at this prisoner, but Rose looked him in the eye without flinching.
"You won't have a chance to do much teaching for some years," said the commandant at last, grimly, "and you'll learn a lot of things that you don't know now."
As Colonel Rose went up the ladder which led to the upper rooms and his head showed above the floor, a great cry went up from the rest of the prisoners of "Fresh fish! fresh fish! fresh fish!" This was the way that each newcomer was received and sometimes he was hazed a little like any other freshman.
Although not as bad as some of the prisons, Libby Prison was no health resort. At times there were nearly a thousand prisoners crowded in there with hardly standing room. At night they all lined up in rows and laid down at the word of command, so closely packed that the floor was literally covered with them. Each one had to go to bed and get up at the same time. These crowded conditions made for disease and dirt, and the place was alive with vermin.
"Skirmish for gray-backs," was the morning call in Libby Prison before the men got up. Each prisoner then would sit up in his place, strip off his outer garments and cleanse himself as much as possible from the crawling gray-backs, as they had nicknamed the vermin which attacked all alike. The food was as bad as the quarters. Soon after Rose arrived one man found a whole rat baked in a loaf of corn-cake which had been furnished as a part of his rations. The rat had probably jumped into the dough-trough while the corn-cake was being made and had been knocked in the head by the cook and worked into the cake. Another officer made himself one night a bowl of soup by boiling a lot of beans together with a fresh ham-bone. He set it aside to wait until morning so as to enjoy his treat by daylight. Afterward he was glad he did, for he found his soup full of boiled maggots. At times the men were compelled to eat mule-meat and sometimes were not even given that but had to sell their clothing to keep from starving. In each room was a single water faucet without basin or tub. This was all that perhaps a couple of hundred men had to use both for washing and drinking purposes. The death-rate from disease in these crowded quarters was, of course, terribly high.
[Illustration: Libby Prison]
From the day Rose entered the prison he made up his mind that he would not die there like a sick dog if there was any way of escape and there was not a moment of his waking hours in which he was not planning some way to get out. Although the prisoners were not supposed to have communication with each other or from outside, there was a complete system under which each one had news from all over the prison as well as from the outside world. This was done by a series of raps constituting the prison telegraph. As the guards usually visited the prison only at intervals in the daytime, the prisoners managed to pass back and forth down through the chimney throughout the whole prison in spite of locked doors and supposedly solid walls. Messages and money were frequently sent in from outside. A favorite trick was to wind greenbacks around a spool and then have the thread wound by machinery over this money. Gold pieces were sealed up in cans of condensed milk. Maps, compasses and other helps for escaping prisoners were sent in a box. In order to prevent suspicion of the fact that the box had a double bottom, two double bottoms were placed on the box side by side with a space between them. When the contents were turned out, the prison inspectors could see the light shining through the bottom of the box and were thus convinced that there could be no double bottom there. Letters were sent in containing apparently harmless home-news. Between the lines, information as to routes and guards was written in lemon juice. This was invisible until exposed to heat, when the writing would show.
Colonel Rose was placed in the topmost room of the eastern wing. This was named Upper Gettysburg. From there he saw workmen entering a sewer in the middle of a street which led to the canal lying at the foot of the hill on which the prison stood. He at once decided to tunnel into this sewer and crawl through that into the canal which was beyond the line of the guards. With this plan in view, he began to explore the prison. One dark afternoon he managed to make his way down through the rooms to one of the dungeons underneath, which was known as Rat Hell. This had been used as a dead-house and was fairly swarming with rats. As he was fumbling around there he suddenly heard a noise and in a minute another man came in. Each thought the other was a guard, but finally it turned out that the intruder was a fellow-prisoner, a Kentucky major named Hamilton. This Major and Rose at once became fast friends and immediately planned a tunnel from a corner of Rat Hell after securing a broken shovel and two kitchen knives. They had no more than begun this, however, before alterations were made in the prison which cut them off from this dungeon. By this time the other prisoners had noticed the midnight visits of Rose and Hamilton as well as their constant conferences together and it was buzzed around everywhere that there was a plot on hand to break out of Libby. For fear of spies or traitors, Rose decided to organize a company of the most reliable men and plan a dash out through one of the walls and the overpowering of the guards. Seventy-two men were sworn in and everything was arranged for the dash for freedom one cloudy night. The little band had all gathered in Rat Hell and sentries had been placed at the floor opening into the kitchen above. Suddenly footsteps were heard and the signal was given that the guards were making a tour of inspection of the prison. In perfect silence and with the utmost swiftness, each man went up the rope-ladder to the floor above and stole into his bed. Rose was the last man up. He managed to reach the kitchen and hide his rope-ladder about ten seconds before the officer of the guard thrust his lantern into the door of the lowest sleeping chamber. Rose had no time to lie down, but with great presence of mind sat at a table and stuck an old pipe into his mouth and nodded his head as if he had gone to sleep while sitting up and smoking. The guard stared at him for a moment and passed on.
The next day the leaders decided that some news of the attempt must have reached the authorities outside to account for this sudden and unusual visit. It was decided to raise the numbers and make an immediate attempt. The band was increased from seventy-two to four hundred and twenty. With the increase in numbers, however, there seemed to be a decrease of courage. Many of the officers feared that it was a hopeless plan for a crowd of unarmed men to break through a ring of armed guards and that such an attempt would merely arouse the town and they would be hemmed in, driven back and shot down in crowds inside the prison walls. Finally a vote was taken and it was decided to abandon this plan.
Once more Rose and Hamilton found themselves the only two left who were absolutely resolved on an escape. After talking the matter over, they decided to begin another tunnel. This time they had only an old jack-knife and a chisel to work with and they could only work between ten at night and four in the morning. They started back of the kitchen fireplace and there removed twelve bricks and dug a tunnel down to Rat Hell so that they could reach this base without disturbing any other prisoners and without being exposed to detection by the guard. One would work and the other would watch. At dawn each day the bricks were replaced and the cracks filled in with soot. They had no idea of direction and this tunnel was nearly the death of Rose. The digging was done by him while Major Hamilton would fan air to him with his hat, but so foul was the air below ground that bits of candle which they had stolen from the hospital would go out at a distance of only four feet from the cellar wall. In spite of this terrible atmosphere, Rose dug his tunnel clear down to the canal, but unfortunately went under the canal and the water rushed in and he had a narrow escape from being drowned. By this time both men were so nearly exhausted that they decided to take in helpers again. Thirteen men were chosen to work with them and were all sworn to secrecy. The flooded passage was plugged and a fresh one started in the direction of a small sewer which ran from a corner of the prison down to the main sewer beyond. Night after night in the mud and stench and reek underground they dug their tunnel. At last they reached the small sewer only to find that it was lined with wood. The only cutting tools they had were a few small pen-knives. With these they slowly whittled a hole through the wooden lining and the fourteen men were all in high hopes of an escape. The night came when only a few hours of work would be necessary to make a hole large enough to enter the small sewer. It was then hoped they could all crawl from this into the larger one and down into the canal safe past the guards. Once again they were all grouped shivering at the entrance to the tunnel, waiting for the man who was working inside to pass the word back that the opening was made. Suddenly the news came back that the entrance into the large sewer was barred by planks of solid, seasoned oak six inches thick. The chisel and the penknives were worn down to the handles. For thirty-nine nights these men had worked at the highest possible pitch under indescribable conditions. There was not an inch of steel left to cut with or an ounce of reserved strength to go on farther. Despairingly, the party broke up, put away the kits which they had prepared for the march and once again Rose and Hamilton were left alone by their discouraged comrades.
After a day's rest, these two decided to start another tunnel in the north corner of the cellar away from the canal. This tunnel would come out close to the sentry beat of the guards, but Rose had noticed that this beat was nearly twenty yards long and it was decided that in the dark there would be a fair chance of slipping through unseen. Once again Rose and Hamilton started on this new task alone. They had finally obtained another chisel and this was the only tool which they had. Once more Rose did the digging. Hamilton would fan with all his strength and Rose would work until he felt his senses going, then he would crawl back into the cellar and rest and get his breath. The earth was dragged out in an old wooden cuspidor which they had smuggled down from their room and Hamilton would hide this under a pile of straw in the cellar. The tunnel became longer and longer, but Rose was nearly at the end of his strength. It was absolutely impossible to breathe the fetid air in the farther end of the tunnel, nor could Hamilton alone fan any fresh air to him. Once again, and with great difficulty, a new party of ten was organized. These worked in shifts--one man dug and two or three fanned the air through the tunnel with their hats, another man dragged the earth into the cellar and a fifth kept watch. The first five would work until exhausted and then their places would be taken by the second shift. They finally decided to work also by day and now the digging went on without interruption every minute of the twenty-four hours. Finally, the little band of exhausted workers had gone nearly fifty feet underground. They were on the point of breaking down from absolute exhaustion. The night-shift would come out into Rat Hell and be too tired and dazed to find their way out and would have to be looked after in the dark and led back to the rooms above like little children.
Rose, in spite of all that he had been through, was the strongest of the lot and could work after every other man had fallen out. It was still necessary for the tunnel to be carried five feet further to clear the wall. Once again a sickening series of accidents and surprises occurred. The day-shift always ran the risk of being missed at roll-call, which was held every morning and afternoon. Usually this was got around by repeating--one man running from the end of the line behind the backs of his comrades and answering the name of the missing man. On one occasion, however, there were two missing and a search was at once begun which might have resulted in finding the entrance to the tunnel. There was just time to pull these two up out of the dark and brush off the telltale dirt from their hands and clothes and tell them to lie down and play sick. Neither one of them needed to do much pretending and they both showed such signs of breakdown that the prison inspector came near sending them to the hospital, which would also have delayed operations. The next day, while one man was inside the tunnel, a party of guards entered Rat Hell and remained there so long that it was evident they must have suspected that something was going on. Colonel Rose called his band together for a conference. He believed that two days of solid work would finish the tunnel. The rest of the men, however, pleaded for time. They were half sick, wholly exhausted and discouraged. Rose decided that he would risk no further delay and that the last two days' work should be entrusted to no one except himself. The next day was Sunday and the cellar was usually not inspected on that day. He posted his fanners and sentries and at early dawn crawled into the tunnel and worked all day long and far into the night lying full length in a stifling hole hardly two feet in diameter. When he dragged himself out that night, he could not stand but had to be carried across the cellar and up the rope ladder and fanned and sponged with cold water and fed what soup they could obtain until he was able to talk. He then told the band that he believed that twelve hours more of work would carry the tunnel beyond the danger line. He slept for a few hours and then, in spite of the protests of the others, crawled down into the reeking hole again, followed by the strongest of the band who were to act as fanners.
For seventeen days they had been working and the tunnel was now fifty-three feet long. In order to save time, Rose had made the last few feet so narrow that it was impossible for him to even turn over or shift his position. All day long he worked. Night came and he still toiled on, although his strokes were so feeble that he only advanced by inches each hour. Finally it was nearly midnight of the last day and Rose had reached the limit of his strength. The fanners were so exhausted that they could no longer push the air to the end of the tunnel. Rose felt himself dying of suffocation. He was too weak to crawl backward, nor had he strength to take another stroke. The air became fouler and thicker and he felt his senses leaving him and he gasped again and again in a struggle for one breath of pure air. In what he felt was his death agony, he finally forced himself over on his back and struck the earth above him with his fists as he unconsciously clutched at his throat in the throes of suffocation. Thrusting out his arms in one last convulsive struggle, he suddenly felt both fists go through the earth and a draught of pure, life-giving air came in. For a moment Rose had the terrible feeling that it was too late and that he was too sick to rally. Once again, however, his indomitable courage drove back death. For some minutes he lay slowly breathing the air of out-of-doors. It was like the elixir of life to him after long months of breathing the foul atmosphere of the prison and tunnel. Little by little his strength came back and he slowly enlarged the hole and finally thrust his head and shoulders cautiously out into the yard. The first thing that caught his eye was a star and he felt as if he had broken out of the grave and come back again to hope and life. He found that he was still on the prison side of the wall, but directly in front of him was a gate which was fastened only by a swinging bar. Rose spent some moments practicing raising this bar until he felt sure he could do it quietly and swiftly. Just outside was the sentry beat. Rose waited until the sentry's back was turned, opened the gate and peered out, convincing himself that there was plenty of time to pass out of the gate and into the darkness beyond before the sentry turned to come back. He then lowered himself again into the stifling tunnel, drew a plank which he found in the yard over the opening, after first carefully concealing the fresh earth, and crept back again into Rat Hell.
It was three o'clock in the morning when Rose gathered together his little band and told them that at last Libby Prison was open. Rose and Hamilton, the leaders, were anxious to start at once. They had seen so many accidents and so many strokes of misfortune that they urged an instant escape. The others, however, begged them to wait and to leave early the next evening so that they could gain a whole night's start before their absence was found at the morning roll-call. With many misgivings, Rose at last consented to do this. The next day was the most nerve-racking day of his life. Every noise or whisper of the guard seemed to him to be a sign that the tunnel had been discovered. The time finally dragged along and nothing happened and once again the party met in Rat Hell at seven o'clock in the evening of February 9th and Rose and the faithful Hamilton led the way through the tunnel to freedom. Every move was carefully planned. The plank was raised noiselessly and Rose had taken the precaution to leave the gate half-open so that the sentry on duty that night would see nothing unusual. He found it just as he had left it. All that was necessary now to do was for each man to wait until the sentry had passed a few yards beyond the gate and then to start noiselessly through and out to freedom. All thirteen escaped easily. The last man left a message that the prison was open to any one who dared try the tunnel. By nine o'clock that night the message flashed through each ward that the colonel and a party had escaped. There was a rush for the hole at the fireplace and one hundred and nine other prisoners slipped through and got safely past the guard. After days and weeks of hiding, starving and freezing, the original party and many of the others got safely through to the Union lines.
Castle Despair had again been broken by Mr. Great Heart.
TWO AGAINST A CITY
It takes brave men to fight battles. It takes braver men to face death without fighting.
In the spring of 1862 New Orleans, the Queen City of the South, was blockaded by the Union fleet. No one could come in or go out. The grass grew in her empty streets. The wharves were deserted and cobwebs lay on the shut and barred warehouses. The river itself, which had been thronged with the masts and funnels of a thousand crowded craft, flowed yellow and empty as the Amazon.
As business stopped and wages grew scarce and scarcer, the fierce, dangerous part of the population which comes to the surface in times of siege began to gain more and more control of the city. For years there had been a secret society of criminals in New Orleans which had often controlled her city government. It was known as the "Thugs." Heretofore they had always worked in secret and underground. Now criminals who formerly would only come out at night and secretly, were seen on the streets in open day. As the Union lines closed around the city by sea and land, the crowds of men and women without money and without work became as fierce and bitter and dangerous as rats in a trap. For a while they told each other that the city could never be taken. Nothing afloat, they said again and again, can pass by the great chain and the sunken ships that block the river. If they could they would sink under the withering fire of Fort Jackson, a great star-shaped fort of stone and mortar, or Fort St. Phillip with its fifty-two guns which could be brought to bear on any vessel going up or down the river. Beyond the forts was a fleet of rams and gunboats and in a shipyard over at Jefferson, one of the suburbs of New Orleans, was building the great iron-clad _Mississippi_, which alone they felt would be equal to the whole blockading fleet. So thought and said the swarming unemployed thousands of New Orleans. Finally came a dreadful day when the tops of the naked masts of the hated Yankee fleet showed against the evening sky across one of the bends of the river. Then came the roar of distant guns for a day and a night as the Union vessels attacked the forts and concealed batteries. Still the people believed in their defenses although the firing came nearer and nearer. Not until they saw the city troops carry the cotton out of the cotton-presses down to the wharves to be burned in miles of twisting flame to save it from the Union Army did they realize how close was the day of the surrender of the city. Then all the empty ships which had been moored out in the river were fired and the warehouses of provisions still left were broken open. Mobs of desperate men and women surged back and forth fighting for the sugar and rice and molasses with which the wharves were covered. Suddenly around Slaughter House Point, silent, grim and terrible, came the black fleet which had safely run the gauntlet of forts, gunboats, batteries and torpedoes. For the first time since the war had begun, the Stars and Stripes floated again in sight of New Orleans. As the fleet came nearer and nearer, the crowds which blackened the wharves and levees of New Orleans shouted for the _Mississippi_.
"Where is the _Mississippi_? Ram the Yanks! Mississippi! Mississippi! Mississippi!" thousands of voices roared across the water and through the forsaken streets of the doomed city. And then, as if called by the shout of her city, around a bend suddenly floated the great iron-clad _Mississippi_ which was to save New Orleans,--a helpless, drifting mass of flames. There was a moment of utter silence and then a scream of rage and despair went up that drowned the crackling of the flames.
"Betrayed! Betrayed! We have been betrayed!" was the cry which went up everywhere. No stranger's life was worth a moment's purchase. One man whose only crime was that he was unknown to the mob was seized at one of the wharves and in an instant was swinging, twisting and choking, from the end of a rope at a lamp-post. Through the crowds flitted the Thugs and began a reign of terror against all whom they hated or feared. Men were hung and shot and stabbed to death that day at a word. The mob was as dangerous, desperate and as unreasoning as a mad dog. Through this roaring, frothing, cursing crowd it was necessary for Admiral Farragut to send messengers to the mayor at the City Hall to demand the surrender of the city. It seemed to the men in the ships like going into a den of trapped wild beasts, yet instantly Captain Theodorus Bailey, the second in command, demanded from the admiral the right to undertake this dangerous mission. With a little guard of twenty men he was landed on the levee in front of a howling mob which crowded the river-front as far as the eye could reach. They offered an impenetrable line through which no man could pass. Captain Bailey drew his marines up in line and tried to reason with the mob, but could not even be heard. He then ordered his men to level their muskets and take aim. In an instant the mob had pushed forward to the front crowds of women and children and dared the Yanks to shoot. Captain Bailey realized that nothing could be done by force without a useless slaughter of men and women and children. In order to save this he decided to try what could be done by two unarmed men. If this plan failed, it would be time enough to try what could be done by grape and canister. Taking a flag of truce and choosing as his companion a young midshipman named Read, whom he knew to be a man of singular coolness, Captain Bailey started up the street to the City Hall. It was a desperate chance. The mob had already tasted blood and it was almost certain that some one would shoot or stab these two representatives of the hated Yanks as soon as they were out of sight of the ships. The slightest sign of fear or hesitation would mean the death of both of them. Captain Bailey and Midshipman Read, however, were men who would take just such a chance. Slowly, unconcernedly, they walked along the streets through a roar of shouts, and curses, and cheers for Jeff Davis. As they reached the middle of the city, the crowd became more and more threatening. They were pushed and jostled while men, many of them members of the dreaded Thugs, thrust cocked revolvers into their faces and waved bowie-knives close to their throats. Others rushed up with coils of rope which had already done dreadful service. Captain Bailey never even glanced at the men around him, but looking straight ahead walked on as unconcernedly as if he were treading his own quarter-deck. Young Read acted as if he were bored with the whole proceeding. He examined carefully the brandished revolvers and knives and smiled pleasantly into the distorted, scowling, gnashing faces which were thrust up against his. Occasionally he would half pause to examine some building which seemed to impress him as particularly interesting and would then saunter unconcernedly along after his captain.
[Illustration: Captain Bailey and Midshipman Read Facing the New Orleans Mob]
Right on through the gauntlet of death passed the two men with never a quiver of the eye or a motion of the face to show that they even knew the mob was there. Little by little, men who had retained something of their self-control began to persuade the more lawless part of the rabble to fall back. It was whispered around that Farragut, that old man of iron and fire, had said that he would level the city as flat as the river if a hand were even laid on his envoys. Finally through the surging streets appeared the City Hall and the end of that desperate march was in sight. At the very steps of the City Hall the mob took a last stand. Half-a-dozen howling young ruffians, with cocked revolvers in either hand, stood on the lower step and dared the Union messengers to go an inch farther. Midshipman Read stepped smilingly ahead of his captain and gently pushed with either hand two of the cursing young desperadoes far enough to one side to allow for a passageway between them. Both of them actually placed the muzzles of their cocked revolvers against his neck as a last threat, but even the touch of cold steel did not drive away Read's amused smile. The mob gave up. Evidently these men had resources about which they knew nothing.
"They were so sure that we wouldn't kill them that we couldn't," said one of the Thugs afterward in explaining why the hated messengers had been allowed to march up the steps.
They sauntered into the mayor's room where they met a group of white-faced, trembling men who were the mayor and his council. Captain Bailey delivered the admiral's summons for the surrender of the city to the mayor. The mob, which at first had stayed back, at this point surged up to the windows and shouted curses and threats into the very mayor's room, threatening him and the council if they dared to surrender the city. Captain Bailey and his companion gave the trembling city officials a few minutes in which to make up their minds. Suddenly there was heard a roar outside louder than any which had come before. The mob had torn down the Union flag which had been hoisted over the custom house and rushing to the mayor's office, tore it to pieces outside the open windows and threw the fragments in at the seated envoys. This insult to their flag aroused Captain Bailey and young Read as no threats against them personally had been able to do. Turning to the mayor and the shrinking council, Bailey said, "As there is a God in heaven, the man who tore down that Union flag shall hang for it." Later on this promise was carried out by the inflexible General Butler when he took over the city from Admiral Farragut and hanged Mumford, the man who tore down the flag in the city square, before the very mob which had so violently applauded his action. This incident was the last straw for the mayor and his associates. They neither dared to refuse to surrender the city lest it should be bombarded by Farragut nor did they dare to surrender it for fear of the mob which had gathered around them with significant coils of rope over their arms. In a half-whisper they hurriedly notified Captain Bailey that they could not surrender the city, but that they would make no resistance if the Union forces occupied it. Looking at them contemptuously, Captain Bailey turned away, picked up the fragments of the torn flag and faced the mob outside threateningly. The man who had torn the flag slunk back and his example was contagious. One by one men commenced to sneak away and in a minute the City Hall was deserted and Captain Bailey and Midshipman Read were able to leave the building and drive back to the vessels in a carriage obtained for them by the mayor's secretary.
So ended what one of the mob, who afterward became a valued citizen of his state, described as the bravest deed he had ever seen--two unarmed men facing and defeating a mob of murderers and madmen.
One doesn't have to be big, or old, or strong to be brave. But one does have to believe in something so much and so hard that nothing else counts, even death. An idea that is so big that everything else seems small is called an ideal. It is easy for a boy with an ideal to be brave. Cassabianca, the boy who stayed on the burning ship because he had been ordered to wait there by his dead father, had made obedience his ideal. The boy of Holland who found a leak in the dyke which could only be stopped by his hand, and who stayed through the long night and saved his village but lost his right hand had learned this great ideal of self-sacrifice. The shepherd boy who saved his sheep from a lion and a bear and who afterward was the only one who dared enter the fatal valley and meet the fierce giant-warrior had as his ideal faith. He believed so strongly that he was doing God's will that he shared God's strength.
In the great war between slavery and freedom which swept like fire over the country, boys learned the ideals for which their fathers fought. They learned to believe so entirely in freedom that there was no room left for fear. Many of them went to the war as drummer boys, the only way in which boys could enlist. One of these was Johnny McLaughlin of the Tenth Indiana. Johnny lived at a place called Lafayette and was not quite eleven years old. From the minute that the war broke out he thought of nothing but what he could do for his country and for freedom. Other boys played at drilling and marching, but this was not enough for him. He made inquiries and found that if he could learn to drum, there was a chance that he might be allowed to enlist. He said nothing at first to his father and mother about his plans, but saved all his spending-money and worked every holiday in order to get enough to buy a drum. Times were hard, however. There was little money for men, much less for boys, and after Johnny had worked for over two months, he had saved exactly two dollars. In the village was a drummer who had been sent home to recover from his wounds and to him Johnny went one day to ask how much more he would have to save before he could buy a drum. The man told him that a good drum would cost him at least ten dollars. Johnny sighed and turned away very much discouraged.
"Why don't you play something else?" said the man. "You can get more fun out of ten dollars than buying a drum with it."
"I don't want it to play with," said Johnny. "I want to learn to drum so that I can enlist."
At first the man laughed at the boy--he seemed so little, but when he found that Johnny had made up his mind to do his share for his country in the great fight, Donaldson, as he was named, became serious.
"I tell you what I'll do," he said at last. "If you are really in earnest about learning to drum, I'll give you lessons myself, for," said he modestly, "I was the best drummer in my regiment. If you can learn and they will take you, I'll give you the old drum. I'll send it to the front even if I can't go myself."
This was enough for Johnny. Morning, noon and night he was with his friend Donaldson and it was a wonder that the drum-head was not worn out long before he learned. Learn he did, however, and in a few months there was not a roll or a call which he could not play. One morning as the school-bell was ringing, Johnny presented himself to his parents with the big drum around his neck looking nearly as large as he was.
"I'm going to enlist," he said simply.
At first his father and mother, like Donaldson, were inclined to laugh at him, he was such a little boy, but Johnny was in earnest and a boy who is in earnest always gets what he wants. A few days later found him a drummer for the Tenth Indiana and as he led the regiment, beating the long roll, Johnny was the proudest boy that had ever come out of Indiana. He had his first taste of fire at Fort Donelson and afterward at the bloody battle of Shiloh. Johnny drummed until the terrible drumming of the muskets drowned out even his loud notes. Then he laid down his sticks, carefully hid his drum, took a musket and cartridge box from off one of the dead soldiers and ran on with his regiment and fought in the front with the bravest of them all. He had a quick eye and it was not long before he could shoot as accurately as any man there.
It was just after Shiloh that Johnny had a narrow escape from being captured. Wanting to try everything, he obtained permission to do picket duty at night although this work was not required of drummer boys. As he had shown himself such a cool and ready fighter, his colonel felt that he was entirely able to do this duty and one dark night put him on picket. His post was some distance away from the camp. Just at dawn he was suddenly rushed by a party of rebel cavalry. As they burst out of the bushes Johnny fired his carbine at the first one, dropping him, and ran across an open field about fifty yards wide. At the other side was an old, rotten, log fence and beyond that a mass of briers and underbrush where he was sure the horses could not follow. Fortunately for him the rains had made the field a mass of mud. There his lightness gave him the advantage, for the horses slumped through at every step. The rebels fired constantly at him as they rode with their pistols. One ball went through his hat, another clear through his cartridge box and lodged in his coat, fortunately without exploding any of the cartridges. Beyond the middle of the field the ground was drier and the horsemen commenced to gain on him, but he reached the fence well ahead and with one jump landed on the top. The rotten rails gave way underneath him and he plunged headlong over into the brush, right on the back of a big sleeping wild pig who had rooted out a lair at this place. The pig jumped up grunting and crashed through the underbrush and Johnny heard his pursuers smashing through the broken fence not a rod away. He curled up into the round hole which the pig had left, drew down the bushes over his head and lay perfectly quiet. The horsemen, hearing the rustling of leaves and the smashing of branches as the pig dashed off down a pathway, followed after at full gallop and were out of sight in a minute. As soon as the sound of their galloping had died away, Johnny crawled cautiously out of his hole and made the best of his way back to camp. The next day some of the rebel cavalry were taken prisoners and Johnny recognized one of them as the leader of the squad which had so nearly caught him. The prisoner recognized the boy at the same time and they both grinned cheerfully at each other.
"Did you catch that pig yesterday?" finally said Johnny.
"We did that," retorted the prisoner, "but it wasn't the one we were after."
Johnny had always been able to ride the most spirited horses on the farm and after Shiloh he asked to be transferred from the infantry to Colonel Jacob's Kentucky Cavalry. There he attracted the attention of the colonel so that the latter gave him one of the best horses in the regiment and a place in the Fighting First, as the best-mounted company was called, which the colonel always led personally in every charge. In this company Johnny was taught how to handle a sabre. The regular sabre was too heavy for him, but Colonel Jacob had one light, short one specially made which Johnny learned to handle like a flash. A German sergeant, who had been a great fencer on the Continent, taught him all that he knew and before long Johnny was an expert in tricks of fence which stood him in good stead later on. One in special he so perfected that it was never parried. Instead of striking down with the sabre as is generally done, Johnny learned a whirling, flashing upper-cut which came so rapidly that generally an opponent could not even see much less parry it. He was also armed with the regulation revolver and a light carbine instead of the heavy revolving rifle used by the rest of the troop. At Perryville he fought his first battle with his new regiment. In the charge he stuck close to Colonel Jacob and received a ball through his left leg above the knee. Fortunately it did not break any bone and Johnny tore a strip off his shirt, bandaged the hole and went on with the fight. While he was doing this, the greater part of the regiment passed on and when Johnny started to join his colonel, he could not find him. He rode like the wind over the field and soon behind a little patch of woods saw Colonel Jacobs with only six or seven men, the rest having been scattered in the fight. Johnny spurred his horse over to him and the colonel was delighted to be joined by his little body-guard. As they were riding along to rejoin the rest of the regiment, from out a clump of bushes a squad of fifty men led by a Confederate major dashed out calling on them to surrender. Colonel Jacob hesitated, for some of his men were wounded and the odds seemed too great for a fight. Before he had time to answer, Johnny slipped in front of him, drew out his revolver and fired directly into the Confederate officer's face, killing him instantly and then drawing his sabre dashed into the ranks of the enemy. The first man he met was a big fellow whose bare, brawny arm and blood-stained sabre proved him a master with his weapon. Johnny never gave him a chance to strike. At the whirl of his light sabre his opponent instinctively raised his weapon in the ordinary parry of a down-blow and the point of Johnny's sabre caught him under the chin and toppled him off his horse. The Union men gave a cheer, followed their little leader, breaking clear through the demoralized Confederates and joined their command at the other side of the field.
A few weeks later they had a skirmish with the troop of John Morgan, the most dreaded cavalry leader and fighter in all the South. Johnny, as usual, was in the front of the charge and had just cut at one man when another aimed a tremendous blow at his head in passing. There was just time for Johnny to raise the pommel of his sabre to save his head, but the deflected blow caught him on the leg and he fell from the horse with blood spurting out of his other leg this time. He lay perfectly quiet, but another rebel had seen him fall and spurring forward, caught him by the collar, saying:
"We'll keep this little Yankee in a cage to show the children."
Johnny did not approve of this cage-idea and although there was no room to use the sabre, managed to work his left hand back into his belt, draw his revolver and shoot his captor dead. In another minute his company came riding back and he was whirled up behind his colonel and rode back of him to safety. This last wound proved to be a serious one and he was sent back to Indiana on a furlough to give it time to heal. On the way back he was stopped by a provost guard and asked for his pass.
"My colonel forgot to give me any passes," said Johnny, "but here are two that the rebels gave me," showing his bandaged legs, and the guard agreed with him that this was pass enough for any one. As his wound refused to heal, against his wishes he was discharged and once more returned home. He then tried to enlist again, but each time he was turned down because of the unhealed wound. Finally, Johnny traveled clear to Washington and had a personal talk with President Lincoln and explained to him that his wound would never heal except in active service. His arguments had such force with the President that a special order was made for his enlistment and he fought through the whole war and afterward joined the regular army.
The littlest hero of the war was Eddie Lee. Shortly before the battle of Wilson's Creek, one of the Iowa regiments was ordered to join General Lyon in his march to the creek. The drummer of one of the companies was taken sick and had to go to the hospital. The day before the regiment was to march a negro came to the camp and told the captain that he knew of a drummer who would like to enlist. The captain told him to bring the boy in the next morning and if he could drum well he would give him a chance. The next day during the beating of the reveille, a woman in deep mourning came in leading by the hand a little chap about as big as a penny and apparently not more than five or six years old. She inquired for the captain and when the latter came out, told him that she had brought him a drummer boy.
"Drummer boy," said the captain; "why, madam, we don't take them as small as this. That boy hasn't been out of the cradle many months."
"He has been out long enough," spoke up the boy, "to play any tune you want."
His mother then told the captain that she was from East Tennessee where her husband had been killed by the rebels and all her property destroyed and she must find a place for the boy.
"Well, well," said the captain, impatiently, "Sergeant, bring the drum and order our fifer to come forward."
In a few moments the drum was produced and the fifer, a tall, good-natured fellow over six feet in height, made his appearance.
"Here's your new side-partner, Bill," said the captain.
Bill stooped down, and down and down until his hands rested on his ankles and peered into the boy's face carefully.
"Why, captain," said he, "he ain't much taller than the drum."
"Little man, can you really drum?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," said the boy. "I used to drum for Captain Hill in Tennessee. I am nearly ten years old and I want the place."
The fifer straightened himself up slowly, placed his fife at his mouth and commenced to play "The Flowers of the Forest," one of the most difficult pieces to follow on the drum. The little chap accompanied him without a mistake and when he had finished began a perfect fusillade of rolls and calls and rallies which came so fast that they sounded like a volley of musketry. When the noise had finally died out, the captain turned to his mother and said:
"Madam, I'll take that boy. He isn't much bigger than a minute but he certainly can drum."
The woman kissed the boy and nearly broke down.
"You'll surely bring him back to me, captain," she said.
"Sure," said the captain; "we'll all be discharged in about six weeks."
An hour later Eddie was marching at the head of the Iowa First playing "The Girl I Left Behind Me" as it had never been played before. He and Bill, the fifer, became great chums and Eddie was the favorite of the whole regiment. Whenever anything especially nice was brought back by the foraging parties, Eddie always had his share and the captain said that he was in far more danger from watermelons than he was from bullets. On heavy marches the fifer would carry him on his back, drum and all, and this was always Eddie's position in fording the numerous streams.
At the Battle of Wilson's Creek the Iowa regiment and a part of an Illinois regiment were ordered to clear out a flanking party concealed in a ravine upon the left of the Union forces. The ravine was a deep, long one with high trees and heavy underbrush and dark even at noontime. The Union regiments marched down and there was a dreadful hand-to-hand fight in the brush in the semi-twilight. Men became separated from each other and as in the great battle between David and Absalom, the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured. The fight was going against the Union men when suddenly a Union battery wheeled into line on a near-by hill and poured a rain of grape and canister into the Confederates which drove them out in short order. Later on the word was passed through the Union Army that General Lyon had been killed and soon after came the order to fall back upon Springfield. The Iowa regiment and two companies of a Missouri regiment were ordered to camp on the battle-field and act as a rear guard to cover a retreat. When the men came together that night there was no drummer boy. In the hurry and rush of hand-to-hand fighting, Eddie had become separated from Bill and although the latter raged back and forth through the brush like an angry bull, never a trace of his little comrade could he find. That night the sentries stood guard over the abandoned field and along the edge of the dark ravine now filled with the dead of both sides. It was a wild, desolate country and as the men passed back and forth over the stricken field, they could hear the long, mournful, wailing howl of the wolves which were brought by the smell of blood from the wilderness to the battle-field from miles around. That night poor Bill was unable to sleep and moaned and tossed on his blanket and said for the thousandth time:
"If only I had kept closer to the little chap."
Suddenly he sprang to his feet and roused the sleeping men all around him.
"Don't you hear a drum?" said he.
They all listened sadly, but could hear nothing.
"Lie down, Bill," said one of them. "Eddie's gone. We all did the best we could."
"He's down there in the dark," cried poor Bill, "drumming for help, and I must go to him."
The others tried to hold him back for it was impossible to see a foot through the tangled ravine at night and moreover the orders were strict against any one leaving camp. Bill went to the sentry who guarded the captain's tent and finally persuaded the man to wake up the captain. The latter lay exhausted with fatigue and sorrow, but came out and listened as did all the rest for the drum, but nothing could be heard.
"You imagined it, my poor fellow," he said. "There's nothing you could do to-night anyway. Wait until morning."
Bill paced restlessly up and down all through that dark night and just as the dawn-light came in the sky, he heard again faint and far away a drum beating the morning call from out of the silence of the deep ravine. Again he went to the captain.
"Of course you can go," said the latter, kindly, "but you must be back as soon as possible for we march at daybreak. Look out for yourself as the place is full of bushwhackers and rebel scouts."
Bill started down the hill through the thick underbrush and wandered around for a time trying to locate the drum-beats which were thrown back by the trees so that it was difficult to determine from what point they came. As he crept along through the underbrush, they sounded louder and louder and finally in the darkest, deepest part of the ravine, he came out from behind a great pin-oak and saw his little comrade sitting on the ground leaning against the trunk of a fallen tree and beating his drum which was hung on a bush in front of him.
"Eddie, Eddie, dear old Eddie," shouted Bill, bursting through the thicket. At the sound the little chap dropped his drumsticks and exclaimed:
"Oh, Bill, I am so glad to see you. I knew you would come. Do get me a drink."
Bill started to take his canteen down to a little near-by brook when Eddie called him back.
"You'll come back, Bill, won't you," he said, "for I can't walk."
Bill looked down and saw that both of his feet had been shot away by a cannon-ball and that the little fellow was sitting in a pool of his own blood. Choking back his sobs, the big fifer crawled down to the brook and soon came back with his canteen full of cold water which Eddie emptied again and again.
"You don't think I am going to die, do you, Bill?" said the little boy at last. "I do so want to finish out my time and go back to mother. This man said I would not and that the surgeon would be able to cure me."
For the first time Bill noticed that just at Eddie's feet lay a dead Confederate. He had been shot through the stomach and had fallen near where Eddie lay. Realizing that he could not live and seeing the condition of the boy, he had crawled up to him and taking off his buckskin suspenders had bandaged with them the little fellow's legs so that he would not bleed to death and on tying the last knot had fallen back dead himself. Eddie had just finished telling Bill all about it in a whisper, for his strength was going fast, when there was a trampling of horses through the ravine and in a minute a Confederate scouting party broke through the brush, calling upon Bill to surrender.
"I'll do anything you want," said Bill, "if you will only take my little pal here safe back to camp and get him into the hands of a surgeon."
The Confederate captain stooped down and spoke gently to the boy and in a minute took him up and mounted him in front of him on his own horse and they rode carefully back to the Confederate camp, but when they reached the tents of the nearest Confederate company they found that little Eddie had served out his time and had given his life for his country.
On June 30, 1862, was fought the stubborn battle of Glendale, one of the Seven Days' Battles between McClellan, the general of the Union forces, and Lee, the Confederate commander. This battle was part of McClellan's campaign against Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy which he had within his grasp when he was out-generaled by Lee, who that month for the first time had been placed in supreme command of the Confederate Army. With him were his two great generals, Stonewall Jackson and Longstreet. McClellan was within sight of the promised land. The spires of Richmond showed against the sky. Instead of fighting he hesitated and procrastinated away every chance of victory. Lee was even then planning that wonderful strategy which was to halt a victorious army, turn it away from the beleaguered capital of the Confederacy and send it stumbling back North in a series of defeats. It was necessary for him to have a conference with Stonewall Jackson, his great fighting right-hand in military matters. Jackson rode almost alone fifty miles and attended a conference with Lee, Longstreet and Generals D. H. and A. P. Hill. To each of them General Lee assigned the part that he was to play. In the meantime, knowing that McClellan always read and pondered the Richmond papers, he arranged that simultaneously every paper should publish as news the pretended facts that strong reinforcements had been sent to the Shenandoah Valley. McClellan fell into the trap and instead of pressing forward to attack Richmond, which was now only guarded by a small force, he, as usual, waited for reinforcements and allowed his antagonists to march around him and start flanking battles which threatened to cut off his line of communications. The battle of Gaines Mill was fought in which battle General Fitz John Porter with thirty-one thousand men stubbornly faced Lee and Jackson's forces of fifty-five thousand and with sullen obstinacy only retreated when it was absolutely impossible longer to hold his ground. This defeat, which occurred simply because McClellan could not bring himself to send Porter the necessary reinforcements, made General McClellan resolve to withdraw, although even then, with a superior army, he could have fought his way to Richmond. From June 25th to July 1, 1862, occurred the Seven Days' Battles fought by the retreating Union Army. By one of the few mistakes which General Lee made in that campaign, the Union Army was allowed a respite of twenty-four hours to organize its retreat and were well on their way before pursuit was given. On June 29th there was a battle between the rear guard of the Union force and the Confederate's under General Magruder in which the Confederates were defeated. The next day came the battle of Glendale. Generals Longstreet and A. P. Hill commanded the Confederate Army while the rear guard of the retreating Union forces was made up of General McCall's division and that of General Heintzelman and a part of the corps under General Sumner which had done such gallant fighting the day before. It was a stern and stubborn battle. If the Confederates could cut through the rear guard, they would have the retreating army at their mercy. On the other hand, if they could be held back, the main army would have time to occupy a favorable position and entrench and could be saved. For a time it seemed as if the Confederate attack could not be checked. Every available man was called into action. Back at the rear were posted the hospital corps where the sick and wounded lay. With them were stationed the band and the drum-corps made up of drummer boys who were supposed to keep out of actual fighting as much as possible. Among them was a little Jewish boy named Benjamin Levy, who was only sixteen years old and small for his age. Benjamin stayed back with the hospital while the roar of the battle grew louder and louder. Finally there was a tremendous chorus of yells and groans and shouts mingled with the rattle of rifle-shots and the heavy thudding sounds which sabres and bayonets make as they slash and pierce living flesh. Little groups of wounded men came straggling back or were carried back to the hospital and each one told a fresh story of the fierce fight which was going on at the near-by front. Benjamin could stand it no longer. The last wounded man that came in hobbled along with a broken leg, using his rifle for a crutch. The boy helped him to a near-by cot and made him as comfortable as he could.
"Now you lie quiet," he said, "until the doctor comes and I'll just borrow this rifle of yours and do a little fighting in your place," and Benjamin picked up the gun and slipped on the other's cartridge belt.
"Hi there, you come back with my gun," yelled the wounded man after him. "That front's no place for kids like you."
Benjamin, however, was well on his way before the man had finished speaking and slipping past an indignant doctor who was trying to stop him, he ran forward, keeping as much as possible in the shelter of the trees among which the bullets and grape-shot were whining and humming. He passed many wounded limping to the rear and rows of prostrate men, some still, some writhing in the agony of their wounds. These were the men who had fallen on their way back to the hospital. A minute later Benjamin found himself in the thick of the fight. There had been a Confederate charge which the Union soldiers had just barely been able to drive back. The men were still panting and shouting and firing volleys at the gray forces who were reluctantly withdrawing to rally for another attack. The boy lay down with the rest and loaded and fired his borrowed rifle as rapidly as he could. No one seemed to notice him except the color-bearer who happened to be the man next to him. He had stopped firing to wipe his face and saw the little fellow close by his arm.
"Why don't you get back to the rear where you belong?" he said, pretending to talk very fiercely. "This is no place for little boys. When those gray-backs come back, you'll scamper quick enough, so you had better be on your way now."
"No I won't," said Benjamin positively. "I guess boys have got as much right to fight in this war as men have. Anyway, you won't see me do much running."
Benjamin was mistaken in that last statement, for a minute later the colonel of this particular regiment decided that instead of waiting for a Confederate attack, he would do a little charging on his own account. The signal came. The men sprang over the earthworks and Benjamin found himself running neck and neck with the color-bearer at the head of them all. It was a glorious charge. The ground ahead was smooth, the fierce flag of the regiment streamed just in front and all around were men panting and cheering as they ran. It was almost like a race on the old school-green at home. They came nearer and nearer to the masses of gray-clothed men who were hurriedly arranging themselves in regular ranks out of the hurry and confusion of their retreat. When they were only a short hundred yards distant, suddenly a wavering line of fire and smoke ran all up and down the straggling line in front of them. Men plunged headlong here and there and Benjamin noticed that he and the color-bearer seemed to have drawn away from the rest and were racing almost alone. Suddenly his friend with the colors stopped in full stride, swung the flag over his head once with a shout and dropped backward with a bullet through his heart. As he fell the colors slowly dropped down through the air and were about to settle on the blood-stained grass when the boy, hardly knowing what he did, shifted his rifle to his left hand, caught the staff of the flag and once more the colors of the regiment were leading the men on. Right up to the gray line he carried them, followed by the whole regiment. Firing, cutting and stabbing with their bayonets they broke straight through the Confederates and after a hand-to-hand fight, drove them out of their position. They carried the boy, still clinging to the colors, on their shoulders to their colonel and to the end of his life Benjamin remembered the moment when the colonel shook hands with him before the cheering regiment as the climax of the greatest day of his life.
THE CHARGE OF ZAGONYI
In battle the charge is the climax. In other kinds of fighting men have a certain amount of shelter and respite and at long range it makes little difference whether the fighter is strong or weak. In a charge, however, the fighting is hand to hand. As in the days of old, men fight at close grips with their enemy and each one must depend upon his own strength and skill and bravery.
There have been three charges in modern battles which have been celebrated over and over again. The first of these was the last desperate charge of the Old Guard at Waterloo. A thin red line of English held a hill which Napoleon, the greatest of modern generals, saw was the keystone of the battle. If that could be taken, the whole arch of the English and Belgium forces would crumble away into defeat. Again and again the French stormed at this hill and each time were driven back by the coolly-waiting deadly ranks of the English. Toward nightfall Napoleon made one last desperate effort. The Old Guard was to him what the great Tenth Legion had been to Julius Cæsar, the best and bravest veterans of his army who boasted that they had never yet been defeated. Calling them up with every last one of his reserves, he ordered a final desperate charge to break the battle center. To the grim drumming of what guns the little general had left, they rushed again up that blood-stained slope in desperate dark masses of unbeaten men. With a storm of cheers, the columns surged up in a vast blue battle-wave which seemed as if it must dash off by its weight the little group of silent, grim defenders. The Englishmen waited and waited and waited until the rushing ranks were almost on them. Then they poured in a volley at such close range that every bullet did the work of two and with a deep English cheer sprang on the broken ranks with their favorite weapon, the bayonet. That great battle-wave broke in a foam of shattered, dying and defeated men and the sunset of that day was the sunset of Napoleon's glory.
Fifty years later in the great war which England with her allies was waging to keep the vast, fierce hordes of Russia from ruling Europe, happened another glorious, useless charge. Owing to a misunderstanding of orders, a little squad of six hundred cavalrymen charged down a mile-long valley flanked on all sides by Russian artillery against a battery of guns whose fire faced them all the way. Every schoolboy who has ever spoken a piece on Friday afternoon knows what comes next. How the gallant Six Hundred, stormed at with shot and shell, made the charge to the wonder and admiration of three watching armies and how they forced their way into the jaws of death and into the mouth of hell and sabred the gunners and then rode back--all that was left of them.
In our own Civil War occurred the most famous charge of modern days, Pickett's charge at the battle of Gettysburg. For three days raged the first battle which the Confederates had been able to fight on Northern soil. If their great General Lee, with his seventy thousand veterans, won this battle, Washington, Philadelphia and even New York were at his mercy. On the afternoon of the third day he made one last desperate effort to break the center of the Union forces. Pickett's division of the Virginia infantry was the center of the attacking forces and the column numbered altogether over fifteen thousand men. For two hours Lee cannonaded the Union center with one hundred and fifteen guns. He was answered by the Union artillery although they could only muster eighty guns. Finally the Union fire was stopped in order that the guns might cool for Hunt, the Union chief of artillery, realized that the cannonade was started to mask some last great attack. Suddenly three lines, each over a mile long, of Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee regiments started to cover the mile and a half which separated them from the Union center. The Union crest was held by the Pennsylvania regiments who were posted back of the stone wall on the very summit. As the gray lines rushed over the distance with a score of fierce battle flags flaming and fluttering over their ranks, the eighty guns which had cooled so that they could now be used with good effect opened up on them first with solid shot and then with the tremendous explosive shells. As they charged, the Virginia regiments moved away to the left leaving a gap between them and the men from Alabama on the right. The Union leaders took advantage of this gap and forced in there the Vermont brigade and a half brigade of New York men. By suddenly changing front these men were enabled to attack the charging thousands on their flank. The Union guns did terrible execution, opening up great gaps through the running, leaping, shouting men. As the charge came nearer and nearer the batteries changed to the more terrible grape and canister which cut the men down like grass before a reaper. Still they came on until they were face to face with the waiting Union soldiers who poured in a volley at short range. For a moment the battle flags of the foremost Confederate regiments stood on the crest. The effort had been too much. Over half of the men had been killed or wounded and many others had turned to meet the flank attack of the Vermont and New York regiments so that when the Pennsylvania troops met them at last with the bayonet, the gray line wavered, broke, and the North was saved.
All three of these great charges were brave, glorious failures. This is the story of a charge, an almost forgotten charge, just as brave, just as glorious, which succeeded, a charge in which one hundred and sixty men and boys broke and routed a force of over two thousand entrenched infantry and cavalry.
At the breaking out of the war, one of the most popular of the Union commanders was John C. Fremont, the Pathfinder. He had opened up the far West and had made known to the people the true greatness of the country beyond the Mississippi. At the birth of the Republican or Free-Soil Party, he was the first candidate. The country rang with a campaign song sung to the tune of the Marseillaise, the chorus of which was:
"March on, march on, ye braves, And let your war cry be, Free soil, free press, free votes, free men, Fremont and victory."
He was one of the first generals appointed. Among those whom the fascination of his romantic and adventurous life had attracted to his side was a Hungarian refugee named Zagonyi. In his boyhood he had fought in the desperate but unsuccessful war which Hungary made to free herself from the Austrian yoke. He served in the Hungarian cavalry; and in a desperate charge upon the Austrians, in which half the force were killed, Zagonyi was wounded and captured and for two years was a prisoner. He was finally released on condition that he leave his country forever. As an experienced soldier, he was welcomed by General Fremont and was authorized to raise a company to be known as Fremont's Body-Guard. In a few days two full companies, composed mostly of very young men, had been enrolled. A little later another company composed entirely of Kentucky boys was included in the guards. They were all magnificently mounted on picked horses and very handsomely uniformed. Because of their outfit and name they soon excited the envy of the other parts of the army who used to call them the "kid-glove brigade." Although well-trained and enthusiastic, they had no active service until October, 1861, when Zagonyi, who had been appointed their major, was ordered to take one hundred and sixty of his men and explore the country around Springfield, Missouri, through which the main army was intending to advance. There were rumors that a Confederate force was approaching to take possession of the city of Springfield and the body-guard marched seventeen hours without stopping in order to occupy this town before the enemy should arrive. As they came within two miles of Springfield, however, they were met by a farmer who informed them that the Confederates had beaten them in the race to Springfield and were already in camp on a hill about half a mile west of the town. Their rear was protected by a grove of trees and there was a deep brook at the foot of the hill. The only way to approach them was through a blind lane which ran into fences and ploughed fields. This was covered by sharpshooters and infantry while four hundred Confederate horsemen were posted on the flank of the main body of infantry which guarded the top of the hill. Altogether the force numbered over two thousand men. It seemed an absolutely hopeless undertaking for a little body of tired boys to attack twenty times their own number. Zagonyi, however, had been used to fighting against odds in his battles with the Austrians. He hurriedly called his men together and announced to them that he did not intend to go back without a fight after riding so far.
"If any of you men," he said, "are too tired or too weak, or too afraid, go back now before it is too late. There is one thing about it," he added grimly, "if there are any of us left when we are through we won't hear much more about kid gloves."
Not a man stirred to go back. Zagonyi gathered them into open order and drawing his sabre gave the word to start up the fatal lane. At first there was no sight or sound of any enemy, but as the horses broke into a run, there was a volley from the woods and a number of men swayed in their saddles and sank to the ground. Down the steep, stony lane they rushed in a solid column in spite of volley after volley which poured into their ranks. Some leaped, others crashed through fences and across the ploughed fields and jumped the brook and finally gained the shelter of the foot of the hill. There was a constant whistle of bullets and scream of minie balls over their heads. They stopped for a minute to re-form, for nearly half the squad was down. Zagonyi detached thirty of his best horsemen and instructed them to charge up the hill at the Confederate cavalry which, four hundred strong, were posted along the edge of the wood, and to hold them engaged so that the rest of the force could make a front attack on the infantry. The rest of the troop watched the little band gallop up the hillside and they were fully half-way up before it dawned upon the Confederates that these thirty men were really intending to attack a force over ten times their number. As they swept up the last slope, the Confederate cavalry poured a volley from their revolvers instead of getting the jump on them by a down-hill charge.
Lieutenant Mathenyi, another Hungarian and an accomplished swordsman, led the attack and cut his way through the first line of the Confederate horsemen, closely followed by the score of men who had managed to get up the hill. With their sabres flashing over their heads, they disappeared in the gray cloud of Confederates which awaited them. At that moment Zagonyi gave the word for the main charge and his column opened out and rushed up the hill from all sides like a whirlwind. Even as they breasted the slope they saw the solid mass of Confederate cavalry open out and scatter in every direction while a blue wedge of men cut clear through and turned back to sabre the scattering Confederates. With a tremendous cheer, Zagonyi and the rest of the band rushed on to the massed infantry.
They had time for only one volley when the young horsemen were among them, cutting, thrusting, hacking and shooting with their revolvers. In a minute the main body followed the example of the cavalry and broke and scattered everywhere. Some of them, however, were real fighters; they retreated into the woods and kept up a murderous fire from behind trees. One young Union soldier dashed in after them to drive them out, but was caught under the shoulders by a grape-vine and swept off his horse and hung struggling in the air until rescued by his comrades. Down into the village swarmed the fugitives with the guards close at their heels. At a great barn just outside of the village a number of them rallied and drove back the Kentucky squad which had been pursuing them. This time Zagonyi himself dashed up, and shouting, "Come on, old Kentuck, I'm with you," rushed at the group which stood in the doorway. As he came on, a man sprang out from behind the door and leveled his rifle at Zagonyi's head. The latter spurred his horse until he reared, and swinging him around on his hind legs, cut his opponent clear through the neck and shoulders with such tremendous force that the blood spurted clear up to the top of the door.
Another hero of the fight was Sergeant Hunter, the drill-master of the squad. It had always been an open question with the men as to whether he or Major Zagonyi was the better swordsman. In this fight Hunter killed five men with his sabre, one after the other, showing off fatal tricks of fence against bayonet and sabre as coolly as if giving a lesson, while several men fell before his revolver. His last encounter was with a Southern lieutenant who had been flying by, but suddenly turned and fought desperately. The sergeant had lost three horses and was now mounted on his fourth, a riderless, unmanageable horse which he had caught, and was somewhat at a disadvantage. In spite of this he proceeded to give those of his squad who were near him a lecture on the fine points of the sabre.
"Always parry in secant," said he, suiting his action to the word, "because," he went on, slashing his opponent across the thigh, "a regular fencer like this Confed is liable to leave himself open. It is easy then to ride on two paces and catch him with a back-hand sweep," and at the words he dealt his opponent a last fatal blow across the side of the head which toppled him out of his saddle.
A young Southern officer magnificently mounted refused to follow the fugitives, but charged alone at the line of the guards. He passed clear through without being touched, killing one man as he went. Instantly he wheeled, charged back and again broke through, leaving another Union cavalryman dead. A third time he cut his way clear up to Zagonyi's side and suddenly dropping his sabre, placed a revolver against the major's breast and fired. Zagonyi, however, was like lightning in his movements. The instant he felt the pressure of the revolver he swerved so that the bullet passed through his tunic, and shortening his sabre he ran his opponent through the throat killing him before he had time to shoot again.
Holding his dripping sabre in his hand, the major shouted an order to his men to come together in the middle of the town. One of the first to come back was his bugler, whom Zagonyi had ordered to sound a signal in the fiercest part of the fight. The bugler had apparently paid no attention to him, but darted off with Lieutenant Mathenyi's squad and was seen pursuing the flying horsemen vigorously. When his men were gathered together, Major Zagonyi ordered him to step out and said:
"In the middle of the battle you disobeyed my order to sound the recall. It might have meant the loss of our whole company. You are not worthy to be a member of this guard and I dismiss you."
The bugler was a little Frenchman and he nearly exploded with indignation.
"No," he said, "me, you shall not dismiss," and he showed his bugle to his major with the mouthpiece carried away by a stray bullet. "The mouth was shoot off," he said. "I could not bugle wiz my bugle and so I bugle wiz my pistol and sabre."
The major recalled the order of dismissal.
So ended one of the most desperate charges of the Civil War. One hundred and forty-eight men had defeated twenty-two hundred, with the loss of fifty-three killed and more than thirty wounded.
THE LOCOMOTIVE CHASE
Courage does not depend upon success. Sometimes it takes a braver man to lose than to win. A man may meet defeat and even death in doing his duty, but if he has not flinched or given up, he has not failed. A brave deed is never wasted whether men live or die.
In the spring of 1862, James J. Andrews and a little band of nineteen other men staked their lives and liberty for the freedom of Tennessee and although they lost, the story of their courage helped other men to be brave.
At the beginning of the Civil War, the eastern part of Tennessee was held by the Confederates although the mountaineers were for the most part Union men. The city of Chattanooga was the key to that part of the state and was held by the Confederates. A railroad line into that city ran through Georgia and was occupied by the Southern army. If that could be destroyed, Chattanooga could be cut off from reënforcements and captured by the small body of Union troops which could be risked for that purpose. This road was guarded by detachments of Confederate troops and extended for two hundred miles through Confederate territory and it seemed as if it could not be destroyed by any force less than an army. There was no army that could be spared.
One April evening a stranger came to the tent of General O. M. Mitchel, commander of the Union forces in middle Tennessee, and asked to see the general. The sentry refused to admit him unless he stated his name and errand.
"Tell the general," said the man quietly, "that James J. Andrews wants to speak to him on a matter of great importance."
The sentry stared at him for there were few in the army who had not heard of Andrews, the scout, but fewer still who had ever seen him. No man had passed through the enemy's lines so many times, knew the country better or had been sent more often on dangerous errands. In a minute he was ushered in to where General Mitchel sat writing in the inner tent. With his deep-set gray eyes and waving hair brushed back from his broad, smooth forehead, he looked more like a poet than a fighter. The general noticed, however, that his eyes never flickered and that although he spoke in a very low voice, there was something about him that at once commanded attention. Andrews wasted no time.
"General Mitchel," he said, "if you will let me have twenty-four men, I will capture a train, burn the bridges on the Georgia railroad and cut off Chattanooga."
"It can't be done," returned General Mitchel.
"Well, general," answered Andrews slowly, "don't you think it's worth trying? You know I generally make good on what I set out to do. In this matter if we lose, we lose only twenty-five men. If we win, we take Chattanooga and all Tennessee without a battle."
There was a long pause while the general studied the scout.
"You shall have the men," he said finally.
Andrews saluted and left the tent. That night twenty-four men from three regiments were told that they were to have the first chance to volunteer for secret and dangerous service. Not a man chosen refused to serve. The next evening they were told to meet at a great boulder at sunset about a mile below the camp and wait until joined by their captain. Each man was furnished with the camp countersign as well as a special watchword by which they could know each other. One by one the men gathered at dusk, recognized each other by the watchword and sat down in the brush back of the boulder to wait. Just at dark there was a rustling in the underbrush at the other side of the road and the scout stepped out, joined them and gave the countersign. Without a word, he moved to the thick bushes at one corner of the boulder and pushing them aside showed a tiny hidden path which wound through the brush. Into this he stepped and beckoned them to follow. The path twisted back and forth among the great stones and trees and through patches of underbrush and the men in single file followed Andrews. Finally nearly a mile from the road, he led them down into a dense thicket in a little ravine. There the brush had been cut out so as to make a kind of room in the thicket about ten feet square. When they were all inside, the scout motioned them to sit down and then circled around through the underbrush and doubled back on his track so as to make sure that they had not been followed by any spy. Then he returned and lighted a small lantern which hung to one of the saplings and for the first time his men had a good look at their captain. As usual, Andrews wasted no time.
"Boys," he said simply, "I have chosen you to come with me and capture a train from an army and then run it two hundred miles through the enemy's country. We will have to pass every train we meet and while we are doing this we must tear up a lot of track and burn down two bridges. There is every chance of being wrecked or shot and if we are captured, we will be hung for spies. It is a desperate chance and I picked you fellows out as the best men in the whole army to take such a chance. If any of you think it is too dangerous, now is the time to stand up and draw out."
There was a long pause. Each man tried to see what his companions were thinking of in the dim light.
"Well, captain," at last drawled a long, lank chap with a comical face, who had the reputation of being the worst daredevil in his regiment, "I would like to stand up for you've got me kind of scared, but my foot's asleep and I guess I'll have to go with you."
"That's the way I feel," said the man next to him, as every one laughed, and the same answer went all around the circle.
In a whisper the scout then outlined his plan. The men were to change their uniforms and put on the butternut-colored clothes of the South and to carry no arms except a revolver and bowie-knife. Then they were to cross the country on foot until they got to Chattanooga and were then to go back on their tracks by train and meet at a little town called Marietta in the middle of Georgia. No one would, of course, suspect men coming out of a Confederate city to be Union soldiers. If questioned they were to say that they were Kentuckians on their way to join the Southern army. At Marietta they were to take rooms at the Marietta Hotel and meet at the scout's room on the following Saturday morning at two o'clock.
Disguised as a quinine seller, Andrews reached Marietta ahead of the others. At the time appointed, he sat fully dressed in the silent hotel waiting for the arrival of his little company and wondering how many would appear. Just as the town clock struck the hour from the old-fashioned court house, there came a light tapping at the door and one by one nineteen of the twenty-four glided in and reported for duty. All had gone through various adventures and several had only escaped capture by quick thinking and cool action. One of the missing ones had been delayed by a wreck and did not reach Marietta in time, two others were forced to enlist in the Southern army, and two more reached Marietta but by some mistake did not join the others. The twenty who were left, however, were the kind of men whose courage flares highest when things seem most desperate and they were not at all discouraged by the loss of a fifth of their force, and they all agreed with Brown, the man whose foot had been asleep, when he drawled out in his comical way, "The fewer fellows the more fun for those who are left."
After reporting, they went back to their rooms and got what sleep they could. At daylight they were all at the ticket office in time for the north-bound mail train. In order to prevent any suspicion, each man bought a ticket for a different station along the line in the direction of Chattanooga. Eight miles out of Marietta was a little station called Big Shanty where the train was scheduled to stop twenty minutes for breakfast. It was a lonely place at the foot of Kenesaw Mountain and there were only the station, a freight-house, a restaurant and one or two dwelling houses. Andrews had planned to capture the train there, believing that there would be few, if any, bystanders at so small a place early in the morning. As the train came around the curve of the mountain, however, the scout and his men, who were scattered through the train, were horrified to see scores of tents showing white through the morning mist. A detachment of Confederate soldiers was in camp there and it was now necessary for the little squad of Union soldiers to capture the train not only from its crew and passengers, but under the very eyes of a regiment. There was no flinching. The minute the train stopped there was the usual wild scramble by the passengers for breakfast in which the engineer, fireman and conductor joined. In a minute the engine was left entirely unguarded. In those days engines were named like steamboats, and this one had been christened "General." Andrews and his men loitered behind. In his squad were two engineers and a fireman. These at once hurried forward and began to uncouple the engine with its tender and three baggage-cars. The rest of the party grouped around, playing the part of bystanders, but with their hands on their revolvers, for within a dozen feet of the engine stood a sentry with his loaded musket in his hand watching the whole thing, while other sentries and a large group of soldiers were only a few yards farther off. The men worked desperately at the coupling and finally succeeded in freeing the cars. Then the engineers and fireman sprang into the cab of the engine while Andrews stood with his hand on the rail and foot on the step, and the rest of the band tumbled into the baggage-cars. This was the most critical moment of all, for although the watching soldiers might think it natural to change the crew, yet their suspicions would certainly be aroused at the sight of fifteen men climbing into baggage-cars. The nearest sentry cocked his musket and stepped forward to investigate. At this moment Brown climbed into the engine along with one of the engineers, coolly smoking a cigar. Poking his head out of the window he called back as if to one of the crew, "Tell those fellows not to eat up all the breakfast. We'll be back just as soon as we can take those other cars on at the siding." All this time Andrews was standing with his foot on the step watching the men enter the baggage-cars. The track was on a high bank and it was necessary for the first man to be raised up on the shoulders of two others in order to open the door. Once inside, the other men were tossed up to him and he pulled them in like bags of meal. Finally there were only two left and these jumped, caught the outstretched hands of two inside and were hauled up into the car. Not until then did Andrews step aboard under the very nose of the suspicious sentry. The engineer was so anxious to start that he pulled the throttle wide open and for a few seconds the wheels spun round and round without catching on the rails. He finally slowed up enough to allow the wheels to bite and the engine started off with a jerk which took all the soldiers in the baggage-cars off their feet. Just at this moment the fat engineer waddled out of the eating-house shouting at the top of his voice, "Stop, thief! Stop, thief!" He was followed by the fireman who bellowed to the sentry, "Shoot 'em, shoot 'em! They're Yanks!" It was too late. The General was taking the first curve on two wheels, leaving the quiet little station swarming and buzzing like a hornet's nest struck by a stone. The train had been captured without losing a man.
Now came the even more difficult part of the undertaking, to run the engine for two hundred miles through an enemy's country and to force it past all the other trains between Big Shanty and Chattanooga. The first thing to do was to prevent any message of the capture being sent on ahead. There was no telegraph station at Big Shanty, but there was no telling how soon word would be sent back to the nearest telegraph operator. Accordingly, four miles out the engine was stopped and a man named Scott, who had been a great coon-hunter before entering the army, shinned up a telegraph pole and sawed through the wires. While he was doing this, the rest of the party took up one of the rails and loaded it into a baggage-car. Others piled in a lot of dry railroad ties to be used in burning the bridges. The General was an old-style engine the like of which is never seen nowadays. It had one of the round, funny smoke-stacks which we still see on old postage stamps and it burned cord-wood instead of coal, but it was a good goer for those times and was soon whirling through the enemy's country at what seemed to the raiders a tremendous rate of speed. Before long they were compelled to stop at one of the stations to take in wood and water. Andrews explained to the station-agent that they were agents of General Beauregard running a powder-train down to the Confederate headquarters at Corinth. At one station named Etowah, they found an old locomotive belonging to a local iron company standing there with steam up. It carried the name of Jonah and so far as the raiders were concerned, it certainly lived up to its name. Brown, who was acting as engineer, wanted to stop and put Jonah out of business, but Andrews decided to push on. It was a fatal mistake. At Kingston, thirty miles from their starting place, they learned that the local freight coming from Chattanooga was about due, so Andrews put his engine over on the siding and waited. After a long delay, the freight arrived, but it carried on its caboose a red flag showing that another train was behind. Andrews stepped up to the conductor and indignantly inquired how any train dared delay General Beauregard's special powder-cars.
"Well, you see," said the freight's conductor, "the Yanks have captured Huntsville thirty miles from Chattanooga and special trains are being run to get everything out."
Andrews realized that General Mitchel had started against Chattanooga and that if he could burn even one bridge, the capture of the city was certain. Another long wait and the special freight came in, but it carried another fatal red flag. It turned out that it was so large that it was being run in two sections. There was nothing to do but wait. By this time crowds of passengers and train-hands had gathered around the so-called powder-train, all curious to look it over. The four men in the engine sat there smoking, seemingly unconcerned. As a matter of fact, however, they were ready any moment to fight for their lives. If any of the crowd opened the baggage-cars and saw the other men hidden there, no amount of explanation could persuade them that there was not something wrong. If the waiting was hard on the men in the engine, it was still worse for the men crouched back in the cars, not knowing what was wrong and expecting to hear the alarm given any moment. For an hour and five minutes the Union train was kept at Kingston. At last a whistle was heard and the long-expected freight passed by and the General was again on its way. A mile out from Kingston the coon-hunter was sent up another telegraph pole and the wires again cut. The rest of the party were leisurely trying to loosen another rail with the poor tools which they had, when from far in the rear a sound was heard which brought the man at the wires down with a run. It was the whistle of an engine coming their direction and meant that in some mysterious way the enemy was on their track.
"Pull, you men!" shouted Andrews. "They've got word somehow and they're after us."
Again the whistle sounded, this time much nearer, and with a last frantic pull the rail broke and eight men tumbled head over heels down an embankment. They were up in a minute and scrambled into the baggage-car and the old General was off once more at top speed. At Adairsville, the next station, a freight and passenger train were waiting and there Andrews heard that another express was due from Chattanooga which had not yet arrived. There was no time to wait now that the pursuit had begun and the old General was pushed at full speed in order to reach the next siding before meeting the express. The nine miles between stations were covered in as many minutes, Brown and the fireman heaping on the cord-wood and soaking it with kerosene-oil until the fire-plate was red hot. They reached the station just in time, for the express was about to pull out when the whistle of Andrews' train was heard, and it backed down so as to allow the "powder-train" to take the side track. It stopped, however, in such a manner as to completely close up the other end of the switch. The engineer and conductor of the express were plainly suspicious and refused to move their train until Andrews had answered their questions. With the pursuing engine on his track, any more delay would be fatal. Cocking his revolver, Andrews poked it into the stomach of the engineer.
"My instructions from General Beauregard," he said, "are to rush this train through and to shoot any one that tries to delay it and I am going to begin on you."
The engineer lost all further desire to ask questions, climbed into his cab and pulled out. The way was now clear to Chattanooga. Beyond the next station Andrews stopped once more to cut the wires and to try to take up a section of the track, when right behind suddenly sounded the whistle of an engine like the scream of some relentless bird of prey that could not be turned from its pursuit. Far down the track rushed a locomotive crowded with soldiers armed with rifles. Two minutes more would have saved the day for Andrews. The rail bent, but did not break, although the men tugged at it frantically until the bullets began pattering around them. There was only just time to jump aboard and the General was off again with the Confederate engine thundering close behind.
The story of this pursuer is the story of two men who refused to give up and who won out by accepting the one chance in a thousand which ordinary men would let go by. When the stolen train whirled off at Big Shanty there were two men who didn't waste any time in shouting or swearing. They were Fuller, the conductor of the stolen train, and Murphy, the foreman of the Atlanta railway machine shops. There was no telegraph station nor any locomotive at hand in which to follow the runaways. Apparently it was hopeless, yet out of all the crowd of civilians and soldiers who rushed around and asked questions and shouted answers, Fuller and Murphy were the only two who took the long chance and ran after the flying train. The rest of the crew could not help laughing to see two men chase a locomotive on foot. But Murphy and the other let them laugh and ran on. Before they had gone a half mile they found a hand-car on a siding. This they lifted over to the main track, manned the pump-bars and were soon flying along at the rate of some fifteen miles an hour. As they came near Etowah the hand-car suddenly flew off the track and went rolling down the embankment. It had met the first of the broken rails. The two men were much bruised and shaken up, but no bones were broken and they managed to hoist the hand-car back on to the rails again and were soon on their way, this time keeping a lookout for any traps ahead. At Etowah they found old "Jonah" puffing on the siding, the engine that Brown had advised blowing up. It was at once pressed into service, loaded with soldiers and in a minute was flying toward Kingston, where Andrews had his life-shortening wait of over an hour. Fuller knew of the tangle of trains at that point and told his escort to get their muskets ready and be prepared for a fight, but Andrews had been away just four minutes when the pursuers reached the station, and Fuller there found himself stopped by three heavy trains. It was hopeless to wait for them to move, and besides old Jonah was not much on speed. Fuller and his men jumped out, ran through to the farthest train, uncoupled the engine and one car, in spite of the protests of its crew, filled it with forty armed men and once more started after the flying General.
It was their whistle which so startled Andrews and his men when they were breaking the second rail. Fuller and Murphy saw what they had done and managed to reverse the engine in time to prevent a wreck. Again at this point ordinary men would have given up the chase for it was impossible to go farther in that engine or to get it over the broken rail, but these Confederates were not ordinary men. Leaving their escort they started down the track again on foot alone, doggedly and relentlessly after their stolen General. Before they had gone far they met the mixed train that had told Andrews of the express. They signaled so frantically that it stopped and when the crew learned that the so-called "powder-train" was on its way to destroy the great bridges which formed the backbone of their railway, they consented to turn back. So uncoupling the locomotive and the tender and filling them with armed soldiers and civilians from among the passengers, Fuller and Murphy made their sixth start. On foot, by hand-car, in two locomotives, on foot again and now once more in a locomotive, they began what was to be the last lap of this race on which a city and a state depended.
Beyond Adairsville the Confederates could see far ahead in the distance Andrews and his men making desperate efforts to raise the rail. With long screams from her whistle, the Confederate engine fairly leaped over the tracks. The rail bent slowly, but the spikes still held. Two minutes, or even a minute more would break the track and the road and bridges would be defenseless before the Union raiders. But it was not to be. Andrews and his men tugged at the stubborn rail until the pursuing engine was so close that the bullets were dropping all around them and then sprang into the engine and thundered off again. If only a little time could be gained the Union men could burn the Oostinaula Bridge. So while the engine was running at a speed of nearly a mile a minute, the men in the last car crowded into the next and the last car was dropped off in the hope that it would block the road for the pursuer. But the engine behind pushed it ahead until the next station was reached where it could be switched off the main track. This slowed the chaser's speed, however, so that the General was able to take on wood and water and also to cut the wires beyond the station so that the news of their coming would not be telegraphed ahead and give the station-master a chance to either side-track them or block the track. The pursuing engine began to gain again and the little band of Union soldiers moved into the first car and the end of the second car was smashed and it was cut loose. Railroad ties were also dropped across the track and time enough was gained once more for the General to take on wood and water at two more stations and to cut the wires beyond each. Twice they stopped and tried in vain to raise a rail, but the pursuers came within rifle range each time before they could finish. The rain prevented the burning of the bridges and now slowly and surely the pursuing engine began to gain. The raiders tried every way to block the track. At one point they spied a spare rail near a sharp curve. Stopping the engine they fitted it into the track in such a way that it seemed certain to derail the Confederate engine. The latter came thundering on at full speed, struck the hidden rail, and leaped at least six inches from the rail, but came down safely and went whirling along as if nothing had happened. Not once in a hundred times could an engine have kept the track after such a collision. This was the time. Now they were too close to the General to allow of any more stoppages even for wood and water. Andrews decided to risk everything on one last stroke. A mile or so ahead was a wooden-covered bridge. At his orders out of the last car his men swarmed into the engine filling every inch of space, even the tender and the cow-catcher being covered with men. All of the fuel left was piled into the one remaining car, smeared with oil and set afire. Both the doors were opened and the draught as it was whirled along soon fanned the fire into furious flames. They dashed into the dark of the covered bridge with the car spurting flame from both sides. Right in the middle of the bridge it was uncoupled and left burning fast and furiously. It did not seem possible that any engine could pass through such a barrier. There was just enough pressure left in the boiler to reach the next wood-yard and the Union scouts looked back anxiously at the bridge. In a minute they heard around a far-away curve the whistle which sounded to them like the screech of a demon. The Confederates had dashed into the bridge and pushed the flaming car ahead of them to the next switch. The Union scouts had played their last card. There would be no chance of taking in wood before they were overtaken. One thing only was left. They stopped the engine, sprang out, reversed the locomotive and sent it dashing back to collide with their pursuer and then separated to try to make their way back some three hundred miles through the enemy's country to the Union lines. The Confederates, when they saw the engine coming, reversed their own and kept just ahead of this last attack of the old General until its fires died down and it came to a stop.
Mitchel, the Union general, but thirty miles west of Chattanooga, waited in vain for the engine which never came. Chattanooga was saved and the most daring railroad raid in history had failed.
The story of the fate of the brave men who volunteered for the forlorn hope is a sad one. Several were captured that same day and all but two within a week. These two were overtaken and brought back when they were just on the point of reaching the Union outposts and had supposed themselves safe. Even the two who reached Marietta but did not take the train with the others were identified and added to the band of prisoners. Being in civilian clothes within an enemy's lines, they were all held as spies and the heroic Andrews and seven others were tried and executed. Of the others, eight, headed by Brown, overpowered the guards in broad daylight and made their escape from Atlanta, Georgia, and finally reached the North. The other six started with them, but were recaptured and held as prisoners until exchanged in the early part of 1863.
So ends the story of an expedition that failed in its immediate object, but that succeeded in the example which these brave men set their fellows.
There are as many different kinds of courage as there are different kinds of men. Some men are brave because they were born so. They are no more to be praised for their bravery than a bulldog deserves credit because it is a natural born fighter or a hare deserves blame because it specializes in running away. Some men belong to the bulldog class. They are brave because it is natural for them to be brave. Others belong to the hare-family and they show far more real courage in overcoming their natural instincts than does the other for whom it is natural to do brave deeds. Much also depends on the circumstances. We all know from our own experience of athletes who can play a good winning game, and who perform well against inferior competitors. The rarer type, however, is the boy or man who can play a good up-hill game and who with all the odds against him, is able to fight it out and never to let up or give up until the last point is scored or the last yard is run and who often is able to win against better, but less dogged, less courageous competitors. It is so in battles. It is easy for any commander to be courageous and to take unusual chances when he is winning. The thrill of approaching victory is a stimulant which makes even a coward act like a brave man. Even General Gates, the weak, vacillating, clerkly, self-seeking, cowardly general of the Revolutionary War, whose selfishness and timidity were in such contrast to Washington's self-sacrifice and courage, was energetic and decisive at the battle of Saratoga after Benedict Arnold, who was there only as a volunteer, had made his brave, successful charge on the British column in spite of Gates' orders. After attacking and dispersing the reserved line of the British army, Arnold called his men together again and attacked the Canadians who covered the British left wing. Just as he had cut through their ranks, a wounded German soldier lying on the ground took deliberate aim at Arnold and killed his horse and shattered his leg with the same bullet. As he went down, one of his men tried to bayonet the wounded soldier who had fired, but even while disentangling himself from his dead horse and suffering under the pain of his broken leg, Arnold called out, "For God's sake, don't hurt him, he's a fine fellow," and saved the life of the man who had done his best to take his. That was the hour when Benedict Arnold should have died, at the moment of a magnificent victory while saving the life of a man who had injured him. Gates went on with the battle, closed in on the British and in spite of their stubborn defense, attacked them fiercely for almost the only time in his career as a general and completely routed them. There is no doubt that on that occasion after Arnold's charge Gates displayed a considerable amount of bravery, yet such bravery cannot really be termed courage of the high order which was so often displayed by Washington, by William of Orange and later by his grandson, William of England, by Fabius the conqueror of Hannibal and by many other generals who were greatest in defeat.
Napoleon once said that the highest kind of courage was the two-o'clock-in-the-morning courage. He meant that at that gray hour, when the tide of life is at its ebb before the dawn, a man who is brave is brave indeed. The best test of this kind of courage is in defeat. Fabius showed that in the long, wasting campaign which he fought against Hannibal, one of the greatest generals of his or any other age. Following, retreating, harassing, Fabius always refused a pitched battle until his enemies at Rome forced the appointment of Minucius as joint dictator with him. In spite of the protests of Fabius, the army was divided and the younger and rasher Minucius offered battle with his army. He was like a child before the crafty Hannibal who concealed a great force of men in ravines around an apparently bare hill and then inveigled Minucius into attacking a small force which he sent up to the top of this hill as a bait to draw him on. Once there the ambuscade of Hannibal attacked the Roman army on all sides and almost in a moment it was in disorder and a retreat was commenced which was about to become a rout when Fabius hurried up and by his exhortations and steadfast courage rallied the men, re-formed them, drove through Hannibal's lighter-armed troops and finally occupied the hill in safety. The grateful Minucius refused to act as commander any further, but at once insisted upon thereafter serving under Fabius.
At the Battle of Boyne, that great battle between William of England and his uncle, James II, which was to decide whether England should be a free or a slave nation, William showed the same kind of courage. In spite of chronic asthma, approaching age and a frail body, King William was a great general. He never appeared to such advantage as at the head of his troops. Usually of reserved and saturnine disposition, danger changed him into another man. On this day, while breakfasting before the battle, two field-pieces were trained on him and a six-pound ball tore his coat and grazed his shoulder drawing blood, and dashing him from his horse. He was up in an instant, however, and on that day in spite of his feeble health and wounded shoulder, was nineteen hours in the saddle. The crisis came when the English soldiers charged across the ford of the Boyne River. General Schomberg, William's right-hand and personal friend, was killed while rallying his troops. Bishop Walker, the hero of the siege of Londonderry, had been struck by a chance shot and the English, who had hardly obtained a firm foothold on the opposite bank, commenced to waver. At this moment King William forced his horse to swim across, carrying his sword in his left hand, for his right arm was stiff with his wound, and dashed up to rally the troops. As he rode up, the disorganized regiment recognized their king.
"What will you do for me?" he cried, and almost in an instant he had rallied the men and persuaded them to stand firm against the attacks of the ferocious Irish horsemen.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I have heard much of you. Let me see something of you," and charging at their head, this middle-aged, wounded invalid by sheer courage shattered the Irish and French troops and saved his kingdom.
Our own Washington was never greater than in defeat and not once but many times rallied a defeated and disheartened army and saved the day. At the Battle of Monmouth, the traitorous Charles Lee had turned what should have been a great victory into a disorderly retreat. After outflanking Cornwallis, instead of pressing his advantage, he ordered his men to retreat into a near-by ravine. Lafayette's suspicions were aroused and he sent in hot haste to Washington who arrived on the field of battle just as the whole army in tremendous disorder was pouring out of the marsh and back over the neighboring ravine before the British advance. At that moment Washington rode up pale with anger and for once lost control of a temper which cowed all men when once aroused.
"What is the meaning of all this?" he shouted to Lee and when he received no answer, repeated the question with a tremendous oath. Then immediately realizing the situation, he sent Lee back to the rear and wheeled about to stop the retreat and form a new front. Riding down the whole line of retreating soldiers, the very sight of him steadied and rallied them and in less than half an hour the line was reformed and Washington drove back the British across the marsh and the ravine until night put an end to the battle. Before morning the whole British force had retreated, leaving their wounded behind and the Battle of Monmouth had been changed by the courage and fortitude of one man from defeat into a victory for the American forces.
The most striking instance in the Civil War of what the courage of one brave, enduring, unfaltering man can do was at the Battle of Cedar Creek. In the year 1864, General Sheridan, the great cavalry leader, took command of the Army of the Shenandoah. Sheridan was an ideal cavalry leader. Brave, dashing, brilliant, he had commanded more horsemen than had any general since the days of the Tartar hordes of Tamerlane and Genghis Khan. There was no watchful waiting with Sheridan. This he had shown at the great mountain battle of Chattanooga. At that battle, Missionary Ridge was the keystone of the Confederate position. It was occupied by Confederate batteries and swarming with Confederate troops. A storming party was sent from the main body of the Union forces to drive out the Confederates who held the woods on the flanks of the Ridge. The orders were to attack the Confederates and hold the captured positions until the main body could come up. Grant was watching the battle through his field-glasses and saw the attacking party gain possession of the slopes of the Ridge. Suddenly, to his surprise and horror, the whole regiment charged directly up the Ridge. It was a mad thing to do for the top was held by a tremendous force of Confederates and guarded by massed batteries. General Grant called General Granger up to him and said angrily:
"Did you order those men up, Granger?"
"No," said the general, "they started up without orders. When those fellows get started, all hell can't stop 'em."
General Grant then sent word to General Sheridan to either stop the men or take the Ridge.
"I guess it will be easier to take the Ridge than it will be to stop them," said Sheridan.
Before starting, he borrowed a flask and waved it toward the group of Confederate officers who were standing on top of the Ridge in front of the headquarters of Bragg, the Confederate general.
"Here's at you," he shouted, drinking to them. They could plainly see his action through their field-glasses and immediately two field-guns, which were known as Lady Breckenridge and Lady Buckner, were trained at Sheridan and his group of officers and fired. One shell struck so near Sheridan as to splash dirt all over him.
"I'll take those guns just for that," was all he said and, followed by his officers, he dashed up the Ridge after the climbing, attacking-party. The way was so steep that the men had to climb up on their hands and knees while the solid shot and shell tore great furrows in their ranks. Sheridan was off his horse as soon as the slope became steep, and, although he had started after the charge, was soon at the front of the men. They recognized him with a tremendous cheer.
"I'm not much used to this charging on foot, boys," he said, "but I'll do the best I can," and he set a pace which soon brought his men so far up that the guns above could not be depressed enough to hit them. Behind him came the whole storming party clambering up on their hands and knees with their regimental flags flying everywhere, sometimes dropping as the bearers were shot, but never reaching the ground because they would be caught up again and again by others. At last they were so near that the Confederate artillerymen, in order to save time, lighted the fuses of their shells and bowled them down by hand against the storming party. Just before they reached the summit, Sheridan formed them into a battle-line and then with a tremendous cheer, they dashed forward and attacked the Ridge at six different points. The Confederates had watched their approach with amazement and amusement. When they found, however, that nothing seemed to stop them, they were seized with a panic and as the six desperate storming parties dashed upon them from different angles, after a few minutes' fast fighting, they broke and retreated in a hopeless rout down the other side of the Ridge. Sheridan stopped long enough to claim Lady Breckenridge and Lady Buckner as his personal spoils of war and forming his men again, led them on to a splendid victory.
As soon as he took command of the Army of the Shenandoah, aggressive fighting at once began. Twice he defeated Jubal Early, once at Winchester and again at Fisher's Hill, while one of his generals routed the Rebels so completely in a brilliant engagement at Woodstock that the battle was always known as the Woodstock Races, the Confederate soldiers being well in front in this competition. Finally, General Sheridan had massed his whole army at Cedar Creek. From there he rode back to Washington to have a conference with General Halleck and the Secretary of War. When that was finished with his escort he rode back to Winchester, some twelve miles from Cedar Creek, two days later. There he received word that all was well at his headquarters and he turned in and went to bed intending to join the army the next day. Six o'clock the next morning an aide aroused him with the news that artillery firing could be heard in the direction of Cedar Creek. Sheridan was out of bed in a moment and though it was reported that it sounded more like a skirmish than a battle, he at once ordered breakfast and started for Cedar Creek. As he came to the edge of Winchester he could hear the unceasing roar of the artillery and was convinced at once that a battle was in progress and from the increase of the sound judged that the Union Army must be falling back. The delighted faces of the Confederate citizens of Winchester, who showed themselves at the windows, also convinced him that they had secret information from the battlefield and were in raptures over some good news. With twenty men he started to cover the twelve miles to Cedar Creek as fast as their horses could gallop. Sheridan was riding that day a magnificent black, thoroughbred horse, Rienzi, which had been presented to him by some of his admirers. Like Lee's gray horse "Traveler" and the horse Wellington rode at Waterloo, "Copenhagen," Rienzi was to become famous. Before Sheridan had gone far and just after crossing Mill Creek outside of Winchester, he commenced to meet hundreds of men, some wounded, all demoralized, who with their baggage were all rushing to the rear in hopeless confusion. Just north of Newtown he met an army chaplain digging his heels into the sides of his jaded horse and making for the rear with all possible speed. Sheridan stopped him and inquired how things were going at the front.
"Everything is lost," replied the chaplain, "but it will be all right when you get there."
The parson, however, in spite of this expression of confidence, kept on going. Sheridan sent back word to Colonel Edwards, who commanded a brigade at Winchester, to stretch his troops across the valley and stop all fugitives. To most men this would have been the only plan of action possible, to stop the fugitives and rally at Winchester. Sheridan, however, was not accustomed to defensive fighting and instantly made up his mind that he would rally his men at the front and if possible, turn this defeat into a victory. The roads were too crowded to be used and so he jumped the fence into the fields and rode straight across country toward the drumming guns at Cedar Creek, which showed where the main battle was raging. From the fugitives, as he rode, Sheridan obtained a clear idea of what had happened. His great rival, Early, had taken advantage of his absence to obtain revenge for his previous defeats. Just after dawn he had made an attack in two different directions on the Union forces and had started a panic which had seized all the soldiers except one division under Getty and the cavalry under Lowell. The army which Sheridan met was a defeated army in full rout. As he dashed along, the men everywhere recognized him, stopped running, threw up their hats with a cheer and shouldering their muskets, turned around and followed him as fast as they could. He directed his escort to ride in all directions and announce that General Sheridan was coming. From all through the fields and roads could be heard the sound of faint cheering and everywhere men were seen turning, rallying and marching forward instead of back. Even the wounded who had fallen by the roadside waved their hands and hats to him as he passed. As he rode, Sheridan took off his hat so as to be more easily recognized and thundered along sometimes in the road and sometimes across country. As he met the retreating troops, he said:
"Boys, if I had been with you this morning this wouldn't have happened. The thing to do now is to face about and win this battle after all. Come on after me as fast as you can."
[Illustration: Sheridan Hurrying to Rally His Men]
So he galloped the whole twelve miles with the men everywhere rallying behind him and following him at full speed. At last he came to the forefront of the battle where Getty's division and the cavalry were holding their own and resisting the rapid approach of the whole Confederate Army. Sheridan called upon his horse for a last effort and jumped the rail fence at the crest of the hill. By this time the black horse was white with foam, but he carried his master bravely up and down in front of the line and the whole brigade of men rose to their feet with a tremendous cheer and poured in a fierce fire upon the approaching Confederate troops. Sheridan rode along the whole front of the line and aroused a wild enthusiasm which showed itself in the way that the first Rebel charge was driven back. Telling Getty's and Lowell's men to hold on, he rode back to meet the approaching troops. By half-past three in the afternoon, Sheridan had brought back all the routed troops, reformed his whole battle line and waving his hat, led a charge riding his same gallant black horse. As they attacked the Confederate front, Generals Merritt and Custer made a fresh attack and the whole Confederate Army fell back routed and broken and was driven up the valley in the same way that earlier in the day they had driven the Union soldiers. Once again the presence of one brave man had turned a defeat into a victory.
Sheridan took no credit to himself in his report to Lincoln, simply telegraphing, "By the gallantry of our brave officers and men, disaster has been converted into a splendid victory."
"My personal admiration and gratitude for your splendid work of October 19th," Lincoln telegraphed back and the whole country rang with praises of Phil Sheridan and his wonderful ride. The day after the news of the battle reached the North, Thomas Buchanan Read wrote a poem entitled "Sheridan's Ride," with a stirring chorus.
The last verse sang the praise both of the rider and the horse:
"What was done? what to do? A glance told him both, Then striking his spurs with a terrible oath, He dashed down the line, mid a storm of huzzas, And the wave of retreat checked its course there because, The sight of the master compelled it to pause. With foam and with dust the black charger was gray; By the flash of his eye, and the red nostrils' play, He seemed to the whole great army to say, 'I have brought you Sheridan all the way From Winchester, down to save the day.'"
THE BLOODY ANGLE
It takes courage to charge, to rush over a space swept by shot and shell and attack a body of men grimly waiting to beat back the onset with murderous volleys and cold steel. Sometimes, though, it takes more courage to stand than to charge, to endure than to attack. The six hundred gallant horsemen of that Light Brigade who charged an army at Balaclava were brave men. The six hundred Knights of St. John who at the siege of Malta by Solyman the Magnificent defended the tiny fortress of St. Elmo against thirty thousand Turks until every man lay dead back of the broken ramparts and the power and might of the Turkish Empire had been wasted and shattered against their indomitable defense were braver. The burghers of Leyden who lived through the siege of their city on shoe-leather, rats and bark, who baked their last loaves and threw them down to the besiegers in magnificent defiance, who shouted down to the Spaniards that they would eat their left arms and fight with their right, and who slept on the ramparts night and day until they drove back the greatest army in all Europe were braver.
"It's dogged that does it," said the grim Duke of Wellington when his thin red line of English fighters endured through that long summer day against attack after attack until at twilight the Old Guard were repulsed for the last time and the great battle of Waterloo won.
Many men are brave in flashes. They are good for a dash. Few are those who can go the distance.
This is the story of a Union general who could endure and whose courage flared highest when defeat and death seemed certain. It is the story of a little band of men who were brave enough to stand against an army and whose endurance won a seven-day battle and opened the way for the capture of the Confederate capital.
It was the fourth year of the War of the Rebellion, and the end was not yet in sight. The Confederate cause had fewer men, but better officers. Robert E. Lee was undoubtedly the most able general in the world at that time. Stonewall Jackson had been his right arm, while Longstreet, Johnston, Early and a host of other fighting leaders helped him to defeat one Union army after another. The trouble with the Union leaders was that they didn't know how to attack. There had been McClellan, a wonderful organizer, but who preferred to dig entrenchments rather than fight and who never believed that he had enough men to risk a battle.
Then came Meade who won the great battle of Gettysburg and beat back the only invasion of the North, but who failed to follow up his advantage and had settled down to the old policy that the North knew so well of watchful waiting. At last came the Man. He had been fighting in the West and he had won,--not important battles, but more important, the confidence of the people and of Abraham Lincoln, the people's president. For this new man had a new system of generalship. His tactics were simple enough. He believed that armies were made to use, not to save. He believed in finding the enemy and hammering and hammering and hammering away until something broke--and that something was usually the enemy. His name was Ulysses S. Grant.
"He fights," was all that President Lincoln said about him when a party of politicians came to ask that he be removed. That was enough. What the North wanted was a fighter. Other generals would fight when they had to and were satisfied to stop if they defeated the enemy or broke even, but Grant was like old Charles Martel, Charles the Hammerer, who won his name when he saved all Europe from the Saracens on the plains of Tours by a seven-day battle. The great host of horsemen which had swept victorious through Asia, Africa and half the circle of the Mediterranean whirled down on the solid mass of grim Northmen. For six long days Charles Martel hammered away at that flashing horde of wild warriors. On the seventh his hammer strokes shattered the might of the Moslems and they broke and fled, never to cross the Pyrenees again. Now like Charles, the Hammerer of the Union Army was facing his great test, the terrible Seven Days in the Wilderness. Between him and the Confederate capital lay Lee's veteran army entrenched in that wild stretch of Virginia territory which was well named the Wilderness. Every foot of the puzzling woods, ravines, thickets and trails were known to the Confederates and well they ought to know it since they had already won a great battle on nearly the same field. In this tangled waste an army that knew the ground had a tremendous advantage. Lee chose his battle-field, but did not believe that Grant would join battle. He was to learn to know his great opponent better. Grant would always fight.
On May 4, 1864, the head of Grant's army met Lee's forces on one of the few roads of the Wilderness, known as the Orange Plank Road. The battle was joined. At first the Union forces drove the Confederates back into the thick woods. There they were reinforced and the knowledge of the field began to tell. Everywhere Confederate soldiers were sent by short cuts to attack the entangled Union forces and before long the Union line was shattered and driven back only to form again and fight once more for six long days. And what a battle that was! As in the fierce forest-fight between David and Absalom the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured. The men fought at close quarters and in the tangled thickets of stunted Virginia pine and scrub-oak they could scarcely see ten yards ahead. Every thicket was alive with men and flashed with musketry while the roar and rattle of guns on all sides frightened the deer and rabbits and wildcats that before that day had been the only dwellers in those masses of underbrush. The men fought blindly and desperately in both armies. Artillery could not be used to much advantage in the brush. It was largely a battle of musket and bayonet and wild hand-to-hand fights in the tangle of trees. The second day the Confederate lines were rolled back to the spot where Lee himself stood. Just as they were breaking, down the plank road at a steady trot came a double column of splendid troops paying no attention to the rabble and rout around them. Straight to the front they moved. It was the brigade of Longstreet, Lee's great "left hand." At once the Union advance was stopped and the Confederates began to reform their lines. At this moment from the pines streamed another Federal brigade with apparently resistless force down upon the still confused line. Then it was that a little force of Texans did a brave deed. They saw that if the Union advance was not checked, their men would not have time to form. Although only eight hundred strong, they never hesitated, but with a wild Rebel yell and without any supports or reinforcements, charged directly into the flank of the marching Union column of many times their number. There was a crash, and a tumult of shouts and yells which settled down into a steady roar of musketry. In less than ten minutes half of the devoted band lay dead or wounded. But they had broken the force of the Federal advance and had given the Confederate line time to rally.
Back and forth, day after day the human tide ebbed and flowed until the lonely Wilderness was crowded with men, echoing with the roar and rattle of guns and stained red with brave blood. At times in the confusion scattered troops fired upon their own men, and Longstreet was wounded by such an accident.
At one place the Federal forces had erected log breastworks. These caught fire during the battle and both forces fought each other over a line of fire through which neither could pass. From every thicket different flags waved. The forces were so mixed that men going back for water would find themselves in the hands of the enemy. In places the woods caught fire and men fought through the rolling smoke until driven back by the flames that spared neither the Blue nor the Gray. Both sides would then crawl out to rescue the wounded lying in the path of the fire. In some places where the men had fought through the brush, bushes, saplings and even large trees were cut off by bullets four or five feet from the ground as clean and regularly as if by machinery. For the first few days the Confederates had the advantage. They knew the paths and the Union men were driven back and forth among the woods in a way that would have made any ordinary general retreat. But Grant was not an ordinary general. The more he was beaten the harder he fought. The more men he lost the more he called into action from the reserves.
"It's no use fighting that fellow," said one old Confederate veteran; "the fool never knows when he's beaten. And it's no use shooting at those Yanks," he went on; "half-a-dozen more come to take the place of every one we hit."
At last the Union soldiers got the lay of the land. They couldn't be surprised or ambushed any more. Then they began to throw up breastworks and to cut down trees to hold every foot that they had taken. The Confederates did the same and the two long, irregular lines of earthworks and log fortifications faced each other all the way through the Wilderness. Yet still the lines of gray lay between Richmond and the men in blue. For six days the men had fought locked together in hand-to-hand fights over miles and miles of wilderness, marsh and thicket. The Union losses had been terrific. All along the line the Confederates had won and again and again had dashed back the attempts of the Union forces to pass through or around their lines. The Union Army had lost eleven officers and twenty thousand men and had fought for six days without accomplishing anything. Yet on that day Grant sent to Washington a dispatch in which he wrote: "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer."
Through all this tumult of defeats and losses he sat under a tree whittling and directing every movement as coolly as if safe at home. Finally the great Hammerer chose a spot at which to batter and smash with those tremendous strokes of his. The Confederates had built a long irregular line of earthworks and timber breastworks running for miles through the tangled woods. At one point near the center of the lines a half-moon of defenses jutted out high above the rest of the works. At the chord of this half-circle was an angle of breastworks back of which the Confederates could retreat if driven out of the semicircle. Grant saw that this half-moon was the key of the Confederate position. If it could be captured and held, their whole battle line could be broken and crumpled back and the Union Army pass on to Richmond. If taken at all, it must be by some sudden irresistible attack. He chose General Hancock, a daring, dashing fighter, to make the attempt for the morning of May 12th. It rained hard on the night of May 11th and came off bitter cold. The men gathered for the attack about ten o'clock and huddled together in little groups wet and half-frozen. All that long night they waited. Just at dawn the word was passed around. Crouching in the darkness, a division pressed forward and rushed like tigers at the half-circle and began to climb the breastworks from two sides. The sleepy sentries saw the rush too late. The first man over was a young sergeant named Brown. With a tremendous jump he caught a projecting bough, swung himself over like a cat and landed right in the midst of a crowd of startled soldiers. Finding himself entirely alone with a score of guns pointed at him, he lost his nerve for a minute.
"I surrender, don't shoot," he bellowed like a bull. At that moment from all sides other soldiers dropped over the rampart.
"I take it all back," shouted Brown, now brave again, and to make up for the break in his courage he rushed into the very midst of the defenders and, single-handed, captured the colors. The Confederates were taken entirely by surprise. In the dim light they fought desperately, but they were attacked from two sides with bullets, bayonets and smashing blows from the butt-ends of muskets used like clubs. Almost in a moment the entrenchments were in the hands of the Union soldiers and over three thousand prisoners, two generals and twenty cannon were captured. Those who were left took refuge back of the angle-breastworks which guarded the approach to the half-moon. There they fought back the charging troops until Lee, who had heard of the disaster, could pour in reinforcements. He knew full well that this center must be retaken at any cost. Every man and gun that could be spared was hurried to the spot. Lee started then to take command in person. Only when the soldiers refused to fight unless he took a safe place did he consent to stay back.
With all his available forces Grant lapped the half-circle on every side and began to hammer away at this break in the Confederate line. The Confederate reinforcements came up first and Hancock's men were driven back from the angle until they met the reinforcements pouring in from the troops outside. For a moment they could not face the concentrated fire that came from the rear breastworks. Flat on their faces officers and men lay in a little marsh while the canister swished against the tall marsh-grass and the minie balls moaned horribly as they picked out exposed men here and there. Soon another regiment came up and with a yell the men sprang to their feet and dashed at the breastworks which loomed up through the little patch of woods through which they had retreated. In a minute they had rushed through the trees with men dropping on every side under the murderous fire. Before them was the grim angle of works to be known forever as the Bloody Angle.
As they came nearer they found themselves in front of a deep ditch. Scrambling through this they became entangled in an abattis, a kind of latticework of limbs and branches. As they plunged into this many a man was caught in the footlocks formed by the interwoven branches and held until he was shot down by the fire back of the breastworks. These were made of heavy timber banked with earth to a height of about four feet. Above this was what was called a "head-log" raised just high enough to allow a musket to be inserted between it and the lower work. Inside were shelves covered with piles of buck and ball and minie cartridges. Through the ditch and the snares, up and over the breastworks charged a Pennsylvania regiment, losing nearly one hundred men as they went.
Once again there was the same confused hand-to-hand fighting as had taken place at the outer fortifications. This time the result was different. The crafty Lee had hurried a dense mass of troops through the mist. These men crawled forward in the smoke, reserving their fire until they got to the very inside edge of the Angle. Then with the terrible long-drawn Rebel yell, they sprang to their feet and dashed into the breastworks with a volley that killed every Union soldier who had crossed over. Down too went the men in front, still tangled in the abattis. Every artillery horse was shot and Colonel Upton of the 95th Pennsylvania Volunteers was the only mounted officer in sight.
"Stick to it, boys," he shouted, riding back and forth and waving his hat. "We've got to hold this point!"
In a dense mass the Confederates poured into the breastworks and for a moment it seemed as if they would sweep the Union forces back and retake the half-moon salient. At this moment the Pennsylvanians were reinforced by the 5th Maine and the 121st New York, but the Confederates had the advantage of the breastworks and the Union men began to waver. Then a little two-gun battery of the Second Corps did a very brave thing. They were located at the foot of a hill back of a pine-grove. As the news came that the Union men were giving way, they limbered the guns, the drivers and cannoneers mounted the horses and up the hill at full gallop they charged through the Union infantry and right up to the breastworks, the only case of a charge by a battery in history. Then in a second they unlimbered their guns and poured in a fire of the tin cans filled with bullets called canister which was deadly on the close-packed ranks of the Confederates hurrying up to the Angle. The Union gunners were exposed to the full fire of the men back of the breastworks, but they never flinched. The left gun fired nine rounds and the right fourteen double charges. These cannonades simply mowed the men down in groups. Captain Fish of General Upton's staff left his men and rushed to help this little battery. Back and forth he rode before the guns and the caissons carrying stands of canister under his rubber coat.
"Give it to 'em, boys," he shouted. "I'll bring you canister if you'll only use it."
Again and again he rode until, just as he turned to cheer the gunners once more, he fell mortally wounded. The guns were fired until all of the horses were killed, the guns, carriages and buckets cut to pieces by the bullets and only two of the twenty-three men of the battery were left on their feet. Leaving their two brass pieces which had done such terrible execution still on the breastworks cut and hacked by the bullets from both sides, the lone two marched back through the cheering infantry.
"That's the way to do it," shouted Colonel Upton. "Hold 'em, men! Hold 'em!" And his men held.
The soft mud came up half-way to their knees. Under the continued tramping back and forth, the dead and wounded were almost buried at their feet. The shattered ranks backed off a few yards, then closed up and started to hold their place out in the open against the constantly increasing masses of the enemy back of the breastworks of the Angle. The space was so narrow that only a certain number of men on each side could get into action at once. A New Jersey and Vermont brigade hurried in to help while on the other side General Lee sent all the men that could find a place to fight back of the breastworks. Into the mêlée came an orderly who shouted in Colonel Upton's ear so as to be heard over the rattle of musketry and the roar of yells and cheers:
"General Grant says, 'Hold on!'"
"Tell General Grant we are holding on," shouted back Colonel Upton.
The men in the mud now directed all their fire at the top of the breastworks and picked off every head and hand that showed above. The Confederates then fired through the loopholes, or placed their rifles on the top log and holding by the trigger and the small of the stock lifted the breach high enough to fire at the attacking forces. The losses on both sides were frightful. A gun and a mortar battery took position half a mile back of the Union forces and began to gracefully curve shells and bombs just over the heads of their comrades so as to drop within the ramparts. Sometimes the enemy's fire would slacken. Then some reckless Union soldier would seize a fence-rail or a piece of the abattis and creep close to the breastworks and thrust it over as if he was stirring up a hornet's nest, dropping on the ground to avoid the volley that was sure to follow. One daring lieutenant leaped upon the breastworks and took a rifle that was handed up to him and fired it into the masses of the Confederate soldiers behind. Another one was handed up and he fired that and was about aiming with a third when he was riddled with a volley and pitched headlong among the enemy.
A little later a party of discouraged Confederates raised a piece of a white shelter tent above the works as a flag of truce and offered to surrender. The Union soldiers called on them to jump over. They sprang on the breastworks and hesitated a moment at the sight of so many leveled guns. That moment was fatal to them for their comrades in the rear poured a volley into them, killing nearly every one.
All day long the battle raged. Different breastworks in the same fortifications flaunted different flags. Gradually, however, all along the line the firing and the fighting concentrated at the Angle. The head logs there were so cut and torn that they looked like brooms. So heavy was the fire that several large oak trees twenty-two inches in diameter back of the works were gnawed down by the bullets and fell, injuring some of the South Carolina troops. Toward dusk the Union troops were nearly exhausted. Each man had fired between three and four hundred rounds. Their lips were black and bleeding from biting cartridge. Their shoulders and hands were coated and black with grime and powder-dust. As soon as it became dark they dropped in the knee-deep mud from utter exhaustion. But they held. Grimly, sternly they held. All the long night through they fired away at the breastworks. The trenches on the right of the Angle ran red with Union blood and had to be cleared many a time of the piles of dead bodies which choked them. At last, a little after midnight, sullenly and slowly the Confederate forces drew back and the half-moon and the Bloody Angle were left in possession of the Union forces. The seven days' hammering and the twenty hours of holding had won the fierce and bloody Battle of the Wilderness.
HEROES OF GETTYSBURG
Heroes are not made of different stuff from ordinary men. God made us all heroes at heart. Satan lied when he said "all that a man hath will he give for his life." The call comes and commonplace men and workaday women give their lives as a very little thing for a cause, for an ideal, or for others. When the great moment comes, the love and courage and unselfishness that lie deep in the souls of all of us can flash forth into beacon-lights of brave deeds which will stand throughout the years pointing the path of high endeavor for those who come after.
Women the world over will never forget how Mrs. Strauss came back from the life-boat and went down on the _Titanic_ with her husband rather than have him die alone.
Boys have been braver and tenderer their lives long because of the unknown hero at Niagara. With his mother he was trapped on a floe when the ice-jam broke. Slowly and sternly it moved toward the roaring edge of the cataract. From the Suspension Bridge a rope was let down to them. Twice he tried to fix it around his mother, but she was too old and weak to hold on. The floe was passing beyond the bridge and there was just time for him to knot the rope around himself. Young, active and strong, he would be safe in a moment, but his mother would go to death deserted and alone. He tossed the rope away, put his arm around his old mother and they went over the Falls together.
Every American sailor has been braver and gentler from the memory of Captain Craven who commanded the monitor _Tecumseh_ when Fighting Farragut destroyed the forts and captured the Rebel fleet at Mobile Bay. The _Tennessee_ was about to grapple with the _Tennessee_, the great Rebel ram, when she struck a torpedo, turned over and went down bow foremost. Captain Craven was in the pilot-house with the pilot. As the vessel sank they both rushed for the narrow door. Craven reached it first, but stood aside saying, "After you, pilot." The latter leaped through as the water rushed in and was saved. Craven went down with his ship.
The great moments which are given to men in which to decide whether they are to be heroes or cowards may come at any time, but they always flash through every battle. Danger, suffering and death are the stern tests by which men's real selves are discovered. A man can't do much pretending when he is under fire, and he can't make believe he is brave or unselfish, or chivalric when he is sick, or wounded, or dying. We can be proud that the man who went before us made good and that we can remember all the great battles of the greatest of our wars by the brave deeds of brave men.
The battle of Gettysburg was the most important of the Civil War. Lee with seventy thousand men was pouring into the North. If he defeated Meade and the Union Army, Washington, the capital, would fall. Even Philadelphia and New York would be threatened. In three days of terrible fighting, thirty thousand men were killed. In one of the charges one regiment, the 1st Minnesota, lost eighty-two per cent. of its men--more than twice as many as the famous Light Brigade lost at Balaclava. Pickett's charge of fifteen thousand men over nearly a mile and a half against the hill which marked the center of the Union lines was one of the greatest charges in history. When the Confederates were driven back, two-thirds of the charging party had been killed or wounded. It was the crisis of the war. If that charge went home Gettysburg was lost, the Union Army would become a rabble and the whole strength of the Confederate forces would pass on into the North. On the Union batteries depended the whole fate of the army. If they could keep up a fire to the last moment, the charge must fail. Otherwise the picked thousands of the Confederate Army would break the center of the Union forces and the battle would be lost. Lee gathered together one hundred and fifteen guns and directed a storm of shot and shell against the Union batteries as his regiments charged up the hill. On the very crest was a battery commanded by young Cushing, a brother of Lieutenant W. B. Cushing, who drove a tiny torpedo launch over a boom of logs under the fire of forts, troops and iron-clads and destroyed the great Confederate iron-clad _Albemarle_. This Cushing was of the same fighting breed. During the battle he was shot through both thighs but would not leave his post though suffering agonies from the wounds. When the charge began he fought his battery as fast as the guns could be loaded and fired and his grape-shot and canister mowed down the charging Confederates by the hundred. In spite of tremendous losses the Rebels rushed up the hill firing as they came and so fierce was their fire and that of the Confederate batteries that of the Union officers in command of the batteries just in front of the charge, all but two were struck. But the men kept up the fire to the very last. As what was left of the Confederates topped the hill, a shell struck the wounded Cushing tearing him almost in two. He held together his mangled body with one hand and with the other fired his last gun and fell dead just as the Confederates reached the stone wall on the crest. They were so shattered by his fire that they were unable to hold the hill and were driven back and the battle won for the Union.
Old John Burns was another one of the many heroes of Gettysburg. John was over seventy years old when the battle was fought and lived in a little house in the town of Gettysburg with his wife who was nearly as old as he. Burns had fought in the war of 1812 and began to get more and more uneasy every day as the battle was joined at different points near where he was living. The night before the last day of the battle the old man went out to get his cow and found that a foraging band of Confederates had driven her off. This was the last straw. The next day regiment after regiment of the Confederate forces marched past his house and the old man took down his flintlock musket which had done good service against the British in 1812 and began to melt lead and run bullets through his little old bullet mould. Mrs. Burns had been watching him uneasily for some time.
"John, what in the world are you doing there?" she finally asked.
"Oh," he said, "I thought I would fix up the old gun and get some bullets ready in case any of the boys might want to use it. There's goin' to be some fightin' and it's just as well to get ready. There ain't a piece in the army that will shoot straighter than Betsy here," and the old man patted the long stock of the musket affectionately.
"Well," said his wife, "you see that you keep out of it. You know if the Rebs catch you fightin' in citizens' clothes, they'll hang you sure."
"Don't you worry about me," said John. "I helped to lick the British and I ain't afraid of a lot of Rebels."
Finally the long procession of Confederate forces passed and for an hour or so the road was empty and silent. At last in the distance sounded the roll and rattle of drums and through a great cloud of dust flamed the stars and stripes and in a moment the road was filled with solid masses of blue-clad troops hurrying to their positions on what was to be one of the great battle-fields of the world. As regiment after regiment filed past, old John could stand it no longer. He grabbed his musket and started out the door.
"John! John! Where are you going?" screamed his wife, running after him. "Ain't you old enough to know better?"
"I'm just goin' out to get a little fresh air," said John, pulling away from her and hurrying down the street. "I'll be back before night sure."
It was the afternoon of the last day when the men of a Wisconsin regiment near the front saw a little old man approaching, dressed in a blue swallow-tail coat with brass buttons and carrying a long flintlock rifle with a big powder-horn strapped about him.
"Hi, there!" he piped, when he saw the men. "I want to jine in. Where'll I go?"
The men laughed at the sight.
"Anywhere," shouted back one of them; "there's good fightin' all along the line."
"Well," said John, "I guess I'll stop here," and in spite of their attempts to keep him back, he crept up until he was at the very front of the skirmish line. There was a lull in the fighting just then and there was a good deal of joking up and down the line between the men and John.
"Say, grandpa," called out one, "did you fight in the Revolution?"
"Have you ever hit anything with that old gun of yours?" said another.
But John was able to hold his own.
"Sure I fought in the Revolution," he piped loudly, "and as for hittin' anything, say, boys, do you know that at the Battle of Bunker Hill I had sixty-two bullets in my pocket. I had been loadin' and firin' fifty times and I had shot forty-nine British officers when suddenly I heard some one yellin' to me from behind our lines and he says to me, 'Hi, there, old dead-shot, don't you know that this is a battle and not a massacre?' I turns around and right behind me was General George Washington, so I saluted and I says, 'What is it, General?' and he says, 'You stop firin' right away.' 'Well,' I said, 'General, I have only got twelve more bullets; can't I shoot those?' 'No,' he says to me, 'you go home. You've done enough,' and he says, 'don't call me General, call me George.'"
This truthful anecdote was repeated along the whole line and instantly made John's reputation as a raconteur. He was allowed to establish himself at the front of the line and in a minute, as the firing commenced, he was fighting with the best of them. They tried to persuade him to take a musket from one of the many dead men who were lying around, but like David, John would not use any weapon which he had not proved. He stuck to old Betsy and although he did not make quite so good a record as at the Battle of Bunker Hill, according to his comrades he accounted for no less than three Confederates, one of whom was an officer. Before the day was over he received three wounds. Toward evening there was an overwhelming rush of the Confederates which drove back the Union soldiers and the Wisconsin regiment fell back leaving poor old John lying there among the other wounded. He was in a dilemma. Although his cuts were only flesh-wounds, yet he would bleed to death unless they were properly dressed. On the other hand if he was found by the Rebels in civilian clothes with his rifle, he would undoubtedly be shot according to military law. The old man could not, however, bear the thought of parting with old Betsy, so he crawled groaningly toward a hollow tree where he managed to hide the old flint-lock and the powder-horn and soon afterward attracted the attention of the Confederate patrol which was going about the field attending to the wounded. At first they were suspicious of him.
"What are you doing, old man, wounded on a battle-field in citizens' clothes?" one of the officers asked.
"Well," said John, "I was out lookin' for a cow which some of you fellows carried off and first thing I knew I was hit in three places. So long as you got my cow, the least you can do is to carry me home."
[Illustration: The Battle of Gettysburg]
This seemed fair to the officer and a stretcher was brought and the old man was carried back to the house. His next fear was that his wife would unconsciously betray him to the patrol that were bringing him into the house. Sure enough as they reached the door, old Mrs. Burns came rushing out.
"John," she screamed, "I told you not to go out."
"Shut up, Molly," bellowed John at the top of his voice. "I didn't find the old cow, but I did the best I could and I want you to tell these gentlemen that I am as peaceable an old chap that ever lived, for they found me out there wounded with a lot of soldiers and think I may have been doin' some fightin'."
Mrs. Burns was no fool.
"Gentlemen," she cried out, "I can't thank you enough for bringing back this poor silly husband of mine. I told him that if he went hunting to-day for cows or anything else, he would most likely find nothing but trouble, and I guess he has. He's old enough to know better, but you leave him here and I'll nurse him and try to get some sense into his head."
So the patrol left Burns at his own house, not without some suspicions, for the next day an officer came around and put him through a severe cross-examination which John for the most part escaped by pretending to be too weak to answer any particularly searching question. Mrs. Burns nursed the old man back to health again and never let a day go by without a number of impressive remarks about his foolhardiness. The old man hadn't much to say, but the first day after he got well he disappeared and came back an hour or so later with old Betsy and the powder-horn which he found safe and sound in the tree where he left them. These he hung again over the mantelpiece in readiness for the next war, "for," said John, "a man's never too old to fight for his country."
Another hero in that battle was Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson. Only nineteen years old he commanded a battery in an exposed position on the Union right. His two guns did so much damage that Gordon, the Confederate general, could not advance his troops in the face of their deadly fire. Wilkeson could be seen on the far-away hilltop riding back and forth encouraging and directing his gunners.
General Gordon sent for the captains of two of his largest batteries.
"Train every gun you've got," he said, "on that man and horse. He's doing more damage than a whole Yankee regiment."
Quietly the guns of the two far-apart positions were swung around until they all pointed directly at that horseman against the sky. A white handkerchief was waved from the farthest battery and with a crash every gun went off. When the smoke cleared away, man and horse were down, the guns dismounted and the gunners killed. The Confederate forces swept on their way unchecked across the field that had been swept and winnowed by Wilkeson's deadly guns. As they went over the crest, they found him under his dead horse and surrounded by his dead gunners still alive but desperately wounded. He was carried in to the Allen House along with their own wounded and given what attention was possible, which was little enough. It was plain to be seen that he was dying. Suffering from that choking, desperate thirst which attacks every wounded man who has lost much blood he faintly asked for water. There was no water to be had, but finally one of the Confederate officers in charge managed to get a full canteen off a passing soldier. Wilkeson stretched out his hands for what meant more to him than anything else in the world. Just then a wounded Confederate soldier next to him cried out, "For God's sake give me some."
Wilkeson stopped with the canteen half to his mouth and then by sheer force of will passed it over to the other. In his agonizing thirst the wounded Confederate drank every drop before he could stop himself. Horror-stricken he turned to apologize. The young lieutenant smiled at him, turned slightly--and was gone. It took more courage to give up that flask of cold water than to fight his battery against the whole Confederate Army.
The hero-folk on that great day were not all men and boys. Among the many, many monuments that crowd the field of Gettysburg there is one of a young girl carved from pure translucent Italian marble. It is the statue of Jennie Wade, the water-carrier for many a wounded and dying soldier during two of those days of doom. Although she knew it not, Jennie was following in the footsteps of another woman, that unknown wife of a British soldier at the Battle of Saratoga in the far-away Revolutionary days. When Burgoyne's army was surrounded at Saratoga, some of the women and wounded men were sent for safety to a large house in the neighborhood where they took refuge in the cellar. There they crouched for six long days and nights while the cannon-balls crashed through the house overhead. The cellar became crowded with wounded and dying men who were suffering agonies from thirst. It was only a few steps to the river, but the house was surrounded by Morgan's sharp-shooters and every man who ventured out with a bucket was shot dead. At last the wife of one of the soldiers offered to go and in spite of the protests of the men ventured out. The American riflemen would not fire upon a woman and again and again she went down to the river and brought back water to the wounded in safety.
Jennie Wade was a girl of twenty who lived in a red-brick house right in the path of the battle. They could not move to a safer place, for her married sister was there with a day-old baby, so the imprisoned family was in the thick of the battle. Recently when the old roof was taken off to be repaired, over two quarts of bullets were taken from it. During the first day, Jennie's mother moved her daughter and her baby so that her head rested against the foot of the bed. She had no more been moved than a bullet crashed through the window and struck the pillow where her head had lain an instant before. While her mother watched her daughter and the baby, Jennie carried water to the soldiers on the firing-line. At the end of the first day fifteen soldiers lay dead in the little front yard and all through that weary day and late into the night Jennie was going back and forth filling the canteens of the wounded and dying soldiers as they lay scattered on that stricken field. Throughout the second day she kept on with this work and many and many a wounded soldier choking with thirst lived to bless her memory. On this day a long procession of blue-clad men knocked at the door of the house asking for bread until the whole supply was gone. After dark on the second day, Jennie mixed up a pan of dough and set it out to rise. She got up at daybreak and as she was lighting a fire, a hungry soldier-boy knocked at the door and asked for something to eat. Jennie started to mix up some biscuit and as she stood with her sleeves rolled up and her hands in the dough, a minie ball cut through the door and she fell over dead without a word. Her statue stands as she must have appeared during those first two days of battle. In one hand she carries a pitcher and over her left arm are two army-canteens hung by their straps. Not the least of the heroic ones of that battle was Jennie Wade who died while thus engaged in homely, helpful services for her country.
These are the stories of but a few who fought at Gettysburg that men might be free and that their country might stand for righteousness. The spirit of that battle has been best expressed in a great poem by Will H. Thompson with which we end these stories of some of the brave deeds of the greatest battle of the Civil War.
HIGH TIDE AT GETTYSBURG
A cloud possessed the hollow field, The gathering battle's smoky shield; Athwart the gloom the lightning flashed, And through the cloud some horsemen dashed, And from the heights the thunder pealed.
Then, at the brief command of Lee, Moved out that matchless infantry, With Pickett leading grandly down To rush against the roaring crown Of those dread heights of destiny.
Far heard above the angry guns, A cry across the tumult runs, The voice that rang through Shiloh's woods And Chickamauga's solitudes, The fierce South cheering on her sons.
Ah, how the withering tempest blew Against the front of Pettigrew! A khamsin wind that scorched and singed, Like that infernal flame that fringed The British squares at Waterloo!
"Once more in Glory's van with me!" Virginia cries to Tennessee, "We two together, come what may, Shall stand upon those works to-day." (The reddest day in history.)
But who shall break the guards that wait Before the awful face of Fate? The tattered standards of the South Were shriveled at the cannon's mouth, And all her hopes were desolate.
In vain the Tennesseean set His breast against the bayonet; In vain Virginia charged and raged, A tigress in her wrath uncaged, Till all the hill was red and wet!
Above the bayonets mixed and crossed, Men saw a gray, gigantic ghost Receding through the battle-cloud, And heard across the tempest loud The death-cry of a nation lost!
The brave went down! Without disgrace They leaped to Ruin's red embrace; They only heard Fame's thunder wake, And saw the dazzling sun-burst break In smiles on Glory's bloody face!
They fell, who lifted up a hand And bade the sun in heaven to stand! They smote and fell, who set the bars Against the progress of the stars, And stayed the march of Motherland.
They stood, who saw the future come On through the fight's delirium! They smote and stood, who held the hope Of nations on that slippery slope Amid the cheers of Christendom!
God lives! He forged the iron will That clutched and held that trembling hill. God lives and reigns! He built and lent Those heights for Freedom's battlement, Where floats her flag in triumph still!
Fold up the banners! Smelt the guns! Love rules; her gentler purpose runs. A mighty mother turns in tears The pages of her battle years, Lamenting all her fallen sons!
THE LONE SCOUT
Single-handed exploits, where a man must depend upon his own strength and daring and coolness, rank high among brave deeds. Occasionally a man has confidence enough in himself to penetrate alone into the enemy's country and to protect his life and do his endeavor by his own craft and courage. Of such was Hereward, the Last of the English, who, like Robin Hood, many centuries later, led his little band of free men through fen and forest and refused to yield even to the vast resources of William the Conqueror. Once disguised as a swineherd he entered the very court of the king and sat with the other strangers and wanderers at the foot of the table in the great banquet-hall and saw in the distance the man who was first to conquer and then to make unconquerable all England. To this day we love to read of his adventures on that scouting trip. How the servants who sat at meat with him played rough jokes on him until, forgetful of his enormous strength, he dealt one of them a buffet which laid him lifeless across the table with a broken neck. How he was taken up to the head of the table and stood before William on an instant trial for his life. His loose jerkin had been torn during the struggle and showed his vast chest and arms covered with scars of old wounds which no swineherd would ever have received. The old chronicle goes on to tell how they imprisoned him for the night and when his jailer came to fetter his legs with heavy irons, he stunned him with a kick, unlocked the doors and gates, broke open the stable door, selected the best horse in the king's stable and, armed with an old scythe blade which he had picked up in the barn, cut his way through the guard and rode all night by the stars back to his band.
In 1862 Corporal Pike of the Fourth Ohio Regiment led an expedition for a hundred miles through the enemy's country, which was worthy of Hereward himself. The expedition consisted of Corporal James Pike, who held all positions from general to private and who also had charge of the commissary department and was head of the board of strategy. The corporal was a descendant of Captain Zebulon Pike the great Indian fighter and inherited his ancestor's coolness and daring. Old Zebulon used to say that he never really knew what happiness was until he was in danger of his life and that when he started into a fight, it was as if all the music in the world was playing in his ears and that a battle to him was like a good dinner, a game of ball and a picnic all rolled into one. The corporal was very much this way. He had taken such particular pleasure in foolhardy exploits that his officers decided to try him on scout duty. There he did so well that General Mitchel's attention was attracted to him.
In April, 1862, it was of great importance for the general's plans to obtain information in regard to the strength of the Confederates in Alabama, and to have a certain railroad bridge destroyed so as to cut off the line of communications with the forces farther south. Out of the whole regiment the general picked Corporal Pike. The corporal's plan of procedure was characteristic of the man. He wore his regular full blue uniform and throughout the first part of his trip made no attempt at disguise or concealment. This was not as reckless as it sounds. The country was filled with Confederate spies and messengers who almost invariably adopted the Union uniform and it had this advantage--if captured, he could claim that he was in his regular uniform and was entitled to be treated as a soldier captured on the field of battle and not hung as a spy. The corporal, however, did not attach any very great weight to the protection of this uniform, as he figured out that if he were caught burning bridges and obtaining reports of Confederate forces, they would hang him whatever the color of his uniform. He had no adventures until he drew near Fayetteville in Tennessee. He spent the night in the woods and bright and early the next morning rode into the village and up to the hotel and ordered breakfast for himself and a similar attention for his horse. The sight of a Union soldier assembled all the unoccupied part of the population and in a few minutes there were three hundred men on the sidewalk in front of the hotel. As the corporal came back from looking after his horse, for he would never eat until he had seen that old Bill was properly cared for, a man stepped up and inquired his name.
[Illustration: Corporal Pike]
"My name, sir," said the corporal, "is James Pike of the Fourth Ohio Cavalry, which is located at Shelbyville. What can I do for you?"
There was a few moments' silence and then a great laugh went up as the crowd decided that this was some Confederate scout, probably one of Morgan's rangers in disguise.
"What are you doing down here?" asked another.
"I am down here," said Pike coolly, "to demand the surrender of this town just as soon as I can get my breakfast and find the mayor."
The crowd laughed loudly again and the corporal went in to breakfast, where he sat at a table with a number of Confederate officers with whom he talked so mysteriously that they were fully convinced that he must be one of Morgan's right-hand men. After breakfast he ordered his horse and started out, first saying good-bye to the crowd who were still waiting for him.
"If you're from the North," said one, "why don't you show us a Yankee trick before you go?" for the Southerners were thoroughly convinced that all Yankees were sly foxes full of sudden schemes and stratagems.
"Well, I will before long," said Pike, as he waved good-bye and galloped off.
Five miles out of the village he came to a fork in the road where one road led to Decatur, which was where the main Confederate forces were located, and the other to Huntsville. Just as he was turning into the Decatur road, he saw a wagon-train coming in from Huntsville and decided that here was a chance for his promised Yankee trick. He rode up to the first wagon.
"Drive that wagon up close to the fence and halt," he said.
"How long since you've been wagon-master?" said the driver, cracking his whip.
"Ever since you left your musket lying in the bottom of the wagon," said Pike, leveling his revolver at the man's head. He drove his wagon up and halted it without a word and stood with his arms over his head as ordered by Pike.
One by one the other wagons came up and the drivers assumed the same attitude. Last of all there was a rattle of hoofs and the wagon-master, who had been lingering in the rear, galloped up.
"What the devil are you fellows stopping for?" he shouted, but as he came around the last wagon, he almost ran his head into Pike's revolver and immediately assumed the same graceful attitude as the others. Pike rode up to each wagon, collected all the muskets, not forgetting to remove a couple of revolvers from the belt of the wagon-master and then inquired from the latter what the wagons had in them.
"Provender," said the wagon-master, surlily.
"What else?" said the corporal, squinting along the barrel of his revolver.
"Bacon," yelled the wagon-master much alarmed; "four thousand pounds in each wagon."
"Well," said the corporal, "I've always been told that raw bacon is an unhealthy thing to eat and so you just unhitch your mules and set fire to these wagons and be mighty blamed quick about it too, because I have a number of engagements down the road." The men grumbled, but there was no help for them and in a few minutes every wagon was burning and crackling and giving out dense black smoke. Waiting until it was impossible to put them out, the corporal lined the men up across the road.
"Now you fellows get on your marks and when I count three you start back to Fayetteville and if you are in reach by the time I have counted one hundred, there's going to be some nice round holes in the backs of your uniforms. When you get back to the village tell them that this is the Yankee trick that I promised them."
Before Pike had counted twenty-five there was not a man in sight. He at once turned back and raced down the road toward Decatur. He had gone about ten miles when he came to a small country church and as it was Sunday, it was open and nearly filled. Fearing that there might be a number of armed Confederate soldiers in the church who would start out in pursuit as soon as the word came back from Fayetteville, the corporal decided to investigate. Not wishing to dismount he rode Bill up the steps and through the open door and down the main aisle, just as the minister was announcing a hymn.
"Excuse this interruption," said Pike, as the minister's voice quavered off into silence, "but I notice a number of soldierly-looking men here and I will take it as a great favor if they will hold their hands as high above their heads as possible and come down here and have a talk with me."
As this simple request was accompanied by a revolver aimed at the audience, one by one six soldiers who had been attending the service came sheepishly down the aisle. They looked so funny straining their arms over their heads that some of the girls in the audience unkindly burst out laughing. Pike removed a revolver from each one and dumped his captured arms into one of his saddle-bags.
"Now, parson," he said, "I want to hear a good, fervent prayer from you for the President of the United States." The minister hesitated. "Quick and loud," said Pike, "because I'm going in a minute."
There was no help for it and the minister prayed for President Lincoln by name, while Pike reverently removed his cap. Then backing his horse out of the door, he started on toward Decatur. Not a half mile from the church he met two Confederate soldiers who were leisurely riding to the church. There was no reason at all why the corporal should meddle with these men. They were two to one and he had no way of disposing of them even if he made them captives. However, the sight of the Confederate parson praying for Abe Lincoln had tickled Pike and he made up his mind to have some fun with these soldiers. As he came abreast of them he whipped out his revolver, ordered them to halt and to give their names, regiments and companies. They did so with great alacrity.
"Well, gentlemen," he said, "you are my prisoners and I am very sorry for I am so far outside of my lines that I am afraid there is only one way to safely dispose of you."
"Great heavens, man," said one, "you don't mean to shoot us down."
"I'm sorry," said Pike, "but you can see for yourself that that's the only thing to do. You are Rebel soldiers and to leave you alive would mean that you will keep on doing harm to the Union forces."
"Don't shoot, captain," both of them chorused; "we'll take the oath of allegiance."
Pike seemed to hesitate.
"Well," he said finally, "I hate to kill men on Sunday. I suppose I ought not to do this, but if you'll solemnly swear allegiance to the United States of America and that you'll never hereafter serve against the Union or be late to church again, I'll let you go."
With much solemnity, the Confederates took the oath in the form dictated, delivered up their revolvers and rode away.
The next man that Pike encountered was an old gentleman on his way to Fayetteville, who admitted that he was a judge and the next day was intending to serve in a number of political cases involving the property of certain Union sympathizers. Pike made him also take the oath of allegiance, and promise not to enter judgment contrary to the interests of the Union. He then left the road and rode along a shallow creek through the woods. About sunset he suddenly came upon an old man under the trees. He questioned him and found that he was a Union sympathizer and was told by him that there were twelve Tennessee cavalrymen and fifteen mounted citizens on the lookout for him.
"That is," said the old man, "if you're the chap that has been going around capturing wagon-trains and churches and soldiers and judges."
"That's me," said Pike.
The old man took him home and fed him and with him he left his horse and started out on foot, feeling that the hue and cry would now be out all over the country against a mounted man in Union uniform. Leaving his friend, he followed the path through the woods toward Decatur until it was dark and then wrapped himself up in a blanket and slept all night in the pouring rain. In the morning he made his way toward the railway and followed it until about ten o'clock when he stopped at a house and bought a breakfast. He had not been there long before he was joined by several Confederate cavalrymen.
"What's your business," said one, "and what are you doing in that uniform?"
"Well," said Pike, "I was told to wear it and not to tell any one my business until it was done and if you fellows don't like it, you had better take it up with the general."
Once again the Confederates concluded that he was on some secret mission. They insisted, however, on taking him to camp with them and there he stayed two days and nights, incidentally obtaining all the information possible as to the forces and the guard about the bridge. Just before dawn on the second morning, he managed to give them the slip and started across country, wading and swimming and toiling through one swamp after another until he finally reached the river bank, traveling only by night and sleeping by day. Along this bank he went for miles until finally he found concealed in a little creek a small rowboat which was tied to a tree and in which were two oars. He spent the better part of the day in loading this up with pine knots and bits of dry driftwood which he planned to use in firing the bridge. Just at evening he pushed off into the middle of the river and started again down for the bridge. He had found by his inquiries that the Confederate camp was located on a bank some distance from the bridge, as no one expected any attack there so far within the Confederate lines. All night long he tugged at the oars and aided by the current reached the bridge about three o'clock in the morning. The bridge was an old-fashioned one erected on three piers. Pike made a careful survey of the whole length of the bridge from the river and found it absolutely unguarded although he could hear the sentry call on the hill a quarter of a mile away where the troops were encamped by the town. Concealing his skiff under an overhanging tree, he toiled up to the bridge with armful after armful of fire-wood. At each end and in the middle he made a little heap of fat-wood and pine knots with a strip of birch-bark, which burns like oiled paper, underneath each. Starting from the far end, he lit the first two piles and by the time he had crossed and was working on the last, he could hear the flames roaring behind him as they caught the dry weather-beaten planking of the bridge. And now he made a mistake which was to prove well-nigh fatal to him. As soon as the fire had obtained a headway, he should have instantly stolen back up the river in his skiff. In his anxiety to make a thorough job of it he stayed too long, forgetting that in the bright light of the fire every motion he made would be plainly visible from the hilltop. Suddenly he heard the alarm given from the camp and almost instantly it was followed by the wail of a minie ball as the sentry above fired down upon him. By this time the river was as bright as day for a quarter of a mile on both sides of the bridge. Near the Confederate camp were a number of boats and Pike was already nearly exhausted by his long row and his work in firing the bridge. He heard the shouts of men as they dashed down for their boats. If he attempted to escape by water he was certain to be overtaken. Another bullet close to his head decided him and he dashed down from the bridge into the road, and plunged into the thick woods on the farther side. All the rest of that night and through the first part of the next day he traveled, following one path after another and keeping his general direction by a pocket compass. By noon he was so tired that if it had been to save his life he could not have gone any farther. The little stock of provisions which he had carried with him had been exhausted the night before and he threw himself on a bed of dry pine-needles under a long-leafed pine which stood on the top of a little knoll and lay there for nearly an hour until part of his strength came back. The first thing to do was to find something to eat. Pike did not dare shoot anything with his revolver, even if there had been anything to shoot, for fear of attracting the attention of Confederate pursuers or bushwhackers. It was now that the corporal's wood-craft proved to be as valuable as his scout-craft. If he were to go further, he must have food and he commenced to wander back and forth through the woods, his quick eye taking in everything on the ground or among the trees. On the other side of the knoll where he had been lying, he noticed a rotten log where the dry, punky wood had been scattered as if a hen had been scratching there. Pike commenced to look carefully all along the ground and finally just on the edge of the slope where the thick underbrush began, he nearly stepped on a large brown speckled bird so much the color of the leaves that if he had not been looking for it, he never would have discovered the nest. The bird slipped into the underbrush like a shadow, leaving behind fifteen brown, mottled partridge eggs. The corporal sat down over the nest and gulped down, one after the other, those eggs, warm from the breast of the brooding bird. As he said afterward, never had he tasted anything half so good. This was a step in the right direction, but even fifteen partridge eggs are not enough for a man who hadn't eaten for nearly thirty hours. Once again he began to prowl restlessly through the woods and this time his attention was attracted by something growing on the side of a dead maple stub. It was dark red and looked like a great tongue sticking out from the bark. To his great joy, Pike recognized it at once as the beefsteak mushroom. It was a magnificent specimen which must have weighed nearly two pounds and as he pulled it off from the tree, red drops oozed out and it looked and smelled like a big, fresh beefsteak. The corporal went down the hollow into the thickest part of the swamp and there picked an armful of perfectly dry cedar and scrub-oak twigs which burn with a clear, smokeless flame. Out of these he built a little Indian cooking fire by arranging the twigs into the form of a little tepee so that a jet of clear flame came up with hardly a sign of any smoke. It was the work of only a moment to whittle and set up a forked stick and to fasten a slab of that meaty-looking fungus on a spit fixed in the fork. Fortunately he had left in his haversack a little salt and pepper with which he seasoned the broiling, hissing steak. In about ten minutes it was done to a turn. Cutting a long strip of bark from off one of the red river-birches which grew near, Pike squatted down on the ground and in fifteen minutes more there was nothing left of that savory, two-pound, broiled vegetable steak. With fifteen eggs and two pounds of beefsteak mushroom under his belt, the corporal felt like another man. He coiled himself up on the dry pine-needles in a little hollow which he found under the low-hanging boughs of a long-leaf pine and resolved to take a sleep to make up for what he had lost during the last two nights. It was early afternoon and everything was still and hot and the drowsy scent of the pine mingled with puffs of spicy fragrance from the great white blossoms of the magnolia with which the woods were starred. As he fell asleep the last thing the corporal heard was the drowsy call of flocks of golden-winged warblers on their way north. How long he slept he could not tell. He only knew that he awoke with a sudden consciousness of danger, that strange sixth sense which most Indians and a few white hunters sometimes develop. Perhaps he inherited it from old Zebulon Pike who, like Daniel Boone and Kit Carson, had the power of hearing and sensing the approach of an enemy even in their soundest sleep. The corporal was alert the second he opened his eyes, but made not a movement or a rustle. The sun was well down in the sky and there was nothing in sight, but the birds had stopped singing. Finally way down through the little tunnel which a near-by flowing stream had made through the hillocks came a sound which brought him to his feet in an instant. It was a ringing note that chimed like a distant bell. Three times it sounded and there was silence, then again three times, but a little nearer and louder, then again silence. A third time it came and this time it seemed around the bend of the bayou not half a mile away. Pike knew in a minute what it was. It was the bay of the dreaded bloodhounds, those man-hunters who had learned to trail their prey through forest and fen, no matter how much he doubled nor how fast he ran. There was but one thing to do if there was time. Springing up, the corporal ran down to the little stream and leaped in. It was hardly up to his knees, but he splashed along for a hundred yards, now and then plunging in up to his waist. It ran a hundred yards or so through the swamp and then emptied into a larger bayou. Along this Pike swam for his life as silently as a muskrat, for now he could hear the baying of the dogs close at hand and suddenly there was a chorus of deep raging barks followed by shouts and he knew that his pursuers had found his lair under the pine trees. Soon the stream ran into another one and then another until Pike had swam and waded and plunged through half a score of brooks which made a regular network through the middle of the swamp. By this time the sound of the dogs had died far away in the distance and he had every reason to believe that he had thrown them off the track. Down the last stream there was a deep, sluggish creek nearly fifty feet wide. He swam until he could go no farther. It opened out into a series of swampy meadows and to his joy he saw in the very midst of the swamp through which it ran a pile of newly-split rails. Swimming over to this he found that they had been piled on a little island about five feet above the level of the swamp and surrounded on all sides by masses of underbrush and deep sluggish water. By this time it was nearly sunset and he resolved to crawl up here and find a dry place and spend the night on this island, which could not be approached except by boat. As he climbed up to the top of the mass of rails, he heard a low, thick hiss close to his face and outstretched hand. He had never heard the sound before, but no man born needs to be taught the voice of the serpent. He started back just in time. Coiled on one of the rails was a great cotton-mouth moccasin whose bloated swollen body must have been nearly five feet in length and as big around as his arm. The great creature slowly opened its mouth, showing the pure white lining which has given it the name and hissed again menacingly. The corporal was in a predicament. Behind him was the cold, dark river in which he no longer had the strength to swim. In the approaching darkness, he might not be able to find any other island of refuge on which to pass the night. There was nothing for him but to fight the grim snake for the possession of the rails. He dropped back and twisted off the thick branch of a near-by willow-tree and began again to climb up toward the snake cautiously, but as rapidly as possible, for the light was beginning to die out in the sky and Pike preferred not to do his fighting in the dark in this case if possible. As he reached the top of the pile, the king of the island was ready for him and struck viciously at him as he approached. The movable poison fangs protruded like poisoned spear-heads from the wide-open mouth and from them could be seen oozing the yellow drops of the fatal venom which makes the cotton-mouth more dreaded even than the rattler or the copperhead. The fatal head flashed out not six inches from Corporal Pike's face, but it had miscalculated the distance and before it could again coil, he had struck with all his might at the monstrous body just where it joined the heart-shaped head. Fortunately for him, his aim was good and the crippled snake writhed and hissed and struck in vain in a horrible mass at Pike's feet. Two more blows made it harmless and inserting the stick under the heavy body, the corporal heaved it far over into the water and it floated away. Pike then made a careful examination of the rails and the island on which he stood so as to make sure that the moccasin had not left any of his family behind. He found no others, however, and before it was dark the corporal moved the rails and piled them around him in a kind of barricade which shut him off from view from the water and shore and which he sincerely hoped would discourage the visits of any more moccasins. Inside of this he laid three rails lengthwise and wrung out his sodden coat and coiled up for the night on his hard bed. He woke up surrounded by the gleaming mist of the early morning and shaking with the cold after sleeping all night in his soaked clothing. As he was too cold to sleep and it was light enough now to see, he decided to start off for dry land again. For over two hours he swam and waded along big and little bayous until, just as the sun was getting up, he came out through the morass and found himself at the rear of a lonely plantation. Just in front of him an old negro was at work hoeing in a field. The corporal crept up near him through the bushes and looked all around cautiously to see whether there were any white men in sight. Seeing none, he decided to take a chance on the negro being friendly.
"Hi, there, uncle!" he called cautiously from behind a little bush.
The old man jumped a foot in the air.
"That settles it," he observed emphatically to himself, "I'se gwine home. This old nigger ain't gwine to work in any swamp whar he hears hants callin' him 'uncle.'"
At this point the corporal came out of his hiding place and finally managed to convince the old man that he was nothing worse than very hungry flesh and blood. The old darkey turned out to be a friend indeed and going to his cabin in less than fifteen minutes he was back with a big pan full of bacon and corn bread which the corporal emptied in record-breaking time. Moreover, he brought his son with him who promised to guide Pike by safe paths to the road which led to Huntsville where General Mitchel had located his headquarters. Hour after hour the two wound in and out of swamps which would have been impassable to any one who did not know the hidden trails which crossed them. Twice they heard Confederate soldiers, evidently still hunting for the Union soldier who had been making them so much trouble. Toward noon they came to a broad bayou which went in and out through the swamp. At one point where it approached the bend it became very narrow and Pike's guide showed him a fallen tree half hidden in the brush.
"Cross that, boss," he said, "and at the other end you'll find a little hard path. Follow that and you'll come out clear down on the Huntsville road, only a few miles from the Union soldiers."
Pike said good-bye to his faithful guide and gave him one of the numerous Confederate revolvers which he had captured on his trip as the only payment he could make for his kindness.
The corporal found the path all right and was soon wearily trudging along the Huntsville road. He had not gone far before he was overtaken by another negro dressed in a style which would have made the lilies of the field take to the woods. With his panama hat, red tie and checked suit, he made a brave show. What impressed the corporal, however, more than his clothes was the fact that he was driving a magnificent horse attached to a brand-new buggy.
"Stop a minute," said Pike, stepping out into the road.
"No," said the negro, pompously, "I'se in a great hurry."
The corporal whipped out a revolver and cocked it.
"Come to think of it, Massa," said the darkey in quite a different tone, "I'se got plenty of time after all."
"Whose horse is this?" said the corporal, climbing into the buggy.
"This is Mistah Pomeroy's property," said the negro with much dignity.
"Well," said the corporal, "you turn right around and drive me to General Mitchel's camp just as fast as the law will let you."
"But, boss," objected the other, "Massa will whip me if I do."
"And I'll shoot you if you don't," returned the corporal.
This last argument was a convincing one and half an hour later General Mitchel and his forces were enormously impressed by seeing Corporal Pike, who had been reported shot, drive up back of a magnificent horse in a new buggy and beside a wonderfully-dressed coachman. The general was even more impressed when the corporal reported that the bridge was gone and gave him an accurate statement as to the Confederate forces.
Corporal Pike found Mr. Pomeroy's horse a very good substitute for his faithful Bill and, to his surprise, the coachman went with the horse, since he was afraid to go back, and became a cook in General Mitchel's mess.
RUNNING THE GAUNTLET
In the old days of the Indian wars a favorite amusement of a raiding party was to make their captives run the gauntlet. On their return home two long lines of not only the warriors, but even of the women and children would be formed armed with clubs, arrows, tomahawks and whips. The unfortunate captive was stationed at one end of this aisle of enemies and given the choice of being burned at the stake or of running for his life between the lines from one end to the other. Sometimes a swift runner and dodger escaped enough of the blows to stagger blinded with blood from a score of wounds, but still alive, across the line which marked the end of this grim race against death. It was always a desperate chance. Only the certainty of death if it were not taken ever caused any man to enter such a terrible competition. There is no record of even the most hardened Indian fighter ever running the gauntlet for any life save his own.
In the summer of 1863, three men ran the gauntlet of shot and shell and rifle-fire for forty miles to save an army, with death dogging them all the way. Brigadier-General Thomas, who afterward earned the title of the Rock of Chickamauga by his brave stand in that disastrous battle, was entrenched on one of the spurs of the hills around Chattanooga. General Bragg with a much superior army of Confederates had hunted the Union soldiers mile after mile. At times they had stopped and fought, at times they had escaped by desperate marches. Now exhausted and ringed about by the whole Confederate Army, they must soon have help or be starved into surrender. Yet only forty miles to the eastward was a body of thirty thousand men commanded by General Stockton. This general was one of those valuable men who obey orders without any reasoning about the why and the wherefore of the same. He had been commanded to hold a certain pass in the mountains until further orders and that pass he would hold, as General Thomas well knew, until relieved or directed to do otherwise. If only the duty had been assigned to some other officer, it might be that not hearing anything from the main body, he would send out a reconnoitering party. Not so with General Stockton. That general would stay put and only a direct order or an overpowering force of the enemy would move him.
It was in vain that General Thomas tried to get a messenger through with secret despatches in cipher. General Bragg knew that he had the Union Army cornered and he had stationed a triple row of pickets who caught or shot every man that General Thomas sent.
Supplies and ammunition were both running low and General Thomas was considering massing a force of men on some point in the line in an attempt to break through far enough for a messenger to escape. This meant a great loss of life and probably would not be successful as the messenger would almost certainly be captured by an outer ring of scouts which Bragg would throw out as soon as he realized what was going on. There was only one other chance. The Confederates were so sure of their own strength, and that they would eventually capture the whole army, that they had not destroyed the railroad line which ran between the two Federal camps, hoping to use the same for shipping soldiers, prisoners and captured supplies later on. Both sides of the track, however, were lined with guards and covered by a number of Confederate batteries. General Thomas decided to make the attempt and called for volunteers who were willing to run this forty-mile gauntlet between the Confederate lines and batteries. Two old railroad men offered their services as engineer and fireman and they were accompanied by an adjutant who was to be the bearer of the despatches. There seemed to be only one chance in a thousand for this engine to get safely through and the men themselves, if they were not shot in their flight or wrecked with the engine, stood a good chance of being captured and hung as spies. In fact it seemed such a hopeless chance that at the last moment General Thomas was on the point of countermanding the order when one of the men themselves gave the best argument in favor of the plan.
"It's worth trying, General," said he, "for even if we fail, you only lose three men. The other way you would have to throw away at least a thousand before you could find out whether it was possible to cut through the lines or not."
It was decided to make the trial and a dark, moonless night when the sky was covered with heavy clouds was selected as the best time for starting. The men shook hands with their comrades and each left with his best friend a letter to be sent to his family if he were not heard from within a given time. There were but few engines in the Union ranks and none of them were very good as the Confederates had captured the most powerful. However, the ex-engineer and fireman picked out the one which seemed to be in best repair, put in an extra supply of oil to allow for the racking strain on the machinery and filled up the tender with all the fuel that it could carry. At half-past ten they started after firing up with the utmost care and in half a mile they were running at full speed when suddenly there was the sharp crack of a rifle and a minie bullet whined past the panting, jumping, rushing engine. Another one crashed through the window of the caboose, but fortunately struck no one. By this time the little engine was going at her utmost speed. At times all four of the wheels seemed to leave the track at once, she jumped so under the tremendous head of steam which the fireman, working as he had never done before, had raised. The engine swayed so from side to side as it ran that it was all that the adjutant could do to keep his feet. Finally they reached the first battery. Fortunately it had miscalculated the tremendous speed of the engine. A series of guns stationed close to the track hurled a shower of grape and solid shot at the escaping engine. It cut the framework of the caboose almost to pieces, but fortunately not a shot struck any vital part of the machinery or injured any of the three men. As they whirled on, the last gun of all sent a solid shot after them which struck the bell full and fair and with a last tremendous clang it was dashed into the bushes by the side of the road. All along the track there was a fusillade of musket-fire and bullets whizzed around them constantly, but none struck any of the crew. The next danger-point was at a junction with this road and another which ran off at right angles. This junction was protected by no less than two batteries and furthermore on the junction-track was an engine standing with smoke coming out of her smoke-stack showing that she was fired up ready for pursuit. It seemed absolutely impossible to escape these two batteries. Already they could see lanterns hurrying to and fro on both sides of the track where the guns were trained so close that they simply could not fail to dash the engine into a hissing, bloody, glowing scrap-heap of crumpled steel and iron. The men set their teeth and prepared for the crash which every one of them felt meant death. It never came. By some oversight, no alarm had been given and before the guns could be manned and sighted, the engine was whirling along right between both batteries, a cloud of sparks and a column of fire rushing two feet above her smokestack. The Confederates succeeded in only turning one gun and training it on the little engine fast disappearing in the darkness. The gunner, however, who fired that gun came nearer putting an end to the expedition than all the others. He dropped a shell in the air directly over them. It shattered the roof of the caboose, wounded the fireman and blew out both windows, but almost by a miracle left the machinery still uninjured. The adjutant laid the fireman on the jumping, bounding floor of the cab and under his faint instructions fired the engine in his place. As he was heaping coal into the open fire-box with all his might, there came a deep groan from the wounded fireman.
"Try and bear the pain, old man," shouted the engineer over the roar of the engine. "We'll be safe in a few minutes if nothing happens."
"Something's goin' to happen," gasped the fireman. "Listen!"
Far back over the track came a pounding and a pushing. The engineer shook his head.
"They're after us," he said to the adjutant, "and what's more they're bound to get us unless we can throw them off the track."
"Can't we win through with this start?" said the captain.
"No, sir," said the engineer, "they've got an engine that can do ten miles an hour better than this one and beside that, they've got a car to steady her. I don't dare give this old girl one ounce more of steam or she'd jump the tracks."
Before long far back around the curve came the head-light of the pursuing engine like the fierce eye of some insatiable monster on the track of its prey. Steadily she gained. Once when they approached the long trestlework which ran for nearly a mile, the sound of the pursuit slackened off as the lighter engine took the trestle at a speed which the heavier one did not dare to use. Bullet after bullet whizzed past the escaping engine as the soldiers in the cab of her pursuer fired again and again. Both engines, however, were swaying too much to allow for any certain aim. Finally one lucky shot smashed the clock in the front engine close by the engineer's head, spraying glass and splinters all over him. Now the front engine had only ten miles to go before she would be near enough to General Stockton's lines to be in safety. The rear engine, however, was less than a quarter of a mile away and gaining at every yard.
"How about dropping some of the fire-bars on the tracks?" suggested the captain. "We've got enough coal on to carry her the next ten miles. We shan't need the fire-bars after we get through and we certainly won't need them if they capture us."
It seemed a good idea and the wounded fireman dragged himself to the throttle and took the engineer's place for a moment while he and the captain climbed out upon the truck and carefully dropped one after the other of the long, heavy steel rods across the track. Then they listened, hoping to hear the crash of a derailed engine. It never came. Instead there was a loud clanging noise followed by a crackling of the underbrush and repeated again as the pursuing engine struck each bar with its cow-catcher and dashed it off the rails. The captain suddenly commenced to unbutton and tear off his long, heavy army overcoat.
"How about putting this in the middle of the track on the chance that it may entangle the wheels?" he suggested.
In a minute the engineer clambered out on the truck.
"If only it gets wedged in the piston-bar, it may take half an hour to get it out," he panted as he climbed back into the cab.
Suddenly from behind they heard a heavy jolting noise and then the sound of escaping steam.
"We got her," shouted the engineer and the captain to the wounded fireman whose face looked ghastly white against the red light of the open fire-box. The engineer and the captain shook hands and decided to do a little war-dance without much success on the swaying floor of the cab, but they were suddenly stopped by a whisper from the fireman.
"They've got it out," he said. Sure enough once more there came the thunder of approaching wheels and the start which they had gained was soon cut down again. The heavy engine came more and more rapidly on them as the fire died down, although the captain tried to stir up the flagging flames with his sword in place of the lost fire-iron. Only a mile ahead they could see the lights which showed where the Union lines lay. Before them was a heavy up-grade and it was certain that the Confederate engine would catch them there just on the edge of safety. In a minute or so the men crowded into the cab of the engine behind to be close enough to pick off the fugitives at their leisure. The three men stared blankly ahead. Suddenly the dull, despairing look on the engineer's face was replaced by a broad grin. Entirely forgetting military etiquette, he slapped his superior officer on the back and said:
"Captain, come out to the tender with me and I'll show you a stunt that will save our lives if you will do just what I tell you."
The captain obeyed meekly while the wounded fireman stared at his friend under the impression that he was losing his mind under the strain. The engineer took one of the large oil-cans with a long nozzle and then wrapping his two brawny arms tightly around the captain's waist, lowered him as far as he could from the tender and directed him to pour the oil directly on each rail without wasting a drop or allowing a foot to go unoiled. It was hard in the dark to see the rail or to keep one's balance on the bounding engine, but the captain was a light weight and the engineer let him down as far back from the tender as he dared and held him there until one rail was thoroughly oiled. He repeated the operation on the other side and the two once more came back to the fireman who was clinging limply to the throttle.
"Now," said the engineer, "keep your eye open and you'll see some fun."
The front engine puffed more and more slowly up the grade and the pursuing engine seemed to gain on them at every yard. Already the men in the cab were commencing to aim their rifles for the last fatal volley. At this moment the front wheels of the pursuing engine reached the oiled track and in a minute her speed slackened, the wheels whirled round and round at a tremendous speed and there was a sudden rush and hiss of escaping steam. The engine in front suddenly drew away from her anchored pursuer. The engineer took a last long look at them through his field-glasses.
"It seems to me, captain," said he, "as if they are cussin' considerable. Her old wheels are spinnin' like a squirrel-cage."
The engine dashed on more and more slowly, but there was no need for haste. In a few minutes a shot was fired in front of them and a sentry shouted for them to halt. They were within the picket lines of the Union Army. The engine was stopped and the three men staggered out holding tightly the precious dispatches which they carried in triplicate and in a few minutes more they were in the presence of General Stockton. A force was at once sent out and the Confederates and their locomotive were captured and within an hour thirty thousand men were on their way to relieve the beset Union forces.
The gauntlet had been run and General Thomas' army was saved.
"There was a little city and few men within it and there came a great king against it and besieged it and built great bulwarks against it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man and he by his wisdom delivered the city, yet no man remembered that same poor man." Thus wrote the great Solomon, hearing of a deed, the tale of which had come down through the centuries. The doer of the deed had been long forgotten.
History is full of memories of brave deeds. The names of the men who did them have passed away. The deeds live on forever. Like a fleck of radium each deed is indestructible. It may be covered with the dust and débris of uncounted years, but from it pulsates and streams forever a current of example and impulse which never can be hidden, never be forgotten, but which may flash out ages later, fighting with a mysterious, hidden inner strength against the powers of fear and of wrong.
The annals of the Civil War are full of records of forgotten doers of great deeds, humble, commonplace men and women who suddenly flashed out in some great effort of duty and perhaps were never heard of again. Pray God that all of us when the time comes may burst if only for a moment into the fruition of accomplishment for which we were born and not wither away like the unprofitable fig-tree which only grew, but never bore fruit.
In 1862, the battle-hospitals were crowded with wounded and dying men. The best surgeons of that day had not learned what every doctor knows now about the aseptic treatment of wounds and conducting of operations. Accordingly too often even slight wounds gangrened and a terrible percentage of injured men died helplessly and hopelessly. In the fall of that year the hospitals at Jefferson were in a fearful condition. Thousands and thousands of wounded and dying men were brought there for whom there were no beds. One poor fellow lay on the bare, wet boards, sick of a wasting fever. He was worn almost to a skeleton and on his poor, thin body were festering bed-sores which had come because there was no one who could give him proper attention. From his side he had seen five men one after the other brought in sick or wounded and carried away dead. One day an old black washerwoman named Hannah stopped in the ward to hunt up a doctor for whom she was to do some work. She saw this patient lying on his side on a dirty blanket spread out on the boards unwashed and filthy beyond all description with gaping sores showing on his wasted back. There he lay staring hopelessly at the body of a man who had recently died next to him and which the few overworked attendants had not had time to carry out to the dead-house. Old Hannah could not stand the sight. When she finally found the doctor she begged him to give her leave to take the man up and put him in her own bed.
"It's no use, Hannah," said the doctor kindly, "the poor chap is dying. He will be gone to-morrow. I wish we could do something for him, but we can't and you can't."
Hannah could not sleep that night thinking of the sick man. Bright and early the next morning she came down and found him still alive. That settled it in her mind. Without asking any one's permission, she went out, looked up her two strapping sons and made them leave their work and bring her bed down to the hospital. It was covered with coarse but clean linen sheets and she directed them while they lifted the sufferer on to the bed and carried him down to her shanty. There she cut away the filthy shirt which he wore and washed him like a baby with hot water. Then she settled down to nurse him back to life. Every half hour, night and day, she fed him spoonfuls of hot, nourishing soup. That and warm water and clean linen were the only medicines she used. For a week she did nothing else but nurse her soldier. Several times he sank and once she thought him dead, but he always rallied and single-handed old Hannah fought back death and slowly nursed him back to health. Finally when he was well, he was given a furlough to go back to his home in Indiana. He tried to persuade Hannah to go back with him.
"No, honey," she said, "I'se got my washing to do and besides I'm goin' to try to adopt some more soldiers."
She went with him to the steamboat, fixed him in a deck chair, as he was still too feeble to walk, and kissed him good-bye and when she left the man broke down and cried. Old Hannah went back to her shanty and did the same thing again and again until she had nursed back to life no less than six Union soldiers. As she was not in active service, the government never recognized her work and even her last name was never known, but six men and their families and their friends have handed down the story of what a poor, old, black washerwoman could and did do for her country and for the sick and helpless.
The exploit of Lieutenant Blodgett and his orderly, Peter Basnett, was a brave deed of another kind. He had been sent by General Schofield during the engagement at Newtonia with orders to the colonel of the Fourth Missouri Cavalry. As the two rode around a point of woods, they suddenly found themselves facing forty Confederate soldiers drawn up in an irregular line not fifty yards away. There was no chance of escape, as they would be riddled with bullets at such a short range. Moreover neither the lieutenant nor his orderly thought well of surrendering. Without an instant's hesitation they at once drew their revolvers and charging down upon the Confederates, shouted in loud, though rather shaky voices, "Surrender! Drop your arms! Surrender at once!" The line wavered, feeling that two men would not have the audacity to charge them unless they were followed by an overwhelming force. As they came right up to the lines, eight of the men in front threw down their muskets. The rest hesitated a minute and then turned and broke for the woods and the lieutenant and his orderly rode on and delivered eight prisoners along with their orders.
In the battle of Rappahannock Station, Colonel Edwards of the Fifth Maine showed the same nerve under similar circumstances. While his regiment were busy taking a whole brigade of captured Confederates to the rear, the colonel with a dozen of his men rode out into the darkness after more prisoners. Following the line of fortifications down toward the river, he suddenly came out in front of a long line of Confederate troops lying entrenched in rifle-pits. Like Lieutenant Blodgett, he decided to make a brave bluff rather than be shot down or spend weary years in a Confederate prison. Riding directly up to the nearest rifle-pit where a score of guns were leveled at him, he inquired for the officer who was in command of the Confederate forces.
"I command here," said the Confederate colonel, rising from the middle pit, "and who are you, sir?"
"My name is Colonel Edwards of the Fifth Maine, U.S.A.," replied the other, "and I call upon you to surrender your command at once."
The Confederate colonel hesitated.
"Let me confer with my officers first," he said.
"No, sir," said Colonel Edwards, "I can't give you a minute. Your forces on the right have been captured, your retreat is cut off and unless you surrender at once, I shall be compelled to order my regiment," pointing impressively to the whole horizon, "to attack you without further delay. I don't wish to cause any more loss of life than possible."
The Confederate colonel was convinced by his impressive actions and that there would be no use to resist.
"I hope you will let me keep my sword, however," he said.
"Certainly," said Colonel Edwards, generously, "you can keep your sword, but your men must lay down their arms and pass to the rear immediately."
The whole brigade including a squad of the famous Louisiana Tigers were disarmed and marched to the rear as prisoners of war by Colonel Edwards and his twelve men. One of these men said afterward, "Colonel, I nearly lost that battle for you by laughing when you spoke about their 'surrendering to avoid loss of life.'"
The most terrible missile in modern warfare is the explosive shell. Records show that the greatest loss of life occurs from artillery fire and not from rifle bullets. In the Civil War these shells were especially feared. The solid shot and the grape and the canister were bad enough, but when a great, smoking shell dropped into the midst of a regiment, the bravest men fled for shelter. The fuses were cut so that the shell would explode immediately on striking or a very few seconds afterward. The explosion would drive jagged fragments of iron and sometimes heated bullets through scores of men within a radius of fully one hundred yards. No wounds were more feared or more fatal than the ghastly rips and tears made by the jagged, red-hot fragments of shells. The men became used to the hiss and the whistle of the solid shot and the whirling bullets, but when the scream of the hollow shell was heard through the air overhead, like the yell of some great, fatal, flying monster, every man within hearing tried to get under shelter.
In 1864, the 101st Ohio Infantry were fighting at Buzzards Roost, Georgia. Company H was drawn up along the banks of the stream there and one of the Confederate batteries had just got its range. Suddenly there came across the woods the long, fierce, wailing scream of one of the great shells and before the echo had died out it appeared over the tree tops and fell right in the midst of a hundred men, hissing and spitting fire. All the men but one scattered in every direction. Private Jacob F. Yaeger was on the edge of the group and could have secured his own safety by dodging behind a large tree which stood conveniently near. Just as he was about to do this he saw that some of the men had not had time enough to get away and were just scrambling up only a few feet from the spluttering shell. He acted on one of those quick, brave impulses which make heroes of men. Like a flash, he sprinted across the field, tearing off his coat as he ran, wrapped it round the hissing, hot shell and started for the creek, clasping it tight against his breast. By this time the fuse had burned so far in that there was no opportunity to cut it below the spark. His only chance was to get it into the water before the spark reached the powder below. He reached the bank of the creek in about two jumps, but, as he said afterward, he seemed to hang in the air a half hour between each jump. Even as he reached the bank, he hurled the shell, coat and all, into the deep, sluggish water and involuntarily ducked for the explosion which he was sure was going to come. It didn't. The water stopped the spark just in time and Private Yaeger had saved the lives of many of his comrades.
Of all the prizes which are most valued in war the captured battle-flags of an enemy rank first. The flag is the symbol of an army's life. While it waves the army is living and undefeated. When the flag falls, or when it is captured, all is over. In battle the men rally around their colors and the flag stands for life or death. It must never be given up and the one who carries the flag has not only the most honorable but the most dangerous post in his company. Against the flag every charge is directed. The man who carries the flag knows that he is marked above all others for attack. The man who saves a flag from capture saves his company or his regiment not only from defeat, but from disgrace.
In the battle of Gettysburg, Corporal Nathaniel M. Allen of the First Massachusetts Infantry was the color-bearer of his company. On the 2d of July his regiment had been beaten back under the tremendous attacks of the Confederate forces. Their retreat became almost a rout as the men ran to escape the murderous fire which was being poured in upon them by concealed batteries of the enemy as well as from the muskets of the advancing infantry. Corporal Allen stayed back in the rear and retreated slowly and reluctantly so as to give his company a chance to return and rally. Beyond and still farther back than he, marching grimly and doggedly from the enemy, was the color-bearer of his regiment carrying the regimental flag. Suddenly Allen saw him falter, stop, fling up his arms and fall headlong on the field tangled up in the flag which he was carrying. There came a tremendous yell from the advancing Confederate forces as they saw the flag go down. Allen stopped and for a moment hesitated. It was only his duty to carry and wave his own colors, but at that moment he saw a squad of gray-backs start out from the advancing Confederate forces and make a rush to capture the flag which lay flat and motionless in a widening pool of the color-bearer's blood. This was too much for Allen. With a yell of defiance he rushed back, heedless of the bullets which hissed all around him, and rolling over the dead body of the man who had given his life for his colors he pulled the regimental flag from under his body, and started back for the distant Union forces. By this time the Confederates were close upon him, but his brave deed had not gone unnoticed. Seeing him coming across the stricken field with a flag in either hand, the rear-guard of his regiment turned back with a cheer and poured in a volley into the approaching Confederates which stopped them just long enough to let Allen escape and to carry back both the colors.
"What's the matter with you fellows anyway," said Allen, as he reached the safety of the rear rank; "do you think I'm going to do all the fighting?"
A storm of cheers and laughter greeted this remark and the rear-guard stopped. Slowly the others, hearing the cheers, and stranger still, the laughing, came back to the colors and in a few minutes the line was again formed and this time the regiment held and drove back the attack of the Confederates. One man by doing more than his duty had changed a defeat into a victory.
Sometimes in a battle a man becomes an involuntary hero. In some of Sienkiwictz's war-novels, he has a character named Zagloba who was constantly doing brave deeds in spite of himself. In one battle he became caught in a charge and while struggling desperately to get out, he tripped and fell on top of the standard-bearer of the other army who had just been killed. Zagloba found himself caught and entangled in the banner and finally, as the battle swept on, he emerged from the place in safety carrying the standard of the enemy and from that day forward was held as one of the heroes of the army.
At the battle of Chancellorsville Major Clifford Thompson at Hazel Grove became an involuntary hero and did a much braver deed than he had intended, although, unlike Zagloba, he had shown no lack of courage throughout the battle. General Pleasonton was forming a line of battle along the edge of the woods and was riding from gun to gun inspecting the line when suddenly not two hundred yards distant a body of men appeared marching toward them. He was about to give the order to fire when a sergeant called out to him:
"Wait, General, I can see our colors in the line."
The General hesitated a moment and then turning said, "Major Thompson, ride out and see who those people are and come back and tell me."
As the major said afterward, he had absolutely no curiosity personally to find out anything about them and was perfectly willing to let them introduce themselves, but an order is an order, and he accordingly rode directly toward the approaching men. He could plainly see that they had Union colors, but could see no trace of any Union uniforms. When he was only about forty yards distant, the whole line called out to him:
"Come on in, we're friends; don't be afraid."
The major, however, had heard of too many men being made prisoners by pretended friends and accordingly rode along the front of the whole line in order to determine definitely the character of the approaching forces, fearing that the colors which he saw and which they kept waving toward him might have been Union colors captured from the Union forces the day before. Seeing that he did not come closer, one of the front rank suddenly fired directly at him and then with a tremendous Rebel yell the whole body charged down upon the Union forces. Thompson turned his horse to dash back to his own lines, but realized that, caught between two fires, he would evidently be shot either by his own troops or by the Rebels behind him. Dashing his spurs into his horse, he rode like the wind between the two lines, hoping to get past them both before the final volley came. Fortunately for him both sides reserved their fire until they came to close quarters although he received a fusillade of scattered shots all along the line. Just as he rounded the ends, the lines came together with a crash and simultaneous volleys of musketry. There were a few moments of hand-to-hand fighting, but the Union forces were too strong and the Confederate ranks broke and retreated in scattering groups to the shelter of the woods beyond. The major reached the rear of his own lines just in time to help drive back the last rush of the Confederates. A few moments later he saw General Pleasonton sitting on his horse nearly in the same place where he had been when he had first sent him on his errand. Riding up to him, Major Thompson saluted.
"General," he said, "those men were Confederates."
"I strongly suspected it," said the General, "but, Major, I never expected to see you again, for when that charge came I figured out that if the Rebs didn't shoot you, we would. You did a very brave thing reconnoitering the enemies' front like that."
"Well," said the major, "I am glad, General, that it impressed you that way. It was such a rapid reconnoiter that I was afraid that you might think it was a retreat."
When Henry C. Foster, who afterward became famous as one of the heroes of Vicksburg, joined the Union Army, he was the rawest recruit in his regiment. His messmates still tell the story of how, before the regiment marched, he was visited by his mother who brought him an umbrella and a bottle of pennyroyal for use in wet weather and was horrified to find that soldiers are not allowed to carry umbrellas. Henry was impatient of the constant and never-ending drilling to which he was subjected. One day after a trying hour of setting-up exercises, he suddenly grounded his gun and said engagingly to the captain:
"Say, Captain, let's stop this foolishness and go over to the grocery store and have a little game of cards."
The captain stared at Foster for nearly a minute before he could get his breath, then he turned to a grinning sergeant and said:
"Sergeant, you take charge of this young cabbage-head after the regular drilling is over and drill him like blazes for about three extra hours," which the sergeant accordingly did.
In spite of his greenness and his peculiarities, however, Henry had good stuff in him and the making of a brave soldier. He was known as a dead-shot and a good soldier, although still retaining some of his peculiarities. Among others he insisted upon wearing a coonskin cap and was known throughout his company as "Old Coonskin." He soon showed such qualities of courage and self-reliance that in spite of his early record he was gradually promoted until by the time his regiment reached Vicksburg, which the Union Army was then besieging, he was a second lieutenant. The siege of Vicksburg was a long and tedious affair. The investing forces did not have sufficient artillery to make such a breach in the defenses of the Confederates that a successful attack could be made. The besiegers out in the wet and mud wearied of the slow process under which the encircling lines were brought closer and closer and longed for more active operations. Lieutenant Foster especially, just as formerly he had protested against the interminable drilling, now chafed against the enforced inaction of the troops. Finally he made up his mind that he at least would get some interest out of the siege. As one of the best shots in his regiment, he had no difficulty in being detailed for sharp-shooting duty. One dark night, loaded with ammunition and with a haversack of provisions and several canteens of water, he crawled out into the space between the Union lines and the defender's ramparts. The next morning, to his comrades' intense surprise, they found that Old Coonskin had dug for himself a deep burrow like a woodchuck close to the enemy's defenses and had thrown up a little mound with a peep-hole. There he lay for three days picking off the Confederates and scoring each successful shot with a notch on the butt of the long rifle which he had obtained especial permission to use. At first the Confederates could not locate the direction from which the fatal shots kept coming. When they did discover Foster in his burrow, volley after volley was directed at his refuge, but he kept too close to be hit and at regular intervals men who showed themselves on the ramparts were kept dropping before his unerring fire. At the end of the third day, the Confederates had learned their lesson and there were no more shots to be had and once more Old Coonskin began to be bored. It finally occurred to him that if he could in any way gain possession of a height which would allow him to shoot over the ramparts, he could make the Confederate position very uncomfortable. There was no tree or hill, however, near by which would lend itself to any such idea. Accordingly the third night Foster crawled back again to his regiment and spent a day in resting and reconnoitering and receiving the congratulations of the whole regiment for his marksmanship and daring. The next night was dark and stormy. At daylight the sentries inside the city were amazed to see a rude structure standing close beside the fatal burrow. It was in the form of a log-cabin hastily built out of railroad ties and reinforced with heavy railroad iron and containing peep-holes so that its occupant could shoot with entire safety. At first it did not seem to be any more dangerous than the burrow had been so long as the besieged kept off the breastwork. By the second day, however, it had grown visibly higher and the third night found it built up by slow degrees so that it began to look really like a low tower. Finally it reached such a height that from an upper inside shelf, protected by heavy logs and planks, Old Coonskin could lie at his ease and overlook all of the operations inside the city. Then began a reign of terror for the besieged. They had no artillery and it was necessary to concentrate an incessant fire on the tower, otherwise the sharp-shooter within could pick off his men without difficulty. It was absolutely impossible for the besieged to keep under cover and still properly man the defenses against an attack. One by one the officers went down before Old Coonskin's deadly fire and it seemed to be only a question of time and ammunition before the whole garrison succumbed to his marksmanship. In the meantime, the besieging lines drew closer and closer and the never-ceasing artillery fire and incessant attacks gradually wore down the courage and the resources of the besieged. One day within an hour eleven men went down before the deadly aim of Old Coonskin, most of them officers. Suddenly the firing ceased from the ramparts and slowly and reluctantly a white flag was hoisted, followed shortly by an envoy to the Union lines with a flag of truce. A tremendous cheer went up through the weary Union lines. Vicksburg had fallen, and to this day you never will be able to convince Old Coonskin's company that he was not the man who, along with Grant, brought about its surrender.
THE THREE HUNDRED WHO SAVED AN ARMY
Twenty-three hundred and fifty years ago, three hundred men beat back an army of three millions of the Great King, as the King of Persia was rightly called. The kingdom of Xerxes, who then ruled over Persia, stretched from India to the Ægean Sea and from the Caspian to the Red Sea. He reigned over Chaldean, Jew, Phoenician, Egyptian, Arab, Ethiopian and half a hundred other nations. From these he assembled an army, the greatest that has ever gone to war. This mass of men from all over the Eastern world he hurled at the tiny free states in Greece. It was as if the Czar of all the Russias with his vast armies from Europe and Asia should suddenly attack the state of Connecticut.
Greece's best defense was the ring of rugged mountains which surrounded its seacoast. The Persian army had gathered at Sardis. From there to gain entrance into Greece they must follow a narrow path close to the seashore with a precipice on one side and impassable morasses and quicksands on the other. Beyond this the way widened out into a little plain and narrowed again at the other end. It was an ideal place to be held by a small army of brave men. A Council of all the states of Greece was held at the Isthmus of Corinth. There all the states except one resolved to fight to the death for their freedom. Thessaly alone, which lay first in the path of the Great King, sent earth and water to his envoys who had come to all the states in Greece to demand submission. The Council sent to guard this pass, which was named Thermopylæ, a little army of four thousand men. It was commanded by Leonidas, one of the two kings of Sparta, who led a little band of three hundred Spartans who had sworn never to retreat. Before they left Sparta, each man celebrated his own funeral rites. This little army built a wall across the pass and camped there waiting for the enemy. Before long they were seen coming, covering the whole country with army after army until the plain below the pass was filled as far as the eye could see with hordes of marching, shouting warriors. High on the mountainside a throne had been built for Xerxes where he could see and watch his armies sweep through the little force which stood in their way. His great nobles waited for the chance to display before him their leadership and the splendid equipment and discipline of the armies which they led. The first attack was made by an army of the Persians and Medes themselves, supported by archers and slingers and flanked with cohorts of magnificently appareled horsemen mounted on Arab steeds. With a wild crash of barbaric music they rushed to the charge expecting by mere weight of numbers to break through the thin line of men who manned the little wall across the path, but the slave regiments of the Persians were made up of men who were trained under the lash. They were officered by great nobles who had led self-indulgent lives of luxury and pleasure. Against them was a band of free men, every one an athlete and able to use weapons which the lighter and weaker Persians could not withstand. The onslaught broke on the spears and long swords of the Spartan warriors and in a minute there was a huddle of beaten, screaming men and plunging horses and demoralized officers. Into the broken and defeated ranks plunged the Greeks and drove them far down the plain, returning in safety to their ramparts with the loss of hardly a man. Again and again this happened and regiment after regiment from the inexhaustible forces of the Persians were hurled against the wall only to be dashed backward and driven defeated down the plain by the impenetrable line of heavy-armed Greeks. Three times did Xerxes the Great King leap from his throne in rage and despair as he saw his best troops slaughtered and defeated by this tiny band of fighters. For two days this went on until the plain in front of the wall was covered with dead and dying Persians and mercenaries while the Greeks had hardly any losses.
Baffled and dispirited Xerxes was actually on the point of leading back his great army when a traitor, for a great sum of gold, betrayed a secret path up the mountainside. It was none other than the bottom of a mountain torrent through the shallow water of which men could wade and find a way which would lead them safely around to the rear of the Grecian army. On the early morning of the third day word was brought to Leonidas that the enemy had gained the heights above and that by noon they would leave the plain and entirely encircle the little Grecian army. A hasty council of war was called. All of the allied forces except the Spartans agreed that the position could not be held further and advised an honorable retreat. The Spartan band alone refused to go, although Leonidas tried to save two of his kinsmen by giving them letters and messages to Sparta. One of them answered that he had come to fight and not to carry letters and the other that his deeds would tell all that Sparta needed to know. Another one named Dienices, when told that the enemy's archers were so numerous that their arrows darkened the sun, replied, "So much the better, for we shall fight in the shade."
The little band took a farewell of their comrades and watched them march away and then without waiting to be attacked, this tiny body of three hundred men marched out from behind their ramparts and attacked a force nearly ten thousand times their own number. Right through the slave-ranks they broke and fought their way to a little hillock where back to back they defended themselves against the whole vast army of the Persians. Again and again waves of men dashed up from all sides against this little hill, but only to fall back leaving their dead behind. At last the spears of the Spartans broke and they fought until their swords were dulled and dashed out of their hands. Then they fought on with their daggers, with their hands and their teeth until not one living man was left, but only a mound of slain, bristled over with arrows and surrounded by ring after ring of dead Persians, Medes, Arabs, Ethiopians and the other mercenaries which had been dashed against them. So died Leonidas and his band of heroes. Nearly ten thousand of the Persian army lay dead around them during the three days of hand-to-hand fighting. By their death they had gained time for the armies of the Grecian states to organize and, best of all, they had taught Persian and Greek alike that brave men cannot be beaten down by mere numbers.
Leonidas and his band are drifting dust. The stone lion and the pillar with the names of those that died that marked the battle-mound have crumbled and passed away long centuries ago. Even the blood-stained Pass itself has gone and the sea has drawn back many miles and there is no longer the morass, the path or the precipice.
After the passage of more than twoscore centuries in a new world of which Leonidas never dreamed, in another great war between freedom and slavery, this same great deed was wrought again by another three hundred men who laid down their lives to hold back an enemy and dying saved an army and perhaps a nation. Their story might almost be the old, old hero story of the lost Spartan band.
The great Civil War was in its third year. Disaster after disaster had overtaken the Union armies. English writers were already chronicling The Decline and Fall of the American Republic. It was a time of darkness and peril. The great leaders who were afterward to win great victories had not yet arrived. Under McClellan nothing had been accomplished. At the first trial Burnside failed at the terrible battle of Fredericksburg where nearly thirteen thousand Union soldiers--the flower of the army--died for naught. There was another shift and "Fighting Joe Hooker" took command of the Army of the Potomac. Through continuous defeats, the great army had become disheartened and the men were sullen and discouraged. It was a time of shameful desertions. The express trains to the army were filled with packages of citizens' clothes which parents and wives and brothers and sisters were sending to their kindred to help them desert from the army. Hooker changed all this. He was brave, energetic and full of life and before long the soldiers were again ready and anxious to fight. Unfortunately, their general, in spite of his many good qualities, did not have those which would make him the leader of a successful army. He was vain, boastful and easily overcome and confused by any unexpected check or defeat. Encamped on the Rappahannock River he had one hundred and thirty thousand men against the sixty thousand of the Confederate forces on the other side. These sixty thousand, however, included Robert E. Lee, the great son of a great father, as their general. "Light-Horse Harry Lee," his father, had been one of the great cavalry commanders of the Revolution and one of Washington's most trusted generals. With Robert E. Lee was Stonewall Jackson, the great flanker who has never been equaled in daring, rapid, decisive, brilliant flanking, turning movements which so often are what decide great battles. Hooker decided to fight. By the night of April 30, 1863, no less than four army corps crossed the river in safety and were assembled at the little village of Chancellorsville under his command. His confidence was shown in the boastful order which he issued just before the battle.
"The operations of the last three days," he declared, "have determined that our enemy must either ingloriously fly or come out from behind his defenses and give us battle on our own ground where certain destruction awaits him."
Well might it have been said to him as to another boaster in the days of old, "Let not him that girdeth on his armor boast as him that taketh it off."
The morning of the battle came and Hooker said to his generals that he had the Confederates where God Almighty Himself could not save them. At first Lee retreated before his advance, but when he had reached a favorable position, suddenly turned and drove back the Union forces with such energy that Hooker lost heart and ordered his men to fall back to a better position. This was done against the protests of all of his division commanders who felt as did Meade, afterward the hero of Gettysburg, who exclaimed to General Hooker, "If we can't hold the top of a hill, we certainly can't hold the bottom of it."
[Illustration: In the Woods Near Chancellorsville]
Hooker took a position in the Wilderness, a tangled forest mixed with impenetrable thickets of dwarf oak and underbrush. Here he hoped that Lee would make a direct attack, but this pause gave the great Confederate general the one chance which he wanted. All that night Jackson with thirty thousand men marched half-way round the Union Army. Again and again word was sent to Hooker that the Confederate forces were marching toward his flank, but he could see in the movement nothing but a retreat and sent word that they were withdrawing so as to save their baggage trains. At three o'clock the next afternoon Jackson was at last in position. In front of Hooker's army lay the main forces of Lee. Half-way to the rear of his forces were Jackson's magnificent veterans. The first warning of the fatal attack which nearly caused the loss of the great Union Army of the Potomac came from the wild rush of deer and rabbits which had been driven from their lairs by the quick march of the Confederate soldiers through the forest. Following the charge of the frightened animals came the tremendous attack of Jackson's infantry, the toughest, hardiest, bravest, best-trained troops in the Confederate Army. The Union soldiers fought well, but they were new troops taken by surprise and as soon as the roar of the volleys of the attacking Confederates sounded from the rear, Lee advanced, with every man in his army and smashed into Hooker's front. The surprise and the shock of possible defeat instead of expected victory was too much for a man of Hooker's temperament. At the time when he most needed a clear mind and unflinching nerve, he fell into a state of almost complete nervous collapse. The battle was practically fought without a leader, every corps commander did the best he could, but in a short time the converging attacks of the two great Confederate leaders cut the army in two and defeat was certain. At this time came the greatest loss which the Confederate Army had received up to that day. Stonewall Jackson's men had charged through the forest and cut deeply into the flank of the Union Army. After their charge the Confederate front was in confusion owing to the thick and tangled woods in which they fought. Jackson had ridden forward beyond his troops in order to reform them. The fleeing Union soldiers rallied for a minute and fired a volley at the little party which Jackson was leading. He turned back to rejoin his own troops and in the darkness and confusion he and his men were mistaken for Union cavalry and received a volley from their own forces which dashed Jackson out of his saddle with a wound in his left arm which afterward turned out to be mortal. At that time General Lee sent his celebrated message to Jackson, "You are luckier than I for your left arm only is wounded, but when you were disabled, I lost my right arm."
In a short time the whole Union Army was nothing but a disorganized mass of men, horses, ambulance-wagons, artillery and commissary trains, all striving desperately to cross the Rappahannock before the pursuing Confederates could turn the retreat into a massacre. Unless the Confederate pursuit could be held back long enough to let the men cross the river and reform on the opposite bank, the whole army was lost. History is full of the terrible disasters which overtake an army which is caught by the enemy while in the confusion of crossing a river. General Pleasonton of Pennsylvania was in command of the rear of the Federal retreat. He was striving desperately to mount his guns so as to sweep the only road which led to the river and hold back the Confederate forces long enough to let his men cross. Already the van of the Union Army had reached the ford when far down the road appeared the whole corps of Stonewall Jackson, maddened by the loss of their great leader. Every man that Pleasonton had was working desperately to get the guns into position, but it was evident that they would be captured and their pursuers would sweep into the huddle which was crossing the river unless something could be done to hold them back. As the general looked silently down the road, he saw near to him Major Keenan of the Pennsylvania cavalry. Keenan had been a porter in a Philadelphia store, but his rare faculty for handling men and horses had made him one of the most efficient cavalry officers of any Pennsylvania regiment. The three companies which were with him were all the cavalry that Pleasonton had. They were bringing up the rear of the retreat like a pack of wolves who, though driven back from their prey, move off sullenly only waiting for the signal from their leader to turn again and fight. General Pleasonton had rallied his gunners and they would stand if only they had a chance. There was no hope of bringing any order into the mass of broken, terrified infantry rushing on toward the river.
"Major Keenan," shouted General Pleasonton, "how many men have you got?"
"Three hundred, General," replied Keenan, quietly.
"Major," said the general, low and earnestly, riding up to him, "we must have ten minutes to save the Army of the Potomac. Charge the Confederate advance and hold them!"
Keenan never hesitated. When the Six Hundred charged at Balaclava, some of them came back from the bite of the Russian sabres and the roar of the Muscovite guns. When Pickett made that desperate, fatal charge at Gettysburg, there was still a chance to retreat, but Major Keenan knew that when three hundred cavalry met the fixed bayonets of thirty thousand infantry on a narrow road, not one would ever return. It was not a splendid charge which might mean laurels of victory, but a hopeless going to death, the buying of ten minutes of time with the lives of three hundred men, yet neither Keenan nor his men questioned the price nor flinched at the order.
The sunlight of the last day he was to see on earth caught the gleam of his uplifted sabre as he gave the quick, sharp command to charge. He flung his cap into the bushes, bent his head and rode bareheaded in front of his flying column and then like an avalanche, like a hurricane of horse, he and his three hundred men thundered down the narrow road. Just around the curve, with a crash that broke the necks of a score of the leading horses, this charging column hurled themselves against the astonished, packed ranks of infantry rushing on with fixed bayonets. For five, for ten, for fifteen minutes horses rose and fell to the clashing of dripping sabres and the bark of revolvers thrust into the faces of the oncoming foemen. For fifteen long minutes there was a swirl and a flurry which held back the head of the charging forces and then shattered by volley after volley of musketry and pierced by thousands of charging bayonets, horse and men alike went down. Not one ever came back. Keenan and his Three Hundred had bought the ten minutes and had thrown in five more for good measure and the price was paid. The head of the Confederate column reformed, passed over and by the struggling horses and the silent, mangled men and then again swept on around the bend and down the road toward the fords crowded with a hundred thousand helpless, escaping soldiers. General Pleasonton, however, had made good use of those precious moments. As the Confederate column came around the curve, they were met by a hell of grape and canister from the batteries which at last had been mounted in position. Right into their front roared the guns and the road was a shamble of writhing, struggling, dying men. No army ever marched that could stand up against the grim storm of death that swept down that road and in a moment the Confederate forces broke and rushed back for shelter. The Army of the Potomac was saved. Bought at a great price, it was yet to be hammered and forged and welded under a great leader into the sword which was to save the Union.
"Year after year, the pine cones fall, And the whippoorwill lisps her spectral call. They have ceased, but their glory will never cease, Nor their light be quenched in the light of peace. The rush of the charge is sounding still, That saved the Army at Chancellorsville."
THE RESCUE OF THE SCOUTS
The man who will risk his life for his friends, the leader who never deserts his band, the soldier who will not escape alone, these are the men whom history has always hailed as heroes. Some of the greatest stories of devotion and courage have been those which chronicle the rescue of men from almost certain death. Courage and devotion have often opened the dark doors of dungeons, stricken the fetters from despairing prisoners and saved men doomed to death from the stake, the block and the gallows.
When the Civil War broke out, the lot of the few Union men left in the South was a hard one. The fierce passions of those days ran so high that not only was a Unionist himself liable to death and the confiscation of his property, but even his family were not safe. In 1863 there was a Georgian who assumed the name of William Morford in order to protect those of his family who lived in Georgia from the bitter hatred which his services for the Union had aroused. He was one of many devoted scouts who worked secretly and single-handed for their country, claiming no reward if they won and losing their lives on the gallows if they lost. Morford throughout 1863 was attached to the command of General Rosecrans and performed many a feat during that stormy year. It was Morford who burned an important bridge under the very eyes of a Confederate regiment sent to guard it and who, when the light from the flames made escape impossible, coolly mingled with the guards and actually received their congratulations for his bravery in attempting to put out the fire which he himself had lighted. It was Morford who single-handed captured a Confederate colonel while he was sleeping in a house surrounded by his regiment and with his staff in the next room. Morford obtained access to him under pretense of bearing an important oral dispatch from General Beauregard himself. They were left alone with an armed sentry just outside the half-opened door. Stepping to one side so that he could not be seen by the guard, Morford suddenly placed a cocked revolver close against the substantial stomach of the colonel.
"I have been sent, Colonel," he muttered sternly, "to either capture or kill you. I would rather capture you, for if I kill you I shall have to fight my way out, but it is for you to say which it shall be."
The colonel was a brave officer, but a cocked revolver against one's stomach is discouraging even for a hero. He decided instantly that he much preferred being a prisoner to being a corpse and said as much to Morford.
"Well," said the latter, still in a tone so low that the sentry could not make out the words, "I'm glad you feel that way. Get your hat and tell the guard that you're going to take me out for a talk with some of the other officers. I'll be right behind you with this revolver in my sleeve and if anything goes wrong, two bullets will go through the small of your back."
With this stimulant, the colonel arranged matters entirely to the scout's satisfaction. He led the way out of the house and through the lines, giving the countersign himself, in a somewhat shaky voice, and in a short time the two found themselves within the Union lines.
"I hope I didn't startle you too much, Colonel," said Morford, as he turned his prisoner over to the guard. "You weren't in any danger, for my revolver wasn't loaded. I didn't find it out until just as I got to your lines and I figured out that I probably wouldn't have to shoot anyway."
As this is a book for good boys and girls, it would not be proper to set down the colonel's language as he looked at the empty chambers of Morford's revolver.
Another time the scout was sent by General Rosecrans to find out whether certain steamboats were on the Hiawassee and if so, where they were located. On this trip he climbed Cumberland Mountain and on looking down over the famous Cumberland Gap, he discovered a force of Confederates who were busily engaged in fortifying the Gap so as to prevent any federal troops from passing through it. The force consisted of twenty soldiers and forty or fifty negroes who were doing the work. Morford made up his mind that it was his business as a Union scout to stop all such work. Standing out in full sight of the troop, he fired his revolver at the officer in command. The shot killed the leader's horse, and horse and man pitched over into the little troop throwing it into confusion. Morford at once fired a second time and then turning, waved his hand to an imaginary aide and shouted so that the Confederates could hear:
"Run back and tell the regiment to hurry up."
He then turned to the opposite ridge and shouted across the Gap to another imaginary force:
"Lead your men down that path and close in on 'em. Hurry up. My men will come from this side and we'll beat you down."
By this time the Confederate officer was on his feet again and started to rally his men. Morford made a rush toward them, firing his revolver as he came, waving his arms in both directions, shouting to his imaginary forces and bellowing at the top of his tremendous voice--"Come on, boys, we've got them now. Surround 'em. Don't let a man escape!"
The negro workmen felt that this was no place for neutrals and they dropped their shovels and made a rush for the mouth of the Gap. The Confederate soldiers stood for a minute, but as they saw Morford rushing toward them, they broke and followed the workmen. The scout chased them until he saw that they were well on their way and then started back along the ridge chuckling to himself over the way in which they had scattered. He laughed too soon. The Confederates had not gone far before they found out the trick which had been played upon them. They turned back and in a short time fifty men were riding along the ridge at full speed to capture the Yankee who had fooled them so. Unfortunately for Morford, he had kept to the path along the ridge which was better going, but which offered very little chance of escape, since on one side was a sheer precipice while on the other was a long, bare slope which offered no place for concealment. From the top of a little knoll he caught sight of the Confederates before they saw him. At that time they were only a half mile behind. The scout tried to escape by running far out on a rocky spur which jutted out over the Gap and which was filled with trees, hoping that he might dodge in among these, double on his pursuers and so get away. The same officer, however, whom he had unhorsed caught sight of him as he ran from one tree to another and with a tremendous shout, the whole band galloped after him at full speed. Morford had hoped that as the way led up a steep hill covered with rocks, his pursuers would have to dismount, but they were riding horses which had been bred in the mountains and which were trained to go up and down hill-paths like goats. They gained on him fast. Spreading out they cut off every chance of his escaping back to the slope or skirting their ranks. There was nothing left for him to do except to go on and on to the very edge of the precipice. The scout knew that if he were caught he would be hung on the nearest tree and that knowledge was a considerable incentive to keep ahead of his pursuers as long as possible. He ran as he had never run before and as he could follow paths too narrow for the horses, for a while he managed to hold his lead. He could see, however, that some of the band had ridden around the slope and held the whole base of the spur so that it would be only a question of time before he would be hunted out and caught. He was running now along the very edge of the precipice which dropped six hundred feet to the rocks below. The gorge narrowed until finally at one point it was not more than twenty feet wide. This was too wide, however, for the scout to clear, even if he were not wearing heavy boots and carrying a rifle. Several feet below where he stood, on the opposite shelf a hickory tree had grown out so that some of the branches extended within ten feet of his side of the gorge. Below that tree was a fissure through the rock down which a desperate man might possibly clamber. It was a slight chance, but the only one which he had. At this point he was hidden from the Confederates by a wall of rock. Without allowing himself to stop, for fear that he would lose his nerve, Morford took a run and launched himself through the air ten feet out and ten feet down against the spreading boughs of the hickory tree. He broke through them with a rush but wound his arms desperately around the bending limbs and though they bent and cracked, the tough wood held and he found himself firmly hugging the shaggy bark of the trunk with all his might. He slid down, ripping his clothes and skin, until finally his feet touched the beginning of a possible path down to the gorge. He could hear the shouts of his pursuers only a few rods away. If they had gone to the edge, nothing could have saved him, as they would have shot him down before he could have escaped, but they beat carefully through the trees and rocks for fear lest he should crawl back through their line. Without stopping to weigh his chances, Morford let himself drop from one shelf of rock to another, clinging to every little crevice and every twig and plant which he could find. Several times he thought he was gone as his feet swung off into the space below, but always he managed to get a hand-grip on some rock which held, and almost before he realized the terrible chance he had taken, he had passed down the side of the cliff and was safe around a bend in the rock which hid him from view. From there the path was easier and in a short time he found himself in the gorge far below. There he crawled carefully along behind rocks and took advantage of every bit of cover and in a few minutes was far on his way, leaving the Confederates to hunt for hours every square yard of ground on the rocky promontory whence he had come.
This was but one of many similar adventures which made the name of Morford feared and hated through the Confederate states. The most desperate as well as the most generous of his many exploits was his rescue of three fellow-scouts who were held in jail at Harrison, Tennessee, and were to be shot on May 1st. Morford was then in Chattanooga and there heard of the capture of these scouts. Chattanooga at that time was a Confederate town, although it had a number of Union residents. There did not seem to be any chance of rescuing the condemned men, yet from the minute that Morford heard that these scouts were facing death, as he had so often faced it, he made up his mind that he would rescue them if he had to do it alone.
Morford's mother's name was Kinmont and her earliest ancestor had been Kinmont Willie, celebrated in the border-wars between England and Scotland in the latter part of the sixteenth century. Many and many a time had she sung to him as a child an old Scotch ballad handed down for centuries through the family, which told of the rescue of this far-away ancestor by his leader on the night before the day fixed for his execution. In 1596 Salkeld was the deputy of Lord Scroope, the English warden of the West Marches, while the Laird of Buccleuch, the keeper of Liddesdale, guarded the Scotch border. In that year these two held meetings on the border-line of the kingdoms according to the custom of the time for the purpose of arranging differences and settling disputes. On these occasions a truce was always proclaimed from the day of the meeting until the next day at sunrise. Kinmont Willie was a follower of the Laird of Buccleuch and was hated by the Englishmen for many a deed of arms in the numerous border-raids of those times. After the conference he was returning home attended by only three or four friends when he was taken prisoner by a couple of hundred Englishmen and in spite of the truce lodged in the grim Castle of Carlisle. The Laird of Buccleuch tried first to free him by applying to the English warden and even to the Scotch embassador, but got no satisfaction from either and when at last he heard that his retainer was to be hung three days later, he took the matter into his own hands, gathered together two hundred of his men, surprised the Castle of Carlisle and rescued Kinmont Willie by force of arms. The story of this rescue is told in one of the best as well as one of the least-known of the Scotch ballads, "Kinmont Willie," the verses of which run as follows:
O have ye na heard o' the fause Sakelde? O have ye na heard o' the keen Lord Scroope? How they hae ta'en bauld Kinmont Willie, On Haribee to hang him up?
They band his legs beneath the steed, They tied his hands behind his back; They guarded him, fivesome on each side, And they brought him over the Liddel-rack.
Now word is gane to the bauld Keeper, In Branksome Ha' where that he lay, That Lord Scroope has ta'en the Kinmont Willie, Between the hours of night and day.
He has ta'en the table wi' his hand, He garr'd the red wine spring on hie-- "Now Christ's curse on my head," he said, "But avenged of Lord Scroope I'll be!
"O were there war between the lands, As well I wot that there is none, I would slight Carlisle castell high, Though it were builded of marble stone.
"I would set that castell in a low, And sloken it with English blood! There's never a man in Cumberland, Should ken where Carlisle castell stood.
"But since nae war's between the lands, And there is peace, and peace should be; I'll neither harm English lad or lass, And yet the Kinmont freed shall be!"
He has call'd him forty Marchmen bauld, Were kinsmen to the bauld Buccleuch; With spur on heel, and splent on spauld, And gleuves of green, and feathers blue.
And as we cross'd the Bateable Land, When to the English side we held, The first o'men that we met wi', Whae sould it be but fause Sakelde?
"Where be ye gaun, ye hunters keen?" Quo' fause Sakelde; "come tell to me!" "We go to hunt an English stag, Has trespass'd on the Scots countrie."
"Where be ye gaun, ye marshal men?" Quo' fause Sakelde; "come tell me true!" "We go to catch a rank reiver, Has broken faith wi' the bauld Buccleuch."
"Where are ye gaun, ye mason lads, Wi' a' your ladders lang and hie?" "We gang to berry a corbie's nest, That wons not far frae Woodhouselee."
"Where be ye gaun, ye broken men?" Quo' fause Sakelde; "come tell to me!" Now Dickie of Dryhope led that band, And the nevir a word of lear had he.
"Why trespass ye on the English side? Row-footed outlaws, stand!" quo' he; The nevir a word had Dickie to say, Sae he thrust the lance through his fause bodie.
And when we left the Staneshaw-bank, The wind began full loud to blaw; But 'twas wind and weet, and fire and sleet, When we came beneath the castle wa'.
We crept on knees, and held our breath, Till we placed the ladders against the wa'; And sae ready was Buccleuch himsell To mount the first before us a'.
He has ta'en the watchman by the throat, He flung him down upon the lead-- Had there not been peace between our lands, Upon the other side thou hadst gaed!
"Now sound out, trumpets!" quo' Buccleuch; "Let's waken Lord Scroope right merrilie!" Then loud the warden's trumpet blew-- "O wha dare meddle wi' me?"
Then speedilie to work we gaed, And raised the slogan ane and a', And cut a hole through a sheet of lead, And so we wan to the castle ha'.
They thought King James and a' his men Had won the house wi' bow and spear; It was but twenty Scots and ten, That put a thousand in sic' a stear!
Wi' coulters, and wi' forehammers, We garr'd the bars bang merrilie, Until we came to the inner prison, Where Willie o' Kinmont he did lie.
And when we cam to the lower prison, Where Willie o' Kinmont he did lie-- "O sleep ye, wake ye, Kinmont Willie, Upon the morn that thou's to die?"
"O I sleep saft, and I wake aft, It's lang since sleeping was fley'd frae me; Gie my service back to my wife and bairns, And a' gude fellows that spier for me."
Then Red Rowan has hente him up, The starkest man in Teviotdale-- "Abide, abide now, Red Rowan, Till of my Lord Scroope I take farewell."
"Farewell, farewell, my gude Lord Scroope! My gude Lord Scroope, farewell!" he cried-- "I'll pay you for my lodging maill, When first we meet on the Border side."
Then shoulder high, with shout and cry, We bore him down the ladder lang; At every stride Red Rowan made, I wot the Kinmont's airns play'd clang.
"O mony a time," quo' Kinmont Willie, "I have ridden horse baith wild and wood; But a rougher beast than Red Rowan I ween my legs have ne'er bestrode."
"And mony a time," quo' Kinmont Willie, "I've prick'd a horse out oure the furs; But since the day I back'd a steed, I never wore sic cumbrous spurs."
We scarce had won the Staneshaw-bank, When a' the Carlisle bells were rung, And a thousand men on horse and foot Cam wi' the keen Lord Scroope along.
Buccleuch has turn'd to Eden Water, Even where it flow'd frae bank to brim, And he has plunged in wi' a' his band, And safely swam them through the strem.
He turn'd him on the other side, And at Lord Scroope his glove flung he-- "If ye like na my visit in merry England, In fair Scotland come visit me!"
"All sore astonish'd stood Lord Scroope, He stood as still as rock of stane; He scarcely dared to trew his eyes, When through the water they had gone.
"He is either himsell a devil fra hell, Or else his mother a witch maun be; I wadna have ridden that wan water, For a' the gowd in Christentie."
The memory of that brave rescue nearly three hundred years before, as the scout afterward told his friends, was what inspired him to save his fellow-scouts as Buccleuch had saved the first William Kinmont. By saving the lives of these three men he would pay with interest for the life of his ancestor. Shakespeare writes somewhere that the good which men do is oft buried with their bones, but that their evil deeds live on forever. No more mistaken lines have ever been written. Evil brings about its own death. No good deed is ever forgotten or ever buried. Hundreds of years later it may flash out through the dust of centuries and light the path of high endeavor.
Morford scoured Chattanooga and finally found nine men who were ready to go with him and try to rescue the condemned scouts. Leaving Chattanooga they traveled by night and hid by day in caves and thickets among the mountains. Occasionally they would meet or get word from men whom they knew to be Union sympathizers. Finally they hid on the top of Bear Mountain which towered above the river and which separated them from Harrison where was located the jail. Although they had traveled fast and far they were only just in time. The second noon after the night when they reached the mountain had been fixed for the execution. On Bear Mountain they hid in a cave which Morford himself had discovered when hunting there many years before. It could only be reached by a narrow path which ran along a shelf of rock which jutted out over a precipice three hundred feet deep. The path turned sharply and led under an enormous overhanging ledge and ended in a deep cave with a little mountain spring bubbling up on a mossy slope only ten feet wide which led up to the cave's entrance. Inside was a dry, high cavern large enough to hold fifty men. It could not be reached from above by reason of the over-hanging ledge. At that point the path stopped and where the slope ended was a sheer drop to the rocks below which extended around the farther side of the slope so that the only entrance was around the path's bend along which only one man could pass at a time. Morford reached the foot of Bear Mountain just at sunset and led his little band up the steep side by a winding deer-path, the entrance to which was concealed in a tangled thicket of green briar and could only be reached by crawling underneath the sharp thorns like snakes. The path to the cave was no place for a man with weak nerves. It was bad enough as it skirted the precipice, but where it took a sharp bend around the jutting point of rock, it narrowed to nothing more than a foothold not three inches wide. He who would pass into the cave must turn with his back to the precipice and edge his way with arms outstretched along the smooth face of the rock for nearly ten feet. The point at the turn was the worst. There it was necessary to take one foot off the ledge and grope for a tiny foothold below the path while one shuffled around the curve. It was not absolutely necessary for Morford and his men to spend the night in this cave. There were other places where they could have stayed in safety, as no one suspected their presence. Morford, however, had made up his mind to choose his men with the utmost care. It was necessary in order to save the lives of the three condemned scouts to pass through the camp of the soldiers and the ring of guards encircling the jail, break open the jail, rescue the prisoners and break out again. It was a desperate chance and Morford's only hope of success was to have men who would show absolute coolness and daring throughout the whole adventure. The nine men whom he had selected all bore a high reputation for courage, but Morford decided like Gideon of old to cut out every factor of weakness and leave only the picked men. When Gideon was chosen of God to rescue the children of Israel from the unnumbered host of Midianites and Amalekites and the other Bedouin hordes of the desert which were encamped in the great valley that lay at the hill of Moreh, he started with a force of thirty-two thousand. When this army looked down upon the innumerable hosts of the fierce desert warriors, it began to weaken and Gideon sent back twenty-two thousand soldiers who had showed signs of fear. The night before the day fixed for battle, Gideon decided to select from this ten thousand a picked band of men who would be not only brave, but watchful and ready for any emergency. As his army swarmed down to the water-hole Gideon watched the men as they drank. They had kept watch and ward on that bare sun-smitten mountain top all through the long, hot day. As they came to the water some of the thirsty men dashed forward out of the ranks and fell on their faces and lapped the water like dogs without a thought that there might be an ambush at the ford and without a care that they were lying absolutely defenseless before any enemy who might attack them. Others kneeled on their hands and knees and drank. Of the ten thousand only three hundred had bravery and self-control enough to maintain the discipline of a vigilant army. Without laying down their weapons they drank as a deer drinks, watching on every side for fear of a surprise. With one hand they scooped up the water, in the other they held fast their weapon. It was slower, but it was safer. These three hundred men Gideon chose for that band which for three thousand years has been the symbol of bravery and watchfulness. With this little force just before dawn he burst down upon the sleeping Midianites which were as the sand by the sea for multitude. The three hundred were divided into three companies. Each man carried a sword, a trumpet, and an earthenware pitcher with a lighted lamp inside. From three separate directions they rushed down upon the sleeping foe and sounded the trumpets and brake the pitchers and held the flashing lamps on high and then shouting as their watchword, "The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon," they burst into the great camp of the invaders. Roused from sleep, hearing the trumpet notes and the crash of the breaking pitchers and seeing the flash of lights from all sides and mighty voices shouting the fierce slogan, the Midianites scattered like sheep and all that great host ran and cried and fled and every man's sword was against his fellow in the darkness, and when day dawned the ground was covered with dead men, the camp was abandoned and nothing was left of that mighty army but a fringe of fugitives scattered in every direction.
It may be that some such test was in Morford's mind as the little band of nine scaled the heights of Bear Mountain. At any rate as they approached the precipice-path he halted them.
"Boys," he said, "I got word this afternoon that these scouts have only thirty-six hours to live unless we save them. The guards have been doubled. It's going to be a desperate chance to get to them and none of us may ever come back. Now if any of you fellows want to quit, the time to do it is now rather than later. I'm going to lead the way along the path which we used to say was the best nerve-tonic in this county. If any of you fellows get discouraged and don't want to make the last turn past old Double-Trouble, why back out, go over the top of the mountain and down the other side. You know your way home and you've got provisions enough to last for the trip. Only travel fast, for those of us who are left are going to come right over the top of this mountain on the run with those scouts--if we save 'em."
With this characteristic oration, Morford started along the path, first tightening his heavy revolver belt so that it might not swing out and over-balance him at the critical moment. He was instantly followed by six others, quiet, self-contained men who like him had taken up scouting as the best way of showing their devotion to the Union. The other three hesitated a moment, looked at each other shamefacedly and then slowly followed along the dangerous route. As Morford reached Double-Trouble, he stopped and in a low voice told the next man how to put one foot out into space and search for the little foothold which jutted out below the main path and then how to swing around that desperate curve. Slowly and with infinite caution each one of the six followed their leader and found himself safe on the slope of the cave. The seventh man listened carefully to the instructions of the man before him as to how he should round the curve and gave a gasp of horror when he found that he must balance himself on one foot on a three-inch ledge while the other was in mid-air.
"Tell General Morford," he finally said, "that I ain't no tight-rope walker. I draw the line at holdin' on like a fly, head downward over this old precipice. Anyway I don't think there's any chance to do anything and I'm goin' home."
He seemed to have voiced the exact sentiments of the other two who had sidled up and with out-stretched necks were examining in the faint light the curve around Double-Trouble. The last man spent no time in any argument.
"Good-bye, General," he called in a low voice. "Go as far as you like--but go without me."
That was the last Morford and the other six ever saw of those men. They reached home in safety after some days of wandering, but decided to choose another territory where the scouting would not be quite so strenuous. Morford and his men made themselves comfortable that night. They drank deep from the spring and then had a much-needed scrub. After a hearty meal they turned in and slept like dead men through the next day on the crisp springy moss, first rolling a big boulder against the side of Double-Trouble so that no one could pass.
Late the next afternoon they awoke and found that the path was not so bad the second time as it had been the first. Down the mountainside by the same concealed route they marched in single file and just at dark crossed the river and entered the little village of Harrison. There they were met by an old man with whom Morford had previously communicated. He had obtained by strategy the countersign which would take them through the soldiers, the guards and to the very entrance of the jail itself. Curiously enough, some Confederate officer had fixed as the countersign that very one with which Gideon had conquered so many years ago. "The Sword of Gideon" was the open sesame which would take them past the guards and unlock the gates which ringed about the doomed men. Morford accepted it as a good omen. The night before he had told his companions the old story of Gideon's test and it came to them all as a direct message that God was fighting on their side as he had fought of old against even greater odds. Morford planned to use Gideon's tactics. He decided to surprise and confuse his enemy and escape in the confusion. He tied the hands of two of his band behind their backs and with the other four marched directly to the Confederate camp, gave the countersign, and stated that he had prisoners to deliver to the jail. The sleepy sentry passed him through without any comment and they marched until they came to the high board fence with a double row of spikes on top which surrounded the prison-yard. This fence at one point touched the edge of a marsh filled with rank grass, briars and tussocks. To this point Morford had gone earlier in the evening and had bored two auger-holes in one of the boards and then with a small saw dipped in oil had carefully sawed out one of the old timbers, leaving a space just large enough to admit of a man passing through. There was only one entrance to the prison grounds which was through the main gate besides which night and day sat two guards. Morford rang at this gate and when it was opened, presented himself with his pretended prisoners. One of the guards accompanied them to the main jail toward which Morford marched with his prisoners and two men, leaving the other two behind with the remaining guard. Morford had no more than passed around the corner when these two suddenly seized the unsuspecting guard at the gate, pressed a revolver against his temple and in an instant gagged him, tied him up hand and foot with rope which they had brought and started to the jail to assist the others. Usually the jail was only guarded by the jailer and one deputy or assistant who lived there with him. To-night, however, there was a death-watch of three extra men heavily armed stationed around in the corridor in front of the cells of the condemned men. The jailer opened the door and the sentry who had accompanied Morford from the gate explained that these were two prisoners coming under guard from Chattanooga, and Morford and his men were admitted. Every detail had been planned out ahead and the prisoners tottered into the corridor in an apparently exhausted condition and approached the guards who were waiting in front of the cells, or rather cages, in which were the condemned men. Suddenly just as the supposed prisoners came close, the ropes dropped off their hands and each of said hands grasped a particularly dangerous looking revolver which was aimed directly at the heads of the astonished guards.
"Sit still," said one of the prisoners, "and keep on sitting still because I have very nervous fingers and if they twitch, these revolvers are likely to go off."
The guards followed this advice and in an instant were disarmed and roped up like the guard at the gate. So far everything had gone like clockwork according to program. The jailer, however, had yet to be reckoned with. As he did not seem to be armed, Morford had stepped forward to assist in disarming the guards when with a tremendous spring the jailer reached the door, pulled it open and with the same motion kicked a chair at Morford who had sprung after him. Morford tripped over the chair and before he could get the door open, the jailer had cleared the staircase with one jump and was out of the jail, running toward the entrance. Morford and two others ran after him, but he had too much of a start and reached the gate fifty yards ahead. This jailer was cool enough to stop at the gate long enough to pull a knife from his belt. With this he slashed the ropes of the bound guard, pulled him to his feet and they both disappeared together through the open gate in spite of a couple of revolver shots which Morford sent after them. The latter, however, was prepared for any emergencies. He told off two of his men to shut and bar the gates and to guard against any attack. Two others were to run around and around the fence on the inside shouting and firing as rapidly and as often as their breath and ammunition would allow. With one companion he returned to the jail and demanded the keys from the tethered guard.
"The jailer's got them, Captain," said one of the guards; "he always carries them with him and there isn't a duplicate key in the place."
There was no time to be lost. Already could be heard outside the Confederate camp the shouts of the officers to the men to fall in. Only the tremendous turmoil which apparently was going on inside saved the day for Morford. It would have been an easy thing to force the rickety old fence at any point or to dash in at the gate if the Confederates had known how small a force of rescuers there were. They, however, believed that the jail must have been surprised by some large Union force and they spent precious time in throwing out skirmishers, mustering the men and preparing to defend against a flank attack. In the meantime Morford had rushed into the jailer's room and found lying there a heavy axe. With this he tried to break into the cells of the condemned men who were shaking the bars and cheering on their plucky rescuers. The door of the cell was locked and also barred with heavy chains. Morford was a man of tremendous strength and swinging the axe, in a short time he managed to snap the chains apart and smash in the outer lock and with the aid of an iron bar pried open the door only to find that there was an inside door with a tremendous lock of wrought steel against which his axe had absolutely no effect. Time was going. Already they could hear the shouted commands of the Confederate officers just outside the fence and Morford expected any moment to see the door fly in and receive a charge from a couple of hundred armed men. As he wiped the sweat off his forehead, out of the corner of his eye he saw one of the guards grinning derisively at him. This was enough for Morford. Dropping the axe, he cocked his revolver and with one jump was beside the guard. Placing the cold muzzle of his weapon against the guard's temple, he ordered him to tell him instantly where the keys were. There's no case on record where any man stopped laughing quicker than did that guard.
"I ain't got 'em, Captain," he gasped, "really I ain't."
"I'm going to count ten," said Morford, inflexibly, "and if I don't hear where those keys are by the time I say ten, I'm going to pull the trigger of this forty-four. Then I'm going to count ten more and do the same with the next man and the next. If I can't save these prisoners, I'm going to leave three guards to go along with them."
Morford got as far as three when the guard, whose voice trembled so that he could scarcely make himself heard, shouted at the top of his voice:
"There's a key in the pants-pocket of each one of us."
In spite of the emergency they were facing Morford's men could not help laughing at the expression on their leader's face as he stood and stared at the speaker.
"I have a great mind," he said at last, "to shoot you fellows anyway as a punishment for being such liars and for making me chop up about two cords of iron bars."
"You wouldn't shoot down prisoners, General," faltered one of the Confederates.
"No, I wouldn't," said Morford, commencing to grin himself, "but I ought to."
As he talked he had been fitting the key into the locks and with the last words the door opened and the condemned scouts were once more free men. There was not an instant to lose. Already the Confederates were battering away at the front gate with a great log and a fusillade of revolver-shots showed that the outer guards were doing all they could to stand off the attack. It took only a moment to arm the scouts with the weapons taken from the guards and in a minute the seven men were out in the prison-yard. Morford himself ran to the gate, stooping in the darkness to avoid any chance shots that might fly through and ordered the two guards, who were lying flat on either side of the gate shooting through the bars at the soldiers outside, to join the others at the place where the plank had been removed. It took only a minute for the men to rush across the dark yard and reach the farther corner of the fence. Morford sent them through the opening one by one. Like snakes they crept into the tall grass, wormed their way through the tussocks into the thick marsh beyond and disappeared in the darkness. They were only just in time. As Morford himself crept through the opening last the gate crashed in and with a whoop and a yell a file of infantry poured into the yard. At the same moment another detachment dashed around on the outside in order to make an entrance at the rear of the supposed Union forces. Morford had hardly time to dive under the briars like a rabbit when a company of soldiers reached the opening through which he had just passed.
"Here's the place, Captain," he heard one of them say in a whisper. "Here's the place where they broke in."
The Confederate officer hurried his men through the gap, not realizing that it was really the place where the rescuers had broken out. As the last man disappeared through the fence, Morford crept on into the marsh, took the lead of his men and following a little fox-path soon had them safe on the other side and once again they started for Bear Mountain. They reached the boat in safety and in a few minutes they were on the other side of the river. Instead of getting out at the landing, however, Morford rowed down and made the men get out and make a distinct trail for a hundred yards or so to a highway which led off in an opposite direction from the mountain. Then they came back and got into the boat again while Morford rowed to where an old tree hung clear out over the water. A few feet from this tree was a stone wall. Morford instructed his men to swing themselves up through the tree and jump as far out as possible on the wall and to follow that for a hundred yards and then spring out from the wall some ten or fifteen feet before starting for the mountain. When they had all safely reached the wall, Morford himself climbed into the tree and set the boat adrift and again took charge of his party. Some of the younger scouts, who had never been hunted by dogs, were inclined to think that their leader was unnecessarily cautious. The next morning, however, as they lay safe and sound on the slope of the cave at the top of Bear Mountain and saw party after party of soldiers and civilians leading leashed bloodhounds back and forth along the river-bank, they decided that their captain knew his business. Their pursuers picked up the trail which was lost again in the highway and finally decided that the men must have escaped along the road, although the dogs were, of course, unable to follow it more than a hundred yards. For three days the scouts lay safe on the mountainside and rested up for their long trip north. Several times parties went up and down Bear Mountain, but fortunately did not find the hidden deer-path nor was Morford called upon to stand siege behind old Double-Trouble. When the pursuit was finally given up and the soldiers all seemed to be safe back in camp, Morford led his little troop out and following the same secret paths by which they had come, landed them all with the Union forces at Murfreesboro.
So ended one of the many brave deeds of a forgotten hero.
Boys are apt to think that they must wait until they are men before they can claim the great rewards which life holds in store for all of us. History shows that courage, high endeavor, concentration and the sacrifice of self will give the prizes of a high calling to boys as well as to men. One is never too young or too old to seek and find and seize opportunity. Alexander Hamilton was only a boy when in New York at the outbreak of the Revolution, white-hot with indignation and patriotic zeal, he climbed up on a railing and in an impassioned speech to a great crowd which had collected, put himself at once in the forefront along with Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, John Otis and other patriots who were to be the leaders of a new nation. David was only a boy of seventeen when he was sent to take provisions to his brethren in the army of the Israelites then encamped on the heights around the great battle-valley of Elah. There he heard the fierce giant-warrior of a lost race challenge the discouraged army. By being brave and ready enough to seize the opportunity which thousands of other men had passed by, he that day began the career which won for him a kingdom.
George Washington was only a boy when he saved what was left of Braddock's ill-fated army in that dark and fatal massacre and was hardly of age when the governor of Virginia sent him on that dangerous mission to the Indian chiefs and the French commander at Venango. On that mission he showed courage that no threats could weaken and an intelligence that no treachery could deceive and he came back a man marked for great deeds. As a boy he showed the same forgetfulness of self which he afterward showed as a man when he refused to take any pay for his long services as general of the Continental Army and even advanced heavy disbursements from his own encumbered estate.
Napoleon was only a boy when, as a young lieutenant, he first showed that military genius, that power of grasping opportunities, of breaking away from outworn rules which made him one of the greatest generals of all time and which laid Europe at his feet. If only to his bravery and genius had been added the high principle and the unselfishness of Washington, of Hamilton, of David, he would not have died in exile hated and feared by millions of men and women and children whose countries he had harried and whose lives he had burdened.
In the Civil War the youngest general in both the Union and the Confederate forces was Major-General Galusha Pennypacker, who still lives in Philadelphia. He became a captain and major at seventeen, a colonel at twenty and a full brigadier-general a few months before he became twenty-one. His last and greatest fight was at Fort Fisher and the story of that day, of which he was the hero, is typical of the bravery and readiness which made him the only boy-general in the world. By the end of 1864 the Union forces had captured one by one the great naval ports of the Confederacy, the gates through which their armies were fed by the blockade-runners of Europe. New Orleans, Mobile and Savannah had at last fallen. By December, 1864, Wilmington, South Carolina, was the only port left through which the Confederacy could receive provisions from outside. In that month an expedition was sent against the city by sea and land. The river-forces were commanded by Admiral Porter while Generals Ben Butler and Witzel had charge of the land-forces. General Butler conceived the fantastic idea of exploding an old vessel filled with powder close to the ramparts. In the confusion which he thought would result, he hoped to carry the place by assault. Fort Fisher was the strongest fortress of the Confederacy. Admiral Porter afterward said that it was stronger than the famous Russian fortress Malakoff, which next to Gibraltar was supposed to be the most impregnable fortification in the world. Fort Fisher consisted of a system of bomb-proof traverses surrounded by great ramparts of heavy timbers covered with sand and banked with turf, the largest earthworks in the whole South and which were proof against the heaviest artillery of that day. The powder-boat was an abandoned vessel which was loaded to the gunnels with kegs of powder and floated up to within four hundred yards of the fort. When it was finally exploded, its effect upon the fortress was so slight that the Confederate soldiers inside thought it was merely a boiler explosion from one of the besieging vessels. General Butler and his assistant, General Witzel, however, landed their forces, hoping to find the garrison in a state of confusion and discouragement. General Butler found that the explosion had simply aroused rather than dismayed the besieged. From all along the ramparts as well as from the tops of the inner bastions a tremendous converging fire was poured upon the attacking force. Back of these fortifications were grouped some of the best sharp-shooters of the whole Confederate Army and after a few minutes of disastrous fighting, General Butler was glad enough to withdraw his forces back to the safety of the ships. He refused to renew the battle and reported to General Grant that Fort Fisher could not be taken by assault. General Grant was so disgusted by this report that he at once relieved General Butler of the command and this battle was the end of the latter's military career and he went back to civil life in Massachusetts. President Lincoln too was deeply disappointed at the unfortunate ending of this first assault on the last stronghold of the Confederacy. General Grant sent word to Admiral Porter to hold his position and sent General Alfred H. Terry to attack the fort again by land with an increased force. General Robert E. Lee learned of the proposed attack and sent word to Colonel Lamont, who commanded the fort, that it must be held, otherwise his army would be starved into surrender.
On January 13, 1865, Admiral Porter ran his ironclad within close range of the fort and concentrating a fire of four hundred heavy guns rained great shells on every spot on the parapets and on the interior fortifications from which came any gun-fire. The shells burst as regularly as the ticking of a watch. The Confederates tried in vain to stand to their guns. One by one they were broken and dismounted and the garrison driven to take refuge in the interior bomb-proof traverses. The attacking forces were divided into three brigades. The attack was commenced by one hundred picked sharp-shooters all armed with repeating rifles and shovels. They charged to within one hundred and seventy-five yards of the fort, quickly dug themselves out of sight in a shallow trench in the sand and tried to pick off each man who appeared in the ramparts. Next came General Curtis' brigade to within four hundred yards of the fort and laid down and with their tin-cups and plates and knives and sword-blades and bayonets, dug out of sight like moles. Close behind them was Pennypacker's second brigade and after him Bell's third brigade. In a few moments, Curtis and his brigade advanced at a run to a line close behind the sharp-shooters while Pennypacker's brigade moved into the trench just vacated and Bell and his men came within two hundred yards of Pennypacker. All this time men were dropping everywhere under the deadly fire from the traverses. It was not the blind fire with the bullets whistling and humming overhead which the men had learned to disregard, but it was a scattering irregular series of well-aimed shots of which far too many took effect. The loss in officers especially was tremendous and equal to that of any battle in the war. More than half of the officers engaged were shot that day while one man in every four of the privates went down.
When the men had at last taken their final positions, the fire of the vessels was directed to the sea-face of the fort and a strong naval detachment charged, with some of Ames' infantry of the land-forces, at the sea angle of the fort. The besieged ran forward a couple of light guns loaded with double charges of canister and grape and rushed to the angle all of their available forces. The canister and the heavy musketry fire were too much for the bluejackets and they were compelled to slowly draw back out of range while the Confederates shouted taunts after them.
"Come aboard, you sailors," they yelled; "the captain's ladder is right this way. What you hangin' back for?"
[Illustration: Attacking the Inner Traverses of Fort Fisher]
The last words were drowned in a tremendous Rebel yell as they saw the bluejackets break and retreat out of range. The Confederates, however, had cheered too soon. In manning the sea-wall they had weakened too much the defenses on the landward side and the word was given for all three brigades to attack at once. The color-bearers of all the regiments ran forward like madmen, headed by the officers and all sprinting as if running a two hundred and twenty-yard dash. The officers and the color-bearers of all three brigades reached the outer lines almost at the same time. With a rush and a yell they were up over the outer wall and forming inside for the attack on the inner traverses which yet remained. It was desperate work and the hardest fighting of the day was done around these inner bomb-proofs, each one of which was like a little fort in miniature. The crisis came when the first brigade was barely keeping its foothold on the west end of the parapet while the enemy which had repulsed the bluejackets were moving over in a heavy column to drive out Curtis' panting men. It was at this moment that the boy-general Pennypacker showed himself the hero of the day. He had already carried the palisades and the sally-port and had taken four hundred prisoners and then wheeled and charged to the rescue of Curtis' exhausted men. Ahead of them was the fifth traverse which must be stormed and crossed before Curtis' men could be relieved. Already the men were wavering and it was a moment which called for the finest qualities of leadership. Pennypacker himself seized the colors of the 97th Pennsylvania, his old regiment, and calling on his men to follow, charged up the broken side of the fifth traverse. His troops swarmed up after him side by side with the men of the 203d Pennsylvania and the soldiers of the 117th New York, but Pennypacker was the first man to fix the regimental flag on the parapet and shouted to Colonel Moore of the other Pennsylvania regiment:
"Colonel, I want you to take notice that the first flag up is the flag of my old regiment."
Before Colonel Moore had time to answer, he pitched over with a bullet through his heart and Colonel Bell was killed at the head of his brigade as he came in. The gigantic Curtis was fighting furiously with the blood streaming down from his face. Just at that moment, at the head of his men, General Pennypacker fell over, so badly wounded that never from that time to this was a day to pass free from pain. His work was done, however. His men fought fiercely to avenge his fall, broke up the enemies' intended attack, freed the first brigade and all three forces joined and swept through the traverses, capturing them one by one until the last and strongest fort of the Confederacy had fallen. The only remaining gateway to the outer world was closed. After the fall of Fort Fisher, it was only a few months to Appomattox. One of the bloodiest and most successful assaults of the war had succeeded. General Grant ordered a hundred-gun salute in honor of the victory from each of his armies. The Secretary of War, Stanton, himself, ran his steamer into Wilmington and landed to thank personally in the name of President Lincoln the brave fighters who had won a battle which meant the close of the war.
General Pennypacker was to survive his wounds. This was the seventh time that he had been wounded in eight months. At the close of the war he was made colonel in the regular army, being the youngest man who ever held that rank, and was placed in command of various departments in the South and was the first representative of the North to introduce the policy of conciliation. Later on he went abroad and met Emperor William of Germany, the Emperor of Austria and Prince Bismarck and von Moltke, that war-worn old general, who shook hands with him and said that as the oldest general in the world, he was glad to welcome the youngest.
So ends the story of a great battle where a boy showed that he could fight as bravely and think as quickly and hold on as enduringly as any man. What the boys of '64 could do, the boys of 1915 can and will do if ever a time comes when they too must fight for their country.
To-day in the world-war that is being waged in two hemispheres among twelve nations, we hear much of the Victoria Cross and the Iron Cross, and the decoration of the Legion of Honor, those tiny immortal symbols of achievement for which men are so willing to lay down their lives and which are cherished and passed on from father to son as a heritage of honor undying. Not since gunpowder sent armor, swords, spears, arrows, bows, catapults and a host of other outworn equipment to the scrap-heap has the method of warfare been changed as it was in the year 1914. Battles are now fought in the air and under the water and armies move forward underground. Automobiles and power-driven cars, trucks and platforms have succeeded the horse. Aeroplanes have taken the place of cavalry. Vast howitzers carried piecemeal on trucks, which can run across a rougher country than a horse, have made the strongest fortress obsolete. Bombs which kill every living thing within a circle one hundred and fifty yards in diameter, vast cylinders of gas which turn the air for miles into a death-trap, airships which can drop high-power explosives while invisible beyond the clouds, aerial and submarine torpedoes which can be automatically guided by electric currents from vessels miles away, guns that send vast shells a mile above the earth to carry death and destruction to a point twenty miles away, concealed artillery equipped with parabolic mirrors and automatic range-finders which can shoot over distant hills and mountains to a hair's breadth, and destroy concealed and protected bodies of men, rifles which shoot without noise and without smoke, machine-guns that spray bullets across a wide front of charging men as a hose sprays water across the width of a lawn, wireless apparatus which send messages thousands of miles across land and sea, all these and hundreds of other devices would be more of a mystery to Grant and Lee and the other great commanders of the Civil War than the breech-loading magazine rifles and artillery and iron-clads of their day would have been to Napoleon. The warfare of to-day is farther removed from the period of the Civil War of half a century ago than the Napoleonic wars were from those of Hannibal over a thousand years before.
Methods have changed, but men are the same to-day as they were when they first built that great tower on the plain of Shinar. The eternities of life are still with us. Brave deeds, acts of self-sacrifice, truth, honor, courage, unselfishness still stand as in the days of old. Every man or woman or child, small or great, can achieve such deeds. At the end of this chronicle of the brave deeds wrought by our fathers and grandfathers in a war which was fought for an ideal, it is most fitting that the boys and girls of to-day should read what was done by commonplace men as a matter of course. From the great list prepared by the War Department of the United States of those whom their country have honored have been selected a few stories of the way different men won their Medal of Honor.
In 1864 General Sherman was in the midst of his great march to Atlanta. Grant had begun the campaign against Lee's army which was to end at Richmond, while to Sherman was given the task of crushing his rival, Joseph E. Johnston. Inch by inch the whole of that march was fought out in a series of tremendous battles. One of these was the hard battle of New Hope Church in sight of Kenesaw Mountain. The battle was fought as a successful attempt on the part of Sherman to turn the flank of Johnston's position at Alatoona Pass. During the battle, Follett Johnson, a corporal in the 60th Infantry, did not only a brave, but an unusual deed. While his company was awaiting the signal to take part in the battle which was raging on their left, they were much annoyed by the deadly aim of a Confederate sharp-shooter concealed in an oak tree a quarter of a mile away. Every few minutes there would be a puff of smoke and the whine of a minie bullet, too often followed by the thud which told that the bullet had found its billet. When at last the sixth man, one of Johnson's best friends, was fatally wounded through the head, Johnson made up his mind to do his share in stopping this sharp-shooting permanently. Unfortunately he was only an ordinary shot himself, but he crawled down the line and had a hasty conference with one of the best shots in the regiment.
"You get a good steady rest," said Johnson, "and draw a bead on that oak tree. I'll kind of move around and get the chap interested and when he gives you a chance, you take it."
The Union sharp-shooter agreed to carry out his part of the bargain. Johnson suddenly sprang to his feet and ran in a zigzag course to a position farther down the line. A bullet from the watcher in the tree shrieked close past his head.
"Lie down, you fool," shouted his captain. "Are you trying to commit suicide?"
"Captain, we're fishing for that fellow over in the tree," returned Johnson. "I'm the bait."
"Well, you won't be live-bait if you keep it up much longer," said his captain as Johnson again took another run while a bullet cut through his coat hardly an inch from his side. Johnson did keep it up, however. Now he would raise his cap on a stick and try to draw the enemy's fire in safety. Again he would suddenly spring up and make divers disrespectful gestures toward the sharp-shooter in his tree. Sometimes he would lie on his back and kick his legs insultingly up over a little breastwork that had been hurriedly thrown up. One bullet from the Confederate marksman nearly ruined a pair of good boots for Johnson while he was doing this, taking the heel off his left boot as neatly as any cobbler could have done. The hidden marksman, however, commenced to show the effect of this challenge by this unknown joker. Little by little he ventured out from behind the trunk of the tree in order to get a better aim. By the captain's orders no one fired at him in the hopes that he would give the watching Union sharp-shooter a deadly chance. At last his time came. Johnson started his most ambitious demonstration. He suddenly stood up in front of the breastworks in an attitude of the most irritating unconcern. Yawning, he gave a great stretch as if tired of lying down any longer, then he kissed his hand toward the sharp-shooter and started to stroll down the front of the line, first stopping to light his pipe. The whole company gave a gasp.
"That will be about all for poor old Folly," said one man to his neighbor and every minute they expected to see him pitch forward. His indifference was too much for the Confederate. Emboldened by the absence of any recent shots, he leaned out from behind the sheltering trunk in order to draw a deadly bead on the man who had been mocking him before two armies. This was the chance for which the Union sharp-shooter had been waiting. Before the Confederate marksman had a chance to pull his trigger there was the bang of a Springfield rifle a few rods from where Johnson was walking and the watching soldiers saw the Confederate sharp-shooter topple backward. The rifle which had done so much harm slipped slowly from his hand to the ground and in a minute there was first a rustle, then a crash through the dense branches of the oak as the unconscious body lost its grip on the limb and pitched forward to the ground forty feet below. Johnson's captain was the first man to shake his hand.
"It takes courage to fish for these fellows sometimes," he said, "but it takes braver men than I am to be the bait."
Nearly thirty years later this occurrence was remembered and Corporal Johnson awarded the medal of honor which he had earned.
Another man who drew the enemy's fire in order to save his comrades was John Kiggins, a sergeant in one of the New York regiments. It was at the battle of Lookout Mountain on November 24, 1863. The terrible battle of Chickamauga had been fought. The Union Army had been reduced to a rabble and swept off the field, except over on the left wing where General George H. Thomas with twenty-five thousand men dashed back for a whole afternoon the assaults of double that number of Confederates and earned the title which he was henceforth to bear of the "Rock of Chickamauga." The defeated army, followed afterward by General Thomas' forces, withdrew to Chattanooga, that Tennessee battle-ground surrounded by the heights of Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. Here the Union forces were invested on all sides by the Confederate Army under General Bragg. The supplies of the Union Army gave out. The Confederates commanded the Tennessee River and held all of the good wagon-roads on the south side of it. The Union Army was nearly starved. General Rosecrans had never recovered from the battle of Chickamauga. Not only was his nerve shattered, but he seemed to have lost all strength of will and concentration of purpose. General Grant, who had just been placed in supreme command of all the military operations in the West, decided to place Thomas in command of the Army of the Cumberland in place of the dispirited Rosecrans. He telegraphed Thomas to hold Chattanooga at all hazards.
"We'll hold the town until we starve," Thomas telegraphed back.
When Grant reached Chattanooga on October 23d, wet and dirty, but well, he realized as he saw the dead horses and the hollow-cheeked men how far the starving process had gone. Although he was on crutches from injuries received from a runaway horse, yet his influence was immediately felt throughout the whole army. He was a compeller of men like Napoleon and, like him, had only to ride down the line and let his men see that he was there in order to accomplish the impossible. He at once sent a message to Sherman, who was coming slowly along from Vicksburg. His messenger paddled down the Tennessee River in a canoe under a guerrilla-fire during his whole journey and handed Sherman a dispatch from Grant which said, "Drop everything and move your entire force toward Stevenson." Sherman marched as only he could. When his army reached the Tennessee River he laid a pontoon bridge thirteen hundred and fifty feet in length in a half day, rushed his army across, captured all the Confederate pickets and was ready to join Grant in the great battle of Chattanooga. General Hooker marched in from one side on November 24th and fought the great battle of Lookout Mountain above the clouds, through driving mists and rains and on the morning of November 25th the stars and stripes waved from the lofty peak of Lookout Mountain. The next day eighteen thousand men without any orders charged up the almost perpendicular side of Missionary Ridge and carried it, and the three-day battle of Chattanooga was ended in the complete defeat of Bragg's army and the rescue of the men whom he thought he had cornered beyond all hopes of escape.
It was during this first day's battle in the mist on Lookout Mountain that Kiggins distinguished himself. The New York regiment, in which he was a sergeant, had crawled and crept up a narrow winding path, dragging their cannon after them up places where it did not seem as if a goat could keep its footing. They had already come into position on one side of the higher slopes when suddenly a battery above them opened fire and the men began to fall. Through the mists they could see the stars and stripes waving over this upper battery, which had mistaken them for Confederate soldiers. They were shielded from the Confederate batteries by a wall of rock, but it was necessary to stop this mistaken fire or every man of the regiment would be swept off the mountain by the well-aimed Union guns. Sergeant Kiggins volunteered to do the necessary signaling. He climbed up on the natural wall of rock which protected them from the Confederate batteries and sharp-shooters and waved the Union flag toward the battery above him with all his might. They stopped firing, but evidently considered it simply a stratagem and wigwagged to Kiggins an inquiry in the Union code. It was necessary for Kiggins to answer this or the fire would undoubtedly be at once resumed. Unfortunately he was a poor wigwagger and as he stood on the wall, he was exposed to the fire of every Confederate battery or rifleman within range. The perspiration ran down his face as he clumsily began to spell a message back to the battery above. Over his head hummed and whirled solid round shot and around him screamed the minie balls from half-a-dozen different directions. Once a shot pierced his signaling flag right in the middle of a word. He not only had to replace the flag, but he had to spell the word over again which was even worse. The whole message did not take many minutes, but it seemed hours to poor Kiggins. His life was saved as if by a miracle. Several bullets pierced his uniform, his cap was shot off his head and when the last word was finished, he dropped off the wall with such lightning-like rapidity that his comrades, who had been watching him with open mouths, thought that at last some bullet must have reached its mark. Kiggins, however, was unharmed, but made a firm resolve to perfect himself in wigwagging. We have no record whether he carried out this good resolution, but his unwilling courage saved his regiment in spite of his bad spelling and won for himself a medal of honor.
It was at the end of that terrible Wilderness campaign of Grant's which in a little more than a month had cost him fifty-four thousand nine hundred and twenty-nine men, a number nearly equal to the whole army of Lee, his antagonist, when the campaign was commenced. Grant's first object in this campaign was to destroy or capture Lee's army. His second object was to capture Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. A special rank of Lieutenant-General had been created for him by President Lincoln with the approval of the whole country. His victory at the dreadful battle of Shiloh, his successful siege of Vicksburg and his winning above the clouds the battle of Chattanooga, had made the silent, scrubby, commonplace-looking man, with the gray-blue eyes, who never talked but acted instead, the hope of the whole nation. In this campaign, Grant's one idea was to clinch with Lee's army and fight it as hard and as often as possible. He fought in the wilderness, tangled in thickets and swamps. He fought against strong positions on hilltops, he fought against entrenchments defended by masked batteries and tremendous artillery. He fought against impregnable positions and although he lost and lost and lost, he never stopped fighting. Lee had beaten McClellan and Pope and Burnside and Hooker, all able generals, who had tried against him every plan except that which Grant now tried, of wearing him out by victories and defeats alike. Grant's army could be replenished. There were not men enough left in the Confederacy to replace Lee's army. It was a terrible campaign and only a president of Lincoln's breadth of view and only the supreme confidence which the American people have in a man who fights, no matter how often he is beaten, kept Grant in command. If, after the bloody defeats in the Wilderness and at Spottsylvania or at Cold Harbor, he had turned back like any of his successors would have done, undoubtedly his past record would not have saved him the command. It was like the celebrated battle between Tom Cribb, the champion of England, and Molineaux, the giant black, in the eighteenth century for the championship of the world. Again and again and again Cribb was knocked down by blows so tremendous that even his ring generalship could not avoid them. Battered and bloody he always staggered to his feet and bored in again for more. Molineaux at last said to his seconds, "I can't lick a fellow like that; the fool doesn't know when he is beaten." It was so with Grant and Lee. Grant never knew when he was beaten. Lee's generalship could knock him down, but could not keep him back, and the Confederate leader realized himself that sooner or later some chance of war would give Grant the opportunity for a victory from which the Confederate Army could not recuperate.
Cold Harbor was the last of this series of defeats which helped wear out Lee's army and ended in its capture and the occupation of Richmond. At the time, however, it was bitter to be borne by the millions of men and women and children who were hungering and thirsting for a victory of the Union arms. Marching and fighting and fighting and marching every day for a month, Grant was almost in sight of the spires of the Confederate capital. About six miles outside the city Lee had taken his last stand at Cold Harbor. He held a position of tremendous natural strength and had fortified and entrenched it so that it was practically impregnable. Grant tried in vain to flank it. On June 30th he ordered an assault in front. Against him was the flower of the Confederate Army commanded by the best general of the world and securely entrenched in a position than which no stronger was ever attacked throughout the whole war. Grant first gave his command to attack on the afternoon of June 2d, but then postponed it until the early morning of June 3d. Officers and men alike knew that they were to be sacrificed. All through the regiments men were pinning slips of paper, on which were written their names and addresses, to the backs of their coats, so that their dead bodies might be recognized after the battle and news sent to their families at the North. The battle was a short one. The second corps of General Hancock, one of the bravest and most dashing of all of Grant's generals, was shot to pieces in twenty-two minutes and fell back with three thousand of its best men gone, including most of its officers. All along the line the story was the same. At some places the Union men were beaten back without any difficulty and at other spots they penetrated the salients, but were driven back. Attack after attack was in vain against the generalship of Lee, the bravery of his men and the almost impregnable strength of his position.
Eugene M. Tinkham, of the 148th New York Infantry, was in that corps directly under the eye of Grant himself which attacked and attacked the Confederate position throughout that bloody morning, only to be driven back each time with tremendous losses. The 148th Infantry, in which Tinkham was a corporal, charged right up to the very mouth of the guns. Flesh and blood could not stand, however, against the volleys of grape and canister which ripped bloody, struggling lanes right through the masses of the charging men. As the corps of which Tinkham's regiment was a part was stopped by the wall of dead and wounded men piled up in front of them, the Confederates with a fierce Rebel yell charged over the breastworks on the confused attackers. For a minute the New York regiment held its own, but were finally slowly forced back fighting every foot to the shelter of their own rifle-pits. There they made a stand and the Confederate sally stopped and the men in gray dashed back to their own fortifications. In this charge, Tinkham received a bayonet wound through his left shoulder while a jagged piece of canister had ripped through his left arm. Not until he found himself back in the rifle-pit, however, did he even know that he was wounded. His bayonet and the barrel of his rifle were red clear up to the stock and he did not at first realize that the blood dripping from his left sleeve was his own. It was only as he lay on the dry sand and saw the red stain beside him grow larger and larger that he realized that he was hurt. One of the few men who had returned with him stripped off his coat, cut away the sleeve of his shirt and made a couple of rough bandages and extemporized a rude tourniquet from the splinters of one of the wheels of a battered field-piece which had flown into the pit. When that was over, Tinkham lay back and shut his eyes and felt the weakness which comes over a man who has lost much blood. To-day there was not the tonic of victory which sometimes keeps even wounded men up. He had seen his comrades, men with whom he had eaten and slept and fought for over two years, thrown away, as it seemed to him, uselessly. He was yet to learn, what the army learned first and the country last, that Grant was big enough and far-sighted enough to know that some victories must be wrought from failure as well as success. This was one of the hammer-strokes which seemed to bound back from the enemy's armor without leaving a mark, yet the impact weakened Lee even when it seemed that he was most impervious to it. It was absolutely necessary to Grant's far-reaching plans that Lee be fought on every possible occasion. Whether he won or lost, Grant's only hope lay on keeping Lee on the defensive. None of this, of course, could a wounded corporal in a battered, beaten and defeated regiment realize. All he knew was that his friends were gone, that he was wounded and, worst of all, had been forced to again and again retreat. He shut his eyes and there was a sound in his ears like the tolling of a great bell. It seemed to swell and rise until it drowned even the rattle and roar of the battle which was still going on. When Tinkham opened his eyes everything seemed to waver and quiver before him. Suddenly there came a short, thin, wailing sound which cut like a knife through the midst of the unconsciousness which was stealing over him. It was the cries of two wounded men lying far out in the field over which he had come. Tinkham raised his hand and strained his eyes. He could recognize two of his own file, men who a moment before had been by his side and who now lay moaning their lives away out on that shell-swept field. Tinkham listened to it as long as he could. Then he set his teeth, scrambled to his feet and in spite of his comrades who thought that he was delirious, climbed stiffly over the edge of the rifle-pit and began to creep out between the lines toward the wounded men. At first every motion was an agony. He was weakened by the loss of blood and he could bear no weight on his left arm, yet there was such a fatal storm of bullets and grape-shot whizzing over him that he knew that, if he rose to his feet, there would be little chance of his ever reaching his friends alive. Slowly and doggedly he sidled along like a disabled crab. Sometimes he would have to stop and rest. Many times bullets whizzed close to him and cut the turf all around where he lay. As soon as he had rested a few seconds, he would fix his eye on some little tuft of grass or stone or weed and make up his mind that he would crawl until he reached that before he rested again. It was a long journey before he reached his goal. On the way he had taken three full canteens of water from silent figures which would never need them more. When at last he reached the men, they recognized him and the tears ran down their faces as they called his name.
"God bless you, Corporal," said one; "it's just like you to come for us."
Tinkham had no breath left to talk, but he gave each wounded man a refreshing drink from the canteens. Both of them were badly, although not fatally, wounded. One had a shattered leg and the other was slowly bleeding to death from a jagged wound in his thigh which he had tried in vain to staunch. Tinkham bandaged them up to the best of his ability and started to drag them both back to safety. With his help and encouragement, each of them crawled for himself as best he was able. It was a weary journey. During the last part of it, however, he was helped by other volunteers who were shamed into action by seeing this wounded man do what they had not dared. All three recovered and lived to take part in the latter-day victories which were yet to come.
Tinkham was but one of the thousands of brave men who risked their lives to save their comrades. There was Michael Madden who at Mason's Island, Maryland, was on a reconnaissance with a comrade within the enemy's lines. His companion was wounded. A number of the enemy's cavalry started out to cut off the two men who were at the same time exposed to concentrated fire from the enemy's sharp-shooters. Madden picked his comrade up as if he had been a child, hoisted him to his back and ran with him to the bank of the Potomac, and plunged off into the water. Swimming on his back, he kept his comrade's head up and crossed the river in safety with the bullets hissing and spattering all around him.
Then there was Julius Langbein, a drummer-boy fifteen years old. In 1862 at Camden, N.C., the captain of his company was shot down. Langbein went to his help, but found that unless he received surgical treatment, he could not live an hour. Unstrapping his drum, he ran back to the rear and found a surgeon who was brave enough to go out to the front with him and under a heavy fire give first-aid to the wounded officer. Then the two carried the unconscious captain back to safety.
It is a brave man that can rally himself in a retreat. Usually men go with the crowd. Once let the tide of battle begin to ebb and a company or a regiment or a brigade commence a retreat, it takes not only unusual courage, but also unusual will-power for any single man to stand out against his fellows and resist not only his own fears, but theirs. Such a man was John S. Kenyon. At Trenton, S.C., on May 15, 1862, the whole column of his regiment, the 3d New York Cavalry, was retreating under a murderous fire from the enemy. Kenyon was in the rear rank. The retreat had started at a trot, had increased to a gallop and finally the whole column was riding at breakneck speed away from the shot and shell which crashed through their ranks. At the very height of their speed a man riding next to Kenyon was struck in the right shoulder by a grape-shot. The force of the blow pitched him headlong from the saddle. He still held to his reins with his left hand with a death-grip and was dragged for yards by his plunging, snorting horse. Kenyon was just ahead and knew nothing of the occurrence until he heard a faint voice behind him calling breathlessly, "Help, John, help!" He looked back and saw his comrade nearly fifty yards behind lying on the ground. Already his fingers were loosening their grip on the rein and the blood was flowing fast from the gash on his shoulder. Behind him the Confederate cavalry came thundering along not a quarter of a mile away while the massed batteries behind them swept the whole field with a hail of lead and steel. John hesitated for a minute and for the last time he heard once more the call of help, this time so faint that he could hardly hear it above the din of the battle. With a quick movement, he swung his horse to one side of the column.
"Don't be a fool, John," shouted one of the men ahead; "it's every man for himself now. You can't save him and you'll only lose your own life."
It was the old plausible lie that started when Satan said of Job, "Skin for skin, all that a man hath will he give for his life." It was a lie then and it is just as much a lie to-day.
"Greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friend," said our Master. Every day when the crisis comes we see men who will do that. Kenyon was one of these men. As he said afterward, "I should never have been able to get Jim's voice out of my mind if I hadn't stopped."
It only took an instant to cover the distance from the column to the wounded man. Kenyon reached him just in time to catch the riderless horse which had at last freed his bridle from the weak grip of his wounded master. Kenyon swung himself to the ground and holding the two plunging horses with his right hand, pulled his friend to his feet and with a tremendous effort finally hoisted him into his saddle again. By this time the pursuing cavalry was within pistol-shot and the revolver bullets began to sing around the heads of the two men.
"You hang on to your saddle, Jim," said Kenyon, "and I'll take care of your horse."
Bending low in his saddle, he dug his spurs deep into his horse's sides, at the same time keeping his grip on the reins of the other horse and in a few minutes the two were back again in the rear of the retreating column. All through the retreat Kenyon stuck to his comrade and finally landed him safely in the field-hospital in front of which the Union Army had thrown up entrenchments which stopped all further pursuit.
War, like everything else, is always a one-man job. It was the one man Hannibal that took a tropical army of sunburned Arabs, Carthaginians, Abyssinians, Berbers and soldiers from half a score of other southern nations and cut and built and tunneled his way through the ice and snow and cold of the Alps. Not only did his indomitable will carry his men through an impossible and unknown region, but it was this one man who for the first time in the history of the world marched elephants up over the Alps. Over two thousand years later it was one man again who took a ragged, battered, beaten army and marched over the same route and through the avalanches and snow-covered peaks and blinding snow-storms of the Great Bernard Pass. When the men turned trembling back from the brink of immeasurable precipices and before cliffs which seemed as if they could be climbed only by the chamois, Napoleon would order the drums and bugles to strike up the signal for a charge and up and over his soldiers went. It was this one short, frail, little man that fused this army into a great fighting machine, marched it over impossible mountains and swept down into Italy to win as great victories as did his fierce predecessor twenty centuries before.
The records of the War Department are full of instances where men singly did seemingly impossible things. There was Patrick Ginley, a private in a New York regiment. At Reams Station, Virginia, the command in which he fought deserted important works which they occupied and retreated under the tremendous fire of the advancing enemy. Patrick remained. It seemed impossible that only one man could do anything except throw away his life, but Patrick made up his mind that he would accomplish everything that one man could. Accordingly as the enemy surged up to occupy the works with cheers and laughter at the sight of the retreating bluecoats, they were suddenly staggered by receiving a tremendous cannonade of grape-shot which cut down the entire first two ranks of the approaching company. It was Private Ginley who, single-handed, had loaded and sighted the gun and coolly waited until the enemy were within pointblank range. The Confederates were thrown into confusion. They suspected a Yankee trick and thought that the retreat had been made simply to lure them into close range. In the confusion they fell back, although they could have marched in without any further opposition, for as soon as Ginley had fired the gun, he escaped out of the rear of the earthworks and hastened to another Union regiment which was holding its ground near by. Waving his arms over his head and shouting like a mad-man, he rushed up to the astonished men and grabbed the colors out of the hands of the bewildered color-sergeant.
"Come on, boys!" he shouted. "I've got some good guns and a nice bit of fortification just waitin' for you. Look at the way I drove them back all by myself."
And he waved the colors toward the shattered Confederates who were slowly forming into line again preparatory to an assault, and started back for the works as fast as his legs could carry him.
"Come on, you fellows," he yelled over his shoulder; "do you want me to drive them back twice?"
His example was all that was needed. There was a cheer from officers and men alike and close behind him thundered the charge of the regiment. With a rush they swept up over the earthworks, drove the Confederates, who had just entered from the other side, out headlong, manned the whole works and in a minute were pouring charges of grape and canister from the retaken guns which completed their victory. A defeat had been changed into a victory, eleven guns and important works had been retaken from the enemy and a regiment of Confederates disorganized and driven from the field. One man did it.
The deeds that most appeal to our imagination are single combats--one man against a multitude when daring and dash and coolness and skill take the place of numbers. History is full of such stories. We love to read of that great death-fight of Hereward the Wake, the Last of the English, when with sturdy little Winter at his back, he fought his last fight ringed around with hateful, treacherous foes. At his feet the pile of dead and wounded men grew high and higher until no one dared step within the sweep of that fatal sword. At last when Winter had fallen, some treacherous coward thrust a spear into Hereward's defenseless back. As he lay fallen on his face, apparently dead, one of his foemen stepped over to rob him of his sword when Hereward struggled to his knees and struck forward with his shield so fiercely, the last blow of the last Englishman, that he laid his man dead on the field.
Then there was the death-fight of Grettir the Outlaw which Andrew Lang calls one of the four great fights in literature of one man against a multitude. No boy should ever grow up without reading the Grettir Saga which tells how after being unjustly driven into outlawry Grettir finally took refuge on a rocky island which could only be climbed by a rope-ladder. There with his brother and a cowardly, lazy servant he lived in safety until his enemies hired a witch-wife to do him harm. At midnight she cut grim runes into a great log of driftwood and burned strange signs thereon and stained it with her blood and then after laying upon it many a wicked spell, had it cast into the sea by four strong men. Against wind and tide it sailed to Drangy, Grettir's island of refuge. There he found it on the beach, but recognized it as ill-fated and warned the servant not to use it for fire-wood. In spite of this the lazy thrall brought it up the next day and when Grettir, not recognizing it, started to split the accursed log, his axe glanced and cut a deep gash in his leg. The wound festered and the leg swelled and turned blue so that Grettir could not even stand on it. When he was at last disabled, the witch-wife raised a storm and under her direction a band of his bitterest enemies went out to the island and found that his servant had left the rope-ladder down. One by one they climbed the sheer cliff and made a ring around the little hut where Grettir and his young brother slept. They dashed in the door. Grettir seized his sword and shield and fought on one knee so fiercely that they dared not approach him. Some of the attackers tried to slip behind his watchful sword.
"Bare is the back of the brotherless," panted Grettir and his boy-brother stood behind him and fought over him until they were both overborne by the sheer weight of heavy shields, and Grettir killed, although not until six men lay dead in front of the great chieftain. Illugi, the brother, was offered his life if he would promise to take no vengeance on the murderers of his brother. He refused to do this because they had killed Grettir by witchcraft and treachery and not in fair fight. So they slew him, trying in vain to avoid the vengeance which came to them all many years later at the hands of another of Grettir's kin.
We read also of battles won against what seem to us impossible odds. The Samurai stories of old Japan have several instances where chieftains defeated whole armies single-handed by their wonderful swordsmanship. The Bible contains several such stories. There is the story of Jonathan and his armor-bearer who together captured a fortress. Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armor, "Come and let us go over unto the garrison. It may be that the Lord will work for us." And his armor-bearer said unto him, "Do all that is in thine heart, behold I am with thee." Then they agreed to wait for a sign. If when they came before the garrison the men should invite them to come up, then they would go. If not, they would not make the attempt. The account goes on to say that when they both discovered themselves unto the garrison of the Philistines, the men of the garrison cried out to Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, "Come up to us and we will show you a thing." And Jonathan said unto his armor-bearer, "Come up after me for the Lord hath delivered them to us." And Jonathan climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet and his armor-bearer after him and they fell before Jonathan and his armor-bearer slew after him. In a half-acre of ground which a yoke of oxen might plough, these two fought and slew and cut their way back and forth until the band that held the fort broke and fled and the stronghold was captured by the two.
Then there was Jashobeam the Hachmonite, one of the first three men of David's body-guard of heroes who slew with his spear three hundred men at one time. There was Eleazar, who with David fought in that bloody barley field when these two warriors single-handed dispersed a company of Philistines. There was Abishai who slew three hundred men. These were the three mighty men who were besieged with David in the cave of Adullam in the midst of a parched and burning desert and David longed and said, "Oh, that one would give me to drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem that is at the gate." The three heard what their captain said and alone they broke through the ranks of the Philistines, drew water out of the well of Bethlehem and brought it back to David. And David did not drink of it, but poured it out to the Lord and said, "Lord forbid that I should drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy for me."
When we read these and other hero-stories, we are apt to think that the time for such deeds is past and that the men of to-day can never equal the accomplishments of the fighters of olden time. Yet the Civil War shows stories just as stirring and accomplishments seemingly as impossible. There was George Wilhelm, a captain in the Ohio Infantry. At Bakers Creek he was badly wounded in the breast and after he had fallen was captured by a Confederate, forced to his feet and though faint from loss of blood marched to the Confederate camp. As he saw himself farther and farther away from his own army a Berserkir rage came over him which made him forget his wound and his weakness. With one tremendous spring he caught his captor around the neck, wrested his drawn sabre from out of his hand, slashed him over the left shoulder and then picking up the loaded revolver which had dropped from the disabled hand faced him around and marched him back to the Union lines a prisoner although, toward the end of that journey, Wilhelm was so weak that he had to lean on the shoulder of his unwilling attendant.
There was William G. Whitney a sergeant in the 11th Michigan Infantry, at the battle of Chickamauga who, just as his men were about to face a fierce charge from the Confederates, found that their ammunition had given out. Outside the Union works was a shell-swept field covered with dead and wounded men. Whitney never hesitated. He leaped over the works and ran back and forth over that field, cutting off and loading himself down with cartridge-boxes, although it did not seem as if a man could live a minute in that hissing storm of bullets and shell. Just in time he brought back the ammunition which enabled his men to beat back the charge and hold their position.
At Rappahannock Station, Virginia, J. Henry White, a private in the 90th Pennsylvania Infantry, like David's men brought back water to his thirsty comrades at the risk of his own life. The enemy had concentrated their fire on the only spring from which Union men could get water, but White crawled through the grass like a snake, covered from head to foot with canteens, filled them every one and crawled back under a fire which seemed as if it must be fatal. The Union forces were able to hold out and win the fight through his brave deed.
On May 12, 1864, Christopher W. Wilson, a private in the 73d New York Infantry at the battle of Spottsylvania in a charge on the Confederate works, seized the flag which the wounded color-bearer had dropped, led the charge and then for good measure cut down the color-bearer of the 56th Virginia Regiment, captured the Confederate colors and brought back both flags in safety to the Union lines.
Another color-bearer who won his share of battle-glory was Andrew J. Tozier, a sergeant in the 20th Maine Infantry at the battle of Gettysburg. Tozier believed that it was the duty of a color-bearer having done all to stand fast. At the very flood-tide of the fight when it was a toss-up which side would be the victor of that crisis-battle of the war, Tozier's regiment, which was in the forefront, was borne back leaving him standing with the colors in an advanced position. Tozier stood there like a rock and coolly picked off with his musket every Confederate that attacked him until his ammunition gave out. He then pushed forward a few yards until he reached the body of one of the soldiers of his regiment who had fallen and stooping down, still keeping his colors flying, he managed to loosen some cartridges from the dead man's belt. With these he recharged his rifle and fought a great fight alone. Again and again he would stoop for a minute to get more cartridges, but the flag never went down. From all over the field the officers from the scattered regiment rallied their men and hurried toward the colors and just as a Confederate troop thundered down on Tozier, intending to ride over him and carry away the precious flag, from every part of the field little squads of fighting men reached him in time to pour in a volley that saved the colors which Tozier for many minutes had been protecting single-handed. That was the turning-point of this part of the battle. The Maine regiment pressed on and never retreated a foot again through all those days of terrible fighting. Tozier was one of the many men who saved that day for the Union by being brave in the face of tremendous odds.
Freeman C. Thompson of the 116th Ohio Infantry won his medal of honor at Petersburg, Virginia. On April 2, 1865, the Union forces were storming Fort Gregg. Both sides had poured in murderous volleys at short range and then had rushed to close quarters, fighting desperately with bayonet and butt. Thompson scrambled up on his hands and knees, but had no more reached the parapet when he was knocked off it headlong by a tremendous blow on the head from a clubbed musket. When he returned to consciousness he found himself lying in the ditch with two dead men on top of him. Thompson made up his mind that this was not the kind of company which he ought to keep and springing to his feet, he started again for the parapet. This time he was more fortunate for he gained a footing and managed to bayonet the first man who attacked him, but before he could withdraw the bayonet, once again he received a tremendous smash full in the face from a clubbed musket and went clear over backward with a broken nose. He struck on the heap of bodies from which he had just emerged and though not unconscious, lay for a few minutes unable to move. Finally he managed to wipe the blood out from his eyes and spit out the blood and broken teeth from his battered mouth. Some men would have felt that they had had enough, but not so with this one. For the third and last time he scrambled up and as he reached the edge of the parapet caught sight of the man who was responsible for his battered face. Thompson rushed at him and there was a battle royal between the two, bayonet to bayonet, but Thompson at last by a trick of fence which he had learned, suddenly reversed his musket and smashed the heavy butt down on his opponent's right forearm, breaking the latter's grip on his own weapon. Before he could recover, Thompson's bayonet had passed through his throat and Thompson himself had gained a foothold within the works. Shoulder to shoulder he fought with the rest of his comrades in spite of the streaming blood and only stopped when the garrison surrendered.
It is a brave man in civil life that will give up his vacation and it takes a hero to relinquish a furlough, that precious breathing spell away from battles and hardships back at home with his dear ones. Martin Schubert, a private in the 26th New York Infantry, had gained this respite and had paid for it by his wounds. Hearing that his regiment was about to go into battle again at Fredericksburg, he gave up his furlough, hurried back to the front and fought fiercely through all that brave day. Six men of his regiment, one after the other, had been shot down that fatal afternoon while carrying the colors. Schubert, although he already had one half-healed and one open wound, seized the flag when it went down for the last time and carried it to the front until the very end of the battle, although he received an extra wound for doing it. Thirty-one years later he received a medal of honor for that day's work.
It is easier to save a wounded friend or wounded comrade than a wounded enemy. He who dares death to save one whom he is fighting against shows courage of the highest type. Such a deed occurred during the battle of Chancellorsville. Those four fatal May-days were filled as full of brave deeds as any days of the Civil War. Though General Hooker, the Union general, flinched and lost not only the battle, but forever his name of Fighting Joe Hooker, his men gave up only when they were outflanked and out-fought and unsupported.
Elisha B. Seaman was a private in one of the regiments which was surprised and attacked by the twenty-six thousand infantry of Stonewall Jackson, the best fighters in the Confederate Army. The Union men were not suspecting any danger. Word had been sent a number of times both to Hooker and to General Howard who commanded the eleventh corps under him that Jackson was crossing through the woods to make a flank-attack. Neither general would believe the message. Both were sure that Jackson was in retreat. When the attack came the Union troops were attacked in front and from the flank and rear at once. They held their ground for a time, but they were new troops and even veterans could not have long sustained such an assault. At first they attempted to make an orderly retreat, but the Confederates pressed on them so close and fought so fiercely that the retreat became a run and the corps of which Seaman's regiment was a part was not rallied until they met reinforcements far over in the wilderness and gradually came to a halt and threw up defenses. There they were too strong to be driven back further by the Confederates and managed to hold their ground although attacked again and again. After the last attack the Confederate forces withdrew and took up a strong position on the Union front, brought up artillery and opened up a tremendous rifle-fire mingled with the cannonade from all their available batteries, hoping to throw the Union forces into disorder so that they would not stand another charge. During the fiercest of the fire while every man was keeping close under cover, Seaman's attention was caught by the sight of a Confederate officer who lay writhing in terrible agony not a hundred yards outside of the Union lines. He had been shot through the body in the last charge and had been left on the field by the retreating Confederates. The pain was unbearable. Seaman could see his face all distorted and although not a sound came through the clenched teeth, the poor fellow could not control the agonized twitching and jerking of his tortured muscles. Seaman tried to turn his face away from the sight, but each time his eyes came back to that brave man in torment out in front of him. At last he could stand it no longer. He slipped back to the rear and got hold of a surgeon.
"Doctor," he said, "there's a fellow out in front pretty badly wounded. If I get him to you, do you think you can ease his pain?"
"I certainly can," said the surgeon, "but judging from the noise out there in front, you'll lie out there with him if you go beyond the breastworks."
"You get your chloroform ready," said Seaman, "and I'll get the man."
A few minutes later Elisha was seen by his astonished comrades crawling along the bullet-torn turf on his way to the wounded man.
"Hi there, come back, you lump-head!" yelled his bunkie. "Don't you see the fellow is a Reb? You'll get killed."
"I wouldn't let a dog suffer the way that fellow's suffering," yelled back Elisha, waddling along on his hands and knees like a woodchuck. He finally reached the officer, forced a little whiskey into his mouth and prepared to lift him up on his back.
"Cheer up, old man," he said. "I've got a good surgeon back there who says he can fix you up. If I can only get you on my back, we'll be safe in a minute."
"You'll be safe enough," gasped the other somewhat ungratefully, Seaman thought, "but there will be a dozen bullets through me."
There seemed to be something in that statement. Elisha decided that it would be a cruel kindness to turn this man into a target for the bullets which were coming across the field and make him act as his involuntary shield.
"I'll tell you what I'll do, General," Seaman said finally; "I'll get you up and then I'll back down to our lines. If any one gets hit, it'll be me.
He was as good as his word. Although the wounded officer was a large man, Seaman got a fireman's-lift on him, swung him over his shoulders and then facing the Confederate lines, slowly backed his way toward safety. At first the Confederate fire redoubled as the men in gray thought that he was simply effecting the capture of one of their men. When, however, they realized that he was protecting one of their own officers from their fire with his own body, all along the line the fusillade of musketry died down and there came down the wind in its place the sound of a storm of cheers which swept from one end of the Confederate position to the other. Seaman covered the last fifty yards of his dangerous journey without a shot being fired at him except the shot and shell from the batteries which were being worked too far back for the gunners to know what was going on. The surgeon with whom he had spoken had been attracted to the front by the shouts and cheers both from the Confederate lines and from Seaman's own comrades and was the first to help him over the breastworks.
"You're a great fool," he said. "I thought you were talking about one of our men, but so long as you brought this poor Reb in at the risk of your life, I'll certainly cure him."
And he did.
Another man whose courage flared up superior to wounds and mutilation and who was brave enough to do his duty in spite of the agony he was suffering, was Corporal Miles James, who on September 30, 1864, at Chapins Farm, Virginia, with the rest of his company was attacking the enemy's works. They had charged up to within thirty yards of the fortifications when they were met by a murderous storm of grape and canister, the enemy having held their fire until the very last moment. A grape-shot cut through Corporal James' left arm just above the elbow, smashing right through the middle of the bone and cutting the arm half off so that it dangled by the severed muscles. The force of the blow whirled James around like a top and he fell over to the ground, but was on his feet again in an instant and started for the Confederate line like the bulldog that he was.
"Go back, Corporal," shouted one of his men. "Your arm's half off and you'll bleed to death."
"No I won't," yelled James; "my right arm is my fighting-arm anyway."
"Let me tie you up then," said the man, pulling him to the ground where the rest of the regiment lay flat on their faces waiting for the storm to pass so that they might charge again. "There's plenty of time."
An examination of the arm showed that it was past saving.
"Corporal," said the other, "you had better let me take this arm right off. I can make a quick job with my bowie-knife and bandage it. If I don't you'll bleed to death."
"All right," said Miles; "go ahead."
A minute later the amateur surgeon tied the last knot in the bandage which he had made out of a couple of bandanna handkerchiefs which had been contributed by others of the file.
"Now, Corporal," he said, coaxingly, "let me get you back where you can lie down and rest."
"No," said Corporal James, "the only resting I'm going to do will be inside those works."
He reached back for the Springfield rifle which he had dropped when first struck and fitting it carefully to his right shoulder, fired a well-aimed shot at a Confederate gunner who was serving one of the cannons on the breastworks. As the man toppled over the corporal smiled grimly and in spite of offers of help from all sides, loaded and fired his gun twice again. By this time the fire had died down and the corporal suddenly sprang to his feet and started for the breastworks.
"Hurry up, fellows," he shouted to his men; "don't let a one-armed man do all the work."
With a tremendous cheer the whole force sprang again to their feet and swarmed over the ramparts in a rush which there was no stopping. James was right with them, two of his men hoisting and pushing him up, for he found that although he could shoot, it was more difficult to climb with one arm. As the last Confederates who were left surrendered, James sat down against one of the captured cannon and smiled wanly at the man who had helped him and said:
"Now I'll take a rest and later on I'll go to the rear with you if you like."
This he did and a regular surgeon completed an operation which he said had, under the circumstances, been most efficiently performed. Corporal James always said that the medal of honor which the government gave him was worth far more than the arm which he gave the government.
In the days of David there came a great famine. Year after year the crops failed and the people starved. At last the priests and soothsayers told David that this doom had fallen upon the nation because of a broken oath. Many centuries before Joshua, one of the great generals of the world, was fighting his way into the Promised Land. He was contending with huge black giant tribes like the Anakim, and against blue-eyed Amorite mountaineers with their war-chariots of iron, whose five kings he was to utterly destroy on that great day when he said in the sight of the host of Israel, "Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon and thou Moon in the valley of Ajalon," and the sun stood still and the moon stayed until the people had revenged themselves upon their enemies. He had captured the fortified city of Jericho and had razed it to the ground and laid that terrible curse which was afterward fulfilled on the man who should again lay the foundation and rebuild the city. He had destroyed the city of Ai, little but inhabited by fierce fighters who had hurled back even the numberless hordes of Israel. The terror and the dread of the invaders had spread through the length and breadth of the land. On the slopes of Mount Hermon lived the Hivites. They were not great in war, but like the men of Tyre they asked to be let alone to carry on the trade and commerce in which they were so expert. Not far away from Ai was their chief city of Gibeon and the elders of that city planned to obtain from Joshua safety by stratagem. They sent embassadors whose skin bottles were old and rent and bound up and whose shoes were worn through and clouted and whose garments were old and worn and their provision dry and mouldy. These came to Joshua pretending to be embassadors from a far country who desired to make a league with them. Not knowing that their city was in the very path of his march, Joshua and the princes of the congregation made peace with them. Later on they found that they had been deceived, but the word of the nation had been passed and the sworn peace could not be broken. So it happened from that day that the Gibeonites became hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and lived in peace with the Israelites under their sworn protection. The centuries passed and at last Saul, the first king of Israel, began his reign. In spite of the oath of his forefathers, he slew the Gibeonites and sought to root them out of the land. It was this broken oath that had brought upon the nation the years of famine and suffering. Under the advice of their priests David sent for the remnants of the Gibeonites and asked them what atonement could be made for the cruel and treacherous deed of King Saul who had long been dead, but whose sin lived on after him. The Gibeonites said that they would have no silver or gold of Saul or of his house, but demanded that seven men of the race of Saul be delivered unto them. It was done and they hung these seven prisoners as a vengeance on the bloody house of Saul. Two of them were the sons of Rizpah whom she bore unto Saul, the king. When they were hanged, she took sackcloth and spread it on the rocks and guarded those bodies night and day and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest upon them by day or the beasts of the field by night. Sleeplessly she guarded all that was left of her sons until the news of her faithfulness was brought to David, who gave back to her the bodies for burial and for the last rites of sepulchre and sanctuary which mean so much to all believers.
In the Civil War at Cold Harbor, Virginia, Sergeant LeRoy Williams of the 8th New York Artillery, like Rizpah, saved the body of his dead colonel and brought it back at the risk of his own life for honored burial. During that terrible battle in one of the charges of his regiment, his colonel was shot down close to the enemy's lines. When the shattered remnants of the regiment rallied again after they had been driven back by the entrenched Confederates, it was found that the colonel was missing. Williams had a profound admiration and affection for his colonel. When he found he was missing, he took an oath before the men that were left that he would find him and bring him in dead or alive. All the rest of that weary afternoon he crept back and forth over the battle-field exposed to the fire of the enemy's sharp-shooters. Again and again his life was saved almost by a miracle, so close did the well-directed bullets strike. Finally just at twilight close to the enemy's lines he found his colonel. He lay as he had fallen, facing the entrenchments which he had fought so hard to win, with a bullet through his heart. Within a few feet of where he lay the Confederate pickets were stationed who watched the field and fired at the least suspicious movement. Just as Williams identified the body, he saw one of the sentries approaching in the dusk and had just time to throw himself down with outstretched arms beside the dead officer when the guard was upon him. Something in his attitude aroused the man's suspicions and he prodded Williams in the back with his bayonet. Fortunately the sharp steel struck him glancingly and only inflicted a shallow wound and Williams had the presence of mind and the fortitude to lie perfectly quiet without a motion or a sound to indicate that he lived. The sentry passed on convinced that only dead men lay before him. Williams waited until it became perfectly dark and started to drag in the dead body of his officer. Inch by inch he crept away from the enemy's lines in the darkness until he was far enough away so that his movements could not be seen. All that weary night he dragged and carried the rescued body of the dead officer until just at dawn he brought it within the Union lines to receive the honors of a military funeral.
Space fails to tell of the many brave deeds which gleam through the blood of many a hard-fought field and shine against the blackness of many a dark defeat. There was David L. Smith, a sergeant in Battery E of the 1st New York Light Artillery, who, when a shell struck an ammunition chest in his battery, exploding a number of cartridges and setting fire to the packing tow, instead of running away from the exploding cartridges which threatened every minute to set fire to the fuses of some of the great shells, had the coolness and the courage to bring a bucket of water and put out the flames as quietly as if he were banking a camp-fire for the night.
There was Isaac Redlon, a private in the 27th Maine Infantry, who shortly before the battle of Chickamauga was put under arrest for a gross breach of discipline. Isaac saw a chance to wipe out the disgrace which he had incurred. Instead of staying at the rear with the wounded and other men under arrest, he managed to get hold of a rifle and fought through the two terrible days of that disastrous battle. So bravely did he fight, so cool was he under fire and so quick to carry out and to anticipate every order that was given, that when the battle was at last over, his captain decided that not only had Redlon wiped out the memory of his former misdoing, but that he had earned the medal which was afterward awarded to him.
Another man whose bravery wiped out his mistakes was Colonel Louis P. DiCesnola of the 4th New York Cavalry. On June 17, 1863, he was under arrest when the battle was joined at Aldie, Virginia. It was the bitterest day that the colonel had ever known when in the guard-house he watched his regiment go into action without him. He felt that he had ruined his whole career and that his life through his folly and hot-headedness was a complete failure. There was granted to him, however, as there is to all of us, the opportunity to make amends. While he was still moodily watching the progress of the battle, suddenly he saw the men, whom he had so often led, waver. Then stragglers began to slip back through the lines and suddenly the whole regiment was in full retreat. Colonel DiCesnola did not hesitate a moment.
"Open that door," he said to the guard. "I'll show those fellows how to fight and I'll come back when it's all over."
Without a word the sentry unlocked the door and the colonel rushed out just in time to meet the first rank of the flying men. Almost the first man that he met was the officer who had taken his place, riding the colonel's own horse. DiCesnola gripped the animal by the bridle.
"Get off that horse," he shouted, "and let some one ride him who knows which way to go. He's not used to retreating," and before his bewildered successor could answer, he was hurled out of the saddle and Colonel DiCesnola was on the back of his own horse.
"About face, charge!" he thundered to his men. Most of them recognized his voice and the familiar figure that so often led them and without hesitating a moment, wheeled about and followed him toward the front. Every few yards his troop was increased by men who were ashamed to ride to the rear when they saw him charging to the front unarmed but waving his hat and cheering them on. Before the Confederates could realize what had happened they were fairly hurled off their feet by the tremendous rush of hurtling men and horses. Of all the attacks which are hard to withstand, the charge of a body of men who have rallied and are trying to wipe out the shame of their retreat is most to be feared. It was so here. Although the Confederates fought hard nothing could hold back the rush of this cavalry regiment. They were led by their own colonel who though unarmed stayed in the forefront of the battle. As they finally broke through the Confederate line, a burly cavalryman slashed at him with his sabre. Colonel DiCesnola stooped low to avoid the cut, but the point of the sabre caught him on the right shoulder and ripped deep into his chest while almost at the same moment he received a pistol shot in his left arm which broke it. Unable to hold the reins, he slipped forward and would have fallen to the ground, but was held in his saddle by his first assailant who forced his horse up close beside the colonel's and dashed back through the Confederate lines carrying DiCesnola and his magnificent horse. There the colonel was made prisoner, but was carefully nursed and by the time that he had recovered his strength, was exchanged and rejoined his old regiment. He reported to his general as still under arrest.
"You are mistaken," said the latter. "I saw the way you rallied your men that day and when you were reported missing, we thought you had been killed. The charges against you are dismissed and your record is just as clean as it ever was and your old regiment is waiting for you."
The story of William W. Noyes, a private in the 2d Vermont Infantry, and his charmed life is still told by the veterans who fought at Spottsylvania. On that day the madness of battle came over him. When that happens, life has no value except to spend it for the cause for which one is fighting. Noyes' regiment had charged up to the breastworks of the enemy from which was poured into the attacking forces tremendous volleys. Noyes had charged with the others, but when they stopped to rally at the breastworks preparatory to forcing them, Noyes never paused. Right up the parapet he scrambled and stood on top of the breastworks with his musket in full range of a thousand men. Taking deliberate aim he shot the man just below him who was aiming his gun at him not more than two yards away. In full sight of both armies he stood there and loaded and fired no less than fifteen shots. Not one of them missed its mark. It was in vain that the men all around him who were exposed to his fire shot at him. The bullets cut through his clothing, carried off his cap and one stripped the sights off his rifle and ricochetted off the hammer itself, but not a wound did he receive. His example spurred his comrades on and in a few minutes the whole regiment struggled over the earthworks and drove out the garrison.
Joseph von Matre, a private in the 116th Ohio Infantry, did the same thing at Petersburg on April 2, 1865, during the assault on Fort Gregg. He climbed up the parapet and fired down into the fort as fast as his comrades could pass up to him loaded guns. No bullet could harm him and single-handed he drove the men out of that embrasure after killing several and forced a gap which was filled by the men who climbed up when he shouted down to them what he had done.
This chronicle of brave deeds would not be complete without the stories of the men who were brave enough to disregard all odds either in numbers or in circumstances. There was Delano Morey, a private in the 82d Ohio Infantry, who at McDowell, Virginia, found himself, after the charge of the Confederates had been repulsed, with an empty gun and no ammunition. Just in front of him were two of the enemy's sharp-shooters who had been picking off the Union officers all through the charge. Each of them was a dead shot and each of them had a loaded gun. Menacing them both with his empty piece, Morey rushed forward and called on them to surrender. The superb confidence of the man was too much for them and without a word each of them handed him his loaded rifle and walked meekly back with him as prisoners to the Union lines.
There was Frank W. Mills, a sergeant in a New York regiment, who while scouting at Sandy Cross Roads in North Carolina, with only three or four men under him, suddenly came upon a whole troop of the enemy. Without orders and seemingly without the possibility of succeeding, Mills charged down upon the Confederates at the head of his regiment, consisting of four men. Courage took the place of numbers. The Confederates scattered like sheep and Mills and his men rounded up no less than one hundred and twenty prisoners who stacked their arms and marched obediently into the Union lines.
Augustus Merrill, a captain in the 1st Maine Infantry, performed a similar feat at Petersburg when with six men he captured sixty-nine Confederate prisoners and recaptured and released a number of Union soldiers whom they had made prisoners.
The 4th of May, 1863, was a great day for John P. McVean, a corporal in the 49th Infantry. On that day at Fredericksburg Heights, Virginia, he fought at the forefront of his company and when the order to charge was given, outstripped them all, reached the Confederate lines entirely alone, shot down the Confederate color-bearer, seized the colors and fought back all attempts to retake them until his comrades could come to his assistance. Later in the day he showed that he could be just as brave away from the inspiration and excitement of battle. Between the lines stood a barn which was occupied by a number of Confederate sharp-shooters who were greatly annoying the Union forces by picking off men at every opportunity. McVean's captain finally ordered his men to charge on the barn and drive them out.
"Wait a minute, Captain," said the corporal; "I believe I can make those fellows surrender without losing any men. Let me try anyway."
Without waiting for the captain to reply, the corporal laid down his gun and alone and unarmed and beckoning as he walked with his hand toward the barn, started for the sharp-shooters. Seeing that he was not armed they allowed him to come within speaking distance.
"I have come to take you men prisoners," he said positively; "we don't want to kill you, but if you don't come now, we are going to charge and this is your last chance."
The men inside hesitated a minute, but there was such an air of supreme confidence about McVean that first one and then another and then the whole band of twelve men marched out and followed him back to the Union lines. Once more a brave man had accomplished the impossible.
There were no braver men in all the Union Army than were found in the ranks of the different batteries whose guns did so much to bring about the final victory of the Union arms. The courage of our cannoneers, men who saved the guns in spite of every attack and who often saved them in many a defeat, has never been surpassed. The affection of a gunner for the piece which he has manned and served in many a hard-fought battle is like that which a cavalryman has for his horse. Like the rider, the crew of a battery will risk all to save their gun. At Wilson's Creek, Missouri, on August 10, 1861, Nicholas Broquet, a private in one of the Iowa batteries, showed the spirit that was in him when the gun that he was serving was disabled. The battery-horses had been shot down, all the crew except himself had been killed by the tremendous fire of the enemy and across the field appeared a detachment of the enemy's forces sent to capture the gun. Broquet cut the traces of the dead horses, rushed out between the lines in the face of a fierce fire and succeeded in catching a riderless horse. He rode the animal back to the gun, made him fast to it and just as the enemy's detachment was close upon him, rode off in safety, trundling the rescued gun behind him.
John F. Chase was a cannoneer of the same stamp. At Chancellorsville he was serving as a private in a Maine battery. A shell from one of the enemy's guns struck down the officers and killed or disabled every man of the battery except Chase and one other. They manned the gun, sighted it as best they could and fired three rounds at the approaching enemy. Then as the horses had been killed and it was certain that the gun would be captured in a few minutes, they fastened themselves to the traces and tugged away until they got the gun in motion. Although it was a heavy one which ordinarily took two horses to drag it, yet these two actually pulled the gun across the rough field safe to the main line of the Union forces and saved it from capture.
Three of the most spectacular deeds of the whole war were those of Lieutenant Thomas W. Custer, Private Samuel E. Eddy and Adjutant Eugene W. Ferris. Custer was a lieutenant in the 6th Michigan Cavalry and was present at the spirited engagement at Sailors Creek, Virginia, when the Union forces attacked the entrenched Confederates. Custer's company charged in the face of a heavy fire on the enemy's works. When they reached the entrenchments the order was received to dismount and to continue the charge on foot. Custer was riding a thorough-bred and preferred to continue the charge on horseback. Spurring his horse up to the lowest part of the ramparts, he actually leaped him over and landed in the very midst of the astonished defenders. Making a dash for the color-bearer, Custer cut him down, seized the colors and wheeled and galloped right through the demoralized men to the other end of the works, intending to capture the colors displayed there. As he broke through the ranks of the defenders for the second time, a volley of straggling shots was fired at him. One bullet pierced his thigh and two more struck his horse, killing the latter instantly. Custer rolled over and over with the struggling animal, managed to pull himself loose and still clinging to the captured colors, with the blood streaming down his leg, rushed at the last color-bearer, shot him down with his revolver and seized his colors and with his back to the rampart, fought off all attempts to rescue them. A moment later his companions climbed over the earthworks and rescued him just as he was on the point of fainting from loss of blood.
Eddy was a private in the 37th Massachusetts Infantry and on April 6, 1865, was present at the battle of Sailors Creek, Virginia. While his regiment was fighting desperately to hold their position, Eddy saw that his adjutant lay wounded far out beyond their lines. A little detachment of Confederate soldiers approached and to Eddy's horror, he saw them deliberately shoot down several of the wounded Union men. One of them approached the adjutant to whom Eddy was much attached. He could not bear to see him killed without at least attempting to rescue him and he at once rushed out beyond the protection of his own line. As he approached the adjutant, he saw the leader of the Confederate attachment in the act of taking aim at the wounded officer. Eddy was an excellent shot and at once knelt down and took rapid but accurate aim and killed the Confederate just as he was on the point of firing. He ran forward to his adjutant, but there he encountered three Confederates and had a hand-to-hand bayonet fight with them. Eddy was a man of tremendous strength and reach and managed to kill one of his assailants and severely wound another. While he was so engaged, however, the third ran him through the body with his bayonet and pinned him to the ground. While the enemy was struggling to disengage his bayonet for another fatal thrust, Eddy, by a last desperate effort, managed to slip a cartridge into his gun and just as his opponent was aiming a deadly stab at his throat, shot him through the body. Then wounded as he was, he staggered to his feet and half-carried, half-dragged the wounded adjutant back to the safety of the Union lines where they were both nursed back to health and strength.
Ferris was an adjutant in the 30th Massachusetts Infantry. On April 1, 1865, at Berryville, Virginia, accompanied only by an orderly, he was riding outside the Union lines when he was attacked by five of Mosby's guerrillas. It was not the custom of Mosby's men either to ask or give quarter or to take prisoners. Ferris who was well mounted could probably have escaped, but would have had to leave his orderly behind, as the latter's horse was a slow one. Accordingly, although both the men were armed only with sabres, Ferris made up his mind to fight to the death. Without waiting to be attacked, he spurred his horse at the guerrilla-leader and suddenly executing a demi-volte which is only effective when performed by a good sabre and a trained horse, he whirled like lightning and caught his opponent such a tremendous back-handed slash that he cut him almost to the saddle. As the man toppled over, Ferris slipped one arm around his waist and managed to unbuckle his pistol-belt and seize both of his pistols. He then at once engaged with another one of the band and while parrying and thrusting, saw out of the tail of his eye a third man aiming a revolver at him only a few yards away. Parrying a thrust from his opponent in front, Ferris simultaneously fired with the other hand. Although Ferris was shooting with his left hand, his bullet killed his opponent while the Confederate's fire struck Ferris just above the left knee, inflicting a painful but not dangerous flesh-wound. Ferris pressed his opponent in front still more vigorously and finally succeeded in wounding him so severely that he turned and bolted, leaving Ferris free to go to the rescue of his orderly, who had been putting up a good fight against the other two of the band. Ferris reached him just in time. He had been wounded twice and though fighting bravely, one of his antagonists had managed to reach a position in his rear. There was not much time for Ferris to do anything with his sabre. Everything must depend upon a pistol shot. Stopping his horse, he drew his remaining pistol, took careful aim and shot the man behind his orderly through the body just as the latter had his sabre uplifted for a last blow at the hardly-pressed Union officer. The remaining guerrilla, who had already been slightly wounded by the orderly, wheeled his horse and rode off leaving the two Union men in possession of the field and the spoils of war, consisting of two capital pistols and a magnificent riderless horse which they brought back with them.
One of the most devoted deeds of courage in the war is chronicled last. On July 21, 1861, the first great battle of the war was fought at Bull Run, Virginia, not far from the federal capital. It was a disastrous day. Unorganized, commanded by inexperienced officers, that battle soon became the shameful rout which for a long time was the basis of the belief throughout the South that one Southerner could whip four Northerners.
Charles J. Murphy was quartermaster on that day in the 38th New York Infantry. It was not his business to fight. He was there to feed and look after his men and it was no more his duty to join the battle than that of the surgeons, the band, or any of the other non-combatants which accompany a regiment. When, however, he saw the masses of beaten, discouraged, panic-stricken men straggling back, Murphy made up his mind that the rear was no place for him. Seizing a rifle which one of the retreating men had thrown away, he rushed forward and did all that one man could to stop the retreat, fighting as long and as hard as he could. It was beyond his power. His regiment were bewildered, confused and broke and fled like sheep, leaving hundreds of wounded men on the field. Murphy made up his mind that he would have no part or lot in this rout and also that he would not desert his wounded comrades, for in those days there were terrible tales rife of how the Confederates treated wounded soldiers. The Union fighters had not yet learned that their antagonists were the same brave, fair fighters that they were. Murphy stayed behind. When the victorious Confederate forces marched down the field, they found it held by one man who was giving water to the wounded and doing his clumsy best to staunch the flowing blood from many a ghastly wound.
"Do you surrender?" shouted the first officer who approached him.
"Not if you are going to hurt these wounded men," said Murphy, bringing his bayonet into position.
"We will take just as good care of them as we will of our own," the officer assured him, and only on this assurance did Murphy surrender. He spent years in Rebel prisons, but no prison could ever take away from him the recollection that he alone had refused to retreat on that disastrous day and that he had risked his life and given up his liberty to save his wounded comrades.
So ends, with these little stories of sudden hero-acts wrought by commonplace men in a matter-of-fact manner, this chronicle of a few of the many, many brave deeds done by our forefathers in a war that was fought for an ideal. Read them, boys and girls, in these war-days that we may remember anew the lessons which the lives and deaths of our kin hold for us. If the day ever comes when we too must fight for ideals which other nations have forgotten or have trampled upon, may we show ourselves worthy of the great heritage of honor which our forefathers have handed down to us.