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Title: Reminiscences of Peace and War
Author: Pryor, Sara Agnes Rice
Language: English
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  [Illustration: GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE ON "TRAVELLER."
   _From a photograph by Miley, Lexington, Va._]


REMINISCENCES OF PEACE AND WAR

by

MRS. ROGER A. PRYOR

Author of "The Mother of Washington and Her Times"

Revised And Enlarged Edition



New York
Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers

Copyright, 1904, 1905,
by the Macmillan Company.

Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1904. Reprinted
December, 1904; March, 1905.

New edition, with additions, September, 1905; April, 1908.

Norwood Press
J. S. Cushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.



     I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO THE MEMORY OF
     My Son
     WILLIAM RICE PRYOR, M.D.
     WHO GAVE TO SUFFERING HUMANITY ALL THAT
     GOD HAD GIVEN HIM



Preface


It will be obvious to the reader that this book affects neither the
"dignity of history" nor the authority of political instruction. The
causes which precipitated the conflict between the sections and the
momentous events which attended the struggle have been recounted by
writers competent to the task. But descriptions of battles and civil
convulsions do not exhibit the full condition of the South in the
crisis. To complete the picture, social characteristics and incidents of
private life are indispensable lineaments. It occurs to the author that
a plain and unambitious narrative of her recollections of Washington
society during the calm which preceded the storm, and of Virginia under
the afflictions and sorrows of the fratricidal strife, will not be
without interest in the retrospect of that memorable era. The present
volume recalls that era in the aspect in which it appeared to a woman
rather than as it appeared to a statesman or a philosopher.

     ROGER A. PRYOR.



Contents


     CHAPTER I

                                                                  PAGE

     Washington in the Fifties—Literary Society during Fillmore's
     Administration—John P. Kennedy, G. P. R. James, Mrs. Gales,
     and Mrs. Seaton—Anna Cora Mowatt                                3


     CHAPTER II

     President Pierce's Inauguration—The New Cabinet—Mr. Marcy
     prescribes Court Dress with Varying Results—Jefferson
     Davis—Sam Houston—General Scott—Washington Irving—Adelina
     Patti and Mrs. Glasgow—Advice of an "Old Resident" and its
     Unfortunate Result                                             15


     CHAPTER III

     Mr. Buchanan and his Cabinet—Roger A. Pryor's Mission to
     Greece—The Court of Athens—The Maid of Athens—The Ball at the
     Hotel de Ville—Queen Victoria's Dress and Dancing—The Countess
     Guiccioli—Early Housekeeping in Washington                     38


     CHAPTER IV

     The President at Church—Levee at the White House—A Dinner
     Party at the White House—Miss Harriet Lane—Lord and Lady
     Napier—Ball in their Honor—Baron and Madame Stoëckle—Madame
     Bodisco—The First Japanese Embassy to the United States        47


     CHAPTER V

     Great Names on the Rolls of the Supreme Court, Senate,
     and House of Representatives—Pen Picture of Stephen A.
     Douglas—Incident at a Ball—Mrs. Douglas—Vanity Fair, "Caps,
     Gowns, Petticoats, and Petty Exhibitions"—_Décolleté_
     Bodices—A Society Dame's Opinion thereon                       66


     CHAPTER VI

     Beautiful Women in Washington during Mr. Buchanan's
     Administration—Influence of Southern Women in
     Society—Conversational Talent—Over the _Demi-tasse_ after
     Dinner—Over the Low Tea-table—Hon. John Y. Mason and the Lady
     who changed her Mind—The Evening Party—Brilliant Talkers and
     Good Suppers                                                   80


     CHAPTER VII

     The Thirty-sixth Congress—Stormy Scenes in the House of
     Representatives—Abusive and Insulting Language—Rupture of
     Social Relations—Visit from General Cass at Midnight—The
     Midnight Conference of Southern Leaders—Nominations for
     the Presidency—The Heated Campaign and the "Unusual Course"
     of Stephen A. Douglas—Author of the Memorable Words of Mr.
     Seward, "Irrepressible Conflict"                               93


     CHAPTER VIII

     Memorable Days in the History of the Country—A Torch-light
     Procession in Virginia—An Uninvited Listener to a Midnight
     Speech—Wedding of Miss Parker and Mr. Bouligny—The President
     learns of the Secession of South Carolina—Admiral Porter
     visits his South Carolina Friends—The Last New Year's Day
     in Washington—Parting Words in Congress—The Setting Sun of a
     Happy Day                                                     107


     CHAPTER IX

     The Fall of Fort Sumter—Virginia sends "Peace Ambassadors"
     to Washington—Conventions in Richmond—Ordinance
     of Secession—Rally of Virginians—Enthusiasm of the
     Women—Soldiers' Outfits                                       120


     CHAPTER X

     March of the Volunteers—Sail down James River—Firing the First
     Gun of the Regiment—A Peaceful Volley                         134


     CHAPTER XI

     A Virginia Tobacco Plantation—"Health, Peace, and
     Competence"—Country Dinners—A Negro Funeral—General McClellan
     and the Boys' Regiment                                        146


     CHAPTER XII

     Battle of Bull Run—Life at Smithfield—General Pemberton—First
     Sight of the Enemy—A Sudden Change of Base—Battle
     of Williamsburg—General McClellan—General Joseph E.
     Johnston—Battle of Seven Pines—Richmond realizes the Horrors
     of War                                                        160


     CHAPTER XIII

     The Seven Days' Battles around Richmond—Pryor's Brigade
     ordered to the Front—Finding a Wounded Soldier—Midnight Watch
     after the Fight—Work in the Hospital—Ministrations of Virginia
     Women—Death of a Christian Soldier—Colonel Brokenborough's
     Sufferings, Fortitude, and Death—Richmond saved               174


     CHAPTER XIV

     Campaign in Maryland and Northern Virginia—Battles of
     Manassas, South Mountain, and Sharpsburg (Antietam)—Winter
     Quarters in Culpeper—Stories around the Campfire—Devotion to
     General Lee—Incidents related by his Aide, Colonel Taylor     193


     CHAPTER XV

     The Foraging Party on the Blackwater—Incidents of Camp Life—A
     Hazardous Experiment in "Blockade Running"—Letter from
     "Agnes"—A Colored Man's Views of his own Place in Time of
     War—Fight on the Blackwater—Richmond Gossip from "Agnes"      210


     CHAPTER XVI

     The Bread Riot at Richmond, described by
     "Agnes"—Correspondence between the President, General Lee,
     and General Pryor—A Great Victory at Chancellorsville—General
     Lee's Order upon entering Pennsylvania—Cornwallis's Orders
     in 1781—Incident of Vicksburg Campaign—Dreadful Defeat at
     Gettysburg—Surrender of Vicksburg                             237


     CHAPTER XVII

     The Winter of 1863-1864—Personal Experiences—Patrick Henry's
     Granddaughter—The Spring and Summer in Petersburg—Famine, and
     Some of the Women who endured it—John tells of the Averill
     Raid—General Orders No. 7—Domestic Manufactures—General Lee's
     Dinner—His Service of "Plate"                                 251


     CHAPTER XVIII

     Siege of Petersburg—Fight at Petersburg, June 9—General
     Lee arrives at Petersburg—General Grant shells the
     City—Conference of Pierre Soulé, General D. H. Hill, General
     Longstreet, and General Pryor—Battle at Port Walthall—A
     German Maiden and her Lover—Substitute for Medals of Honor—A
     Perilous Commission—Explosion of the Mine under Confederate
     Fortifications                                                270


     CHAPTER XIX

     August in the Besieged City—The Dead Soldier—Return to
     Cottage Farm—General Lee makes his Headquarters near Cottage
     Farm—General Wilcox encamps in Yard and Garden—Picket Firing
     between Friendly Foes—New Uses for Champagne Glasses          292


     CHAPTER XX

     Capture of General Pryor—John and the Negro Trader—Expedients
     for the Support of my Family—A New Use for Ball
     Dresses—Capture of the Rev. Dr. Pryor                         306


     CHAPTER XXI

     Christmas at Cottage Farm—Dark Days of Famine and
     Desertion in the Army—The Psalm of Life—A _Déjeuner à la
     Fourchette_—"Starvation Parties"—The Peace Commission—The
     Irish M.P. from Donegal—General Lee reveals the Desperate
     Condition of his Army—A Visit from General Lee                319


     CHAPTER XXII

     General Pryor's Return from Captivity—Story of his Release
     from Prison and Interview with Mr. Lincoln—April 2—Defeat
     at Cottage Farm—Surrender of Petersburg—Entrance of Federal
     Troops—Personal Experiences                                   338


     CHAPTER XXIII

     Evacuation of Richmond described by "Agnes"—Mr. Lincoln's
     Entrance into Richmond as related by Admiral Porter           354


     CHAPTER XXIV

     Arrival of Southern Prisoners of War—General Sheridan "knows
     how to make the terms for a house that suits him"—"We've
     caught Jeff Davis"—General Sheridan's Visit—Frank Expression
     of a Yankee Soldier—General Warren tells us of Lee's Surrender
                                                                   361


     CHAPTER XXV

     Incidents and Events—Loyalty of Domestic Servants—The First
     Army Ration to Destitute Women—Mrs. Hartsuff—Return to Cottage
     Farm—A Scene of Desolation—The Lonely Vigil—Kindness of
     Negroes and Fidelity of Old Family Servants                   372


     CHAPTER XXVI

     Tourists—The Reverend Brother and the Young People—The Army
     of Norway Rats—The "Met Bullets"—General Grant—The Destruction
     of Fortifications and Change of Base—In the Garden at Cottage
     Farm—The Voice in the Night                                   390


     CHAPTER XXVII

     The First Decoration Day—The Old Church at Blandford—The
     First Memorial Association—Covering the Soldiers' Graves with
     Flowers—"Until the Day Dawn"                                  404


     CHAPTER XXVIII

     Virginia in the Early Days of Peace—Behavior of the
     Freedmen—Clara's Home-coming and Death—The Welcome to the New
     Home—General Pryor removes to New York City                   412



Illustrations


     GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE ON "TRAVELLER." From a photograph by
     Miley, Lexington, Va.                               _Frontispiece_

                                                           FACING PAGE

     APPOMATTOX, RESIDENCE OF THE EPPES FAMILY. This estate at City
     Point on James River has been in the Eppes family since it was
     first patented, through a grant from Charles First to Colonel
     Francis Eppes in 1635                                         136

     WESTOVER. Owned in 1619 by Henry West, fourth Lord Delaware   140

     LOWER BRANDON. The estate of "Brandon" (since divided) was
     patented in 1617 by Captain John Martin. In 1720 it was
     conveyed to Nathaniel Harrison, and has remained ever since
     in the possession of the Harrison family                      144

     THE OAKS                                                      148

     MALVERN HILL. Named after the hills that divide the counties
     of Hereford and Worcester. Here one of the most sanguinary
     conflicts of the war took place. The old dwelling-house, a
     fine specimen of colonial architecture, is still standing     188

     HON. ROGER A. PRYOR. From a photograph, about 1870            218

     SIEGE MAP OF PETERSBURG. Drawn by Federal engineers, and used
     by the Union Army throughout the last year of the war         350

     OLD BLANDFORD CHURCH, PETERSBURG, VA. Built in 1734. From a
     photograph taken since the roof was renewed; it was not roofed
     in 1867                                                       408


The author desires to acknowledge her indebtedness to President Lyon G.
Tyler of William and Mary College for information regarding the colonial
homes on James River. The pictures of Appomattox, Lower Brandon, and
Malvern Hill are from photographs by Mr. H. P. Cook of Richmond, Va.



PEACE AND WAR



Reminiscences of Peace and War



CHAPTER I

WASHINGTON IN THE FIFTIES


The Washington that I knew in the fifties was not the Washington of
Dickens, Mrs. Trollope, and Laurence Oliphant. When I knew the capital
of our country, it was not "a howling wilderness of deserted streets
running out into the country and ending nowhere, its population
consisting chiefly of politicians and negroes";[1] nor were the streets
overrun with pigs and infested with goats. I never saw these animals in
the streets of Washington; but a story, told to illustrate the best way
of disposing of the horns of a dilemma proves one goat at least to have
had the freedom of the city. It seems that Henry Clay, overdue at the
Senate Chamber, was once hurrying along Pennsylvania Avenue when he was
attacked by a large goat. Mr. Clay seized his adversary by the horns.
So far so good, but how about the next step? A crowd of sympathetic
bootblacks and newsboys gathered around offering advice. "Let go, Mr.
Clay, and run like blazes," shouted one; and Mr. Clay did let go and
did run, his senatorial coat-tails flying like pennons behind him.

But this was before my day. I remember Washington only as a garden of
delights, over which the spring trailed an early robe of green, thickly
embroidered with gems of amethyst and ruby, pearl and sapphire. The
crocuses, hyacinths, tulips, and snowdrops made haste to bloom before
the snows had fairly melted. The trees donned their diaphanous veils of
green earlier in the White House grounds, the lawn of the Smithsonian
Institution, and the gentle slopes around the Capitol, than anywhere
in less distinguished localities. To walk through these incense-laden
grounds, to traverse the avenue of blossoming crab-apples, was pure
pleasure. The shaded avenues were delightful long lanes, where one
was sure to meet friends, and where no law of etiquette forbade a
pause in the public street for a few words of kindly inquiry, or a
bit of gossip, or the development of some plan for future meetings. If
one's steps tended to the neighborhood of 7th and D streets, nothing
was more probable than a meeting with one of Washington's most noted
citizens,—the superb mastiff of Mr. Gales, the veteran editor of the
_National Intelligencer_, as the dog gravely bore in a large basket
the mail for the office. No attendant was needed by this fine animal.
He was fully competent to protect his master's private and official
correspondence.

He had been taught to express stern disapprobation of Democrats; so if a
pleasant walk with him was desired, it was expedient for members of that
party to perjure themselves and at once announce: "I am an 'Old-Line
Whig,' old man," and the dog's tail would wag a cordial welcome.

Omnibuses ran along Pennsylvania Avenue, for the convenience of
Senators, Congressmen, and others on their way to the Capitol,—but the
saunter along the avenue was so charming that I always preferred it
to the People's Line. There were few shops. But such shops! There was
Galt's, where the silver, gems, and marbles were less attractive than
the cultivated gentleman who sold them; Gautier's, the palace of sweets,
with Mrs. Gautier in an arm-chair before her counter to tell you the
precise social status of every one of her customers, and what is more,
to put you in your own; Harper's, where the dainty, leisurely salesman
treated his laces with respect, drawing up his cuffs lest they touch the
ethereal beauties; and the little corner shop of stern Madame Delarue,
who imported as many (and no more) hats and gloves as she was willing to
sell as a favor to the ladies of the diplomatic and official circles,
and whose dark-eyed daughter Léonide (named for her godmother, a Greek
lady of rank) was susceptible of unreasoning friendships and could be
coaxed to preserve certain treasures for humbler folk.

Léonide once awoke me in the middle of the night with a note bidding me
"come _tout de suite_," for "Maman" was asleep, the boxes had arrived;
and she and I could peep at the bonnets and choose the best one for
myself. Thus it was that I once bore away a "divine creation" of point
lace, crêpe, and shaded asters before Madame had seen it. Otherwise
it would have been reserved for Miss Harriet Lane or Mrs. Douglas.
Madame had to know later; and Léonide was not much in evidence the rest
of that season. At Madame Delarue's, if one was very _gentil_, very
_convenable_, one might have the services of François, the one and only
hair-dresser of note, who had adjusted coronets on noble heads, and who
could (if he so minded) talk of them agreeably in Parisian French.

All these were little things; but do not pleasant trifles make the sum
of pleasant hours? Washington was like a great village in those days of
President Pierce and President Buchanan. To obtain the best of the few
articles to be purchased was an achievement.

My own pride in the Federal City was such that my heart would swell
within me at every glimpse of the Capitol: from the moment it rose like
a white cloud above the smoke and mists, as I stood on the deck of the
steamboat (having run up from my dinner to salute Mount Vernon), to
the time when I was wont to watch from my window for the sunset, that
I might catch the moment when a point on the unfinished dome glowed
like a great blazing star after the sun had really gone down. No matter
whether suns rose or set, there was the star of our country,—the star
of our hearts and hopes.

I acknowledge that Wisdom is much to be desired of her children, but
nowhere is it promised that they will be the happier for gaining her.
When my lot was cast in Washington, Wisdom had not taught me that the
White House was less beautiful than a classic temple. To be sure,
Dickens had called it "like an English club-house,"—that was bad
enough,—but Mark Twain had not yet dubbed it "a fine, large, white barn
with wide handsome grounds around it." "The President lives there,"
says Washington Hawkins. "It is ugly enough outside, but that is
nothing to what it is inside." To my uneducated eye the East Room with
its ornate chandeliers, fluted pillars, and floriated carpet was an
audience chamber fit for a king. A triumph of artistic perfection was
the equestrian statue of the hero of New Orleans, now known to be out
of all proportion, and condemned as "bad" and "very bad" by Wisdom's
instructed children. Raising his hat, indeed! Why, any man in that
position would be holding on to the mane with both hands to keep from
sliding off. And as for the Capitol—the sacred Capitol! From foundation
to turret it was to my eye all that genius and patriotism could achieve.
The splendid marbles at the entrance, the paintings, the bas-reliefs
within the rotunda,—these were things to boast of, to dream of. Not yet
had arisen our irreverent humorist to warn us never to enter the dome
of the Capitol, "because to get there you must pass through the great
rotunda, and to do that you would have to see the marvellous historical
paintings that hang there and the bas-reliefs,—and what have you done
that you should suffer this?"

When our friends came up from Virginia to make us visits, it was
delightful to take a carriage and give up days to sight-seeing; to visit
the White House and Capitol, the Patent Office with its miscellaneous
treasures; to point with pride to the rich gifts from crowned heads
which our adored first President was too conscientious to accept; to
walk among the stones lying around the base of the unfinished monument
and read the inscriptions from the states presenting them; to spend a
day at the Smithsonian Institution, and to introduce our friends to its
president, Mr. Henry; and to Mr. Spencer Baird and Mr. Gerard, eminent
naturalists, who were giving their lives to the study of birds, beasts,
and fishes,—finding them, Mr. Gerard said, "so much more interesting
than men," adding hastily, "we do not say ladies," and blushing after
the manner of cloistered scholars; to tell them interesting things
about Mr. Gerard who was a melancholy young man, and who had confided
to me that he had sustained a great sorrow. Had he lost his fortune,
or been crossed in love, was he homesick for his native Switzerland?
Worse than any one or all of these! He had been sent once to Nantucket
in the interests of his profession. There he had found a strange fish,
hitherto unknown to science. He had classified its bones and laid them
out on his table to count them. In a moment's absence the housemaid had
entered and dusted his table.

Then the visits to the galleries of the House and Senate Chamber,
and the honor of pointing out the great men to our friends from rural
districts; the long listening to interminable speeches, not clearly
understood, but heard with a reverent conviction that all was coming out
right in the end, that everybody was really working for the good of his
country, and that we belonged to it all and were parts of it all.

This was the thought behind all other thoughts which glorified
everything around us, enhanced every fortunate circumstance, and caused
us to ignore the real discomforts of life in Washington: the cold,
the ice-laden streets in winter; the whirlwinds of dust and driving
rains of spring; the swift-coming fierceness of summer heat; the rapid
atmospheric changes which would give us all these extremes in one week,
or even one day, until it became the part of prudence never to sally
forth on any expedition without "a fan, an overcoat, and an umbrella."

The social life in Washington was almost as variable as the climate.
At the end of every four years the kaleidoscope turned, and lo!—a new
central jewel and new colors and combinations in the setting.

But behind this "floating population," as the political circles were
termed, there was a fine society in the fifties of "old residents" who
never bent the knee to Baal. This society was sufficient to itself,
never seeking the new, while accepting it occasionally with discretion,
reservations, and much discriminating care. The sisters, Mrs. Gales and
Mrs. Seaton, wives of the editors of the _National Intelligencer_, led
this society. Mrs. Gales's home was outside the city, and thence every
day Mr. Gales was driven in his barouche to his office. His paper was
the exponent of the Old-Line Whigs (the Republican party was formed
later) and in stern opposition to the Democrats. It was, therefore, a
special and unexpected honor for a Democrat to be permitted to drive
out to "the cottage" for a glass of wine and a bit of fruit-cake
with Mrs. Gales and Mrs. Seaton. Never have I seen these gentlewomen
excelled in genial hospitality. Mrs. Gales was a superb old lady and a
fine conversationalist. She had the courteous repose born of dignity
and intelligence. She was literally her husband's right hand,—he had
lost his own,—and was the only person who could decipher his left-hand
writing. So that when anything appeared from his pen it had been copied
by his wife before it reached the type-setter. A fine education this
for an intelligent woman; the very best schooling for a social life
including diplomats from foreign countries, politicians of diverse
opinions, artists, authors, musicians, women of fashion, to entertain
whom required infinite tact, cleverness, and an intimate acquaintance
with the absorbing questions of the day.

Of course the levees and state receptions, which were accessible to all,
required none of these things. The role of hostess on state occasions
could be filled creditably by any woman of ordinary physical strength,
patience, and self-control, who knew when to be silent.

Washington society, at the time of which I write, was comparatively
free from non-official men of wealth from other cities who, weary with
the monotonous round of travel,—to the Riviera, to Egypt, to Monte
Carlo,—are attracted by the unique atmosphere of a city holding many
foreigners, and devoted not to commercial but to social and political
interests. The doors of the White House and Cabinet offices being open
on occasions to all, they have opportunities denied them in their own
homes. Society in Washington in the fifties was peculiarly interesting
in that it was composed exclusively of men whose presence argued them to
have been of importance at home. They had been elected by the people,
or chosen by the President, or selected among the very best in foreign
countries; or they belonged to the United States Army or Navy service,
or to the descendants of the select society which had gathered in the
city early in its history.

During the Fillmore administration there were peculiar elements in
Washington society. The President was born of poor English parents. At
the age of fifteen he was apprentice to a wool-carder in Livingston
County, New York, representing in his father's mind no higher hope
than gradual advancement until he should attain the proud place of
woollen-draper. But at nineteen he had entered a lawyer's office,
working all day, teaching and studying at night. When he became
President his tastes had been sufficiently ripened to enable him to
gather around him men of literary taste and attainment. John P. Kennedy,
an author and a man of elegant accomplishments, was Secretary of the
Navy. Washington Irving was Kennedy's friend, and often his guest.
Lesser lights in the world of letters found Washington an agreeable
residence. We knew many of these men, and among them none was brighter,
wittier, or more genial than G. P. R. James, the English novelist whose
star rose and set before 1860. He was the most prolific of writers,
"Like an endless chain of buckets in a well," said one; "as fast as one
is emptied up comes another."

We were very fond of Mr. James. One day he dashed in, much excited:—

"Have you seen the _Intelligencer_? By George, it's all true! Six times
has my hero, a 'solitary horseman,' emerged from a wood! My word! I was
totally unconscious of it! Fancy it! Six times! Well, it's all up with
that fellow. He has got to dismount and enter on foot: a beggar, or
burglar, or pedler, or at best a mendicant friar."

"But," suggested one, "he might drive, mightn't he?"

"Impossible!" said Mr. James. "Imagine a hero in a gig or a curricle!"

"Perhaps," said one, "the word 'solitary' has given offence. Americans
dislike exclusiveness. They are sensitive, you see, and look out for
snobs."

He made himself very merry over it; but the solitary horseman appeared
no more in the few novels he was yet to write.

One day, after a pleasant visit from Mr. James and his wife, I
accompanied them at parting to the front door, and found some difficulty
in turning the bolt. He offered to assist, but I said no—he was not
supposed to understand the mystery of an American front door.

Having occasion a few minutes afterward to open the door for another
departing guest, there on his knees outside was Mr. James, who
laughingly explained that he had left his wife at the corner, and had
come back to investigate that mystery. "Perhaps you will tell me," he
added, and was much amused to learn that the American door opened of
itself to an incoming guest, but positively refused without coaxing
to let him out. "By George, that's fine!" he said, "that'll please the
critics in my next." I never knew whether it was admitted, for I must
confess that, even with the stimulus of his presence, his books were
dreary reading to my uninstructed taste.

A very lovely and charming actress was prominent in Washington society
at this time,—the daughter of an old New York family, Anna Cora (Ogden)
Mowatt. She was especially interesting to Virginians, for she had
captivated Foushee Ritchie, soon afterward my husband's partner on the
editorship of the _Richmond Enquirer_. Mr. Ritchie, a confirmed old
bachelor, had been fascinated by Mrs. Mowatt's Parthenia (in "Ingomar")
and was now engaged to her. He proudly brought to me a pair of velvet
slippers she had embroidered for him, working around them as a border
a quotation from "Ingomar":—

     "Two souls with but a single thought,
     Two hearts that beat as one."

And oh, _how_ angry he was when an irreverent voice whispered one word,
"Soles!"

"Cora must never hear of this," he declared indignantly; "she is, beyond
all women, incapable of _double entendre_, of coarse allusion."

Alas! I cannot conclude my little story, "And they were married and
lived happily ever after." They were married—and lived miserably—and
were separated ever after. The single thought was how they could best
escape each other—and the two hearts beat as one in the desire for
freedom.

"The shadow of the coming war was even then beginning to darken the
land and confuse legislation with bitter partisanship and continuous
attempts at an impossible compromise," but, alas! our eyes were holden
so we could not see.



CHAPTER II

PRESIDENT PIERCE'S INAUGURATION


On the 4th of March, 1853, Franklin Pierce was inaugurated President
of the United States. This was an exciting day for me. My husband had
written articles for a Virginia paper which had won for him a place on
the editorial staff of the _Washington Union_, and was now in a position
to break a lance with my friends, Messrs. Gales and Seaton. Mr. Pierce
had liked his articles in the _Union_, and sought his acquaintance. A
friendship rapidly followed which was a happiness to us both. So when
some member of the staff of the Democratic organ must be consulted about
the inaugural address, the President had sent for my young husband and
had taken counsel with him.

I was delighted when I received an invitation from my good friends of
the Smithsonian Institution to join them in a pleasant room opening
on a balcony and overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue, where we were to
have a collation and witness the parade. My husband's sixteen-year-old
sister, Fanny, was with me, and she was literally wild with delight.
The rest of the party were Mr. and Mrs. Spencer Baird, little Lucy
Baird, Mr. Gerard, and Mr. Turner. Little eight-year-old Lucy was the
belle of the occasion; so wise in scientific matters, knowing so much
about "specimens" and "extinct species" that we felt ourselves heavy
and ignorant beside her. "Come now, Lucy," said Mr. Turner, "I expect
you to take care of me on this occasion. These are painful scenes for
an Englishman. When you see the Continental troops coming, give me the
wink, and I'll slip away and stir the punch. Those are the fellows who
whipped the British!"

The elements frowned upon the change of administration. The sun was
blanketed with dark clouds, from which the snow fell thickly—not a
soft, enfolding snow, but snow driven by an angry wind. The crowd in
the avenue was immense; swelled by the presence of the largest number
of strangers ever before gathered at an Inauguration, the majority of
whom were members of the mighty army of office-seekers from the party
recently come into power. From the White House to the Capitol, windows,
balconies, and roofs were thronged; and the sidewalks of the avenue
were filled with a motley crowd of men, women, and children, foreigners,
government clerks, and negroes.

About twelve o'clock the boom of a great gun announced the moving of
the procession. The throng in the streets surged toward the gates of
the Capitol, and "lined up" on either side awaiting the arrival of the
cortège. Carriages filled with women and children, some of them with
the emblazoned panels of foreign ministers, passed rapidly in advance
of the cavalcade—the police actively engaged the while in keeping the
waiting crowd within bounds. Presently distant music was heard, and a
mighty cheer announced the near approach of the escort. Six marshals in
gay scarfs led the procession. Then came the "flying artillery," drawn
by fifty or more horses. An interval, and then platoons of soldiers of
diverse battalions filled square after square, and band after band of
martial music mingled with the cheers of the crowd.

We were all out now on the balcony, little Lucy keenly alert. Presently
she touched Mr. Turner on his arm and he fled! The Continentals were
passing.

Following these, in an open carriage drawn by four fine horses, came
our President: the youngest, handsomest President we had ever elected.
As he neared our balcony we stood up, waved and cheered, and threw him
flowers, and so winning in their enthusiasm were little Lucy (her mind
being now quite at rest about Mr. Turner) and my own young sister, that
the President rose and bared his head to us.

A platform had been erected over the steps of the east wing, and on it
was a table holding a Bible. The distinguished officials of the time
were seated around this table, and beneath it the crowd pushed and
scrambled and struggled for place within hearing. Instantly there was
silence. The slender, almost boyish figure of our President approached
the table, and with bared head under the falling snow stood for a moment
surveying the crowd.

His face was pale, and his countenance wore an expression of weary
sadness. When he took the oath he did not, as is the custom, use the
word "swear." Placing his left hand on the Bible without raising the
book, he raised his right and, looking upward, "affirmed" that, God
helping him, he would be faithful to his trust.

There were tears in his voice, but it was musical, and his enunciation
was clear and distinct.

Only two months before, his only child, a beautiful boy of thirteen, had
been killed in a railroad collision—killed before his parents' eyes! His
address began, "My countrymen! It is a relief to feel that no heart but
my own can know the personal regret and bitter sorrow over which I have
been borne to a position so suitable for others rather than desirable
for myself."

The public does not tolerate the intrusion of a man's personal joys
and griefs into his official life. However willing the world may be
to sympathize, it considers this indicative of a mind lacking fineness
and delicacy. To keep one's inner self in the background should be the
instinct, and is surely the policy, of every man and woman who aspires
to popularity.

There were many who quickly criticised this unfortunate sentence of the
President. The Whig journals sneered at it as "a trick of the orator to
awaken personal interest before proceeding to unfold his public policy."
But he had the sympathetic tears of many of his audience.

His address went on to discuss the annexation of Cuba—a dream which
lasted through many subsequent years. The Pearl of the Antilles was
ardently coveted as a pendant to our chain of states, but she will
never belong to us, unless as the result of more misfortune. The
President then pledged himself to the never dying Monroe Doctrine,
prayed appealingly for the preservation of our Union, and touched upon
the troubled questions which, despite all our wars and sufferings, are
not yet fully settled. And then, amid cheers and shouts and salvos of
artillery, he was driven to his new home, and it was all over.

Three days after the inauguration the Cabinet nominations were sent
to the Senate. Mr. Marcy was to be Secretary of State; Mr. Guthrie,
Secretary of the Treasury; Jefferson Davis, of War; James Dobbin,
of the Navy; Robert McClelland, of the Interior; James Campbell,
Postmaster-General; Caleb Cushing, Attorney-General—four men from the
North, three from the South. These, then, with their families, were
to lead the social life of Washington for four years. The Executive
Mansion, shrouded in gloom, could never become a social centre.

We had the honor of knowing well the three most distinguished of these
men, Mr. Marcy, Mr. Davis, and Mr. Cushing.

Mr. Marcy, the best-known member of the Cabinet, strong, honest, and an
adroit politician, was a man of rugged and abrupt manners, yet a great
favorite with the ladies. We at once became keenly interested in his
initial proceedings. He was sternly democratic in his ideas. Absorbing
as were the cares of his department, exciting and menacing as were the
questions of the hour, he inaugurated his official life by settling
matters of dress and etiquette—so far as they related to the presence of
American envoys at foreign courts. President Jackson had been supposed
to be democratic, but he was a bloated aristocrat beside Mr. Marcy.
Jackson had rejected the prescribed court dress,—embroidered cuffs and
cape, white breeches, gold knee-buckles, white silk stockings, gold
shoe-buckles, chapeau-bras, cockade, eagle, white feather, and sword.
Alackaday, that we should have lost all this bravery! Jackson decreed no
cape at all (such a friendly fashion to laden shoulders), no embroidery
except a gold star on the coat-collar,—but breeches and modest buckles,
a sword, a chapeau-bras with eagle and cockade.

Now why should Mr. Marcy make trouble by meddling with the cut of
the garments of our representatives abroad—at a time, too, when such
a number of serious questions were about to come before him; when
filibusters were at work, a war with Spain imminent, treaties to be made
with Mexico, and fishery questions to be settled with England? Simply,
I suppose, because great men all over the world have condescended
to prescribe in trifling matters—matters belonging to the chef, the
milliner, the arbiter of fleeting fashions. It would seem that the
greater the man the greater his appreciation of trifles. Everything
to him is important—from the signing of a treaty to the tying of a
shoestring.

The consequences of Mr. Marcy's meddling were far-reaching. On June 1,
1853, he issued a circular recommending that our representatives abroad
should, in order to show their devotion to republican institutions,
appear whenever practicable in the simple dress of an American citizen.

Our Minister at Berne found the court of Switzerland quite willing
to receive him in his citizen's dress. The Ministers at Turin and
Brussels reported they would have no difficulty in carrying out the
instructions of the State Department. The representative at Berlin was
at once informed that such action would be considered disrespectful.
The king of Sweden insisted on court dress at social functions. Mr.
August Belmont, at The Hague, received a cold permission from the king
to dress as he pleased—and it is recorded (as matter for gratitude on
the part of the American Minister) that after all, and notwithstanding,
the queen actually danced with him in his citizen's dress, and the king
condescended to shake him by the hand and to talk with him!

Mr. Mason, at the French court, could not face the music! He consulted
his wife, and together they agreed upon a compromise. He appeared in
an embroidered coat, sword, and cocked hat, and had the misfortune to
receive from Mr. Marcy a severe rebuke.

Mr. Buchanan, at the court of St. James, having no wife to consult,
thought long and anxiously on the subject. The question was still
unsettled at the opening of Parliament in February, 1854. Our Minister
did not attend,—he had "nothing to wear,"—whereupon "there was quite
a sensation in the House of Lords." "Indeed," he wrote to Mr. Marcy,
"I have found difficulty in preventing this incident from becoming a
subject of inquiry and remark in the House of Commons." Think of that!
At a time when England was on the eve of a war with Russia, all the
newspapers, court officials, House of Commons, exercised about the dress
of the American Minister! The _London Times_ stated that on a diplomatic
occasion "the American Minister sate unpleasantly conscious of his
singularity." The _London Chronicle_ blamed General Pierce's republican
ill manners, and the "American puppyism," and continued: "There is
not the least reason why her Majesty should be troubled to receive the
'gentleman in the black coat' from Yankee-land! He can say his say at
the Foreign Office, dine at a chop-house in King Street, sleep at the
old Hummums, and be off as he came, per liner, when his business is
done."

Poor Mr. Buchanan, sorely pressed, conceived the idea of costuming
himself like General Washington, and to that end examined Stuart's
portrait. He may even have gone so far as to indulge in a private
rehearsal—_queue_, powdered wig, and all; but he seems to have perceived
he would only make himself ridiculous; so he took his life in his hands
and—brave gentleman as he was—appeared at the queen's levee in the
dress of an American citizen; and she, true lady as she was, settled the
matter, for her court at least, by receiving him as she did all others.
Mr. Buchanan wrote to his niece, Miss Harriet Lane, "I wore a sword to
gratify those who yielded so much, and to distinguish me from the upper
court servants."

Mr. Soulé, at the court of Madrid, adopted the costume of Benjamin
Franklin at the court of Louis XVI—sword, chapeau, black velvet, and
much embroidery, looking, "with his black eyes, black looks, and pale
complexion, less like the philosopher whose costume he imitated than
the master of Ravenswood." There had been a lively discussion among the
Austrian and Mexican Ministers and the Countess of Montijo, the mother
of the Empress Eugénie and of the Duchess of Alba, whether or no he
should be rejected; but Mr. Soulé did not know this. The queen received
him, he wrote to Mr. Marcy, "with marked attention and courtesy."

There is no telling whether this simple deviation from the prescribed
court dress was not the real cause of Mr. Soulé's serious troubles
at court. It was the Duke of Alba who provided the spark which fired
the train of Spanish indignation against him and occasioned a quarrel
which resulted in two duels and strained relations which were never
reconciled.

It is always dangerous to infringe upon accepted rules of etiquette,
even in association with those who are themselves defiant of these
rules. I discovered that Mr. Marcy was very jealous of respect due to
himself, as well as to his government.

He was a prime favorite, as I have said, with the ladies—and with none
more than the charming family of "Father Ritchie," as we called one
of Washington's most esteemed citizens. Mr. Ritchie had been editor
for forty years of the _Richmond Enquirer_, which he had founded under
the auspices of Thomas Jefferson, and made one of the most influential
Democratic papers of the country. His home in Washington was noted for
elegant hospitality. He lived next door to Mr. Corcoran on Lafayette
Square, near St. John's Church. He had lovely daughters, and whenever
Mr. Marcy appeared in the salons of the town, one or more of these
ladies was sure to be with him.

It so happened that some of us were much interested in a poor,
worthy young man, who desired a position in the State Department. His
application had long ago been filed in the office and we were afraid
he had been forgotten. We longed to ask Mr. Marcy about it, but did not
know how we could manage to bring the subject to his notice.

"Let's make Ann Eliza ask him," suggested one. Now, Ann Eliza Ritchie
was a beauty, as fascinating a young creature as the Lord ever made,
irresistible alike to man and woman. She hesitated,—everybody was afraid
of Mr. Marcy—but goaded on by us, she ventured:—

"Oh, Mr. Marcy" (Virginia girls always begin with "Oh"), "Oh, Mr. Marcy!
They all want to know if you are going to appoint Mr. Randolph in your
department."

The lion turned. He did not growl, he simply roared: "_What_ do you
mean, madame? How _dare_ you take the bull by the horns in this unseemly
manner?"

And so no more of Ann Eliza Ritchie. And so no more of the rest of us.
We learned a lesson we never forgot; namely, not to meddle in Cabinet
affairs, but to content ourselves with the honor of amusing great
men,—in short, to know our place and keep it.

Mr. Jefferson Davis had been an eminent public man long before the
presidency of Mr. Pierce. He was a graduate of West Point. He had been
an officer in the Indian wars. He was in the House of Representatives
at the age of thirty-seven. John Quincy Adams heard his maiden speech
and said: "That young man is no ordinary man. He will make his mark yet,
mind me." His devotion to reading and study amounted to a passion. He
had served as a colonel in the Mexican War. It was said of him that "his
brilliant movement at Buena Vista carried the day, and that his tactical
conception was worthy of a Cæsar or a Napoleon."[2]

He was afterward a member for four years of the United States Senate,
and although defeated in a gubernatorial contest in Mississippi, he
rose rapidly in the esteem of the people of his own section; and now,
at the age of forty-five, he was the "leader of the Southern people,
and successor of John C. Calhoun." He was leader a few years later in
the Battle of the Giants, fought so bitterly in Mr. Buchanan's time.

Of Mr. Caleb Cushing I knew less than I did of Mr. Davis and Mr.
Marcy. He had great learning, great ability, wide experience in public
life. He has been described as a "scholar, author, lawyer, statesman,
diplomatist, general, and judge." He was one of the rare class of men
who are precocious in childhood and youth, and who go intellectually
from strength to strength as long as they live. He was graduated from
Harvard when only seventeen years of age. He was a most attractive man
in manner and address, and a fascinating public speaker. He could quote
the "Iliad" from beginning to end, and could speak to each one of the
foreign ambassadors in his own tongue.

Mr. Cushing sent an editorial nearly every day to the _Washington
Union_, of which my husband was associate editor. No compliment upon
his own articles which my husband ever received was more gratefully
appreciated than one from Mr. Cushing. A serious difference of
opinion had arisen with the senior editor, because of a paper upon
the Anglo-Russian war, in which my husband warmly advocated the side
of Russia. He declined retracting his words (which were copied and
translated abroad), and finally gave up his position on the paper rather
than express sentiments other than his own. Mr. Cushing applauded
him, and bade him stand fearlessly by an argument, "unanswered and
unanswerable."

Shortly after this Mr. Pierce appointed my husband special Minister to
Greece. I longed to go with him to Athens, but my mother's health was
frail, and I felt I could not leave her. So I returned to my home in
Virginia with my children, and their father went on his mission alone.
When it was accomplished, the Pierce administration was drawing to a
close.

My temporary home was near Charlottesville, and thither, on his way
South, came the President to spend a day and to visit Monticello, the
home of the Father of Democracy. He wrote to me, inviting me to spend
the evening with him and a few friends at his hotel. We had a delightful
evening. He told me all I wished to know of the exile far away in
Greece, expressed warm friendship for him and his, and presented me with
two gorgeous volumes, bound sumptuously in green morocco, and inscribed,
from my "friend Franklin Pierce," in his own fine handwriting. I played
at his request, he sitting the while beside the piano. I selected
Henselt's "L'Elisire d'Amour" and "La Gondola," to the great delight
of the President. The other day I read, from the pen of some irreverent
critic, of the "lilting puerilities of the innocuous Henselt." All the
same, these puerilities pleased the President, and will charm the world
until the end of time.

I feel that I have said too little of Mr. Pierce in this sketch of
the men we knew. I cannot hope to convey an adequate conception of
his captivating voice and manner. Surely its source was in genuine
kindness of heart. I knew nothing of him as a politician. It was urged
against him that he was extremely partial to the South. I know the
South honored and loved him always. It was said that "Franklin Pierce
could not say 'No'"—a weakness which doubtless caused him a world of
trouble in his political relations, but to which he may have owed
something of the indescribable charm for which he was conspicuous.
Mr. Seward, his political opponent, wrote to his wife: "The President
has a _very_ winning way in his manners." I can fully understand the
beautiful friendship between him and Nathaniel Hawthorne. How exquisite
the answer of the author when chidden because he had dedicated a book
to the President, after the latter had become unpopular: "Unpopular, is
he? If he is so exceedingly unpopular that his name is enough to sink
the volume, there is so much the more need that an old friend should
stand by him."

Hawthorne had then arrived at the height of his own popularity, while
his friend, on account of his fancied Southern sympathies, had lost the
friendship of his own people. A bitter lot for a sensitive patriot, who
had done his best! "An angel can no more!"

My residence in Washington during the Pierce administration was too
short to afford me more than a brief glimpse of the social life of the
city, but I keenly enjoyed that glimpse. I had the good fortune to find
favor, as I have said, with the old residents, and also with the Hon.
W. W. Corcoran, at whose house the best of the old and new could always
be found.

There I met many distinguished people. I remember especially General
Winfield Scott, Sam Houston, and Washington Irving. General Scott,
grand, imposing, and ceremonious, never failed to tell everybody that
he had been groomsman for my husband's father—he had been born in
Petersburg, Virginia. He addressed all young women as "fair lady." He
was a great hero and a splendid old fellow in every particular, and he
never for a moment forgot his heroism and his splendor. People called
him "vain." So great a man could not be accused of vanity—"the food of
fools." He had a reasonable pride in what he had achieved, but his was
certainly not the kind of pride that apes humility.

As for old Sam Houston, he had had romance enough in his past life for
a dozen heroes. He had lived many years among the Indians, had fought
in many wars, had achieved the independence of Texas—what had he not
done? Now he was Senator from Texas, very popular, and rather impatient,
one might judge, of the confinement and restraints of his position. It
was amusing to see the little pages of the Senate Chamber providing him
with small bundles of soft pine sticks, which he would smuggle into his
desk with a rather shamefaced expression. Doubled up over this desk, his
face almost covered with his hanging eyebrows and iron-gray whiskers, he
occupied himself in whittling sticks as a safety-valve for unrest while
listening to the long speeches, lasting sometimes until midnight. He
would prove afterward in his brilliant conversation that he had not lost
a word. Sometimes the pine under his knife would take shape in little
crosses, amulets, etc. He was known, now and then, to draw from the
pocket of his tiger-skin vest an exquisitely carved heart and present
it to some young lady whose beauty attracted him.

Then there was Washington Irving,—an old man with but a few years to
live. He died before the end of the next administration. One would never
think him old,—so keen and alert was he,—but for his trick of suddenly
falling asleep for a minute or two in the middle of a conversation.
A whisper, "Sh-h-h," would pass from one to another, "Mr. Irving is
asleep;" and in a moment he would wake up, rub his hands, and exclaim,
"Well, as we were saying," taking up the conversation just where he had
left it.

My little sister worshipped Mr. Irving. "Only let me see him," she
pleaded; "only let me touch the hand that wrote the 'Sketch Book.'"

I repeated this when I introduced her, and he said: "Ah, yes, yes! I
know! I have heard all that before—many times before. And just as I am
getting happy over it, here comes a young fellow, some whipper-snapper
who never wrote a line, and [mimicking] it's 'Good evening, Mr. Irving,
I am glad to have met you.'"

It happened that my sister had not heard. She was already distraite.
Her favorite friend had appeared, and she at once echoed, "Good
evening, Mr. Irving, I am glad to have met you," to the old gentleman's
infinite delight and amusement. I was proud to have had even a word with
"America's most celebrated writer: exquisite in courtesy and fidelity
and of lofty purity of character." He died in 1859—the heart which had
ached so long for the death of an early love failing him suddenly at
"Sleepy Hollow," his home on the Hudson. His country scarcely noticed
his death! That country, crazed on the subject of slavery, was writing
columns on columns about John Brown.

One morning, when I was passing the corner of Fifteenth Street, below
President Square, my steps were arrested by a large crowd which had
assembled in front of the bank of Corcoran & Riggs. "Dear me," I
thought, "has the bank failed?" But the green blinds of the plain
two-storied building were all open, and presently through the opening
door, escorted by Mr. Riggs himself, came a slight little maid in a
Connemara cloak and hood. Mr. Riggs put her in a waiting carriage,
slammed the door, and, with a look which said plainly to the waiting
crowd, "No more this time," reëntered the house.

The little lady was Adelina Patti—just sixteen—and Mr. Riggs's guest
during the few days she spent in Washington on her way to meet Southern
engagements. Congressmen tendered her a complimentary benefit, and she
sang in a small hall, supported by a few local musicians. She stood
before us in a simple muslin slip, her dark hair bound with a narrow
blue velvet ribbon,—a Scottish "snood,"—and never, in all her brilliant
life, was she more appreciated, more admired.

I could remember a time of musical dearth in Virginia, relieved only
by rare occasions when the dimly lighted concert rooms would be filled
by eager listeners to wandering minstrels: the Hutchinson family, Anna
Bishop, the Orpheans, Parodi, and Amalia Patti. After a while Strakosch
appeared with an infant phenomenon. She looked precisely like a French
doll, with her little round face, pink cheeks, and big black eyes,
dressed in short frocks of rose-color or blue silk. But she sang like a
linnet on a bough; and it was comical to see her in her duets inclining
her small head toward her contralto, after the manner of other divas.
This was the ten-year-old Adelina Patti!

"What does she keep in her throat?" asked a little girl near her own
age—adding comfortably, "Never mind, we will find out when she dies!"

Maurice Strakosch accompanied her on a square piano placed upon the
floor, the platform being often too narrow to admit it. He played,
frequently turning his face to the audience, nodding and smiling, as if
to say:—

"See this little marvel I have discovered! Is she not a darling?"

The midget had an uncertain temper in those days. Travelling once in
the same car with a lady who took her fancy, she found an opportunity
to free her mind of her opinion of her troupe: Amalia was jealous
of her; Amalia would shake and pinch her behind the scenes if the
audience applauded her; Strakosch was utterly horrid—just observe his
great hands! Not for worlds would she sing for him were it not for the
sugar-plums!

At the end of the journey Strakosch approached the little girl and held
out his hand to take her to her sister.

"I am not going with you," said Adelina, "I am going home with this
lady."

"Ah, but impossible!" said Strakosch.

"I will!" said the small rebel. "You know I always do things when I say
'I will.'"

"Why not?" said the lady (she was Mrs. Glasgow, the lovely mother of
Ellen Glasgow, the authoress). "Why not? Let her come with me! I will
take good care of her."

Strakosch shrugged his shoulders. A scene was imminent. "If I consent,
Adelina," he said at last, "will you be sure to be ready when I come
for you for rehearsal? Will you be sure to sing?"

"Will _you_ be sure to bring me back?"

"Sure—I promise."

"How much candy?" was the next excited question.

"A whole pound."

"No—not enough!"

"Two pounds," said Strakosch, glancing around to satisfy himself that
the scene attracted admirers and possible concert goers.

"Not enough," persisted Adelina, shaking her head.

"A hatful!" cried Strakosch, and won the day.

Mrs. Glasgow devoted herself to the little girl for the four days of her
stay. On the last evening she invited ten or fifteen child neighbors to
a dolls' party with Adelina Patti. At the end of the evening she said:
"Now, Adelina, these little girls have been very kind to you. They have
brought you lovely flowers—I wish you to sing one little song for them."

A shrewd look possessed the tiny face. "_Sing—for—them!_ Sing without
money! Mais non! J'ai toujours beaucoup des fleurs."

She disappeared for a while from public view. I saw her no more
until her visit to Washington. Later, if I may anticipate, during Mr.
Buchanan's administration, she made her début in "Lucia di Lammermoor."
People fought for seats and boxes. Three rival beauties secured the
three best—tiny, comfortless stalls—at ninety dollars each. It was
something to see Miss Harriet Lane, Mrs. John R. Thompson, and Mrs.
Stephen A. Douglas in those three boxes! Each was filled with beautiful
women, and the Cabinet officers and Senators stood behind.

"What is all this about?" asked Judge Douglas, the "Little Giant."

"The opera follows Scott's 'Bride of Lammermoor,'" I gently suggested.

"Whose bride was she? Where did she live?" asked the mighty man, the
famous Senator who came so near being President.

"I doubt whether she lived at all," I told him. "She is a creature of
pure imagination, I'm afraid."

"Oh!" said the Senator, contemptuously, and gave no more attention to
the stage nor to the divine artist upon it.

As I had come to Washington from Virginia, where everybody's
great-grandfather knew my great-grandfather, where the rules of
etiquette were only those of courtesy and good breeding, I had many a
troubled moment in my early Washington life, lest I should transgress
some law of precedence, etc. I wisely took counsel with one of my
"old residents," and she gave me a few simple rules whereby the young
chaperon of a very young girl might be guided: "My dear," said this
lady, "My dear, you know you cannot always have your husband to attend
you. It will be altogether proper for you to go with your sister to
morning and afternoon receptions. When you arrive, send for the host or
the master of ceremonies, and he will take you in and present you. Of
course, your husband will take you to balls; if he is busy, you simply
cannot go! I think you would do well to make a rule _never_, under any
circumstances, to drive in men's carriages. There are so many foreigners
here, you must be careful. They never bring their own court manners to
Washington. They take their cue from the people they meet. If you are
high and haughty, they will be high and haughty. If you are genially
civil but reserved, they will be so. If you talk personalities in a free
and easy way, they will spring some audacious piece of scandal on you,
and the Lord only knows where they'll end."

Now, it so happened that I had just received a request from a Frenchman
who had brought letters, to be allowed to escort Madame and Mademoiselle
to a fête in Georgetown. We were to drive through the avenue of
blossoming crab-apples, and rendezvous at a spring for a picnic. I
forget the name of our hostess, but she had arranged a gay festival,
including music and dancing on the green. I had accepted this invitation
and the escort of M. Raoul, and received a note from him asking at what
hour he should have the honor, etc., and I immediately ran home and
wrote that "Madame would be happy to see M. Raoul _à trois heures_"—and
that Madame asked the privilege of using her own horses, etc. I made
haste to engage an open carriage and congratulated myself on my clever
management.

The afternoon was delicious. Monsieur appeared on the moment, and
we waited for my carriage. The gay equipages of other members of the
party drove up and waited for us. Presently, rattling down the street,
came an old ramshackle "night-hawk," bearing the mud-and-dust scars
of many journeys, the seats ragged and tarnished, raw-boned horses,
with rat-eaten manes and tails, harness tied with rope,—the only
redeeming feature the old negro on the box, who, despite his humiliating
_entourage_, had the air of a gentleman.

What could I do? There was nothing to be done!

Monsieur handed me in without moving a muscle of his face, handed in
my sister, entered himself, and spoke no word during the drive. He
conducted us gravely to the place of rendezvous, silently and gravely
walked around the grounds with us, silently and gravely brought us home
again.

I grew hot and cold by turns, and almost shed tears of mortification. I
made no apology—what could I say? Arriving at my own door, I turned and
invited my escort to enter. He raised his hat and, with an air of the
deepest dejection, dashed with something very like sarcastic humility,
said he trusted Madame had enjoyed the afternoon—thanked her for the
honor done himself—and only regretted the disappointment of the French
Minister, the Count de Sartiges, at not having been allowed to serve
Madame with his own state coach, which had been placed at his disposal
for Madame's pleasure!

As he turned away my chagrin was such I came near forgetting to give my
coachman his little "tip."

I began, "Oh, Uncle, how _could_ you?" when he interrupted: "Now,
Mistis, don't you say nothin'. I knowed dis ole fune'al hack warn't
fittin' for you, but der warn't nar another kerridge in de stable. De
boss say, 'Go 'long, Jerry, an' git 'er dar!'—an' I done done it! An'
I done fotch 'er back, too!"

I never saw M. Raoul afterward. There's no use crying over spilt
milk, or broken eggs, or French monsieurs, or even French counts and
Ministers. I soon left for Virginia, and to be relieved of the dread of
meeting M. Raoul softened my regret at leaving Washington.



CHAPTER III

ADMINISTRATION OF PRESIDENT BUCHANAN


Two days after Mr. Buchanan's inauguration, the nominations for the
Cabinet were sent to the Senate. The venerable Lewis Cass, with many
years of honorable service behind him, was Secretary of State,—selected,
the "Old-Line Whigs" said, because the President meant really to be
Secretary of State himself, and he wished an amiable first assistant.
Moreover, he liked to say "old Lewis Cass," as though he were himself so
much younger. Hon. Howell Cobb of Georgia had the Treasury Department.
He was a man of political ability, "frank and genial," sagacious and
conservative, "qualities fitting him well to dominate his associates."
Mr. Floyd, who "belonged to the first families of Virginia," was
the Secretary of War. Mr. Toucey of Connecticut was Secretary of the
Navy, Mr. Jacob Thompson of Mississippi, Secretary of the Interior,
Mr. Brown of Tennessee, Postmaster-General, and Judge Jeremiah Black,
Attorney-General,—three from the North, four from the South. The new
Cabinet, people said, was far inferior in capacity to the retiring one.

The new President was a bachelor. Despite his years and his cold,
reserved manner, his fidelity to the memory of beautiful Miss Coleman,
to whom he had been affianced in his youth, invested him with the
interest which attaches to romance. This was enhanced by his devotion to
his niece, Miss Harriet Lane. In her affection he found the only solace
of his lonely life. For her sake he condescended to unbend in public;
and to brighten the atmosphere around her, he sometimes became quite
a jaunty old bachelor. She was his confidante in all matters political
and personal. A stately etiquette ruled between the two. She was always
addressed as "Miss Harriet," and to her he was "The President"—never
"Uncle Buchanan," except on the rare occasions when she considered it
worth her while to coax him in order to carry a point.

Washington was never gayer than during this administration, more
memorable than any other except Washington's and Lincoln's. The mighty
giants of the House and Senate were there, the men who must be held
largely responsible for that most unnecessary, cruel, and wicked war—the
war between the Northern and Southern states of America. Washington was
the storm centre, charged with the electric forces so soon to burst in
fury upon the country.

But before we enter upon these troubled times, we will live over again
some of the happy, care-forgetting months of our life in Washington.

My husband who had succeeded Mr. Ritchie as one of the editors of the
_Richmond Enquirer_ was now a member of Congress. He had accomplished
his mission to Greece to the satisfaction of his government and to his
own pleasure and profit. With a good courier and a generous country
at his back, he had traversed Europe, had seen Venice rise from the
sea, had revelled in the grandeur that was—and is—Rome, had beheld
the mosques and minarets of the Byzantine city from the waters of the
Golden Horn, had looked into the inscrutable eyes of the Sphinx, and
had finally taken up his abode under the shadow of the Acropolis. There
he had met the "Maid of Athens," now stout, middle-aged Mrs. Black, so
the poor American Minister, who was young and romantic,—in order to
understand the passionate entreaty of Byron to return the wandering
heart of him or else take the rest of him,—was constrained to think
of the poem, and look the while at a dark-eyed Greek beauty named
"Elpis"—at least this was the explanation made to me of his frequent
allusions in his letters to the latter. There, too, he had charmed
Queen Mathilde with a description of the night-blooming cereus of this
country and had stricken the court of King Otho dumb with amazement by
outrageous American boasting.

"Kindly tell us, your Excellency," inquired the king at a state banquet,
"what subject most interests your country at the present moment."

"The problem, may it please your Majesty, of how we shall govern our
superfluous territory and invest our superfluous treasure."

This may not have pleased his Majesty, but it certainly astounded
him. Little Greece was, at the moment, hemmed in by organized bands of
brigands and sorely pressed for the means of existence.

Our envoy had the honor, too, of attending, with Madame le Vert, the
ball at the Hôtel de Ville, and of witnessing the opening quadrille,
danced by Victoria and Albert, Louis Napoleon and his sister Mathilde,
the empress being ill. Both queen and princess seemed young and happy,
both attired in white satin flounced with point lace, and wearing a
prince's ransom in jewels.

The weather was fearfully hot, and the royal party danced but once. The
queen did not step a stately measure, dancing "high and disposedly";—but
she entered into the spirit of the hour heartily, and, although the
mother of eight children, danced with the glee of a young girl, growing
withal very red in the face like any ordinary mortal.

At one of the gala days of the Exposition in Paris, a very large woman
attracted much attention. She was neither young nor handsome, but had
a comfortable, well-to-do air of content. A profusion of light curls
clustered around her rotund face. These ringlets were all that was left
of the beauty of the Countess Guiccioli! Alas, there was no "Elpis" at
hand for consolation. All these things and more would have appeared in
a charming volume but for the secession of South Carolina, as will be
seen later on in my story.

I never regretted the loss of this beautiful opportunity in my life.
My mother had been nursed back to bless me and mine a few years
longer. Moreover, I found myself enriched. I had pictures, ravishing
pictures, Raphael's "Belle Jardiniere," a priceless Raffaello Morghen's
proof impression of the "Madonna della Seggiola," Guido's "Aurora"
with its glorious women—the most glorious being (if she would only
turn around) the one with her back to the world. I had many others,
Titian, Domenichino, Murillo, Leonardo da Vinci. I had amber from
Constantinople, curios and antiques from Egypt, corals and cameos from
Naples and Florence, silks from Broussa (afterward swallowed up by an
earthquake), silks and velvets from Lyons, laces from Brussels, perfumes
from the land of Araby the blest,—things mightily consoling to a woman
in her early twenties.

We found a large house on New York Avenue and filled it with good
Virginia servants. Admonished by experience, we secured horses and a
careful coachman.

We had come to stay! My husband represented the old district of his
kinsman, John Randolph of Roanoke, and his constituents were devoted
to him. They would never supplant him with another. Of that we might
be sure. God granting life and health, we were going to be happy young
people.

The market in Washington was abundantly supplied with the finest game
and fish from the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, and the waters
of the Potomac. Brant, ruddy duck, canvasback duck, sora, oysters,
and terrapin were within the reach of any housekeeper. Oysters, to be
opened at a moment's notice, were planted on the cellar floors, and fed
with salt water, and the cellars, as far as the mistress was concerned,
were protected from invasion by the large terrapins kept there—a most
efficient police force, crawling about with their outstretched necks
and wicked eyes.

Such dainties demanded expert cooking. We found in our house a portly
family servant, "Aunt Susan," who had been left as caretaker with
permission to remain or not as the new tenant should please, or as she
herself should please. I fell in love with her on sight and found her
willing to engage with me.

"Can you cook, Aunt Susan?" I imprudently inquired.

"No'm, I don't call myself a cook, but I know a hogfish from a
yellow-bellied perch, and a canvasback duck from a redhead. I could cook
oysters to suit my own white folks."

We had brought with us a number of servants who had lived with us in
Virginia. They were free. We never owned slaves; this one free family
had served us always.

A serious difficulty immediately arose in the kitchen. Susan felt her
dignity insulted. She had supposed I would bring "gentlefolks' servants
from the Eastern Sho'." She had not "counted on free niggers to put on
airs an' boss her in her own kitchen."

My Virginia servants protested absolute humility and innocence. But
that was not all. A French woman, Adele Rivière, was sewing in the
nursery, and an Englishman, George Boyd, was coachman. Susan wanted
"only one mistress," she had "not counted on working for furriners. By
the time she had pleased that Frenchwoman and Englishman and them free
niggers" she "wouldn't have enough sperrit left to wipe her foot on the
door-mat."

A compromise was effected, however. Susan was to be queen on her own
premises; and if she _must_ occasionally "put on airs" herself and
"boss" somebody, why she might always "boss" me.

"I think," said my friend Agnes, "you have very neatly arranged to have
as much trouble as possible. The question of caste will crop up every
hour of the day. If the worst comes to the worst, let them all go except
Susan! Harriet Martineau gives fine advice, for an old maid: 'Never
_nag_ your servants—but if occasion demands, come down upon them like
the day of judgment.'"

"I stand by Susan," I assured her, "whatever she does. I am dreadfully
opposed to capital punishment, but if anybody kills a cook, he needn't
bring his case to our office."

Susan had offended, by her assumption of superiority, all the
members of my household except myself, to whom she was most kind and
respectful. The boy James had been brought by his aunts, who promised
to train him for my service. He soon developed an ingenuity in teasing
the cook amounting to inspiration. Matters between them reached a
crisis one morning. I was reading my paper in the office adjoining
the breakfast-room when I heard Susan's raucous voice: "What do you
mean coming in this kitchen hollerin' out 'Susan, Susan'? Whar's your
manners?"

"I loant 'em to de cook dis mornin', Susan—leastways Miss Moss! I always
disremembers yo' entitlements."

"Well, you just get out of this kitchen! I can send breakfast up on the
dumb waiter. You stay in your own place."

"I kin make myse'f skase, Miss Moss, but dat ain't de pint. Cose de dumb
waiter can't talk, an' I has to speak about clean plates an'—"

"Get out o' here, I tell you. _Clean_, indeed! And your face not washed
this morning! An' you all pizened up with scent like—"

"_Lawd_, Miss Moss! _Don't_ say what I'se like! An' what I gwine fling
water in my face for? I ain' no house afire."

In a few minutes Susan, her ample figure endowed with a fresh white
apron, and her bandanna turban tied to a nicety, presented herself,
dropped a courtesy, and said with perfect politeness:—

"Honey, I hate to worry you, but I'm afraid the time has come when you
must choose between me and the free nigger. I think too much of myself
to mind his impudence, but everything smells and tastes of his strong
scents—which I know will never suit you nor the master. I, for one,
can't stand 'em."

"Then James must leave at once," said I, firmly. "He knows the perfume
is forbidden, and I have myself heard his disrespectful language to
you."

But James had no idea of leaving Washington and returning to the
position of knife-cleaner in the Petersburg hotel, whence I had
taken him. He experienced a total change of heart. He surrendered
in magnificent style. I was too skilful a general not to press my
advantage. Then and there I confiscated his entire stock of spurious
attar of rose. It could not be buried, because the court was paved;
it could not be emptied in the waste-water pipes, lest we remember it
forever; but I opened the doors of Susan's kitchen range, and laid it,
a burnt-offering to her offended dignity, upon the glowing coals. I then
went calmly in to my coffee, which had a distinctly Oriental flavor that
morning.

Things went smoothly after this. The prevailing spirit of secession
found its way only as far as the nursery, when pretty Adele Rivière
entered a convent (with but one expressed regret, that the bonnets
were so unbecoming), and a dear little genius, Annie Powers, took her
place,—coming regularly for fifty cents a day, and making me independent
of the elusive dressmakers who lorded and queened it over my unhappy
friends.

And just here I feel constrained to apologize to my friend who has,
at this moment, this page before him, for recording so many trifling
incidents; but in painting a faithful picture of any time, the little
lights and shadows cannot be left out. Nothing is unimportant. Even

     "To the God that maketh all
     There is no great—there is no small,"

words which I quote with no fear of being deemed irreverent; since the
couplet has been discovered by a sojourner in the Orient to have been
a petty larceny of Emerson's from the book of a Brahmin, and is not a
quotation from the pen of inspiration, as we understand inspiration.



CHAPTER IV

SOCIAL LIFE DURING BUCHANAN'S ADMINISTRATION


We attended Dr. Gurley's church and found that the President also had
taken a seat in that church. Our own was near the door, and for many
Sundays before I knew him, I was interested in seeing him enter the
church and walk briskly up to his pew near the pulpit (while the bell
was ringing), buttoned in his broadcloth coat, wearing no overcoat in
the coldest weather. Immediately after the benediction he would walk
rapidly down the aisle, the congregation standing until he passed. Miss
Lane attended St. John's Church, and the President was accompanied only
by his secretary, Mr. Buchanan Henry. After I knew him quite well, I
always spoke to him when he passed me near the door and I sometimes
ventured, "A good sermon, Mr. President!" he never failing to reply,
"Too long, Madam, too long."

I was leading a very happy domestic life, busy with my little boys
and my housekeeping, proud of my self-constituted office as my
Congressman's private secretary, much exercised in sending documents,
seeds, and cuttings (we were introducing tea-culture in Virginia) to
his constituents, when I was called to order by our dear old friend,
Mr. Dudley Mann, an old politician, diplomat, and "society man."

"Madam, did you come to Washington to live in your own house and write
letters to farmers?"

"What better could I do?"

"The President does not agree with you. He admires your husband and
wonders why you were not at the Levee. He has asked me to see that you
come to the next one."

"I shall be on a committee that night," said my Congressman, hastily,—he
was usually on a committee when a reception was to the fore.

"I will take her myself," said Mr. Mann. "Now, wear a pretty evening
dress of silk or velvet. Can it be lavender? And I will call precisely
at nine."

I appreciated the honor of Mr. Mann's escort, and, wishing to please
him, procured the lavender silk. Our evening gowns were cut straight
across the neck, and finished with a bertha of lace. The full skirt
was distended over a large hoop. An elaborate headdress of flowers or
marabout feathers was _de rigueur_ for a levee, which, however, demanded
simpler attire than a ball or a dinner. Our white gloves were short
and were finished at the wrist with a fall of lace three or four inches
wide, and a band of ribbon and rosette.

Mr. Mann approved my attire and gave me a very good time. The crowd was
great and the amplitude and length of the ladies' robes filled me with
anxiety.

"Dear Mr. Mann," I said, "pray be careful not to tread on the trains."

"My child," he answered, "I haven't lifted my feet for twenty years!"

The President detained us for a few courteous words, and we were passed
on to Miss Lane, standing, not beside him, but in a group with other
ladies. Thence we found our way to the East Room, and a great many
ladies and gentlemen were introduced to me, as I stood on the arm of my
courtly escort.

Such a number of cards came to us after this that the housekeeping, the
writing, the little boys, the seeds, and the tea-culture in Virginia
were likely to suffer.

The reign of the "afternoon tea" was not yet—at least not in Washington;
but entertainments included morning receptions, evening receptions,
dinners, musicales, children's parties, old-fashioned evening parties
with music and supper, and splendid balls. So many of these were crowded
into a season that we often attended three balls in one evening.

The first time I dined with the President I made early and elaborate
preparation. When the great day arrived, all my paraphernalia, rosetted
slippers, gloves, fan, dress, and wrap were duly laid out on my bed and
sofa. In the evening I seated myself at a dressing table and submitted
my head to François' hands. The evening coiffure was elaborate and
troublesome. The hair in front was stiffened with bandoline, and formed
into sleek, smooth bandeaux, framing the face. Behind, all the hair was
tightly tied, low at the nape of the neck, then divided into two parts,
and each woven with many strands into a wide braid. These were curved
from ear to ear to form a basket, and within the basket were roses, or
pond-lilies, or violets, with long trailing vines floating behind.

François was a very agreeable talker. He had dressed Rachel's hair and
was leisurely giving a charming lecture on Rachel's art. Suddenly my
husband burst in: "The carriage is at the door! Hurry, hurry! We've only
ten minutes to reach the White House."

I literally leaped into my gown, had no time for flowers or jewels,
snatched up my gloves, left everything else, and ran! We entered the
green room just as Mr. Buchanan Henry was arranging the guests for
dinner. Luckily I was low down on his list.

I was miserably heated, and very uncomfortable lest I should not be able
to conceal my Congress gaiters, having had no time to change them. My
gloves were on, but not buttoned. To add to my misfortunes I found I
was to be taken in by a Southern Congressman who was already—well, not
exactly himself. To my horror he winked at Miss Lane when he drank wine
with her. When a side dish was handed, he said audibly: "Now look here,
Joe! Is that the same old thing you gave me here last year? Because
if it is, I don't want any of it." After we returned to the parlor I
confided my miseries to the lady who had been placed next him at dinner,
and she reassured me: "Oh, that's nothing! Such things happen here any
day—nobody notices these people from the rural districts."

This was worse than the ramshackle carriage. Could I bear to be classed
with "people from the rural districts?" I was never a moment late
afterward.

Dinners at the White House were much less elaborate in their
appointments than were dinners at the homes of the wealthy Cabinet
officers and Senators. Mr. Buchanan set an example of Republican
simplicity. Few flowers were placed in the drawing rooms. In the centre
of the Blue Room there was a divan surrounding a stand of potted plants
and surmounted by a small palm. The dinner table was not ornamented
with flowers, nor were bouquets at the covers. A long plateau, a mirror
edged with a hunting scene (gilt figures in high relief), extended down
the middle, and from the centre and at the two ends rose epergnes with
small crystal dishes for bonbons and cakes.

One evening the President said to me, "Madam, what is this small shrub
I find always placed before me?"

"If the berries were white, Mr. President, it would be _Ardisia alba_."

"Ah," he answered, "I am all right! My berries are red—I have '_Ardisia
rufa_!' Miss Harriet has the _alba_!"

There were no other floral decorations on the table.

I once ventured to send the President a Virginia ham, with particular
directions for cooking it. It was to be soaked, boiled gently three or
four hours, suffered to get cold in its own juices, and then toasted.

This would seem simple enough, but the executive cook disdained it,
perhaps for the reason that it was so simple. The dish, a shapeless,
jellylike mass, was placed before the President. He took his knife
and fork in hand to honor the dish by carving it himself, looked at
it helplessly, and called out—"Take it away! Take it away! Oh, Miss
Harriet! You are a poor housekeeper! Not even a Virginia lady can teach
you."

The glass dishes of the epergne contained wonderful "French
kisses"—two-inch squares of crystallized sugar wrapped in silver paper,
and elaborately decorated with lace and artificial flowers. I was
very proud at one dinner when the President said to me, "Madam, I am
sending you a souvenir for your little daughter," and a waiter handed
me one of those gorgeous affairs. He had questioned me about my boys,
and I had told him of my daughter Gordon, eight years old, who lived
with her grandmother. "You must bring her to see Miss Harriet," he had
said—which, in due season, I did; an event, with its crowning glory of a
checked silk dress, white hat and feather, which she proudly remembers
to this day. Having been duly presented at court, the little lady
was much "in society" and accompanied me to many brilliant afternoon
functions.

She was a thoughtful listener to the talk in her father's library, and
once when an old politician spoke sadly of a possible rupture of the
United States, surprised and delighted him by slipping her hand in his
and saying, "Never mind! _United_ will spell _Untied_ just as well"—a
little _mot_ which was remembered and repeated long afterwards.

Mr. Buchanan's kind notice of her is gratefully recollected. It was said
that he was influenced by the Southern Senators and Representatives. I
only know he was most kind to us, and I refuse to believe we were of
consequence enough to make this kindness a matter of policy. I would
fain think he really liked us, really desired to add to our happiness.

It cannot be said that his niece, Miss Harriet Lane, although
universally admired, was a popular woman. She lacked magnetism. She
followed a prescribed rule of manner from which she never deviated, no
matter with whom she was thrown. This was, perhaps, fortunate. Always
courteous, always in place, silent whenever it was possible to be
silent, watchful, and careful, she made no enemies, was betrayed into
no entangling alliances, and was involved in no contretemps of any kind.

She was very handsome, a fair, blue-eyed, self-contained young woman.
She was dignified—as indeed all women had to be, in gesture at least,
when they wore great hoops! The "curtsy" was a perilous duty. "How
does she do it? She never makes a cheese of herself," said one, looking
on at a morning reception. Miss Lane's courtesy was the perfection of
deference and grace. And she had exquisite taste in dress. She never
wore many ornaments, many flowers, nor the billows of ruffles then in
fashion. I remember her in white tulle, with a wreath of clematis; in
soft brown or blue silk; in much white muslin, dotted and plain, with
blue ribbons run in puffs on skirt and bodice.

She was very affable and agreeable, in an unemotional way—the proper
manner, of course, for her. I imagine no one could take a liberty with
her then, but I risked the experiment some years ago when we spent
a summer together at Bar Harbor. A handsome widow, with silver hair,
she was even more _distingué_ than she had been in the White House. I
recalled, to her genuine amusement, two incidents of her life there.
When she took her place as mistress of the Executive Mansion, the
President had given her but one rule for her conduct: never under any
circumstances to accept a present. "Think of my feelings," she had said
to me, "when the lovely lacquered boxes and tables the Japanese Embassy
brought me were turned from the door, to say nothing of the music-boxes
and these fascinating sewing-machines they have just invented."

A party was once made up for a visit to Mount Vernon. Mr. Augustus
Schell of New York accompanied Miss Lane. He was a fine-looking fellow
and very much in love with her. As they walked along the banks of
the Potomac, she picked up a handful of colored pebbles. Mr. Schell
requested them of her and put them in his pocket. He took them to
Tiffany, had them beautifully polished, set with diamonds, and linked
together in a bracelet, and sent them as "a souvenir of Mount Vernon"
to Miss Lane for a Christmas gift.

She carried them for a week in her pocket, trying to get her own consent
to give them up. The more she looked at them the better she liked them.
One day the President was in fine spirits. He liked to rally her about
Lord Lyons, which she did not fancy overmuch. But this time she humored
him, and at last ventured to say, "Uncle Buchanan, if I have a few
pretty pebbles given me, you do not object to my accepting them?"

"Oh, no, Miss Harriet! Keep your pebbles! Keep your pebbles," he
exclaimed, in high good humor.

"You know," Miss Lane said, in telling me the story at the time,
"diamonds are pebbles."

There was an impression that she never condescended to the rôle of a
coquette, but I could testify to the contrary.

Mr. Porcher Miles, Congressman from South Carolina, was one of her train
of devoted admirers. He accompanied me once to an evening reception at
the White House. Miss Lane stood in front of the flower-trimmed divan
in the Blue Room. Mr. Miles and I paid our respects, lingered awhile,
and, having other engagements, sent for our carriage.

As we stood at the door waiting, he talked of Miss Lane's beauty and
charm—"Look at her where she stands! Is she not the personification of
a high-bred lady from head to foot?"

Miss Lane perceived we were talking about her,—and while she gave
her right hand to the arriving guests she passed her left behind her
and plucked a spray of mignonette. We saw her beckon a servant, who
immediately found us, and gave the flowers to Mr. Miles, "with Miss
Lane's compliments."

I repeated these two little stories to her when her head was
silvered,—less by age than by sorrow,—and awoke one of those rare
moonlight smiles which her friends remember so well.

No one who observed Mr. Buchanan could fail to perceive the rapid change
in him after he became President. Having committed himself to the policy
of rotation in office, he was overwhelmed with the persistence of place
hunters. "They give me no time to say my prayers," he complained. They
exhausted him in listening to their petty interests at a time when the
most important problems that ever confronted the head of the nation
clamored for his consideration.

Toward the last, when the older men almost gave up hope, his only prayer
was that the catastrophe of conflict might not come in his day. He
cannot be blamed above others for hesitation, vacillation. The problems
were too mighty for one man's wisdom, too mighty for the collective
wisdom of many.

Lord and Lady Napier were interesting members of Washington society.
They occupied the house built by Admiral Porter on H Street, near
Fourteenth, now the residence of the French Embassy. They had succeeded
Mr. Crampton, and were themselves succeeded in 1859 by Lord Lyons—so
we had three British Ministers within a few years. Lord and Lady Napier
gave delightful entertainments—dinners, musicales, receptions, evening
parties. My Lady was more admired than were any of her predecessors. She
was lovely in person, gentle, cultivated, most affable and approachable.
At her receptions, and even at her balls, her sons, charming boys of
ten and twelve, were always present to help her receive her guests.
Everything she did, everything she said, seemed wisest, virtuousest,
discreetest, best. We have had no representative from the court of St.
James who did so much for the entertainment of our own people as Lord
and Lady Napier.

They gave a splendid ball in 1858 in honor of the queen's birthday.
Lady Napier was superb in a tiara of diamonds and emeralds. Lord
Napier and all the foreign Ministers shone forth in all the splendor
of court dress; and everybody must concede—Mr. Marcy to the contrary
notwithstanding—that the glitter of gold lace and gems, the distinction
of orders, the imperial stars and decorations, do add to the interest
of such an occasion. They mean much. They mean honor achieved, services
recognized.

A recording Jenkins of this ball dilates upon the elegance of the
supper, "this vista of gold and silver plate and the more than epicurean
daintiness of the delicacies, the age and vintage of the wines."

The most interesting ball of the season was that given by the Senators
and Representatives to Lord and Lady Napier just before they returned
to England.

We were early arrivals at this ball, because we wished to see the
sanded floor of the ball room, representing in colors St. George and
the Dragon, before it should be effaced by the dancers.

Lord and Lady Napier were seated on a dais at the head of the room, and
we passed in review before them. Lady Napier was attired in rich white
satin, embroidered with pearls, with a close "Juliet cap" of pearls
on her hair. No lofty throne could make her less gracious than was her
wont.

Dion Boucicault gave me his arm at the door, and after our obeisance
walked around the room to show me the portraits and paintings. On
the right of Lord and Lady Napier was a full-length portrait of
young Victoria in her ermine robe and crown, and on the left, one of
Washington. "Alas, alas," said Mr. Boucicault, "that so great a man
should have been painted with cramp in his fingers!" My escort was
altogether charming. I discovered he was "putting in time" with me,
for presently here came little Agnes Robertson, just from the theatre,
where she had been playing in the "Siege of Lucknow," and I lost Mr.
Boucicault! He married her soon afterward. And _afterward_! Ah, well!
That is none of the business of this story.

When we entered the banquet hall, Lady Napier's exclamations were
enthusiastic. "Look, George," she cried, "there is the knight and
his dragon again—all in sugar! And here are the English arms and—oh,
George! here are our own arms!" Gautier had excelled himself. There were
glittering haystacks of spun sugar; wonderful Roman chariots, drawn by
swans, and driven by Cupids; pyramids of costly bonbons; dolphins in a
sea of rock candy; and ices in every form from a pair of turtle doves
to a pillared temple. Gautier spread all his tables in this fashion,
the grosser dishes of game, terrapin, and canvasback being served from
a buffet.

Washington suppers in the fifties were superb. One wondered if we might
not some day return to the feasts of the Roman emperors, the tables of
cedar and ivory incrusted with jewels, the movable ceilings representing
the celestial spheres, the showers of violets and roses which rained
down on the guests in the intervals between the courses of peacocks'
brains and nightingales' tongues, the trumpets which greeted the
appearance of the stuffed peacocks with spread plumage. Time has really
changed our supper fashions less than we imagine. Music, delicate wines,
confectionery in fanciful forms, silver dishes, flowers, perfumed water
for the fingers, were all fashionable in the fourteenth century. We
smile to read of the flocks of living birds and the stuffed fowls that
adorned the boards of the Neapolitan kings. But it has not been many
years since, at a banquet given in New York to Ex-President Cleveland
by the Manhattan Club, a tank was placed in the middle of the table
where living terrapins crawled about and were thoughtful spectators of
the fate of the _terrapin à la Maryland_. And at intervals around the
board, stuffed pheasants contemplated the flight of the _faisan rôti_
down Democratic throats. Benedetti Salutati in 1476 never did better
than this. And, compared with these ancients and moderns, M. Gautier was
extremely refined, and only a bit anachronistic with his Roman chariots,
Cupids, and swans.

People were wont to remark upon the atmosphere the lovely Lady Napier
seemed to bring with her everywhere. Those who were admitted into her
_sanctum sanctorum_, her little boudoir, fancied they could explain it.
Upon her table was much silver marked with her coronet and initials, and
beside these was a rosewood book rack containing half a dozen volumes—a
Bible, a "Treatise on Practical Religion," "The Mount of Olivet,"
"Paradise of the Christian Soul," "The Christian Year," "Child's
Catechism," "Life of Dean Ramsey." These were the pure waters from
which Lady Napier drank daily. "Ninia Napier" was written in a delicate
Italian hand on the fly-leaf of each volume.

My acquaintance with Lord Napier was slight. Judge Douglas introduced
him to me at a ball. He stood some seconds without speaking. At last he
raised his cold blue eyes and asked, "Have you been long at this place?"
I answered, "No, my Lord!" Ten words had passed between us, with which
he seemed to be satisfied. But Lady Napier I knew well. She returned
all visits, and mine among the rest.

England and Russia had been at war, and peace had recently been
concluded. Of all the foreign Ministers I knew best the English and
Russian. Baron Stoëckle, then the Russian Envoy, and Baron Bodisco, his
predecessor (I am not sure about the "Baron"), I knew very well, and I
cordially liked their wives. This does not imply that their wives, both
American, liked each other.

Madame Bodisco, laden with diamonds, looked with disfavor upon Madame
Stoëckle, young, blue-eyed, and in simple attire. The latter was from
Massachusetts; the former had been a beautiful Georgetown girl, whom
the baron, passing her father's orchard, had spied in a blossoming apple
tree, and to whom he had forthwith lost his Russian and baronial heart.
Madame Bodisco was an enthusiastic Southern sympathizer. At Madame
Stoëckle's own table, after she had related an amusing anecdote, Madame
Bodisco whispered to me, "Will you listen to that Yankee woman with her
'_says she's_' and '_says I's_'!"

Of course politics, in this seething time, were never alluded to in any
company, least of all in the presence of our foreign envoys. It required
skill; but we kept the talk upon "literature and flowers," the birds
and fishes of different lands, anything, everything, except the topic
of all-consuming interest. But at one of Baron Stoëckle's very genial
dinners, one of us, to test his ingenuity, said: "Come now, Baron! Here
we are, Republican and Democrat! Show your colors! Where do you belong?"
"Alas, dear lady," said the wily diplomat, "I am an orphan! I belong
nowhere! I am an _Old-Line Whig_." This party had just become extinct.

One of the exciting events during the Buchanan administration was the
arrival in Washington of the first embassy from Japan—the Japan which
for hundreds of years had been governed by the dominant idea: "to
preserve unchanged the condition of the native intelligence" and to
"prevent the introduction of new ideas." The government had maintained
a rigid policy of isolation, "living like frogs in a well," until 1853,
when they were rudely awakened from their dream of peace and security
by Commodore Perry sailing into the harbor of Yokohama with a squadron
of United States war vessels. By dignity, resolution, argument, and
promise, he extorted a treaty in 1854—and thus Japan entered the family
of nations.

We had much curiosity about the Japanese. We read Perry's "Expedition"
with keen interest, and were delighted with the prospect of receiving
the embassy from the new land. Arrangements were made for a series of
entertainments, invitations were already issued—one to the White House
to witness the presentation of credentials and the reception of the
President.

At last we heard that the strangers had landed and would soon arrive.
I was in the gallery of the Senate Chamber with an intimate friend.
We were doubtful about going out with the crowd of citizens to meet
the Japanese, and were hoping that the Senate and House would adjourn.
Presently a member rose and said: "Mr. President, the first Ambassadors
from the venerable country of Japan are about to arrive. I move the
Senate do now adjourn to meet and welcome the Japanese."

Immediately another Senator was on his feet, not to second the motion,
but to say sharply, "Mr. President, I humbly trust the Senate of the
United States of America will not adjourn for every show that comes
along." That settled it. My friend and I hurried to our carriage, and
meeting the cortège, turned just in time to drive side by side with the
first landau containing the Ambassadors.

Our progress was slow and often interrupted—and we had abundant time
to observe the two dignitaries close beside us in the first carriage.
They sat, fanning themselves, without looking to right or left. The
one next me was extremely wrinkled and withered—doubtless the greater
man—and he was so wooden, so destitute of expression that I—oh, this
is _much_ worse than the episode of the ramshackle hack! How can I
confess that I "lost my head." The old creature, with his wrinkled,
yellow face, turban, short gown, and petticoats looked so very like my
old mulatto mammy, the darling of my childhood, that—I leaned over and
put my pearl-handled fan on his knee, motioning to him to give me his
in exchange. The old gentleman looked startled for an instant, but he
soon understood, and I became the first possessor of a Japanese fan.
But then a strange thing happened! I was suddenly overwhelmed with
confusion and sank back beside my companion, pulling her parasol well
over my face. "Was it so dreadful?" I implored. "I'm afraid it was,"
said she. "Hide your fan from the others. We will never tell." Presently
she added, thoughtfully, "I wonder what your Aunt Mary would say?" I
did not wonder. I knew perfectly well what my Aunt Mary would say.

All of which goes to prove that it was lucky my husband had not taken
his wife to Greece, and had not accepted the mission to Persia which
was offered him. He had a wife, unfortunately, who might on provocation
lose her head.

The next morning we repaired to the White House to help receive the
Japanese Embassy. Mr. Buchanan would have done well to select his guests
with regard to their slimness. The East Room was packed. Ranging on
either side according to our rank, the Congressmen found themselves near
the wall. We mounted our smallest representative, Mr. Boyce, on the
low mantelpiece behind some palms with instructions to peep and tell
us everything he saw. "What are they doing now, Mr. Boyce?" "Oh, it's
grand! They bow, and then they bow again!" "Well, what are they saying?
What are they doing now?" "They are still bowing, and 'old Buck,' God
bless him, is bowing too." The ceremony was long. The murmured voices
were low. One might have imagined one's self at a funeral.

The Belgian Baron de Limbourg gave a fine garden party to the strangers.
The Baron considered himself on the entertainment committee as he had
recently married the daughter of our Secretary of State, Mr. Cass.
There were large grounds around his residence, and these he lighted with
Japanese lanterns, dotting the lawn all over with pretty tents, in which
young girls costumed to represent the peasants of various countries
served ices and confections. The large area in the rear was converted
by carpets, hangings, and divans into a luxurious Turkish smoking den.

The Japanese always presented a pretty work-box, filled with curious
silks, to the ladies who entertained them. They would then range
themselves on the seats prepared for them and look on silently, with
half-shut eyes and expressionless faces. The dancing delighted them.
"How much are the women paid?" ventured one, and was amazed to find
they danced for pleasure only. A tiny, round-faced boy was always of
the party. We sometimes spoke to him, and he invariably answered "all
right," until he was known as "Little All Right," and, as he was the
only gracious one of the whole party, he became a favorite.

The Prince de Joinville attended Madame de Limbourg's fête. During the
afternoon our host sent for me, and I was conducted to an alcove where
the Prince, Miss Lane, Lord Lyons, and some of the Cabinet ladies were
gathered around a little bottle of wine, which was, we were told, old,
old Rose wine—costing so much that now, what with interest and compound
interest, every drop was worth—I forget how much! And we were to drink
Miss Lane's health. "And I!"—she protested. "I cannot drink my own
health! Am I to have no wine?" Whereupon she was conjured to think her
own toast—and we would, not knowing her thought, drink it with her.

It was supposed that Lord Lyons was her suitor, and we were persuaded
that the President desired her to marry him. But nobody knows the heart
of the king, nor the heart of the President (who fills in some sort
a king's position), still less the heart of the President's pretty
niece—least of all the heart of a wily diplomat! We only know she
married one of her own countrymen—and as to Lord Lyons, we lost him for
good and all when the dreadful war came.



CHAPTER V

GAY SOCIAL LIFE IN WASHINGTON


The rolls of the Supreme Court, Senate, and House of Representatives
presented a list of great names in 1854-1860. It would seem that our
country, knowing herself to be in mortal danger, had summoned the wisest
of her sons for conference and council: Rufus Choate, Curtis, Seward,
Douglas, Jefferson Davis, Salmon Chase, Sumner, Hale, Toombs, Hunter,
Robert J. Walker, and the brilliant men of the lower House; all these
were present at the great consultation.

Of these men the most interesting, picturesque, and prominent was
undoubtedly Stephen A. Douglas. His political career is known to a
world which is still divided in opinion of him. Was his fevered life the
result of patriotism, or of personal ambition? The world still assumes
the power to read, with a magnifying glass, the inner workings of the
human mechanism, and to put its discerning finger on the spring of human
actions. Who has ever seen the heart of another? Who knows his own?
By their works ye shall know them, not by their impulses, not by their
struggles with the diverse machinery within them.

One who liked not Stephen A. Douglas has thus described him. "Erect,
compact, aggressive. A personage truly to be questioned timidly, to
be approached advisedly. Here indeed was a lion, by the very look of
him master of himself and of others. By reason of its regularity and
masculine strength, a handsome face. A man of the world to the cut of
the coat across the broad shoulders. Here was one to lift a youngster
into the realm of emulation, like a character in a play, to arouse
dreams of Washington and its Senators and great men. For this was one
to be consulted by the great alone. A figure of dignity and power with
the magnetism to compel moods. Since, when he smiled you warmed in spite
of yourself, and when he frowned the world looked grave."

This was Stephen A. Douglas. The picture is a true one. What wonder that
he should have captivated my husband and myself, scarcely more than half
his age? The warmest friendship grew up between us.

I remember well my own first interview with him in Washington. At a
crowded ball, I had found a chair outside the crush, when he approached
with a bottle of champagne and a glass in his hands. "I need no
introduction, Madam," he said. "I am sure you cannot have forgotten
the man who met you a few years ago in the little Petersburg hotel
and told you how like you are to the Empress Eugénie. No? I thought
not," laughed the judge, "and yet she isn't a priming to our own women!
Now," he added, bending down and speaking gravely, "I shall send Mrs.
Douglas to see you. I wish you to be friends. Not pasteboard friends,
with only a bit of cardboard passing between you now and then, but real
good friends, meeting often and being much together." Just here, as he
poised his bottle to fill my glass, his elbow was jostled, and down came
the foaming champagne, over my neck and shoulders and the front of my
dress. The friendship was christened—the bottle broken on the new ship!
"Don't worry about the gown! You have excuse now to buy another," said
the judge, as I gasped when the icy flood ran down my bosom.

He had lately married his second wife, the belle of Washington,
beautiful Adele Cutts; tall, stately, and fair exceedingly. She was a
great-niece of Dolley Madison. We met often, and it came to pass that
"the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David."

She did not impress one as having what we call "depth of character,"
what is commonly implied in the term "superior," not a woman to assume
to lead and teach other women—a character less lovable often than the
woman who knows herself to be of like weaknesses with ourselves. But
she was beautiful as a pearl, sunny-tempered, unselfish, warmhearted,
unaffected, sincere. She was very attentive to her "little giant." When
he made those terribly long speeches in the Senate, on the Lecompton
Constitution, on the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, on popular sovereignty,
she would wait in the gallery and hurry down to wrap his overcoat
around him, as he stood in the hall dripping with perspiration. She
imbibed enough political lingo to rally and amuse him. Some workmen
having arrived to erect a platform in his ball room for musicians, she
exclaimed: "Oh, Judge Douglas! What is a platform? They are going to
bring one into this house, and we shall be flayed alive or murdered in
our beds!"

I said to her once: "You know you are not really handsomer than the rest
of us! Why do people say so?"

"Because I never trick myself out in diamonds, or have more than one
color in a gown. An artist told me once that all those things spoiled
a picture."

She would have liked the diamonds as well as the rest of us, and
once said so to her husband. "Oh, no!" he answered, "diamonds are the
consolation of old wives, a diamond for a wrinkle!"

Mrs. Douglas was the first of the Washington ladies who adopted the
fashion of closing her shutters in the early afternoon and lighting
her rooms with gas. She was delighted as a child with the effect and
indulged in a preliminary waltz with me before the company arrived.
"O dear!" she exclaimed, suddenly, "what am I to do with this _awful_
picture of Judge Douglas's? I daren't take it away because he bought
it for his first wife; and when old Mrs. Martin pounces down upon us to
see how we are spending her grandchildren's money, she will miss it, and
think I've sold it! But isn't it _awful_? Do spread out your flounces
in front of it as well as you can." The noonday lighting of her rooms
was a great success. Lord Lyons looked up and spoke of the beauty of
the starlit night, adding "and there's a fine moon out of doors." John
G. Saxe was one of the guests—and his merry hostess introduced him as
"deserving capital punishment for making people laugh themselves to
death."

I have had occasion to allude so often to the costumes of the ladies
of Mr. Buchanan's administration, that I have resolved boldly to ask
my reader to accompany me for a few minutes to Vanity Fair, as, guided
by society reports of the period, I describe the dresses worn by the
leaders of fashion. I suppose the journals of our day would not print
columns on columns describing the gowns worn at balls, unless there were
some sure to read. Costume has always interested the world. It is still
a question whether costume influences character, or _vice versa_. And
yet one regrets to treat charming women as though they were lay figures.

There will be a great deal of sorrowful record in this book. Let us
linger awhile on the flowery brink, before we reach the time when the
noise of angry waters will be too loud to be hushed by the frou-frou
of a lady's silken gown. Moreover, there are always mistakes and
misconceptions to be corrected and set right. Have I not just read
in a New York daily paper of the ugly fashions of the Washington of
the times just before the war—the "great hoops, gowns of reps, the
hideous tints of red, the Congress gaiters; how nobody wore a ball
gown costing more than $55," etc., etc.? The Congress gaiters must be
acknowledged, the hoops also, but perhaps they may all come again; and
then some beauty like the empress of the French may arise to make them
beautiful. They _were_ large! Beside them Queen Elizabeth's farthingale
was an insignificant circumstance. The belle in the fifties lived in
an expansive time. There was still plenty of room in the world. Houses
were broad and low, carriages were broad and low, furniture was massive.
Even a small pier glass was broadened by great scrolls of mahogany.
Drawing-rooms were filled with vast arm-chairs, sofas, and tables. The
legs of pianos were made as massive as possible.

Ladies wore enormous hoops, and because their heads looked like small
handles to huge bells, they widened the coiffure into broad bandeaux
and braids, loaded it with garlands of flowers, and enlarged it by
means of a wide head-dress of tulle, lace, and feathers, or crowned it
with a coal-scuttle bonnet tied under the chin with wide ribbons. In
this guise they sailed fearlessly about, with no danger of jostling a
neighbor or overturning the furniture. They had not then filled their
rooms with spider-legged chairs and tables, nor crowded the latter with
frail toys and china. Now that so many of these things are imported, now
that the world is so full of people,—in the streets, cars, theatres, at
receptions,—milady has found she must reef her sails. Breadth was the
ambition of 1854—length and slimness the supreme attainment of 1904.
What would the modern belle look like, among all these skyscrapers, in
a hoop? Like a ball—nothing more.

Finding herself with all this amplitude, milady of the fifties essayed
gorgeous decoration. She had stretched a large canvas; she now covered
it with pictures—bouquets and baskets of flowers appeared on the
woollens for house dresses; on the fine gauzes and silks one might find
excellent representations of the Lake of Geneva, with a distant view of
the Swiss mountains.

When a lady ordered a costume for a ball, her flowers arrived in a box
larger than the glazed boxes of to-day in which modistes send home our
gowns. The garniture included a wreath for the hair, with bunches at
the back from which depended trailing vines. The _bouquet de corsage_
sometimes extended to each shoulder. Bouquets were fastened on gloves
at the wrist, wreaths trailed down the skirt, wreaths looped the double
skirt in festoons. Only one kind of flower was considered in good
taste. Milady must look like a basket of shaded roses, or lilies, or
pomegranates, or violets. Ropes of wax beads were sometimes substituted
for flowers.

I once entered a milliner's shop—not my dear Madame Delarue's—and in
the centre of the room, suspended by a wire from the ceiling, was one
of these huge garnitures—all tied together and descending down to the
floor. "This, Madame," I said, "is something very _recherché_?"

"Yes, Madame! That is the rarest parure I have. There was never one like
it. There will never be another."

I scrutinized the flowers, and found nothing remarkable in any way.

"That, Madame," continued the milliner, "was purchased from me by the
wife of Senator ——! She wore it to Mrs. Gwin's ball, and returned it to
me next day. I ask no pay! I keep it for the sake of Mrs. Senator ——,
that I may have the honor of exhibiting it to my patrons."

There is no reason, because we sometimes choose to swing back into
the ghastly close-fitted skirt, or to wrap ourselves like a Tanagra
figurine, that we should despise a more spacious time. Nor is it at all
beneath us to attach enough importance to dress to describe it. Witness
the recent "Costumes of Two Centuries," by one of our most accomplished
writers. Witness the teachings of a theologian eighteen hundred or more
years ago, who condescended to illustrate his sermon by women's ways
with dress! Says Tertullian: "Let simplicity be your white, charity
your vermilion; dress your eyebrows with modesty, and your lips with
reservedness. Let instruction be your ear-rings, and a ruby cross the
front pin in your head; submission to your husband your best ornament.
Employ your hands in housewifely duties, and keep your feet within your
own doors. Let your garments be of the silk of probity, the fine linen
of sanctity, and the purple of chastity."

"How does that impress you for a nineteenth-century costume?" I asked
Agnes my bosom friend, to whom I read the passage aloud. "Well," she
replied, "I should be perfectly willing to try the ruby hairpin as a
beginning—and get Clagett to order the new brand of silk, which sounds
as if it might be a very pure article indeed and warranted to wear
well; but if you are seeking my honest opinion of Tertullian, I frankly
confess that I think our clothes and our behavior to our husbands are
none of his business."

Society letters of 1857 give us strictly accurate description of
toilettes, which may interest some of my readers:[3]—

"The wealth of the present Cabinet, and their elegant style of living,
sets the pace for Washington soirées—equal in magnificence to the
gorgeous fêtes of Versailles.

"At the Postmaster-General's the regal ball room was lined with superb
mirrors from floor to ceiling. In the drawing-rooms opposite the host,
hostess, and daughter and Miss Nerissa Saunders occupied the post of
receiving.

"Mrs. Brown was dressed in rose-colored brocade, with an exquisite
resemblance of white lace stamped in white velvet, a point lace cape,
and turban set with diamonds. Miss Brown wore a white silk tissue
embroidered in moss rosebuds, a circlet of pearls on her hair, and
natural flowers on her bosom. Lady Napier wore white brocaded satin,
with head-dress of scarlet honeysuckle. Madame de Sartige's gown was
of white embroidered crêpe, garnished with sprays of green. The wife
of Senator Slidell was costumed in black velvet, trimmed with fur. Her
head-dress was of crimson velvet, rich lace, and ostrich feathers. A
superb bandeau of pearls bound her raven hair. Miss Nerissa Saunders
was exquisite in a white silk, veiled with tulle, the skirts trimmed
with rose-colored quilling. Mrs. Senator Clay wore canary satin, covered
all over with gorgeous point lace. Mrs. John J. Crittenden was superb
in blue moire antique, with point lace trimmings. Mrs. General McQueen
of South Carolina appeared in a white silk with cherry trimmings,
her head-dress of large pearls fit for a queen. Mrs. Senator Gwin
wore superb crimson moire antique with point lace, and a head-dress
of feathers fastened with large diamonds. Mrs. Stephen A. Douglas, a
white tulle dress over white silk—the overdress looped with bunches of
violets and grass, similar bunches on breast and shoulder, and trailing
in her low coiffure. Mrs. Faulkner from Virginia was attired in blue
silk and Mechlin lace, her daughters in white illusion. Mrs. Reverdy
Johnson was superb in lemon satin and velvet pansies. Mrs. Pringle of
Charleston wore a velvet robe of lemon color; Mrs. Judge Roosevelt of
New York velvet and diamonds; Mrs. Senator Pugh of Ohio crimson velvet
with ornaments of rubies and crimson pomegranate flowers."

This last lady, Mrs. Pugh, wife of the Senator from Ohio, was _par
excellence_ the beauty of the day. To see her in this dress was enough
to "bid the rash gazer wipe his eye." Her eyes were large, dark, and
most expressive. Her hair was dark, her coloring vivid. Mrs. Douglas,
Mrs. Pugh, and Kate Chase were the three unapproached, unapproachable,
beauties of the Buchanan administration. The daughter of Senator Chase
was really too young to go to balls. She was extremely beautiful, "her
complexion was marvellously delicate, her fine features seeming to be
cut from fine bisque, her eyes, bright, soft, sweet, were of exquisite
blue, and her hair a wonderful color like the ripe corn-tassel in full
sunlight. Her teeth were perfect. Poets sang then, and still sing, of
the turn of her beautiful neck and the regal carriage of her head."
She was as intellectual as she was beautiful. From her teens she had
been initiated into political questions for which her genius and her
calm, thoughtful nature eminently fitted her. When she realized that
neither party would nominate her father for President in 1860, she
turned her energetic mind to the formation of plans and intrigues to
obtain for him the nomination of 1868! She failed in that, she failed
in everything, poor girl. She wrecked her life by a marriage with a
wealthy, uncongenial governor of Rhode Island, from whom she fled with
swift feet across the lawn of the beautiful home at Canonchet, and hand
in hand with poverty and sorrow ended her life in obscurity.

It is going to be a long time before we again visit Vanity Fair; and
lest it linger too delightfully in our memories, we must try to find
some rift in the lute, some fly in the amber—not daring, however, to
look beneath the surface.

And so we are fain to acknowledge that the evening gowns of these fair
dames were liberal only in their skirts. The bodice was _décolleté_ to
the extremest limit—as I suppose it will always be. And then, as now,—as
always,—there was no lack of wise men, usually youthful prophets, to
preach against it, to read for our instruction Solomon's disrespectful
allusions to jewels in the ears of fair women without discretion, and
St. Paul's well-known remarks upon our foibles. "The idea of quoting
Solomon as an authority on women," said my friend Agnes one day, as we
walked from church. "I _never_ quote Solomon! He knew a good many women
without discretion, some hundreds of them; but he didn't live up to his
convictions, and he changed his mind very often. He was to my thinking
not at all a nice person to know."

"But how about St. Paul?" I ventured.

"I consider it very small in St. Paul to think so much about dress
anyway! One would suppose the thorn in his own flesh would have made
him tender toward others; and Timothy must have been a poor creature
to be taken in by 'braided hair,' 'gold and pearls, and costly array.'
Now, of course, we have a few of those things, and like to wear our hair
neatly; but I don't see why they are not suitable for us so long as we
don't live for them, nor seek to entangle Timothy."

"Well," I replied, "I never can feel it is at all my affair. I hear it
often enough! But somehow St. Simeon Stylites, preaching away on his
pillar, seems a great way off, and not to know the bearings of all he
talks about. We listen to him dutifully; but I fancy if we amend our
ways we will do it of our own selves, and not because of St. Simeon."

"I wouldn't mind St. Simeon," said my irate friend (she had worked
herself up to a pitch of indignation); "probably he was old and
venerable, and to be tolerated; but it hurts me to be preached to by a
young thing like that minister to-day, as if I were a Babylonish woman!
We don't 'walk haughtily with stretched-forth necks, walking and mincing
as we go, making a tinkling with our feet.' And as to our 'changeable
suits of apparel,' and the 'crimping pins,' do we live for these things?
Our maids make a living by taking care of them while we are at church
hoping to hear of something better than crimping pins."

The lady who expressed these heretical sentiments was, as I have
remarked, my most intimate friend; and although not older than herself,
I considered it my duty to reason with her. "But you see, my dear
Agnes," I said, "we are obliged to be on the side of our young preacher,
whether we like it or not. He is the white-plumed champion riding forth
from the courts of purity and beauty of behavior. We wouldn't like to
be the sable knight who emerges from the opposite direction."

"I would!" declared my young rebel. "Infantile clergymen should keep
to the sins of their own sex. Nobody criticises men's dress. They
are exempt. They may surround their countenances with Henry VIII
ruffs, which make them look like the head of John the Baptist on a
charger,—nobody calls them ridiculous. They wear the briefest surf
costumes—nobody says they are indecent."

"But, my dear—"

"But, my dear, I know all about the matter of evening dress. I've
studied it up. It is a time-honored fashion (I can show you all about
it in my new encyclopædia). You remember I let you air your learning
and quote old Tertullian. Did I look bored?"

"Not at all. You may tell me now. You can finish before we get home."

"Well, then, the _décolleté_ bodice is not a new expression of total
depravity. It is an old fashion, appearing in 1280, with stomacher
of jewels. It reached England from Bohemia, but was then the fashion
in Italy, Poland, and Spain. Those times were not conspicuous for
sentiment, but were quite as moral as the times of the Greek chiton, or
the Roman tunic, or the Norman robe, or the Saxon gown."

"But," I interrupted, "it was out of fashion in the high-necked days of
Queen Elizabeth."

"Oh, she had her own reasons for disliking to see a suggestive bare
throat! Queen Bess was not conspicuous for purity. Don't interrupt
me—I'll prove everything by the book—lots of good women have worn
low dresses. Madame Recamier was a pretty good woman, and so were our
grandmothers, and so were the ladies of the Golden Age in Virginia who
reared the boys that won our independence."

"All of which proves nothing," I declared; but we had reached our door
on New York Avenue, and went in for our Sunday dinner. My friend did
not inflict the encyclopædia. She had already quoted it. What was the
use? We may be sure of one thing: no fashion has ever yet been discarded
because it was abused. No Damascus blade has ever been keen enough to
lop off an offending fashion.



CHAPTER VI

CHARACTERISTICS OF SOCIAL LIFE IN 1858—LEADERS IN SOCIETY


There were many brilliant and beautiful women who escaped the notice of
the society newsmonger of the day.

Mrs. Cyrus McCormick, recently married to the inventor of the great
reaping machine, was one of these. Mr. McCormick, then a young man, was
destined to be decorated by many European governments and to achieve
a great fortune. His wife, just out of Miss Emma Willard's school,
was very beautiful, very gentle, and winning. No sheaves garnered by
her husband's famous reaper can compare with the sheaves from her own
sowing, during a long life devoted to good deeds.

Then there were Mrs. Yulee, wife of the Senator from Florida, and her
sisters, Mrs. Merrick and Mrs. Holt, all three noted for personal and
intellectual charm; and beautiful Mrs. Robert J. Walker, who was perhaps
the first of the coterie to be called to make a sacrifice for her
country, exchanging the brilliant life in Washington for the hardships
of Kansas—"bleeding Kansas," torn with dissensions among its "squatter
sovereigns," and with a climate of stern severity, where food froze
at night and must be broken with a hatchet for breakfast. Mrs. Walker
shrank from the ordeal, for she was well fitted for gay society; but the
President himself visited her and begged the sacrifice for the good of
the country. She went, and bore her trials. They were only a little in
advance of sterner trials ordained for some of her Washington friends.
Nor must we fail to acknowledge the social influence of Mrs. Jefferson
Davis, one of the most brilliant women of her time—greatly sought by
cultivated men and women.

But the wittiest and brightest of them all was Mrs. Clay, the wife of
the Senator from Alabama. She was extremely clever, the soul of every
company. A costume ball at which she personated Mrs. Partington is
still remembered in Washington. Mrs. Partington's sayings could not be
arranged beforehand and conned for the occasion. Her malapropos replies
must be improvised on the moment, and must moreover be seasoned with wit
to redeem them from commonplace dulness. Mrs. Clay rose to the occasion,
and her Mrs. Partington became the Mrs. Partington of the future.

The reader will not fail to observe the number of Southern women who
were prominent in Mr. Buchanan's court. A correspondent of a leading
New York paper[4] has recently written an interesting article on this
subject. He declares that the Southern women (before Lincoln's day)
had long controlled the society of Washington. "With their natural
and acquired graces, with their inherited taste and ability in social
affairs, it was natural that the reins should fall to them. They
represented a clique of aristocracy; they were recognized leaders
who could afford to smile good-naturedly at the awkward and perplexed
attempts of the women from the other sections—Mrs. Senator This, Mrs.
Congressman That—to thread the ins and outs of Washington's social
labyrinth. To none of these ladies was the thought pleasant of secession
from the Union and consequent giving up whatever of social dominion she
had acquired."

I wish I could give some idea of the "days at home" of these court
ladies in Washington in 1858. The large public functions were all alike
then as now, with this exception, that nearly every man present was
Somebody, and every woman Somebody's wife. It was not necessary for
these people to talk. The men made little effort. It was well known
what they had said yesterday in the House or the Senate Chamber; but we
dared not express opinions in public (and not freely in private), such
was the tense feeling at that time. Conversation had been always, at
the South, an art carefully cultivated. Conversation suffered at a time
when we were forced to ignore subjects that possessed us with absorbing
interest and to confine ourselves to trivialities.

Excusing the silence of one famous man, somebody remarked: "Oh, well,
you know brilliant men do not of necessity talk well. Thrilled by
their utterances in their speeches and writings, we are surprised, when
we meet them, at their silence." A "famous man's" eye twinkled. "Ask
Galt," he said, "why he doesn't give away his gems. Probably he might
answer that he proposes to sell them," an ingenious way of avoiding the
remotest hint that silence was the result of preoccupied thought on the
grave questions of the hour.

For some inexplicable reason the wives of great men are apt to be
quiet and non-committal—little moons revolving around a great luminary.
Moon-like, one side only is turned to the world. How is it on the other
side? We have a glimpse of it over the _demi-tasse_ in the drawing-room
after dinner, or at our informal "at homes" in our own houses.

At these times of unbending in Washington we were wont to begin in a
rather stilted manner, sipping our coffee and liqueurs in a leisurely
way, and steering widely clear of politics and politicians. We talked of
art and artists, galleries in Europe, shops in Paris,—anything except
what we were all thinking about. The art of conversation suffered
under such circumstances. But some interesting books were just out
in England, and everybody was discussing them. Thackeray had recently
given "The Virginians" to the world. Tennyson was turning all the girls'
heads with "Elaine." A new star was rising—George Eliot. Dickens, we
were, at the moment, cordially hating because of his "American Notes."
Bulwer was well to the fore. Two valued members of our own special
coterie were Randolph Rogers and Thomas Crawford the sculptor, whose
genius, differently expressed, lives to-day in his gifted son, Marion
Crawford. Thomas Crawford had been commissioned by the state of Virginia
to execute a colossal statue of Washington for the Capitol Square in
Richmond, a great work,—including statues of Virginia's statesmen,—which
was happily completed in 1861, and from which I heard Jefferson Davis's
inaugural address, February 22, 1862, upon his taking the oath as
permanent President of the Confederacy. It was a black day of rain and
snow; the new government, destined never to flourish in sunshine, was
born in storm and tempest.

Thomas Crawford, born in New York in 1814, was now at the height of
his fame. He had studied and worked with Thorwaldsen. Apart from his
peculiar genius he was a charming companion, full of versatile talk. The
younger man, Randolph Rogers, was also most interesting. He brought to
us his sketches and drawings for the bronze doors of the Capitol before
they were submitted to the committee, and came again when they were
accepted, to tell us of his good fortune.

The army and navy people were especially interesting. They never
discussed politics. Their positions were assured and there were
consequently no feverish society strugglers among them. They had no
vulgar respect for wealth, entertaining charmingly within their means.
Admiral Porter and his family were there, General Winfield Scott was
there, the admiral (then commander) forty-four years old, and the
noble old veteran nearer seventy-four. Both were delightful members of
Washington society. Nobody esteemed wealth or spoke of it or thought of
it. Office, position, talent, beauty, and charm were the requisites for
men and women.

On one day, I remember, I had gone the rounds of Cabinet receptions,
had taken my chocolate from the generous urn of the Secretary of State,
and had dutifully looked in upon all the other Secretaries. I knew a
dear little lady, foreign, attached to one of the legations (I really
never knew whether she was Russian or Hungarian), who had invited me
for the "end of the afternoon." Her husband had not a prominent place in
the embassy, nor she in society, but she knew how to gather around her
tea-kettle a choice little company, every one of whom felt honored to be
included. I found her seated at a small round table, and she welcomed
me in the English that gained from a musical voice, and the deliberate
enunciation of syllable which always seems to me so complimentary and
respectful in foreigners.

The fashion of the low tea-table had just been introduced. One could
have tea, nothing else. One could always find behind the silver
urns "'igh and 'aughty" butlers serving chocolate, wine, and every
conceivable dainty at the houses of the great Senators, Ministers,
and Cabinet officers. Things were much more _distingué_ at this lady's
tea-table. A few early spring flowers, crocuses, hyacinths, or purple
heather, were blooming here and there about the room. Our hostess was
gowned in some white stuff, and there was a bit of classic suggestion in
her attire, in the jewelled girdle, and an order or medal tucked under a
ribbon. A little white-capped maid welcomed and ushered us, and managed
to hover about for all the service we were likely to require. The
impression grew upon me that all this had been done for me especially,
and I found myself thinking how fortunate it was I had happened to come.
That lovely woman would have been so sorely disappointed had I stayed
away!

But presently other guests arrived. They were all foreigners, but
perceiving the American presence they spoke only English. The hostess
put into motion the most musical conversation. How has she done it?
She has made no effort "to entertain." Conversation had come unbidden.
Russian tea? Why, certainly! Do we ever care for other than Russian
tea? She was deliberate. We forgot we were sorely pressed this day with
seventeen names on our list. We gave ourselves up to the pleasure of
observing her.

She lighted her silver lamp; and, although she wished us to see the
great shining samovar which descended to her from her grandmother, she
said it was good, very good indeed, in the camp or on journeys when one
had only charcoal; but here in America the fairy lamp to light the wax
taper and the alcohol burner beneath the kettle are best. She poured
the water, which had bubbled, but not boiled (boiling water would make
the tea flat), over delicious tea, paused a moment only, then poured
the steaming amber upon two lumps of sugar, two slices of lemon, and
one teaspoonful of rum, and we pronounced it a perfect cup of tea. But
our enchantress said No, that some day ladies will grow tea in their
own conservatories, and then only will it be perfect in this country;
for the ocean voyage spoils the delicacy of the sensitive herb.

Glancing around the table, our hostess grasped the situation. Here was
a Russian lady with a proud head, there two dark-eyed Bohemians, one
Greek beauty, an English woman, and our own stiff, heavy, uncompromising
American self!

She is to make these people happy for the five minutes they are around
her little board. How does it come to pass that these strangers find a
common ground upon which they can hold animated conversation?

They talked of genius and geniuses,—how they are not created by
opportunity or culture, but are inspired; how that, apart from their
gifts, they are quite like other people, not even cleverer always.
"Yes," said the Greek girl, with an exalted look in her dark eyes, "they
are chosen, like the prophets, to speak great words or compose immortal
music, or build symphonies in stone; and what they do is outside
themselves altogether." "It is literally true," said the Englishwoman,
"that people have 'a gift' apart from their ordinary selves. Does not
George Eliot say that his novels grow in him like a plant. No amount
of work and study can create a genius!" And then everybody marvels at
the wonderful young man (for nobody knows it is a woman) who has just
written "Adam Bede" and "The Mill on the Floss."

Or perhaps the hostess has bribed some one of the foreign legation
to come to her "at home." Novels on Washington life hint of such a
possibility. Or perhaps some prince of good talkers among our own
Ministers is home for a brief holiday, or returned from a mission, and
a circle gathers around him.

Our Minister, sent to France by Mr. Pierce, once honored me by his
presence and told us the following story. Everybody who remembers the
genial John Y. Mason will easily imagine how he told it, and how his
own magnetism possessed his listeners. Not a tea-cup rattled during the
narration. "I lived," said Mr. Mason, "at a hotel for a few weeks after
receiving my appointment as Minister Plenipotentiary—while my house
was being made ready to bring my family. The house was crowded, and my
landlord was forced to divide one of his offices by a thin partition to
receive me at all.

"One night I was awakened by a stifled sob on the other side of the
partition. Rising on my elbow, I listened. The sob was repeated—then I
heard abusive language and oaths in English—I fancied I heard a blow!
Leaping to my feet, I struck smartly on the partition, and all was
still.

"The next morning I asked the clerk about my neighbors and complained
that they disturbed me. He shrugged his shoulders and said, 'Mais,
Monsieur! they are Americans!' as if that explained everything. However,
he informed me that they had left the hotel that morning.

"A few days later I was sitting in my room at the legation, when I
received a visitor—a slender female closely veiled, who said in a
troubled whisper that she had come to claim protection of the French
government. I told her I could not confer with her while she was
disguised, and she slowly raised her hand and held her veil aside. I
never saw a lovelier face.

"She could not have been older than eighteen years. Her features were
delicate, her eyes large and expressive, her brow shaded by golden-brown
hair. She was deathly white. I never saw such pallor. 'What can I do
for you, my child?' I asked. Well, it was a sad story. Married to a
dissipated young fellow, away on her wedding journey; threatened, and
in terror of losing her life. She wished the protection of the police.
She said she should never have had the courage to ask it alone, but that
she knew I had slept near her at the Maison Dorée. I had heard! I could
understand. I was the American Minister, and I could help.

"'But think,' I said, 'I heard nothing but harsh language. We cannot
go with this to the _préfet_. He will not consider it cause for action
against your husband.'

"The girl hesitated. Finally, with a burst of tears, she unfastened
her gown at the throat, turned it down, and disclosed the dark print of
fingers on the delicate skin.

"It was enough. She had been choked into silence—this frail American
girl—on the night when I heard the smothered sob.

"Of course you may imagine my zeal in her behalf. I had daughters of my
own. I arranged to accompany the young wife at once to the office of the
_préfet_, and having ascertained the address of her bankers I resolved
to make arrangements to get her out of Paris in case she felt her life
to be in danger.

"Well, I waited long at the office of the _préfet_. Finally our turn
came. I rose and made my statement. Imagine my feelings when my fair
client threw back her veil, and with a surprised look said:

"'I think the American Minister has been dreaming!'

"I felt as if a tub of ice-water had been poured over me. Of course
my position was perfectly ridiculous. Before I could recover she had
slipped through the crowd and was gone. While we waited she had changed
her mind!"

"The wretch!" exclaimed one of the listeners. "That just proves that
women are always attracted by brutality."

"Really?" said Mr. Mason.

"Not exactly, perhaps, but there was once an English countess who
explained a divorce suit of one of her relatives thus:—

"'You see, Ermentrude was one of those women who needed kicking down
the stairs, and Ferdinand was gentle; he was not up to it!'"

An agreeable function, no longer in vogue in this country, was the
evening party. Lady Napier gave one of these parties to present her
friends to Edward Everett.

These parties were arranged that pleasant people might meet
distinguished strangers and each other. As this was the prime object
of these occasions, there were no blatant bands to make conversation
impossible, but there was no lack of delightful music. Miss Nerissa
Saunders played exquisitely upon the harp; Mrs. Gales's niece, Juliana
May, sang divinely; many young ladies had cultivated voices. Nobody
thought of hiring entertainment for guests. The guests were bright
talkers and could entertain each other. If a ball room were attached
to the _salon_, dancing was expected; but the parlors were distant
and people could talk! Of course it is always stupid to collect a
lot of dull people together, but the wives of the brilliant men of
Mr. Buchanan's administration understood entertaining. There were
always gifted conversationalists present who liked talking better than
eating, with cleverness enough to draw out, and not forestall, the wit
of others. This art could not be claimed by the great talkers of old
English society, Johnson, Macaulay, Coleridge, De Quincey, and the rest.
We should not now, I am sure, care much for these monopolists. Sheridan,
for instance, must have been rather a quenching element at an evening
party; for in addition to his own witty creations, he had a trick of
preserving the bon mots of others, leading conversation into channels
where they would fit in, and using them accordingly. Thus in talking
with Sheridan his friends had a dozen wits to cope with withal.

Our Washington hostesses always gave a supper—not a fine supper—a _good_
supper, where the old family receipt book had been consulted, especially
if our hostess had come from Kentucky, Maryland, or Virginia. The
canvasback ducks, terrapin, and oysters were unlike Gautier's. We all
know that rubies are now less rare in this country than good cooks. We
may essay the triumphs of the old Washington of the fifties, but beneath
our own fig tree they become failures and shabby makeshifts. There are
mysteries in cooking unattainable to any but the elect—and of the elect
were the sable priestesses of the Washington kitchens.



CHAPTER VII

THE THIRTY-SIXTH CONGRESS


When the famous Thirty-sixth Congress met for its long session, December
5, 1859, the whole country was in ferment over the execution of John
Brown. "An indiscreet move in any direction," wrote ex-President Tyler
from his plantation, "may produce results deeply to be deplored. I
fear the debates in Congress, and above all the Speaker's election. If
excitement prevails in Congress, it will add fuel to the flame which
already burns so terrifically."[5] He, and all patriots, might well
have been afraid of increased excitement. It was evident from the first
hour that the atmosphere was heavily charged. The House resolved itself
into a great debating society, in which the only questions were: "Is
slavery right or wrong? Shall it, or shall it not, be allowed in the
territories?" The foray of the zealot and fanatic aggravated the fury
of the combatants.

The member from Mississippi—L. Q. C. Lamar (afterwards Supreme Court
Justice of the United States)—threw an early firebrand by announcing
on the floor of the House, "The Republicans are not guiltless of the
blood of John Brown, his co-conspirators, and the innocent victims of
his ruthless vengeance." Lawrence Keitt of South Carolina declared: "The
South asks nothing but its rights. I would have no more, but as God is
my judge, I would shatter this republic from turret to foundation-stone
before I would take a tittle less." Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania
retorted: "I do not blame gentlemen of the South for using this threat
of rending God's creation from foundation to turret. They have tried it
fifty times, and fifty times they have found weak and recreant tremblers
in the North who have been affected by it, and who have acted from
those intimidations." Such were a few, by comparison with those that
rapidly followed, of the wild utterances of the hour. This occurred on
the second day of the session. The House was in an uproar! Members from
their seats crowded down into the aisles, and the clerk was powerless to
preserve order. "A few more such scenes," said one, "and we shall hear
the crack of the revolver and see the gleam of brandished blade."

In this spirit Congress proceeded to ballot for its Speaker, and
balloted for two months (until February 1), before Mr. Sherman was
abandoned (having withdrawn his name) and a compromise effected by the
election of Mr. Pennington, who represented neither extreme of party.

During these two months everything was said that could be said to fan
the flame. Hot disputes were accentuated by bitter personal remarks.
One day a pistol accidentally fell from the pocket of a member from
New York, and, thinking it had been drawn with the intention of using
it, some of the members were wild with passion, crying excitedly
for the sergeant-at-arms, and turning the House into a pandemonium.
John Sherman, who had been the unlucky bone of contention, made this
remarkable statement: "When I came here I did not believe that the
slavery question would come up; and but for the unfortunate affair of
Brown at Harper's Ferry I do not believe that there would have been any
feeling on the subject. Northern men came here with kindly feelings, no
man approving the foray of John Brown, and every man willing to say so,
every man willing to admit it as an act of lawless violence."

Four years before this stormy election, Banks had been chosen Speaker
after a contest longer by a few days than this. Then, as now, slavery
was the point at issue; but "good humor and courtesy had marked the
previous contest where now were acrimony and defiance.... Then threats
of disunion were received with laughter; now they were too manifestly
sincere to be treated lightly." In four years the breach between North
and South, once only a rift in the rock, had become a yawning chasm.
What might it not become in four years more?

Not foreseeing the rapid change of public sentiment, the Democrats had,
four years before, selected Charleston for the meeting of the convention
to name their candidate for the presidency. Accordingly, on April 23,
the party was convened in the "hotbed of disunion."

The Northern Democrats had heard much of the splendor and elegance
in which Charlestonians lived, and of the Arabian hospitality of the
South, which could ignore all animosities over the bread and salt. But
Charleston turned a cold shoulder to its guests from the North. All
hearts, however, and all homes were opened to the Southerners. They
dined with the aristocrats, drove with richly dressed ladies in gay
equipages, and were entertained generally with lavish hospitality. All
this tended to widen the breach between the sections.

When the delegates left their fair entertainers for the sessions of
the convention, the ladies repaired to old St. Michael's Episcopal
Church, where prayers, specially ordered for the success and prosperity
of the South, were daily offered. "At the same time fervent abolition
preachers at the North were praying for a disruption of the Charleston
convention."

Judge Douglas had written a platform that was not acceptable to
the South. After its adoption seven delegates from Southern states
declared their purpose of secession. The convention, seeing that it was
impossible to reach any result, adjourned May 3, to meet at Baltimore
the 18th of June. The seceders resolved to meet at Richmond the second
Monday of May. This initial movement awakened the alarm of at least
one devoted son of the South. Alexander Stephens wrote to a friend:
"The leaders intended from the beginning to rule or ruin.... Envy,
hate, jealousy, spite—these made war in heaven, which made devils of
angels, and the same passions will make devils of men. The Secession
movement was instigated by nothing but bad passions. Patriotism, in my
opinion, had no more to do with it than love of God had with the other
revolt."[6] In conversation with his friend Johnston, shortly after the
adjournment of the Convention, Stephens said, "Men will be cutting one
another's throats in a little while. In less than twelve months we shall
be in a war, and that the bloodiest in history. Men seem to be utterly
blinded to the future."[7]

The nomination of Lincoln and Hamlin on a purely sectional platform
aroused such excitement all over the land, that the Senate and House
of Representatives gave themselves entirely to speeches on the state of
the country. Read at this late day, many of them appear to be the high
utterances of patriots, pleading with each other for forbearance. Others
exhausted the vocabulary of coarse vituperation. "Nigger thief," "slave
driver," were not uncommon words. Others still, although less unrefined,
were not less abusive. Newspapers no longer reported a speech as calm,
convincing, logical, or eloquent,—these were tame expressions. The
terms now in use were: "a torrent of scathing denunciation," "withering
sarcasm," "crushing invective," the orator's eyes, the while, "blazing
with scorn and indignation." Young members ignored the salutation of
old Senators. Mr. Seward's smile after such a rebuff was maddening! No
opportunity for scornful allusion was lost. My husband was probably the
first Congressman to wear "the gray," a suit of domestic cloth having
been presented to him by his constituents. Immediately a Northern member
said, in an address on the state of the country, "Virginia, instead of
clothing herself in sheep's wool, had better don her appropriate garb
of sackcloth and ashes." In pathetic contrast to these scenes were
the rosy, cherubic little pages, in white blouses and cambric collars,
who flitted to and fro, bearing, with smiling faces, dynamic notes and
messages from one Representative to another. They represented the future
which these gentlemen were engaged in wrecking—for many of these boys
were sons of Southern widows, who even now, under the most genial skies,
led lives of anxiety and struggle. Thoroughly alarmed, the women of
Washington thronged the galleries of the House and the Senate Chamber.
From morning until the hour of adjournment we would sit, spellbound, as
one after another drew the lurid picture of disunion and war.

Our social lines were now strictly drawn between North and South.
Names were dropped from visiting lists, occasions avoided on which we
might expect to meet members of the party antagonistic to our own. My
friend Mrs. Douglas espoused all her husband's quarrels and distinctly
"cut" his opponents. There were very few boxes to be had at our little
theatre—and the three best were usually secured by Mrs. Douglas, Miss
Harriet Lane, and Mrs. John R. Thompson. The feud between the President
and Judge Douglas was bitter, and Mrs. Douglas never appeared at Miss
Lane's receptions in the winter of 1859-1860. One evening we were all
in our theatre boxes, Miss Lane next to us, and I the guest of Mrs.
Douglas. Mr. Porcher Miles, member from South Carolina, who had opposed
Judge Douglas's nomination, appeared at the door of our box. Instantly
Mrs. Douglas turned and said, "Sir, you have made a mistake. Your visit
is intended for next door!" "Madam," said Mr. Miles, "I presumed I
might be permitted to make my respects to Mrs. Pryor, for whom my call
was intended." I had the benefit, of course, of the private opinions
of each, and was able to be the friend of each. "This, I suppose,
is Southern chivalry," said my fair friend. "It savors, I think, of
ill-bred impertinence." "I had supposed her a lady," said Mr. Miles, "or
at least a woman of the world. She behaved like a rustic—an _ingénue_."

I could but receive their confidences in silence, perfectly well knowing
that both were in the wrong. Both were betrayed by the mad passions of
the hour—passions which caused older heads to misunderstand, mislead,
and misbehave! "I am the most unpopular man in the country," said Judge
Douglas (one of the presidential candidates); "I could walk from Boston
to Chicago by the light of my own burning effigies,—and I guess you all
know how much Virginia loves me."

I had the good fortune to retain some of my Northern friends. The
family of the Secretary of State was loyal to me to the end. When
my husband was once embroiled in a violent quarrel, growing out of
sectional feeling, General Cass sent his granddaughter, pretty Lizzie
Ledyard (my prime favorite), with his love to bid me "take heart," that
"all would turn out right." Mrs. Douglas never abated one jot of her
gentle kindness, although she knew we belonged to a party adverse to
her husband. Mrs. Horace Clark's little brown ponies stopped as often
as ever at my door to secure me for a drive down the avenue and a seat
beside her in the House. She had been a Miss Vanderbilt and was now wife
of a member from New York. All of them were prompt to congratulate me
upon my husband's speech on "the state of the country," and to praise
it with generous words as "calm, free from vituperation, eloquent in
pleading for peace and forbearance."

The evening after this speech was delivered, we were sitting in the
library on the first floor of our home, when there was a ring at
the door-bell. The servants were in a distant part of the house, and
such was our excited state that I ran to the door and answered the
bell myself. It was snowing fast, a carriage stood at the door, and
out of it bundled a mass of shawls and woollen scarfs. On entering,
a manservant commenced unwinding the bundle, which proved to be the
Secretary of State, General Cass! We knew not what to think. He was
seventy-seven years old. Every night at nine o'clock it was the custom
of his daughter, Mrs. Canfield, to wrap him in flannels and put him
to bed. What had brought him out at midnight? As soon as he entered,
before sitting down, he exclaimed: "Mr. Pryor, I have been hearing
about secession for a long time—and I would not listen. But now I am
frightened, sir, I am frightened! Your speech in the House to-day gives
me some hope. Mr. Pryor! I crossed the Ohio when I was sixteen years
old with but a pittance in my pocket, and this glorious Union has made
me what I am. I have risen from my bed, sir, to implore you to do what
you can to avert the disasters which threaten our country with ruin."

Never was a spring more delightful than that of 1860. The Marine Band
played every Saturday in the President's grounds, and thither the
whole world repaired, to walk, or to sit in open carriages, and talk of
everything except politics. Easy compliments to the ladies fell from
the lips of the men who could apply to each other in debate abuse too
painful to remember. Sometimes we would be invited for the afternoon
to sit on the veranda of the White House—and who could fail to mark the
ravages of anxiety and care upon the face of the President! All the more
because he insistently repeated that he was never better—that he slept
finely and enjoyed the best health. Nevertheless, if one chanced to
stand silently near him in a quiet corner, he might be heard to mutter,
"Not in my time—not in my time." Not in his time let this dear Union be
severed, this dear country be drowned in blood.

On other afternoons we visited Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Lee at Arlington,
or drove out to Georgetown through the fragrant avenue of blossoming
crab-apples, or to Mrs. Gales's delightful house for tea, returning
in the soft moonlight. Everybody in Washington dined early. Congress
usually adjourned at four o'clock, and my little boys were wont to be
on the roof of our house, to watch for the falling of the flag over the
House of Representatives, the signal that we might soon have dinner. The
evening meal was late, usually handed. It was considered not "stylish"
to serve it at a table. A servant would enter the drawing-room about
eight o'clock, with a tray holding plates and little doilies. Another
would bring in buttered biscuits and chipped beef or ham, and a third
tray held cups of tea and coffee. Some delicate sweet would follow.
Little tables of Chinese lacquer were placed between two or more
ladies, and lucky was the man who would be invited to share one of
them. Otherwise he must improvise a rest for his plate on his trembling
knees. "Take care! Your plate will fall," I said to one. "Fall! I wish
it would—and _break_! The only thing that worries me is when the blamed
thing takes to rolling. Why, I have chased plates all around the room
until I thought they were bewitched or held the secret of perpetual
motion!" These suppers were very conversational, and one did not mind
their being so light. There would be punch and sandwiches at eleven.

Such were the pleasant happenings that filled our days—clouded now by
the perils which we could not ignore after the warnings to which we
listened at the Capitol. We were conscious of this always in our round
of visits, receptions, dinners, and balls, with the light persiflage
and compliments still in our ears.

But when late evening came, the golden hour of reunion in the library
on the first floor of our home was marked by graver talk. There would
assemble R. M. T. Hunter, Muscoe Garnett, Porcher Miles, L. Q. C. Lamar,
Boyce, Barksdale of Mississippi, Keitt of South Carolina, with perhaps
some visitors from the South. Then Susan would light her fires and show
us the kind of oysters that could please her "own white folks," and
James would bring in lemons and hot water with some choice brand of old
Kentucky.

These were not convivial gatherings. These men held troubled
consultations on the state of the country—the real meaning and intent
of the North, the half-trusted scheme of Judge Douglas to allow the
territories to settle for themselves the vexed question of slavery
within their borders, the right of peaceable secession. The dawn would
find them again and again with but one conclusion—they would stand
together: "Unum et commune periclum una salus!"

But Holbein's spectre was already behind the door, and had marked his
men! In a few months the swift bullet for one enthusiast, for another
(the least considered of them all), a glorious death on the walls of
a hard-won rampart—he the first to raise his colors and the shout of
victory; for only one, or two, or three, the doubtful boon of existence
after the struggle was all over; for _all_ survivors, memories that made
the next four years seem to be the sum of life—the only real life—beside
which the coming years would be but a troubled dream.

The long session did not close until June, and in the preceding month
Abraham Lincoln was chosen candidate by the Republican party for the
presidency, and Stephen A. Douglas by the Democrats. The South had
also a candidate, and hoping to make things better, the ruffled-shirt
gentry—the Old-Line Whigs—had also named their man.

My little boys and I were glad to go home to Virginia. A season of
perfect happiness awaited them, with their sisters and the dear old
people whom they called grandfather and grandmother. Under the shade
of the trees, and in the veranda covered with Lamarque roses, who could
dream of war?

In the hot and bitter campaign that ensued we are told that "Douglas
took the _unusual course_ for a presidential candidate of visiting
different parts of the country and discussing the political issues and
their personal bearings. Speaking on all occasions, from the platform of
the railroad car, the balcony of the hotel, at monster mass-meetings,
he said much that was trivial and undignified, but he also said much
that was patriotic, unselfish, and pregnant with constitutional wisdom.
Coldly received at the South, where he was looked upon as a renegade,
he aroused great enthusiasm at the North, and his personal presence
was the only feature that gave any life to the struggle against the
Republicans."[8]

The words "irrepressible conflict" were much in evidence during this
campaign. Seward adopted them, and made speeches characterized as
his "Irrepressible Conflict Speeches."[9] Seward reaffirmed almost
everywhere the declaration of the "irrepressible conflict," and when
challenged because of the term, he "maintained that the Republicans
simply reverted to the theory and practice of their fathers," giving no
hint of a quotation.

The authorship of these words has always been credited to Mr. Seward.
Their true origin may be found in the address of Mr. Lincoln, delivered
at Cincinnati, Ohio, in September, 1859. On page 262 of the volume
published by Follett, Foster, & Co. in 1860, entitled "Political Debates
between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas," may be found
the following extract from Mr. Lincoln's speech:—

     "I have alluded in the beginning of these remarks to the fact
     that Judge Douglas has made great complaint of my having
     expressed the opinion that this Government 'cannot endure
     permanently half slave and half free.' He has complained of
     Seward for using different language, and declaring that there
     is an 'irrepressible conflict' between the principles of free
     and slave labor. [A voice: 'He says it is not original with
     Seward. That is original with Lincoln.'] I will attend to that
     immediately, sir. Since that time, Hickman of Pennsylvania
     expressed the same sentiment. He has never denounced Mr.
     Hickman; why? There is a little chance, notwithstanding that
     opinion in the mouth of Hickman, that he may yet be a Douglas
     man. That is the difference! It is not unpatriotic to hold
     that opinion, if a man is a Douglas man.

     "But neither I, nor Seward, nor Hickman is entitled to the
     enviable or unenviable distinction of having first expressed
     that idea. That same idea was expressed by the _Richmond
     Enquirer_ in Virginia, in 1856, quite two years before it was
     expressed by the first of us. And while Douglas was pluming
     himself that in his conflict with my humble self, last year,
     he had 'squelched out' that fatal heresy, as he delighted to
     call it, and had suggested that if he only had had a chance
     to be in New York and meet Seward he would have 'squelched' it
     there also, it never occurred to him to breathe a word against
     Pryor. I don't think that you can discover that Douglas ever
     talked of going to Virginia to 'squelch' out that idea there.
     No. More than that. That same Roger A. Pryor was brought to
     Washington City and made the editor of the _par excellence_
     Douglas paper, after making use of that expression, which in
     us is so unpatriotic and heretical."

Before we returned to Washington Mr. Lincoln was elected President of
the United States.



CHAPTER VIII

MEMORABLE DAYS IN THE HISTORY OF THE COUNTRY


A momentous day in the history of this country was November 6, 1860—on
that day the extreme party of the North elected its candidate, with a
Vice-President, making the Executive purely sectional. But few people
expected the fulfilment of the evils so insistently threatened as a
consequence of this election.

Not for one moment had we seriously entertained the thought of
secession. The question of slavery in the territories was still
unsettled, and the stormy scenes in the House might possibly be
reënacted. Like General Cass, we had heard all our lives rumors of
possible secession, possible war. Nobody believed these rumors—any
more than we believed that every threatening cloud would burst in a
devastating tempest. It was part of the routine, "the order of the day,"
to enliven things by warm discussions and spicy personalities.

My husband had been unanimously reëlected, and our delightful Washington
life was assured to us—certainly for three winters—probably for all
time.

We were so deeply concerned about the state of the country at large,
that his election excited us but little. When the polls closed at
sunset, one of his political friends came to me and said there would
be a torch-light procession in his honor, that the crowd would call
at his residence, and the house must be illuminated. "Illuminated!" I
exclaimed. "Impossible! There are not half a dozen candles in the house,
and the stores are all closed. Besides, the babies will be asleep. It
is bad for babies to be roused from their first sleep."

My friend seemed to appreciate this reasoning; but later in the evening
I received a bushel of small white turnips and a box of candles, with
a pencilled note saying that I must cut holes in the vegetables, and
I would find them admirable candlesticks. The little boys and servants
went to work with a will, and when the drum announced the near approach
of the procession, every window was blazing with a double row of lights,
one row on the window-sill, the other midway, on the top of the lower
sash.

My young Congressman was considered a brilliant speaker, and his talents
were sometimes called into use in Washington. Some matter of municipal
interest was supported by him, and another torch-light procession
gathered late one night around the door of the house on New York Avenue.

"You are not to listen," he said to me, as he descended to the front
door to speak to the crowd; "I shall say a few words only." I threw a
shawl over my night-dress and crouched down in a little balcony just
over his head. To my prejudiced mind, his speech was the most graceful
and charming thing I had ever heard. I was in a delightful trance of
happiness when he closed, and was rudely awakened when, in response to
shouts of "Go on, go on, we could listen all night," the daring young
orator deliberately turned and pointed to the balcony above him: "Go on,
my friends? Go on, exposed to the criticism of one from whose criticism
I am always trying to escape?"

I fell back out of sight on the floor. I never listened afterward!

And among the pleasant happenings of these golden days, so soon to
be shut in by darkness and sorrow, was the presentation to my young
Congressman of a beautiful service of silver from his Democratic friends
of Virginia in recognition of "brilliant talents, eminent worth, and
distinguished services."

Mr. Galt made this splendid service, and I record it here because
it became part of the history of the next years of trouble. I should
have lost it once (in a dark hour), but Mr. Galt bade me keep it—that
brighter days were in store for me and mine, a prophecy which he lived
to see fulfilled.

We were all in our places in November, setting our houses in order,
several weeks before the assembling of Congress. We were warmly welcomed
into our pleasant home by Susan, whose authority, now fully established
and recognized, kept us in perfect order. Everything promised a season
of unusual interest. We now knew everybody—and what is more I, for one,
liked everybody. It takes so little to make a woman happy!

In Washington our social life did not begin before New Year's Day. Among
our first cards this winter was an invitation to the marriage of Mr.
Bouligny, member from Louisiana, and Miss Parker, daughter of a wealthy
Washington grocer. Rumors reached us of unusual plans for this wedding.
Mr. Parker's large house was to be converted into a conservatory filled
with blossoming roses and lilies. Fountains were to be introduced, new
effects in lighting. The presents were to be magnificent, the bridal
dress gorgeous.

Upon arriving at the house (I think it was an afternoon wedding) I found
the President seated in an arm-chair at one end of the drawing-room, and
the guests ranging themselves on either side. A crimson velvet curtain
was stretched across the other end of the room. Presently the curtain
parted, and the bridal tableau appeared in position behind it. After the
ceremony the crowd waited until the President went forward to wish the
bride and her husband "a great deal of happiness." Everybody remained
standing until Mr. Buchanan returned to his seat. I stood behind his
chair and observed that he had aged much since the summer.

He had had much to bear. Unable to please either party, he had been
accused of cowardice, imbecility, and even insanity, by both parties.
"The President is pale with fear," said General Cass. "He divides his
time equally between praying and crying. Such an imbecile was never
seen before," said another. A double-leaded editorial in the _New York
Tribune_ of December 17 suggested that he might be insane. On the day
of the wedding, December 20, he stoutly denied that he was ill. "I never
enjoyed better health nor a more tranquil spirit," said the hard-pressed
President. "I have not lost an hour's sleep nor a single meal. I weigh
well and prayerfully what course I ought to adopt," he had written on
that day.

The crowd in the Parker drawing-room soon thinned as the guests found
their way to the rooms in which the presents were displayed. The
President kept his seat, and I stood behind him as one and another came
forward to greet him. Presently he looked over his shoulder and said,
"Madam, do you suppose the house is on fire? I hear an unusual commotion
in the hall."

"I will inquire the cause, Mr. President," I said. I went out at the
nearest door, and there in the entrance hall I found Mr. Lawrence Keitt,
member from South Carolina, leaping in the air, shaking a paper over his
head, and exclaiming, "Thank God! Oh, thank God!" I took hold of him and
said: "Mr. Keitt, are you crazy? The President hears you, and wants to
know what's the matter."

"Oh!" he cried, "South Carolina has seceded! Here's the telegram. I feel
like a boy let out from school."

I returned and, bending over Mr. Buchanan's chair, said in a low voice:
"It appears, Mr. President, that South Carolina has seceded from the
Union. Mr. Keitt has a telegram." He looked at me, stunned for a moment.
Falling back and grasping the arms of his chair, he whispered, "Madam,
might I beg you to have my carriage called?" I met his secretary and
sent him in without explanation, and myself saw that his carriage was
at the door before I reëntered the room. I then found my husband, who
was already cornered with Mr. Keitt, and we called our own carriage
and drove to Judge Douglas's. There was no more thought of bride,
bridegroom, wedding cake, or wedding breakfast.

This was the tremendous event which was to change all our lives—to
give us poverty for riches, mutilation and wounds for strength and
health, obscurity and degradation for honor and distinction, exile and
loneliness for inherited homes and friends, pain and death for happiness
and life.

The news was not known, except in official circles, until the evening.
The night was dark. A drizzling rain was falling; the streets were
almost impassable from mud.

At the house of a prominent South Carolina gentleman a crowd soon
collected. The street was full of carriages, the house brilliantly
lighted.

Admiral Porter, then a lieutenant, had heard the startling news,
and called at this house to tell it. He found the mistress of the
mansion descending in cloak and bonnet, and as soon as she saw him she
exclaimed: "Oh, Captain, you are just the man I want. I'm going to the
White House to tell the President some good news. The horses are sick
and I'm going to walk over."[10]

"It is impossible for you to walk through the rain and mud," said the
Lieutenant. "There are ten or twelve hacks at the door, and I will press
one into your service." So saying, he called a carriage and helped her
to enter it, getting in after her.

"I was under the impression," he said, as they started, "that you were
having a party at your house, it was so brilliantly lighted up, and I
thought I would venture in uninvited."

"No, indeed," she replied; "but we have received glorious news from
the South, and my husband's friends are calling to congratulate him.
South Carolina has seceded, and, oh, Captain, we will have a glorious
monarchy, and you must join us."

"And be made Duke of Benedict Arnold?"

"Nonsense!" she exclaimed, "we will make you an admiral."

"Certainly," said Lieutenant Porter, "Admiral of the Blue. For I should
feel blue enough to see everything turned upside down, and our boasted
liberty and civilization whistled down the wind."

"What would you have?" she inquired. "Would you have us tamely submit
to all the indignities the North puts upon us, and place our necks under
their feet? Why, this very day my blood boiled while I was in Congress,
and I could scarcely contain myself. An old black Republican was
berating the Southern people as if they were a pack of naughty children.
However, Mr. Rhett took the floor and gave the man such a castigation
that he slunk away and was no more heard from."

Just then they reached the White House. "Come in," said the lady, "and
hear me tell the President the good news."

Lieutenant Porter preferred returning to her house. There he found
a crowd around a generous bowl of punch. When he had an opportunity,
he asked the host if he thought it possible the Southern states would
secede. "What more do they want?" he inquired. "They have a majority
in the Senate and the House, and, with the Supreme Court on their side,
they could make laws to suit themselves."

"True," his host replied, "most people would be satisfied with that.
'Better to bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not
of.' But _you_ will join us? _You must!_ We will have a navy to be proud
of, and we'll make you admiral."

"There's one comfort," said an old society dame who now joined the
party. "South Carolina is a fickle young thing and may change her mind!
She declared herself ready once before to walk out,—you all remember
it,—and changed her mind. She took off her things and concluded to stay
a little longer."

"She has gone for good and all this time, depend upon it," said the
host. "She was only giving warning then! Her time is up now and she is
off."

Meanwhile the lady of the house was telling the President news that was
no news to him. He was fully prepared to receive it calmly and gravely.
I had preceded her by some hours.

Lieutenant Porter little dreamed of the good fortune the secession of
South Carolina would bring to him. From a poor lieutenant with anxious
cares about a large family, he was speedily raised by Mr. Lincoln to
the proud position of rear-admiral of the United States.

His own comment upon the enthusiasm of his Southern friends is amusing.
He declared that if the capital and its surroundings had been less
stupid, that if those vivacious Southerners could have had a court,
theatres, and opera-houses, the catastrophe which overwhelmed North and
South might have been prevented. "The Romans understood these things
better than we. They omitted nothing to keep the people amused; they
even had the street fountains at times run with wine, and the investment
was worth the money spent." "But what," said Admiral Porter, "could
one expect at a court presided over by an old bachelor whose heart was
dead to poetry and love; who sat at dinner with no flowers to grace the
festive board, and never even had a _boutonnière_ on his coat lapel?"
which was one way, at least, of accounting for things.

Of course, we all paid our respects to the President on the next New
Year's Day, and joined the motley crowd of men and women of every degree
who were admitted after the starred and beribboned dignitaries from
foreign lands had been received. "Here I am, Mr. President," said one
of the witty Southern women, "and my cook will be here in a few minutes!
I left her dressing to come."

The day that ushered in the eventful year 1861 was gloomy out of doors,
but within the Executive Mansion flowers, music, gay attire, and bright
smiles ruled the hour. "I wish you a happy New Year, Mr. President,"
fell from every lip, but in every heart there was a gloomy foreboding of
impending disaster. What would the year bring to the "wayward sister,"
whose sons had all gone home? How we missed them!—Mr. Porcher Miles, Mr.
Boyce, Mr. and Mrs. Keitt, always so delightful a part of our Washington
social life. Some of us might expect to return; but this was adieu, not
_au revoir_, to our President. This was his last New Year's Day in the
White House, not his last day of perplexity and trouble. Very soon more
wayward sisters would depart, and the hour he had dreaded would "come
in his time."

There is no time at the President's New Year's reception to gather in
corners for private talk. We must hurry on our rounds to the houses of
the Cabinet and of the foreign Ministers. Sending the gentlemen of our
party forward to visit the Senators' wives, we hastened home to our own
punch-bowl.

I brewed a mighty bowl that last New Year's Day. Dr. Garnett and Judge
Scarborough presided over the mixing, to be sure that the arrack was
proportioned rightly, and that there were just as many and no more
toasted crab-apples than there should be. I was assisted by my friend
Agnes, whom I love to quote, and whose full name I should like to give,
except for the reason that she is now living, and, being a respectable
lady of the old school, is averse from seeing her name in print. In
the society journal occasionally, apropos of the opera or reception,
perhaps, but in a book! I should never be forgiven.

Late in the afternoon my rooms were thronged—with Virginians and
Southerners mainly, but with some Northern friends as well, for Virginia
was not yet classed. Like Touchstone, I was "in a parlous state," lest
some of my guests who had already honored many punch-bowls should
venture on forbidden subjects. More than one came in on the arm of
James, but it took a better man than James to conduct him out again and
into his carriage. My friend who had distinguished himself at my first
President's dinner was in high feather, as were some grave judges I
knew.

There was but one thought in every mind, gay or sober. "Is this a
meeting of the Girondists?" queried one.

     "When shall we three meet again?"

quoted another.

     "When the hurly-burly's done—
     When the battle's lost and won,"

was the prompt answer. "Sh-h-h!" said an old army officer. "It is not
lucky to talk of lost battles on New Year's Day, nor of Girondists'
feasts on the eve of a revolution."

The season which was always ushered in on New Year's Day resolved itself
literally this year into a residence in the galleries of the Senate
Chamber and the House of Representatives.

Before the 2d of February, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia,
Louisiana, and Texas had dissolved their bonds with the Federal Union.
The farewell addresses of the Representatives of the seceded states
became the regular order of the day. Jefferson Davis's final farewell
closed with these solemn words: "May God have us in His holy keeping,
and grant that, before it is too late, peaceful counsels may prevail."

Virginia, had she retained her original colonial bounds, could
have dictated to the rest. Now, should she elect to join the
Southern Confederacy, the states she had given to the Union—her own
children—would be arrayed against her.

Virginia now essayed to arbitrate. Her Peace Commission met in
Washington, but without result, except that it was for her a fleeting
moment of enthusiasm.

Mr. Kellogg of Illinois said: "She has thrown herself into the breach
to turn aside the tide of disunion and revolution, and she says to the
nation, 'Be united and be brothers again.' God bless the Old Dominion!"
Said Mr. Bigler of Pennsylvania, January 21: "Pennsylvania will _never_
become the enemy of Virginia! Pennsylvania will never draw the sword on
Virginia."

Apprehension was felt lest the new President's inaugural might be the
occasion of rioting, if not of violence. We were advised to send our
women and children out of the city. Hastily packing my personal and
household belongings to be sent after me, I took my little boys, with
their faithful nurse, Eliza Page, on board the steamer to Acquia Creek,
and, standing on deck as long as I could see the dome of the Capitol,
commenced my journey homeward. My husband remained behind, and kept his
seat in Congress until Mr. Lincoln's inauguration. He described that
mournful day to me—differing so widely from the happy installation of
Mr. Pierce. "O'er all there hung a shadow and a fear." Every one was
oppressed by it, and no one more than the doomed President himself.

We were reunited a few weeks afterward at our father's house in
Petersburg; and in a short time my young Congressman had become my
young colonel—and Congressman as well, for as soon as Virginia seceded
he was elected to the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of
America, and was commissioned colonel by Governor Letcher.

I am afraid the evening is at hand, when we must bid adieu to the bright
days—the balls, the merry hair-dresser, the round of visits, the levees,
the charming "at homes." The setting sun of such a day should pillow
itself on golden clouds, bright harbingers of a morning of beauty and
happiness. Alas, alas! "whom the gods destroy they first infatuate."



CHAPTER IX

RAPID PROGRESS OF EVENTS AT THE SOUTH


When it was disclosed that a majority of the Virginia Convention opposed
taking the state out of the Union, the secessionists became greatly
alarmed; for they knew that without the border states, of which Virginia
was the leader, the cotton states would be speedily crushed. They were
positively certain, however, that, in the event of actual hostilities,
Virginia would unite with her Southern associates. Accordingly, it was
determined to bring a popular pressure to bear upon the government at
Montgomery to make an assault on Fort Sumter. To that end my husband
went to Charleston, and delivered to an immense and enthusiastic
audience, a most impassioned and vehement speech, urging the Southern
troops to "strike a blow," and assuring them that in case of conflict,
Virginia would secede "within an hour by Shrewsbury clock." The blow
was struck; Mr. Lincoln called upon Virginia for a quota of troops to
subdue the rebellion, and the state immediately passed an ordinance of
secession.

Mr. Pryor, with other gentlemen, was deputed by General Beauregard to
demand the surrender of the fort, and in case of the refusal which he
foresaw, to direct the commandant of battery, Johnson, to open fire.
When the order was delivered to the commandant, he invited my husband
to fire the first shot; but this honor my husband declined, and instead
suggested the venerable Edmund Ruffin, an intense secessionist, for that
service. It was the prevalent impression at the time, that Mr. Ruffin
did "fire the first gun"; at all events he fired, to him, the last; for
on hearing of Lee's surrender, Cato-like, he destroyed himself.

I have often wondered what would have been the effect upon the fortunes
of our own family, had my husband fired the shot that ushered in the
war. Even had his life been spared, he certainly would not have become
an eminent lawyer in the state of New York and a justice of its Supreme
Court.

Fort Sumter was reduced on April 12, and Virginia was in a wild state
of excitement and confusion.

The deputation sent to Washington in the interests of peace had failed
in its mission. The Convention of 1861 was in session at Richmond as
early as April 11—sitting with closed doors. The people were wrought to
the highest pitch of anxiety lest the conservative spirit of the older
men should triumph and should lead them to prefer submission, which
would mean dishonor, to secession, which could mean nothing worse than
death.

Business was practically suspended in Richmond and Petersburg; men
crowded the streets to learn the latest news from the North, and were
inflamed by reports of the arrest and incarceration in Fort Lafayette
of Southern sympathizers. As crowds gathered in different localities the
advocates of secession addressed them in impassioned speeches which met
with hearty response from the people.

On April 16, a body, calling itself the Spontaneous People's Convention,
met and organized in the Metropolitan Hall at Richmond. The door was
kept by a guard with a drawn sword in his hand. David Chalmers of
Halifax County was president, and Willoughby Newton, vice-president.

Patrick Henry Aylett, grandson of Patrick Henry, made a noble speech,
urging moderation and delay; warmer speeches followed. A Southern flag
was raised on the capitol amid shouts of applause, but at midnight
the governor had it removed, for the convention had not yet passed the
ordinance of secession, and those who rose with the dawn of the next
eventful day found the state flag calmly floating in its place.

I was a guest of the government house at this time, and in the calm and
seclusion of Mrs. Letcher's rooms I missed much of the excitement. She
was a motherly, domestic woman, who chose to ignore outside disturbances
for the sake of present peace. We talked together of family matters, as
we sewed upon little gowns and pinafores, indulged in reminiscences of
the Washington life which we had enjoyed together, and said very little
of the troubles of the hour. Mrs. Letcher thought the political storm
must pass. It was hard to bear; the governor was nervous and sleeping
badly, but quiet would surely come, and when it did—why, then, we would
all go down to Old Point Comfort for June, bathe in the sea, and get
strong and well. As for fighting—it would never come to that!

On the memorable day of the 17th the "Spontaneous Convention" again
met to discuss a new political organization of the state. While they
argued and struggled, Lieutenant-Governor Montague entered the hall
with momentous news. An ordinance of secession had been passed by the
State Convention. This announcement was followed by a thrilling moment
of silence succeeded by tears of gladness and deafening shouts of
applause. The venerable ex-President Tyler made a stirring address. He
gave a brief history of the struggles of the English race from the days
of the Magna Charta to the present time, and solemnly declared that at
no period of the history of our race had we ever been engaged in a more
just and holy effort for the maintenance of liberty and independence
than at the present moment. The career of the dominant party at the
North was but a series of aggressions which fully warranted our eternal
separation; and if we performed our duty as Christian patriots, the
same God who favored the cause of our forefathers in the Revolution
of 1776 would crown our efforts with success. Generations yet unborn
would bless those who had the high privilege of participating in the
present struggle. A passionate speech followed from ex-Governor Wise.
He alluded to a rumor that one of his children had been seized and held
as hostage at the North. "But," he said, "if they suppose hostages of
my own heart's blood will stay my hand in the maintenance of sacred
rights, they are mistaken. Affection for kindred, property, and life
itself sink into insignificance in comparison with the overwhelming
importance of public duty in such a crisis as this. Virginia is smitten
with blindness, in that she does not at once seize Washington before
the Republican hordes get possession of it." The Hon. J. M. Mason and
others followed in the same strain. Governor Letcher appeared, and
pledged himself to discharge his whole duty as executive of the state
in conformity with the will of the people and the provisions of the
constitution. The ordinance could not become a law until it was ratified
by the people—and they would be called to vote upon it on May 23. "Not
until then," said an ex-Congressman, "will those fellows in Washington
know we are Secessionists!" "_Never_ as Secessionists!" said another;
"I detest the word. We are revolutionists,—rebels, as our fathers
were." "But perhaps," ventured one of the old Washington coterie, to
Mr. Hunter, "perhaps the people will not vote us out of the Union after
all." "My dear lady," said the ex-Senator, proudly, "you may place
your little hand against Niagara with more certainty of staying the
torrent than you can oppose this movement. It was written long ago in
the everlasting stars that the South would be driven out of the Union
by the North."

The fate of Virginia had been decided April 15, when President Lincoln
demanded troops for the subjugation of the seceding states of the South.
The temper of Governor Letcher of Virginia was precisely in accord with
the spirit that prompted Governor Magoffin of Kentucky to answer to a
similar call for state militia: "Kentucky will furnish no troops for the
wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern states!" Until this call
of the President, Virginia had been extremely averse from secession, and
even though she deemed it within her rights to leave the Union, she did
not wish to pledge herself to join the Confederate States of the South.
Virginia was the Virginian's Country. The common people were wont to
speak of her as "The Old Mother." "The mother of us all," a mother so
honored and loved that her brood of children must be noble and true.

Her sons had never forgotten her! She had fought nobly in the Revolution
and had afterward surrendered, for the common good, her magnificent
territory. Had she retained this vast dominion, she could now have
dictated to all the other states. She gave it up from a pure spirit
of patriotism—that there might be the fraternity which could not exist
without equality,—and in surrendering it, she had reserved for herself
the right to withdraw from the Confederation whenever she should deem it
expedient for her own welfare. There were leading spirits who thought
the hour had come when she might demand her right. She was not on a
plane with the other states of the Union. "Virginia, New York, and
Massachusetts had expressly reserved the right to withdraw from the
Union, and explicitly disclaimed the right or power to bind the hands
of posterity by any form of government whatever."

And so the question of the hour with Virginia was not the right to
introduce slavery into the territories. Nothing was said or thought
about slavery. The question was of states' rights only.

One need but go back to the original treaties with France and England
in 1778 and 1783, to understand the origin and root of this feeling
with the Virginians of 1861. France had made her treaty of perpetual
alliance with the "Thirteen United Colonies," naming each one separately
as one of the contracting parties. The king of England had named each
one separately to be "free, sovereign and independent states" and "that
he treated with them as such."

Said old John Janney, a Union man and president of the Convention of
1861, when taxed with having taken sides with Virginia against the
Union, "Virginia, sir, was a nation one hundred and eighty years before
your Union was born."

Another strong party was the "Union Party," sternly resolved against
secession, willing to run the risks of fighting within the Union for
the rights of the state. This spirit was so strong, that any hint of
secession had been met with angry defiance. A Presbyterian clergyman
had ventured, in his morning sermon, a hint that Virginia might need her
sons for defence, when a gray-haired elder left the church and, turning
at the door, shouted "Traitor!" This was in Petersburg, the birthplace
of General Winfield Scott.

And still another party was the enthusiastic secession party, resolved
upon resistance to coercion; the men who could believe nothing good of
the North, should interests of that section conflict with those of the
South; who cherished the bitterest resentments for all the sneers and
insults in Congress; who, like the others, adored their own state and
were ready and willing to die in her defence. Strange to say, this was
the predominating spirit all through the country, in rural districts as
well as in the small towns and the larger cities. It seemed to be born
all at once in every breast as soon as Lincoln demanded the soldiers.

The "overt act" for which everybody looked had been really the
reënforcement by Federal troops of the fort in Charleston Harbor. When
Fort Sumter was reduced by Beauregard, "the fight was on."

On May 23 Virginia ratified an ordinance of secession, and on the
early morning of May 24 the Federal soldiers, under General Winfield
Scott,[11] crossed the Potomac River and occupied Arlington Heights
and the city of Alexandria. "The invasion of Virginia, the pollution of
her sacred soil as it was termed, called forth a vigorous proclamation
from her governor and a cry of rage from her press." General Beauregard
issued a fierce proclamation, tending to fire the hearts of the
Virginians with anger. "A reckless and unprincipled host," he declared,
"has invaded your soil," etc., etc.

General Scott, our father's groomsman, was knocking at the doors of the
"fair ladies" he loved, with the menace of torch and sword.

And now there was a mighty gathering of the sons of "The Old Mother!"
She raised her standard, "_Sic semper tyrannis_," and from every
quarter of the globe they rallied to her defence, not scurrying home for
shelter from the storm, but coming to place their own breasts between
her and the blast,—descendants of men who had won freedom in 1776, of
Light Horse Harry Lee, of Peter Johnson, Ensign of the Legion,—Robert
E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, Thomas Jackson, "Jeb" Stuart, A. P. Hill,
Muscoe Garnett, Roger A. Pryor, Austin Smith from far San Francisco,
Dr. Garnett from Washington, Bradfute Warwick from Naples, Powhatan
Clark from Louisiana, Judge Scarborough from the Court of Claims at
Washington, Judge Campbell, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court at
Washington, and multitudes of others! "The very earth trembled at the
tramp of the Virginians as they marched to the assize of arms of the
Mother of them all. From every continent, from every clime, from all
avocations, from the bar, the pulpit, the counting-room, the workshop,
the Virginians came.

     "'Theirs not to reason why,
     Theirs but to do and die!'"[12]

Among them was a descendant of old Sir Humphrey Gilbert,—him of the
sinking ship on his way to Virginia,—who cried as he went down: "Be of
good cheer, my friends! It is as near heaven by sea as by land."

And among them were some who quoted old Sir George Somers of the _Sea
Venture_, who drew around him his crew and exhorted them to "be true to
duty and to return to Virginia."

General Bradley Johnson says these words of the old knight rang like a
trumpet all over the country in the early days of the war wherever there
was a Virginian. "Be true to duty and return to Virginia!" And few, very
few, failed to obey the call.

It is well known that General Lee did not approve the hasty,
ill-considered action of the early seceders from the Union. He foresaw
the perils and doubtful results of such action. He knew that war—as my
own husband had so earnestly said in Congress—"meant widows and orphans,
the punishment of the innocent, the ruin of the fortunes of all." Still,
the "Old Mother" had been forced to accept it at the hands of others.
The simple question was: "With or against blood and kin? For or against
the Old Mother?" And the question answered itself in the asking.

I am sure that no soldier enlisted under Virginia's banner could
possibly be more determined than the young women of the state. They were
uncompromising.

"You promised me my answer to-night," said a fine young fellow, who had
not yet enlisted, to his sweetheart.

"Well, you can't have it, Ben, until you have fought the Yankees," said
pretty Helen.

"What heart will I have for fighting if you give me no promise?"

"I'll not be engaged to any man until he has fought the Yankees," said
Helen, firmly. "You distinguish yourself in the war, and then see what
I'll have to say to you."

This was the stand they took in Richmond and Petersburg. Engagements
were postponed until they could find of what mettle a lover was.

"But suppose I don't come back at all!" suggested Ben.

"Oh, then I'll acknowledge an engagement and be good to your mother,—and
wear mourning all the same—_provided_—your wounds are all in front."

A few days before the vote was taken upon the ordinance of secession
we had a fine fright in Richmond. An alarm was rung in the Capitol
Square, and thousands of people filled the streets to learn the cause
of its warning. Presently notices were posted all over the city that
the _Pawnee_—a war-ship of the United States—was steaming up the James
River with the purpose of shelling the mansions on the banks, and of
finally firing on Richmond. We had friends living in those fine colonial
mansions all along the river,—at Claremont, Upper and Lower Brandon,
Shirley, Westover,—dear old ladies who were unprotected, and would be
frightened to death. For ourselves in Richmond and Petersburg there
would be no personal danger, we could escape; but our mills and shipping
would be destroyed.

I think I am within the bounds of truth when I say that every man and
boy capable of bearing gun or pistol marched with the soldiers and
artillery down to the riverside, determined to defend the city. There
they waited until the evening, the howitzers firing from time to time
to forewarn the war-ship of their presence.

A little after sunset the crowd turned its face homeward. News had been
received that the _Pawnee_ had steamed up the river a short distance,
had thought better of it, and had turned around and gone back to her
mooring. All the same one thing was certain, the war-ship "bristling
with guns" was there. She _could_ steam up the river any night, and
probably would when it pleased her so to do.

When I returned to my father's home in Petersburg, I found my friends
possessed with an intense spirit of patriotism. The First, Second,
and Third Virginia were already mustered into service; my husband was
colonel of the Third Virginia Infantry. The men were to be equipped for
service immediately. All of "the boys" were going—the three Mays, Will
Johnson, Berry Stainback, Ned Graham, all the young, dancing set, the
young lawyers and doctors—everybody, in short, except bank presidents,
druggists, a doctor or two (over age), and young boys under sixteen.

To be idle was torture. We women resolved ourselves into a sewing
society—resting not on Sundays. Sewing-machines were put into the
churches, which became depots for flannel, muslin, strong linen, and
even uniform cloth. When the hour for meeting arrived, the sewing class
would be summoned by the ringing of the church bell. My dear Agnes was
visiting in Petersburg, and was my faithful ally in all my work. We
instituted a monster sewing class, which we hugely enjoyed, to meet
daily at my home on Market Street. My Colonel was to be fitted out as
never was colonel before. He was ordered to Norfolk with his regiment to
protect the seaboard. I was proud of his colonelship, and much exercised
because he had no shoulder-straps. I undertook to embroider them myself.
We had not then decided upon the star for our colonels' insignia, and I
supposed he would wear the eagle like all the colonels I had ever known.
No embroidery bullion was to be had, but I bought heavy bullion fringe,
cut it in lengths, and made eagles, probably of some extinct species,
for the like were unknown in Audubon's time, and have not since been
discovered. However, they were accepted, admired, and, what is worse,
worn.

The Confederate soldier was furnished at the beginning of the war with a
gun, pistol, canteen, tin cup, haversack, and knapsack—no inconsiderable
weight to be borne in a march. The knapsack contained a fatigue jacket,
one or two blankets, an oilcloth, several suits of underclothing,
several pairs of white gloves, collars, neckties, and handkerchiefs.
Each mess purchased a mess-chest containing dishes, bowls, plates,
knives, forks, spoons, cruets, spice-boxes, glasses, etc. Each mess also
owned a frying-pan, oven, coffee-pot, and camp-kettle. The uniforms were
of the finest cadet cloth and gold lace.

This outfit—although not comparable to that of the Federal soldiers,
many of whom had "Saratoga" trunks in the baggage train, was considered
sumptuous by the Confederate volunteer.

As if these were not enough, we taxed our ingenuity to add sundry
comforts, weighing little, by which we might give a touch of refinement
to the soldier's knapsack.

There was absolutely nothing which a man might possibly use that we did
not make for them. We embroidered cases for razors, for soap and sponge,
and cute morocco affairs for needles, thread, and court-plaster, with
a little pocket lined with a bank-note. "How perfectly ridiculous!" do
you say? Nothing is ridiculous that helps anxious women to bear their
lot—cheats them with the hope that they are doing good.



CHAPTER X

VIRGINIA AGAIN THE BATTLE-GROUND


The day came at last when our regiments were to march. They were to
rendezvous at the head of Sycamore Street, and march down to the lower
depot. Every old man and boy, matron, maiden, and child, every family
servant, assembled to bid them God-speed.

The reigning belles and beauties of Petersburg were all there,—Alice
Gregory, Tabb Bolling, Molly and Augusta Banister, Patty Hardee, Mary
and Marion Meade, pretty Helen, and my own friend Agnes.

"We are not to cry, you know," said Agnes, laying down the law by right
of seniority.

"Of _course_ not!" said Helen, winking away her tears and smiling.

Just then the inspiring notes of "Dixie," with drum and clash of cymbal,
rent the air—the first time I had heard that battle-song.

"Forward! March!" And they were moving in solid ranks, all of us keeping
step on the sidewalk, down to the depot.

  [Illustration: APPOMATTOX.]

When the men were on board, and the wheels began to move, Ben leaned
out of his window and whispered to Helen, just below him:—

"Can't I have the promise now, Helen?"

"Yes, yes, Ben—_dear_ Ben, I promise!" and as the cars rolled away she
turned and calmly announced, "Girls, I'm engaged to Ben Shepard."

"_I'm_ engaged to half a dozen of them," said one.

"That's nothing," said another, "_I'm_ engaged to the whole regiment."

Poor little Helen—but I must not anticipate.

After the soldiers left, silence and anxiety fell upon the town like a
pall. What should we do next? This was the question we asked each other;
and it was answered by one of our dear women.

"We will hold a prayer meeting in each other's houses, at four o'clock
every afternoon. We can _pray_, if we cannot fight."

This meeting was held daily throughout the years of the war—and comfort
through its influence came to many a sorrowful heart.

But the lull was of short duration. The South was sending troops to help
old Virginia.

I think Beauregard's veterans can never forget their reception in
Petersburg. We were forewarned of their coming. We sent our servants
laden with trays of refreshments, we went ourselves to the depot
with flowers. Beauregard, our idol, the gallant, dashing Beauregard,
hurriedly shook hands with us and filled his arms with our flowers;
then,—"All aboard,"—and off again, to be heard from very soon at Bull
Run.

Other regiments passed through town, and none left without being
refreshed. The railroad whistles instructed us as to numbers.

It was a happy day for me when a telegram came from my Colonel at
Norfolk: "Suppose you pay me a visit!" There could be but one answer.

When the day of my departure arrived I was at the depot of the train
which was to take me to City Point, long before the time of starting;
and when I reached the terminus of the short railroad, I was in terror
lest the Richmond boat might have gone on its way without stopping for
us. Would it never come? Surely something had happened! "Oh, Captain," I
cried for the third time, as that functionary paced to and fro in front
of his little engine, "do you think the boat—" "In a moment, lady," said
the Captain, "the boat is just coming round the Point;" and sure enough,
there she was, slowing up to pick up the happiest woman in the world.

I can imagine few journeys more delightful than a sail down the James
River on a lovely summer day. The river itself is not a clear stream of
silver like the Potomac. Every stream that enters it is yellow with the
peculiar clay of the country through which it passes. But the James is,
_par excellence_, the romantic river of our country, though not like
the beautiful Hudson, misty with the dreams of Washington Irving. The
historic James needs no imaginings to enhance its charm. Seated on the
forward deck, one glides softly over enchanted waters. Could the veil
which hides the future have been lifted from my vision on this glorious
noonday, what would have been my sensations. Here at City Point, in
the venerable ivy-clad home of the Eppes family, General Grant would in
three short years make his headquarters, and would entertain President
Lincoln, General Sherman, and Admiral Porter.

Across the river the elegant colonial house of Shirley was basking in
the summer sun. Here the Carters had lived since 1720. Here Light Horse
Harry Lee had found his sweet wife, Anne Hill Carter. Here, too, was the
fine portrait of Washington by Peale, and other Revolutionary treasures.

Next to Shirley, a little higher up the river, was Turkey Island,
where the English explorers had rejoiced to find, in great numbers, the
Christmas bird, known in the mother country as early as 1527. Here had
lived the wealthy king's councilman, William Randolph, who had come to
Virginia in the good times after King Charlie had returned to "enjoy
his own again"; and here he had built a goodly house, with a portico on
three sides, surmounted by a dome visible a great way off to navigators
of the James River, the whole surmounted by an aërial structure called
the "bird cage because many birds do hover and sing about it." Seven
years were required to complete this mansion—and all these seven years,
doubtless, its master was serving like Jacob, hoping to cage one fair
bird for himself.

Just across the river, at Bermuda Hundred, lived Henry Isham, Gent:
and his wife Dame Katherine; and thither came William Randolph to smoke
with the master "a pipe of tobacco kept in a lily pot, cut on a maple
block, lighted with a coal taken with silver tongs from a brasier of
juniper"—for these were the incantations wherewith the early Virginian
wooed the subtle influences of the new gift of the gods. And as they
smoked, pretty Mary Isham played on her "cittern" to the soothing
accompaniment of the lapping waves of the river. She was a fit mate for
the young aristocrat. He could trace his lineage "from the great Earls
Murray, nay, from royalty itself"; but gentle Mary could boast on her
family tree nobler fruit than these: the Dukes of Normandy—Longue-Epée
and Sanspeur—Hugh Capet of France; the Saxon kings of England; the
Magna Charta barons; and that noble house of De Vere, which bore on its
standard the lone star, because one of their blood, hard pressed in a
battle of the Crusades, had seen in a vision a star fall from heaven and
alight upon his shield. And so it came that William and Mary Randolph
were parents of seven noble sons, and from them descended the great men
of colonial and Revolutionary Virginia—Thomas Jefferson, Richard Bland,
Chief Justice Marshall, Robert E. Lee. In all these times,—prominent in
council, in the college, in the halls of the Executive at Philadelphia,
wearing the ermine, in the presidential chair, at the bar, in the pulpit
of the Established Church, in the march, in the battle-field,—in every
place where character, wisdom, and gallant bearing were needed, we find
the descendants of William and Mary Randolph.

These were the things of which I proudly thought (for these were
my Colonel's own people) as I was slowly borne along to other
localities,—many of them where the Randolphs had lived,—all of them
linked together in one chain of historic interest. The old Randolph
mansion still existed in part, although its fine dome and pillared
porticoes had fallen into decay. As I turned my reverent eyes to this
Mecca, how would I have been cut to the heart had the future—the near
future—been revealed to me. In one short year McClellan would, before
proceeding to Harrison's Landing, rest after the disasters of the Seven
Days' Battles under the roof-tree at Turkey Island, and his gunboats
would shell the old mansion and level it to the ground when it no longer
sheltered their commander.

A bend of the river now revealed Jordan's Point, where lived in colonial
and Revolutionary days Richard Bland, the antiquary, statesman, and
patriot, over whose grave the "martial ranks of corn" were now waving,
through the stupidity of a recreant descendant. There was no house on
Jordan's Point wherein the restless ghost of pretty Cicely Jordan might
hold tryst with her many lovers, or where the wraith of the wise old
antiquary might be discerned, bending over the books "which he studieth
much." Pretty, rich, fascinating Cicely had in 1623 created so much
disturbance in the colony by her utter inability to refuse a suitor,
that she was the occasion of the famous law enacting punishment for
women who promised marriage to more than one man at a time. Here at
"Jordan's" had lived another Mary—Mary Bland—and thence Henry Lee had
borne her to Westmoreland; and Henry and Mary Lee were the grandparents
of Light Horse Harry, the father of our beloved Robert E. Lee. Here,
too, at Jordan's, Nathaniel Bacon had encamped his followers, before
leading them to avenge the outrages of the Indians.

But as I mused of these things we were passing Berkley, where lived
Giles Bland, who was executed for following Nathaniel Bacon; afterward
the home of the Harrison who signed the Declaration of Independence,
the father of "old Tippecanoe," President William Henry Harrison. If the
veil of the future had been lifted, I should have seen General McClellan
resting on the veranda here after his retreat from Malvern Hills, the
fields for miles around covered with his tents, the waters alive with
war vessels and transports.

Now, as I passed, the tired cattle, gathered under the shade of a great
oak near the river, were chewing in contentment the midday cud; and at
an outhouse within sight, a woman was setting out her newly washed milk
pails to be sweetened by the sun after her noonday dinner.

Next in interest came Westover—the fine house built by Colonel William
Byrd, to whose father my children's ancestor had sold it. "The wise
and prudent Theodorick Bland" was sleeping there, I knew, behind the
tombstone which recorded his wisdom and prudence, and on which his own
and his wife's arms were quartered, she having been the daughter of the
Colonial Governor Richard Bennett. Near him in the graveyard lay the
mortal remains of Evelyn Byrd—whose restless spirit slept not ever, but
might be seen on moonlight nights gliding among the roses.

Then "Pace's Pains," where lived the Christian Indian Chanco, who
revealed the plan for the wholesale massacre of the English in 1622,
and who saved Jamestown by a message at dawn to the authorities of the
town; and Argall's Point, where the settlers were slain in the Indian
massacre of 1619; and Jamestown, where the good Mr. Hunt stretched a
sail between two trees for an altar, consecrating the first church,
floored by the leaves and flowers of the forest and roofed by the blue
sky of heaven. And Argall's—once called Paspahegh—where Nathaniel Bacon
had halted his "tyred forlorne Body of men" to rest them before marching
on to Jamestown.

And so on and on—past Weyanoke and Brandon with its art treasures—and
Martin's Hundred, where the colonists were massacred in 1622.

How peacefully the old river glided between its banks. Now and then
voices reached us from the shores, or we paused at a busy landing to
leave a mail-bag, or to deliver packages and barrels for the dwellers
inland; or the gang-plank would be lowered for some planter going home
to his family, and soon pulled up, the great paddle-wheels churning the
thick muddy water into a creamy froth, as we were off again.

As late evening drew on the river became dark, but less silent. We
passed numbers of little skiffs with a single wing and a red eye astern,
in which the fisherman was hurrying home, sometimes singing as he
sailed. Overhead the homing birds flapped their heavy wings.

A sense of peace and calm stole over me. War? Oh, surely, surely not!
Something would prevent it. Surely, blood would not be shed because of
those insulting words in the Senate and House. God was our Father—the
Father of all. Were we not children of His covenant—His blessing
promised to the third and fourth generation? Was not the blood of the
saints in our veins?

If the veil could have been lifted, if one had said, "Behold, I shew
you a vision—you may yet avert its fulfilment," how merciful would that
have been! Could this have been vouchsafed me, I might have had unrolled
before me, that fourteenth day of June,—just three years away,—when
the man who was now drilling a small company of volunteers in Galena
would be in these waters, crossing the James at the head of 115,000 men,
sweeping for two days and nights over three lines of pontoons, marching
horse, foot, artillery, and train, straight to the spot whence I had
come in the morning of this day, going on their victorious way to lay
siege to Richmond and Petersburg, and destined to overwhelm us in the
end.

And now it was quite dark on the river. Phantom ships flashed now and
then out of the darkness, and were swallowed up again. Was that the
_Goodspeed_, or the _Susan Constant_, or perhaps the _Discovery_? Hark!
was that a war-whoop?

  [Illustration: WESTOVER.]

Only the warning whistle of our own boat, as I discovered upon awaking.
Before me stood the dignified old colored woman who held the proud
position of stewardess of our boat, and beside her a young assistant who
gently removed and began to fold the shawl I had tucked around my knees.

"Honey," said the old dame, "ain't you 'fraid you'll ketch cole out
here so late?—it's time for you to go to bed. The cap'n sent me for you.
Yo' state-room is nice an' cool now. The potehole been open ever since
sundown."

I was awake and dressed by sunrise next day, our boat having arrived
after midnight at the wharf in Norfolk—and in due time the clanking of
spurs announced my Colonel! Very fine did he look in his uniform, with
my eagles bristling on each shoulder.

There was to be a dress-parade that day, in the afternoon, and he
desired me to join the ladies of the hotel in the drawing-room after
breakfast and present with his compliments an invitation to the parade.

"Do you know when and where I can see the ladies of this hotel?" I asked
my smiling colored chambermaid.

"Lor', lady, dey ain't fur off," she said. "Dey mostly sets all day in
de shady side of de po'ch pickin' lint. Dey certainly makes a heap o'
muss. Nobody can't say nuthin' to 'em; cause deyse guests of de hotel.
An' 'tain't one bit o' use. Nobody gwine to git hurt, an' if dey does,
what's de use of all dat sticky cotton?"

I found a number of ladies engaged in the veranda, but not as she had
suggested. They were very glad to meet me, and accepted my invitation.
They were making square bags out of bunting for cartridges. A gentle,
blue-eyed woman joined us and asked for work. But when it was explained
to her, she colored, her lips quivered. "Oh, I can't! I can't!"
she begged. "Let me roll bandages for wounds! I can't help with the
cartridges! You see, all my people live in Pennsylvania. My husband is
going to fight them, I know; but don't ask me to make the cartridges."

My Colonel came himself with his staff in the afternoon to escort us
to his headquarters at the Marine Hospital. On our way we passed an
abandoned house, on the walls of which grew the most glorious specimen
of fuchsia I ever beheld. I had always heard that this was a marine
plant, and I now saw to what perfection it could be brought in the sea
air. It reached to the second story and was covered with a shower of
great scarlet and blue bells. "Dixie colors," said one of the ladies.
We gathered gorgeous bunches and fastened them in our white dresses.

The parade ground was a lovely stretch of green, and beyond, the blue
waters of the sea sparkled in the afternoon sun, each little wave gemmed
with a diamond and set in sapphire.

A siege gun had just been mounted, and there was to be practice-firing
at a buoy for a mark.

I was standing with my group of friends when a handsome officer
approached with a military salute and invited me to honor his company by
firing their first gun. I went forward with him, and he put the lanyard
in my hands.

"Wait for the word of command, Madam," he said.

  [Illustration: LOWER BRANDON.]

"And then what?" I inquired.

"Oh, then _pull_ steadily," and with that he stepped back.

"Make ready! Fire!"

I pulled the lanyard—but I was unprepared for the result. The great gun
backed, leaped in the air and sent a mighty roar across the waters,—the
first cannon fired by the Third Virginia Volunteers. I received the
congratulations and thanks of the Captain, and returned to my place—to
be told that my eyes were congested by the concussion, and that I must
return home and bathe and bandage them at once. Evidently I was not fit
for artillery service.



CHAPTER XI

LIFE AT THE OAKS


The month of July, 1861, found me with my little boys at "The Oaks"—the
residence of Dr. Izard Bacon Rice, in Charlotte County, seventy miles
from Richmond, and miles away from the nearest railroad depot. There I
might have enjoyed a peaceful summer with my kind host—a fine type of
a Christian gentleman, sometime an Old-Line Whig and fierce Union man,
now an ardent advocate of states' rights, and a stanch supporter of the
New Confederacy. I might—as I had often done before—have revelled in the
fine trees; the broad acres of tobacco in their summer prime, when the
noble plant was proudly flinging out its banners before its fall; the
old garden with its box-edged crescents, stars, and circles,—I might
have dreamed away the summer in perfect contentment but for General
Beauregard. Distant as was his army, a message from his guns reached my
summer retreat more than a hundred miles away.

Dr. Rice lived in a large, old-fashioned house, on a plantation of two
thousand acres or more. An oak grove, alive with chattering squirrels
which had been held sacred for two generations, surrounded the house.
The squirrels held conventions in the trees, and doubtless expressed
their opinions of the family below, whom they had good reason to
consider inferior beings, inasmuch as they were slow-motioned, heavy
creatures, utterly destitute of grace and agility, and with small
appreciation of hickory-nuts.

The Doctor cultivated tobacco, and when I arrived the fields stretched
as far as the eye could reach, now a vast level sea of green, now
covering the low, gently rounded, undulating hills as they sloped down
to the Staunton River. There was never a season when these fields were
not alive with laborers of every age; for the regal plant so beloved
of men—and ranking with opium and hemp as a solace for the ills of
mankind—has enemies from the hour it peeps from the nursery of the hot
bed. It can never be forgotten a moment. Children can hunt the fly which
seeks to line the leaf with eggs, or destroy the unhatched eggs, or aid
the great army which must turn out in haste when the ravenous worm is
born. The earth must be turned frequently at the roots, the flower buds
pinched off, the shoots or "suckers" removed. The Doctor's tobacco field
was an enlivening spectacle, and very picturesque did the ebony faces
of the little workers look, among the broad leaves. No lady's garden
was ever kept so clean, so free from sticks, errant bits of paper, or
débris of any kind.

I do not claim that Dr. Rice (my uncle) was a typical planter—as far as
the government of his slaves was concerned. He had inherited liberal
ideas with these inherited slaves. His grandfather, David Rice, had
written the first published protest in this country against slavery
as "inconsistent with religion and policy." His father had ruled a
plantation where severe punishment was unknown, where the cheerful
slaves rarely needed it. The old gentleman was considered eccentric—and
eccentric it surely was for a master to punish a fault by commanding
the culprit to stand in his presence while he recited a long passage
from Homer or Virgil! The punishment was effective. For fear of it, the
fault was rarely repeated.

It was my uncle's custom to assemble every slave on his plantation on
Sunday morning, and to speak a few words to each one, commending the
women if their families appeared in clean, well-kept garments, rewarding
with a pair of shoes the urchins reported by "Uncle Moses" as having
been orderly and useful, exchanging a pleasant jest here and there.

He presented a tight, comfortable house to every newly married pair,
with timber for the bridegroom to add to it, or to enclose the piece
of land for a garden or a poultry yard which went with it. Every mother
at the birth of a child was presented with a pig. The plantation, which
was large and fruitful, and from which nothing but tobacco and wheat was
ever sold, yielded vegetables, poultry, mutton, beef, bacon in lavish
abundance, while the orchards and vines were equally productive.

Some hundreds of the negroes of the neighborhood were members of the
Presbyterian church of the whites. In the old church books may be seen
to-day records of their marriages and funerals, and how (for example)
"Lovelace Brown was brought before the session for hog-stealing and
suspended for one month." But there were better records than this.
These Presbyterian negroes were at one time led by an eminent patriarch,
Uncle Abel, who deserves more than a passing notice. He had been taught
to read and had been well drilled in the Shorter Catechism. But his
marriage ceremonies were always read from the Episcopal Prayer-book,
every word of which he held sacred, not to be changed or omitted to
suit any modern heresy. "I M, take thee N," was the formula for Jack
or Peter, Dilsey or Dicey—and "with this ring I thee wed" must be
pronounced with solemnity, ring or no ring, the latter being not at all
essential.

My uncle's old family coach, punctual to the minute, swept around
the circle on the lawn every Sunday morning, with Uncle Peter proudly
guiding the horses from his high perch. And high-swung was the coach,
to be ascended (as we ascended our four-poster beds) by three carpeted
steps,—in the case of the carriage, folding steps, which were tucked
inside after we had disposed of ourselves, with our ample hoops. There
was plenty of room inside. Pockets lined the doors, and these were
filled by my aunt with beaten biscuit and sugar-cakes "for the little
darkies on the road."

Arriving at the church, the gentlemen from the adjacent plantations,
who had been settling the affairs of the nation under the trees, came
forward to hand us from our carriage, after the manner of old-time
cavaliers and sedan-chairs; and my aunt and I would be very gracious,
devoutly hoping in our hearts that my uncle and his sons would not
forget a reciprocal courtesy when Mrs. Winston Henry, Mrs. Paul
Carrington, and Mrs. Sarah Carrington should arrive.

The women all seated themselves on the right side of the church, while
the men, during the singing of a preliminary hymn, came in like a
processional and took the left as their portion,—all of which (except
the advertisements on the church doors) was conducted precisely
according to the customs of Revolutionary times, when Patrick Henry and
John Randolph, now sleeping a few miles away, were themselves (we trust)
church-goers.

Church dinners at home were simple, but abundant,—so that if three
or four carriages should arrive from distant plantations in the
neighborhood, there could be welcome and refreshment for all, but on the
great days when my uncle and aunt received the neighborhood, when the
Carringtons and Patrick Henry's sons, John and Winston, came with their
families to spend the day, the dinner was something to be remembered.
Perhaps a description verbatim from an old family servant will be better
than anything I can furnish from memory.

"Yes, sir! We had fine dinners in them days. The butter was moulded like
a temple with pillars, and a rose stuck in the top. There was a wreath
of roses roun' all the dessert dishes. Viney biled the ham in cider.
We had roas' pig, biled turkey, chickens fried an' briled, spring lam',
ducks an' green goslin'. An' every cut-glass dish in the house was full
of preserves, an' the great bowl full of ice-cream, an' floatin' island,
an' tipsy-cake, an' cheese-cakes, an' green sweetmeats, an' citron. John
was bothered where to set all the dishes."

  [Illustration: THE OAKS.]

Our guests would remain late, that they might have the cool evening
hours for their long drives. Mr. John Henry, with his family of
gifted sons and beautiful daughters, lived at Red Hill, the home of
his father, the great orator and patriot, under the trees his father
had planted and near the grave where he sleeps. Mr. Winston Henry had
also an interesting family, and lived in an old colonial house not
far away, surrounded by grounds filled in summer with pomegranates
and gardenias, and with lemon and orange trees in tubs, also great
_trees_ of heliotrope, and vines of jessamine—a paradise of beauty and
sweetness. Rosalie Henry would bring her guitar to my uncle's and sing
for us by the hour. She was so loved, so cherished by her parents,
that they gave her a bedroom over their own, to which she ascended by a
stairway from their own apartment—all that they might be near her. But
one morning early, pretty Rosalie changed gowns with her maid, put a
pail on her head, and slipped past her trusting, adoring parents to join
her lover in the jessamine bower, and in a bridal robe of linsey-woolsey
was married at the next town! Then it was that my good uncle had his
opportunity. The sublime teaching of forgiveness was respected from his
kindly lips.

In the early summer of '61 Virginia planters were not all _d'accord_
on political questions; and like Agag, it behooved us to "walk
delicately" in conversation. One thing they would not endure. Politics
were to be kept out of the pulpit. Never had the pastor such attentive
congregations; they were watching him, keenly alive to the remotest hint
or allusion to the war. His business was with the spiritual kingdom of
God. He must not interfere with Cæsar's. He found it expedient to omit
for the present the warlike aspirations of David, in which he beseeches
the Lord's attention to his enemies, and, among other things calculated
to comfort and soothe his pious feelings, prays that they may be as
"stubble before the wind," as "wood before fire," and be "rooted forever
out of the land of the living."

"Enemies" were not to be alluded to in the pulpit. Nor, indeed, not
yet in private! It was proper and in good taste to speak of them as
"Federals"; but at no very distant day these same polite gentlemen
called them "enemies" with a will; when scornfully disposed, they were
"Yankees," and when they wished to be positively insulting, "Yanks."

Across the river from the Oaks was "Mildendo," the home of the
Carrington family. From this home went every man capable of bearing
arms—Fontaine, the fine young surgeon so well placed in the United
States Navy, and his brother, the grave head of the house upon whom
everybody depended; and one, a cousin, leaving his bride at the altar.
Patrick Henry's grandsons all enlisted. Mr. Charles Bruce left his
baronial castle on Staunton Hill near the Oaks, equipped the "Staunton
Hill Artillery Company" at his own expense, placed himself at its head
and shared all its hardships. His brother, Mr. James Bruce, cut up his
rich carpets and curtains for the soldiers' blankets. These were but a
few of the gallant neighbors of my uncle, who exchanged homes of luxury
for the hardships of war—all of whom probably shared General Lee's keen
sorrow at the necessity forced upon Virginia to withdraw her allegiance
from the Union.

My uncle had a son already in the cavalry service—and another,
Henry, a fine young fellow of sixteen, was at Hampden-Sidney College,
Virginia. Presently a letter from the latter filled the family at the
Oaks with—yes, anxiety—but at the same time a proud sense of how old
Revolutionary "blood will tell." Henry was on the march! At the first
tocsin of war the students of Hampden-Sidney had rushed to arms—most
of them under age; and when their president, the venerated Rev. John
Atkinson, found they would go, he placed himself at their head as their
captain. Military tactics had not been included in his theological
training. So promptly had he responded to the call of his country he
had no opportunity to drill his young soldiers according to the rules of
Hardee and Jomini; but he did more for them than this. His fatherly care
and his example of courage, fortitude, and faith in the cause inspired
them to bear hardships which were severe almost beyond their powers of
endurance.

Notwithstanding the inexperience of their captain, these boys, fresh
from their college halls, were often publicly complimented as they
headed the column in the long marches over the mountains of Virginia.

When they were called to Richmond their patriotic ardor received a
shock. Governor Letcher seriously took under consideration the propriety
of sending them back to school on account of their youth. A committee
from the company waited upon him, and he was finally prevailed upon to
allow them to go to the front.

They soon learned what war was—these beardless college boys, and bore
themselves gallantly in several engagements. But their military career
was brief. McClellan flanked their position at Rich Mountain, July 12,
1861, and cut off every avenue of retreat. The whole command, after a
sharp engagement, were made prisoners of war. For the time being the
boys felt their military career to have been an inglorious failure.

While they were thus disappointed and depressed, a Federal officer,
presumably a lieutenant, visited them in the prison camp. He said he had
heard so much of the boy soldiers led by their college president that
he wished to make their acquaintance.

The boys were not by way of being over anxious to receive visits from
their victors. The officer asked, "Why in the world are you here?"

"We are here to _fight_!" said they. "What do you suppose we came for?"

"Well, boys," said the officer, pleasantly, "make yourselves easy. I'll
send you home to your mothers in a few days."

The officer was General McClellan!

The company was paroled, but was not exchanged for a year. This
prolonged parole, they always thought, was due to General McClellan's
influence in order to give them a whole year at college.

They all returned to the army after their exchange, but never as the
"Hampden-Sidney Boys." They never forgot the little interview with the
General. He won all their hearts.

Our own Hampden-Sidney boy, Henry Rice, soon afterward wrote from a
hospital in Richmond that he was ill with fever. My uncle ordered him
home, and I took the great family coach and Uncle Peter and went to
the depot, fourteen miles away, to fetch him. He looked so long, that
I doubted whether I could bestow him in the carriage; and as he was too
good a soldier for me to suggest that he be "doubled up," I entered the
carriage first, had his head and shoulders placed in my lap, then closed
the door and swung his long legs out of the window!

My uncle was a fine specimen of a Christian gentleman—always courteous,
always serene. I delighted in following him around the plantation on
horseback. When he winnowed his wheat, Uncle Moses, standing like an
emperor amid the sheaves, filled the hearts of my little boys with
ecstasy by allowing them to ride the horses that turned the great wheel.
Finally the wheat was packed in bags, and we stood on the bank of the
river to see it piled into flat-bottomed boats on the way to market.

The next morning Moses appeared at the dining room door while we were
at breakfast.

"Good morning, Moses," said my uncle. "I thought you were going with
the wheat."

"Dar ain't no wheat," said the old man. "Hit's all at de bottom of the
river."

"How did that happen?"

"We jest natchelly run agin a snag; when de boat turn over, hit pulled
all de others down. 'Cose you know, Marster, dey was tied together, an'
boat ain' got no eyes to see snags."

"Well—get out your chains and grappling hooks, Moses, and save all you
can. It will do to feed the chickens."

"Why, Uncle!" I exclaimed, "how calmly you take it."

"Certainly," said he; "because I've lost my crop is that any reason I
should lose my temper? Here, Pizarro, have our horses saddled. We'll
go down to the river and encourage Moses to resurrect his wheat."
(Pizarro was John's son. John had studied with the boys of the family,
and knew some history and Latin. One of the women bore the classic name
of "Lethe"; others were "Chloe" and "Daphne"; another name, frequently
repeated, was "Dicey"—a survival, according to Mr. Andrew Lang, of the
myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, which was found among the Indians and the
Virginia negroes of colonial times. Orpheus seems to have perished from
their traditions, but Dicey is still a favorite name. The descendants
of Lethe and Pizarro still live at the Oaks. A late achievement shows
their progress under new conditions, the baptismal records having been
enriched with "Hazel-Kirke-Florida-Bell-Armazinda-Hodge," more imposing
if less suggestive than the "Homicide" and "Neuralgia" of a neighboring
county.)

This precise type of a Virginia plantation will never appear again,
I imagine. I wish I could describe a plantation wedding as I saw it
that summer. But a funeral of one of the old servants was peculiarly
interesting to me. "Aunt Matilda" had been much loved, and when she
found herself dying, she had requested that the mistress and little
children should attend her funeral. "I ain' been much to church,"
she urged, "I couldn't leave my babies. I ain' had dat shoutin' an'
hollerin' religion, but I gwine to heaven jes' de same"—a fact of which
nobody who knew Aunt Matilda could have the smallest doubt.

We had a long, warm walk behind hundreds of negroes, following the rude
coffin in slow procession through the woods, singing antiphonally as
they went one of those strange, weird hymns not to be caught by any
Anglo-Saxon voice.

It was a beautiful and touching scene, and at the grave I longed for
an artist (we had no kodaks then) to perpetuate the picture. The level
rays of the sun were filtered through the green leaves of the forest,
and fell gently on the dusky, pathetic faces, and on the simple coffin
surrounded by orphan children and relatives, very dignified and quiet
in their grief.

The spiritual patriarch of the plantation presided. Old Uncle Abel
said:—

"I ain' gwine keep you all long. 'Tain' no use. We can't do nothin' for
Sis' Tildy. All is done fer her, an' she done preach her own fune'al
sermon. Her name was on dis church book here, but dat warn' nothin',
'dout 'twas on de Lamb book too!

"Now whiles dey fillin' up her grave I'd like you all to sing a hymn
Sis' Tildy uster love, but you all know I bline in one eye, an' de sweat
done got in de other; so's I can't see to line it out, an' I dunno as
any o' you all ken do it"—and the first thing I knew, the old man had
passed his well-worn book to me, and there I stood, at the foot of the
grave, "lining out":—

     "Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep
     From which none ever wakes to weep,"—

words of immortal comfort to the great throng of negro mourners who
caught it up, line after line, on an air of their own, full of tears
and tenderness,—a strange, weird tune no white person's voice could ever
follow.

Among such scenes I passed the month of June and the early part of July,
and then General Beauregard reminded us that we were at war, and had no
right to make ourselves comfortable.

Dr. Rice, on the afternoon of the 21st, had betaken himself to his
accustomed place under the trees, to escape the flies,—the pest of
Southern households in summer,—and had lain down on the grass for his
afternoon nap. He suddenly called out excitedly: "There's a battle
going on—a fierce battle—I can hear the cannonading distinctly. Here—lie
down—you can hear it!" "Oh, no, no, I can't!" I gasped. "It may be at
Norfolk."

Like Jessie, who had heard the pibroch at the siege of Lucknow, he had
heard, with his ear to the ground, the firing at Manassas. The battle
of Bull Run was at its height. We found it difficult to understand that
he _could_ have heard cannonading one hundred and fifty miles away. We
had not then spoken across the ocean and been answered.



CHAPTER XII

BULL RUN AND FAIR OAKS


We had small faith in my uncle's wireless telegraphy, but in a short
time we had confirmation of his news.

Then came the details of the first great battle of the war. "Glorious
news!" everybody said. A glorious triumph for the South,—an utter rout
of the enemy; but my heart sank within me at the tale of blood. How
about those boys I had seen march away? What would life hold for some
of the wives and mothers and sweethearts at home?

What was glory to the gallant Colonel Bartow, lying in state at the
capitol in Richmond? Could glory dry his widow's tears or console his
aged mother? We gathered details of the last moments of the men who
fell. It was all so strange! _Could_ it be true that these things had
actually happened in Virginia?

Our men, when the bodies were brought home, could tell many stories of
officers—but how about the boys in the ranks? Bartow had been unhorsed
in the fight, and his aide, young Lamar, dashed across the field amid a
hail of bullets to procure another mount for his Colonel. Suddenly Lamar
was seen to fall with his horse. Extricating himself, and perceiving
that his horse was shot, he started to proceed on foot; the wounded
animal tried to rise and follow. Our men saw Lamar turn in that deadly
fire, stoop down, and pat the poor horse on the neck. Another volley of
bullets ended the noble animal's life, and Lamar returned just in time
to bear Bartow's body from the field.

I grew so restless and unhappy that I turned my face homeward to
Petersburg. My resolution was taken. I steadily withstood all the
entreaties of my friends, and determined to follow my husband's regiment
through the war. I did not ask his permission. I would give no trouble.
I should be only a help to his sick men and his wounded. I busied myself
in preparing a camp equipage—a field-stove with a rotary chimney, ticks
for bedding, to be filled with straw or hay or leaves as the case might
be, a camp chest of tin utensils, strong blankets, etc. A tent could
always be had from Major Shepard, our quartermaster. News soon came that
the Third Virginia had been ordered to Smithfield. McClellan was looking
toward the Peninsula, and Major-General Joseph E. Johnston was keeping
an eye on McClellan.

When I set forth on what my father termed my "wild-goose chase," I found
the country literally alive with troops. The train on which I travelled
was switched off again and again to allow them to pass. My little boys
had the time of their lives, cheering the soldiers and picnicking at
short intervals all day.

But Smithfield would not hear of the camp outfit. The great box was
trundled away to the warehouse, and I was hospitably taken into one of
the homes of the little town.

After a while things looked as if I would probably stay in Smithfield
the rest of my natural life. So I rented a small furnished house,
bought a cow, opened an account with Mr. Britt, the grocer, also with
a fisherman who went out every night on Pagan Creek with a light in
his boat, drew his blanket around him and dozed, while the fat little
mullets jumped in for my breakfast. Until the mullet species becomes
extinct nobody need starve in Smithfield.

The Third Virginia and its Colonel were giving themselves up to murmurs
and discontent at being "buried in Smithfield" while gallant fighting
was going on elsewhere, meanwhile studying Hardee and Jomini with
all their might. Not one of the officers or men had ever before seen
military service. The daily drill was the only excitement.

Here they were, fastened hand and foot, strong, ardent fellows, while so
much was going on elsewhere,—Stonewall Jackson marching on his career
of glory, Beauregard ordered to active service in the West, Fort Henry
and Fort Donelson surrendered to the enemy, our army falling back from
Manassas, the mighty Army of the Potomac divided and scattered. Then
came news that General Lee, whose first appointment was from Virginia,
was to have command of all the armies of the Confederacy.

Major-General Pemberton (the gallant hero who held Vicksburg against
such odds) was then our commanding officer at Smithfield. His wife and
her sister, Miss Imogene Thompson, were our grand dames,—deserving the
admiration we accorded them. The beauty of the town was Mary Garnett;
the spirited belle who wore brass buttons and a military cap, Miss
Riddick. Despite all the discouraging news, these young people mightily
cheered the spirits of the officers and helped them to bear inglorious
inaction with becoming fortitude.

General Pemberton varied our own routine somewhat by giving an
occasional dinner party. Once he invited us to an early morning drive
to Cooper's Point, opposite Newport News, where the warships _Congress_
and _Cumberland_ were anchored, with whose guns (so soon to be silenced
by the iron-clad _Merrimac_) we were already familiar. We were a merry
party, assembled in open wagons on a frosty morning, and we enjoyed the
drive with fleet horses through the keen air. Miss Imogene Thompson's
lover was a prisoner of war on board one of the ships. "Look out for
the ball and chain, Imogene!" said the General, as we arrived in sight
of the ships. Through a glass we could see the brave fellows, so soon
to go down with their colors flying before the relentless _Merrimac_,
but not with pretty Imogene's lover, who lived to make her happy after
the cruel war was over.

Another event of personal interest was the presentation to the Colonel
by the ladies of Petersburg of a blue silken state flag. The party
came down the river in a steamboat, and we stood on the river bank in
a stiff breeze while the presentation speech covered the ground of all
the possibilities in store for the Colonel, ending with, "And, sir, if
you _should_ fall," and promises of tears and true faithful hearts to
love and honor him forever. In his answer of thanks he expressed all
the gratitude and chivalry of his heart, but craved sympathy for his
present state of enforced idleness—"for the dearest sacrifice a man can
make for his country is his ambition."

Soon afterwards he was called to Richmond to take his seat in
Congress—and as there was nothing to keep him with the regiment, he left
it with his Lieutenant-Colonel.

But I did not return with him. I had enlisted for the war! For some
reason, which was not explained at the time, he suddenly returned,
and my only knowledge of his coming was a peremptory official order to
change my base—to leave Smithfield next morning at daybreak! The orderly
who brought it stood before me as I read, and looked intensely surprised
when I said: "Tell the Colonel it is impossible! I can't get ready by
to-morrow morning to leave."

"Madam," said the man, gravely, "it is none of my business, but
when Colonel Pryor gives an order, it is best to be a strict
constructionist."

Mr. Britt proved a tower of strength. He closed his store and brought
all his force to help me. My cow was presented with my compliments to
my neighbor, Mrs. Smith, under promise of secrecy (for I knew I must
not alarm the town by my precipitate departure), my camp equipage
brought from the warehouse, my belongings all packed. As the sun rose
next morning, I greeted him from my seat on a trunk in an open wagon on
my way to Zuni, the railway station fifteen miles away. I never saw a
lovelier morning. The cattle were all afield for their early breakfast
of dewy grass, a thin line of smoke was ascending from the cottages on
the wayside. The mother could be seen within, preparing breakfast for
the children, who stood in the door to gaze at us as we passed. The
father was possibly away in the army, although the times were not yet so
stern that every man became a conscript. These humbler folk who lived
close to the highway—what sufferings were in store for them from the
pillage of the common soldier! What terror and dismay for the dwellers
in the broad-porticoed, many-chambered mansions beyond the long avenues
of approach in the distance! I could but think of these things when I
heard the boom of guns on the warships at Newport News, sounds to which
my ears had grown accustomed, but which now took on, somehow, a new
meaning.

I soon learned that the Third Virginia Regiment moved the day after I
received my own marching orders.

McClellan had landed about one hundred thousand efficient troops on the
Peninsula for the movement upon Richmond. General Joseph E. Johnston's
line of about fifty-three thousand men extended across the narrow neck
of land between the York and the James. They gave McClellan battle May 5
at Williamsburg, captured four hundred unwounded prisoners, ten colors,
and twelve field-pieces, slept on the field of battle, and marched off
the next morning at their leisure and convenience. After this my Colonel
was brevetted Brigadier-General.

The news of his probable promotion reached me at the Exchange Hotel in
Richmond, whither I had gone that I might be near headquarters, and thus
learn the earliest tidings from the Peninsula. There the Colonel joined
me for one day. We read with keen interest the announcement in the
papers that his name had been sent in by the president for promotion.
Mrs. Davis held a reception at the Spotswood Hotel on the evening
following this announcement, and we availed ourselves of the opportunity
to make our respects to her.

A crowd gathered before the Exchange to congratulate my husband, and
learning that he had gone to the Spotswood, repaired thither, and
with many shouts and cheers called him out for a speech. This was
very embarrassing, and he fled to a corner of the drawing-room and hid
behind a screen of plants. I was standing near the president, trying to
hold his attention by remarks on the weather and kindred subjects of
a thrilling nature, when a voice from the street called out: "Pryor!
_General_ Pryor!" I could endure the suspense no longer, and asked
tremblingly, "Is this true, Mr. President?" Mr. Davis looked at me with
a benevolent smile and said, "I have no reason, Madam, to doubt it,
except that I saw it this morning in the papers," and Mrs. Davis at once
summoned the bashful Colonel: "What are you doing lying there _perdu_
behind the geraniums? Come out and take your honors." The next day
my bristling eagles, which had faithfully held guard on the Colonel's
uniform, retired before the risen stars of the Brigadier-General.

On May 31 "Old Joe" and "Little Mac," as they were affectionately called
by their respective commands, again confronted each other, and fought
the great two days' battle of Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines.

This battle was said to have been one of the closest, most hotly
contested, and bloody of the war. A few miles from Petersburg the
cannonading could be distinctly heard, and ten or twelve of the Federal
observation balloons could be seen in the air.

McClellan had an army of one hundred thousand; Johnston had sixty-three
thousand. The afternoon and night before a terrible storm had raged,
"sheets of fire, lightning, sharp and dreadful thunderclaps, were fit
precursors of the strife waged by the artillery of man.

"All night long Zeus, the lord of counsel, devised them ill with
terrible thunderings. Then pale fear gat hold upon them."[13]

The roads were deep with mud. With many disadvantages Johnston attacked,
with vigor, the corps of Keyes and Heintzelman, drove them back, and
came near inflicting upon them a crushing defeat. Near the end of the
fight General Johnston was wounded and borne from the field, smiling
and saying, "I'm not sure I am much hurt, but I fear that bit of shell
may have injured my spine."

He had already been wounded by a musket-ball, his enthusiasm having
carried him nearer to the fight than a commanding officer has any right
to be.

A little later he had observed one of his colonels trying to dodge the
shell.

"Colonel," he said, "there is no use dodging! When you hear them, they
have passed."

Just then he fell unconscious into the arms of one of his couriers. A
shell had exploded, striking him on the breast. The moment he regained
consciousness his unwounded hand sought his sword and pistols. They were
gone!

"I would not lose my sword for ten thousand dollars," he exclaimed.
"My father wore it in the war of the Revolution." The courier—Drury L.
Armstead—dashed back through the storm of artillery, found both sword
and pistols, brought them safely, and received one of the pistols as a
token of the gratitude of his chief.[14]

In General George E. Pickett's report of this hard-won battle he says,
"Pryor and Wilcox were on my right; our men moved beautifully and
carried everything before them."

General Johnston was succeeded by General Lee. I did not know for a
long time (for, so absorbing were the events that rapidly followed, the
honors of battle were forgotten) that, after the capture at Fair Oaks of
the Federal brigade under General Casey, "General Roger A. Pryor went
around among the wounded, giving them whiskey and water, and told them
it was a repayment of the kindness with which the wounded Confederate
prisoners were treated at 'Williamsburg,'"[15]—an incident which I hope
I may be pardoned for relating, since the generous tribute affords
an example of the spirit of that true Christian gentleman, General
McClellan.

"He never struck a foul blow and never tolerated mean men or mean
methods about him. His was a high ideal of war, a high sense of chivalry
which is the duty of fighting the belligerent and sparing the weak. His
conduct was keyed to the highest point of honor and generosity in war."
When his march led him to the "White House," whence General Washington
took his bride, Martha Custis, he ordered a guard to be placed around
it; and finding himself alone in St. Peter's Church, where Washington
was married, he records in his diary, "I could not help kneeling at the
chancel and praying that I might save my country as truly as he did."
This was just before the battle at Seven Pines, in which there were
probably arrayed against him the near kindred of Martha Washington. What
would they have thought of the invading general's prayer to "save the
country"? And _his_ country! And at the altar he held in especial homage
because of their grandsire!

Like McClellan, Johnston had not the good fortune to be in accord
with his Executive. "Not only," said an Old Virginian to him as he lay
suffering from his severe wounds, "not only do we deplore this cruel
affliction upon you, General, but we feel it to be a national calamity."

"No, sir," said Johnston, fiercely, rising suddenly upon his unbroken
elbow. "The shot that struck me down was the best ever fired for the
Southern Confederacy, for I possessed in no degree the confidence of
this government, and now a man who does enjoy it will succeed me, and
be able to accomplish what I never could."

The man who succeeded him, General Lee, wrote to the Secretary of War:
"If General Johnston was not a soldier, America never produced one.
If he was not competent to command the army, the Confederacy had no
one who was competent." But even Lee could not control the opinions of
the Executive. General Johnston was relieved from his command in 1864.
General McClellan's treatment, as the world knows, was hardly less
severe and quite as undeserved.

Richmond heard the guns of this bloody battle. As soon as the storm
allowed them, crowds of anxious listeners repaired to the hills, from
which the cannonading and rattle of musketry could be distinctly heard.
The city waked up to a keen realization of the horrors of war. All the
next day ambulances brought in the wounded—and open wagons were laden
with the dead. Six thousand one hundred and thirty-four Confederate
soldiers had been killed; the Federal loss was five thousand and
thirty-one,—eleven thousand one hundred and sixty-five brave men gone
from the country that gave them birth!

The streets of Richmond presented a strange scene—ambulances of wounded
and dying men passed companies arriving on their way to the front, and
each cheered the other. Batteries of artillery thundered through the
streets; messengers and couriers ran hither and thither.

The streets were filled with a motley crowd, citizens hurrying to and
fro, negroes running on messages, newsboys crying "extras" printed on
short slips of the yellow Confederate paper; on one side of the street
regiments arriving from the far South, cheering as they passed; on the
other a train of ambulances bearing the wounded, the dead, the dying.
Now and then a feeble cheer answered the strong men going in to win the
victory these had failed to win, but for which they never ceased to look
until death closed the watching eyes.

Every house was opened for the wounded. They lay on verandas, in halls,
in drawing-rooms of stately mansions. Young girls and matrons stood in
their doorways with food and fruit for the marching soldiers, and then
turned to minister to the wounded men within their doors.

It has been estimated that five thousand wounded men were received in
private houses and hospitals from the field of Seven Pines. The city
was thrilled to its centre. The city had "no language but a cry"! And
yet there was no panic, no frantic excitement. Only that Richmond, the
mirth-loving, pleasure-seeking, was changed into a city of resolute men
and women, nerved to make any sacrifice for their cause.

At all times during the war the Capitol Square was a rallying place
where men met and received news and compared chances of success. They
would sit all day on the hills outside the city and congregate in the
square in the evening to discuss the events of the day and the probable
chances for the morrow.

My news of this battle was coupled with the information that my General
had fallen ill from malarial fever, and had kept up until the army
approached Richmond, but that he was now lying sick in his tent a few
miles from the city.

There I found him. It seemed strange to see the daisies growing all
over the ground on which his little tent was pitched. I obtained leave
to move him at once, and took him to the Spotswood Hotel in Richmond.
"He wants nothing now," said kind Dr. Dean, "except some buttermilk and
good nursing."

The hotel was crowded. President and Mrs. Davis were there, Mrs. Joseph
E. Johnston, Mrs. Myers, wife of the quartermaster-general, and many,
many more whose names are familiar in all the war histories. Everybody
was on the alert and on the _qui vive_.

From my windows I witnessed the constant arrival of officers from every
division of the army. The Louisiana Zouaves were an interesting company
of men. Their handsome young French Colonel Coppens was a fine example
of grace and manly beauty. He would dash up to the door on his handsome
horse, dismount, run up the stairs for a word with some official, run
down again, vault lightly into his saddle, and gallop down the street.
No one was more admired than Colonel Coppens.

I had not visited the drawing-room often before I became aware
that a bitter feud existed between the three eminent ladies I have
mentioned—indeed, the _Richmond Examiner_ gave a most amusing account
of one of their spicy interviews. Jealousy and consequent heartburning
had possessed the bosoms of these ladies—do they not intrude into every
court and camp? And here were court and camp merged into one. Had I
remained idle I should probably have ranged myself on the side of my
_ci-devant_ commanding officer, Mrs. Johnston; but matters of tremendous
importance soon filled every mind and heart.

This was the last reunion of old Washington friends we were to enjoy.
With some of the members of the Thirty-sixth Congress we parted at the
Spotswood Hotel to meet no more on earth. Others met on the battle-field
under circumstances of which they little dreamed when the "state of the
country" was under discussion.

One of the warmest secessionists was L. Q. C. Lamar. His devoted friend,
General Pryor, had parted with him immediately upon the secession of
South Carolina. Their next meeting was at the battle of Williamsburg.
This battle was fought in the woods, and the danger was enhanced by
the falling boughs of the trees. Behind the shelter of a stout oak my
husband found his old friend Colonel Lamar. "Oh, Pryor," he exclaimed,
as the shot and shell crashed through the branches, "what do you think
now of the right of peaceable secession?"



CHAPTER XIII

THE SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES


The intense heat of June 26th has been noted in many of the diaries and
records of the day. I remember it because I had feared its unfavorable
effect upon my husband, not yet discharged by his physicians, and now
lying weak and listless upon his bed at the Spotswood Hotel in Richmond.

I was reading aloud to him the news in the morning papers, fanning him
the while, when a peremptory knock at the door sent me to my feet. An
ominous-looking note was handed in to "Brigadier-General Pryor." Upon
reading it, my husband slipped to the side of the bed, and reached out
for his cavalry boots. The note ran: "Dear General, put yourself _at
once_ at the head of your brigade. In thirty-six hours it will all be
over. LONGSTREET." Before I realized the tremendous import of the order,
he was gone.

McClellan was almost at the gates of the city. The famous "seven days'
fight" was about to begin.

Several of the officers of our brigade were in the hotel, and I ran out
to find their wives and learn more news from them. On the stair I met
Colonel Scott, and as he passed me, he exclaimed, "No time until I come
back, Madam!" Turning, he paused, raised his hand, and said solemnly,
"If I ever come back." The wife of Captain Poindexter came up at the
moment. She was weeping, and wringing her hands. "Do you think," she
said, "that we could drive out to camp and see them once more before
they march?"

We hurried into the street, found a carriage, and, urging our driver to
his utmost speed, were soon in sight of the camp.

All was hurry and confusion there. Ambulances were hitching up, troops
forming in line, servants running hither and thither, horses standing
to be saddled, light army wagons loading with various camp utensils.

Captain Whitner of the General's staff met me, and said, as he conducted
me to my husband's tent: "The General will be so glad to see you, Madam!
He is lying down to rest a few minutes before we move."

He opened his arms to me as I went in, but there were no sad words. We
spoke cheerily to each other, but, unable to control myself, I soon ran
out to find John and see that he had provided brandy and cold tea, the
latter a necessity lest good water should be unprocurable. Never have
I seen such a number of flies! They blackened the land, corrupted the
food, and tormented the nervous horses. When I returned, Mrs. Poindexter
was standing outside the tent waiting for me. "I can see my husband
only at the head of his company," she said. "Look! they are forming the
line."

We stood aside as the brigade formed in marching order. The stern
command, "Fall in! Fall in!" reached us from company after company
stretching far down the road. My husband mounted his horse, and, drawing
his sword, gave the order to advance.

"Head of column to the right!" and with steady tramp they filed past
us—past the only two women, of the many who loved them, who had known
of their going and had come out to cheer and bless them.

We could not bear to remain a moment after they left. Finding our
carriage, we were about to enter, when the driver pointed back with his
whip. There, sure enough, rose the puffs of blue smoke from McClellan's
guns—so near, so near!

We set our faces homeward, two stunned, tearless women, neither yet able
to comfort the other. Presently the carriage stopped, and the driver,
dismounting, came to the door.

"Lady," said he, "there's a man lying on the roadside. We just passed
him. Maybe he's drunk, but he 'pears to me to look mighty sick."

Fanny Poindexter and I were out of the carriage in less than a minute,
eagerly embracing an opportunity for action—the relief for tense
feelings.

The man wore the uniform of a Confederate soldier. His eyes were closed.
Was he asleep? We feared the worst when we perceived a thin thread of
blood trickling slowly from a wound in his throat, and staining his
shirt.

We knelt beside him, and Fanny gently pressed her handkerchief upon the
wound, whereupon he opened his eyes, but was unable to speak. "What in
the world are we to do?" said my friend. "We can't possibly leave him
here!"

"I can tote him to the carriage," said the kind-hearted driver. "He ain'
no heavy-weight, an' we can car' 'im to dat hospital jus' at de aidge
of town. Come now, sir! Don't you be feared. I'll tote you like a baby."

We were terrified lest he should die before we reached the hospital. To
avoid jolting, we crawled at a snail's pace, and great was our relief
when we drew up at the open door of the hospital and summoned a surgeon.
He ordered out a stretcher and took our patient in, and we waited
in a little reception room until we could learn the verdict after an
examination of his injuries.

"It is well for him, poor fellow," said the surgeon upon returning
to report to us, "that you found him when you did. His wound is not
serious, but he was slowly bleeding to death! Which of you pressed that
handkerchief to it?" I had to acknowledge that my friend had rendered
this service. She was one of those nervous, teary little women who could
rise to an occasion.

"He had probably been sent to the rear after he was wounded, and had
tried to find General Pryor's camp," said the doctor. "He missed his
way, and went farther than necessary. It has all turned out right. He
is able now to write his name—'Ernstorff'—so you see he is doing well.
When you pass this way, you must call and see him."

We never went that way again. Two years afterward I was accosted at
a railway station by a handsome young officer who said he "had never
forgotten, never would forget" me. He was Lieutenant Ernstorff!

All the afternoon the dreadful guns shook the earth and thrilled our
souls with horror. I shut myself in my darkened room. At twilight I had
a note from Governor Letcher, telling me a fierce battle was raging, and
inviting me to come to the Governor's mansion. From the roof one might
see the flash of musket and artillery.

No! I did not wish to see the infernal fires. I preferred to watch and
wait alone in my room.

The city was strangely quiet. Everybody had gone out to the hills
to witness the aurora of death to which we were later to become so
accustomed. As it grew dark a servant entered to light my candles, but I
forbade her. Did I not mean to go to supper? I would have coffee brought
to me. God only knew what news I might hear before morning. I must keep
up my strength.

The night was hot and close. I sat at an open window, watching for
couriers on the street. The firing ceased about nine o'clock. Surely
now somebody would remember us and come to us.

As I leaned on the window-sill with my head on my arms, I saw two young
men walking slowly down the deserted street. They paused at a closed
door opposite me and sat down upon the low step. Presently they chanted
a mournful strain in a minor key—like one of the occasional interludes
of Chopin which reveal so much of dignity in sorrow. I was powerfully
affected—as I always am by such music—and found myself weeping, not for
my own changed life, not for my own sorrows, but for the dear city; the
dear, doomed city, so loved, so loved!

A full moon was rising behind the trees in the Capitol Square. Soon the
city would be flooded with light, and then!—would the invading host come
in to desecrate and destroy? How dear the city had been to me always!
I could remember when I was a very little child one just such night
as this. The splendor, the immensity of the city had so oppressed me,
coming, as I had come, from the quiet country, that I could not sleep.
Hot and fevered and afraid, I had risen from my little bed beside my
sleeping mother, and had stolen to the window to look out. Like to-night
there was a solemn moon in the sky, like to-night an awful stillness
in the city. Just below me a watchman had called out, "_All's well!_"
Presently the cry was repeated at a distance—"All's well!" Fainter
and fainter grew the echo until it became a whisper, far away in the
distant streets. The watchmen were telling me, I thought, telling all
the helpless little babies and children, all the sick people and old
people, that God was taking care of them; that "All's well, All's well."

Ah! forever gone was the watchman, forever silent the cry. Never, never
again could all be well with us in old Virginia. Never could we stifle
the memories of this bitter hour. The watchman on the nation's tower
might, some day, mark the triumphant return of this invading host, and
declare, "All's well,"—_our_ hearts would never hear. Too much blood,
too much death, too much anguish! Our tears would never be able to wash
away the memory of it all.

And so the night wore on and I waited and watched. Before dawn a hurried
footstep brought a message from the battle-field to my door.

"The General, Madam, is safe and well. Colonel Scott has been killed.
The General has placed a guard around his body, and he will be sent here
early to-morrow. The General bids me say he will not return. The fight
will be renewed, and will continue until the enemy is driven away."

My resolution was taken. My children were safe with their grandmother.
I would write. I would ask that every particle of my household linen,
except a change, should be rolled into bandages, all my fine linen be
sent to me for compresses, and all forwarded as soon as possible.

I would enter the new hospital which had been improvised in Kent &
Paine's warehouse, and would remain there as a nurse as long as the
armies were fighting around Richmond.

But the courier was passing on his rounds with news for others.
Presently Fanny Poindexter, in tears, knocked at my door.

"She is bearing it like a brave, Christian woman."

"_She!_ Who? Tell me quick."

"Mrs. Scott. I had to tell her. She simply said, 'I shall see him once
more.' The General wrote to her from the battle-field and told her how
nobly her husband died,—leading his men in the thick of the fight,—and
how he had helped to save the city."

Alas, that the city should have needed saving! What had Mrs. Scott and
her children done? Why should they suffer? Who was to blame for it all?

Kent & Paine's warehouse was a large, airy building, which had, I
understood, been offered by the proprietors for a hospital immediately
after the battle of Seven Pines. McClellan's advance upon Richmond had
heavily taxed the capacity of the hospitals already established.

When I reached the warehouse, early on the morning after the fight at
Mechanicsville, I found cots on the lower floor already occupied, and
other cots in process of preparation. An aisle between the rows of
narrow beds stretched to the rear of the building. Broad stairs led to
a story above, where other cots were being laid.

The volunteer matron was a beautiful Baltimore woman, Mrs. Wilson. When
I was presented to her as a candidate for admission, her serene eyes
rested doubtfully upon me for a moment. She hesitated. Finally she said:
"The work is very exacting. There are so few of us that our nurses must
do anything and everything—make beds, wait upon anybody, and often a
half a dozen at a time."

"I will engage to do all that," I declared, and she permitted me to go
to a desk at the farther end of the room and enter my name.

As I passed by the rows of occupied cots, I saw a nurse kneeling beside
one of them, holding a pan for a surgeon. The red stump of an amputated
arm was held over it. The next thing I knew I was myself lying on a
cot, and a spray of cold water was falling over my face. I had fainted.
Opening my eyes, I found the matron standing beside me.

"You see it is as I thought. You are unfit for this work. One of the
nurses will conduct you home."

The nurse's assistance was declined, however. I had given trouble
enough for one day, and had only interrupted those who were really worth
something.

A night's vigil had been poor preparation for hospital work. I resolved
I would conquer my culpable weakness. It was all very well,—these
heroics in which I indulged, these paroxysms of patriotism, this
adoration of the defenders of my fireside. The defender in the field
had naught to hope from me in case he should be wounded in my defence.

I took myself well in hand. Why had I fainted? I thought it was because
of the sickening, dead odor in the hospital, mingled with that of acids
and disinfectants. Of course this would always be there—and worse, as
wounded men filled the rooms. I provided myself with sal volatile and
spirits of camphor,—we wore pockets in our gowns in those days,—and thus
armed I presented myself again to Mrs. Wilson.

She was as kind as she was refined and intelligent. "I will give you a
place near the door," she said, "and you must run out into the air at
the first hint of faintness. You will get over it, see if you don't."

Ambulances began to come in and unload at the door. I soon had
occupation enough, and a few drops of camphor on my handkerchief tided
me over the worst. The wounded men crowded in and sat patiently waiting
their turn. One fine little fellow of fifteen unrolled a handkerchief
from his wrist to show me his wound. "There's a bullet in there," he
said proudly. "I'm going to have it cut out, and then go right back to
the fight. Isn't it lucky it's my left hand?"

As the day wore on I became more and more absorbed in my work. I
had, too, the stimulus of a reproof from Miss Deborah Couch, a brisk,
efficient middle-aged lady, who asked no quarter and gave none. She
was standing beside me a moment, with a bright tin pan filled with pure
water, into which I foolishly dipped a finger to see if it were warm;
to learn if I would be expected to provide warm water when I should be
called upon to assist the surgeon.

"This water, Madam, was prepared for a raw wound," said Miss Deborah,
sternly. "I must now make the surgeon wait until I get more."

Miss Deborah, in advance of her time, was a germ theorist. _My_ touch
evidently was contaminating.

As she charged down the aisle with a pan of water in her hand, everybody
made way. She had known of my "fine-lady faintness," as she termed it,
and I could see she despised me for it. She had volunteered, as all the
nurses had, and she meant business. She had no patience with nonsense,
and truly she was worth more than all the rest of us.

"Where can I get a little ice?" I one day ventured of Miss Deborah.

"Find it," she rejoined, as she rapidly passed on; but find it I never
did. Ice was an unknown luxury until brought to us later from private
houses.

But I found myself thoroughly reinstated—with surgeons, matron, and Miss
Deborah—when I appeared a few days later, accompanied by a man bearing
a basket of clean, well-rolled bandages, with promise of more to come.
The Petersburg women had gone to work with a will upon my table-cloths,
sheets, and dimity counterpanes—and even the chintz furniture covers.
My springlike green and white chintz bandages appeared on many a manly
arm and leg. My fine linen underwear and napkins were cut, by the sewing
circle at the Spotswood, according to the surgeon's directions, into
lengths two inches wide, then folded two inches, doubling back and
forth in a smaller fold each time, until they formed pointed wedges for
compresses.

Such was the sudden and overwhelming demand for such things, that but
for my own and similar donations of household linen, the wounded men
would have suffered. The war had come upon us suddenly. Many of our
ports were already closed, and we had no stores laid up for such an
emergency.

The bloody battle of Gaines's Mill soon followed—then Frazier's Farm,
within the week, and at once the hospital was filled to overflowing.
Every night a courier brought me tidings of my husband. When I saw him
at the door my heart would die within me! One morning John came in for
certain supplies. After being reassured as to his master's safety, I
asked, "Did he have a comfortable night, John?"

"He sholy did! Marse Roger cert'nly was comfortable las' night. He slep'
on de field 'twixt two daid horses!"

The women who worked in Kent & Paine's hospital never seemed to weary.
After a while the wise matron assigned us hours, and we went on duty
with the regularity of trained nurses. My hours were from seven to seven
during the day, with the promise of night service should I be needed.
Efficient, kindly colored women assisted us. Their motherly manner
soothed the prostrate soldier, whom they always addressed as "son."

Many fine young fellows lost their lives for want of prompt attention.
They never murmured. They would give way to those who seemed to be more
seriously wounded than themselves, and the latter would recover, while
from the slighter wounds gangrene would supervene from delay. Very few
men ever walked away from that hospital. They died, or friends found
quarters for them in the homes in Richmond. None complained! Unless a
poor man grew delirious, he never groaned. There was an atmosphere of
gentle kindness, a suppression of emotion for the sake of others.

Every morning the Richmond ladies brought for our patients such luxuries
as could be procured in that scarce time. The city was in peril, and
distant farmers feared to bring in their fruits and vegetables. One day
a patient-looking middle-aged man said to me, "What would I not give
for a bowl of chicken broth like that my mother used to give me when I
was a sick boy!" I perceived one of the angelic matrons of Richmond at
a distance, stooping over the cots, and found my way to her and said:
"Dear Mrs. Maben, have you a chicken? And could you send some broth
to No. 39?" She promised, and I returned with her promise to the poor
wounded fellow. He shook his head. "To-morrow will be too late," he
said.

I had forgotten the circumstance next day, but at noon I happened
to look toward cot No. 39, and there was Mrs. Maben herself. She had
brought the chicken broth in a pretty china bowl, with napkin and silver
spoon, and was feeding my doubting Thomas, to his great satisfaction.

It was at this hospital, I have reason to believe, that the little
story originated, which was deemed good enough to be claimed by other
hospitals, of the young girl who approached a sick man with a pan of
water in her hand and a towel over her arm.

"Mayn't I wash your face?" said the girl, timidly.

"Well, lady, you may if you want to," said the man, wearily. "It has
been washed fourteen times this morning! It can stand another time, I
reckon."

I discovered that I had not succeeded, despite many efforts, in winning
Miss Deborah. I learned that she was affronted because I had not shared
my offerings of jelly and fruit with her, for her special patients.
Whenever I ventured to ask a loan from her, of a pan or a glass for
water or the little things of which we never had enough, she would
reply, "I must keep them for the nurses who understand reciprocity.
Reciprocity is a rule _some_ persons never seem to comprehend." When
this was hammered into my slow perception, I rose to the occasion.
I turned over the entire contents of a basket the landlord of the
Spotswood had given me to Miss Deborah, and she made my path straight
before me ever afterward.

At the end of a week the matron had promoted me! Instead of carving the
fat bacon, to be dispensed with corn bread, for the hospital dinner,
or standing between two rough men to keep away the flies, or fetching
water, or spreading sheets on cots, I was assigned to regular duty with
one patient.

The first of these proved to be young Colonel Coppens, of my husband's
brigade. I could comfort him very little, for he was wounded past
recovery. I spoke little French, and could only try to keep him, as far
as possible, from annoyance. To my great relief, place was found for
him in a private family. There he soon died—the gallant fellow I had
admired on his horse a few months before.

Then I was placed beside the cot of Mr. (or Captain) Boyd of
Mecklenburg, and was admonished by the matron not to leave him alone.
He was the most patient sufferer in the world, gentle, courteous, always
considerate, never complaining. I observed he often closed his eyes and
sighed. "Are you in pain, Captain?" "No, no," he would say gently. One
day, when I returned from my "rest," I found the matron sitting beside
him. Tears were running down her cheeks. She motioned me to take her
place, and then added, "No, no, I will not leave him."

The Captain's eyes were closed, and he sighed wearily at intervals.
Presently he whispered slowly:—

     "There everlasting spring abides,"

then sighed, and seemed to sleep for a moment.

The matron felt his pulse and raised a warning hand. The sick man's
whisper went on:—

     "Bright fields beyond the swelling flood
     Stand—dressed—in living green."

The surgeon stood at the foot of the cot and shook his head. The nurses
gathered around with tearful eyes. Presently in clear tones:—

     "Not Jordan's stream—nor death's cold flood
     Shall fright us—from—the shore,"

and in a moment more the Christian soldier had crossed the river and
lain down to rest under the trees.

Each of the battles of those seven days brought a harvest of wounded
to our hospital. I used to veil myself closely as I walked to and from
my hotel, that I might shut out the dreadful sights in the street,—the
squads of prisoners, and, worst of all, the open wagons in which the
dead were piled. Once I _did_ see one of these dreadful wagons! In it
a stiff arm was raised, and shook as it was driven down the street, as
though the dead owner appealed to Heaven for vengeance; a horrible sight
never to be forgotten.

After one of the bloody battles—I know not if it was Gaines's Mill
or Frazier's Farm or Malvern Hill—a splendid young officer, Colonel
Brokenborough, was taken to our hospital, shot almost to pieces. He was
borne up the stairs and placed in a cot—his broken limbs in supports
swinging from the ceiling. The wife of General Mahone and I were
permitted to assist in nursing him. A young soldier from the camp was
detailed to help us, and a clergyman was in constant attendance, coming
at night that we might rest. Our patient held a court in his corner of
the hospital. Such a dear, gallant, cheery fellow, handsome, and with
a grand air even as he lay prostrate! Nobody ever heard him complain.
He would welcome us in the morning with the brightest smile. His aide
said, "He watches the head of the stairs and calls up that look for
your benefit." "Oh," he said one day, "you can't guess what's going
to happen! Some ladies have been here and left all these roses, and
cologne, and such; and somebody has sent—champagne! We are going to have
a party!"

Ah, but we knew he was very ill! We were bidden to watch him every
minute and not be deceived by his own spirits. Mrs. Mahone spent her
life hunting for ice. My constant care was to keep his canteen—to which
he clung with affection—filled with fresh water from a spring not far
away, and I learned to give it to him so well that I allowed no one to
lift his head for his drink during my hours.

One day, when we were alone, I was fanning him, and thought he was
asleep. He said gravely, "Mrs. Pryor, beyond that curtain they hung
up yesterday poor young Mitchell is lying! They think I don't know!
But I heard when they brought him in,—as I lie here, I listen to his
breathing. I haven't heard it now for some time. Would you mind seeing
if he is all right?"

I passed behind the curtain. The young soldier was dead. His wide-open
eyes seemed to meet mine in mute appeal. I had never seen or touched a
dead man, but I laid my hands upon his eyelids and closed them. I was
standing thus when his nurse, a young volunteer like myself, came to me.

"I couldn't do that," she said; "I went for the doctor. I'm so glad you
could do it."

When I returned Colonel Brokenborough asked no questions and I knew that
his keen senses had already instructed him.

To be cheerful and uncomplaining was the unwritten law of our hospital.
No bad news was ever mentioned, no foreboding or anxiety. Mrs. Mahone
was one day standing beside Colonel Brokenborough when a messenger
from the front suddenly announced that General Mahone had received
a flesh-wound. Commanding herself instantly, she exclaimed merrily:
"_Flesh_-wound! Now you all know that is _just impossible_." The General
had no flesh! He was as thin and attenuated as he was brave.

  [Illustration: MALVERN HILL.]

As Colonel Brokenborough grew weaker I felt self-reproach that no one
had offered to write letters for him. His friend the clergyman had said
to me: "That poor boy is engaged to a lovely young girl. I wonder what
is best? Would it grieve him to speak of her? You ladies have so much
tact; you might bear it in mind. An opportunity might offer for you to
discover how he feels about it." The next time I was alone with him I
ventured: "Now, Colonel, one mustn't forget absent friends, you know,
even if fair ladies do bring perfumes and roses and what not. I have
some ink and paper here. Shall I write a letter for you? Tell me what
to say."

He turned his head and with a half-amused smile of perfect intelligence
looked at me for a long time. Then an upward look of infinite
tenderness; but the message was never sent—never needed from a true
heart like his.

One night I was awakened from my first sleep by a knock at my door,
and a summons to "come to Colonel Brokenborough." When I reached his
bedside I found the surgeon, the clergyman, and the Colonel's aide. The
patient was unconscious; the end was near. We sat in silence. Once, when
he stirred, I slipped my hand under his head, and put his canteen once
more to his lips. After a long time his breathing simply ceased, with no
evidence of pain. We waited awhile, and then the young soldier who had
been detailed to nurse him rose, crossed the room, and, stooping over,
kissed me on my forehead, and went out to his duty in the ranks.

Two weeks later I was in my room, resting after a hard day, when a
haggard officer, covered with mud and dust, entered. It was my husband.

"My men are all dead," he said, with anguish, and, falling across the
bed, he gave vent to the passionate grief of his heart.

Thousands of Confederate soldiers were killed, thousands wounded.

Richmond was saved!

General McClellan and General Lee both realized that their men needed
rest. My husband was allowed a few days' respite from duty. Almost
without pause he had fought the battles of Williamsburg, Seven Pines,
Mechanicsville, Gaines's Mill, and Frazier's Farm. He had won his
promotion early, but he had lost the loved commander who appreciated
him, had seen old schoolmates and friends fall by his side,—the
dear fellow, George Loyal Gordon, who had been his best man at our
wedding,—old college comrades, valued old neighbors.

Opposed to him in battle, then and after, were men who in after years
avowed themselves his warm friends,—General Hancock, General Slocum,
General Butterfield, General Sickles, General Fitz-John Porter, General
McClellan, and General Grant. They had fought loyally under opposing
banners, and from time to time, as the war went on, one and another
had been defeated; but over all, and through all, their allegiance had
been given to a banner that has never surrendered,—the standard of the
universal brotherhood of all true men.



CHAPTER XIV

THE WINTER OF 1861


The privilege of nursing in the hospital had been bought at a dear
price, for it was decided positively that I was to surrender, for
the present, my dream of following the army. I was remanded to the
mountains, and at Charlottesville I had news of the events that rapidly
followed the Seven Days' Battles around Richmond.

McClellan had been relieved of his command, and the defenceless women
and children of Northern Virginia were handed over to the tender mercies
of General Pope. McClellan wrote, August 8: "I will strike square in
the teeth of all the infamous orders of Mr. John Pope, and forbid all
pillaging and stealing, and take the highest Christian ground for the
conduct of the war. I will not permit this army to degenerate into a mob
of thieves, nor will I return these men of mine to their families as a
set of wicked and demoralized robbers."

General Pope had announced his purpose (which he carried out) to subsist
his army on our country, and to hang or shoot any non-combating citizens
who might fall into his hands, in retaliation for the killing of his
soldiers. This was one of "the infamous orders of Mr. John Pope" to
which General McClellan alluded; but infamy to some eyes is fame to
others. Pope superseded McClellan; but he was himself superseded after
his defeat at the hands of Lee, and McClellan reinstated.

My husband's brigade followed General Lee, fought the battle of
Manassas, where he captured and paroled the hospital corps, went with
him throughout the campaign, into Maryland and back, fought the battle
of South Mountain and the bloody battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg).

The histories of these battles have been given again and again by
the military commanders who conducted them. At the close of the
campaign General Lee reported that his men were in the finest possible
condition—only there were too few of them. As the Federal armies were
depleted, they could be reënforced by foreigners. As our men were lost,
we had no fresh troops to take their places.

My husband commanded Anderson's division at Antietam, General Anderson
having been wounded. This battle is quoted, along with the battle of
Seven Pines, as one of the most hotly contested of the war. Sorely
pressed at one time, General Pryor despatched an orderly to General
Longstreet with a request for artillery. The latter tore the margin from
a newspaper and wrote: "I am sending you the guns, dear General. This is
a hard fight and we had better all die than lose it." At one time during
the battle the combatants agreed upon a brief cessation, that the dead
and wounded of both sides might be removed. While General Pryor waited,
a Federal officer approached him.

"General," said he, "I have just detected one of my men in robbing the
body of one of your soldiers. I have taken his booty from him, and now
consign it to you."

Without examining the small bundle,—tied in a handkerchief,—my husband
ordered it to be properly enclosed and sent to me. The handkerchief
contained a gold watch, a pair of gold sleeve-links, a few pieces of
silver, and a strip of paper on which was written, "Strike till the last
armed foe expires," and signed "A Florida patriot." There seemed to be
no clew by which I might hope to find an inheritor for these treasures.
I could only take care of them.

I brought them forth one day to interest an aged relative, whose chair
was placed in a sunny window. "I think, my dear," she said, "there
are pin-scratched letters on the inside of these sleeve-buttons." Sure
enough, there were three initials, rudely made, but perfectly plain.

Long afterward I met a Confederate officer from Florida who had fought
at Antietam.

"Did you know any one from your state, Captain, who was killed at
Sharpsburg?"

"Alas! yes," he replied, and mentioned a name corresponding exactly with
the scratched initials.

The parcel, with a letter from me, was sent to an address he gave me,
and in due time I received a most touching letter of thanks from the
mother of the dead soldier.

General Lee went into winter quarters at Culpeper, and thither I
repaired to visit a kind and hospitable family, who were good enough to
invite me. In their home I spent two weeks. I had not imagined there
were so many soldiers in the world as I saw then. "You cannot take a
step anywhere," said a lady, "without treading on a soldier!" They were
in the finest spirits, notwithstanding their long marches and short
rations. Thousands on thousands of Federal troops were in Virginia.
The highways of our chief rivers were closed, our railroads menaced.
Everything we needed was already scarce and held at high prices. Nobody
had comforts or luxuries; nobody murmured because of such privations.

We made our host's drawing-room a camping ground, his fire our
camp-fire. Around it gathered a nightly crowd of gay young soldiers.
They wished no serious talk, these young warriors! They had a brief
respite from fatigue and sorrow, and they intended to enjoy it. They
sentimentalized, however, over the tender and mournful song, "Lorena,"
which even then touched a chord in every heart, and which meant so much
of devotion and heartbreak two years later. For four years the daughters
of the South waited for their lovers, and some, alas! waited forever.

     "It matters little now, Lorena,
       The past is the eternal past,
     Our heads will soon lie low, Lorena,
       Life's tide is ebbing out so fast;
     But there's a future—oh! thank God—
       Of life this is so small a part;
     'Tis dust to dust beneath the sod,
       But _there_, up _there_,—'tis _heart_ to _heart_."

With pretty Nelly at the piano, her blue eyes raised to heaven, and Jack
Fleming accompanying her on her guitar, his dark eyes raised to Nelly,
the effect was overwhelming; and lest somebody should quite finish us
by singing, "Flee as a bird to the mountain," we would hasten to demand
the "Bonnie Blue Flag," or "Dixie," or the polite invitation to "Joe
Hooker" to "come out the Wilderness," or, better still, a good story.
The latter call would bring many we had heard before—there are so few
good stories in the world—but we would welcome each one with applause,
even if it were no better than the story of Captain —— (I can't remember
the captain's name) and his black boy "Cæsar." I can only vouch for the
story, which ran thus:—

The captain, going into a skirmish one day, left his tent and its
contents in the care of the boy. "Mayn't I go he'p de cook?" said Cæsar,
much desiring to place himself farther in the rear.

"Stay here, sir, and protect my property!" sternly commanded his master.

Cæsar, when left alone, grew unhappy, and when straggling shot fell like
hail around the tent, he incontinently fled and hid in the bushes. When
he returned, he found an angry captain indeed.

"You rascal! Didn't I leave you here to protect my property? It might
have been all stolen."

"I knows it, sah, I knows it! An' I did purtect yo' property, sah! I
sholy did! Dem ole cloes ain' wuth nothin'! I'se feared to bresh 'em
less'n I git a hole in 'em; but _dis_ property," laying his hand proudly
on his breast, "_dis_ property is wuth fifteen hundred dollars!"

Of course so good a story was soon capped by another. One of the boys
who had been with my General at Williamsburg could tell it. A shell had
entered the domain of pots and kettles and created what Domingo the cook
termed a "clatteration." He at once started for the rear.

"What's de matter, Mingo?" asked a fellow-servant, "whar you gwine wid
such a hurrification?"

"I gwine to git out o' trouble—dar whar I gwine. Dar's too much powder
in dem big things. Dis chile ain't gwine bu'n hisself! An' dar's dem
Minnie bullets, too, comin' frew de a'r, singin': '_Whar_—is—you?
_Whar_—is—you?' I ain't gwine stop an' tell 'em whar I is! I'se a
twenty-two-hundurd-dollar nigger, an' I'se gwine tek keer o' what
b'longs to marster, I is."

Of course we heard again the story of Stonewall Jackson's body-servant,
who always knew before anybody when a battle was imminent.

"The General tells you, I suppose," said one of the soldiers.

"Lawd, no, sir! De Gin'ral nuvver tell _me_ nothin'! I observates
de 'tention of de Gin'ral dis way: co'se he prays, jest like we all,
mornin' an' night; but when he gits up two, three times in a night to
pray, den I rubs my eye and gits up too, an' packs de haversack,—ca'se
I done fine out dere's gwine to be de ole boy to pay right away."

Amusing as were the negro stories, there were plenty of others,
revealing the peculiar characteristics of the common soldier. The
soldier from rural districts was a trial to his officers in the early
days of the war. Nothing could make him hurry. "If he came to a stream,
he would deliberately look around for two fence-rails and put them
across, and the time consumed by a company in crossing in this way can
be imagined. If his feet hurt him, he would sit down on the roadside
to tie rags around them." He never could be made to understand that
freedom of speech with an officer, who had been perhaps a neighbor, was
denied him; nor yet that he could not indulge in good-natured chaff or
criticism.

"Are you sentinel here?" asked an officer, who found a sentry sitting
down and cleaning his gun, having taken it entirely to pieces.

"Well, I am a sort of sentinel, I reckon."

"Well, _I_ am a sort of officer of the day."

"Is _that_ so? Just hold on till I get my gun together, and I will give
you a sort of a salute."[16]

When a picket guard at Harper's Ferry was being detailed for duty, one
of these verdant volunteers loudly protested against that manner of
carrying on war.

"What's the use of gwine out thar to keep everybody off?" he shouted.
"We've all kem here to hev a fight with them Yankees, an' ef you sen'
fellers out thar to skeer 'em off, how in thunder are we gwine to hev
a scrimmage?"

In the hardest times of starvation and weariness, according to our
soldier boys, the situation would be relieved by the drollery of some
good-natured, great-hearted countryman. Officers who had an easy place,
and musicians, for a similar reason, were their special targets. Rather
than be tormented, musicians would often leave the line of march and go
through fields to avoid the running fire. "Ah, now! give us a toot on
yer old funnel," or, "Brace up thar with yer blowpipe!"

These fellows who didn't fight were all classed under the general term
of "bomb-proofs." One of these officers—a little man—having appeared
in an enormous pair of cavalry boots, ran the gantlet of a neighboring
brigade and heard a frank opinion of himself:—

"I say, Mister, better git out'r them smokestacks! We know you're in
thar 'cause we all kin see yer head stickin' out. You needn' say yer
_ain't_ in thar,—'cause yer ears is workin' powerful."

The allusion to the celebrated long-eared animal was awful!

If a "bomb-proof" officer—a fellow who had a position in the rear—should
happen to be smartly dressed when cantering along near a regiment, he
would be apt to change his canter to a gallop as the men would shout
and whoop:—

"Oh, _my_! Ain't he pooty? Say, Mister! whar'd ye git that biled shut?
Was ye ra-a-ly born so, or was ye put together by corntrack? Sich a
nice-lookin' rooster oughter git down an' scratch for a wurrum!"

Even when a brigade would pass at double-quick, going into a battle in
which the waiting soldier expected any moment to take part, the latter
would call out:—

"What's your hurry, boys? Gwine to ketch a train?"

They made great fun, too, of their own fears, never considering them
worthy of being treated seriously, or as in any way detrimental.

Under fire at Manassas, a raw recruit was doing pretty well, when a
rabbit loped across the field. Dropping his gun as he was about to
shoot, he yelled, with honest pathos:—

"Go it, little cotton-tail, go it! I'm jest as skeered as you be, an'
ef I dar'd, I'd run too."

A number of militia having given way under fire, their commanding
officer called out to one of the fugitives:—

"What are you running away for, you —— —— coward? You ought to be
ashamed of yourself."

"I ain't runnin' away, Gin'ral! I'm just skeered! Them fellers over
thar are shootin' bullets as big as watermillions! One of 'em went right
peerst my head—right peerst;—an'—an' I wants to go home."

"Well, why didn't you shoot back, sir? You are crying like a baby."

"I knows it, Gin'ral—I knows it. I wish I _was_ a baby, and a gal-baby,
too, and then I wouldn't hev been cornscripted."

The regiments of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia could never pass
each other without some chaffing challenge.

"Hello, North Car'lina," said an officer to a lanky specimen in a shabby
uniform.

"Hello, Virginia."

"Blockade on turpentine making? You all hard up? No sale for tar now?"

"Well—yes!" was the slow rejoinder. "We sell all our tar to Jeff Davis
now."

"The thunder you do! What does the President want with your tar?"

"He puts it on the heels of Virginians to make 'em stick to the
battle-field."

The staff officer rode on.

A good story had found its way into our lines from a Federal officer.
He was commenting upon the fact that all Southern women were intense
rebels—with one exception. He had been with others marching down a
wooded lane which ended in a sharp curve. As they rounded it, they
suddenly came upon a house, before which was a woman picking up chips.
As she had evidently not seen them, the officer tiptoed up to her, put
his arm around her waist, and kissed her—and stepped back to avoid the
box on the ear he knew he deserved. The woman, however, straightened
herself, looked at him seriously for a moment, and said slowly, "You'll
find me right here every mornin' a-pickin' up chips."

It would seem that the telling of stories of a mildly humorous nature,
with the characteristic of dialect, was a feature of the war-time,—the
President of the United States affording a notable example. When the
gravest matters were under consideration, all things were held in
abeyance until the illustrative anecdote was duly presented. How Mr.
Seward chafed under them we all know. The poor little stories that went
the rounds among the rank and file at the camp-fires in Virginia had
their uses. Whatever the weariness, the discouragement, the failure
of the wagons to come up with provisions, by such simple means did the
brave boys lighten their own and each others' hearts. Whenever they had
cards they played; but before going into battle the camp-ground would
be strewn with them, the soldier of the rank and file always emptying
his pockets of his cards! His Testament was pocketed in their stead.

In repeating these stories around our blazing log fire, and in
describing their marches and hard times, the brave fellows made sport
of all their discomforts and of their shifts to supplement deficiencies.
They told with merriment of the times they had proudly drawn over their
bruised feet boots found on the march, and had suffered such agony from
the swelling of the compressed members that they were fain to implore a
comrade to cut off the instrument of torture; of the time Mr. Giddings
and his pretty daughters entertained them in Maryland, and of their
dreadful embarrassment at finding they had ravenously swept the table
of every biscuit, every bit of ham, every raw tomato—and had wanted, oh,
so much more! And how some of them had been captured and soon released;
but while prisoners and waiting for a train, how a Federal officer had
talked most kindly to them, inquiring for old West Point comrades of
his who were on our side; and how they on their part had asked after
the welfare of Captain John Lea of Petersburg, who had been captured at
Williamsburg,—to be told by this Federal officer that Captain Lea had
been dreadfully wounded, and while in the hospital had been nursed by
a young lady with whom he fell in love, and that the officer had been
present at their marriage in Williamsburg, and through his intercession
and that of other old West Point comrades Captain Lea had been released.
When the time came for parting with the courteous officer our boys had
respectfully requested his name. "My name is Custer," he said. "I do
not belong to any regiment, but am on the staff of General McClellan."
He was none other than the famous George A. Custer of the United States
cavalry, destined to win for himself immortal renown, and to meet
gallantly an early death in the fight with the Indians on the Little
Big Horn River.

Many of these soldier boys—"boys" now no longer, but "veterans"—were
from Petersburg, and had stood in line on the day when Alice and Tabb
and Marian and Molly and all the other girls had waited with me to
see them off. It was delightful to meet them and to hear news of the
others. Where was Will Johnson? Where was Berry Stainback? Will had
been captured "for no reason whatever except that he and Berry had but
one blanket between them, and Will had to get himself captured when he
found Berry had been, in order to continue to share the blanket, which
was in Berry's possession," a story which Will's friends could safely
invent for their amusement, as his known courage was beyond all doubt.

General "Jeb" Stuart was a great hero with these soldier boys, dashing
as he did all over the country with his eight thousand mounted men. He
was our plumed knight—with his gold star and long feather. They never
wearied of stories of his promptness, his celerity, his meteorlike
dashes.

"They'll never catch him!" said one proudly. "They'll always reach the
place where he recently was."

"He reminds me of the knights of the olden time," said a young lady.

"The mediæval knight, my dear young lady," said General Johnson, "would
be of little use in this war. He would have stood no chance with one of
Stuart's men."

"Fancy him," said another, "with his two hundred weight of iron on him,
and as much on his big cart-horse. Imagine him, armed with a maul or a
lance, a battle-axe, and six-foot pole, going into a fight at Manassas
or Antietam."

"He would never get there," said the General. "A light cavalryman of
the First Virginia would have ridden around King Arthur or Sir Launcelot
half a dozen times while the knight was bracing himself up for action;
and the Chicopee sabre would have searched out the joints under his
chin, or his arm, or his sword-belt, and would have shucked him like an
oyster before he could get his lance in rest."

And Jackson was another of their idols. Stories of his strategy, his
courage, his faith in God, his successes, filled many an hour around
the camp-fire in the hospitable Culpeper mansion.

But the chief idol of their hearts—of all our hearts—was our beloved
commander, our Bayard _sans peur et sans reproche_, General Lee.
The hand instinctively sought the cap at the mention of his name.
Indignant comments were made upon the newspaper criticisms of his early
misfortunes in the western part of Virginia in the autumn of 1861,
and one occasion was remembered when, his own attention having been
directed to a fierce newspaper attack, as unjust in its conclusions as
it was untrue in its statements, he was asked why he silently suffered
such unwarranted aspersions; and he had calmly replied that, while it
was very hard to bear, it was perhaps quite natural that such hasty
conclusions should be announced, and that it was better not to attempt
a justification or defence, but to go steadily on in the discharge of
duty to the best of our ability, leaving all else to the calmer judgment
of the future and to a kind Providence.

Happy was the private soldier who had seen General Lee, thrice happy the
one who had spoken to him. Of the latter, a plain countryman, having
listened to the personal incidents of his fellows, as they related
various occasions when they had been noticed by General Lee, was fired
by a desire to emulate them, and confided that he, too, had once enjoyed
a very interesting and gratifying interview with General Lee. Importuned
to tell it, the soldier modestly hesitated, but urged by an evident
incredulity on the part of his hearers, he took heart of grace and
related as follows:—

"I was jest out of the horspittle an' was natchelly strollin' round
when the scrimmage was goin' on, and I saw Gen'ral Lee on a little rise
not fur off. I santered closer an' closer to him, and when I saw him
look at me I says, 'Pretty warm work over thar, Gen'ral.' He give me
a keen look, an' says he, quiet-like: 'Where do you belong? Where's
your regiment?' An' I says, 'I'm lookin' for my regiment now—Twelfth
Virginia.' 'I can help you,' says he; 'there is your regiment just going
into the fight. Hurry up an' join it.' An' I run off proud as a pigeon."

"Didn't you think you might get shot?" asked his comrade.

"I suttenly did! I always thinks that. But then, thinks I, Gen'ral Lee
will be mighty sorry 'cause he knowed he sent me into danger when I was
feelin' mighty weak an' poly."

The incidents were many which the officers and soldiers could remember,
illustrating the dear commander's peculiar traits. His aide, Colonel
Taylor, has written me of one most touching incident:—

"Tidings reached General Lee, soon after his return to Virginia, of the
serious illness of one of his daughters—the darling of his flock. For
several days apprehensions were entertained that the next intelligence
would be of her death. One morning the mail was received, and the
private letters were distributed as was the custom; but no one knew
whether any home news had been received by the General. At the usual
hour he summoned me to his presence, to know if there were any matters
of army routine upon which his judgment and action were desired. The
papers containing a few such cases were presented to him; he reviewed,
and gave his orders in regard to them. I then left him, but for some
cause returned in a few moments, and with my accustomed freedom entered
his tent without announcement or ceremony, when I was startled and
shocked to see him overcome with grief, an open letter in his hand. That
letter contained the sad intelligence of his daughter's death.

"Scarcely less to be admired than his sublime devotion to duty,"
continued Colonel Taylor, "was his remarkable self-control. General
Lee was naturally of a positive temperament, and of strong passions;
and it is a mistake to suppose him otherwise; but he held these in
complete subjection to his will and conscience. He was not one of
those invariably amiable men, whose temper is never ruffled; but
when we consider the immense burden which rested upon him, and the
numberless causes for annoyance with which he had to contend, the
occasional cropping out of temper which we, who were constantly near
him, witnessed, only showed how great was his habitual self-command.

"He had a great dislike to reviewing army communications; this was so
thoroughly appreciated by me that I would never present a paper for his
action unless it was of decided importance, and of a nature to demand
his judgment and decision. On one occasion, when an audience had not
been asked of him for several days, it became necessary to have one.
The few papers requiring his action were submitted. He was not in a very
pleasant mood; something irritated him, and he manifested his ill humor
by a little nervous twist or jerk of the neck and head, peculiar to
himself, accompanied by some harshness of manner. This was perceived by
me, and I hastily concluded that my efforts to save him annoyance were
not appreciated. In disposing of some case of a vexatious character,
matters reached a climax; he became really worried, and, forgetting what
was due to my superior, I petulantly threw the paper down at my side
and gave evident signs of anger. Then, in a perfectly calm and measured
tone of voice, he said, 'Colonel Taylor, when I lose my temper, don't
you let it make you angry.'

"Was there ever a more gentle and considerate, and yet so positive,
reproof? How magnanimous in the great soldier, and yet how crushing to
the subordinate! The rash and disrespectful conduct of the latter would
have justified, if it did not demand, summary treatment at the hands of
the former. Instead of this, the first man of his day and generation,
great and glorious in his humility, condescended to occupy the same
plane with his youthful subaltern, and to reason with him as an equal,
frankly acknowledging his own imperfections, but kindly reminding the
inferior at the same time of his duty and his position." Great indeed
must be the man whom we can love all the better for his human weakness.



CHAPTER XV

GUARDING THE BLACKWATER


General Pryor's brigade had been composed of regiments from Alabama,
Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia. Congress having
recommended that regiments should be enlisted under officers from their
own states,—in order to remedy, if possible, the disinclination to
reënlist for the war,—there was a general upheaval and change throughout
the entire army during the autumn of 1862. On the 10th of November
General Pryor was ordered to report for duty to Major-General G. W.
Smith, commanding at Richmond, Virginia, the Second, Fifth, and Eighth
Florida Regiments of his brigade being assigned to a Florida brigadier,
the Fourteenth Alabama and the Fifth North Carolina to officers from
their respective states.

On November 2 General Longstreet had written to General Pryor: "I
understand that General Perry will have the Florida regiments. Please
make some suggestion as to what arrangement we may be able to make for
you."

Accordingly my husband consulted General Lee, and received the following
letter from him, dated November 25, 1862:—

     "GENERAL: Your letter of the 23d inst. has just been received.
     I regret my inability to detach from this army the two
     regiments to operate on the Blackwater. As far as I am able to
     judge, troops are more wanted here than there, and it might be
     better to bring the troops which it is contemplated to unite
     with those in question to this army. I regretted at the time
     the breaking up of your former brigade, but you are aware that
     the circumstances which produced it were beyond my control.
     I hope it will not be long before you will be again in the
     field, that the country may derive the benefit of your zeal
     and activity."

On November 29, General Pryor was ordered by General G. W. Smith to
report to Major-General French, and was personally introduced to the
latter by the following letter:—

                                       "RICHMOND, November 29, 1862.

     "MY DEAR GENERAL: This will be handed you by my friend,
     Brigadier-General Pryor. General Pryor's brigade in General
     Lee's army was recently broken up in rearranging the brigades
     by states. It is intended by the government that he shall
     have a Virginia brigade as soon as one can be formed for him.
     In the meanwhile, it is General Lee's desire that General
     Pryor shall serve upon the Blackwater—his own section of the
     country—and he directs that the two regiments of cavalry on
     the Blackwater be placed under his command, etc....

     "General Pryor has already won for himself the reputation of
     being one of the best, most daring, and energetic officers
     in the army, highly distinguished in civil life, and one
     of the most influential men in the state, especially in his
     own section. He will coöperate with you thoroughly, and I am
     sure will render good service to the cause and be of great
     assistance to yourself.

     "I am satisfied, from what General Lee writes me, that at
     present we can have no troops from his army. The impression
     is, that a great battle is impending in the vicinity of
     Fredericksburg. We must keep our house in order, and make the
     most of the means we have and can procure from other sources
     than General Lee's army.

          "Very truly yours,
               "G. W. SMITH, _Major-General_."

A rule enforced for the common good often falls heavily upon
individuals. General Pryor grieved to lose his men, and they united
in many petitions to be allowed to remain with him. He undertook the
protection of the Blackwater region with an inadequate force, in the
certain expectation that reënforcements would be sent to him.

The enemy destined to conquer us at last—the "ravenous, hunger-starved
wolf"—already menaced us. General Longstreet had learned that corn and
bacon were stored in the northeastern counties of North Carolina, and
he had sent two companies of cavalry on a foraging expedition, to the
region around Suffolk.

"The Confederate lines," says a historian, "extended only to the
Blackwater River on the east, where a body of Confederate troops
was stationed to keep the enemy in check." That body was commanded
by General Pryor, now in front of a large Federal force, to keep it
in check while the wagon-trains sent off corn and bacon for Lee's
army. This was accomplished by sleepless vigilance on the part of the
Confederate General. The Federal forces made frequent sallies from
Suffolk, but were always driven back with heavy loss. It is amusing to
read of the calmness with which his commanding officers ordered him to
accomplish great things with his small force.

"I cannot," says General Colston, "forward your requisition for two
regiments of infantry and one of cavalry: it is almost useless to
make such requisitions, for they remain unanswered. You must use every
possible means to deceive the enemy as to your strength, and you must
_hold the line of the Blackwater to the last extremity_."

General French writes: "If I had any way to increase your forces, I
should do so, but I have to bow to higher authority and the necessities
of the service. But you must annoy the villains all you can, and make
them uncomfortable. Give them no rest. Ambush them at every turn."

General Pryor did not dream I would come to his camp at Blackwater. He
supposed I would find quarters among my friends at home, but I had now
no home. Our venerable father had sent his family to the interior after
the battles around Richmond; had given up his church in Petersburg, and,
commending the women, old men, and children to the care of a successor,
had entered the army as chaplain, "where," as he said, "I can follow my
own church members and comfort them in sickness, if I can do no more."

As soon as the position of our brigade was made known to me, I drew
forth the box containing the camp outfit, packed a trunk or two, and
took the cars for the Blackwater. The terminus of the railroad was only
a few miles from our camp. The Confederate train could go no farther
because of the enemy. The day's journey was long, for the passenger car
attached to the transportation train was dependent upon the movements
of the latter. The few passengers who had set forth with me in the
morning had left at various wayside stations, and I was now alone. I
had no idea where we should sleep that night. I thought I would manage
it somehow—somewhere.

We arrived at twilight at the end of our journey. When I left the car
my little boys gathered around me. There was a small wooden building
near, which served for waiting-room and post-office. The only dwelling
in sight was another small house, surrounded by a few bare trees. My
first impression was that I had never before seen such an expanse of
gray sky. The face of the earth was a dead, bare level, as far as the
eye could reach; and much, very much of it lay under water. I was in
the region of swamps, stretching on and on until they culminated in the
one great "Dismal Swamp" of the country. No sounds were to be heard,
no hum of industry or lowing of cattle, but a mighty concert rose from
thousands, nay, millions, of frogs.

"Now," thought I, "here is really a fine opportunity to be 'jolly'! Mark
Tapley's swamps couldn't surpass these." But all the railroad folk were
departing, and the postmaster was preparing to lock his door and leave
also. I liked the looks of the little man, and ventured:—

"Can you tell me, sir, where I can get lodging to-night? I am the
General's wife—Mrs. Pryor—and to-morrow he will take care of me. I know
he has no place for us in camp."

The little man considered, and looked us over—a lady, three little boys,
trunks, and a box.

"I can take thee in myself," he said. "I am just going home."

"Oh, thank you, thank you. I shall need only the smallest trunk
to-night."

"I'm afraid I can hardly make thee comfortable, as I live alone, but
thee is welcome."

"Thee"! Oh, joy! I thought. This is a blessed little Quaker! We'll not
part again! Here I rest. We soon reached his door, and he called out
for "Charity!"

The call was answered in person by a black girl in a short
linsey-woolsey frock which revealed her ankles and bare feet, her hair
tied in innumerable little tails, sticking all over her head like a
porcupine's quills. She was the most alert little creature I ever saw,
nimble-footed and quick. "Charity," said my host, "have a good fire
made upstairs in the front room at once. Thee is welcome," he repeated,
turning to me, and I followed the sable maiden up the stair.

"And so your name is Charity?"

"Charity's meh name an' Charity's meh naycher," she informed me. She
soon brought in Dick with an armful of wood, and a fine, welcome fire
cheered us.

"You needn' be lookin' at de baid," said Charity. "I'll soon sheet it.
He's got sto's o' quilts, but I dunno as he'll s'render 'em."

It appeared that he would. He brought them, an armful, himself, and the
bright patchwork on our two beds looked very inviting.

Charity leaned against the mantel, regarding me with leisurely scrutiny,
her bare feet crossed one over the other. I felt it to be the part of
prudence to placate her.

"We'll unlock the trunk," I said,—Dick had already fetched it,—"and I'll
find a pretty ribbon for you."

"I knowed," said the girl, "you was some punkins soon's I sot eyes on
you." Before I was summoned to the supper of biscuit, fried bacon, and
coffee without cream, Charity had enlightened me about her employer;
she made haste to tell me he was not her master. "I'se free, I is! Mo'n
dat, he's a Quaker, an' ef you ever seen Quakers, you knows dey don'
like no slaves 'roun'. Yas'm, I'se free—an' Dick, he's a po'-white boy.
Me'n him does all de wuk cep'n in hawg-killin' time, an' den de fokes
comes fum de quarters to he'p."

"Are you lonesome?" I asked, making conversation.

"_Dat_ I is. You see he los' his wife two mont' ago. Dese here quilts
is hern. She made 'em."

"Dear me," I said, "I'm so sorry!"

But Charity had broken down and was sobbing with her head against the
mantel.

"Yas'm! I cert'nly is lonesum! She jes up an' die, an', an' de po'
little baby daid too."

As I lay in bed I thought of the dear dead woman. I resolved to be
nothing but a comfort to Charity and that little Quaker. I made plans
for the happiness of both. With my heart full of sympathy, full of
gratitude, full of hope, I slept sweetly and long.

In the morning a message sent from the post-office through an inquirer
from the camp brought me my General; brought, too, an invitation from
my host to make this house his headquarters, and during the day he
moved over bag and baggage. A cook was detailed from the camp, we were
to furnish our own table; and our kind host looked so deeply wounded
when we offered rent for our lodgings, that no more was said on that
subject. I had brought nothing with me except the plain contents of my
camp chest. The thick white china of the table was unattractive, and I
consulted Charity about the possibility of buying something better. Our
only market-town, Suffolk, was in the hands of the enemy.

"He's got painted cups an' saucers, but I dunno's he'll s'render 'em,"
said Charity.

"Suppose you ask him!"

"I dun try 'im once. I ax 'im dat time when his mother-in-law cum to
see 'im—an' he nuvver say nuthin! Den I let 'im rip!"

But after a few days "he" threw in my lap a bunch of keys, saying
simply, "Everything in the house and on the plantation belongs to thee."
Some of them were enormous, like the key of the Bastile, and all were
rusted. I selected a small one, returning the rest, and in Charity's
presence unlocked the old mahogany sideboard and counted to her the
cups, saucers, and plates, gilt-edged, and decorated with a rosebud here
and there.

"Good Gawd!" said Charity. "I _nuvver_ thought he'd s'render the chany
cups!"

"Not one is to be broken," I said, sternly. "If you break one, tell me
at once and bring me the pieces, so I can send to Richmond and replace
it."

I saw but little of my kind host. He lived at the post-office, remaining
late every night to open the mail and have it ready for an early morning
delivery to the camp, and returning home at twelve o'clock to sleep.
Every night thereafter he found a bright fire, a clean-swept hearth,
and on plates before the fire, biscuits, sausage or broiled ham, and
a little pot of coffee. A table—with a lamp and the latest papers—was
drawn up beside his arm-chair.

A few months after I left his house for Petersburg I received the
following letter from him:—

     "RESPECTED FRIEND: I have now married. I couldn't stand it.

          "Thy friend,
               "I. P."

Since then I have always counselled, as cure for an incorrigible
bachelor, simply to take care of him beautifully for three months and
then—leave him!

  [Illustration: HON. ROGER A. PRYOR.
   _From a photograph, about 1870._]

But to return: Charity's example was contagious. "I cert'nly was
lonesum" on the Blackwater. The General and his staff were forever
in the saddle. When he returned after his skirmishes and exploring
expeditions, he was too tired to amuse me. I busied myself teaching the
little boys and dispensing the provisions our men brought me. Bacon and
biscuit, without butter, fruit, or milk, was deadly diet for me, so I
was allowed an occasional courier from the camp to take my money and
scour the country for better fare. When he appeared, galloping down
the lane, on his return, he looked like some extraordinary feathered
creature with a horse's head, so completely were both covered with
turkeys, ducks, geese, and chickens. Then would ensue a gift to the camp
hospital of soups and stews and a fine supper for my General's staff,
Major Shepard, Captain Whitner, Major Keiley, and Captain McCann, with
as many choice spirits from the officers as we could entertain. Then was
brewed, by the majors and captains aforesaid, a mighty bowl of egg-nog,
sweet and very stiff, for there was no milk to temper its strength. I
feared at first that my Quaker host might disapprove, but I never failed
to find the foaming glass I placed beside his night lamp quite empty
next morning.

I could manage to occupy myself during the day. I could make a study
of Charity, in whom I soon perceived quite an interesting character,
quick to learn, responsive, and most affectionate. She was literally my
only female companion. I had no neighbors, nowhere to drive (the enemy
was only fifteen miles off) except on the watery lanes, nothing to
meet when driving except, perhaps, a slow-moving cart drawn by steeds
like Sydney Smith's "Tug-and-Lug, Haul-and-Crawl," driven by a negro
boy, who stood with feet planted on the shafts and who entertained his
patient, long-suffering oxen by telling them of the torments awaiting
them unless they would "go along." But the long and lonely evenings
were hard to bear, when the general and his staff were abroad, roaming
like watch-dogs around the frontier, deluding the enemy by a great show
of bravado here and there. Nothing like the orchestra of frogs can be
imagined. They serenaded the moon all night long; a magnificent diapason
of mighty voices, high soprano, full baritone, and heavy bass. I could
understand the desperate need of the lone woman who had once lived here.
The patchwork quilts were eloquent witnesses.

As the time dragged on in this lonely place, I began to find that I
wanted many articles classed in a woman's mind generally as "things."

There is not a more generous word in the English language than "things."
It may mean, according to Stormonth, "A Swedish assize of justice,
a Norwegian parliament, a meeting for palaver on public affairs,
luggage, or clothes,"—which proves how important is the making of
new dictionaries as we travel along toward our highest civilization.
For instance: when you say to your butler, "Be careful with the
breakfast things," he understands you perfectly. He knows you mean the
egg-shell cups, and blossomy plates. When you bid your maid bring your
"things," she appears with your hat, gloves, cloak, and furs. "Her
rooms are comfortable, but I don't like her things," you say when the
_bric-à-brac_ and curios are not to your taste. "I never speak of such
things," you declare in haughty superiority when some guest has filled
an hour with foolish or injurious gossip. "Such things are beneath
contempt," says the lawyer of certain practices familiar in the courts.
And then we have "poor thing,"—not the traditional robin who "hides his
head under his wing, poor thing," but some fine lady, far from young
and—unmarried! And "a poor thing, sir, but mine own,"—this time not a
fine lady by any means, only "an ill-favored virgin."

And then, having vexed our souls all the week over mundane "things," we
are given, on Sunday, glimpses of another world quite as full of them.

"Wean yourselves from earthly idols and fix your hearts on heavenly
things," says the bishop. Things! Heavenly things! Stars, harps, crowns
of righteousness, high and lofty aspirations!

Not long after the battle of Fredericksburg a participator described
the panic, the horror, the fleeing of the women and children from their
homes. "And then," he said, "there arose from that homeless, stricken
crowd of women a cry of mortal agony, '_My things! Oh, my things!_'"

"Things" to me meant only needful garments. I could starve with perfect
serenity. I could live without the latest novel, the late magazines,
egg-shell china, rich attire, jewels; but I had not had a new bonnet
for three years. Shoes, and above all shoestrings, were needed by my
little boys, needles, tapes, sewing thread and sewing silk, stays and
staylaces, gloves, combs. Of course I needed garments of muslin and
linen. Had I not rolled bandages of mine? I needed gowns. A calico dress
now cost $40. But these large "things" were quite beyond all hope on the
Blackwater. Smaller articles I might, perhaps, compass. The General's
orders, however, strictly forbade the purchase by private individuals
of articles smuggled through the lines. He once confiscated a sloop on
the Blackwater laden with women's shoes, slippers, and Congress gaiters!
He would not allow me a shoe; all were sent to Richmond to be sold for
the benefit of the government. Communication with the enemy must be
discouraged lest he discover our weakness.

I knew that most of the tight little carts peddling fish, potatoes,
and eggs had double bottoms between which were all sorts of delightful
things, but I never dared approach the pedler on the subject; and as I
was the commanding officer's wife, he dared not approach me.

One day I was in an ambulance, driving on one of the interminable lanes
of the region, the only incident being the watery crossing over the
"cosin," as the driver called the swamps that had been "Poquosin" in
the Indian tongue. Behind me came a jolting two-wheeled cart, drawn
by a mule and driven by a small negro boy, who stood in front with a
foot planted firmly upon each of the shafts. Within, and completely
filling the vehicle, which was nothing more than a box on wheels, sat
a dignified-looking woman. The dame of the ambulance at once became
fascinated by a small basket of sweet potatoes which the dame of the
cart carried in her lap.

With a view to acquiring these treasures I essayed a tentative
conversation upon the weather, the prospects of a late spring, and
finally the scarcity of provisions and consequent suffering of the
soldiers.

After a keen glance of scrutiny the market woman exclaimed, "Well, I am
doing all I can for them! I know you won't speak of it! Look here!"

Lifting the edge of her hooped petticoat, she revealed a roll of army
cloth, several pairs of cavalry boots, a roll of crimson flannel,
packages of gilt braid and sewing silk, cans of preserved meats, a bag
of coffee! She was on her way to our own camp, right under the General's
nose! Of course I should not betray her—I promised. I did more. Before
we parted she had drawn forth a little memorandum book and had taken a
list of my own necessities. She did not "run the blockade" herself. She
had an agent—"a dear, good Suffolk man"—who would fill my order on his
next trip.

It isn't worth while to tell men everything. They are not supposed to
be interested in the needle-and-thread ways of women!

About three weeks after my interview with the blockade-runner, I was
driving again in the ambulance. Suddenly Captain Whitner, who had
galloped to overtake me, wheeled in front of the horses and stopped
them.

"Good morning, Captain! Any news at camp I am permitted to learn?"

I perceived the corners of his mouth twitching, but he said gravely:—

"I am commissioned to tell you that you must consider yourself under
arrest. I am sent to discharge this painful duty and conduct you to
camp."

"By whose order, pray?"

"Official orders from headquarters," and he presented a paper.

I knew he must be acting a part for his own amusement, and I asked no
questions. I would not gratify him by seeming to be alarmed.

When I arrived at my husband's tent, I found him with Major Shepard,
and a wretched-looking countryman standing near them. I comprehended
the situation at a glance and resolved to play my part.

"This prisoner," said the General, "has been arrested for bringing in
contraband goods in violation of express orders. He pleads that the
goods were ordered by the General's wife for the use of the General's
family. Have you anything to say to show cause why he should not be
punished?"

"May it please the court," I said, turning to Major Shepard and Captain
Whitner, "I call you to witness that I invited you last week to partake
of a bowl of egg-nog, telling you it was made of contraband French
brandy. When the commanding officer's attention was called to the fact,
he said he could do nothing; he was obliged to submit because I was his
superior officer, that I outranked him everywhere except on the march
and the battle-field."

A burst of laughter interrupted me. The chairman called for order.

"I confess that I deputed this estimable gentleman to procure some
sewing silk for the mending of the garments of my subordinate officer.
I had hoped that through his valor the blockade would, ere this, have
been raised. Finding myself mistaken—"

"The prisoner is discharged," said the General,—I uttered an exclamation
of triumph,—"but," he added, "the goods are confiscated for the benefit
of the Confederate government, and are already on the way to Richmond."

I was very sorry for the fright the poor man had suffered for my sake.
I took him home with me beside the driver on the ambulance. Of course
I paid him. I had one piece of family silver with me for which I had no
use on the Blackwater,—a butter knife—and I gave it to him as a souvenir
of his happy escape from danger.

How did I manage without my needles and thread?

Charity came to me early one morning with a brown paper parcel in her
arms.

"Dat ole creeter," said Charity, "what come home wid you las' week,
knock at de kitchen do' fo' day dis mornin'. He gimme dis, an' say you
bleeged to git it fo' de Gen'al wake up; an'—an'—he say—but Lawd! 'tain'
wuf while to tell you what he say! But he _do_ say to tell you to gimme
sumpin out'n de bundle. Gawd knows I ain' no cravin' po'-white-folks'
nigger, but dat what he say."

I need not give an inventory of the contents of the bundle. They were
perfectly satisfactory to me—and to Charity.

We had slender mails on the Blackwater, few papers, no books.
Occasionally a letter from Agnes gave me news of the outside world.

                                    "RICHMOND, January 7, 1863.

     "MY DEARIE: Have you no pen, ink, and paper on the
     Blackwater—the very name of which suggests ink? I get no
     news of you at all. How do you amuse yourself, and have you
     anything to read? I am sending you to-day a copy of Victor
     Hugo's last novel, "Les Misérables," reprinted by a Charleston
     firm on the best paper they could get, poor fellows, pretty
     bad I must acknowledge. You'll go wild over that book—I
     did—and everybody does.

     "Major Shepard must order some copies for the brigade. As he
     has plenty of meat and bread now, he can afford it. I have
     cried my eyes out over Fantine and Cosette and Jean Valjean.
     The soldiers are all reading it. They calmly walk into the
     bookstores, poor dear fellows, and ask for "Lee's Miserables
     faintin'!"—the first volume being "Fantine." I've worlds of
     news to tell you. Alice Gregory is engaged to Arthur Herbert,
     the handsomest man I know. Alice is looking lovely and so
     happy. Helen came to see me in Petersburg, and is all the time
     worried about Ben. Did you know that Jim Field lost a leg at
     Malvern Hills—or in the hospital afterwards? He was such a
     lovely fellow—engaged to Sue Bland—I never saw a handsomer
     pair. Well, Sue thinks as much as I do about good looks, and
     Jim wrote to release her. She had a good cry, and finally came
     down to Richmond, married him, and took him home to nurse him.

     "Do you realize the fact that we shall soon be without a
     stitch of clothes? There is not a bonnet for sale in Richmond.
     Some of the girls smuggle them, which I for one consider in
     the worst possible taste, to say the least. We have no right
     at this time to dress better than our neighbors, and besides,
     the soldiers need every cent of our money. Do you remember
     in Washington my pearl-gray silk bonnet, trimmed inside with
     lilies of the valley? I have ripped it up, washed and ironed
     it, dyed the lilies blue (they are bluebells now), and it
     is very becoming. All the girls intend to plait hats next
     summer when the wheat ripens, for they have no blocks on
     which to press the coal-scuttle bonnets, and after all when
     our blockade is raised we may find they are not at all worn,
     while hats are hats and never go out of fashion. The country
     girls made them last summer and pressed the crowns over bowls
     and tin pails. I could make lovely paper flowers if I had
     materials.

     "It seems rather volatile to discuss such things while our
     dear country is in such peril. Heaven knows I would costume
     myself in coffee-bags if that would help, but having no
     coffee, where could I get the bags? I'll e'en go afield next
     summer, and while Boaz is at the front, Ruth will steal his
     sheaves for her adornment.

     "The papers announce that General French reports the enemy
     forty-five thousand strong at Suffolk. How many men has your
     General? Dear, dear!

     "But we are fortifying around Richmond. While I write a great
     crowd of negroes is passing through the streets, singing as
     they march. They have been working on the fortifications north
     of the city, and are now going to work on them south of us.
     They don't seem to concern themselves much about Mr. Lincoln's
     Emancipation Proclamation, and they seem to have no desire to
     do any of the fighting.

          "Your loving
               "AGNES."

     "P. S.—I attended Mrs. Davis's last reception. There was a
     crowd, all in evening dress. You see, as we don't often wear
     our evening gowns, they are still quite passable. I wore
     the gray silk with eleven flounces which was made for Mrs.
     Douglas's last reception, and by the bye, who do you think
     was at the battle of Williamsburg, on General McClellan's
     staff? The Prince de Joinville who drank the Rose wine with
     you at the Baron de Limbourg's reception to the Japs. Doesn't
     it all seem so long ago—so far away? The Prince de Joinville
     escorted me to one of the President's levees—don't you
     remember?—and now I attend another President's levee and hear
     him calmly telling some people that rats, if fat, are as good
     as squirrels, and that we can never afford mule meat. It would
     be too expensive, but the time may come when rats will be in
     demand.

          "Dearly,
              "AGNES."

The Emancipation Proclamation did not create a ripple of excitement
among the colored members of our households in Virginia. Of its effect
elsewhere I could not judge. As to fighting, our own negroes never
dreamed of such a thing. The colored troops of the North were not
inferior, we were told, in discipline and courage to other soldiers;
but the martial spirit among them had its exceptions. A Northern writer
has recorded an interview with a negro who had run the blockade and
entered the service of a Federal officer. He was met on board a steamer,
after the battle of Fort Donelson, on his way to a new situation, and
questioned in regard to his experience of war.[17]

"Were you in the fight?"

"Had a little taste of it, sah."

"Stood your ground, of course."

"No, sah! I run."

"Not at the first fire?"

"Yes, sah, an' would a' run sooner ef I knowed it was a-comin'!"

"Why, that wasn't very creditable to your courage, was it?"

"Dat ain't in my line, sah—cookin's my perfeshun."

"But have you no regard for your reputation?"

"Refutation's nothin' by de side o' life."

"But you don't consider your life worth more than other people's, do
you?"

"Hit's wuth mo' to me, sah."

"Then you must value it very highly."

"Yas, sah, I does,—mo'n all dis wuld! Mo' dan a million o' dollars,
sah. What would dat be wuth to a man wid de bref out o' 'im?
Self-perserbashun is de fust law wid me, sah!"

"But why should you act upon a different rule from other men?"

"'Cause diffunt man set diffunt value 'pon his life. Mine ain't in de
market."

"Well, if all soldiers were like you, traitors might have broken up the
government without resistance."

"Dat's so! Dar wouldn't 'a' been no hep fer it. But I don' put my life
in de scale against no gubberment on dis yearth. No gubberment gwine
pay me ef I loss messef."

"Well, do you think you would have been much missed if you had been
killed?"

"Maybe not, sah! A daid white man ain' much use to dese yere sogers,
let alone a daid niggah, but I'd 'a' missed mysef powerful, an' dat's
de pint wid me."

Towards the last of January we had a season of warm, humid weather.
Apparently the winter was over; the grass was springing on the swamp,
green and luxurious, and the willows swelling into bud. There were no
singing birds on the Blackwater as early as January 28, but the frogs
were mightily exercised upon the coming of spring, and their nightly
concerts took on a jubilant note.

One day I had a few moments' conversation with my husband about army
affairs, and he remarked that our Southern soldiers were always restless
unless they were in action. "They never can stand still in battle," he
said; "they are willing to yell and charge the most desperate positions,
but if they can't move forward, they must move backward. Stand still
they cannot."

I thought I could perceive symptoms of restlessness on the part of their
commander. Often in the middle of the night he would summon John, mount
him, and send him to camp, a short distance away; and presently I would
hear the tramp, tramp of the General's staff officers, coming to hold
a council of war in his bedroom. On the 28th of January he confided to
me that on the next day he would make a sally in the direction of the
enemy. "He is getting entirely too impudent," said he; "I'm not strong
enough to drive him out of the country, but he must keep his place."

I had just received a present of coffee. This was at once roasted and
ground. On the day of the march, fires were kindled under the great
pots used at the "hog-killing time" (an era in the household) and many
gallons of coffee were prepared. This was sweetened, and when our men
paused near the house to form the line of march, the servants and little
boys passed down the line with buckets of the steaming coffee, cups,
dippers, and gourds. Every soldier had a good draught of comfort and
cheer. The weather had suddenly changed. The great snow-storm that fell
in a few days was gathering, the skies were lowering, and the horizon
was dark and threatening.

After the men had marched away, I drove to the hospital tent and
put myself at the disposal of the surgeon. We inspected the store of
bandages and lint, and I was intrusted with the preparation of more.

"I ain' got no use for dis stuff," said my one female friend and
companion, Charity, whom I pressed into service to help me pick lint.
"'Pears like 'tain't good for nuthin' but to line a bird's nes'."

"It will be soft for the wound of a soldier," I said, "after he has
fought the Yankees."

"I'll pick den; I'll tar up my onlies' apun ef he'll kill one."

"Oh, Charity!"

"Yas'm, I will dat! Huccome we all don' drive 'm out o' Suffolk? Der's
lodes an lodes o' shoes an' stockin's, an' sugar an' cawfy in Suffolk!
An' dese nasty Abolition Yankees got 'em all!"

"Those are not proper words for you to use," I said. "What have you
against the Northern people? They never did you harm."

"Dey ain't, ain't dey?" she replied, with feeling. "Huccome I'se got to
go barfooted? Hit's scan'lous for a free gal to go barfooted, like she
was so no 'count she couldn't git a par o' shoes fer herse'f."

"I'll ask the General to order a pair for you."

"Humph!" said Charity, scornfully; "you can't do nothin' wid dat Gen'al.
Ain' I hear you baig an' baig 'im for a par o' slippers dat time he
fristricated de boatload full? I ain' seen you git de slippers."

Charity was not the only one of the Nation's Wards who held the enemy
in contempt. The special terms in which she designated them were in
common use at the time. She had often heard them from the General's
servant, John, who shared the opinions of the common soldier. Some
of the expressions of the great men I knew in Washington were quite
as offensive and not a bit less inelegant, although framed in better
English. I never approved of "calling names," I had seen what comes of
it; and I reproved John for teaching them to my little boys.

"No'm," said John, "I won't say nothin'; I'll just say the Yankees are
mighty mean folks."

My first news from the General was cheering, but he would not return
for a day or two. He must fly about the frontier a little in various
directions to let the enemy know he was holding his own. His official
report was as follows:—

     "TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL COLSTON, Petersburg, Va.
          "CARRSVILLE, ISLE OF WIGHT, January 30, 1863.

     "GENERAL: This morning at 4 o'clock the enemy under
     Major-General Peck attacked me at Kelly's store, eight
     miles from Suffolk. After three hours' severe fighting we
     repulsed them at all points and held the field. Their force
     is represented by prisoners to be between ten and fifteen
     thousand. My loss in killed and wounded will not exceed
     fifty—no prisoners. I regret that Col. Poage is among the
     killed. We inflicted a heavy loss on the enemy.

          "Respectfully,
               "ROGER A. PRYOR, _Brigadier-General Commanding_."

On February 2 the General thus addressed his troops: "The
Brigadier-General congratulates the troops of this command on the
results of the recent combat.

"The enemy endeavored under cover of night to steal an inglorious
victory by surprise, but he found us prepared at every point, and
despite his superior numbers, greater than your own, in the proportion
of five to one, he was signally repulsed and compelled to leave us in
possession of the field.

"After silencing his guns and dispersing his infantry, you remained
on the field from night until one o'clock, awaiting the renewal of the
attack, but he did not again venture to encounter your terrible fire.

"When the disparity of force between the parties is considered, with
the proximity of the enemy to his stronghold, and his facilities of
reënforcements by railway, the result of the action of the 30th will be
accepted as a splendid illustration of your courage and good conduct."

One of the "enemy's" papers declared that our force was "three regiments
of infantry, fourteen pieces of artillery, and about nine hundred
cavalry."

The temptation to "lie under a mistake" was great in those days of
possible disaffection, when soldiers had to believe in their cause in
order to defend it. One of the newspaper correspondents of the enemy
explained why we were not again attacked after the first fight. He
said: "Some may inquire why we did not march forthwith to Carrsville and
attack the rebels again. The reasons are obvious. Had he went [_sic_] to
Carrsville Pryor would have had the advantage to cut off our retreat.
The natives know every bypath and blind road through the woods and are
ever ready to help the rebels to our detriment. Pryor can always cross
the Blackwater on his floating bridge. It is prudent to allow an enemy
to get well away from his stronghold the better to capture his guns and
destroy his ammunition," etc.

Another paper declares he was heavily reënforced at Carrsville.

Another records: "The rebels have been very bold in this neighborhood.
Pryor has been in the habit of crossing the Blackwater River whenever
he wanted to. Our attacking him this time must have been a real surprise
to him. We took a large number of prisoners!"

He continued the indulgence of this habit until spring, receiving from
his countrymen unstinted praise for his protection of that part of our
state. While he could not utterly rout the invading army, he "held them
very uneasy."

I was made rich by enthusiastic congratulations from our capital and
from Petersburg. Agnes wrote from Richmond:—

     "Have you seen the _Enquirer_? Of course this is very
     grand for you because this is your own little fight—all by
     yourself. In Richmond everybody says the General is to be
     promoted Major-General. When he is, I shall attach myself
     permanently to his staff. The life of inglorious idleness
     here is perfectly awful. If you suppose I don't long for a
     rich experience, you are mistaken. Give me the _whole_ of
     it—victory, defeat, glory and misfortune, praise and even
     censure (so it be _en plein air_)—anything, everything, except
     stolid, purposeless, hopeless uselessness.

     "The worst effect of this inaction is felt in this city, where
     we can manufacture nothing for the soldiers, and only consume
     in idleness what they need. A sort of court is still kept up
     here—but the wives of our great generals are conspicuous for
     their absence. Mrs. Lee is never seen at receptions. She and
     her daughters spend their time knitting and sewing for the
     soldiers, just as her great-grandmother, Martha Washington,
     did in '76; and General Lee writes that these things are
     needed. People here, having abundant time to find fault, do
     not hesitate to say that our court ladies assume too much
     state for revolutionary times. They had better be careful!
     We won't guillotine them—at least not on the block (there
     are other guillotines), but it would be lovelier if they
     could realize their fine opportunities. Think of Florence
     Nightingale! Mrs. Davis is very chary of the time she allots
     us. If King Solomon were to call with the Queen of Sheba on
     his arm the fraction of a moment after the closing minute of
     her reception, he would not be admitted! I can just see you
     saying, in that superior manner you see fit to assume with
     me:—

     "'But, Agnes dear! that is good form, you know, and belongs
     to the etiquette of polite life.'

     "Of course I know it! Did I say that Mrs. Davis should admit
     King Solomon? _I_ wouldn't! I only tell you what other folks
     think and say—but _ajew_, until I hear some more news and
     gossip.

          "Dearly again,
               "Agnes."



CHAPTER XVI

VICISSITUDES OF THE WAR


My friend Agnes could soon record graver things than idleness or gossip.
On April 4, 1863, she wrote from Richmond:—

     "MY DEAR: I hope you appreciate the fact that you are herewith
     honored with a letter written in royal-red ink upon sumptuous
     gilt-edged paper. There is not, at the present writing, one
     inch of paper for sale in the capital of the Confederacy,
     at all within the humble means of the wife of a Confederate
     officer. Well is it for her—and I hope for you—that her
     youthful admirers were few, and so her gorgeous cream-and-gold
     album was only half filled with tender effusions. Out come
     the blank leaves, to be divided between her friend and her
     Colonel. Don't be alarmed at the color of the writing. I have
     not yet dipped my goose-quill (there are no steel pens) in
     the 'ruddy drops that visit my sad heart,' nor yet into good
     orthodox red ink. There are fine oaks in the country, and that
     noble tree bears a gall-nut filled with crimson sap. One lies
     on my table, and into its sanguinary heart I plunge my pen.

     "Something very sad has just happened in Richmond—something
     that makes me ashamed of all my jeremiads over the loss of the
     petty comforts and conveniences of life—hats, bonnets, gowns,
     stationery, books, magazines, dainty food. Since the weather
     has been so pleasant, I have been in the habit of walking in
     the Capitol Square before breakfast every morning. Somehow
     nothing so sets me up after a restless night as a glimpse of
     the dandelions waking up from their dewy bed and the songs
     of the birds in the Park. Yesterday, upon arriving, I found
     within the gates a crowd of women and boys—several hundreds of
     them, standing quietly together. I sat on a bench near, and
     one of the number left the rest and took the seat beside me.
     She was a pale, emaciated girl, not more than eighteen, with
     a sunbonnet on her head, and dressed in a clean calico gown.
     'I could stand no longer,' she explained. As I made room for
     her, I observed that she had delicate features and large eyes.
     Her hair and dress were neat. As she raised her hand to remove
     her sunbonnet and use it for a fan, her loose calico sleeve
     slipped up, and revealed the mere skeleton of an arm. She
     perceived my expression as I looked at it, and hastily pulled
     down her sleeve with a short laugh. 'This is all that's left
     of me!' she said. 'It seems real funny, don't it?' Evidently
     she had been a pretty girl—a dressmaker's apprentice, I judged
     from her chafed forefinger and a certain skill in the lines
     of her gown. I was encouraged to ask: 'What is it? Is there
     some celebration?'

     "'There _is_,' said the girl, solemnly; 'we celebrate our
     right to live. We are starving. As soon as enough of us get
     together we are going to the bakeries and each of us will take
     a loaf of bread. That is little enough for the government to
     give us after it has taken all our men.'

     "Just then a fat old black Mammy waddled up the walk to
     overtake a beautiful child who was running before her. 'Come
     dis a way, honey,' she called, 'don't go nigh dem people,'
     adding, in a lower tone, 'I's feared you'll ketch somethin'
     fum dem po'-white folks. I _wonder_ dey lets 'em into de
     Park.'

     "The girl turned to me with a wan smile, and as she rose to
     join the long line that had now formed and was moving, she
     said simply, 'Good-by! I'm going to get something to eat!'

     "'And I devoutly hope you'll get it—and plenty of it,' I
     told her. The crowd now rapidly increased, and numbered, I
     am sure, more than a thousand women and children. It grew and
     grew until it reached the dignity of a mob—a bread riot. They
     impressed all the light carts they met, and marched along
     silently and in order. They marched through Cary Street and
     Main, visiting the stores of the speculators and emptying
     them of their contents. Governor Letcher sent the mayor to
     read the Riot Act, and as this had no effect he threatened to
     fire on the crowd. The city battalion then came up. The women
     fell back with frightened eyes, but did not obey the order
     to disperse. The President then appeared, ascended a dray,
     and addressed them. It is said he was received at first with
     hisses from the boys, but after he had spoken some little time
     with great kindness and sympathy, the women quietly moved on,
     taking their food with them. General Elzey and General Winder
     wished to call troops from the camps to 'suppress the women,'
     but Mr. Seddon, wise man, declined to issue the order. While
     I write women and children are still standing in the streets,
     demanding food, and the government is issuing to them rations
     of rice.

     "This is a frightful state of things. I am telling you of
     it because _not one word_ has been said in the newspapers
     about it. All will be changed, Judge Campbell tells me, if
     we can win a battle or two (but, oh, at what a price!), and
     regain the control of our railroads. Your General has been
     magnificent. He has fed Lee's army all winter—I wish he could
     feed our starving women and children.

          "Dearly,
              "AGNES."

My good Agnes reckoned without her host when she supposed General Pryor
would be rewarded for his splendid service on the Blackwater. He had
never ceased all winter to remind the Secretary of War of his promise
to give him a permanent command. He now felt that he had earned it.
He had fought many battles, acquitting himself with distinction in
all,—Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Mechanicsville, Gaines's Mill, Frazier's
Farm, the Second Manassas, and Sharpsburg, besides the fight on the
Blackwater.

He now wrote, April 6, 1863, an almost passionate appeal to the
President himself, imploring that he be sent into active service, and
not be "denied participation in the struggles that are soon to determine
the destinies of my country. If I know myself," he added, "it is not the
vanity of command that moves me to this appeal. A single and sincere
wish to contribute somewhat to the success of our cause impels me to
entreat that I may be assigned to duty. That my position is not the
consequence of any default of mine you will be satisfied by the enclosed
letter from General Lee." The letter was followed by new promises. It
was supplemented by General Pryor's fellow-officers, who not only urged
that the country should not lose his services, but designated certain
regiments which might easily be assigned to him. The President wrote
courteous letters in reply, always repeating assurances of esteem,
etc. The _Richmond Examiner_ and other papers now began to notice the
matter and present General Pryor as arrayed with the party against the
administration. This, being untrue, he contradicted. On March 17, 1863,
the President wrote to him the following:—

     "GENERAL ROGER A. PRYOR;

     "GENERAL: Your gratifying letter on the 6th inst. referring
     to an article in the _Examiner_ newspaper which seems to
     associate you with the opposition to the administration, has
     been received.

     "I did not see the article in question, but I am glad it has
     led to an expression so agreeable. The good opinion of one so
     competent to judge of public affairs, and who has known me so
     long and closely, is a great support in the midst of many and
     arduous trials.

          "Very respectfully and truly yours,
               "JEFFERSON DAVIS."

Among the letters sent to Mr. Davis in General Pryor's behalf was one
from General Lee and one from General Jackson, both of which unhappily
remained in the President's possession, no copies having been kept by
General Pryor.

As time went on, my husband waited with such patience as he could
command. Finally he resigned his commission as brigadier-general, and
also his seat in Congress, and entered General Fitz Lee's cavalry as a
private soldier. His resignation was held a long time by the President
"in the hope it would be reconsidered," and repeatedly General Pryor
was "assured of the President's esteem," etc. General Jackson, General
Longstreet, General A. P. Hill, General D. H. Hill, General Wilcox,
General George Pickett, General Beauregard, were all his friends. Some
of them had, like General Johnston and General McClellan, similar
experience. It was a bitter hour for me when my General followed me
to the Amelia Springs with news that he had entered the cavalry as a
private. "Stay with me and the children," I implored.

"No," he said; "I had something to do with bringing on this war. I must
give myself to Virginia. She needs the help of all her sons. If there
are too many brigadier-generals in the service,—it may be so,—certain
it is there are not enough private soldiers."

The Divinity that "rules our ends, rough hew them as we may," was
guiding him. I look back with gratitude to these circumstances,—then so
hard to bear,—circumstances to which, I am persuaded, I owe my husband's
life.

General Fitz Lee welcomed him in hearty fashion:

                                      "HEADQUARTERS, August 26, 1863.

     "Honorable, General, or Mr? How shall I address you? Damn it,
     there's no difference! Come up to see me. Whilst I regret the
     causes that induced you to resign your position, I am glad,
     really, that the country has not lost your active services,
     and that your choice to serve her has been cast in one of my
     regiments.

          "Very respectfully,
               "FITZ LEE."

As a common soldier in the cavalry service, General Pryor was assigned
the duties of his position, from not one of which did he ever excuse
himself.

On May 3 General Lee had offered thanks to Almighty God for a great
victory at Chancellorsville.

On May 4, the date of Agnes's letter, news came that General Jackson
had been seriously wounded and his arm amputated. On May 10 the General
died, and we were all plunged into the deepest grief. By every man,
woman, and child in the Confederacy this good man and great general was
mourned as never man was mourned before. From the moment of his death
the tide of fortune seemed to turn. Henceforth there would be only
disaster and defeat. In losing General Jackson our dear commander lost
his right arm. But this only inspired him to greater and more aggressive
action.

He decided to take his army into Pennsylvania, and after entering that
state, on June 27, he issued his famous order, reminding one of General
Washington's similar order from Pennsylvania, 1777:—

     "GENERAL ORDER NO. 73. FROM THE HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF NORTHERN
     VIRGINIA

     "The commanding general has observed the conduct of the
     troops upon the march, and confidently anticipates results
     commensurate with the high spirit they have manifested....
     Their conduct has, with few exceptions, been in keeping with
     their character as soldiers, and entitles them to approbation
     and praise.

     "There have, however, been instances of forgetfulness, on
     the part of some, that they have in keeping the yet unsullied
     reputation of the army, and that the duties exacted of us by
     civilization and Christianity are not less obligatory in the
     country of the enemy than in our own.

     "The commanding general considers that no greater disgrace
     could befall the army, and through it our whole people, than
     the perpetration of the barbarous outrages upon the innocent
     and defenceless, and the wanton destruction of private
     property, which have marked the course of the enemy in our
     country. Such proceedings not only disgrace the perpetrators
     and all connected with them, but are subversive of the
     discipline and efficiency of the army, and destructive of the
     ends of our present movements. It must be remembered that we
     make war only on armed men, that we cannot take vengeance for
     the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves
     in the eyes of all whose abhorrence has been excited by the
     atrocities of our enemy, and offending against Him to whom
     vengeance belongeth, without whose favor and support must all
     prove vain."

Washington, Lee, and McClellan were not alone in their ideas of
civilized and Christian warfare.

Eighty-four years before this time there was a war in this same country.
It was a rebellion, too, and a nobleman led the troops of Great Britain
through the country to subdue the rebellion. The people through whose
land he marched were bitterly hostile. They shot his foraging parties,
sentinels, and stragglers; they fired upon him from every wood.

On January 28, 1781, this order was issued from camp near Beatty's Ford:—

     "Lord Cornwallis has so often experienced the zeal and good
     will of the army that he has not the smallest doubt that the
     officers and soldiers will most cheerfully submit to the ill
     conveniences that must naturally attend war, so remote from
     water, carriage, and the magazines of the army. The supply of
     rum for a time will be absolutely impossible, and that of meal
     very uncertain. It is needless to point out to the officers
     the necessity of preserving the strictest discipline, and of
     preventing the oppressed people from suffering violence by
     the hands from whom they are taught to look for protection."

Again:—

            "HEADQUARTERS, CAUSLER'S PLANTATION, "February 27, 1781.

     "Lord Cornwallis is highly displeased that several houses have
     been set on fire to-day during the march—a disgrace to the
     army—and he will punish to the utmost severity any person or
     persons who shall be found guilty of committing so disgraceful
     an outrage. His Lordship requests the commanding officers
     of the corps will endeavor to find the persons who set fire
     to the houses this day.... Any officer who looks on with
     indifference and does not do his utmost to prevent shameful
     marauding will be considered in a more criminal light than
     the persons who commit these scandalous crimes."

Again:—

                        "HEADQUARTERS, FREELANDS, February 28, 1781.

     "A watch found by the regiment of Bose. The owner may have it
     from the adjutant of that regiment upon proving property."

Another:—

                                 "SMITH'S PLANTATION, March 1, 1781.

     "BRIGADE ORDERS.—A woman having been robbed of a watch, a
     black silk handkerchief, a gallon of brandy, and a shirt, and
     as by description, by a soldier of the guards, the camp and
     every man's kit is to be immediately searched for the same,
     by the officer of the brigade."

And so it is that every circumstance of life is an opportunity for a
noble spirit. When we "let slip the dogs of war," some men find excuse
for license and cruelty, others for the exercise of self-restraint
and compassion. Admiral Porter tells a story which may illustrate
the strange "point of view" in the minds of some brave men upon the
legitimate conduct of war.

"The exploits of the army in foraging," said the Admiral, "afforded
matter for much amusement among the officers at Vicksburg. At
Bruensburg, General Grant made his headquarters in the spring of 1863.
Bruensburg and the surrounding country was the great depot for live
stock, grain, etc., and the soldiers' lines seemed to have fallen in
pleasant places. _Foraging was not prohibited_; in fact the soldiers
were cautioned to save the government rations for an emergency, so
that the squealing of pigs, the bleating of calves and sheep, and the
cackling of poultry were common sounds in camp."

As an illustration of the wholesale robbery of the peaceful citizens
Admiral Porter tells of an appeal made to General Grant by an old
man, long past the age to bear arms, who pushed aside the flaps of the
General's tent and thrust in his head. In his hand he held a rope to
which was attached a miserable mule, minus one eye. He told the General,
in the poor-white's vernacular, of his nice little farm, well stocked
"with the finest lot of chickens, turkeys, pigs, an' sheep as ever you
seen," and that the Yankee soldiers had stolen everything except the
"ole muel and one goose."

"Here, Rawlins, attend to this man," said the General, and walked away.

"What do you expect me to do?" inquired General Rawlins. "How are you
going to find out who did all you complain of?"

"Well, I _know_ who did it," said the old fellow; "it's one of Gin'ral
A. J. Smith's rigiments. I know the sargint what led 'em on. He
belongs to the Thirteenth Iowy, an' he kin skin a hog quicker'n greased
lightnin'!"

Just then General Smith walked in the tent, and the complaint was laid
before him.

"They weren't my men, sir," said General Smith. "I know my boys too
well. They would never have left that mule and goose! No, sir, my boys
don't do things that way; and I advise you, old man, to go back and keep
your eye on your goose and mule."

The old man turned to gaze on his beloved mule. It was gone! A soldier
stood at the end of the rope!

General Smith glanced proudly around. "Ah, Rawlins," he said, "those
must have been my men after all. If I could only hear they had eaten
the goose, I should be sure of it."

The story does not follow the aged man to his desolate cabin; but it
followed the Admiral as an _amusing_ story for many an evening around
the punch-bowl.

Among the men arrayed against the South in battle were many worthy
descendants of the men who achieved their independence in 1775-1781,
and who then fought shoulder to shoulder with the South.

"They were a brave, self-reliant, patriotic race, and in all the
characteristics of manliness, perseverance, fortitude, and courage,
were the equals of any race that ever lived." It was from these men,
native-born Americans of the North and West, that many a persecuted
woman in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina received help and
restitution of property. But war brutalizes mean men. The few cannot
control the many.

War, wicked, cruel war, knows no mercy, no justice. War is the dreadful
crime of the world. Against war prayer should ascend day and night until
it shall cease forever. It is not right that it should be classed with
"pestilence and famine" in our prayers. It should have an hour—a daily
hour—to itself, when old men and women, young men and maidens, and
little children should implore God to make wars to cease from the fair
world He has created.

The refugees who came to us from exposed districts within the enemy's
lines thrilled our souls with horror. We heard these stories from the
valley of Virginia and from Norfolk. Liberty of speech in child or woman
was sternly punished. At Norfolk a clergyman, the Rev. Dr. Armstrong,
had been put in the chain gang and compelled to work on the streets
because of disrespectful allusion to the presence of Federal troops.
We trembled at these recitals; but we never dreamed the war would come
to us. At twilight, when the air was clear and still, we could hear
the booming of the heavy guns of the ironclads on James River; but
McClellan had been unable to take Richmond, and nobody would want little
Petersburg.

In July, General Lee fought and lost the great battle of Gettysburg,
which plunged our state into mourning and lamentation. Never can the
world read with dry eyes of the charge of Pickett's brigade and the
manner in which it was met. "Decry war as we may and ought," says
Rhodes in his "History," "'breathes there the man with soul so dead' who
would not thrill with emotion to claim for his countrymen the men who
made that charge and the men who met it? General Lee bore the disaster
magnificently. An officer, attempting to place on other shoulders some
portion of the blame, General Lee said solemnly, '_All this has been_
MY _fault_—it is _I_ that have lost this fight, and you must all help
me out of it in the best way you can.'"

The Federal loss in this battle, killed, wounded, and captured, was
23,003, the Confederate 20,451—making a total of 43,454 good and true
men lost, in one battle, to their country. The emblem of mourning hung
at many a door among our friends in Richmond and Petersburg. Close upon
this disaster came news of the fall of Vicksburg.

On July 3d my General (this was before he resigned his commission) was
in Richmond serving on a court-martial. In the evening he called upon
Mr. and Mrs. Davis, and was told the President was not receiving, but
that Mrs. Davis would be glad to see him. The weather was intensely hot,
and my husband felt he must not inflict a long visit; but when he rose
to leave, Mrs. Davis begged him to remain, and seemed averse from being
left alone. After a few minutes the President came in, weary, silent,
and depressed. The news from Gettysburg sufficiently accounted for his
melancholy aspect.

Presently a dear little boy entered in his night-robe, and kneeling
beside his father's knee repeated his evening prayer of thankfulness,
and of supplication for God's blessing on the country. The President
laid his hand on the boy's head and fervently responded, "Amen."
The scene recurred vividly, in the light of future events, to my
husband's memory. With the coming day came the news of the surrender
of Vicksburg,—news of which Mr. Davis had been forewarned the evening
before,—and already the Angel of Death was hovering near, to enfold the
beautiful boy and bear him away from a world of trouble.

I had taken my young family to a watering place in the county of Amelia,
and there a few homeless women like myself were spending the months of
July and August. Everything was so sad there was no heart in any one
for gayety of any kind; but one evening the proprietor proposed that
the ball room be lighted and a solitary fiddler, "Bozeman,"—who was
also the barber,—be installed in the musicians' seat and show us what he
could do. Young feet cannot resist a good waltz or polka, and the floor
was soon filled with care-forgetting maidens—there were no men except
the proprietor and the fiddler. Presently a telegram was received by
the former. We all huddled together under the chandelier to read it.
Vicksburg had fallen! The gallant General Pemberton had been starved
into submission. Surely and swiftly the coil was tightening around us.
Surely and swiftly should we, too, be starved into submission.



CHAPTER XVII

A HOMELESS WANDERER


Having no longer a home of my own, it was decided that I should go to my
people in Charlotte County. One of my sons, Theo, and two of my little
daughters were already there, and there I expected to remain until the
end of the war.

But repeated attempts to reach my country home resulted in failure.
Marauding parties and guerillas were flying all over the country. There
had been alarm at a bridge over the Staunton near the Oaks, and the old
men and boys had driven away the enemy. I positively _could_ not venture
alone.

So it was decided that I should return to my husband's old district, to
Petersburg, and there find board in some private family.

I reached Petersburg in the autumn and wandered about for days seeking
refuge in some household. Many of my old friends had left town.
Strangers and refugees had rented the houses of some of these, while
others were filled with the homeless among their own kindred. There was
no room anywhere for me, and my small purse was growing so slender that
I became anxious. Finally my brother-in-law offered me an overseer's
house on one of his "quarters." The small dwelling he placed at my
disposal was to be considered temporary only; some one of his town
houses would soon be vacant. When I drove out to the little house, I
found it hardly better than a hovel. We entered a rude, unplastered
kitchen, the planks of the floor loose and wide apart, the earth beneath
plainly visible. There were no windows in this smoke-blackened kitchen.
A door opened into a tiny room with a fireplace, window, and out-door
of its own; and a short flight of stairs led to an unplastered attic,
so that the little apartment was entered by two doors and a staircase.
It was already cold, but we had to beat a hasty retreat and sit outside
while a colored boy made a "smudge" in the house, to dislodge the wasps
that had tenanted it for many months. My brother had lent me bedding
for the overseer's pine bedstead and the low trundle-bed underneath. The
latter, when drawn out at night, left no room for us to stand. When that
was done, we had to go to bed. For furniture we had only two or three
wooden chairs and a small table. There were no curtains, neither carpet
nor rugs, no china. There was wood at the woodpile, and a little store
of meal and rice, with a small bit of bacon in the overseer's grimy
closet. This was to be my winter home.

Petersburg was already virtually in a state of siege. Not a tithe of
the food needed for its army of refugees could be brought to the city.
Our highway, the river, was filled, except for a short distance, with
Federal gunboats. The markets had long been closed. The stores of
provisions had been exhausted, so that a grocery could offer little
except a barrel or two of molasses made from the domestic sorghum
sugar-cane—an acrid and unwholesome sweet used instead of sugar for
drink with water or milk, and for eating with bread. The little boys
at once began to keep house. They valiantly attacked the woodpile, and
found favor in the eyes of Mary and the man, whom I never knew as other
than "Mary's husband." He and Mary were left in charge of the quarter
and had a cabin near us.

I had no books, no newspapers, no means of communicating with the
outside world; but I had one neighbor, Mrs. Laighton, a daughter of
Winston Henry, granddaughter of Patrick Henry. She lived near me with
her husband—a Northern man. Both were very cultivated, very poor, very
kind. Mrs. Laighton, as Lucy Henry,—a brilliant young girl,—had been one
of the habitues of the Oaks. We had much in common, and her kind heart
went out in love and pity for me.

She taught me many expedients: that to float tea on the top of a cup
of hot water would make it "go farther" than when steeped in the usual
way; also that the herb, "life everlasting," which grew in the fields
would make excellent yeast, having somewhat the property of hops; and
that the best substitute for coffee was not the dried cubes of sweet
potato, but parched corn or parched meal, making a nourishing drink,
not unlike the "postum" of to-day. And Mrs. Laighton kept me a "living
soul" in other and higher ways. She reckoned intellectual ability the
greatest of God's gifts, raising us so far above the petty need of
material things that we could live in spite of their loss. Her talk was
a tonic to me. It stimulated me to play my part with courage, seeing
I had been deemed worthy, by the God who made me, to suffer in this
sublime struggle for liberty. She was as truly gifted as was ever her
illustrious grandfather. To hear her was to believe, so persuasive and
convincing was her eloquence.

I had not my good Eliza Page this winter. She had fallen ill. I had
a stout little black girl, Julia, as my only servant; but Mary had a
friend, a "corn-field hand," "Anarchy," who managed to help me at odd
hours. Mrs. Laighton sent me every morning a print of butter as large
as a silver dollar, with two or three perfect biscuits, and sometimes a
bowl of persimmons or stewed dried peaches. She had a cow, and churned
every day, making her biscuits of the buttermilk, which was much too
precious to drink.

A great snow-storm overtook us a day or two before Christmas. My
little boys kindled a roaring fire in the cold, open kitchen, roasted
chestnuts, and set traps for the rabbits and "snowbirds" which never
entered them. They made no murmur at the bare Christmas; they were loyal
little fellows to their mother. My day had been spent in mending their
garments,—making them was a privilege denied me, for I had no materials.
I was not "all unhappy!" The rosy cheeks at my fireside consoled me for
my privations, and something within me proudly rebelled against weakness
or complaining.

The flakes were falling thickly at midnight, when I suddenly became very
ill. I sent out for Mary's husband and bade him gallop in to Petersburg,
three miles distant, and fetch me Dr. Withers. I was dreadfully ill
when he arrived—and as he stood at the foot of my bed I said to him: "It
doesn't matter much for me, Doctor! But my husband will be grateful if
you keep me alive."

When I awoke from a long sleep, he was still standing at the foot of
my bed where I had left him—it seemed to me ages ago! I put out my hand
and it touched a little warm bundle beside me. God had given me a dear
child!

The doctor spoke to me gravely and most kindly. "I must leave you now,"
he said, "and, alas! I cannot come again. There are so many, so many
sick. Call all your courage to your aid. Remember the pioneer women,
and all they were able to survive. This woman," indicating Anarchy,
"is a field-hand, but she is a mother, and she has agreed to help you
during the Christmas holidays—her own time. And now, God bless you, and
good-by!"

I soon slept again—and when I awoke the very Angel of Strength and Peace
had descended and abode with me. I resolved to prove to myself that if
I was called to be a great woman, I _could_ be a great woman. Looking
at me from my bedside were my two little boys. They had been taken the
night before across the snow-laden fields to my brother's house, but
had risen at daybreak and had "come home to take care" of me!

My little maid Julia left me Christmas morning. She said it was too
lonesome, and her "mistis" always let her choose her own places. I
engaged "Anarchy" at twenty-five dollars a week for all her nights.
But her hands, knotted by work in the fields, were too rough to touch
my babe. I was propped upon pillows and dressed her myself, sometimes
fainting when the exertion was over.

I was still in my bed three weeks afterward, when one of my boys ran
in, exclaiming in a frightened voice, "Oh, mamma, an old gray soldier
is coming in!"

He stood—this old gray soldier—and looked at me, leaning on his sabre.

"Is this the reward my country gives me?" he said; and not until he
spoke did I recognize my husband. Turning on his heel, he went out, and
I heard him call:—

"John! John! Take those horses into town and sell them! Do not return
until you do so—sell them for anything! Get a cart and bring butter,
eggs, and everything you can find for Mrs. Pryor's comfort."

He had been with Fitz Lee on that dreadful tramp through the snow after
Averill. He had suffered cold and hunger, had slept on the ground
without shelter, sharing his blanket with John. He had used his own
horses, and now if the government needed him the government might mount
him. He had no furlough, and soon reported for duty; but not before he
had moved us, early in January, into town—one of my brother-in-law's
houses having been vacated at the beginning of the year. John knew his
master too well to construe him literally, and had reserved the fine
gray, Jubal Early, for his use. That I might not again fall into the
sad plight in which he had found me, he purchased three hundred dollars
in gold, and instructed me to prepare a girdle to be worn all the time
around my waist, concealed by my gown. The coins were quilted in; each
had a separate section to itself, so that with scissors I might extract
one at a time without disturbing the rest.

From the beginning of the war to its last year Petersburg had remained
in a state of comparative repose, broken only by the arrival and
departure of the troops passing from the South to the Army of Northern
Virginia. These, as we have said, were always welcomed, if they passed
through by day, with gifts of flowers, fruit, and more substantial
refreshment.

To continue this greeting, Petersburg women denied themselves every
luxury. The tramp of soldiers was a familiar sound in our streets, but
no hostile footsteps had ever resounded there, no hostile gun had yet
been fired within its limits. It is true the low muttering of distant
artillery as it came up the James and the Appomattox from the field of
Big Bethel had caught the ears of the citizens, and they had listened
with heightened interest in its louder booming as it told of Seven
Pines, and the seven days' struggle around Richmond, just twenty miles
away. But when the baffled army of McClellan retired in the direction
of Washington, and General Lee moved away beyond the Potomac, the old
men, women, and children (for there were no men left capable of bearing
arms) settled down to their daily avocations—and daily prayers for the
dear boys at the front.

Families that had fled from Petersburg at the time of McClellan's
advance upon Richmond had now returned. My next-door neighbors were Mr.
Thomas Branch and the Rev. Churchill Gibson. From one of my windows I
could look into a large garden, where the workmen were busy planting
seeds and setting long rows of onions, cabbage plants, tomato plants,
and sticks for the green peas just peeping out of the brown earth.
Across the street lived the widow of the Hon. Richard Kidder Meade,
with her accomplished daughters, Mary, Marion, and Julia. These were
delightful neighbors. Lower down lived the Bollings,—parents of Tabb
Bolling, the superb, already affianced to General Rooney Lee. Then
Mr. and Mrs. William Banister, with another houseful of lovely young
women, "Mollie" and "Gussie" Banister; and their cousin, Alice Gregory,
waiting until the cruel war should be over to reward handsome Colonel
Arthur Herbert. Alice's own home was just outside our fortifications,
and was, I believe, burned when Petersburg was assaulted. Beautiful
Patty Hardee was another of these girls. Helen made the ninth of the
band of Muses. All were accomplished in music. Marion's latest fancy
was significant,—Gottschalk's "Last Hope!" Sweet Alice took our hearts
with her touching hymns, giving a new meaning to the simplest words.

Gussie Banister, the youngest of all, sang "Lorena" and "Juanita"; and
Mattie Paul, who often came over from Richmond, infused an intenser tone
of sadness with Beethoven's andantes and Chopin's "Funeral March." None
of the gayety of Richmond, of which we read in our letters, was apparent
in Petersburg. Too many of her sons had been slain or were in present
peril.

"What friends you girls are!" I said, when I met them, walking together,
like a boarding school.

"We are all going to be old maids together," said one, "and so we are
getting acquainted with each other."

"Speak for yourself, John," said Helen, who had become the fortunate
possessor of "The Courtship of Miles Standish" and was lending
"Longfellow's Last" around to the rest. "I spoke for _my_self, you
remember," she added, laughing.

"Well! it will be no disgrace to be an old maid," said another. "We can
always swear our going-to-be-husband was killed in the war." And then
a wistful look passed over the young faces as each one remembered some
absent lover.

The camp-fire of my own family brigade was now lighted in the kitchen,
where the hero, John, who had been left to take care of me, popped corn
for my little boys and held them with stories of Fitz Lee's pursuit of
Averill.

"Tell us, John," implored his audience, "tell us every bit of it. Begin
at Winchester."

"No," said John. "You'll tell your ma, and then she won't sleep a wink
to-night."

"She doesn't sleep anyway, John! When we wake up, she's always sitting
by the window, looking out at the stars."

"Co'se, if that's the case, here goes. Gen'al Lee had five thousand
troopers, an' they marched from Winchester to Salem. We hadn't a tent,
an' no rations wuth talkin' about, an' it rained an' hailed an' sleeted
most every step o' the way. Your pa never took off his boots for two
solid weeks, an' they were full of water all the time, an' the icicles
hung from his long hair. We drew up in line at the White Sulphur Springs
an' _dar'd_ Averill to fight us—but he slunk away in the night. I
cert'inly was sorry for Marse Roger at the White Sulphur. He went up
into the po'ch of one of the little cottages an' sat down thinkin' an'
thinkin'. 'Are you sick, Marse Roger?' I asked him. 'No, John,' he said,
'only a little homesick, to think of the happy times we used to spend
here—and our fathers and mothers before us!' 'But we done drive 'im
away!' I say to him, an' he got up and said, 'Do you think so, John?'
Anyway, Averill didn't git a chance to sleep in one of them cottages,
nor yet to burn it! Ther' was a hospital thar' then."

"Where did _you_ sleep?" the boys asked.

"Who, me? I slep' every night o' my life under the same blanket with
your pa, I did. I don' care how tired he was, he never slep' so sound
he couldn't hear the snorin'. 'Git up, John,' he would say, 'tell that
man snorin' that he's burnin'.'" John laughed at the reminiscence. "I've
scared many a good soldier that way, an' made him turn over—when the
fightin' an' shootin' couldn't move him."

"But you _did_ retreat after all, didn't you, John?"

"Retreat! Retreat nothin'! Gen'al Lee got so he didn' care to ketch that
scalawag Yankee. He warn' wuth ketchin'. We got pris'ners enough now an'
to spar. Gen'al Lee come home cos he didn' have no use for Averill. He
drove him away, though. He sholy did!"

John was installed as cook and commissary-general. He had no material
except flour, rice, peas, and dried apples, such grease or "shortening"
as he could extract from bones he purchased of the quartermaster, and
sorghum molasses. He made yeast of "life everlasting" I brought from the
country,—and he gave us waffles and pancakes. John's pancakes, compared
with the ordinary article, were as the fleecy cloud to the dull, heavy
clod beneath. Butter could be had at eight dollars a pound; meat was
four and five dollars a pound—prices we learned very soon afterward
to regard as extremely cheap; bargains, indeed, of the first water.
From Agnes's letters I have reason to suppose that Petersburg suffered
more from scarcity than did Richmond. There, dinners were given by the
members of the Cabinet, and wine was served as of old. In Petersburg we
had already entered upon our long season of want. The town was drained
by its generous gifts to the army; regiments were constantly passing,
and none ever departed without the offer of refreshment.

We heard no complaints from our soldier boys, still in their winter
quarters. But a letter to the army from General Lee filled our hearts
with anxiety.

                            "HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
                                                  "January 22, 1864.

     "GENERAL ORDERS NO. 7.—The commanding general considers it due
     to the army to state that the temporary reduction of rations
     has been caused by circumstances beyond the control of those
     charged with its support. Its welfare and comfort are the
     objects of his constant and earnest solicitude and no effort
     has been spared to provide for its wants. It is hoped that
     the exertions now being made will render the necessity but of
     short duration, but the history of the army has shown that the
     country can require no sacrifice too great for its patriotic
     devotion.

     "Soldiers! you tread, with no unequal steps, the road by which
     your fathers marched through suffering, privation, and blood
     to independence.

     "Continue to emulate in the future, as you have in the past,
     their valor in arms, their patient endurance of hardships,
     their high resolve to be free, which no trial could shake, no
     bribe seduce, no danger appall; and be assured that the just
     God who crowned their efforts with success will, in His own
     good time, send down His blessings upon yours.

          "[Signed] R. E. LEE, _General_."

Calm, strong, fatherly words! They deserve to be printed in letters
of gold. They still have power to thrill the souls of the children
of the fathers who marched through suffering, privation, and blood to
independence,—children who wait, still wait, for the fulfilment of his
promise that God will in His own good time send down His blessing upon
them.

On January the 30th Agnes wrote from Richmond:—

     "How can you be even dreaming of new cups and saucers? Mend
     your old ones, my dear, with white lead. That is what we
     are doing here; and when the cup is very much broken, the
     triangular, rectangular, and other 'angular' lines of white
     give it quite a Japanesque effect. There is not a bit of china
     for sale in the capital of the Confederacy. A forlorn little
     chipped set—twelve odd pieces—sold last week at auction for
     $200—and as to hats and bonnets! We are washing the old ones
     and plaiting straw for the new. I'll send you a package of
     straw I gleaned and dyed for you last summer. Did I tell you
     about that straw? I asked my host at the farmhouse to give me
     a few sheaves, but he shook his head and opined it would be
     'sinful in these hard times to take good vittles and convert
     it into hats.' I could not see clearly that straw came under
     the generic term 'vittles'—unless indeed the straw fed the
     animal that fed the soldier. However, I meekly borrowed a
     sunbonnet and gleaned my straw. Half of it I popped into
     the kettle of boiling black dye behind the kitchen,—when the
     lady of the manor was looking another way,—and we will mix
     the black and white for the boys' hats. But mark the quick
     and sure grinding of the mills of the gods. After the wheat
     was all stacked there came a mighty rain with fog and warm
     mist. One day my host brought in what seemed to be a feathery
     bouquet of delicate green. It was a bunch of wheat, every
     grain of which had sprouted. He had lost his crop!

     "President and Mrs. Davis gave a large reception last week,
     and all the ladies looked positively gorgeous. Mrs. Davis is
     in mourning for her father. We should not expect suppers in
     these times, but we do have them! Champagne is $350 a dozen,
     but we sometimes have champagne! The confectioners charge
     $15 for a cake, but we have cake. My flounced gray silk is
     behaving admirably, but I am afraid my Washington friends
     remember it as an old acquaintance. I never go out without
     meeting them. I have seen Dr. Garnett and Judge Scarborough
     and Mr. Dimitri on the street, and often meet Mr. Hunter,
     running about, in his enthusiasm, like a boy. But what do
     you think? I never could bear that Lord Lyons, with his red
     face and small eyes like ferrets'; and now we have reason
     to suppose that England would have recognized us but for his
     animosity against us. He says 'the Confederacy is on its last
     legs.' We have heard from dear old Dudley Mann; but of course
     _he_ can do nothing for us in England, and he had as well come
     home and go with me to receptions. Mrs. Davis receives every
     Tuesday, and Mr. Mann is a better squire of dames than he is
     a diplomat."

My Petersburg beauties were all wearing hats of their own manufacture,
the favorite style being the Alpine with a pointed crown. For trimming,
very soft and lovely flowers were made of feathers, the delicate white
feather with a tuft of fleecy marabout at its stem. The marabout tuft
would be carefully drawn off, to be made into swan's-down trimming. A
wire was prepared and covered with green paper for a stem, a little ball
of wax fastened on the end, and covered with a tiny tuft of the down for
a centre, and around this the feathers were stuck—with incurving petals
for apple blossoms and half-open roses,—and reversed for camellias.
Neatly trimmed and suitably tinted, these flowers were handsome enough
for anybody, and were in great demand. Cocks' plumes were also used
on hats, iridescent, and needing no coloring. With the downy breast
of a goose which came into my possession I essayed the making of a
powder-puff for my baby, but alas! the oil in the cuticle proved a
perennial spring which could not be dried up by soda or sunning, and
finally I saw my powder-puff disappearing in a hole, drawn downward by
a vigorous and hungry rat.

The young girls who visited me never complained of their privations in
the matter of food, but they sorely grieved over their shabby wardrobes.

"I really think," said one, "if we can only get along until we can wear
white waists, we shall do very well. Every time a white waist is washed
it's made new—but these old flannel sacks—ugh!"

One day Mary Meade made me a visit. Always beautiful, her face wore on
this afternoon a seraphic, beatific expression.

"Tell me, dear," I said, "all about it." I supposed she had heard her
lover had been promoted or was coming home on a furlough.

She held up her two hands. "_It's just these gloves!_" said Mary. "I
can't help it. They make me perfectly happy! They have just come through
the blockade."

The butcher shops were closed, and many of the dry-goods stores; but
somebody had ordered a large quantity of narrow crimson woollen braid,
and had failed to accept it. We seized upon it. Every one of us had
garments embroidered with it—in scrolls, Maltese crosses, undulating
lines, leaves; all of which goes to prove that the desire for ornament
is an instinct of our nature, outliving the grosser affections for the
good things of the table. The consciousness of being well dressed, we
have been told, will afford a peace of mind far exceeding anything to
be derived from the comforts of religion.

It had not been many years since every Virginia farm owned a house for
a great cumbrous loom, with beams supported against the ceiling. The
door of the loom-house was again opened, and the weaver installed upon
her high bench. Cotton cloth was woven and dyed yellow with butternut,
black with walnut-bark, gray with willow. A mordant to "set the dye" was
unattainable—but at last rusty iron, nails, old horseshoes, old clamps
and hinges, were found to be effective. Every atom of black silk was a
treasure. It was shredded to mix with the cotton before carding. Even
now the cells of my brain waken at the sight of a bundle of old black
silk, and my fingers would fain respond.

Pins became scarce. People walked about with downcast eyes; they were
looking for pins! Thorns were gathered and dried to use as pins.
Dentists' gold soon disappeared. The generation succeeding the war
period had not good teeth. Anæsthetics—morphine, chloroform, opium—were
contraband of war. This was our great grief. Our soldier boys, who had
done nothing to bring the war upon the country, must suffer every pang
that followed the disasters of battle. The United States gave artificial
limbs to its maimed soldiers. Ours had only their crutches, and these of
rude home manufacture. The blockade-running, for which our women were so
much blamed, was often undertaken to bring morphine and medicine to our
hospitals. The fashions of the day included a small round cushion worn
at the back of a lady's belt, to lift the heavy hoop and many petticoats
then in vogue. It was called "a bishop," and was made of silk. These
were brought home from "a visit to friends at the North" filled with
quinine and morphine. They were examined at the frontier by a long pin
stuck through them. If the pin met no resistance, they were allowed to
pass.

The famine moved on apace, but its twin sister, fever, never visited us.
Never had Petersburg been so healthy. No garbage was decaying in the
streets. Every particle of animal or vegetable food was consumed, and
the streets were clean. Flocks of pigeons would follow the children who
were eating bread or crackers. Finally the pigeons vanished having been
themselves eaten. Rats and mice disappeared. The poor cats staggered
about the streets, and began to die of hunger. At times meal was the
only article attainable except by the rich. An ounce of meat daily was
considered an abundant ration for each member of the family. To keep
food of any kind was impossible—cows, pigs, bacon, flour, everything,
was stolen, and even sitting hens were taken from the nest.

In the presence of such facts as these General Lee was able to report
that nearly every regiment in his army had reënlisted—and for the war!
And very soon he also reported that the army was out of meat and had
but one day's rations of bread. One of our papers copied the following
from the _Mobile Advertiser_:—

     "In General Lee's tent meat is eaten but twice a week,
     the General not allowing it oftener, because he believes
     indulgence in meat to be criminal in the present straitened
     condition of the country. His ordinary dinner consists
     of a head of cabbage boiled in salt water, and a pone of
     corn bread. Having invited a number of gentlemen to dine
     with him, General Lee, in a fit of extravagance, ordered a
     sumptuous repast of bacon and cabbage. The dinner was served,
     and behold, a great pile of cabbage and a bit of bacon, or
     'middling,' about four inches long and two inches across. The
     guests, with commendable politeness, unanimously declined
     the bacon, and it remained in the dish untouched. Next day
     General Lee, remembering the delicate titbit which had been
     so providentially preserved, ordered his servant to bring that
     'middling.' The man hesitated, scratched his head, and finally
     owned up:—

     "'Marse Robert—de fac' is—dat ar middlin' was borrowed
     middlin'. We-all didn' have no middlin'. I done paid it back
     to de place whar I got it fum.'

     "General Lee heaved a sigh of deepest disappointment, and
     pitched into the cabbage."

No man had ever lived in more comfort, nor was more surrounded by the
accessories and appointments of luxury and refinement. His aide, Colonel
Walter Taylor, has written me:—

     "During the time that General Lee was in service he manifested
     that complete self-abnegation and dislike of parade and
     ceremony which became characteristic of him. Accompanied
     originally by a staff of but two persons, and, after the
     death of Colonel Washington, with but one aide-de-camp,
     with no escort or body-guard, no couriers or guides, he
     made the campaign under altogether unostentatious and really
     uncomfortable circumstances. One solitary tent constituted his
     headquarters camp; this served for the General and his aide;
     and when visitors were entertained, as actually occurred,
     the General shared his blanket with his aide, turning over
     those of the latter to his guest. His dinner service was of
     tin,—tin plates, tin cups, tin bowls, everything of tin,—and
     consequently indestructible; and to the annoyance and disgust
     of the subordinates who sighed for porcelain could not
     or would not be lost; indeed, with the help of occasional
     additions, this tin furniture continued to do service for
     several campaigns; and it was only in the last year of the
     war, while the army was around Petersburg, that a set of
     china was surreptitiously introduced into the baggage of the
     headquarters of the army. This displaced for a time the chaste
     and elaborate _plate_; but on resuming 'light marching order'
     at the time of the evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg, the
     china, which had been borrowed by the staff, was returned;
     the tins were again produced, and did good service until the
     surrender of the army, when they passed into the hands of
     individuals who now preserve them as mementos of the greatest
     commander in the great war."



CHAPTER XVIII

THE SIEGE OF PETERSBURG


June 9 will always be a sacred day to the citizens of Petersburg.
Every man capable of bearing arms had enlisted early in the service of
the Southern Confederacy. They felt that much was expected of them.
Petersburg had behaved gallantly in 1776, and had been the "Cockade
City" in 1812. For the first three years of the war, as we have seen,
no gun was fired near her gates. Only old men, women, and children were
left in the town. The maidens bore their denied lives with cheerfulness,
sustained and encouraged by the steadfast and serene bearing of their
elders. Everybody worked for the soldiers and assembled every afternoon
to pray for them. The city was almost as quiet as Blandford, her sister
city of the dead, where the old Blands, Bollings, and Poythresses slept
in perfect peace.

True, Petersburg, like Richmond, had her day of feverish excitement,
known in Confederate history as "_Pawnee_ Sunday," when both cities had
been menaced by an ironclad. Early in the morning a telegraph operator
had relieved a dull hour by interviewing his colleague at City Point,
"Any danger from the _Pawnee_?" receiving as answer, "The _Pawnee_
is coming up the Appomattox." The town was wild. Everything valuable
was hidden away, and the militia was drawn up, the lads of twelve and
fourteen loading their hunting pieces and rallying to the town hall.
Time having been allowed for any reasonable, well-conducted man-of-war
to steam twelve miles, the telegraph operator, sorely pressed by
questions, again interrogated his City Point friend. "What's become of
the _Pawnee_? She isn't here yet." The irate answer spun over the line:
"You—fool! I said the _Pawnee_ is _not_ coming up the river." Everything
fell flat at once. There was an avowed sense of disappointment at the
loss of an opportunity which might not come again. The dear women—the
best I have ever known in any land—resumed their gentle ministrations,
working much for the hospitals, and supplementing with culinary skill
many deficiencies in material. But the men chafed. The veterans had felt
the blood leap in their veins with the fire of youth; the boys longed
for the fray; the physician, tied to his humdrum routine, yearned for
the larger sphere in the field. "The dearest sacrifice a man can make
to his country is his ambition."

The _Pawnee_ incident was a fortunate one for the city, for it awakened
the authorities to the necessity of preparing against surprise. The
old, exempt citizens were formed into companies for home defence, and a
breastwork was prepared commanding a road, "particularly interesting,"
says one of the survivors, "because it opened to deserving Petersburgers
the beatific vision of Sussex hams and Southampton whiskey;" for at that
moment the dreaded foe was the wolf already at the door, rather than
the possible thunderbolt.

When General Butler, in June, 1864, commenced his advance against
Richmond, which was intended as a coöperative movement with General
Grant to accomplish what was done the following spring, he sent General
Kautz on June 9 to make a cavalry attack on Petersburg, twenty miles
below Richmond. The city, as I have said, was almost defenceless. There
had been much strategy,—marching and countermarching,—too long a story
to tell here; but one thing at least was accomplished, as one of the
Confederate colonels pithily remarked, "Whatever blunders were made,
the citizens and militia had been trotted out in the direction of the
enemy at least." Kautz's superb cavalry appeared suddenly, was met by
the old men and boys of Petersburg, and was repulsed. Colonel Fletcher
Archer commanded the militiamen. Forewarned only a few minutes before
the charge, he hastily formed his men into line. He says: "And what a
line! In number scarcely more than sufficient to constitute a single
company, in dress nothing to distinguish them from citizens pursuing
the ordinary avocations of life, in age many of them silvered over with
the frosts of advancing years, while others could scarcely boast of
the down upon the cheek of youth; in arms and accoutrements such as an
impoverished government could afford them. But there was that in their
situation which lifted them above the ordinary rules of criticism.
They stood there, not as mercenaries who, having enlisted on account
of profit, required the strong arm of military law to keep them to
their post, nor as devotees of ambition craving a place in the delusive
pages of history, but they stood as a band of patriots whose homes were
imperilled and whose loved ones were in danger of falling into the hands
of an untried foe. As they stood in line before me I could see them
glancing back at their own dwellings under the sun of a lovely June
morning. When I addressed them in a few words of encouragement, they
listened with gravity and a full appreciation of their situation. There
was no excitement, no shout, only calm resolution."

Thus their commander. What did the men themselves feel? One of them
wrote: "We had not long to wait. A cloud of dust in our front told of
the hurried advance of cavalry, and the next moment the glitter of spur
and scabbard revealed a long line of horsemen half a mile in front of
us. Oh, how we missed our cannon! Our venerable muskets were not worth a
tinker's imprecation at longer range than a hundred yards, and we were
compelled perforce to watch the preparations for our slaughter, much
after the fashion that a rational turtle may be presumed to contemplate
the preliminaries of an aldermanic dinner."

These were the men who saved the city. It was in honor of them that the
women and children marched through dust and heat on June 9, 1866, to
lay garlands of flowers upon their humble graves, and by their pious
action to inaugurate the beautiful custom, which is now observed all
over the country, of honoring the dead who fell in the Civil War. No
lovelier day ever dawned than June 9, 1864. The magnolia grandiflora
was in full flower, bee-haunted honey-locusts perfumed the warm air,
almost extinguishing the peachy odor of the microphylla roses, graceful
garlands of jessamine hung over the trellised front porches. Almost
the first intimation that the town received of its great peril was the
impetuous dash through the streets of the Confederate artillery. The
morning was so sweet and bright that the women and little children were
abroad in the streets, on their way to market, or on errands to the
shops, or to visit with fruit and flowers the old and sick among their
friends. Lossie Hill, the daintiest of dainty maidens, was picking her
leisurely way in the dusty street, going to spend the morning with
old Mrs. Mertens, when she heard the frantic shout: "Get out of the
way! Damn the women! Run over them if they won't get out of the way."
This was the morning greeting of the politest of gentlemen,—Captain
Graham,—whose guns were thundering down the street to the rescue of
the slender line at the front. As fast as the dread news reached the
men exempt from duty, who were engaged in their various professions and
vocations, every one dropped his business and rushed to the firing line.
The oldest men were as ardent as the youngest. One man, a druggist,
began, while pulling on his accoutrements, to give directions to a
venerable clerk whom he expected to dispense drugs in his absence.
"Now," said the old man, "if you want anything done at home you must
talk to somebody else! I am going to the front! I'm just like General
Lee. I should be glad if these fellows would go back to their homes
and let us alone, but if they won't they must be made to, that's all."
With their arms around their father, pretty Molly and Gussie Banister
implored him not to go forth. He was president of the bank, he was frail
and not young. "The duty of every man lies yonder," said he, pointing to
the puffs of smoke at the gates of the town, and shouldering his musket
he marched away.

Mr. William C. Banister was a cultivated, Christian gentleman, one
of Petersburg's most esteemed and beloved citizens. His widow and
sweet daughters received him—dead—on the evening of the battle. Molly
Banister, one of the dear girls who blessed my life in those anxious
days, has told the story of her martyred father's patriotic fervor:—

"My father had been on duty out on the lines on previous occasions,
always against the entreaty of the members of his family. We thought
his infirmity, deafness, ought to excuse him. Besides this, he was a
bank officer and over military age. When the court-house bell, on the
morning of the 9th of June, sounded the alarm, he was at his place of
business, in the old Exchange Bank, and we hoped he would not hear it.
He got information, however, of the condition of things, came at once
home, and informed us of his purpose to go out to the lines. My mother
and I besought him not to go, urging that he could not hear the orders.

"'If I can't hear,' he said, 'I can fight—I can fire a gun. This is no
time for any one to stand back. Every man that can shoulder a musket
must fight. The enemy are now right upon us.'

"Bidding us good-by he left the house. On the street, near our gate, was
a man, just from the lines. Addressing him, my father said, pointing to
the lines:—

"'My friend, you are needed in this direction.'

"'I am absent on leave,' said the man.

"'No leave,' replied my father, 'should keep you on such an occasion as
this. Every man should fight now!'

"I have been informed that as he came up from the bank he urged in the
same way all whom he met, capable, as he thought, of bearing arms."

Patty Hardee's father, another man past age for military service, was
one of the first to report for duty, and among the first to be borne,
dead, to his daughter.

Robert Martin, also exempt, and the father of an adoring family,
immediately joined the ranks. Almost totally deaf, he could hear no
orders, and continued to load his gun after the order to cease firing
was given and the company had begun to move off. A comrade ran up,
put his lips to his ear, and remonstrated. "Stop firing!" exclaimed
the veteran with disgust. "Orders? I haven't heard any orders to stop
firing," and he continued to advance. As Nelson at Copenhagen, who, when
told that he had been signalled to stop fighting, turned his blind eye
to the station, exclaiming, "_I_ see no signal!"

These are but a few of the many incidents which illustrate the courage
of these stout-hearted veterans and the spirit behind their small force
which inspired that courage and compelled success. They fought—one
hundred and twenty-five men, badly armed and untrained—behind their
frail defence; one hundred and twenty-five against twenty-three hundred
of the enemy, holding them at bay for two hours! General Butler was
greatly chagrined at the failure of this move upon Petersburg. He sent
a characteristic letter of reproof to his general officer north of
the Appomattox. After detailing all the mistakes that had led to the
humiliating repulse, he adds testily: "You have endeavored to state in
your report what my orders to General Kautz were. That was no part of
your report. I know what my orders were without any information from
that source," adding, "certain it is that forty-five hundred of my best
troops have been kept at bay by some fifteen hundred men, six hundred
only of which were Confederate troops and the rest old men and boys, the
cradle and the grave being robbed of about equal proportions to compose
the force opposed to you."

"The cradle and the grave!" Alas, yes! There was no triumph on the
evening of that day. Half the gallant company was gone. There was
wailing within the city gates that night. "The hand of the reaper" had
taken "the ears that were hoary," and the daughters wept for the good,
gray head gone forward to the "eternal camping ground" after a long
life of peace. For these gallant gentlemen the white rose which shaded
my door yielded all its pure blossoms. Well was it for the sake of my
own devotion that this was an ever blooming rose! I had watered and
nourished it with care, unconscious of its high vocation, to bud and
blossom and lie on the noble heart of more than one soldier. My own
husband was in the fight, and sent the first news of the repulse of the
enemy and the safety of his boyhood's home.

Immediately after the battle on the line, June 9, we observed unusual
activity in our streets. Great army wagons passed continually, pausing
often at a well before my door to water their horses. Clouds of dust
filled the city. Evidently something unusual was going on. "We are only
re-enforcing our defences," we said, and comforted ourselves in the
thought.

One day my father came in unexpectedly. The army corps to which he was
attached had camped near Petersburg!

"I've just met General Lee in the street," he said.

I uttered an exclamation of alarm. "Oh, _is_ he going to fight here?"

"My dear," said my father, sternly, "you surprise me! The safest place
for you is in the rear of General Lee's army, and that happens to be
just where you are! The lines are established just here, and filled with
Lee's veterans."

This was startling news, but more was to follow. One Sunday
afternoon,—the next, I think,—the Presbyterian minister had gathered
his flock of women and children for service in the church opposite my
home, and had just uttered the first sentence of his opening prayer,
"Almighty Father, we are assembled to worship Thee in the presence of
our enemies," when an awful, serpentlike hiss filled the church, and a
shell burst through the wall.

In a moment the church was empty, and Dr. Miller, the pastor, was
telling me that his congregation had dismissed itself without a
benediction!

"And the shell?" I inquired.

"It lies upon the table in the church," said the doctor; "nobody dares
remove it."

This was the first shell that entered our part of the town. From that
moment we were shelled at intervals, and very severely. There were no
soldiers in the city. Women were killed on the lower streets, and an
exodus from the shelled districts commenced at once.

As soon as the enemy brought up their siege guns of heavy artillery,
they opened on the city with shell without the slightest notice, or
without giving opportunity for the removal of non-combatants, the sick,
the wounded, or the women and children. The fire was at first directed
toward the Old Market, presumably because of the railroad depot situated
there, about which soldiers might be supposed to collect. But the guns
soon enlarged their operations, sweeping all the streets in the business
part of the city, and then invading the residential region. The steeples
of the churches seemed to afford targets for their fire, all of them
coming in finally for a share of the compliment.

To persons unfamiliar with the infernal noise made by the screaming,
ricocheting, and bursting of shells, it is impossible to describe the
terror and demoralization which ensued. Some families who could not
leave the besieged city dug holes in the ground, five or six feet deep,
covered with heavy timbers banked over with earth, the entrance facing
opposite the batteries from which the shells were fired. They made
these bomb-proofs safe, at least, and thither the family repaired when
heavy shelling commenced. General Lee seemed to recognize that no part
of the city was safe, for he immediately ordered the removal of all the
hospitals, under the care of Petersburg's esteemed physician, Dr. John
Herbert Claiborne. There were three thousand sick and wounded, many of
them too ill to be moved. A long, never-ending line of wagons, carts,
everything that could run on wheels, passed my door, until there were no
more to pass. We soon learned the peculiar, deep boom of the one great
gun which bore directly upon us. The boys named it "Long Tom." Sometimes
for several weeks "Long Tom" rested or slept—and would then make up
for lost time. And yet we yielded to no panic. The children seemed to
understand that it would be cowardly to complain. One little girl cried
out with fright at an explosion; but her aunt, Mrs. Gibson, took her
in her arms, and said: "My dear, you cannot make it harder for other
people! If you feel very much afraid, come to me, and I will clasp you
close, but you mustn't cry."

Charles Campbell, the historian, lived near us, at the Anderson
Seminary. He cleared out the large coal cellar, which was fortunately
dry, spread rugs on the floor, and furnished it with lounges and
chairs. There we took refuge when the firing was unbearable. Some of
our neighbors piled bags of sand around their houses, and thus made them
bomb-proof.

The Rev. Dr. Hoge, who had come South from the Brick Church, New York,
of which he had been pastor, was lying ill and dying a few miles from
Petersburg, and my friend Mrs. Bland invited me to accompany her to
visit him. She had borrowed an ambulance from General Bushrod Johnson.

We made our call upon our sick friend, and were on our return when we
were suddenly startled by heavy firing. The ambulance driver was much
excited, and began to pour forth in broken English a torrent of abuse
of the Confederacy. As we were near home, we kept silence, thinking
that, if he grew more offensive, we could leave him and walk. Mrs. Bland
undertook to reason with him.

"What is your grievance?" she inquired. "Perhaps we might see the
colonel and arrange a better place for you—some transfer, perhaps."

"Nevare! nevare!" said our man, "I transfare to my own koontree! I make
what you call—'desairt.' Mon Dieu! dey now tell me I fight for neeger!
Frenshman nevare fight for neeger."

All this time the guns were booming away, and clouds of smoke were
drifting toward us. We were glad to arrive at my door.

It was closed. There was not a soul in the house. One of the chimneys
had been knocked down, and the bricks lay in a heap on the grass. I
thought of Mr. Campbell's bomb-proof cellar; there we found my children,
and there we remained until the paroxysmal shelling ceased.

One night, after a long, hot day, we were so tired we slept soundly. I
was awakened by Eliza Page, standing trembling beside me. She pulled me
out of bed and hurriedly turned to throw blankets around the children.
The furies were let loose! The house was literally shaking with the
concussion from the heavy guns. We were in the street, on our way to our
bomb-proof cellar, when a shell burst not more than fifty feet before
us. Fire and fragments rose like a fountain in the air and fell in a
shower around us. Not one of my little family was hurt.

Another time a shell fell in our own yard and buried itself in the
earth. My baby was not far away, in her nurse's arms. The little
creature was fascinated by the shells. The first word she ever uttered
was an attempt to imitate them. "Yonder comes that bird with the broken
wing," the servants would say. The shells made a fluttering sound as
they traversed the air, descending with a frightful hiss, to explode or
be buried in the earth. When they exploded in midair by day, a puff of
smoke, white as an angel's wing, would drift away, and the particles
would patter down like hail. At night, the track of the shell and its
explosion were precisely similar in sound, although not in degree, to
our Fourth of July rockets, except that they were fired, not upward,
but in a slanting direction. I never felt afraid of them! I was brought
up to believe in predestination. Courage, after all, is much a matter
of nerves. My neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Gibson and Mrs. Meade, agreed
with me, and we calmly elected to remain in town. There was no place of
safety accessible to us. Mr. Branch removed his family, and, as far as
I knew, none other of my friends remained throughout the summer.

Not far from the door ran a sunken street, with a hill, through which it
was cut, rising each side of it. Into this hill the negroes burrowed,
hollowing out a small space, where they sat all day on mats, knitting,
and selling small cakes made of sorghum and flour, and little round meat
pies. I might have been tempted to invest in the latter except for a
slight circumstance. I saw a dead mule lying on the common, and out of
its side had been cut a very neat, square chunk of flesh!

With all our starvation we never ate rats, mice, or mule-meat. We
managed to exist on peas, bread, and sorghum. We could buy a little
milk, and we mixed it with a drink made from roasted and ground corn.
The latter, in the grain, was scarce. Mr. Campbell's children picked up
the grains wherever the army horses were fed.

My little boys never complained, but Theo, who had insisted upon
returning to me from his uncle's safe home in the country, said one day:
"Mamma, I have a queer feeling in my stomach! Oh, no! it doesn't ache
the least bit, but it feels like a nutmeg grater."

Poor little laddie! His machinery needed oiling. And pretty soon his
small brother fell ill with fever. My blessed Dr. Withers obtained a
permit for me to get a pint of soup every day from the hospital, and
one day there was a joyful discovery. In the soup was a drumstick of
chicken!

"I cert'nly hope I'll not get well," the little man shocked me by saying.

"Oh, is it as bad as that?" I sighed.

"Why," he replied, "my soup will be stopped if I get better!"

Just at this juncture, when things were as bad as could be, my husband
brought home to tea the Hon. Pierre Soulé, General D. H. Hill, and
General Longstreet. I had bread and a little tea, the latter served in a
yellow pitcher without a handle. Mrs. Campbell, hearing of my necessity,
sent me a small piece of bacon.

When we assembled around the table, I lifted my hot pitcher by means of
a napkin, and offered my tea, pure and simple, allowing the guests to
use their discretion in regard to a spoonful or two of very dark brown
sugar.

"This is a great luxury, Madam," said Mr. Soulé, with one of his
gracious bows, "a good cup of tea."

We talked that night of all that was going wrong with our country, of
the good men who were constantly relieved of their commands, of all the
mistakes we were making.

"Mistakes!" said General Hill, bringing his clenched fist down upon the
table, "I could forgive mistakes! I cannot forgive lies! I could get
along if we could _only_, _only_ ever learn the truth, the real truth."
But he was very personal and used much stronger words than these.

They talked and talked, these veterans and the charming, accomplished
diplomat, until one of them inquired the hour. I raised a curtain.

"Gentlemen," I said, "the sun is rising. You must now breakfast with
us." They declined. They had supped!

I had the misfortune early in June to fall ill, with one of the sudden,
violent fevers which cannot be arrested, but must "run its course" for
a certain number of days. I was delirious from this fever, and wild with
the idea that a battle was raging within hearing. I fancied I could hear
the ring of the musket as it was loaded! Possibly my quickened senses
had really heard, for a fierce battle was going on at Port Walthall,
a station on the Richmond and Petersburg railroad, six miles distant.
General Butler had landed at Bermuda Hundred and had been sent by
General Grant to lead a column against Richmond on the south side of
the James and to coöperate with forces from the Wilderness. Butler had
reached Swift Creek, there to be met by General Johnson, and repulsed
as far as Walthall Junction on the railroad. The following day there
was a hotly contested battle at close quarters, continued on the next,
when our men, although greatly outnumbered by Butler's forces, drove
these back to their base on the James River. All this time my excited
visions were of battle and soldiers, culminating at last by the presence
of one soldier, leaning wearily on his sabre in my own room. I did not
recognize the soldier, but memory still holds his attitude of grief as
he looked at me, and the sound of his voice as he answered my question,
"Where have you been all this time?" with, "In more peril than in all
my life before."

But the fever crisis was passing even then, and I was soon well enough
to learn more. This was another of the well-planned schemes for taking
Richmond, another of the failures which drew from Lincoln the gravely
humorous reply, when application was made to him for a pass to go to
Richmond:—

"I don't know about that; I have given passes to about two hundred and
fifty thousand men to go there during the last two or three years, and
not one of them has got there yet."

Dr. Claiborne went out to this Walthall battle-field to help the
wounded, taking with him surgeons and ambulances. A dreadful sight
awaited him. Bodies of dead men, Federal and Confederate, lay piled
together in heaps. On removing some of these to discover if any one of
them might be still alive, a paper dropped from the pocket of a young
lieutenant, written in German to a lady in Bremen. Upon reading it, Dr.
Claiborne found it was addressed to his betrothed. He told her that his
term of service having expired, he would soon leave for New York City,
and he gave her the street and number where she should meet him on her
arrival in this country. This was his last fight, into which he went
no doubt voluntarily, as he was about to leave the army. Doubtless the
blue-eyed _Mädchen_ looked long for him on the banks of the Weser! The
doctor indorsed the sad news on the letter, and sent it through the
lines. Perhaps it reached her, or perhaps she is telling her story this
day to other blue eyes on the Weser, eyes that look up and wonder she
could ever have been young, lovely, and the promised bride of a gallant
Union officer.

The Confederate government utterly neglected the praise and distinction
so freely awarded by other nations in time of war, for deeds of
gallantry and valor. Says Major Stiles: "Not only did I never see or
hear of a promotion on the field, but I do not believe such a thing
ever occurred in any army of the Confederacy from the beginning to the
end of the war. Indeed, I am confident it never did; for, incredible
as it may appear, even Lee himself did not have the power to make such
promotion. I never saw or heard of a medal or a ribbon being pinned on
a man's jacket, or even so much as a man's name being read out publicly
in orders of gallantry in battle."[18]

Hanging in my husband's library, among other war relics, is a heavy
silver medal, representing in high relief a soldier charging a cannon.
On the obverse side is a laurel wreath, space for a name, and the words,
"Distinguished for courage: U. S. Colored Troops." No such medal was
ever given by our government to its hardly used, poorly paid private
soldiers. Some of them fought through the war. They starved and froze in
the trenches during that last dreadful winter, but no precious star or
ribbon was awarded, to be hung with the sabre or musket and venerated
by generations yet to come. Among my few preserved papers I have two
in faded ink. One is signed Bushrod Johnson, the other D. H. Hill.
The latter says: "The victory at Walthall Junction was greatly due to
General Roger A. Pryor. But for him it is probable we might have been
surprised and defeated." The other from General Johnson runs at length:
"At the most critical juncture General Roger A. Pryor rendered me
most valuable service, displaying great zeal, energy, and gallantry in
reconnoitring the positions of the enemy, arranging my line of battle,
and rendering successful the operations and movements of the conflict."
At General Johnson's request my husband served with him during the
midsummer. Such letters I have in lieu of medal or ribbon,—a part only
of much of similar nature; but less was given to many a man who as fitly
deserved recognition.

My General, who had been in active service in all the events around
Petersburg, was now requested by General Lee to take with him a small
squad of men, and learn something of the movements of the enemy.

"Grant knows all about me," he said, "and I know too little about Grant.
You were a schoolboy here, General, and have hunted in all the bypaths
around Petersburg. Knowing the country better than any of us, you are
the best man for this important duty."

Accordingly, armed with a pass from General Lee, my husband set forth
on his perilous scouting expedition, sometimes being absent a week at
a time. One morning, very early, he entered my room.

"I am dead for want of sleep," he said. "I was obliged to take some
prisoners. They are coming in under guard, and you must give them a
good breakfast." As he walked out of the room to find a quiet corner,
he called back, "Be sure, now! Feed my prisoners, if all the rest of us
lose our breakfast."

He had suggested the only way in which he could be obeyed.

Five forlorn blue-coated soldiers soon appeared, and lay down under
the trees. Presently they were all asleep. I called my little family
together. We had only a small pail of meal. Would they be willing to
give it to these poor prisoners?

They were willing, never fear; but I had trouble with John. He grew
very sullen when I ordered him to bake the bread for Yankee prisoners in
five small loaves. I promised to send out for more provisions later, and
finally he yielded, but with an ill grace. When the hot loaves were on
the table, flanked by sweetened corn-coffee, I deputed Paterson Gibson,
my neighbor's kindly young son, to waken my guests. This was no easy
matter.

"Come, now, Yank," said Pat, "get up and eat your breakfast. Come now!
Cheer up! We'll send you home pretty soon."

We left them alone at their repast. It occurred to me they might try to
escape, and I heartily wished they would. But after an hour they were
marched away, we knew not whither.

On July 30th occurred the dreadful explosion of the mine which the enemy
had tunnelled under our line of fortifications.

A little after four in the morning the city was roused by the most
awful thunder—like nothing I can imagine, except, perhaps, the sudden
eruption of a volcano. This was the explosion of a mine tunnelled by
General Grant under our works. Instantly the unhappy residents of the
town poured into the street and out on the road, anywhere to escape
what we supposed to be an earthquake. No words can adequately describe
this horror! We lost a part of our line. Colonel Paul, a member of
Beauregard's staff, was sent to inform General Lee of the disaster,
and bore back his orders that the line must be at once recaptured. As
the colonel passed his father's house, he ran in and found the old
gentleman's hand on the bell-rope to summon his household to family
prayers.

"Stay, my son, and join us at prayers," said the old man. "Get some
breakfast with your mother and me." The colonel could not pause. He must
leave this peaceful home, and bear his part in protecting it.

When the veterans meet to-day for their camp-fire talk, it is of the
"battle of the Crater," the shocking incidents of which cannot be told
to gentle ears, that they speak most frequently. The fountain of fire
that shot up to heaven bore with it the dismembered bodies of man made
in God's own image. Then infuriated men, black and white, leaped into
the chasm and mingled in an orgy of carnage. No one has ever built
on that field. Nature smooths its scars with her gentle hand, but no
dwelling of man will ever rest there while this tragedy is remembered.

On May 3d, 1887, Federal and Confederate veterans met on this spot and
clasped hands together. Since then the Confederates have met there again
and again. Each one has some story to tell of heroism, of devotion, and
the stories are not always tragic. Some of them have been gleaned from
the experiences of the boys in blue.

Lieutenant Bowley of the Northern army delivered an address before the
California commandery of the Loyal Legion of the United States, and
quotes from the address of a negro preacher to his fellows just before
the explosion of the crater. He was sergeant of a company of negroes,
and thus exhorted them:—

"Now, men, dis is gwine to be a gret fight, de gretest we seen yit; gret
things is 'pending on dis fight; if we takes Petersburg, mos' likely
we'll take Richmond an' 'stroy Lee's army an' close de wah. Eb'ry man
had orter liff up his soul in pra'r for a strong heart. Oh! 'member de
pore colored people ober dere in bondage. Oh! 'member dat Gin'ral Grant
an' Gin'ral Burnside an' Gin'ral Meade an' all de gret gin'rals is right
ober yander a watchin' ye; an' 'member _I'se_ a watchin' ye an 'any
skulker is a gwine ter git a prod ob dis ba'net—you heah me!"

Words than which, except for the closing sentence, I know none more
pathetic.



CHAPTER XIX

BEHIND LEE'S LINES


The month of August in the besieged city passed like a dream of terror.
The weather was intensely hot and dry, varied by storms of thunder and
lightning—when the very heavens seemed in league with the thunderbolts
of the enemy. Our region was not shelled continuously. One shot from
"our own gun," as we learned to call it, would be fired as if to let
us know our places; this challenge would be answered from one of our
batteries, and the two would thunder away for five or six hours. We
always sought shelter in Mr. Campbell's bomb-proof cellar at such times,
and the negroes would run to their own "bum-proofs," as they termed the
cells hollowed under the hill.

Agnes wrote from Richmond, August 26, 1864:—

     "You dear, obstinate little woman! What did I tell you? I
     implored you to get away while you could, and now you are
     waiting placidly for General Grant to blow you up. That awful
     crater! Do the officers around you consider it honorable
     warfare to dig and mine under a man and blow him up while
     he is asleep—before he has time to get his musket? I always
     thought an open field and a fair fight, with the enemy in
     front at equal chances, was the American idea of honest,
     manly warfare. To my mind this is the most awful thing that
     could be imagined. There is a strong feeling among the people
     I meet that the hour has come when we should consider the
     lives of the few men left to us. Why let the enemy wipe us
     off the face of the earth? Should this feeling grow, nothing
     but a great victory can stop it. Don't you remember what Mr.
     Hunter said to us in Washington? 'You may sooner check with
     your bare hand the torrent of Niagara than stop this tidal
     wave of secession.' _I_ am for a tidal wave of peace—and
     I am not alone. Meanwhile we are slowly starving to death.
     Here, in Richmond, if we can afford to give $11 for a pound
     of bacon, $10 for a small dish of green corn, and $10 for a
     watermelon, we can have a dinner of three courses for four
     persons. Hampton's cavalry passed through town last week, amid
     great excitement. Every man as he trotted by was cutting and
     eating a watermelon, and throwing the rinds on the heads of
     the little negro boys who followed in crowds on either side
     of the street. You wouldn't have dreamed of war—such shouting
     and laughing from everybody. The contrasts we constantly
     see look like insanity in our people. The President likes
     to call attention to the fact that we have no beggars on our
     streets, as evidence that things are not yet desperate with
     us. He forgets our bread riot which occurred such a little
     while ago. That pale, thin woman with the wan smile haunts
     me. Ah! these are the people who suffer the consequence of
     all that talk about slavery in the territories you and I used
     to hear in the House and Senate Chamber. Somebody, somewhere,
     is mightily to blame for all this business, but it isn't you
     nor I, nor yet the women who did not really deserve to have
     Governor Letcher send the mayor to read the Riot Act to them.
     They were only hungry, and so a thousand of them loaded some
     carts with bread for their children. You are not to suppose
     I am heartless because I run on in this irrelevant fashion.
     The truth is, I am so shocked and disturbed I am hysterical.
     It is all so awful.

          "Your scared-to-death
               "AGNES."

My husband sent me a note by his courier, one hot August day, to tell
me that his old aide, Captain Whitner, having been wounded, was now
discharged from the hospital, but was much too weak for service in the
trenches, so he had obtained for the captain leave of absence for two
weeks, and had sent him to me to be built up. On the moment the sick
man appeared in an ambulance. I was glad to see him, but a gaunt spectre
arose before my imagination and sternly suggested: "Built up, forsooth!
And pray, what are you to build him up with? You can no more make a man
without food than the Israelites could make bricks without straw."

However, the captain had brought a ration of bacon and meal, with
promise of more to come. I bethought me of the flourishing garden of my
neighbor, whose onions and beets were daily gathered for her own family.
I wrote a very pathetic appeal for my wounded Confederate soldier, now
threatened with scurvy for want of fresh food, and I fully expected
she would be moved by my eloquence and her own patriotism to grant me
a daily portion from her garden. She answered that she would agree
to send me a dish of vegetables fourteen days for fourteen dollars.
Gold was then selling at the rate of twenty-five dollars in our paper
currency for one dollar in gold, so the dish was not a very costly one.
But when it appeared it was a very small dish indeed,—two beets or four
onions. Homœopathic as were the remedial agents, they helped to cure
the captain.

One morning, late in August, Eliza came early to my bedside. I started
up in alarm.

"Shelling again?" I asked her.

"Worse," said Eliza.

"Tell me, tell me quick—is the General—"

"No, no, honey," said my kind nurse, laying a detaining hand upon me.
"You cert'nly sleep sound! Didn't you hear a stir downstairs in the
night? Well, about midnight somebody hallooed to the kitchen, and John
ran out. There stood a man on horseback and a dead soldier lying before
him on the saddle. He said to John, 'Boy, I know General Pryor would
not refuse to take in my dead brother.'

"John ran up to my room and asked me what he must do. 'Take him in,' I
told him. 'Marse Roger will never forgive you if you turn him away.'"

"You were perfectly right," I said, beginning to dress myself. "Where
is he?"

"In the parlor," said Eliza. "He had a manservant with him. John brought
in his own cot, and he is lying on it. His brother is in there, and his
man, both of them."

The children were hushed by their nurse's story, and gathered under
the shade in the yard. When breakfast was served, I sent John to invite
my guest in. He returned with answer that "the captain don' feel like
eatin' nothin'."

"Captain?" I asked.

"No'm, he ain't a captain, but his dead brother was. He was Captain
Spann of South Carolina or Georgia, I forget which. His man came into
the kitchen for hot water to shave his dead master, but I didn't ask
many questions 'cause I saw he was troubled."

I went out to my ever blooming rose and found it full of cool, dewy
blossoms. I cut an armful, and knocked at the parlor door myself. It
was opened by a haggard, weary-looking soldier, who burst into tears
at seeing me. I took his hand and essayed to lead him forth, but he
brokenly begged I would place the roses upon his brother's breast. "Will
you, for the sake of his poor wife and mother?"

Very calm was the face of the dead officer. His servant and his brother
had shaven and cared for him. His dark hair was brushed from a noble
brow, and I could see that his features were regular and refined.

I persuaded the lonely watcher to go with John to an upper room, to
bathe and rest a few minutes; but he soon descended and joined us at our
frugal breakfast, and then Mr. Gibson, my good rector, came in to help
and advise, and in the evening my husband returned, much gratified that
we had received and comforted the poor fellow.

As August drew to a close, I began to perceive that I could no longer
endure the recurrence of such scenes; and I learned with great relief
that my brother-in-law had moved his family to North Carolina and had
placed Cottage Farm, three miles distant from the besieged city, at my
disposal. Accordingly, I wrote to General Bushrod Johnson, requesting an
army wagon to be sent me early the next morning, and all night was spent
in packing and preparing to leave. I had collected needful furniture
when I moved into town eight months before.

The wagon did not come at the specified hour. All day we waited, all the
next night (without our beds), and the next day. As I looked out of the
window in the twilight, hoping and watching, the cannonading commenced
with vigor, and a line of shells rose in the air, describing luminous
curves and breaking into showers of fragments. Our gun will be next, I
thought, and for the first time my strength forsook me, and I wept over
the hopeless doom which seemed to await us. Just then I heard the wheels
below my window, and there was my wagon with four horses.

We were all bestowed, bag and baggage, in a few minutes, and were soon
safely beyond shell fire. I did not know until then how great had been
the strain of keeping up under fire for three months. I literally "went
all to pieces," trembling as though I had a chill. When we arrived
at Cottage Farm, my driver allowed John, Eliza, and my little boys to
unload in the road before the lawn, and then calmly turned his horses'
heads and drove away.

It was nine o'clock, we had no lights, we had no strength to lift our
packages into the house. John advised that he should remain on guard
during the night, and that some blankets should be spread for us in the
cottage, and we proceeded to carry out this plan. In a few minutes,
however, half a dozen soldiers came up, and one of their officers
pleasantly greeted us as "welcome neighbors," for their company was
encamped near us. They had seen our plight and had come to "set things
to rights," also to assure us of protection.

About twelve o'clock we found ourselves comfortable. Our beds were put
up, our boxes were all under cover. John's commissariat yielded some
biscuits, there was a well of pure water near the door. We were safe.
We could sleep. No shell could reach us!

The cool freshness of a lovely September morning filled our hearts with
life and hope. A large circle of flowers, chrysanthemums, dahlias, and
late-blooming roses surrounded the carriage drive to the door, a green
lawn stretched to the limits of a large yard in the rear, and beyond
this a garden with a few potatoes to dig, and an apple tree in fruit
which the soldiers had respected. John and the little boys were in fine
spirits. They laid plans for a cow, chickens, ducks, and pigeons. The
cow was purchased at once from a neighboring farmer, was named Rose,
and was installed in a shelter attached to the kitchen, where John could
protect her from marauders.

"'Cause," said John, "I knows soldiers! They get up before day and milk
your cow under your very eyebrows. Ain't you hear about Gen'al Lee in
Pennsylvania? The old Dutch farmers gave him Hail Columbia because his
soldiers milked their cows. Gen'al Lee could keep 'em from stealin'
horses, but the queen o' England herself couldn't stop a soldier when
he hankers after milk. An' he don't need no pail, neither; he can milk
in his canteen an' never spill a drop."

My brother had left two old family servants, "Uncle Frank" and his wife
"Aunt Jinny," as caretakers of the premises; and to their dignified
bearing, supplemented by the presence of a company of honorable
soldiers, we were indebted for the unrifled apple tree and the tiny
potatoes, like marbles, left after the autumn digging. "Aunt Jinny" also
had a few fowls. An egg for my baby was now possible.

Her faithful Christian character had won for her a high place in the
esteem of the family. Uncle Frank's manners were perfect,—polished,
suave, and conciliatory; but when judge and jury sat upon the case of
a culprit arraigned by him, his testimony was apt to be challenged by
his prisoner.

"You knows, Marse Robert, you can't b'lieve ole Uncle Frank!"

"Frank always knows what he is talking about! He is only more polite
than the rest of you."

"Well, Marse Robert, Gawd knows I hates to fling dut at Uncle Frank, but
he's a liar. He sholy is! An' jist 'cause he's a _sweet_ liar he gets
we all in trouble."

My father, the chaplain, soon joined us, his corps having camped within
riding distance. There was an office in the yard, and there my father
took up his abode. His life was an active one among the soldiers, and
he was often absent for days at a time; but I felt the protection of
his occasional presence.

My husband was now employed, day and night, often in peril, gleaning
from every possible source information for General Lee.

One day Theo and Roger ran in with stirring news. They had seen General
Lee dismount at Mr. Turnbull's, a short distance on the road beyond
us, and had learned from Mr. Turnbull himself that his house had been
given to General Lee for his headquarters, also that the General did not
require Mr. and Mrs. Turnbull to leave, and that they were delighted to
have the General.

The whole face of the earth seemed to change immediately. Army wagons
crawled unceasingly along the highroad, just in front of our gate. All
was stir and life in the rear, where there was another country road, and
a short road connecting the two passed immediately by the well near our
house. This, too, was constantly travelled; the whir of the well-wheel
never seemed to pause, day or night. We soon had pleasant visitors,
General A. P. Hill, Colonel William Pegram, General Walker, General
Wilcox, and others. General Wilcox, an old friend and comrade, craved
permission to make his headquarters on the green lawn in the rear of
the house, and my husband rejoiced at his presence and protection for
our little family.

In less than twenty-four hours I found myself in the centre of a camp.
The white tents of General Wilcox's staff officers were stretched close
to the door.

When we left Washington, our library and pictures had been sent to
Petersburg, and had remained there in a warehouse ever since. My father
eagerly advised us to set up the library and hang the pictures in our
new home at Cottage Farm.

"But suppose General Lee moves away," I suggested.

"My dear, he will not move away! He is here to protect Petersburg and
Richmond. He will never surrender either place—and, as I have tried to
impress upon you, the safest place for you on this continent is in the
rear of Lee's army."

So timber was brought for shelving the dining room, and three thousand
or more books were arranged on the shelves. The parlor and the two
bedrooms (we had no more in the little cottage) were hung with the
pictures bought by my husband when he was Minister to Greece. My
favorite—the Raffaello Morghen proof impression of the "Madonna della
Seggiola"—hung over the mantel in the parlor, and to it I lifted weary
eyes many a time during the remaining days of the war. Sundry delicate
carvings were also in the boxes, with my music. My sister had not
taken her piano with her to North Carolina. There were a baby-house and
toys in another box, and in a French trunk with many compartments some
evening dresses, at which I did not even glance, well knowing I should
not need them. The trunk containing them was stored in the cellar.

We were happier than we had been for a long time. Things seemed to
promise a little respite. To be sure, Grant's army was in front of us;
but if we could only avoid a collision for a month or two, the troops
on both sides would go into winter quarters, and everybody would have
the rest so much needed to fit them for the spring campaign.

"We are here for eight years,—not a day less," said my father, and he
fully believed it.

That being the case, it behooved me to look after the little boys'
education. School books were found for them. I knew "small Latin and
less Greek," but I gravely heard them recite lessons in the former;
and they never discovered the midnight darkness of my mind as to
mathematics.

I knew nothing of the strong line of fortifications which General Grant
was building at the back of the farm, fortifications strengthened by
forts at short intervals. Our own line—visible from the garden—had fewer
forts, two of which, Fort Gregg and Battery 45, protected our immediate
neighborhood. These forts occasionally answered a challenge, but there
was no attempt at a sally on either side.

The most painful circumstance connected with our position was the picket
firing at night, incessant, like the dropping of hail, and harrowing
from the apprehension that many a man fell from the fire of a picket.
But, perhaps to reassure me, Captain Lindsay and Captain Glover of
General Wilcox's staff declared that "pickets have a good time. They
fire, yes, for that is their business; but while they load for the next
volley, one will call out, 'Hello, Reb,' be answered, 'Hello, Yank,'
and little parcels of coffee are thrown across in exchange for a plug
of tobacco." After accepting this fiction I could sleep better.

Nothing could better illustrate the fact that this war was not a war of
the men at the guns, than one of General John B. Gordon's anecdotes.[19]

A short distance from Blandford was the strong work on the Federal line
called Fort Steadman. It was determined to take this by assault. There
were obstructions in front of our lines which had to be removed. The
lines were so close this could only be done under cover of darkness.
Then there were obstructions to be removed from the front of Fort
Steadman, and an immediate rush to be made before the gunners could
fire.

This delicate and hazardous duty was successfully performed by General
Gordon, near the close of the war, and was the last time the stars and
bars were carried to aggressive assault.

About four o'clock in the morning our axemen were quietly at work on our
obstacle when the unavoidable noise attracted the notice of a Federal
picket. In the black darkness he called out:—

"Hello there, Johnny Reb! What are you making all that fuss about over
there?"

Our men were leaning forward for the start, and General Gordon was for
a moment disconcerted; but a rifleman answered in a cheerful voice:—

"Oh, never mind us, Yank! Lie down and go to sleep! We are just
gathering a little corn; you know rations are mighty short over here!"

There was a patch of corn between the lines, some still hanging on the
stalks. After a few moments there came back the kindly reply of the
Yankee picket:—

"All right, Johnny, go ahead and get your corn. I won't shoot at you."

General Gordon was about to give the command to go forward, when
the rifleman showed some compunctions of conscience for having used
deception which might result in the picket's death, by calling out
loudly:—

"Look out for yourself now, Yank! We're going to shell the woods."

Such exhibitions of true kindness and comradeship were not uncommon
during the war.

On a hill a short distance off was the farmhouse of "old Billy Green,"
as he was known to his neighbors. He had a good wife, kind to me and to
everybody, and a fine-looking, amiable daughter, Nannie Green. These
were my only female acquaintances. Nannie soon became an out-and-out
belle—the only young lady in the neighborhood. Tender songs were
paraphrased in her honor; Ben Bolt's Sweet Alice became "Sweet Nannie,"
and "Sweet Annie of the Vale" easily became "Sweet Nannie of the Hill."
I was very stern with the young officers around me, about Nannie Green.
She was a modest, dignified girl, and I did not intend to have her
spoiled, nor her father ridiculed.

I found some cut-glass champagne glasses in one of my boxes. Every night
a request would come from Captain Lindsay, or Captain Glover, or some
other of my staff tenants, for a champagne glass. At last I asked:—

"Why do you limit yourselves to one glass?"

"Oh, we don't drink from it. We have no wine, you know."

It appeared upon investigation that they cut profile pictures of Nannie
Green out of paper, laid this cut paper on another, weighting it down
with bullets, and turned the glass over it. As they sat around the
table smoking, each one would lift a little edge of the glass and blow
the smoke under it, shutting down quickly. When the smoking was over,
and glass and paper were lifted, there was a pure white silhouette of
Nannie's face on an amber-colored background, cameo-like in effect. The
face would be delicately shaded, soulful eyes added, and—_voilà_!

"Why was I not to know this?" I asked sternly.

"Because we feared you would lend us no more glasses."

"So it appears you all have a young lady's picture without her consent?"

"Why not?" they pleaded. "Isn't she perfectly welcome to ours?"

"Do you expect her to exchange, for something she doesn't want,
something which you _do_ want?"

"Well, we think she might," said one, ruefully. "If her shadow can
comfort a poor fellow's cold and lonely evening, she might spare it.
She can't possibly miss it."

I never refused to lend them the glasses.



CHAPTER XX

ARRIVING AT EXTREMITIES


My husband's duties kept him from home several days at a time during
the early autumn, but now that the lines were drawn so closely together,
he could usually return to us after reporting to General Lee at night.
I had ceased to feel anxious when he rode away in the morning on his
gray horse, Jubal Early. Jubal had brought him safely through many a
difficulty. Once he found himself suddenly confronted by a small company
of Federals aligned for drill. He saluted, as if he were an officer
on inspection, rode gravely past the line, and then Jubal's fleet feet
dashed quite out of range before the volley which followed the discovery
of his ruse.

One frosty morning I was writing letters,—to Agnes, to my mother, to my
little girls in Charlotte, expressing the gratitude of my heart for the
new blessings of the hour,—when General Wilcox entered, and took his
accustomed stand before the fire.

"Madam," he commenced, "is the General at home?"

"No, General, he did not return last night."

"You are not uneasy?"

"Not a bit. He sometimes stops at Mrs. Friend's when he is belated.
She's his cousin, you know."

"Of course!" laughed the General. "All the pretty women in Virginia
are cousins to the Virginia officers. Couldn't you naturalize a few
unfortunates who were not born in Virginia?"

I was sealing and stamping my letters, and looked up without immediately
answering his badinage. To my surprise his face was pale and his lip
quivering.

"You have to know it," said he. "The General will not return. The
Yankees caught him this morning."

"Oh, impossible!" I exclaimed. "Jubal never fails."

"Look out of the window," said the general.

There stood Jubal! A groom was removing his saddle. General Wilcox most
kindly hastened to reassure me. "It will be all right," he declared. "A
little rest for the General, and we will soon exchange him."

I was completely stunned. I had never expected this. My head reeled. My
heart sickened within me.

As I sat thus, shivering beside the fire, I heard the clank of spurs,
and looked up. An officer was at the door.

"Madam," he said, "General Lee sends you his affectionate sympathies."

Through the open window I saw the General on his horse, Traveller,
standing at the well. He waited until his messenger returned, and then
rode slowly toward the lines.

I had small hope of the speedy exchange promised me by General Wilcox.
From day to day he reported the efforts made for my husband's release
and their failure. General Lee authorized a letter to General Meade,
detailing the circumstances of his capture and requesting his release.
General Meade promptly refused to release him.

We naturally looked to the enemy for all information, and although my
husband had written me a pencilled note at City Point on the inside
of a Confederate envelope, and had implored his guard (a Federal
officer) to have it inserted in a New York paper, I did not receive it
until thirty-one years afterward. We soon had news, however, through a
despatch from the North Army Corps to the _New York Herald_. The paper
of November 30, 1864, contained the following:—

"Yesterday a rebel officer made his appearance in front of our
lines, waving a paper for exchange. The officer in charge of the
picket, suddenly remembering that Major Burrage, of the Thirty-sixth
Massachusetts, was taken prisoner some time since by the enemy while
on a similar errand, 'gobbled' the rebel, who proved to be the famous
Roger A. Pryor, ex-member of Congress and ex-brigadier-general of Jeff
Davis's army. He protested vehemently against what he styled a flagrant
breach of faith on our part. He was assured he was taken in retaliation
for like conduct on the part of his friends, and sent to General Meade's
headquarters for further disposition."

Press despatch to _Herald_, November 30, from Washington, "Roger A.
Pryor has been brought to Washington, and committed to the old Capitol
Prison."

_Herald_, December 1, 1864, "Pryor was ferried over to Fort Lafayette,
where he is now confined."

Then later I received a personal through _The News_: "To Mrs. R. A.
Pryor. Your husband is in Fort Lafayette, where a friend and relative
is permitted to visit him.—[Signed] MARY RHODES."

Not until December, 1864, could Colonel Ould arrange to have a letter
from me sent through the lines. All letters from and to prisoners were
examined by Federal officials.

On the 20th of December I received a brief note from Fort Lafayette:
"My philosophy begins to fail somewhat. In vain I seek some argument
of consolation. I see no chance of release. The conditions of my
imprisonment cut me off from every resource of happiness."

I learned afterward that he was ill, and under the care of a physician
all winter, but he tried to write as encouragingly as possible.
In February, however, he failed in health and spirits, but bore up
bravely:—

"I am as contented as is compatible with my condition. My mind is
ill at ease from my solicitude for my family and my country. Every
disaster pierces my soul like an arrow; and I am afflicted with the
thought that I am denied the privilege of contributing even my mite
to the deliverance of ——. How I envy my old comrades their hardships
and privations. I have little hope of an early exchange, and you may
be assured my mistrust is not without reason. _Except some special
instance be employed to procure my release, my detention here will be
indefinite._ I cannot be more explicit. While this is my conviction,
I wish it distinctly understood that I would not have my government
compromise any scruple for the sake of my liberation. I am prepared for
any contingency—am fortified against any reverse of fortune."

The problem now confronting me was this: How could I maintain my
children and myself? My husband's rations were discontinued. My only
supply of food was from my father's ration as chaplain. I had a part
of a barrel of flour which a relative had sent me from a county now cut
off from us. Quite a number of my old Washington servants had followed
me, to escape the shelling, but they could not, of course, look to
me for their support. I frankly told John and Eliza my condition,
but they elected to remain. One day John presented himself with a
heart-broken countenance and a drooping attitude of deep dejection. He
had a sad story to tell. The agent of the estate to which he belonged
was in town, and John had been commissioned to inform me that all the
slaves belonging to the estate were to be immediately transferred to
a Louisiana plantation for safety. Those of us who had hired these
servants by the year were to be indemnified for our loss.

"How do you feel about it, John?" I asked.

The poor fellow broke down. "It will kill me," he declared. "I'll soon
die on that plantation."

All his affectionate, faithful service, all his hardships for our
sakes, the Averill raid, rushed upon my memory. I bade him put me in
communication with the agent. I found that I could save the boy only by
buying him. A large sum of gold was named as the price. I unbuckled my
girdle and counted my handful of gold—one hundred and six dollars. These
I offered to the agent (who was a noted negro trader), and although it
was far short of his figures, he made out my bill of sale receipted.

When John appeared with smiling face he informed me with his thanks that
he belonged to me.

"You are a free man, John," I said. "I will make out your papers and I
can very easily arrange for you to pass the lines."

"I know that," he said. "Marse Roger has often told me I was a free
man. I never will leave you till I die. Papers indeed! Papers nothing!
I belong to you—that's where I belong."

All that dreadful winter he was faithful to his promise, cheerfully
bearing, without wages, all the privations of the time. Sometimes, when
the last atom of food was gone, he would ask for money, sally forth
with a horse and light cart, and bring in peas and dried apples. Once a
week we were allowed to purchase the head of a bullock, horns and all,
from the commissary; and a small ration of rice was allowed us by the
government. A one-armed boy, Alick, who had been reared in my father's
family, now wandered in to find his old master, and installed himself
as my father's servant.

The question that pressed upon me day and night was: How, where, can I
earn some money? to be answered by the frightful truth that there could
be no opening for me anywhere, because I could not leave my children.

One wakeful night, while I was revolving these things, a sudden thought
darted, unbidden, into my sorely oppressed mind:—

"Why not open the trunk from Washington? Something may be found there
which can be sold."

At an early hour next morning John and Alick brought the trunk from the
cellar. Aunt Jinny, Eliza, and the children gathered around. It proved
to be full of my old Washington finery. There were a half-dozen or
more white muslin gowns, flounced and trimmed with Valenciennes lace,
many yards; there was a rich bayadere silk gown trimmed fully with
guipure lace; a green silk dress with gold embroidery; a blue and silver
brocade,—these last evening gowns. There was a paper box containing the
shaded roses I had worn to Lady Napier's ball, the ball at which Mrs.
Douglas and I had dressed alike in gowns of tulle. Another box held
the garniture of green leaves and gold grapes which had belonged to
the green silk; and still another the blue and silver feathers for the
brocade. An opera cloak trimmed with fur; a long purple velvet cloak;
a purple velvet "coalscuttle" bonnet, trimmed with white roses; a point
lace handkerchief; Valenciennes lace; Brussels lace; and at the bottom
of the trunk a package of _ciel_ blue zephyr, awakening reminiscences
of a passion which I had cherished for knitting shawls and "mariposas"
of zephyr,—such was the collection I had discovered.

The velvet cloak had come to grief. Somebody had put the handsome books
President Pierce had given me into this box, for special safe-keeping;
and all these years the cloak had cushioned the books so that they made
no inroads upon the other articles, and had given up its own life in
their protection. Not an inch of the garment was ever fit for use. It
was generously printed all over with the large cords and tassels of its
own trimming.

These were my materials. I must make them serve for the support of my
family.

I ripped all the lace from the evening gowns, and made it into collars
and undersleeves. John found an extinct dry-goods store where clean
paper boxes could be had.

My first instalment of lace collars was sent to Price's store in
Richmond and promptly sold. Mr. Price wrote me that all of my articles
would find purchasers. There were ladies in Richmond who could afford
to buy, and the Confederate court offered opportunities for display.

Admiral Porter records the capture of a blockade-runner whose valuable
goods included many commissions for "ladies at court. In the cabin of
the vessel," says the admiral, "was a pile of bandboxes in which were
charming little bonnets marked with the owners' names. It would have
given me much pleasure to have forwarded them to their destination" (the
admiral had ever a weakness for Southern ladies) "but the laws forbade
our giving aid and comfort to the enemy, so all the French bonnets,
cloaks, shoes, and other feminine _bric-à-brac_ had to go to New
York for condemnation by the Admiralty Court, and were sold at public
auction.

"These bonnets, laces, and other vanities rather clashed with the idea I
had formed of the Southern ladies, as I heard that all they owned went
to the hospitals, and that they never spent a cent on their personal
adornment; but human nature," sagely opines the admiral, "is the same
the world over, and ladies will indulge in their little vanities in
spite of war and desolation."[20] To these vanities I now found myself
indebted.

The zeal with which I worked knew no pause. I needed no rest. General
Wilcox, who was in the saddle until a late hour every night, said to me,
"Your candle is the last light I see at night—the first in the morning."

"I should never sleep," I told him.

One day I consulted Eliza about the manufacture of a Confederate candle.
We knew how to make it—by drawing a cotton rope many times through
melted wax, and then winding it around a bottle. We could get wax, but
our position was an exposed one. Soldiers' tents were close around us,
and we scrupulously avoided any revelation of our needs, lest they
should deny themselves for our sakes. Eliza thought we might avail
ourselves of the absence of the officers, and finish our work before
they returned. We made our candle; but that night, as I sat sewing
beside its dim, glow-worm light, I heard a step in the hall, and a hand,
hastily thrust out, placed a brown paper parcel on the piano near the
door. It was a soldier's ration of candles!

After I had converted all my laces into collars, cuffs, and sleeves,
and had sold my silk gowns, opera cloak, and point lace handkerchiefs,
I devoted myself to trimming the edges of the artificial flowers, and
separating the long wreaths and garlands into clusters for hats and
_bouquets de corsage_.

Eliza and the children delighted in this phase of my work, and begged
to assist,—all except Aunt Jinny.

"Honey," she said, "don't you think, in these times of trouble, you
might do better than tempt them po' young lambs in Richmond to worship
the golden calf and bow down to mammon? We prays not to be led into
temptation, and you sho'ly is leadin' 'em into vanity."

"Maybe so, Aunt Jinny, but I must sell all I can. We have to be clothed,
you know, war or no war."

"Yes, my chile, that's so; but we're told to consider the lilies.
Gawd Almighty tells us we must clothe ourselves in the garment of
righteousness, and He—"

"You always 'pear to be mighty intimate with God A'mighty," interrupted
Eliza, in great wrath. "Now you just go 'long home an' leave my mistis
to her work. How would _you_ look with nothin' on but a garment of
righteousness?"

When I had stripped the pretty muslin gowns of their trimmings, what
could be done with the gowns themselves? Finally I resolved to embroider
them with the blue zephyr. I rolled the edges of the flounces, and edged
them delicately with a spiral line of blue. I traced with blue a dainty
vine of forget-me-nots on bodice and sleeves, with a result that was
simply ravishing!

My first purchase was a barrel of flour, for which I paid thirteen
hundred dollars. John made hot biscuits three times a day thereafter.
As the winter wore on, and the starvation became stern in the army, a
soldier would occasionally bring to the kitchen his ration of a small
square of beef to be cooked, or _eight grains of coffee_ to trade with
John for a few biscuits. I sternly forbade the trade, and ordered John
to grind the coffee in the owner's presence, mix it with our toasted
corn, and give him the biscuits, with a good, strengthening drink.
Often a brown hand would place a tiny bundle on the piano, as the donor
passed through the hall, and my heart would ache to find it contained
a soldier's ration of coffee. My dear father had friends among his old
parishioners who never allowed him to do without his coffee—a necessity
for a man who never, under any circumstances, fortified his strength
with ardent spirits. He was almost fanatical on the total abstinence
subject.

Of course I could not command shoes for my boys. I made them of carpet
lined with flannel for my baby. I could in one day make a pair which
she wore out in three! A piece of bronze morocco fell into my hands, of
which I made a pair of boots for my little daughter, Mary, and out of
an old leather pocket-book and two or three leather bags which Alick
found in his prowling over the fields, a soldier-shoemaker contrived
shoes for each of the boys.

My own prime necessity was for the steel we women wear in front of our
stays. I suffered so much for want of this accustomed support, that
Captain Lindsay had a pair made for me by the government gunsmith.

The time came when the salable contents of the Washington trunk were all
gone. I then cut up my husband's dress-coat, and designed well-fitting
ladies' gloves, with gauntlets made of the watered silk lining. Of
an interlining of gray flannel I made gray gloves, and this glove
manufacture yielded me hundreds of dollars. Thirteen small fragments
of flannel were left after the gloves were finished. Of these, pieced
together, I made a pair of drawers for my Willy—my youngest boy.

The lines around us were now so closely drawn that my father returned
home after short absences of a day or two. But we were made anxious,
during a heavy snow early in December, by a more prolonged absence.
Finally he appeared, on foot, hatless, and exhausted. He had been
captured by a party of cavalrymen. He had told them of his non-combatant
position, but when he asked for release, they shook their heads. At
night they all prepared to bivouac upon the ground, assigned to him
a sheltered spot, gave him a good supper and blankets, and left him
to his repose. As the night wore on and all grew still, he raised his
head cautiously to reconnoitre, and to his surprise found himself at
some distance from the guard—but his horse tied to a tree within the
circle around the fire. My father took the hint, and quietly walked away
unchallenged. "Which proves, my dear," he said, "that a clergyman is
not worth as much as a good horse in time of war."



CHAPTER XXI

A WINTER OF WANT


I resolved to give my family a Christmas dinner. John invented a
method of making a perfectly satisfactory pie out of sorghum molasses,
thickened with a little flour, mixed with walnut meats, and baked in
a "raised" crust. He prepared a number of these. I bought a piece of
corned beef for fifty dollars. This was boiled with peas. But just as
we were about to gather around the table, we saw a forlorn company of
soldiers passing the door. They had gone out on some raid a week before.
The snow was falling fast, the soldiers walked wearily, with dejected
countenances. "Boys," I said, "are you willing to send the dish of beef
and peas out to them?" They agreed, if only they might carry it; and the
brave little fellows liked the pleasure they gave more than they would
have enjoyed the dinner. They were full of it for days afterward.

We had grown very fond of some of the men around us, and my boys were
so rich in their companionship, that they never complained of their
privations. They were good, wholesome comrades, interested in our books
and in the boys' studies. Captain Lindsay and Captain Glover of General
Wilcox's staff were great comforts. General A. P. Hill and Colonel
William Pegram came often to see us. General Lee often passed the door
on his way to the lines, and paused to inquire concerning our welfare.
I established a little circulating library for dear Colonel Pegram and
our own officers. The books were always faithfully returned, with warm
thanks for the comfort they gave.

The month of January brought us sleet and storm. Our famine grew sterner
every day. Poor little Rose, my cow, could yield only one cupful of
milk, so small was her ration; but we never thought of turning the
faithful animal into beef. The officers in my yard spared her something
every day from the food of their horses.

The days were so dark and cheerless, the news from the armies at a
distance so discouraging, it was hard to preserve a cheerful demeanor
for the sake of the family. And now began the alarming tidings, every
morning, of the desertions during the night. General Wilcox wondered
how long his brigade would hold together at the rate of fifty desertions
every twenty-four hours.

The common soldier had enlisted, not to establish the right of
secession, not for love of the slave,—he had no slaves,—but simply
to resist the invasion of the South by the North, simply to prevent
subjugation. The soldier of the rank and file was not always
intellectual or cultivated. He cared little for politics, less for
slavery. He did care, however, for his own soil, his own little farm,
his own humble home; and he was willing to fight to drive the invader
from it. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation did not stimulate him in
the least. The negro, free or slave, was of no consequence to him. His
quarrel was a sectional one, and he fought for his section.

In any war, the masses rarely trouble themselves about the merits of
the quarrel. Their pugnacity and courage are aroused and stimulated by
the enthusiasm of their comrades, or by their own personal wrongs and
perils.

Now, in January, 1865, the common soldier perceived that the cause was
lost. He could read its doom in the famine around him, in the faces
of his officers, in tidings from abroad. His wife and children were
suffering. His duty was now to them; so he stole away in the darkness,
and, in infinite danger and difficulty, found his way back to his own
fireside. He deserted, but not to the enemy.

But what can we say of the soldier who remained unflinchingly at his
post _knowing_ the cause was lost for which he was called to meet death?
Heroism can attain no loftier height than this.

Sir Charles Napier,[21] in his campaign against the robber tribes of
Upper Scinde, found that the hills-men had a custom of binding, with a
scarlet thread, the wrist of a leader who fell after some distinguished
act of courage. They thus honored the hand that had wielded a valiant
sword.

A party of eleven English soldiers were once separated from their
fellows, and mistook a signal for an order to charge. The brave fellows
answered with a cheer. On a summit in front of them was a breastwork
manned by seventy of the foe. On they went, charging up the fearful
path, eleven against seventy. There could be but one result. When their
comrades arrived to aid them, every one of the British soldiers was
dead—and around _both_ wrists of every one was twined the red thread!

And so I am sure that to every man who fell in that last hopeless fight,
our brave foes will award the red badge of honor—as our own hearts will
ever strive to deserve it for their sakes.

The horror of military execution was now upon us. Nothing so distressed
my father and myself. Finally General Lee offered the men who had
deserted a last opportunity to wipe out their disgrace and escape the
punishment of their crimes. He granted, by authority of the government,
amnesty to those who would report to the nearest officer on duty within
twenty days, thus giving them the privilege of reëntering the service
in companies where they would not be known.

"Let us," said the general, "oppose constancy to adversity, fortitude
to suffering, and courage to danger, with the firm assurance that He who
gave freedom to our fathers will bless the efforts of their children to
preserve it."

Alas! few availed themselves of this solemn appeal to their manhood.

Meanwhile we received occasional letters from our prisoner in Fort
Lafayette. He was confined in a casemate with about twenty men. A small
grate for burning coal sufficed for the preparation of their rations,
which were issued to them raw. They lay upon straw mats on the floor.
Once daily they could walk upon the ramparts, and my husband's eyes
turned sadly to the dim outlines of the beautiful city where he had
often been an honored guest. The veil which hid from him so much of
the grief and struggle of the future hid also the reward. Little did
he dream he should administer justice on the supreme bench of the
mist-veiled city.

His letters bore but one theme, his earnest prayer for exchange, so that
he might do his part in our defence.

One night all these things weighed more heavily than usual upon me,—the
picket firing, the famine, the military executions, the dear one "sick
and in prison." I sighed audibly, and my son, Theodorick, who slept near
me, asked the cause, adding, "Why can you not sleep, dear mother?"

"Suppose," I replied, "you repeat something for me."

He at once commenced, "Tell me not in mournful numbers"—and repeated
the "Psalm of Life." I did not sleep; those brave words were not strong
enough for the situation.

He paused, and presently his young voice broke the stillness:—

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy
name"—going on to the end of the beautiful psalm of adoration and faith
which nineteen centuries have decreed to be in very truth a Psalm of
Life.

I felt great responsibility in keeping with me my sons, now ten and
twelve years old. At a farmhouse about fifteen miles in the country a
member of the family was living, and availing myself of a passing wagon,
I sent the boys to share his plenty and comfort. A few days afterwards
they returned—a dusty, footsore pair of urchins. They had run away and
come home! Moreover, they had found an old horse left on the roadside
to die,—which Roger refused to leave,—had shared their luncheon with
him, given him water, assisted him to his feet, and by slow stages led
him home!

"Oh! _how_ shall we feed him?" I exclaimed, in despair.

"I'll help," said Captain Lindsay; "he shall be immediately introduced
to my mare, and she shall share her oats with him;" and a very
sober-minded, steady horse he proved to be, quite good enough to be
stolen, as he finally was, by the enemy.

My friend, General Wilcox, put my own friendship to a severe test
one morning. Standing by the mantel in his accustomed attitude,
he informed me that he had received many kind attentions from the
ladies of Petersburg (I was aware of an affair of the heart in which
a pretty widow was concerned), and he proposed to give a _déjeuner à
la fourchette_, and invite them out to his tent. Would I chaperon the
occasion, and might my parlor be used as a reception room?

"Of course, General!" I replied. "They will be welcome to me, and to the
parlor. The '_fourchette_' will be forthcoming without fail, but where,
oh, where can we find the '_déjeuner_'?"

"I have thought of all that," said the General. "I will send half a
dozen fellows out with guns to bring in birds. I'll get John to make
some cakes and biscuits, we'll brew a bowl of punch. _Voilà!_ What more
do you want?"

"That will be fine," I assured him, and accordingly his invitations were
sent, handsomely written, to about thirty people. A load of evergreens
was delivered at the tent, and all hands set to work to weave garlands.
Every candle in camp was "pressed." John made a fine success of his
sponge cakes, and also fruit and nut cake—the fruit, disguised dried
apples, the nuts, walnuts.

The day before the event the General leaned, a dejected figure, against
the mantel.

"Those—blamed—soldiers have returned. They didn't bag a bird."

"I feared that! Virginia partridges are hunted with dogs. Besides, where
can you find game within twenty miles of an army?"

"Well, it will take six months' pay, but we must buy oysters. I don't
know what else we can do."

"General," I said, "suppose you have a breakfast like one Mrs. ——, from
North Carolina, gave here when she stayed with me last month. She had
little _ménus_ neatly written, including various dishes. The dishes,
however, were imaginary. They did not appear! The guests left with the
impression that these things had been provided, but that accidents which
were to be counted on in time of war had spoiled them. Now, John could
easily announce a fall of soot from the chimney,—like Caleb Balderstone!
Aunt Jinny would make an admirable 'Mysie.' Have you never heard her
'skirl'? We might imagine partridges, turkey, and ham, and then imagine
the accidents. What could be simpler?"

The General's breakfast was a great success. The weather was fine. One
of his staff, who was not invited, confided to me his fear that there
would be nothing left! And, indeed, the guests brought noble appetites.
The General took in the pretty widow. General A. P. Hill honored me. A
gay procession of open wagons filled with merry guests left the door at
sunset, and sang "The Bonnie Blue Flag" as they wended their way home.
General Lee from his headquarters could hear the song, and doubtless it
cheered his sympathetic heart, albeit he knew a battle was near at hand.
He could not know that in that battle General Hill and Colonel Pegram
would fall with all their wounds in front, among the first of those
martyrs whose lives were sacrificed after the leaders _knew_ there was
no more life in the cause for which they died.

Our friends in town sent many invitations to us dwellers in tents. Of
course, I accepted none of them. I had no heart for gayety, and not
one moment's time to spare from my sewing. It is passing strange—this
disposition to revel in times of danger and suffering. Florence was
never so gay as during the Plague! The men of our army who had been
absent three years were now near their homes, and they abandoned
themselves to the opportunities of the hour. Some of them were engaged
to the beautiful young women of Petersburg. "This is no time for
marriage," said General Lee, "no time while the country is in such
peril;" and yet he granted a furlough now and then to some soldier who
was unwilling to wait.

There were parties, "starvation parties," as they were called on
account of the absence of refreshments impossible to be obtained. Not
even the lump of sugar allowed by Lady Morgan at her _conversaziones_
was possible here; but notwithstanding this serious disadvantage, ball
followed ball in quick succession. "The soldier danced with the lady
of his love at night, and on the morrow danced the dance of death in
the deadly trench on the line." There the ranks closed up; and in the
ball room they closed up also. There was always a comrade left for the
partner of the belle; and not one whit less valiant was the soldier
for his brief respite. He could go from the dance to his place in the
trenches with a light jest, however heavy his heart might be. And when
the beloved commander ordered him forth, he could step out with martial
tread and cheer and song—to the march or into battle. I think all who
remember the dark days of the winter of 1864-1865 will bear witness to
the unwritten law enforcing cheerfulness. It was tacitly understood that
we must make no moan, yield to no outward expression of despondency or
despair.

On January 30 General Wilcox came in, bringing great news. Three
commissioners authorized to meet representatives of the Federal
government had arrived in Petersburg _en route_ for Fortress Monroe.
They were Vice-President Stephens, Senator R. M. T. Hunter, and James
A. Campbell, former Assistant Justice of the Supreme Court of the United
States, and now Assistant Secretary of War of the Confederate States.

"I thought," said the General, "you might come out and listen to the
cheering. It is echoed by the enemy. There seems to be no doubt of the
feeling on both sides."

I begged the General to lend me an ambulance, and drove out to the
front. The troops of Fort Gregg and Battery 45—just in the rear of my
garden—had come out and were cheering vociferously. There seemed to be
a truce for the moment. We could distinctly hear the answering cheers
from the opposing fortifications.

My ambulance drew up to the side of the road, and presently an open
carriage appeared, with the mayor and the three commissioners. They
paused for a few minutes before crossing the line. With my heart beating
painfully, I left my ambulance and walked to the carriage. There Mr.
Hunter greeted me kindly and introduced me to his companions. Trembling
with emotion, I said:—

"My errand is to you, dear Mr. Hunter. You are going to see President
Lincoln or his representative. I entreat you, I implore you, to remember
your friend General Pryor. He is breaking his heart in prison. Beg his
release from Mr. Lincoln."

"I will—we will," they promised. The carriage proceeded, and as it
crossed the line a mighty cheer went up from the hundreds of soldiers,
Confederate and Union, who were standing on duty and looking on.

In an instant we were enemies again, and I was hastening out of the
range of shot and shell.

On February 5 the commissioners returned from their bootless errand.
Mr. Hunter wrote me that they had "remembered Pryor as was promised,
but his release would not be considered."

An extract from Order No. 2, February 11, 1865, from General Lee,
explains the manner in which our proposals had been received:—

"The choice between war and abject submission is before us.

"To such a proposal, brave men, with arms in their hands, can have but
one answer.

"They cannot barter manhood for peace, nor the right of self-government
for life or property.

"Taking new resolution from the fate which our enemies intend for us,
let every man devote all his energies to the common defence."

I am afraid we were too faint from want of food to be as courageous as
our noble commander expected. Flour was now selling for $1500 a barrel;
bacon, $20 a pound; beef, $15 ditto: butter could be had at $20 a pound.
One chicken could be bought for $50. Shad sold for $50 a pair (before
the war the price was not more than ten or fifteen cents). One hundred
dollars was asked for one dollar in gold, making the price I had given
to save John from a negro trader $10,600!—news which he heard with such
concern that I hastened to tell him I had never regretted it.

John bethought himself of the fishes in the pond and streams, but not
a fish-hook was for sale in Richmond or Petersburg. He contrived, out
of a cunning arrangement of pins, to make hooks, and sallied forth
with my boys. But the water was too cold, or the fish had been driven
down-stream by the firing. The usual resource of the sportsman with an
empty creel—a visit to the fishmonger—was quite out of the question.
There was no fishmonger any more.

Under these circumstances you may imagine my sensations at receiving
the following note:—

     "MY DEAR MRS. PRYOR: General Lee has been honored by a visit
     from the Hon. Thomas Connolly, Irish M.P. from Donegal.

     "He ventures to request you will have the kindness to give Mr.
     Connolly a room in your cottage, if this can be done without
     inconvenience to yourself."

Certainly I could give Mr. Connolly a room; but just as certainly I
could not feed him! The messenger who brought the note hastily reassured
me. He had been instructed to say that Mr. Connolly would mess with
General Lee. I turned Mr. Connolly's room over to John, who soon became
devoted to his service. The M.P. proved a most agreeable guest, a
fine-looking Irish gentleman with an irresistibly humorous, cheery fund
of talk. He often dropped in at our biscuit toasting, and assured us
that we were better provided than the commander-in-chief.

"You should have seen 'Uncle Robert's' dinner to-day, Madam! He had two
biscuits, and he gave me one."

Another time Mr. Connolly was in high feather.

"We had a glorious dinner to-day! Somebody sent 'Uncle Robert' a box of
sardines."

General Lee, however, was not forgotten. On fine mornings quite a
procession of little negroes, in every phase of raggedness, used to
pass my door, each one bearing a present from the farmers' wives of
buttermilk in a tin pail, for General Lee. The army was threatened
with scurvy, and buttermilk, hominy, and every vegetable that could be
obtained was sent to the hospital.

Mr. Connolly interested himself in my boys' Latin studies.

"I am going home," he said, "and tell the English women what I have seen
here: two boys reading Cæsar while the shells are thundering, and their
mother looking on without fear."

"I am too busy keeping the wolf from my door," I told him, "to concern
myself with the thunderbolts."

The wolf was no longer at the door! He had entered and had taken up
his abode at the fireside. Besides what I could earn with my needle, I
had only my father's army ration to rely upon. My faithful John foraged
right and left, and I had reason to doubt the wisdom of inquiring too
closely as to the source of an occasional half-dozen eggs or small bag
of corn. This last he would pound on a wooden block for hominy. Meal
was no longer procurable. As I have said, we might occasionally purchase
for five dollars the head of a bullock from the commissary, every other
part of the animal being available for army rations. By self-denial on
our own part, we fondly hoped we could support our army and at last win
our cause. We were not, at the time, fully aware of the true state of
things. Our men were so depleted from starvation that the most trifling
wound would end fatally. Gangrene would supervene, and then nothing
could be done to prevent death. Long before this time, at Vicksburg,
Admiral Porter found that many a dead soldier's haversack yielded
nothing but a handful of parched corn. _We_ were now enduring a sterner
siege.

Before daylight, on the 2d of March, General Lee sent for General
Gordon, who was with his command at a distant part of the line.[22]
Upon arriving, General Gordon was much affected by seeing General Lee
standing at the mantel in his room, his head bowed on his folded arms.
The room was dimly lighted by a single lamp, and a smouldering fire was
dying on the hearth. The night was cold and General Lee's room chill
and cheerless.

"I have sent for you, General Gordon," said General Lee, with a dejected
voice and manner, "to make known to you the condition of our affairs
and consult with you as to what we had best do. I have here reports
sent in from my officers to-night. I find I have under my command, of
all arms, hardly forty-five thousand men. These men are starving. They
are already so weakened as to be hardly efficient. Many of them have
become desperate, reckless, and disorderly as they have never been
before. It is difficult to control men who are suffering for food.
They are breaking open mills, barns, and stores in search of it. Almost
crazed from hunger, they are deserting in large numbers and going home.
My horses are in equally bad condition. The supply of horses in the
country is exhausted. It has come to be just as bad for me to have a
horse killed as a man. I cannot remount a cavalryman whose horse dies.
General Grant can mount ten thousand men in ten days and move around
your flank. If he were to send me word to-morrow that I might move out
unmolested, I have not enough horses to move my artillery. He is not
likely to send me any such message, although he sent me word yesterday
that he knew what I had for breakfast every morning. I sent him word I
did not think that this could be so, for if he did he would surely send
me something better.

"But now let us look at the figures. As I said, I have forty-five
thousand starving men. Hancock has eighteen thousand at Winchester.
To oppose him I have not a single vidette. Sheridan, with his terrible
cavalry, has marched unmolested and unopposed along the James, cutting
the railroads and the canal. Thomas is coming from Knoxville with thirty
thousand well-equipped troops, and I have, to oppose him, not more than
three thousand in all. Sherman is in North Carolina with sixty-five
thousand men.... So I have forty-five thousand poor fellows in bad
condition opposed to one hundred and sixty thousand strong and confident
men. These forces, added to General Grant's, make over a quarter of a
million. To prevent them all from uniting to my destruction, and adding
Johnston's and Beauregard's men, I can oppose only sixty thousand men.
They are growing weaker every day. Their sufferings are terrible and
exhausting. My horses are broken down and impotent. General Grant may
press around our flank any day and cut off our supplies."

As a result of this conference General Lee went to Richmond to make one
more effort to induce our government to treat for peace. It was on his
return from an utterly fruitless errand that he said:—

"I am a soldier! It is my duty to obey orders;" and the final disastrous
battles were fought.

It touches me to know now that it was after this that my beloved
commander found heart to turn aside and bring me comfort. No one knew
better than he all I had endeavored and endured, and my heart blesses
his memory for its own sake. At this tremendous moment, when he had
returned from his fruitless mission to Richmond, when the attack on
Fort Steadman was impending, when his slender line was confronted by
Grant's ever increasing host, stretching twenty miles, when the men were
so starved, so emaciated, that the smallest wound meant death, when his
own personal privations were beyond imagination, General Lee could spend
half an hour for my consolation and encouragement.

Cottage Farm being on the road between headquarters and Fort Gregg—the
fortification which held General Grant in check at that point—I saw
General Lee almost daily going to this work, or to "Battery 45." On
Sundays he regularly passed on his famous horse, Traveller, on his way
to a little wooden chapel, going often through sleet and rain, bending
his head to shield his face from the storm.

I was, as was my custom, sewing in my little parlor one morning, about
the middle of March, when an orderly entered, saying:—

"General Lee wishes to make his respects to Mrs. Pryor." The General
was immediately behind him. His face was lighted with the anticipation
of telling me his good news. With the high-bred courtesy and kindness
which always distinguished his manner, he asked kindly after my welfare,
and, taking my little girl in his arms, began gently to break his news
to me:—

"How long, Madam, was General Pryor with me before he had a furlough?"

"He never had one, I think," I answered.

"Well, did I not take good care of him until we camped here so close to
you?"

"Certainly," I said, puzzled to know the drift of these preliminaries.

"I sent him home to you, I remember," he continued, "for a day or two,
and you let the Yankees catch him. Now he is coming back to be with you
again on parole until he is exchanged. You must take better care of him
in future."

I was too much overcome to do more than stammer a few words of thanks.

Presently he added, "What are you going to say when I tell the General
that in all this winter you have never once been to see me?"

"Oh, General Lee," I answered, "I had too much mercy to join in your
buttermilk persecution!"

"Persecution!" he said; "such things keep us alive! Last night, when
I reached my headquarters, I found a card on my table with a hyacinth
pinned to it, and these words: 'for General Lee, with a kiss!' Now," he
added, tapping his breast, "I have here my hyacinth and my card—_and I
mean to find my kiss_!"

He was amused by the earnest eyes of my little girl, as she gazed into
his face.

"They have a wonderful liking for soldiers," he said. "I knew one little
girl to give up all her pretty curls willingly, that she might look
like Custis! 'They _might_ cut my hair like Custis's,' she said. Custis!
whose shaven head does not improve him in any eyes but hers."

His manner was the perfection of repose and simplicity. As he talked
with me I remembered that I had heard of this singular calmness. Even
at Gettysburg, and at the explosion of the crater, he had evinced no
agitation or dismay. I did not know then, as I do now, that nothing had
ever approached the anguish of this moment, when he had come to say an
encouraging and cheering word to me, after abandoning all hope of the
success of the cause.

After talking awhile and sending a kind message to my husband, to greet
him on his return, he rose, walked to the window, and looked over the
fields—the fields through which, not many days afterward, he dug his
last trenches!

I was moved to say, "You only, General, can tell me if it is worth my
while to put the ploughshare into those fields."

"Plant your seeds, Madam," he replied; sadly adding, after a moment,
"the doing it will be some reward."

I was answered. I thought then he had little hope. I now know he had
none.

He had already, as we have seen, remonstrated against further
resistance—against the useless shedding of blood. His protest had been
unheeded. It remained for him now to gather his forces for endurance to
the end.

Twenty days afterward his headquarters were in ashes; he had led his
famished army across the Appomattox; and, telling them they had done
their duty, and had nothing to regret, he had bidden them farewell
forever.



CHAPTER XXII

THE EVACUATION OF PETERSBURG


The happy day was not distant when the husband and father of our little
family was to be restored to his own home and his own people.

I never inquired the source from which John drew his materials for a
festival; but, a day or two before my husband was to arrive, he appeared
with a small duck! This he roasted to perfection, to be served cold, as
the hour for the dinner could not be determined in advance.

We were all expectation and excitement when a lady drove up rapidly and
asked for shelter, as she had been "driven in from the lines." Shelter I
could give by spreading quilts on the parlor floor—but, alas, my duck!
Must my precious duck be sacrificed upon the altar of hospitality? I
unlocked the little tin safe to assure myself that I could manage to
keep it hidden, and behold, it was gone! Not until next day, when it was
placed before my husband with a triumphant flourish (our unwelcome guest
had departed), did I discover that John had stolen it! "Why, there's
the duck!" I exclaimed.

"Course here's the duck," said John, respectfully. "Ducks got plenty of
sense. They knows as well as folks when to hide."

We found our released prisoner pale and thin, but devoutly thankful
to be at home. Mr. Connolly and the officers around us called in the
evening, keenly anxious to hear his story, and heartily expressing
their joy at his release. My friends in Washington had wished to send
me some presents, but my husband declined them, accepting only two
cans of pineapple. Mr. Connolly sent out for the "boys in the yard"
and assisted me in dividing the fruit into portions, so each one should
have a bit. It was served on all the saucers and butter-plates we could
find, and Mr. Connolly himself handed the tray around, exclaiming, "Oh,
lads! It is just the _best_ thing you ever tasted!" Then each soldier
brought forth his brier-root and gathered around the traveller for his
story. His story was a thrilling one—of his capture, his incarceration,
his comrades; finally, of the unexpected result of the efforts of his
ante-bellum friends, Washington McLean and John W. Forney, for his
release. It was ascertained by these friends in Washington that he
was detained as hostage for the safety of some Union officer whom the
Confederate government had threatened to put to death.

Mr. McLean and Colonel Forney first approached General Grant. The
General positively refused to grant their request. Then Mr. McLean
visited Mr. Stanton. He found Mr. Stanton in the library of his own
home, with his daughter in his arms, and the following conversation
ensued:—

"This is a charming fireside picture, Mr. Secretary! I warrant that
little lady cares nothing for war or the Secretary of War! She has her
father, and that fills all her ambition."

"You never said a truer word, did he, pet?" pressing the curly head
close to his bosom.

"Well, then, Stanton, you will understand my errand. There are curly
heads down there in old Virginia, weeping out their bright eyes for a
father loved just as this pretty baby loves you."

"Yes, yes! Probably so," said Stanton.

"Now—there's Pryor—"

But before another word could be said the Secretary of War pushed the
child from his knee and thundered:—

"He shall be hanged! Damn him!"

But he had reckoned without his host when he supposed that Washington
McLean would not appeal from that verdict. Armed with a letter of
introduction from Horace Greeley, Mr. McLean visited Mr. Lincoln. The
President remembered General Pryor's uniformly generous treatment of
prisoners who had, at various times, fallen into his custody, especially
his capture at Manassas of the whole camp of Federal wounded, surgeons
and ambulance corps, and his prompt parole of the same. Mr. Lincoln
listened attentively, and, after ascertaining all the facts, issued
an order directing Colonel Burke, the commander at Fort Lafayette, to
"deliver Roger A. Pryor into the custody of Washington McLean."

Armed with this order, Mr. McLean visited Fort Lafayette, where he found
his friend in close confinement in the casemate with other prisoners.

At that time John Y. Beall, a Confederate officer, was confined with
General Pryor, under sentence of death as a spy. Mr. McLean became
interested in his fate, and suggested that if General Pryor would make a
personal appeal in his behalf to President Lincoln, his execution might
probably be prevented. To that end, Mr. McLean telegraphed a request
to Mr. Lincoln, that he accord General Pryor an interview, to which
a favorable response was promptly returned. The next evening, General
Pryor, with Mr. McLean and Mr. Forney, called at the White House, and
was graciously received by the President. General Pryor at once opened
his intercession in behalf of Captain Beall; but, although Mr. Lincoln
evinced the sincerest compassion for the young man, and an extreme
aversion to his death, he felt constrained to yield to the assurance
of General Dix, in a telegram just received, that the execution was
indispensable to the security of the Northern cities—it being believed,
though erroneously, that Captain Beall was implicated in the burning
of the New York hotels. Mr. Lincoln then turned the conversation to the
recent conference at Hampton Roads, the miscarriage of which he deplored
with the profoundest sorrow. He said that had the Confederate government
agreed to the reëstablishment of the Union and the abolition of slavery,
the people of the South might have been compensated for the loss of
their negroes and would have been protected by a universal amnesty,
but that Mr. Jefferson Davis made the recognition of the Confederacy a
condition _sine qua non_ of any negotiations. Thus, he declared, would
Mr. Davis be responsible for every drop of blood that should be shed
in the further prosecution of the war, a futile and wicked effusion of
blood, since it was then obvious to every sane man that the Southern
armies must be speedily crushed. On this topic he dwelt so warmly and at
such length that General Pryor inferred that he still hoped the people
of the South would reverse Mr. Davis's action, and would renew the
negotiations for peace. Indeed, he declared in terms that he could not
believe the senseless obstinacy of Mr. Davis represented the sentiment
of the South. It was apparent to General Pryor that Mr. Lincoln desired
him to sound leading men of the South on the subject. Accordingly, on
the General's return to Richmond, he did consult with Senator Hunter and
other prominent men in the Confederacy, but with one voice they assured
him that nothing could be done with Mr. Davis, and that the South had
only to wait the imminent and inevitable catastrophe.

The inevitable catastrophe marched on apace.

Agnes wrote from Richmond, March 28—the last letter I received from the
Confederate capital:—

     "I do hate to write you bad news just now when you should be
     so happy with our dear General, but, really and truly, I don't
     at all like the looks of things here. Sheridan is at Ashland.
     And General Sherman has finished up North Carolina, and is in
     Virginia!

     "I made an excursion through some of the Main Street stores
     last week—and recognized some of Mrs. Davis's things. I
     learned that she had placed a great many articles at the
     dry-goods stores for sale and had sold her horses. And now
     comes the surprising news, that she has left the city with
     her family. What does all this mean? Some of the girls here
     have taken their jewellery to the Treasury Department, giving
     it to help redeem the currency. I am sure they are welcome to
     all mine!"

On the morning of April 2 we were all up early that we might prepare
and send to Dr. Claiborne's Hospital certain things we had suddenly
acquired. An old farmer friend of my husband had loaded a wagon with
peas, potatoes, dried fruit, hominy, and a little bacon, and had sent
it as a welcoming present. We had been told of the prevalence of scurvy
in the hospitals, and had boiled a quantity of hominy, and also of dried
fruit, to be sent with the potatoes for the relief of the sick.

My husband said to me at our early breakfast:—

"How soundly you can sleep! The cannonading was awful last night. It
shook the house."

"Oh, that is only Fort Gregg," I answered. "Those guns fire incessantly.
I don't consider them. You've been shut up in a casemate so long you've
forgotten the smell of powder."

Our father, who happened to be with us that morning, said:—

"By the bye, Roger, I went to see General Lee, and told him you seemed
to be under the impression that if your division moves, you should go
along with it. The General said emphatically: 'That would be violation
of his parole, Doctor. Your son surely knows he cannot march with the
army until he is exchanged.'"

This was a great relief to me, for I had been afraid of a different
construction.

After breakfast I repaired to the kitchen to see the pails filled for
the hospital, and to send Alick and John on their errand.

Presently a message was brought me that I must join my husband, who
had walked out to the fortification behind the garden. I found a low
earthwork had been thrown up during the night still nearer our house,
and on it he was standing.

I have had, very lately, access to a Federal map of the intrenched lines
in the immediate front of Petersburg, drawn by a major of engineers
of the United States Army. There I find a double line of breastworks,
protected by thirty-four forts sweeping around the city and embracing
some six or eight miles of country beyond, on either side. Within the
Federal line is a little thread of a line protected by lunettes and
only _two_ forts (for this map has quite a Chinese feeling), and these
two are named by the enemy, Fort Gregg and Fort Baldwin—the latter our
Battery 45. To my surprise I find the engineer had his eye on me all
winter. Near together are certain dots—two for "Turnbull" (General
Lee's headquarters), two for "Green," two for "Laighton," and four
for "Pryor," representing the dwelling, office, kitchen, and servants'
quarter at Cottage Farm! I perceive from the map that the engineer knew
all about us all the time.

To return to the morning of April 2—my husband held out his hand and
drew me up on the breastwork beside him. Negroes were passing, wheeling
their barrows, containing the spades they had just used. Below was a
plain, and ambulances were collecting and stopping at intervals. Then a
slender gray line stretched across under cover of the first earthwork
and the forts. Fort Gregg and Battery 45 were belching away with all
their might, answered by guns all along the line. While we gazed on
all this the wood opposite seemed alive, and out stepped a division
of bluecoats—muskets shining and banners flying in the morning sun. My
husband exclaimed: "My God! What a line! They are going to fight here
right away. Run home and get the children in the cellar."

When I reached the little encampment behind the house, I found the
greatest confusion. Tents were struck and a wagon was loading with them.
Captain Glover rode up to me and conjured me to leave immediately. I
reminded him of his promise not to allow me to be surprised.

"We are ourselves surprised," he said; "believe me, your life is
not safe here a moment." Tapping his breast, he continued, "I bear
despatches proving what I say."

I ran into the house and gathered my little children. I bade the
servants remain. If things grew warm, they had the cellar, and perhaps
their presence would save their own goods and mine, should the day go
against us. Uncle Frank immediately repaired to the cellar. "I have
only one order," I told the rest, "hide the General's flag." As I left
(bareheaded, I could not find my hat), I heard Uncle Frank call from the
little portholes of his retreat to his wife, "For Gawd's sake, Jinny,
bring me a gode of water."

The morning was close and warm, and as we toiled up the dusty road
I regretted the loss of my hat. Presently I met a gentleman driving
rapidly from town. It was my neighbor, Mr. Laighton. He had removed his
wife and little girls to a place of safety and was returning for me. He
proposed, as we were now out of musket range, that I should rest with
the children under the shade of a tree, and he would return to the farm
to see if he could save something—what did I suggest? I asked that he
would bring a change of clothing for the children and my medicine chest.

As we waited for his return some terrified horses dashed up the road,
one with blood flowing from his nostrils. When Mr. Laighton finally
returned, he brought news that he had seen my husband, that all the
cooked provisions were spread out for the passing soldiers, and that
more were in preparation; also that he had promised to take care of me,
and to leave the General free to dispense these things judiciously. John
had put the service of silver into the buggy, and Eliza had packed a
trunk, for which he was to return. This proved to be the French trunk
in which Eliza sent a change of clothing.

We were all soon in the buggy and on our way to town.

"Where shall I take you?" asked Mr. Laighton. I had no answer ready.
I thought I would trust to chance for an invitation. But we found the
streets full of refugees like ourselves, and like ourselves, uncertain
of shelter. Very few of our friends had remained in the city after the
siege had proven to be a permanent one.

After a while, as we drove slowly through the crowded streets, we met
Mr. Stuart, my husband's tailor. He said a good house had been left
vacant by one of his customers, who had authorized him to rent it.

"I now rent it to General Pryor," said Mr. Stuart, and he conducted
us to the door of a residence near my old home on Washington Street.
When the door-bell was answered he informed a man whom he addressed as
Robert, that we had become his master's tenants, and said that Robert
and his mother, now in the house, would not be required to leave,
adding:—

"Take good care of this lady. I will see that your wages are paid and
that you are suitably rewarded."

The silver service was dumped down in the front porch, and there we
awaited events. About noon John appeared. He had saved something!—my
champagne glasses! He had also brought a basket of biscuits. I sent him
back to the farm, strictly ordering that the flag should be cared for.
John told me it was safe. He had hidden it under some fence rails in the
cellar. As to the battle, he had no news, except that "Marse Roger is
giving away everything on the earth. All the presents from the farmer
will go in a little while."

My next envoy from the seat of war was Alick, who walked into the yard,
leading Rose by a rope, and at once proceeded to stable her. Go back?
No, _marm_, not if he knew his name was Alick. His mammy had never
borned him to be in no battle! And walking off to give Rose a pail of
water, he informed her that "You'n me, Rose, is the only folks I see
anywhar 'bout here with any sense."

Neighbors soon discovered us; and to my joy I found that Mrs. Gibson,
Mrs. Meade, and Mr. Bishop—one of my father's elders—were in their own
houses, very near my temporary shelter.

Our father, I learned afterwards, was with the hospital service of his
corps, and had been sent to the rear.

The hospitals under Dr. Claiborne were ordered off early in the day,
a significant indication of General Lee's accurate estimate of the
probabilities of the hour. Dr. Claiborne had three thousand sick and
wounded men to move. Among them was Colonel Riddick, from Smithfield,
the brother of the spirited girl I had known there. She had come to
Petersburg to nurse her wounded brother, and had left, in a wagon, with
the hospital train. Part of this train was captured, and the wagons
were ordered to be burned; but Miss Riddick positively refused to leave
her seat, and as they could not burn the wagon with her in it, she was
suffered to proceed with her brother in her own equipage. Miss Riddick
was not a young lady who need fear. "There's a divinity doth hedge" some
women. She was courteously treated and passed through the lines to her
friends.

  [Illustration]

In the evening the little boys came in with confidential news. The day
had gone against us; the city was to be surrendered after the retreat
of the army at midnight. Their father would come in with the last.

I remembered with anguish that I had lost my chance to save the
important papers of the family. In a trunk in my room I had locked all
my one lover's beautiful letters, all the correspondence—so rich I had
meant to print it—of his residence in Greece, of his travels in the East
and in Egypt; all the letters from statesmen and authors of the years
preceding the struggle. There they were. They would be sport for the
enemy in a few hours. My eldest son, Theodorick, and Campbell Pryor, my
husband's twelve-year-old brother, agreed to return to the farm, draw
the trunk out to the rear of the kitchen, break it open, set fire to
the contents, and not leave until they were consumed.

In due time the boys returned, having accomplished the burning of the
letters, but bearing between them a huge bundle—a sheet full of papers.
"Father's sermons," explained Campbell.

When the time came for my tired little brood to go to bed, I found
three upper rooms prepared for us. In one of these I put the boys, first
placing the large silver tray between two mattresses. A hamper filled
with soiled towels and pinafores stood in a corner. Therein I bestowed
the six pieces of the service, covering the whole with the soiled linen.
A smaller room I reserved for my husband, into which I locked him,
putting the key in my pocket—for he had returned in such an excited
frame of mind, and in such physical exhaustion, that I was uneasy about
him, lest he might, when the army passed, yield to his feelings and go
along with it.

Then I took my seat at the window and listened. The firing had all
ceased.

A ring at the door-bell startled me. There stood Mayor Townes, come to
ask if General Pryor would go out with the flag of truce and surrender
the city.

"Oh, he cannot—he cannot," I declared. "How can you ask him to surrender
his old home? Besides, he is worn out, and is now sleeping heavily."

About two o'clock, General Lee passed the house with his staff. It is
said he looked back and said to his aide: "This is just what I told them
at Richmond. The line has been stretched until it snapped." Presently
there was a loud explosion—another—another. The bridges were being blown
up. Then fires announced the burning of warehouses of tobacco.

And then! As the dawn broke, I saw the Federal pickets entering
silently, watchfully. Finding no resistance, they threw their muskets
over into the yard and hurried down town to plunder!

I awoke my boys. "Get up, boys! Dress quickly. Now remember, you must
be very self-controlled and quiet, and no harm will come to you."

Immediately the door of my room was thrown wide open, and Robert ushered
in three armed, German-looking soldiers.

"What do you want?" I asked.

"To search the house," they answered.

"You will find nothing worth your while. There is my shawl! I have just
run in from the lines. Here are my children."

"We don't want your clothes," said one; "we want your prisoner."

My husband had heard and knocked at his door. He had not undressed.

"Here I am," he said, coming out and fastening his collar; and, before
I could think, they had marched him off.

I was left alone with the boy Robert, who had betrayed him. He stood
trembling, not with fear—with excitement.

"Leave this house!" I ordered him.

"What for?" he asked sullenly.

"Because you are no friend of mine. This is now my house. You are not
to set foot in it again."

Strange to say, he left.

He had admitted into the house more soldiers than these three. I had
brought with me from the farm a little negress, Lizzie, who had been
hired by Eliza "to amuse the baby." Lizzie had obeyed the instinct which
always leads a child's Southern nurse to the kitchen, and had gone below
with my baby. I heard the most tremendous stamping and singing in the
basement kitchen, and from the top of the staircase I called to Lizzie,
who ran up, frightened, with the child in her arms. A soldier looked up
from the bottom.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"Getting breakfast," he replied.

"You'll get none here," I told him.

He set his bayonet forward and started up the steps. I slipped back and
luckily found a bolt on the door. Quick as thought I bolted him out.

But I was burningly indignant. I saw the street full of troops standing,
and a young officer on horseback. I ran out and said to him:—

"Is it your pleasure we should be murdered in our houses? My kitchen is
full of soldiers."

"Where, where?" exclaimed the young fellow, dismounting and running in.

I conducted him to the bolted door, unfastened it, and had the
satisfaction of seeing him lay about with the flat of his sword to
good purpose. He placed a guard around the house. Moreover, his action
sustained me in my position, and the old woman in the kitchen greeted
me respectfully, apologized for her son, and promised faithful service
in the future.

But another and most bitter trial was in store for me. An approaching
army corps was hailed with shouts and cheers as it passed down
the street. At its head was borne the trophy that had aroused this
enthusiasm: our own sacred banner, given by the women of Petersburg
to the young colonel at Smithfield, and inscribed with the names of
the battles into which he had proudly borne it. It was coming back—a
captive! How grateful I felt that my husband had not seen it! "Ole Uncle
Frank's at the bottom of that business," said Alick,—and alas! we had
reason to suppose the polite old colored gentleman had purchased favor
by revealing the hiding-place of our banner. My husband soon returned.
He had presented Mr. Lincoln's card, on which the President had written
his "parole until exchanged." Thereafter he was arrested and released
every time the occupying troops moved and were replaced by new brigades
and divisions.

We sat all day in the front room, watching the splendidly equipped host
as it marched by on its way to capture Lee. It soon became known that
we were there. Within the next few days we had calls from old Washington
friends. Among others my husband was visited by Elihu B. Washburne, and
Senator Henry Wilson, afterward Vice-President of the United States with
General Grant. These paid long visits and talked kindly and earnestly
of the South.

Major-General Warren had been relieved of his command and superseded by
Sheridan. His old friend, Randolph Harrison, lay ill and wounded near
us, and General Warren introduced himself to General Pryor and asked
to be conducted to his friend's bedside. From that time he was with us
every day, and, indorsed warmly by "Ranny," our old friend, he too was
admitted into our friendship.

Mr. Lincoln soon arrived and sent for my husband. But General Pryor
excused himself, saying that he was a paroled prisoner, that General
Lee was still in the field, and that he could hold no conference with
the head of the opposing army.

The splendid troops passed continually. Our hearts sank within us. We
had but one hope—that General Lee would join Joseph E. Johnston and find
his way to the mountains of Virginia, those ramparts of nature which
might afford protection until we could rest and recruit.



CHAPTER XXIII

RICHMOND SURRENDERS


                                      "RICHMOND, April 5, 1865.

     "_My dear:_—I am not at all sure you will ever receive this
     letter, but I shall risk it. _First_, I join you in humble
     thanks to God for the great mercy accorded both of us. Your
     General lives. My Colonel lives. What words can express our
     gratitude? What is the loss of home and goods compared with
     the loss of our own flesh and blood? Alas! Alas! for those
     who have lost all!

     "I am sure you will have heard the grewsome story of
     Richmond's evacuation. I was at St. Paul's Sunday, April 1,
     when a note was handed to President Davis. He rose instantly,
     and walked down the aisle—his face set, so we could read
     nothing. Dr. Minnegerode gave notice that General Ewell
     desired the forces to assemble at 3 P.M., and also that there
     would be no further service that day. I had seen no one speak
     to the doctor, and I wonder at the acuteness of his perception
     of the state of affairs. As soon as I reached the hotel I
     wrote a note to the proprietor, asking for news. He answered
     that grave tidings had come from Petersburg, and for himself
     he was by no means sure we could hold Richmond. He requested
     me to keep quiet and not encourage a tendency to excitement
     or panic. At first I thought I would read my services in the
     quiet of my little sky parlor at the Spotswood, but I was
     literally in a fever of anxiety. I descended to the parlor.
     Nobody was there except two or three children with their
     nurses. Later in the afternoon I walked out and met Mr. James
     Lyons. He said there was no use in further evading the truth.
     The lines were broken at Petersburg and that town and Richmond
     would be surrendered late at night—he was going out himself
     with the mayor and Judge Meredith with a flag of truce and
     surrender the city. Trains were already fired to carry the
     archives and bank officials. The President and his Cabinet
     would probably leave at the same time.

     "'And you, Judge?'

     "'I shall stand my ground. I have a sick family, and we must
     take our chances together.'

     "'Then seriously—really and truly—Richmond is to be given up,
     after all, to the enemy.'

     "'Nothing less! And we are going to have a rough time, I
     imagine.'

     "I could not be satisfied until I had seen Judge Campbell,
     upon whom we so much relied for good, calm sense. I found him
     with his hands full of papers, which he waved deprecatingly
     as I entered.

     "'Just a minute, Judge! I am alone at the Spotswood and—'

     "'Stay there, my dear lady! You will be perfectly safe. I
     advise all families to remain in their own houses. Keep quiet.
     I am glad to know the Colonel is safe. He may be with you soon
     now.'

     "With this advice I returned and mightily reassured and
     comforted the proprietor of the Spotswood. He immediately
     caused notice to be issued to his guests. I resolved to
     convey my news to the families I knew best. The Pegrams were
     in such deep affliction there was no room there for anxious
     fears about such small matters as the evacuation of cities,
     but I could see my dear Mrs. Paul, and Mrs. Maben, and say
     a comforting word at the Allan home—closed to all the world
     since poor John fell at Gettysburg. Mrs. Davis was gone and
     out of harm's way. The Lees were sacred from intrusion. Four
     members of that household—the General, 'Rooney,' Custis, and
     Robert—were all at the post of danger. Late in the afternoon
     three hundred or more prisoners were marched down the street;
     the negroes began to stand about, quietly observant but
     courteous, making no demonstration whatever. The day, you
     remember, was one of those glorious days we have in April,
     and millions on millions of stars watched at night, looking
     down on the watchers below. I expected to sit by my window all
     night as you always do in a troubled time, but sleep overtook
     me. I had slept, but not undressed, when a loud explosion
     shook the house—then another. There were crashing sounds of
     falling glass from the concussion. I found the sun had risen.
     All was commotion in the streets, and agitation in the hotel.
     The city government had dragged hogsheads of liquor from the
     shops, knocked in the heads, and poured the spirits into the
     gutters. They ran with brandy, whiskey, and rum, and men,
     women, and boys rushed out with buckets, pails, pitchers, and
     in the lower streets, hats and boots, to be filled. Before
     eight o'clock many public buildings were in flames, and a
     great conflagration was evidently imminent. The flames swept
     up Main Street, where the stores were quickly burned, and then
     roared down the side streets almost to Franklin.

     "The doors of all the government bakeries were thrown open
     and food was given to all who asked it. Women and children
     walked in and helped themselves. At ten o'clock the enemy
     arrived,—ten thousand negro troops, going on and on, cheered
     by the negroes on the streets.

     "So the morning passed—a morning of horror, of terror! Drunken
     men shouted and reeled through the streets, a black cloud from
     the burning city hung like a pall over us, a black sea of
     faces filled the street below, shells burst continuously in
     the ashes of the burning armory. About four in the afternoon
     a salute of thirty-four guns was fired. A company of mounted
     dragoons advanced up the street, escorting an open carriage
     drawn by four horses in which sat Mr. Lincoln and a naval
     officer, followed by an escort of cavalry. They drove straight
     to Mr. Davis's house, cheered all the way by negroes, and
     returned the way they came. I had a good look at Mr. Lincoln.
     He seemed tired and old—and I must say, with due respect to
     the President of the United States, I thought him the ugliest
     man I had ever seen. He was fairly elected the first time,
     I acknowledge,—but was he the last? A good many of the 'free
     and equal' were not allowed a vote then.

     "The next day I persuaded one of the lads in the hotel to
     take a walk with me early in the morning, and I passed General
     Lee's house. A Yankee guard was pacing to and fro before it—at
     which I felt an impulse of indignation,—but presently the door
     opened, the guard took his seat on the steps and proceeded
     to investigate the contents of a very neatly furnished tray,
     which Mrs. Lee in the kindness of her heart had sent out to
     him.

     "I am obliged to acknowledge that there is really no hope now
     of our ultimate success. Everybody says so. My heart is too
     full for words. General Johnson says we may comfort ourselves
     by the fact that war may decide a _policy_, but never a
     _principle_. I imagine our _principle_ is all that remains to
     us of hope or comfort.

          "Devotedly,
               "AGNES."

From my friend Admiral Porter I learned that he landed with President
Lincoln, and that through some _contretemps_ no equipage was in waiting
to conduct them through the streets of Richmond. They set out to walk,
escorted by twelve of the boat's crew with bayonets fixed on their
rifles. The day was warm, and the streets dusty, "owing to the immense
gathering of the crowd, kicking up the dirt." Mr. Lincoln took off his
hat and fanned his face, from which the perspiration was pouring, and
looked as if he would give his presidency for a glass of water.

The admiral, _par parenthèse_, told many negro anecdotes in negro
dialect, but, like all Northern imitators of that inimitable lingo,
he "slipped up" on many words. The negro does not say "Massa"—his word
is "Marster"; he does not say "_Bress_ de Lawd,"—"Thank Gawd A'mighty"
being his pious preference.

The triumphing party was overtaken by an equipage and a military
escort, and proceeded, according to the admiral, "to the mansion of Mr.
Davis.[23] It was quite a small affair compared with the White House,
and modest in all its appointments, showing that while President Davis
was engaged heart and soul in endeavoring to effect the division of the
states, he was not, at least, surrounding himself with regal style, but
was living in a modest, comfortable way, like any other citizen. Amid
all his surroundings the refined taste of his wife was apparent, and
marked everything about the apartments." Admiral Porter thought that
the Confederate government had departed in an ignoble manner, "that it
should have remained at the capital and surrendered in a dignified way,
making terms for the citizens of the place, guarding their rights, and
acknowledging they had lost the game. There was nothing to be ashamed
of in such a surrender to a vastly superior force; their armies had
fought as people never fought before. They had 'robbed the cradle and
the grave' to sustain themselves, and all that was wanted to make them
glorious was the submission of their leaders and troops in a dignified
way," etc.

This was also the feeling of many of our own best men—of General Lee
and scores of his officers, of Judge Campbell, of the private citizens
of Richmond. Mr. Davis differed from these men. General Lee's opinion
was known to his officers. General Gordon once said to him:—

"Have you expressed an opinion, as to the propriety of making terms, to
the President or to Congress?"[24]

His reply was: "General Gordon, I am a soldier. It is my duty to obey
orders.... It is enough to turn a man's hair gray to spend one day in
that Congress. The members are patriotic and earnest, but they will
neither take the responsibility of acting nor will they clothe me with
authority to act. As for Mr. Davis, he is unwilling to do anything short
of independence, and feels that it is useless to try to treat on that
basis." This conversation immediately preceded the terrible battle at
Petersburg, and the consequent loss of that city and Richmond. Much
could have been saved in blood and in treasure had the final battles
never taken place. "Whom the gods destroy they first infatuate."

       *       *       *       *       *

Intelligence of the death of President Lincoln reached Petersburg on the
17th of April. As he had been with us but a few days before, manifestly
in perfect health and in all the glow and gladness of the triumph of the
Federal arms, the community was unspeakably shocked by the catastrophe.
That he fell by the hand of an assassin, and that the deed was done by
a Confederate and avowedly in the interest of the Confederate cause,
were circumstances which distressed us with an apprehension that the
entire South would be held responsible for the atrocious occurrence.
The day after the tragic news reached us the people of Petersburg in
public meeting adopted resolutions deploring the President's death
and denouncing his assassination,—resolutions which gave expression to
the earnest and universal sentiment of Virginia. I question if, in any
quarter of the country, the virtues of Abraham Lincoln—as exhibited in
his spirit of forgiveness and forbearance—are more revered than in the
very section which was the battle-ground of the fight for independence
of his rule. It is certainly our conviction that had he lived the South
would never have suffered the shame and sorrow of the carpet-bag régime.



CHAPTER XXIV

SHERIDAN'S OCCUPATION OF PETERSBURG


Such alarming rumors reached us from the neighboring counties, of
marauding parties plundering private houses and frightening defenceless
women, that my husband obtained an extension of his parole, and
permission to visit his sisters in Nottoway County. He had not heard
from his father since the fight at Cottage Farm. Leaving me in the care
of my neighbor, good Mr. Bishop, he set forth.

The first stirring event of our new position was the arrival of
prisoners, marched through the streets under a strong guard. They
were a forlorn body of ragged, hatless, barefoot men. They had found
poles or sticks somewhere, and upon them they waved their hats and
handkerchiefs—the poor, brave fellows! We women stood at the doors of
our houses with smiles and encouraging words. One of the soldiers darted
from the ranks, rushed to me, _embraced me_ as if I were a sister, and
slipped his watch into my hands! It was a novel experience; but I think
if he had appeared as a prisoner in the garb of Beelzebub, horns, hoofs,
and all, I should not have flinched. Within the watch I found his name—a
connection of our family and a valued friend. He had recognized me, but
I could not recognize the elegant young colonel in his impersonation of
a ragged barefoot boy.

My little sons soon found the destination of the captives, also that
citizens were getting permits from headquarters to take them home.

"Then you must go and ask General Hartsuff for a permit," I said. Upon
inquiry it appeared that this could not be done by proxy. Some adult
member of the family must apply in person.

So I took my young escorts with me, and we went to "Centre Hill," the
fine Bolling House, where the General had made his headquarters. I
presented my plea. How many did I want? I thought I could take care of
eight. Their names? I could give only one, the owner of the watch. The
General kindly conceded that I might select my men, adding, "Would to
God I could release them all!"

The first impression I had of the temporary prison was of stifling heat
in which no one could live. The place smelt violently! My friend helped
me choose my men, and I was required to present myself with them, armed
with my order, to have my name and theirs entered in an army register,
with an order that they report every day until the command moved on. As
I was leaving the warehouse a fair-haired boy said to me, "Oh, take me
along too!"

"Take my arm," I said; and not until I reached the street did I realize
the enormity of my mistake. I had stolen a prisoner!

I knew well I could be severely punished. My boy soon told me his name.
He was Frank Brooke, nephew of our dear Judge Randolph Tucker.

But here was a dilemma. All night I revolved it in my mind. I had nine
men—eight were to report next morning. Very early Alick knocked at my
door.

"What is it now, Alick?"

"One of dem prisoners run away las' night! I hear de do' open and jump
up to see what's de matter. He say, 'Keep still, boy! Hit's all right!'"

"So it is, Alick," I said, "it's perfectly delightful."

I took a piece of my husband's silver service down to the Northern
sutler, and pawned it for two hundred dollars. With this money I
purchased shoes, handkerchiefs, and hats for my men, and kept them
in comfort for a week or more. They were then "moved on" to other and
distant quarters,—and all very soon liberated.

One morning early I was summoned from my room by Alick, who informed me
that four gentlemen had called. Descending to the parlor, I found four
officers in Federal uniform. As soon as I entered, one of them asked
brusquely:—

"How many rooms are in this house?"

"I think there are eight or ten."

"General Sheridan wants the house for his adjutant's office."

I was aware that General Sheridan had arrived the day before, and had
taken possession of Mr. Hamilton's elegant mansion on the next street,
in the rear of my little dwelling.

I at once perceived that the General, although in a house of twenty or
more rooms, had not desired the noise and inconvenience of an adjutant's
office under his own roof. I answered coldly:—

"I cannot oblige General Sheridan. My house is small. I need it for my
own family."

One of the officers rose, crossed the room, and, standing before me,
said sternly:—

"Madam, you seem to be unaware that when General Sheridan sees a house
that suits him, he knows how to make the terms for it."

"Ah, well," I replied, "I had forgotten that fact for the moment. Do I
understand my family must go in the street? How much time can you give
me to remove them?"

The officers withdrew into the hall and conferred together. Presently
one of them returned, and informed me courteously that they had
concluded not to annoy me. He was aware he was addressing Mrs. General
Pryor. His own name was Captain Lee, and he had been happy to spare me
inconvenience.

The next morning I was awakened soon after dawn by a tremendous hubbub
below me, and sending my little maid, Lizzie, to ascertain the cause,
she beckoned to me to come to the head of the stairs. I threw on my
gown, thrust my feet into my carpet slippers, and peeped over the
banister. Captain Lee was standing at the foot of the stair, writing a
note on the top of the newel post. Looking up, he saw me, and said: "I
was writing to you, Madam. General Sheridan has ordered us to take your
house. It is a military necessity. I pray you will try to be patient,
and I will do all I can to save you annoyance."

"How soon must I leave?"

"Not at all! We can allow you two rooms—the one you already occupy and
the one below it."

I appreciated the concession of the latter room, and busied myself to
make of it dining room and sitting room.

I brought beds from a rear room to my own chamber, for the lodging of my
family. Alick was positively stricken at the new turn things had taken;
but I represented to him and to the boys the grave necessity, in their
father's absence, of discreet and always courteous behavior.

To add to my embarrassment, John brought in several hundred books he had
picked up on the farm. They were dumped down in a pile in the corner of
my reception room.

The weather was intensely hot. It was impossible to sit with closed
doors. I locked the doors of my bedroom during the day, and all the
family, except myself, lived in the yard under my eyes, unless the rain
drove them within.

The first night of our captivity I had sent my baby with her small nurse
to bed. Hearing a heavy step overhead, I ran up to my room. Standing in
an easy attitude, leaning on the mantel, was a large negro man. He was
smoking a cigar and talking to Lizzie.

"What is your business here?" I asked.

"Only my pleasure—to pass away a little time."

"Look at me!"

The negro raised his eyes with an insolent smile. Slowly and with
emphasis I said:—

"Do you leave this room instantly! And mark well my words. If ever you
enter it again, I shall KILL you!"

He left, and alas, alas! my poor little Lizzie, whom I had hired from
her mother, left also; and not by me or by her friends was she ever seen
again!

Only those who have lived in an adjutant's office can know the ceaseless
noise, turmoil, tramping to and fro, loud talking night and day.
There was _no_ night. The gas (which they left me to pay for) burned
brightly all night. Officers were coming in for orders day and night. I
never knew to what use the upper rooms were put; I only know they were
rarely silent. All the business of a great army was transacted here,
that the General's entertaining, his elegant life, his sleep, might be
undisturbed.

The sentry was drawn so closely around my doors that I could never
enter the yard or garden without passing them. Finally, upon going out
to the little vine-clad summer-house to give my baby air—I cannot say
fresh air—one of the sentinels shook my equilibrium by informing me as
I passed:—

"We've caught Jeff Davis."

When I returned, my eyes cast down to avoid him, he stepped close to me
and hissed in my ear, "He shall be _hanged_."

Mr. Davis had not then been arrested, but this I did not know. Leaving
my baby with her brothers, I walked straight into the veranda of Mr.
Hamilton's house, asked for General Sheridan, was ushered into a room
where a number of officers were sitting around a table, and announced
myself.

"I am Mrs. Pryor, whose house you have taken for an adjutant's office.
Sentinels have been placed around my house who insult me when I cross
the threshold."

General Sheridan rose: "What can we do for you, Madam? What do you
demand?"

"That the sentry around my house be removed to the street enclosure."

I was invited to take a seat, but I preferred standing while an order
was made out. I have often smiled to think what I must have looked like
to those officers. My gown was of chocolate-colored percale, with a
white spot. Enormous hoops were then in fashion. I had long since been
abandoned by mine. I fancy I resembled nothing so much as the wooden
Mrs. Noah who presides over the animals in the children's "Noah's Arks."
I took the order given me, bowed my thanks, and walked through a line of
soldiers home. After this I had the larger liberty my children needed.

It was my custom, in these days of my captivity, to descend early, that
I might guard my books, to my little reception room. A dining room it
did not become for a long time afterward. I had nothing whatever to eat
except the biscuits brought me by Mr. Bishop, and a daily tray sent at
noon by my angel friend, Mrs. Meade. She had some Northern men boarding
with her and could command such fare as the sutler was willing to sell,
for the farmers were as destitute of fresh food as ourselves.

We had been excellent customers of a cigar shop in old times, and the
proprietor now opened his establishment, and intrusted my boys and
Campbell with a "walking agency." They sold cigars at good profit to
the officers and soldiers around us; and we made acquaintance once more
with United States pennies and dimes.

Sitting all day in my little reception room, I was cheered by visits
from my friends, and occasionally the tenants of the house would ask for
a glass of water from the sideboard. Captain Lee came often. He confided
to me his chagrin at the manners of the Petersburg ladies. He had picked
up a veil for a pretty girl, and she had turned away her head when her
hand was extended to receive it. The Captain was deeply hurt: he was "a
Northern man, yes, but" he was "a gentleman."

One day Captain Lee informed me that he had good news for me. "We have
marching orders! We go to-night! I know you are pleased! We have given
you so much trouble!"

"Not more, I suppose, than was necessary!"

"Well, I must say, you have been very patient. General Sheridan is in
the office and wishes to make his respects to you."

The General entered and thanked me for the manner in which I had endured
all the inconvenience to which he had subjected me. He seemed, for some
reason, to wish me to think well of his course toward us, and began to
explain it. He alluded to the policy that he had adopted.

"It was the very best thing to do," he declared. "The only way to stamp
out this rebellion was to handle it without gloves."

If he fancied I would either argue or agree with him, he mistook me. I
was silent. There was an embarrassing pause, and he began to berate our
government for bad management. "Ladies should be better cared for," he
said.

"Why, I assure you there was no necessity for your starving! I have
unearthed, within forty miles of this place, enough provisions to keep
you in perfect comfort."

Looking down, he espied the brown eyes of my baby steadfastly fastened
on his face.

"I think I must borrow this little lady," he said. "It is not often
General Sheridan has anything in his arms as sweet as this."

He still had her in his arms as he turned to leave the room, and she
gladly went with him. Presently she was brought back with a parcel in
her own arms—figs, bananas, cakes, and nuts.

Captain Lee came in late to bid me good-by, and to reiterate his thanks.

"You really have been so very nice! Now I am going to beg you will allow
me to make some return."

I hastened to accept his offer. I told him that my General's pet mare,
Lady Jane, was in his command. She had been missing ever since the
battles around Richmond. John was sure he had seen her. By some chance
she had fallen into the hands of the troops now in Petersburg. Could it
be possible for me to reclaim her?

The Captain looked grieved.

"No," he said; "I had no thought of anything of that kind. But a great
many ladies have asked for what I am going to give you. I have brought
you General Sheridan's autograph."

He instantly interpreted my disappointment. Before I could recover he
added, "But it appears you don't wish it," and threw it on the table.

"I can at least, Captain, be grateful that you tried to please me."

That night the adjutant's office was closed. Next morning my husband
returned. General Warren came in to see him. General Sheridan stood
on our porch to receive the homage of his men, bowing to their cheers.
General Warren looked on from our window. Presently the troops he had
commanded when he was superseded by Sheridan passed the house. They saw
their old commander, and the shouts, "Hurrah for General Warren," must
have been harsh sounds for General Sheridan.

I was alone one afternoon in my accustomed seat, when a tall,
lantern-jawed soldier with a musket on his shoulder marched in.

"I want some whiskey!" he informed me.

"You'll not get it here!"

"Wall, I guess you'll have to scare it up. I'll search the house.'

"Search away! I'll call the provost guard to help you," I said.

He turned and marched out. At the door he sent me a parting shot:—

"Wall! you've got a damned tongue ef you ain't got no whiskey!"

My husband has always considered this a very good story. I forestall
him by telling it myself!

I grew very fond of General Warren. He spent many hours with us;
tactful, considerate, and kind, he never grieved or offended us.

One evening he silently took his seat. Presently he said:—

"I have news which will be painful to you. It hurts me to tell you, but
I think you had rather hear it from me than from a stranger—General Lee
has surrendered."

It was an awful blow to us. All was over. All the suffering, bloodshed,
death—all for nothing!

General Johnston's army was surrendered to General Sherman in North
Carolina on April 26. The banner which had led the armies of the South
through fire and blood to victory, to defeat, in times of starvation,
cold, and friendlessness; the banner that Helen's lover had waved aloft
on a forlorn hope until it fell from his lifeless hands; the banner
found under the dying boy at Gettysburg, who had smilingly refused
assistance lest it be discovered,—the banner of a thousand histories
was furled forever, with none so poor to do it reverence.



CHAPTER XXV

WOE TO THE VANQUISHED!


Immediately after General Lee's surrender, the United States Circuit
Court held a session at Norfolk, Virginia, and made haste to indict for
treason Robert E. Lee, John C. Breckenridge, Roger A. Pryor, and others.
These men thereafter were not to feel any sense of personal security.
A cloud of doubt and possible disaster still hung over them. Under this
cloud they were to commence their lives anew.

Every one who has suffered an overwhelming misfortune must be conscious
of a strange deadening of feeling—more intolerable even than pain. It
may be a merciful provision of nature. Insensibility at a crucial moment
may be nature's anæsthesia. Dr. Livingstone, the African explorer,
relates that he was conscious of this insensibility when in the paws
of a lion. He had a theory that the instinct of all animals to shake
their victim, as the cat does a mouse, may be given in mercy to the
vanquished. I was so completely stunned by the thought that all the
suffering, all the spilt blood, all the poverty, all the desolation
of the South was _for naught_; that her very fidelity, heroism, and
fortitude, qualities so noble in themselves, had wrought her undoing,
that I seemed to become dead to everything around me. My husband was
compelled to leave me, to seek employment in Richmond. My neighbors,
like myself, were stunned into silence. "Here I and sorrow sit" might
have been said truly of any one of us.

When the passing troops left us with only General Hartsuff's guard, the
small earnings of my little boys ceased. John and his fellow-servants
came into town, and reported to me.

"I can no longer maintain you or give you wages," I said to Eliza Page
and her sisters.

"We will serve you for the good you have already done us," they said,
but of course I could not allow this to any extent. Eliza returned to
her husband and their little home.

With John I had more trouble. It was hard to make him understand that
I could not afford his services on any terms.

"I will never leave you," was his reply to everything I urged.

"You _must_, John! You must go home to your father in Norfolk. He will
advise you."

"The old man is in the oyster business," said John. "What do I care
about oysters? All I care for is Marse Roger and these boys."

I knew that my poor John had an infirmity. Once when I had sent him with
Alick from Cottage Farm on an errand he had returned very late. I could
see the pair walking down the road alone, followed at some distance by
the horse and wagon. They seemed to be trying to compass both sides
of the road at once. Alick was the first to report to me, with these
words:—

"I—I-ain' drunk,—but _Jawn_! Jawn, he _ve'y_ drunk!"

This painful scene had been reënacted often enough to make me anxious.

"You really must go to your father, John," I insisted. "How much money
have you?" He had five dollars. I also had five, which I gave him.

"Now don't let me see you again," I said. "Write to me from Norfolk."

He left, protesting, but next morning he was gone. I heard from him soon
and from his father. The old gentleman expressed gratitude and also some
anxiety about John's "army habits."

And so no more of the only slave I ever owned!

Agnes wrote from Richmond early in May:—

     "MY DEAREST: What could I do without you? Now don't flatter
     yourself that I need now, or ever did need, those beautiful
     moral reflections in well-chosen language by means of which
     you have striven to educate me. But you are an unmitigated
     blessing when my 'feelings are too many for me'—when, in
     short, I boil over.

     "Now when a kettle boils over it puts out the fire, and then
     we go tea-less to bed. How nice it would be for the kettle if
     some convenient utensil were at hand to receive its excited
     bubbles.

     "I am aggrieved and indignant at the sermons people are
     preaching to us. And I have caught a young brother in a
     flagrant theft. All Richmond is in a state of beautiful
     admiration at a sermon it listened to last week on the uses
     of our great misfortune. War was declared to be a blessing.
     'The high passion of patriotism prevents the access of baser
     passions. Men's hearts beat together, and woman is roused from
     the frivolousness and feebleness into which her nature is apt
     to sink. Death, insult, carnage, violated homes, and broken
     hearts are all awful. But it is worse than a thousand deaths
     when a people has adopted the creed that the wealth of nations
     consists—not in generous hearts, in primitive simplicity, in
     preference of duty to life; not in MEN, but in silk, cotton,
     and something that they call "capital." If the price to be
     paid for peace is this—that wealth accumulates and men decay,
     better far that every street in every town of our once noble
     country should run blood.'

     "Now all this is very fine, but very one-sided. And my brother
     didn't believe a word of it. He has been away in England and
     has seen none of the horrors of war; but he has seen something
     else—a very charming lecture printed in London some time
     before the war.[25]

     "Strange are the ways of Providence. Precisely that I might
     convict him did this address fall into my hands in Washington.
     It struck me forcibly at the time. Little did I think I should
     hear it in Richmond after a terrible civil war of our own.

     "I feel impatient at this attempt to extort good for ourselves
     out of the overwhelming disaster which brought such ruin
     to others; to congratulate ourselves for what is purchased
     with their blood. Surely, if for no other reason, for the
     sake of the blood that has been spilt, we should not hasten
     to acquiesce in the present state of things. If I catch my
     Colonel piously affirming too much resignation, too prompt
     a forgetfulness of the past, I'll—well, he knows what I am
     capable of saying!

     "But, now that I have safely boiled over, I will tell you my
     news. We cannot remain here. We are literally stripped to the
     'primitive' state my reverend brother thinks so good for us.
     We are wofully in need of 'silk, cotton, and something they
     call capital,' and we'll never get it here. And so my Colonel
     and I are going to New York. He has secured a place in some
     publishing house or other. I only wish it were a dry-goods
     store!

     "Of course our social life is all over. I have taken my
     resolution. There are fine ladies in New York whom I used to
     entertain in Washington. Just so far as they approach me, will
     I approach them! A card for a card, a visit for a visit. But I
     imagine I shall not be recognized. I am content. There will be
     plenty to read in that publishing house. I shall not repine.
     All the setting, the _entourage_, of a lady is taken from me,
     but the lady herself has herself pretty well in hand, and is
     quite content if she may always be

          "Your devoted
               "AGNES."

The time now came when I must draw rations for my family. I could not
do this by proxy. I was required to present my request in person.

As I walked through the streets in early morning, I thought I had never
known a lovelier day. How could Nature spread her canopy of blossoming
magnolia and locust as if nothing had happened? How could the vine over
the doorway of my old home load itself with snowy roses, how could the
birds sing, how could the sun shine as if such things as these could
ever again gladden our broken hearts?

My dear little sons understood they were to escort me everywhere, so we
presented ourselves together at the desk of the government official and
announced our errand.

"Have you taken the oath of allegiance, Madam?" inquired that gentleman.

"No, Sir." I was quite prepared to take the oath.

The young officer looked at me seriously for a moment, and said, as he
wrote out the order:—

"Neither will I require it of you, Madam!"

I was in better spirits after this pleasant incident, and, calling to
Alick, I bade him arm himself with the largest basket he could find and
take my order to the commissary.

"We are going to have all sorts of good things," I told him, "fresh
meat, fruit, vegetables, and everything."

When the boy returned he presented a drooping figure and a woebegone
face. My first unworthy suspicion suggested his possible confiscation
of my stores for drink, but he soon explained.

"I buried that ole stinkin' fish! I wouldn't bring it in your presence.
An' here's the meal they give me."

Hairy caterpillars were jumping through the meal! I turned to my table
and wrote:—

     "Is the commanding general aware of the nature of the ration
     issued this day to the destitute women of Petersburg?"
     (signing myself)

          "MRS. ROGER A. PRYOR."

This I gave to Alick, with instructions to present it, with the meal,
to General Hartsuff.

Alick returned with no answer; but in a few minutes a tall orderly stood
before me, touched his cap, and handed me a note.

     "Major-General Hartsuff is sorry he cannot make _right_ all
     that seems so wrong. He sends the enclosed. Some day General
     Pryor will repay

          "GEORGE L. HARTSUFF,
          "_Major-General Commanding_."

The note contained an official slip of paper:—

     "The Quartermaster and Commissary of the Army of the Potomac
     are hereby ordered to furnish Mrs. Roger A. Pryor with all
     she may demand or require, charging the same to the private
     account of

          "GEORGE L. HARTSUFF,
          "_Major-General Commanding_."

Without the briefest deliberation I wrote and returned the following
reply:—

     "Mrs. Roger A. Pryor is not insensible to the generous offer
     of Major-General Hartsuff, but _he ought to have known_ that
     the ration allowed the destitute women of Petersburg must be
     enough for

          "MRS. ROGER A. PRYOR."

As I sat alone, revolving various schemes for our sustenance,—the
selling of the precious testimonial service (given by the Democracy of
Virginia after my husband's noble fight against "Know-nothingism"),
the possibility of finding occupation for myself,—the jingling of
chain harness at the door arrested my attention. There stood a handsome
equipage, from which a very fine lady indeed was alighting. She bustled
in with her lace-edged handkerchief to her eyes, and announced herself
as Mrs. Hartsuff. She was superbly gowned in violet silk and lace, with
a tiny _fanchon_ bonnet tied beneath an enormous cushion of hair behind,
the first of the fashionable _chignons_ I had seen—an arrangement called
a "waterfall," an exaggeration of the plethoric, distended "bun" of the
Englishwoman of a few years ago.

"Oh, my dear lady," she began, "we are in such distress at headquarters!
George is in despair! You won't let him help you! Whatever is he to do?"

"I really am grateful to the General," I assured her; "but you see there
is no reason he should do more for me than for others."

"Oh, but there _is_ reason. You have suffered more than the rest. You
have been driven from your home! Your house has been sacked. George
knows all about you. I have brought a basket for you—tea, coffee, sugar,
crackers."

"I cannot accept it, I am so sorry."

"But what are you going to do? Are you going to starve?"

"Very likely," I said, "but somehow I shall not very much mind!"

"Oh, this is too utterly, utterly dreadful!" said the lady as she left
the room.

The next day the ration was changed. Fresh beef, canned vegetables,
bread, and coffee were issued to all the women of Petersburg. Mrs.
Hartsuff came daily to see me. "Not that George has gotten over it!"
she declared. "His feelings are constantly hurt here. And as to myself,
that old black Irene I found in the kitchen at Centre Hill just walks
over me!"

"Why don't you dismiss her?"

"_Dismiss Irene?_ I should like to see anybody dismiss Irene! Besides,
she cooks divinely. But I can't enter her kitchen! 'Dear me,' I said one
day, '_what_ a dirty kitchen!' 'Ladies don't nuvver come in kitchens,'
she told me. Evidently I am not a lady! And I once asked her please to
be careful of the gold studs the General was apt to leave in his cuffs
'Gold studs!' she repeated with a sniff, 'my master wore diamond studs,
an' I never see cuffs loose from shirts before in all my born days.
'Cose the wind'll blow 'em away! I can't be 'sponsible for no shirt
that's in three or four pieces.'"

All the good citizens of Petersburg who had been driven away by the
shelling now began to return, and among them came the owners of the
house I was occupying. I was told that I could, on no account, be safe
at Cottage Farm without a guard. For this, too, I must make personal
request. So my little body-guard and I wended our way to interview
General Hartsuff.

We found him in the noble mansion of the Bollings. At the entrance two
fine greyhounds in marble had for many years guarded the incoming and
outgoing of the Bolling family. In the rear there was a long veranda
with lofty pillars, and beyond, extensive grounds set with well-grown
evergreens, and with that princely tree, the _magnolia grandiflora_, now
in bloom. White marble statues and marble seats were scattered through
the grounds. A rustic staircase led down to a conservatory, built low
for the better care of the plants. The mansion stood on an eminence
sloping sharply in front, and a legend-haunted subterranean passage led
from the dwelling to the street, the entrance to which was covered by
shrubs and vines.

As I stood in the veranda waiting for audience, a young officer called
my attention to the beauty of the grounds and the magnificence of the
flowering plants in tubs on the veranda. "I should like," he said, "to
fight it out on this line all summer."

I thought of the family driven from their own, and was wicked enough to
tell him:—

"That would be most unfortunate for you. This place is very sickly in
summer—deadly, in fact. Typhoid fever is fatal in this section."

But I was summoned to the presence of the great man. As I entered, he
continued writing at a table, without greeting me or looking up from
his paper.

"General," I commenced, "I have come to ask if I may have a guard. I am
about to return to my home—Cottage Farm."

No answer, except the rapid scratching of his pen as it travelled over
his sheet.

"General Hartsuff, are you still angry with me because I did not feel
I could accept your kind offer? I couldn't take it! I couldn't trust
myself with it! I should have given a ball and ruined you."

He laughed outright at this and threw down his pen.

"It is impossible for you to go to Cottage Farm," he said; "there are
fifty or more negroes on the place. You cannot live there."

"I must! it is my only shelter."

"Well, then, I'll allow you a guard, and Mrs. Hartsuff had better take
you out herself, that is, if you can condescend to accept as much."

I was not aware that Mrs. Hartsuff had entered and stood behind me.

"And I think, George," she said, "you ought to give Mrs. Pryor a horse
and cart in place of her own that were stolen."

"All right, all right," he said hastily. "Madam, you will find the
guard at your door when you arrive. You go this evening? All right—good
morning."

Mrs. Hartsuff duly appeared in the late afternoon with an ambulance
and four horses, and we departed in fine style. She was very cheery and
agreeable, and made me promise to let her come often to see me. As we
were galloping along in state, we passed a line of weary-looking, dusty
Confederate soldiers, limping along, on their way to their homes. They
stood aside to let us pass. I was cut to the heart at the spectacle.
Here was I, accepting the handsome equipage of the invading commander—I,
who had done nothing, going on to my comfortable home; while they,
poor fellows, who had borne long years of battle and starvation, were
mournfully returning on foot, to find, perhaps, no home to shelter them.
"Never again," I said to myself, "shall this happen! If I cannot help,
I can at least suffer with them."

But when I reached Cottage Farm I found a home that no soldier, however
forlorn, could have envied me. A scene of desolation met my eyes. The
earth was ploughed and trampled, the grass and flowers were gone, the
carcasses of six dead cows lay in the yard, and filth unspeakable had
gathered in the corners of the house. The evening air was heavy with the
sickening odor of decaying flesh. As the front door opened, millions of
flies swarmed forth.

"If this were I," said Mrs. Hartsuff, as she gathered her skirts as
closely around her as her hoops would permit, "I should fall across this
threshold and die."

"I shall not fall," I said proudly; "I shall stand in my lot."

Within was dirt and desolation. Pieces of fat pork lay on the floors,
molasses trickled from the library shelves, where bottles lay uncorked.
Filthy, malodorous tin cans were scattered on the floors. Nothing,
not even a tin dipper to drink out of the well, was left in the house,
except one chair out of which the bottom had been cut, and one bedstead
fastened together with bayonets. Picture frames were piled against the
wall. I eagerly examined them. Every one was empty. One family portrait
of an old lady was hanging on the wall with a sabre-cut across her face.

"Now, what in the world are you going to do?" asked Mrs. Hartsuff.

"The best I can," I said.

But old Aunt Jinny had espied me, and, with a courtesy to Mrs. Hartsuff,
had seized my little girl.

"This is a hard home-coming for you, my po' lamb! But never mind! Jinny
has got plenty of clean bedclothes and things. Yes, marm" (to Mrs.
Hartsuff), "I can take care of 'em! The colored people? Oh, the colored
people will give no trouble. They are very peaceable."

She gathered us into her kitchen while she swept a room for us and
spread quilts upon the floor. Later in the evening an ambulance from
Mrs. Hartsuff drove up. She had sent me a tin box of bread-and-butter
sandwiches, some tea, an army cot, and army bedding.

The guard, a great, tall fellow, came to me for orders. I felt nervous
at his presence and wished I had not brought him. I directed him to
watch all night at the road side of the house, while I would sit up and
keep watch in the opposite direction. The children soon slept upon the
floor.

As the night wore on, I grew extremely anxious about the strange
negroes. Aunt Jinny thought there were not more than fifty. They had
filled every outhouse except the kitchen. Suppose they should overpower
the guard and murder us all.

Everything was quiet. I had not the least disposition to sleep—thinking,
thinking, of all the old woman had told me of the sacking of the house,
of the digging of the cellar in search of treasure, of the torch that
had twice been applied to the house, and twice withdrawn because some
officer wanted the shaded dwelling for a temporary lodging. Presently I
was startled by a shrill scream from the kitchen, a door opened suddenly
and shut, and a voice cried, "Thank Gawd! Thank Gawd A'mighty." Then
all was still.

Was this a signal? I held my breath and listened, then softly rose,
closed the shutters and fastened them, crept to the door, and bolted it
inside. I might defend my children till the guard could come.

Evidently he had not heard! He was probably sleeping the sleep of
an untroubled conscience on the bench in the front porch. And with
untroubled consciences my children were sleeping. It was so dark in
the room I could not see their faces, but I could touch them, and push
the wet locks from their brows, as they lay in the close and heated
atmosphere.

I resumed my watch at the window, pressing my face close to the slats of
the shutters. A pale half-moon hung low in the sky, turning its averted
face from a suffering world. At a little distance I could see the
freshly made soldier's grave which Alick had discovered and reported.
A heavy rain had fallen in the first hours of the night, and a stiff
arm and hand now protruded from the shallow grave. To-morrow I would
reverently cover the appealing arm, be it clad in blue or in gray, and
would mark the spot. Now, as I sat with my fascinated gaze upon it,
I thought of the tens of thousands, of the hundreds of thousands, of
upturned faces beneath the green sod of old Virginia. Strong in early
manhood, brave, high-spirited men of genius, men whom their country had
educated for her own defence in time of peril,—they had died because
that country could devise in her wisdom no better means of settling a
family quarrel than the wholesale slaughter of her sons by the sword.
And now? "Not till the heavens be no more shall they awake nor be raised
out of their sleep."

And then, as I sorrowed for their early death in loneliness and anguish,
I remembered the white-robed souls beneath the altar of God,—the souls
that had "come out of great tribulation,"—and _because_ they had thus
suffered "they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; ... and
God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."

And then, as the pale, distressful moon sank behind the trees, and the
red dawn streamed up from the east, the angel of Hope, who had "spread
her white wings and sped her away" for a little season, returned. And
Hope held by the hand an angel stronger than she, who bore to me a
message: "In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have
overcome the world."

The sun was rising when I saw my good old friend emerge from her
kitchen, and I opened the shutters to greet her. She had brought me
a cup of delicious coffee, and was much distressed because I had not
slept. Had I heard anything?

"Course I know you was bleeged to hear," said Aunt Jinny, as she bustled
over the children. "That was Sis' Winny! She got happy in the middle
of the night, an' Gawd knows what she would have done, if Frank hadn't
ketched hold of her and pulled her back in the kitchen! Frank an' me is
pretty nigh outdone an' discouraged 'bout Sis' Winny. She prays constant
all day; but Gawd A'mighty don't count on bein' bothered all night. Ain'
He 'ranged for us all to sleep, an' let Him have a little peace? Sis'
Winny must keep her happiness to herself, when folks is trying to git
some res'."

The guard now came to my window to say he "guessed" he'd "have to put
on some more harness. Them blamed niggers refused to leave. They might
change their minds when they saw the pistols."

"Oh, you wouldn't shoot, would you?" I said, in great distress. "Call
them all to the back door and let me speak with them." I found myself
in the presence of some seventy-five negroes, men, women, and children,
all with upturned faces, keenly interested in what I should say to them.

I talked to them kindly, and told them I was sorry to see so many of
them without homes. One of them, an intelligent-looking man, interrupted
me.

"We are not without homes," he said. "I planted and worked on this place
for years before the war. It is right I should have some choice in the
land the government promises us, and I have come here because I shall
ask for the land I have worked."

"You are mistaken, I am sure," I said. "This farm belongs to my brother,
not to me. I am here through his kindness, and I am perfectly willing
you should remain through mine until you find other shelter, provided
you consider my husband master here, give no trouble, and help me clean
up this place. All who are not willing to do this must leave. You must
distinctly understand this is private property which will be protected
by the government."

"That's so!" said the guard, emphatically. Thereupon an old, gray-haired
man stepped forth and said:—

"My name's Abram! I'se toted Marse Roger on my back to school many a
time. Me an' my family will stay an' clean up, an' thank you, Mistis!
Come now! You all hear what the Yankee gentleman say! Git to work now
on them dead cows—hurry up!"

I sent Abram to the quartermaster, and borrowed a team to haul away the
filth and the dead animals. My faithful old friend in the kitchen lent
me chairs and a table, and before night we were comparatively clean,
having had a score or more scrubbers, and as many out-of-door laborers
at work. My husband returned to us, and we commenced our new life of
hopeless destitution. Not before October could I get my consent to eat
a morsel in the house. I took my meals under the trees, unless driven
by the rains to the shelter of the porch. The old woman who had been so
unreasonably happy—"Sis' Winny"—proved to be a mere atom of a creature,
withered, and bent almost double with age and infirmities, whom Aunt
Jinny had taken in out of sheer compassion. If she could find something
for which to thank God, surely none need despair.

To my great joy, my dear General had not remained in Richmond. There
was no hope there for immediate occupation. His profession of law, for
which he had been educated, promised nothing, for the very good reason
that he had forgotten all he ever knew in his later profession of editor
and politician. The latter field was closed to him forever. There was
nothing for a rebel to earn in editing a newspaper.



CHAPTER XXVI

STARTING LIFE ANEW


We suffered terribly during the ensuing months for want of something
in which we might occupy ourselves. We sat silently, looking out on
a landscape marked here and there by chimneys standing sentinel over
the blackened heaps where our neighbors had made happy homes. A few
books had been saved, only those for which we had little use. A soldier
walked in one day with a handsome volume which Jefferson Davis, after
inscribing his name in it, had presented to the General. The soldier
calmly requested the former owner to be kind enough to add to the value
of the volume by writing beneath the inscription his own autograph, and,
his request granted, walked off with it under his arm. "He has been
at some trouble," said my husband, "and he had as well be happy if I
cannot!"

As the various brigades moved away from our neighborhood a few
plain articles of furniture that had been taken from the house were
restored to us, but nothing handsome or valuable, no books, pictures,
_bric-à-brac_, or house-furnishings of any kind—just a few chairs and
tables. I had furnished an itemized list of all the articles we had
lost, with only this result.

We had news after a while of our blooded mare, Lady Jane. A letter
enclosing her photograph came from a New England officer:—

     "TO MR. PRYOR,

     "DEAR SIR: A very fine mare belonging to you came into my
     camp near Richmond and is now with me. It would add much to
     her value if I could get her pedigree. Kindly send it at your
     earliest convenience, and oblige

          "Yours truly,
               —— ——

     "P.S. The mare is in good health, as you will doubtless be
     glad to know."

Disposed as my General was to be amiable, this was a little too much!
The pedigree was not sent.

A great number of tourists soon began to pass our house on their way
to visit the localities near us, now become historic. They wished to
stand on the site of General Lee's headquarters, to pluck a blade of
grass from the hollow of the crater, to visit the abattis, lunettes, and
fortifications of both lines, especially Fort Steadman, Fort Gregg, and
Battery 45, where the lines were broken the last of March and on April
2.

These tourists, men and women, would pause at the well, some on
horseback, others in the dilapidated landaus or buggies for hire in
Petersburg. Uncle Frank, with his flow of courteous language and his
attractive manners, would usually meet and discourse to them, earning
many a _douceur_ by drawing from the well the cold water for which it
was famous. Abram's family was abroad in the fields, where the old man
had planted corn in June—too late to hope for other harvest than the
fodder to feed the horse the quartermaster had given him at my earnest
request. Under the impression that we were still working our negroes,
some of the tourists would dismount and harangue Abram at length upon
his "rights." The old man would listen respectfully, shaking his gray
head dubiously as they rode off. "Recollect, boy," said one of these
travellers to Alick, "the white woman in that house is now _your_
slave!" Alick was standing beneath my window, amusing himself by tying
up a rosebush. He looked up, simply advising me,—"Let 'em go 'long,"—and
resumed his work in training the rosebush.

Sometimes the tourists would ask permission to call on us, claiming
some common acquaintance. My husband was inclined to resent this. Their
sympathetic attitude was offensive to him. Like the Douglas he had
endured much, but—

     "Last and worst, to spirit proud
     To bear the pity of the crowd:"—

this was more than he could endure.

We were perfectly aware that they wished to see _us_, and not to gain,
as they affected, information about the historic localities on the farm.
Still less did they desire ignobly to triumph over us. A boy, when
he tears off the wings of a fly, is much interested in observing its
actions, not that he is cruel—far from it! He is only curious to see
how the creature will behave under very disadvantageous circumstances.

One day a clergyman called, with a card of introduction from Mrs.
Hartsuff, who had, I imagine, small discernment as regards clergymen.
This one was a smug little man,—sleek, unctuous, and trim, with
Pecksniffian self-esteem oozing out of every pore of his face.

"Well, Madam," he commenced, "I trust I find you lying meekly under
the chastening rod of the Lord. I trust you can say 'it is good I was
afflicted.'"

Having no suitable answer just ready, I received his pious exhortation
in silence. One can always safely do this with a clergyman.

"There are seasons," continued the good man, "when chastisement must
be meted out to the transgressor; but if borne in the right spirit, the
rod may blossom with blessings in the end."

A little more of the same nature wrung from me the query, "Are there
none on the other side who need the rod?"

"Oh—well, now—my dear lady! You must consider! You were in the wrong in
this unhappy contest, or, I should say, this most righteous war."

"_Væ victis!_" I exclaimed. "Our homes were invaded. We are on our own
soil!"

My reverend brother grew red in the face. Rising and bowing himself out,
he sent me a Parthian arrow:—

     "No thief e'er felt the halter draw
     With good opinion of the law."

On the afternoon of a sultry day, a black cloud suddenly darkened the
sky, thundered, lightened, and poured down a pelting storm of hailstones
and rain. A party of young people galloped up to the gate, hastily
dismounted, and ran for the shelter of our porch. There were half a
dozen or more young girls and men. The small roof affording them scant
shelter, I invited them into the parlor, where they stood dripping and
shivering until a fire was kindled. A sudden cold wind came on with the
hail. It had been a long time since I had seen happy, cheerful young
girls in their riding-habits, and I fell in love with them at once,
putting them at ease, chafing their hands, and drying their little
coats. I never saw young folk so much embarrassed. They were Northern
tourists, and felt the full force of our relative positions. When hot
tea was brought in, they were overwhelmed. I was loath to give them
up—these pretty girls. When they bade me good-by and thanked me for my
nice tea and fire, the black eyes of one little beauty snapped with an
unmistakable expression—"for your coals of fire!"

Such incidents as these were our only events. Our friends in town were
in too much poverty and sorrow to visit us. A deadly silence and apathy
had succeeded the storm. It was a long time before the community waked
up from this apathy—not, indeed, until the cool, invigorating weather
of autumn. The blood-soaked soil and the dead animals emitted sickening
odors until the frosts came to chain them up.

A bachelor friend occasionally visited us and invited the little boys
to accompany him upon relic-hunting expeditions to the narrow plain
which had divided the opposing lines on that fateful April morning, just
three months before. Ropes were fastened around extinct shells, and they
were hauled in, to stand sentinel at the door. The shells were short
cylinders, with one pointed end like a candle before it is lighted.
Numbers of minie balls were dug out of the sand.

One day Mr. Kemp brought in a great curiosity—two bullets welded
together, having been shot from opposing rifles.

Twenty years afterward I showed this twin-bullet to General Grant, not
long before his last illness. With Mrs. Grant, he had called at my home
in Brooklyn to inquire if I had good news of General Pryor, who was in
England, having been sent by Irish Americans to see what could be done
for O'Donnell, the Irish prisoner. General Grant was much interested in
this case. He found me at my late breakfast of tea, toast, and a dozen
oysters, which were divided among the three of us. After breakfast I
brought out the bullet. He laid it on the palm of his hand and looked
at it long and earnestly.

"See, General," I said, "the bullets are welded together so as to form
a perfect horseshoe—a charm to keep away witches and evil spirits."

But the General was not interested in amulets, charms, or evil spirits.
After regarding it silently for a moment, he remarked:—

"Those are minie balls, shot from rifles of equal caliber. And they
met precisely equidistant to a hair. This is very interesting, but it
is not the only one in the world. I have seen one other, picked up at
Vicksburg. Where was this found and when?" he asked, as he handed the
relic back to me. "At Petersburg, possibly."

"Yes," I answered, "but not when you were shelling the city. It was
picked up on our farm after the last fight."

He looked at me with a humorous twinkle in his eye. "Now look here," he
said, "don't you go about telling people I shelled Petersburg."

  [Illustration: Met Bullets found near Fort Gregg, 1865.]

A short time before his death, just before he was taken to Mount
McGregor, he dictated a note to me, sending his kind regards to my
General, and saying he remembered with pleasure his talk with me over
a cup of tea.

But we must return (and I am sure I am pardoned for this digression) to
the weary life of enforced idleness at the cottage.

I had no garments to mend or to make, no household to manage. The sultry
days were begun and rounded by hours of listless endurance, followed
by troubled sleep. A bag of army "hardtack" stood in a corner, so the
children were never hungry. Presently they, too, sat around us, too
listless to play or talk. A great army of large, light brown Norway rats
now overran the farm. They would walk to the corner before our eyes and
help themselves to the army ration. We never moved a finger to drive
them away. After a while Alick appeared with an enormous black-and-white
cat.

"Dis is jest a leetle mo'n I can stand," said Alick. "De Yankees
has stole ev'rything, and dug up de whole face o' the yearth—and de
Jews comes all de time and pizens de well, droppin' down chains an'
grapplin'-irons to see ef we all has hid silver—but I ain' obleedged to
stan' sassyness fum dese outlandish rats."

Alick had to surrender. The very first night after the arrival of his
valiant cat there was a scuffle in the room where the crackers were
kept, a chair was overturned, and a flying cat burst through the hall,
pursued by three or four huge rats. The cat took refuge in a tree, and,
stealthily descending at an opportune moment, stole away and left the
field to the enemy.

Of course there could be but one result from this life. Malaria had hung
over us for weeks, and now one after another of the children lay down
upon the "pallets" on the floor, ill with fever. Then I succumbed and
was violently ill. Our only nurse was my dear General; and not in all
the years when he never shirked duty, or lost a march, or rode on his
own horse when his men had a toilsome march or if one of them failed by
the way, and never lost one of the battles into which he personally led
them,—not in all those trying times was he nobler, grander, than in his
long and lonely vigils beside his sick family. And most nobly did the
aged negress in the kitchen stand by us. My one fevered vision was of
an ebony angel!

After we recovered, my dear husband was ill—ague and fever had fastened
on him. When he, too, grew better, he would sit for days in hopeless
despair, looking out on the desolate landscape.

General Hartsuff and his wife often visited us. They were terribly
afraid of fever, and would send in messages from the gate while we
were all so ill. But after we had recovered, General Hartsuff came
himself—and finally sent Captain Gregory, the commissary-general, to
see me, and to reason seriously with me about the necessity of sending
General Pryor away. He had never been pardoned. There were men in power
who constantly hinted at punishment and retribution. General Pryor
would die here. He should go to New York, go by sea, shake off the
chills that shook him so relentlessly every third day, meet friends
(many Southerners were in New York), and something might result for his
benefit.

This idea grew in our minds as feasible, if only we had the money. It
had never occurred to me to make a second attempt (one had failed) to
sell my watch. I now took it to a banker in Petersburg, added to it a
cherished antique cameo set in diamonds which had never left my finger
since it was given me, like Shylock's turquoise from his Leah, when my
husband "was a bachelor." Leaving these in pledge, I received three
hundred dollars. I bought some quinine forthwith, ordered a suit of
clothes to replace the threadbare Confederate gray, and sent Roger A.
Pryor, the sometime "rebel," to New York, upon an experiment of which
the most sanguine imagination could not have foreseen the successful
result.

A difficult task lay before him. Ruined in fortune, his occupation gone,
his friends dead or impoverished, his health impaired, his heart broken,
he had yet to win support for a wife and seven children, and that in
a hostile community. Only two things were left to him—the ability to
work and the willingness to work. With what courage he commenced the
study of his profession, what difficulties he surmounted, what rebuffs
he bore with fortitude, I can give here no adequate idea. He labored
incessantly, often breaking down and fainting, at his task. In one of
his early letters he says, "Sometimes I sink in despair; but then I
rally and press on. Don't you think heaven will prosper me for _your_
sake? The obstacles to the success of 'a rebel' in this city are almost
insurmountable."

He accepted a position on the _Daily News_ which yielded him twenty-five
dollars a week. Meanwhile he must learn New York law.

There has been too much sorrow already in this story. Why tell of all
the anguish, all the suffering of the next years? During the long,
lonely winter of 1865 my husband nobly strove to sustain my hopes, and
for his sake I would not allow my heart to break.

Early in February old Abram, the faithful servant in whose care my
husband left me, announced that we had reached the end of all our
resources at Cottage Farm. Rose, the little cow, had died, the turnips
and potatoes Abram had raised were all gone, the two pigs he had
reared had fulfilled their destiny long ago, and the government rations
had ceased. He "could scuffle along himself, but 't wa'n't no use to
pertend" he could "take care of Mistis an' the chilluns, not like they
ought to be took care of."

"We must not despair, Abram," I said. "We'll feed the children, never
fear! I must plan something to help."

"Plannin' ain't no 'count, Mistis, less'n you got sump'n to work on.
What we all goin' to do for wood?"

"What you have done all along, I suppose."

"No'm. Dat's onpossible. We done burn up Fort Gregg an' Battery 45. Der
ain' no mo' fortifications on de place as I knows of."

"Fortifications!" I exclaimed. "Why, Abram! you surely haven't been
burning the fortifications?"

"Hit's des like I tell you, Mistis. De las' stick's on yo' wood-pile
now."

"Well, Abram," I said gravely, "if we have destroyed our
fortifications—burned our bridges—the time has come to change our base.
We will move into town."

Of course, without food or fuel, and without Abram, we could not live in
the country. The fields were a desolate waste, with no fences to protect
a possible crop or to keep cattle within bounds. Abram saw no hope from
cultivation—nothing to "work on." He had been a refugee from a lower
plantation, and he was now inclined to put out his children to service,
and return in his old age to his old home and to his old master, who
longed to welcome him. He was a grand old man. I doubt not he has a warm
place in the bosom of that other Abram, the faithful, but no whit more
faithful than he.

The afternoon before our departure from Cottage Farm, the weather was so
deliciously balmy that I walked over the garden and grounds, thinking
of the great drama that had been enacted on this spot. The spring
comes early in the lower counties of Virginia. Already the grass was
springing, and on the trees around the well which had so often refreshed
General Lee, tender young leaves were trembling. Our old friends the
tourists now appeared at intervals, taking in this historic ground on
their return from Florida or South Carolina, where they had spent the
winter.

The garden, which at this season had always blossomed with early
hyacinths, daffodils, snowdrops, and the rosy spikes of the flowering
almond, was now a ploughed and trampled waste of weeds. Under the
iron-clad hoofs of the cavalry horses, and the heavy wheels of the
gun-carriages, the life had been crushed out of the tender bulbs. Spring
had come to touch all scars with her gentle finger-tips. Over all the
battle-torn ground, over the grave of the young soldier who had lain so
long under my window, over the track ploughed by shot and shell, she had
spread a delicate bloom like a smile on the lips of the dead. A bit of
color attracted my attention, and stooping over a bramble-bush I found,
under its protection, a single spike of pink hyacinth. When I arose with
the treasure in my hand, I saw that an elderly gentleman had alighted
from his "buggy" and was gravely considering me. He bared his head and
introduced himself. "Madame, I am a Northern traveller. Will you give
me that little flower as a souvenir?"

"Take it!" I said; there was nothing else left, his people had all the
rest—and with effusive bows and thanks he stumbled over the briers and
uneven ground to secure his delicate souvenir of a battle-ground.

Much of my last night at Cottage Farm was spent at the window from which
I had watched on that anxious night of my first home-coming. The home
had been polluted, sacked, desecrated—and yet I was leaving it with
regret. Many a hard battle with illness, with want, with despair, had
been fought within those walls. It seemed like a long dark night in
which neither sun nor moon nor stars had appeared; during which we had
simply endured, watching ourselves the while, jealous lest the natural
rebound of youthful hope and spirit should surprise us, and dishonor
those who had suffered and bled and died for our sakes.

But now the night was gone, the hour of awakening had come. There was
work for me to do in the world; the world in which I had been divinely
taught I should "have tribulation" with the command and promise, "Fear
not! I have overcome the world." And so, as I sat again in the darkness,
and kept my midnight vigil:—

     As of old when the fire and tempest had passed,
     And an earthquake had riven the rocks, the Word
     In a still small voice rose over the blast,
               The voice of the Lord.

     And the Voice said—"Take up your life again,
     Quit yourself manfully, stand in your lot;
     Let the Fever, the Famine, the peril, the pain,
               Be all forgot."

That I might aid my husband to mend our fortunes, I persuaded seven
of my neighbors' children to take music lessons from me. I had been
carefully instructed in music, having been taught by a pupil of Liszt's,
brought over by the Hon. William C. Rives at the close of his second
term as Minister to the Court of Louis Philippe, to teach his own
daughter Amélie. So I was well equipped for my new duties, upon which,
despite my own persistent chills and fevers, I entered with enthusiasm.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE FIRST "DECORATION DAY"


It was in May of this year 1866 that we inaugurated, in Petersburg, the
custom, now universal, of decorating the graves of those who fell in
the Civil War. Our intention was simply to lay a token of our gratitude
and affection upon the graves of the brave citizens who fell June 9,
1864, in defence of Petersburg, and upon the graves of her sons who
perished in the assault upon Fort Steadman. These were buried in the
cemetery of the old Blandford Church, then a roofless, ivy-clad ruin.
The church is one of the historic structures of the South, and it has
a literature of its own among Virginians. One of the most striking of
the poems concerning it was the following, found written with a pencil
on the inner walls of the church many years ago. The author is unknown,
but Tyrone Power, the Irish comedian, is generally supposed to have been
the writer:—

     "Thou art crumbling to the dust, old pile!
       Thou art hastening to thy fall;
     And 'round thee in thy loneliness
       Clings the ivy to the wall;
     The worshippers are scattered now,
       Who knelt before thy shrine,
     And silence reigns where anthems rose
       In days of 'auld lang syne.'

     "And sadly sighs the wandering wind
       Where oft in years gone by
     Prayer rose from many hearts to Him,
       The Highest of the High.
     The tread of many a noiseless foot
       That sought thy aisles is o'er,
     And many a weary heart that beat
       Is stilled forever more.

     "How doth ambition's hope take wing!
       How droops the spirit now!
     We hear the distant city's din;
       The dead are mute below.
     The sun that shone upon their path
       Now gilds their lowly graves,
     The zephyr which once fanned their brows
       The grass above them waves.

     "Oh! could we call the many back
       Who've gathered here in vain,—
     Who've careless roved where we do now,
       Who'll never meet again;
     How would our very hearts be stirred
       To meet the earnest gaze
     Of the lovely and the beautiful—
       The lights of other days!"

When a sentiment and observance sweeps the country we naturally wonder
who began it. Where was the spark kindled that fired the train? Who was
the "founder"—that is, the originator, the one from whom the movement
derived its beginning?

Memorial associations were organized in several places soon after the
close of the war, but the first observance of a "Decoration Day" was
an inspiration of Mrs. Judge Joynes of Petersburg, Virginia. She called
the women of Petersburg together on the 9th of May, 1866, and organized
them into a memorial association for the express purpose of decorating
the graves of the men who had fallen in the late conflict between the
North and the South. She was made President of the association, and Mrs.
Samuel B. Paul, Vice-President. The following preamble was offered by
Mrs. Joynes and accepted by the meeting:—

"Whereas, a mysterious Providence has given us a duty which would, under
other results, have been a nation's pride to perform, we, the ladies of
Petersburg, now assume our share of the melancholy yet grateful task
of doing honor to the remains of her noble sons. All along our lines,
on distant hilltops, in valleys, in forests, lie the neglected graves
of the slain of our people. Absent from our homes and our altars, they
sleep the last sleep of the noble and the brave. Their bodies, bone of
our bone, flesh of our flesh, arise, a spectre band before us, demanding
Christian and honorable sepulture. Untrue would we be to the instincts
of nature, as well as our birthright of glory, untrue to the land of
Washington and of Lee, did we not give every energy to this work. Now
that the storms of war have been hushed for us, and the paralysis of our
crushed hopes is yielding to a healthy activity and responsibility, we
come together to devise means to perpetuate our gratitude and admiration
for those who died for us. We, therefore, form ourselves into a society
for the systematic furtherance of this object, inviting the coöperation
of all that sympathize with us, so that here, where the last blow was
struck, an enduring monument may arise as a tribute to true manhood and
patriotic devotion.

"We, therefore, propose," etc. In the resolutions that followed, June 9
was named as the day for "perpetual remembrance." Just what was to be
done on that day was not made public. The Federal Army was still with
us, and some apprehension was felt that we might be hindered in our
wishes. Nothing was yet quite settled or clearly understood in relation
to our future. We were under military rule, and realized the necessity
of discreet behavior. Mrs. Joynes quietly circulated notes among us,
requesting us to meet at Blandford Church on the afternoon of June 9,
"to be sure of enough voices for an anthem." It was whispered that "many
flowers were desired." When the day came, everybody rose early, to cut
these flowers with the dew on them—otherwise they would perish in the
hot summer day.

Over the trellised porch of the house I had occupied during the siege of
Petersburg there was still the fine specimen of the microphylla rose—a
grand climbing rose to whose bounty my little girls had been indebted,
during the blockade, for the only adornment of the home-plaited hats.
This rose had, as we have seen, already yielded its tribute to heroism.
Its globes of snow had lain upon the breast of more than one dead
soldier. To-day it gave up all its wealth for the hands of my little
children and my own. The day was perfect. One could but recall that
other perfect day when so many of the old men and boys had fallen in the
defence of the town. The flowering trees,—chestnut, locust, and peerless
_magnolia grandiflora_ were again in blossom. The city again lay under
a cloud of white. In all the town, lately one of the wealthiest of the
South, only two or three carriages could be found. These led the way,
filled with flowers. Young girls followed, clad in white and bearing
garlands of flowers—a long double line. Then came every child from every
school. All bore baskets and clusters of flowers. Some had covered large
pasteboard letters with white roses, combining them afterward to form
the tender words of "Brother" or "Father." The women and children were
followed by a band playing Beethoven's immortal march upon the death of
a hero. Military companies and a great crowd of reverent strangers made
up the rear.

The day at one o'clock, when the procession started, was intensely
hot, and the distance to be traversed along a dusty road more than a
mile. Upon reaching the cemetery of the old Blandford Church a prayer
was offered, followed by orations, at two graves—one filled with the
bones of men who had perished at Fort Steadman, the other the grave of
Colonel Scott, who fell at Richmond during the seven days' fight. Then
the women and children hastened to cover with flowers the great number
of unmarked graves. Many little white flags had been prepared for these
graves. On these the words "Somebody's darling" was printed. I remember
Miss Joynes's delicate beauty as she filled her arms with these little
banners and ran from one lonely hillock to another to plant them. We
then gathered together in the historic church, roofless then, and in a
most picturesque phase of decay. But the anthem written by Mrs. Morrison
was deemed too passionate for the hour. We wished to do nothing that
might be construed amiss. The Federal soldiers were all around us,
looking on respectfully; so we raised our eyes to heaven through the
old ivy-clad walls and sang to the good old church tune:—

     "Guide us, O Thou great Jehovah,
     Pilgrims in a stricken land."

When all was over the sorrowful women and children returned mournfully
to their homes. The shops of the city were closed, the streets hushed.
Thus passed the first organized observance of Decoration Day. It has
been observed in a similar manner on some selected day in every State
in the Union, but in Petersburg it will ever be on the 9th of June, her
one saddest, greatest day of the war, that her daughters will cover with
flowers the graves of her martyred sons.

I think well of my country that it should recognize them as martyrs.
We do well to pause one summer day in a year to exalt their courage,
to bewail their fate, to cover their humble hillocks with flowers.
They died, not to protect our land from the profane foot of the foreign
invader, nor yet to win the Holy Sepulchre from the infidel, nor yet to
conquer a savage wilderness for the great incoming flood of our race.
They died because their country could devise, in its wisdom, no better
means of settling a family quarrel than by slaying her sons with the
sword.

May this country never forget to observe Memorial Day! Even now there is
scarcely a hamlet in the United States that does not display a tiny flag
or bit of bunting on Decoration Day. Some years ago I drove through a
wild mountain country in West Virginia. Deep down in a narrow gorge—one
of those strange fissures where a small stream has cut a mountain in
twain—I discovered a wretched hut. Fastened to a pole at the door was a
fluttering bit of red flannel. The half-naked savages who lived in this
hut scrambled up the precipice to beg. I asked the meaning of the red
rag, and received the surprised answer, "Decoration Day!" These untamed,
untamable people respected the day.

  [Illustration: OLD BLANDFORD CHURCH, PETERSBURG, VA.]

The old Blandford Church is still an object of interest to all who
visit the historic sites around Petersburg. When the solemn chant of the
first Memorial, or Decoration Day, service echoed through its mouldering
walls, they, with a remnant of the roof, were embedded in the emerald
ivy brought from Kenilworth, and were literally vocal with hundreds
of tuneful birds. It has been found necessary to repair the roof,
but enough ivy remains to cover it in a few years. Meanwhile the old
church sits desolate among the graves of her distinguished and honored
sons—indeed a _Mater Dolorosa_:—

           "Childless and crownless
           In her voiceless woe
     An empty urn within her withered hands,
     Whose holy dust was scattered long ago."

And there she watches "until the day dawn and the shadows flee away."



CHAPTER XXVIII

VIRGINIA IN THE EARLY DAYS OF PEACE


The result of the war was to leave the state of Virginia prostrate.
It seemed it would require generations for the commonwealth to recover
from the effects of the strife upon her own soil, the paralysis of the
merchant and the farmer, and the consequent starvation of the people.
And yet the people refused to repine. They accepted their lot with
patience, fortitude, and dignity. Whatever they may have felt, they
forbore to give expression to indignation or to nurse old grudges.
Northern men who visited them were treated with courtesy. General Ordway
of the Federal Army records that "in Richmond the people behaved with
becoming reserve and dignity. I found them reasonable, courteous, and
desirous of submitting to or coöperating with every measure necessary to
good government. I rode through the state for several weeks accompanied
only by a mounted orderly, and never failed to receive the traditional
hospitality of Virginia."[26]

In recalling this time I cannot remember one word of bitterness or
complaint. When women met together there was talk only of "ways and
means," the best to be done under the new order of things.

In 1866 the state was under Federal government. Francis H. Pierpont, who
had been Governor of West Virginia, assumed executive authority. In 1867
Virginia was placed under military government, and in the winter of that
year a convention was held which framed a new constitution. This was
submitted in 1869 to the people, and was adopted by a large majority.
Gilbert C. Walker, a native of New York and a resident of Virginia, was
elected Governor; United States Senators were chosen; the Fourteenth
and Fifteenth Amendments were ratified; the military occupation, which
had been found unnecessary, ceased; and Virginia resumed her place in
the Union.

As to the negroes, they gave no trouble. Individual cases of
discourteous behavior were treated as they deserved, with compassionate
forbearance. "You will know better by and by," I said to a negro woman
who insisted upon buying her pins and needles before I was served, and
she respectfully yielded me her place at the counter. Once when dear
old Mrs. Campbell, the venerated mother of Virginia's historian, stopped
with me in a vacant street for a lengthy comparison of household notes,
a negro policeman sauntered up and said gruffly: "You can't block up
dis street! You suttenly is got to 'move on.'" "And so we will—and
so we will!" said the old lady, laughing. I remember on the fourth of
July, 1866, my Mary was ill, nervous, and distressed by the firing of a
toy pistol under her window. I found a young negro man quietly sitting
on the curb and loading, with percussion caps, a small pistol. To my
somewhat heated remonstrance, he solemnly and without the least anger
remarked, "Ah does ma work, an' Ah pays ma taxes, an' _Ah has ma fun_,"
and went on with his percussion caps. I thought there was reason in
his conclusion and only regretted the work and taxes of the white man
without the "fun"!

The position of the newly enfranchised negro was a most perplexing one,
and in it he bore himself with wonderful discretion. Every possible
influence was brought to bear upon him, to make him distrust his old
friends and leave his old home. Early in the war he had elected for
himself an attitude of perfect quiescence. The fight was a white man's
fight. "But," reasoned one of his early advisers, "the fight is for
your freedom; the whole trouble is about you." "That's so!" answered an
old man of the "Uncle Remus" type. "When two dogs fight, they commonly
fights for a bone. Is you ever see the bone fight?" But after the
conflict was over the negro realized that his new blessings brought
with them stern anxieties. Never having thought for himself, he was now
the prey of the ill-advised counsels of his new friends. Painful things
occurred in our households. I never found my little Lizzie, who left
me after the surrender of Petersburg. One day I surprised my husband's
gentle mother in tears, because of the condition of a small servant who
had returned to her after wandering through the country, and who was now
smitten with fever. My sister had reared a superb young woman, Clara,
whom we all loved and respected. She too disappeared, to be mourned by
the entire family. Six months after she left, my brother was aroused
late at night by a violent ringing at the door. His wife entreated him
not to open the door, for these sudden alarms were to be dreaded; but he
said, "I must—I cannot help thinking Clara may return." When the door
was opened in the midnight darkness, a small trunk was hastily thrust
in by an unseen hand, and Clara fell across the threshold. She never
spoke again! Next day she died, and in her slender stock of clothing
there was no word, no clew, to solve the mystery of her death.

As early as 1865 Congress directed that an amendment to the Constitution
should be submitted to all the states, prescribing that "neither
slavery nor involuntary servitude" should thenceforth exist in the
United States. I don't know how this amendment was received by other
states. Virginia adopted it at once, and the new-made citizen took
his place there as a constituent part of the American people. "Every
barrier between the races was levelled to the ground as far as the
action of the Federal government could effect it. The Africans were
now the political equals of all other Americans. They were competent
to vote, to preside on the bench, to command in the army, to represent
the country at foreign courts, to sit in the Senate, and to officiate
as governors of states, and as Presidents of the United States. It is
not surprising that President Lincoln, walking through the streets of
Richmond after the surrender, should have gazed with 'a pathetic wonder'
on the African crowd around him. By his act they had become citizens,
and it is possible that he wondered at the probable result."[27]

Far different has been the treatment, by this country, of our only
original native Americans—the North American Indians!

The story of "reconstruction," and of the pangs and throes through which
Virginia worked out her salvation, has been told by an abler pen than
mine. Nor can I follow further the fortunes of our own family, of our
struggle for existence in a new home, of our final reward. This will
be a story for another book. Eighteen months after my husband left me
I had the following letter from him:—

     "Don't imagine I have the least idea of abandoning my
     experiment here. I mean 'to fight it out on this line,' to
     the end of the struggle. My practice increases slowly, but
     is based, I believe, on a conviction of my competency. Thank
     God, what I have accomplished, though small, has been achieved
     by my own unaided exertions and without the least obligation
     to a human being. I have no patron. I have never solicited
     business. My only arts are study and devotion to duty. These
     expedients may be slow of operation but they are sure, and
     they leave my dignity and self-respect uncompromised. I am
     not conscious of having received a favor since my residence
     in New York: and when the victory is achieved, I shall have
     inexpressible satisfaction in saying, with Coriolanus—'_alone_
     I did it!' When I speak of 'favors,' I mean in the way of my
     profession. Of some personal kindness I have been the grateful
     recipient,—though not in many instances."

Within two years I followed him with our children; and if I cannot
say with Mr. Burke, "my adopted and my _dearer_" home, yet so warm and
abounding was the welcome accorded us that we are attached to it by the
strongest ties of gratitude and affection.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last time I visited Petersburg I drove out to her battle-fields.
Nature had hidden the scars with beauty. The seeds of the daisy had been
scattered wherever the Federal forces had been encamped, and they had
whitened the fields and covered the graves by the wayside. Nature had
not forgotten these lonely unmarked graves, nor will she ever forget,
until time shall be no more.

It is not easy to write about the dreadful war between the North and the
South. We press our breasts against a thorn when we recall the anguish
of those days of death and disaster. It is often said that it is still
too early to write the story of our Civil War. It will soon be too late.
Some of us still live who saw those days. We should not shrink from
recording what we know to be true. Thus only will a full history of
American courage and fidelity be preserved,—for all were Americans. The
glory of one is the glory of all—in 1861 when brothers were in conflict,
as well as in 1898 when they stood shoulder to shoulder and heart to
heart against a foreign foe. Circumstances do not rule the heart, and
"where the heart is right, there is true patriotism."


FOOTNOTES

     [1] "Life of Oliphant," Vol. I. p. 109.

     [2] J. F. Rhodes's "History of the United States," Vol. I. p.
     390.

     [3] "Life in Washington," by Mary J. Windle.

     [4] _New York Herald_, February 7, 1904.

     [5] Rhodes's "History of the United States," Vol. II, p. 417.

     [6] "Life," by Johnston and Browne, p. 365.

     [7] Rhodes's "History of the United States," Vol. II, p. 453.

     [8] Rhodes, Vol. II, p. 493.

     [9] _Ibid._, Vol. II, p. 495.

     [10] "Anecdotes and Incidents of the Civil War," Porter.

     [11] Rhodes, Vol. III, p. 435.

     [12] "Life of Joseph E. Johnston," by General Bradley Johnson,
     p. 32.

     [13] Rhodes's "History of the United States."

     [14] "Memoirs of J. E. Johnston," by General Bradley Johnson,
     p. 72.

     [15] "McClellan's Own Story," p. 338.

     [16] "Camp-fire and Battle-field," p. 456 _et seq._

     [17] "Camp-fire and Battle-ground," p. 238.

     [18] "Four Years with Marse Robert," p. 341.

     [19] "Camp-fire and Battle-field," p. 489.

     [20] Porter's "Anecdotes and Incidents of the Civil War," p.
     274.

     [21] "Robertson's Life and Letters," edited by S. A. Brooke,
     p. 804.

     [22] "Camp-fire and Battle-field," p. 185.

     [23] "Incidents and Anecdotes of the Civil War," Porter, p.
     302.

     [24] "Camp-fire and Battle-field," pp. 486, 487.

     [25] Lecture to members of the Mechanics' Institution,
     February, 1853.

     [26] "Virginia," by John Esten Cooke, p. 505 _et seq._

     [27] "Virginia," by John Esten Cooke, pp. 507-508.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.





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This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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