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The vigor of his frame had carried him through the crisis, but the wound was not perfectly bealed; he was still weak and could only move on crutches.
No sooner was he apprised of what was contemplated, than he sought to join the enterprise. The remembrance of comrades pining in loathsome dungeons-of men with whom he had ridden side by side amid the deadly conflict, and a strong conviction of their sufferings animating every pulse of his gallant heart, he felt that duty called him there, and the reluctant consent of the authorities was at last yielded to his earnest entreaties.
It is not my purpose here to narrate the whole course of this noble enterprise; that will be the duty of a future day; but no one had seen Colonel Dahlgren in his full vigor sit his charger more gracefully or better endure the incessant and multiplied hardships of that ride, by day and by night, in shine and storm.
The failure of his column to connect with that of General Kilpatrick led to the failure of the expedition and the death of as noble a soldier as ever gave life to a great cause.
On Tuesday night, March first, after dark, Colonel Dahlgren was close to Richmond, and came in contact with the rebel infantry stationed at the outer works. At such a time of peril, far away from help of any kind, with a small force of cavalry, hardly a gunshot from the stronghold of rebeldom, the splendid courage of the young leader never blazed more brightly. An officer who was nearest to him, but who had never served with him before, writes in admiration of the perfect self-possession with which he rode in front of the line, and spoke to his men under a storm of bullets. Then came the charge, scattering the rebels like chaff.
This done, it only remained to ride on from Richmond and endeavor to gain the Union lines below. The night was dark, the rain fell in torrents, and the cloaks of the men were stiffened with sleet, but the column spurred on at full speed. Sad to say, the advance, with Colonel Dahlgren, became separated from the main body, and at dawn of Wednesday he found himself, with a little party of seventy men, in the very midst of a hostile country.
Still holding on the swift tenor of his way, he crossed the Pamunkey and reached the Mattapony not long after noon. The men and horses had been crossed over the river, the few videttes had been called down from their posts and also sent across, Colonel Dahlgren remaining alone on the southern bank. The chivalry had now gathered in the bushes, and deliberately opened fire on him, though they saw plainly that he was crippled by the loss of a leg and only stood erect by aid of the crutches on which he leaned; the waters of the river separated him from every helping hand, and it were easy for a strong and resolute man to rush forward and bear away by main force the enfeebled frame of the weary officer. But any manly
deed was a flight far above what the chivalry contemplated; they could assassinate him from the ambush, because it attained their base purpose without risk to their own craven carcasses. In utter scorn of such abject fear Colonel Dahlgren bid them come out from their hiding-places and discharged his pistol at them defiantly.
The contrast thus presented might well inspire the pencil of the artist.
But the young warrior was not to close his glorious career there; the ferry-boat bore him over unharmed; he mounted, and once more led his band onward. It was at this time, by their own accounts, that the chivalry had an opportunity of numbering exactly the force that was with him, and ascertained that this remnant did not exceed seventy men. So they contrived to collect various scattered parties from the neighborhood until they mustered three or four times the force of our retreating cavalry. Even with this advantage the miserable creatures dare not offer Colonel Dahlgren a fair field in open day. There were those of them who knew him-the gallant Ninth Virginia-had faced him in Fredericksburg with quite as great a superiority of numbers, and had been driven in every direction until they skulked out of the town like whipped curs. So they confederated in force where the road wound through a deep forest, and awaited the coming of the Union troop.
This happened about midnight, and repeated volleys from these miscreants did their work all too well.
The gallant youth fell, pierced by many balls at the head of his men, and even while his brave spirit still lingered about its shattered tenement, the chivalry began to strip off his clothing. Whether this detestable purpose was accomplished before he was dead I know not, nor whether the infamous wretches paused to make sure that life was extinct before they severed a finger from his hand in order to secure a ring given by a departed sister, and dearly prized by the heart that now is as still as her own.
It was not until daylight disclosed the utter helplessness of the survivors, that the victors took heart of grace and consummated their brave deed by marching the wearied and famished troopers along the road, regardless of the fact that this led them by the body of their young chief, just as it lay, stripped and covered with mud, but yet honored by the sad tokens which it exhibited of love and loyalty to the cause of his country. The absent limb told of recent battle-fields, and the breathless body gave assurance that the last sacrifice had been made. The young life, rich in promise, had been laid down, and thus was redeemed the solemn oath of fealty to the Union.
No respect for the well-known gallantry of their victim, no feeling for his extreme youth, entered into the thoughts of these atrocious ruffians, and only when sated with the mournful
sight were the relics of the noble dead permitted such sepulture as a hasty grave could afford.
Be it remembered that to this time nothing was known of the forged document. But presently it came to the upper chivalry at Richmond that one of the leaders of the expedition had fallen. Frenzied with terror at the possible consequences of the success of the undertaking-for they had every reason to dread that the vengeance of the released prisoners would respect no person-they sought a pretext for the meditated villany on the body of Colonel Dahlgren in a forgery which they thought would extenuate all disregard of every dictate of manhood and humanity.
He was tall, well-built, and graceful; his frame gave every promise of future strength, but as yet lacked the development of the ma tured man, and was divested of all spare flesh by a life of constant activity in the saddle.
To the casual observer he appeared like a very young and very diffident man-gentle and unobtrusive, a moderate talker, and always of pleasant mood; but beneath lay a character of the firmest mould, a constancy of purpose never to be diverted from its object, courage that was never disturbed by any danger, impulses of the
So they forged the lie and gave it currency in all the minuteness of a seeming fac-simile, while the original counterfeit was so recklessly executed that the shameful deceit could not fail to be apparent to any one having the least knowl-purest nature habitually in exercise, producing edge of Colonel Dahlgren's handwriting.
So the remains of the heroic dead were torn from the grave, conveyed to Richmond, and there exposed to the taunts and gaze of a mob; then hurried away, in the obscurity of the night, to some shameless spot, whence it was intended they should never be recovered.
There was an ingenuity in this contrived villany from which the mind recoils with horror. Contrast the high and holy purpose of the Union soldier-his devotion to it, even to death; his calm, undaunted courage, graced by every milder virtue; his kindly hospitality to the captive rebel officer, so illy requited; contrast these with the craven cowardice of the ruffians who beset him and did midnight murder; their brutal desecration of his body; and worse than these, the crimes of the higher chivalry, who made war on the dead as such could only wage. Contrast these, and say if it were not happier to die as did Ulric Dahlgren-so true, so gentle, and so brave-than to live as those do who, to destroy his fair name, have justified and exulted in his assassination, and forged a lie, to their eternal infamy.
It was not only in the dark hours of closing life that Colonel Dahlgren's admirable qualities were exhibited; his whole life was ennobled by the presence of every trait that can adorn humanity.
He had completed the first year of his manhood when he was so basely assassinated; yet by his bravery and devotion on many a battlefield, he had won the high, but well-deserved, rank. of Colonel of Cavalry. That commission was transmitted with the following letter:
WASHINGTON, July 24, 1862. DEAR SIR: Enclosed you have a commission for Colonel, without having passed through the intermediate grade of Major. Your gallant and meritorious service has, I think, entitled you to this distinction, although it is a departure from general usage, which is only justified by distinguished merit such as yours. I hope you may
a course of life unblemished by the least meanness-a good son, a warm friend, dutiful alike to God and man. I can now look back over the whole of his young life, and declare that in no instance did he ever fail in the most respectful obedience to my least wish. A more perfect and lovely character I cannot conceive.
His mind was of no common order, and he had been carefully educated. He was well-read in classics, a good mathematician, and expert with the pencil. He delighted in all manly exercises, was an excellent swimmer, and, as a horseman, not surpassed, but was a bold, practised and elegant rider.
As a soldier his conception was quick, his judgment deliberate, but in execution rapid as lightning No one would recognize him as the unobtrusive, retiring youth he might have passed in a throng. Having spent so much of his leisure time with me in the Ordnance Department, he had a rare knowledge of gunnery, which was often turned to good account in the field.
His courage was not of that rampant character so troublesome to friend as well as foe, but came forth instantly at the first sign of danger.
To these qualities he added a deep sense of religious obligation, having been carefullly trained by a departed mother to the church and to the Sunday-school. But in this, as in many other respects, he was not demonstrative.
When apparently at the verge of death from a wound, and reminded of the danger, he smiled, and said that he had never gone into battle without asking forgiveness of his sins and commending his soul to his Maker.
And so passed away this young life, so radiant in promise.
Nor is it only a father's love and affection that prompts such praise, as the many who knew him will confirm.
Full testimony has been borne to his record in the school from which he had withdrawn but a few years before, and from the pulpit of the
church where he had been an attentive listener for successive Sabbaths.
The large number of letters which I have received from those who knew him or have heard his story assure me that my son appeared to others as he appeared to me. Among the latest received is one sent me for perusal, from an entire stranger, who writes thus:
* The lamented young Dahlgren, with whom it had been our pleasure to form a brief, but most agreeable acquaintance. This was while he was in the city, recovering from the amputation of his limb. We first met him at. He was present upon his crutches, and received marked attention both from military and civilians. The news of his cruel death produced in us a feeling of unmingled sadness-the more so, perhaps, from the vivid impression left on us by meeting him just before he went last to the field and entered upon his fatal expedition. It was at one of Speaker Colfax's receptions *where we had a long and agreeable conversation with him, and had the pleasure of introducing quite a number of our friends, and I know that his gentleness and modest deportment, joined to that moral heroism that seemed to pervade his whole spirit, will not soon be forgotten by those who conversed with him. Some who heard the elaborate and wonderful sermon of Dr. Sunderland on his death, but who had never met him, were ready to say that the character drawn by the Doctor was that of a very remarkable young man. To some of these it was my privilege to say that the picture drawn of him was a true one. My wife has often referred to his conversation at Colfax's. His whole soul seemed to be patriotically absorbed in the struggle of his country. His conversation with every one, however commenced, would soon be turned to the great conflict in which our beloved country is engaged for the maintenance of its government against the determined efforts of wicked men to destroy it. To a number of young ladies that were introduced to him he said, in a pleasant but earnest manner-"Ladies, you ought to encourage the young men to enlist in the Union army, and fight for our country. It is their duty, and ought to be a privilege to be engaged in such a cause, and if they should fall, it would be in a holy cause. No one should consider his life too dear to lay it down, if need be, for our glorious Union and country." These were the sentiments, and as near as I can remember, the language used by him. There seemed a wonderful earnestness and almost inspiration about him in reference to our country. He felt that it was glorious to die for one's country. To all it is a subject of deep sorrow that one so promising and so fully imbued with genuine patriotism should thus early in life be cut down in such a ruthless manner.
Thus he appeared in the social circle. Another letter shows him in the perilous hours of the expedition that preceded his death-from an officer who was near him at the time.
His playful, pleasant smile ever cheered and inspired his companions. Good nature and firmness seemed in him most pleasantly blended, and as I rode beside him it was with the greatest pleasure that I watched his face, and with every glance gained new trust. (The column was now near Richmond.) We advanced, and as night came on we met the enemy; the skirmishing was heavy; the enemy's fire very annoying; but I stopped in admiration of the Colonel's coolness. He rode along the line, speaking to the men, so calm, so quiet, so brave, that it seemed to me the veriest coward must needs fight if never before.
When he gave the order to retire, he detailed our regiment for rear guard and placed me in charge with orders to keep well closed up, but not to let the enemy drive me on the column. He then rode ahead In the darkness the column became divided, etc.
The last letter he ever wrote was to myself. It was from the camp, just before putting foot in stirrup, and about to set out on the last of a brilliant and eventful career. He directed that it should only be given to me in the event of his not returning. He speaks of the enterprise as "glorious, and that he would be ashamed to show his face again if he failed to go in it." He expressed himself as fully sensible of the danger, and concluded thus: "If we do not return, there is no better place to give up the ghost."
Such was the brave and generous spirit whose light has been quenched forever. That of itself might have sufficed to sate the vengeance even of traitors. The shocking cruelty which has been exhibited to his inanimate body, and the perpetration of forgery to justify it, will, in the end, recoil on the infamous ruffians.
To the gallant young soldier it has been as nothing. He had passed away to his final account, leaving behind him a name far beyond the reach of the chivalry. There are those left, however, whose pride and pleasure it will be to vindicate his fair fame, and he will be remembered as a young patriot of spotless life and purest purpose; honest, true and gentle, dutiful to every obligation, unselfish and generous to a fault; an undaunted soldier of the Union, who never struck a blow except at an armed enemy, but carefully and kindly respected the claims of defenceless women and children; an accomplished gentleman, a sincere Christian, a faithful comrade, who, not recovered from the almost fatal illness consequent on losing a limb in battle, went forth to brave every hardship in the hope of aiding in the release of our captive soldiers from the dungeons of a merciless enemy, who for this treated his dead body with savage ferocity, and hesitated not to forge his name.
Peace to his ashes, wherever they rest; the laurels on the young and fair brow of Ulric Dahlgren will never fade while there are true men and women in the land to keep them green. JOHN A. DAHLGREN, Rear-Admiral, commanding United States South Atlantic Block ading Squadron.
GENERAL W. T. SHERMAN'S LETTER.
John A. Spooner, Esq., Agent for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Nashville, Tenn. SIR: Yours from Chattanooga, July twentyeighth, is received, notifying me of your appointment by your State as Lieutenant-Colonel and Provost-Marshal of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, under the act of Congress, approved July 4, 1864, to recruit volunteers to be credited to the States respectively.
On applying to General Webster, at Nashville, he will grant you a pass through our lines to those States, and, as I have had considerable experience in those States, would suggest recruiting depots to be established at Macon and Columbus, Mississippi; Selma, Montgomery, and Mobile, Alabama; and Columbus, Milledgeville, and Savannah, Georgia.
I do not see that the law restricts you to black recruits, but you are at liberty to collect white recruits also. It is waste of time and money to open rendezvous in North-west Georgia, for I assure you I have not seen an ablebodied man, black or white, there, fit for a soldier, who was not in this army or the one opposed to it.
You speak of the impression going abroad that I am opposed to the organization of colored regiments.
My opinions are usually very positive, and there is no reason why you should not know them.
Though entertaining profound reverence for our Congress, I do doubt their wisdom in the passage of this law:
1. Because civilian agents about an army are a nuisance.
2. The duty of citizens to fight for their country is too sacred a one to be peddled off by ing up the refuse of other States.
universal draft will be wise and beneficial; for under the Providence of God it will separate the sheep from the goats, and demonstrate what citizens will fight for their country, and what will only talk.
No one will infer from this that I am not a friend of the negro as well as the white race; I contend that the treason and rebellion of the master freed the slave, and the armies I have commanded have conducted to safe points more negroes than those of any General officer in the army; but I prefer negroes for pioneers, teamsters, cooks, and servants, others gradually to experiment in the art of the soldier, beginning with the duties of local garrison, such as we had at Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez, Nashville, and Chattanooga; but I would not draw on the poor race for too large a proportion of its active, athletic young men, for some must remain to seek new homes and provide for the old and young-the feeble and helpless.
These are some of my peculiar notions, but I assure you they are shared by a large proportion of our fighting men.
You may show this to the agents of the other States in the same business as yourself. I am, etc., W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
L. M. DAYTON,
I send a brief description of the expedition to Jackson, Mississippi, which left this city on the morning of the first instant, and returned on the evening of the ninth instant, under command of Brigadier-General E. S. Dennis, combuy-mander of the First division of the Seventeenth Army Corps, and a complete list of the losses in diffierent companies during the engagement on the morning of the seventh instant, at a point some three miles west of Jackson, known as 'Cross-roads," or rather where the Canton road intersects the main Jackson road.
3. It is unjust to the brave soldiers and volunteers who are fighting, as those who compose this army do, to place them on a par with the class of recruits you are after.
4. The negro is in a transition state, and is not the equal of the white man.
5. He is liberated from his bondage by act of war; and the armies in the field are entitled to all his assistance in labor and fighting, in addition to the proper quotas of the States.
6. This bidding and bartering for recruits, white and black, has delayed the reinforcement of our armies at the times when such reinforcements would have enabled us to make our successes permanent.
7. The law is an experiment which, pending war, is unwise and unsafe, and has delayed the universal draft which I firmly believe will become necessary to overcome the widespread resistance offered us; and I also believe the
On the evening of June thirtieth, orders were received at the headquarters of the different regiments composing the force to make the necessary arrangements for a move the next morning at two o'clock; and when the specified time arrived, everything was in readiness, and a start effected. Although the day was exceedingly warm and dusty, we marched to Big Black river, where we went in camp for the night, with the expectation of resuming our journey at an early hour next morning; but not so.
Morning came, but no orders, in consequence of which we lay in camp all day and the second night, our delay being to await the construction
of the pontoon bridge over the river, and to attend to the drawing of rations and forage; but early on the morning of the third instant we took our position in ranks, and "marched, slowly on" until we arrived at Champion Hills, a place which will long be remembered by friends of many brave men who now lie in sweet repose, filling the graves of true soldiers, who have fallen battling for their country's rights and the protection of their old emblem and protector, the Stars and Stripes, under which they have won many hard-fought battles. Here we went into camp, to spend another night under the grand canopy of Heaven.
opened. Heavy firing from both sides was kept up until the shades of darkness set in, when both armies retired, our men taking position and lying on their arms until the coming morn, and long ere the sun ascended from behind the hills of the far distant east, the skirmishing commenced. Heavy firing, both from artillery and musketry, was kept up continually until seven o'clock, neither party seeming to gain any advantage, until finally the Second brigade, of the gallant old Fourth division were ordered to advance, the Seventy-sixth Illinois infantry in front as skirmishers, and the Forty-sixth Illinois infantry as a support. And advance they did Next morning we moved by the "break of until the entire line was within some seventyday," and made fine progress, it having rained five yards from the enemy, who lay in one posithe night previous, which tended to recreate tion, which they had established the previous and enliven our little army, as it had been very evening, under cover, lying in the edge of a warm and dusty the preceding three days; and body of heavy timber, while, on the contrary, at two o'clock P. M. we were encamped in the our lines were exposed to their whole fire, besuburbs of Clinton, a small town on the Vicks-ing in an open field which inclined toward burg and Jackson railroad. Here we had made them. In this position these two regiments lay ample arrangements for doing our rations jus- for five hours, until the entire train had passed, tice, when the advance, a detachment of cavalry, without the loss of a wagon, and it has been was attacked, and a general move was the ascertained that this command saved all from result. Eatables of every description, which destruction by their gallantry and desperate had been served in the most luxuriant style, fighting. Too much credit and praise cannot be were put aside, and a line of battle formed, but attributed to the officers and men, and permit to no avail, as the enemy retreated upon our us to say that no braver ever entered the field making arrangements to meet them; consequent- of battle. Strange as it may seem, the Seventyly we retired, spending the balance of our ninth did not lose an officer, and had twentyhours of rest in peace. one on the field, but lost about one hundred men out of three hundred and seventy-five. Lieutenant-Colonel C. C. Jones had his horse shot four times while riding along the lines, the last shot proving fatal, but he never retired from the field, although his leg was somewhat fractured by the falling of his horse.
Morning came, and we advanced as per orders, at seven o'clock, but proceeded only a short distance when this regiment was ordered to the rear, the train having been attacked by a squad of rebel cavalry, and for the remainder of the day we acted in the capacity of rear guard, but did not encounter any enemy, they having gone to their advance to support a battery which was operating against our front. After one o'clock the enemy fell back in the direction of Canton, learning that Colonel Coates' Second brigade, First division, would effect a flank movement on them.
Previous to our entering Jackson a flag of truce was sent out by the citizens with a request that we should not shell the city, reporting no enemy there, so we marched through their once prosperous but now desolate capital, with banners flying, filling the air with the melodious sounds of martial music, amidst the prolonged cheers of the men, and arrived at the river on the southeast of the city, where we went in camp.
Here we remained until four o'clock next day, when the bugle was sounded to depart, the direction or destination being unknown to any but the commanders, and in a few moments all were on the move in the direction of what was termed "home," but alas! we proceeded but a short distance, the Seventy-sixth infantry, being in the advance, when we came to a "halt." Artillery was now put in position, cavalry thrown out as skirmishers, and the lines established by the infantry-everything in position, and the ball |
After continued fighting for five hours, orders came to fall back, and it was with the greatest difficulty that this regiment escaped capture, as they were compelled to leave all the dead and seriously wounded on the field, being obliged to crawl some two hundred yards under a heavy and galling fire, after which they re-formed the line and crossed a large opening some two miles in width, under a constant fire of grape, canister, and musketry, when we rejoined our command in good order, receiving the compliments of the General and his staff, who had given us up as lost.
After leaving the field of action we moved in the direction of the train, but were harassed in the rear by the cavalry of the enemy, who made three unsuccessful charges on a section of Bolton's Chicago battery, but were successfully repulsed on each occasion, with a comparatively small loss on our side, but heavy on the enemy's, the battery pouring a murderous fire of grape, canister, and shell into their ranks as they advanced, with the Eleventh Illinois infantry as a support, who at no time were idle. After this repulse we had no more serious trouble, but still an attack was hourly expected on the train, which at this time was perfectly safe.