Page images

to move in his rear before Pickett's whole command stampeded, leaving our artillery in the enemy's hands, and they were exploding our caissons in a lane in our front. We pressed forward across a branch of the west fork of Sailor's creek, and were surrounded by the enemy entirely on our rear and left and half way down our front. Wallace's Brigade broke and fled to a woods on our right. We pressed up a hill in our front, halted behind a worm fence on the crest, fired three volleys to the rear, and retreating again, moved quickly down the hill, putting it between us and the enemy in our rear, and poured three volleys obliquely to the left and front, broke the enemy and got out. Here the 26th showed its exemplary drill. Perrin gallantly rallied his regiment, and upon its nucleus we formed and seized the whole brigade in sight of the broken enemy. After rallying and forming, we poured three volleys into the woods where Wallace's Brigade were ensconced, and it raised a white flag and came out to us and formed and marched with us safely off the field, and gained our road past the enemy. Anderson, Pickett and (B. R.) Johnson had left the field before we cut through and gone on to the high bridge and Farmville. At one o'clock at night we reached the high bridge and found it shut down. After getting over it we marched a mile or more on towards Farmville, and bivouacked until the morning of the 7th. We were overcome by exhaustion, and without food or refreshment of any kind. There was no water but the pools, as red as brick dust, in the soil of that region. Colonel J. Thomas Goode, Captain Jordan and myself washed or cooled our faces and hands in the same pool the next morning, and neither of us had a handkerchief or towel to wipe with, and consequently the paint of the red water remained on our faces and at the edges of our hair; and during the night a soldier of the 34th found me sleeping without a blanket or coat on the chilling earth-the enemy had captured my orderly and body-servant, with my cloak and two of my horsesa wounded man at Sailor's creek had escaped on my riding horse proper-and the noble private, whom I don't know, wrapped me, more dead than alive, in his coarse gray blanket, pinning it on with a wire pin, both of which I have now, and the gold of Ophir could not buy them! With a face painted like an Indian, with the gray blanket around me, and with the Confederate Tyrolese hat on—not off, as ridiculously stated—and muddy all over, I put myself on foot at the head of the two brigades and marched on the railroad to near Farmville. There an officer of General Lee met me and ordered us to move to him, then in sight on his gray. Turning the head of the

column to the right, down the railroad embankment, we marched across the open field to where he was sitting in his saddle, with General B. R. Johnson on his horse a little in the rear. The latter had fled from Sailor's creek and reported me killed and the whole division cut to pieces and dispersed. As I moved up with the two brigades I saw that General Lee was suppressing a laugh. I knew he had a sub-vein of humor, which he was hardly concealing when he saw my appearance-that of a Comanche savage. He was right; I

was savage and looked like an Indian, and waited not to be accosted, when I exclaimed with an oath: "General Lee, these men shall not move another inch unless they have something more to eat than parched corn taken from starving mules!" He smiled with great

blandness, and said:

"They deserve something to eat, sir. Let them, without taking down the fence, move to the trees on yonder hill, and they shall be filled for once at least. And you, General Wise, will pause here a moment with me." When the brigades passed on he turned to me and said: "You, sir, will take command of all these forces." There were no organized forces but the two brigades I came up with, in sight; there were thousands of disorganized troops in all directions without order or command. I protested that I could not take such a command. I had no horses. He ordered me to get a horse and make all the stragglers and disorganized men fall into my ranks. I told him that it would put my brigade hors du combat, to have to play field marshal for such a disorganized mass. He said: "You must obey your order, sir." I replied: "I will, sir, or die a trying, but I must first understand it. It is not the men who are deserting the ranks, but the officers who are deserting the men who are disorganizing your army. Do you mean to say, General Lee, that I must take command of all men of all ranks?" looking at General B. R. Johnson. Lee then understood my meaning, turned his head the other way to smile, said: “Do your duty, sir." And I first went to breakfast and then to the work which wound up at Appomattox on the 9th, when and where I signed the paroles of more than 5,000 men besides those of my own brigade. It was this which gave rise to the ridiculous story lately published in the newspapers of the day and in Harper's Magazine. The correspondent, as usual, blundered upon enough of fact to make fiction murder truth, and make me ludicrous. It was the proudest moment of my life, and I am glad to explain its true history.

Without intermission I was with that brigade in whole and in part

from April, 1861, until April 9th, 1865, under the eye of General Lee from the first to the last scenes of the war, and we parted with each other on parole at Appomattox. Alas! how few were there at last of those who were comrades with us at first. There were less than 1,000 left of the 2,850 who returned from Charleston in April, 1864, Less than half were paroled of 2,400 who charged at Howlett's. Their last, after fighting in nineteen battles, was their most glorious charge; and they fired the last guns of the infantry at Appomattox. Of this and other commands, Gloucester's dead were piled on every battle field: Page, Taylor, Fitzhugh, Puller, Ellis, Robins, Hibble, Baytop, Millers, Roane, Bridges, Banks, Norton, Amory, Cooke, Edwards, Griffin, Massey, Newcomb, Bristow, Jones, Barry, Ware, Simcoe, R. B. Jones, Kenan, Pitts, Pointer, Leigh, Jeff Dutton, Elijah Dutton, Vincent Edwards, Dunstan, Hughes, Evans, Cary, Thos. Robins, Freeman, John Roane, Jenkins, Hobday, Albert Roane, Ransome, White, J. W. Robins, Woodland, Cooper, Summerson, Williams, Hogg, Sparrow, T. J. Hibble, Alex. Dutton, John Edwards, Rich, Dutton again, Dunbar Edwards, Gwynn-I cease to call the roll, for they are absent by fifties and hundreds, and not a man answers to his name!

In this succinct, didactic narrative, not half justice could be done to these martys to civil liberty. Their lives and deaths were the most beautiful epic poems. They will be sung and celebrated as long as liberty lasts; as long as a love for it sighs for its loss and their sacrifice. There was nothing sordid or selfish in the high motives or objects of their death struggle. The chief injustice done to their memories is in seeming to think or say that they fought and died in vain for some mere material property, profit, advantage, or possession. Nothing could be more unjust to them, or more untrue in fact. They were no hirelings; they were no men of expediency. They loved virtue for virtue's sake, honor for honor's sake, justice for justice's sake, truth for truth's sake, right for right's sake. They never stooped to ask: "Will it pay?" They had faith, feelings, affections, sense of the intellect to know their rights, and knowing them, the courage to maintain them through all hazards, and to the last extremity, they had a sense of honor, a sense of self-respect, a sense of wrong, a sense of duty and a physiical and moral power of resistance to the tyranny of usurpation and oppression. Their physical power was expended in the war, but their moral power still exists unimpaired, except by those who call their consecrated cause "A Lost Cause;" except

by those who say that "the best they can do". is to desert the faith of that cause; to lose its feelings and fortitudes; to take test oaths; to beg for pardons; to confess the charge of treason, not only to acknowledge the guilt of the highest felony known to the calendar of human crime, for themselves, but in fact and effect to inscribe treason on the graves of these heroic martyrs; to choose the school of morals which teaches the doctrine of taking lesser evils; to approve and endorse the blackest wrongs done to this generation and its heirs forever, against which these immolated comrades fought and died! This thing which we now hear called "accepting the situation" is very different from the acceptance of the situation which these dead comrades made in the pride of patriotism when they accepted graves rather than servile submission, when they tasted death rather than "eat dirt" and live! They made thousands of the foe "bite the dust" rather than be conquered to wear chains by consent and approval. If they were traitors I and every leader of theirs who led them to battle and to death, Lee and all, were murderers! They were not traitors, and Lee and I and others whom they followed were not their murderers! The morale of their lives and deaths still lives in the memory of the glorious deeds they did, and their examples are immortal. The rights for which they contended and their defence of those rights constituted "the Confederate Cause." And that cause is as undying as those rights are indestructible, and as their defence was glorious! They were true to that Cause, the substance of which was not to be masters of slaves, but that others should not be their masters, and they were true to the last ditch of its defence, and to the death! Yes! After the bones of these devoted martyrs shall have mouldered into dust; after the deserters of their faith and memories and examples shall have died in the easiest situations which they can accept, and they and their treason shall have rotted and been forgotten, the cause of freedom for which these noble Confederates fell-the freedom of conscience and the freedom of self-government, guarded by a standard of fundamental law of its honest administration-the Confederate Cause shall survive and revive and find champions, though its champions for the time be made martyrs! The blood of these martyrs shall be the seeds of new life and new liberty for all the ages of time! and the moral monuments of "These True Men," without marble and without brass, shall be eternal!

I wish it was permitted by this occasion, dedicated to the dead, to speak of and to the survivors of these their comrades, who so

nobly made up their accounts and passed away, leaving a duty, a sacred duty, to be performed by the living. There are many of those living who were true in the rank and file of the army, who were to tread with cautious steps and not forget to pay and not to mistake the way of paying the debt due to the fallen. You propose to build them a shrine. That shrine will be nothing-it will be vain, a mockery-if every one of your own hearts and heads are not shrines, in which the memories of these men are embalmed. Your hearts cannot be their shrines if you have not performed your part too like true men, worthy of their example.

Let us, the living, gather their ashes to the grave-yards of the old homesteads, and con the moral of their lives and deaths, that—

"Integrity of life is fame's best friend,

Which nobly beyond death shall crown the end.”

[From the New Orleans Picayune, Feb 10, 1895.]


An Estimate of the Man by a Contemporary.


Sergeant Smith Prentiss was born in Portland, Me., September 30, 1808, and died at Natchez, Miss., July 1, 1850. Forty-four eventful years have come and gone, and yet the name and fame of Prentiss is as green in the memory of those who admire talent and love chivalry as when he was here in the flesh. With one or two honorable exceptions, his contemporaries are all dead. Much has been written and printed of this wonderful man. Every reminiscence, however, with which his name is connected is eagerly read, not only in Mississippi but throughout the Union. Not one Mississippian, perhaps, in 10,000 ever saw a likeness of Prentiss. The one contained in several metropolitan papers last year was a miserable caricature no more like Prentiss than Prentiss was like Hercules.

Of all the sketches written of Prentiss, the following, from J. G. Baldwin, a contemporary of Prentiss, who afterwards removed to

« PreviousContinue »