When Wright’s Georgia regiment was drawn up in line of battle, to go into its first fight in North Carolina, Wright, (afterwards a Major-General,) in passing in front of his regiment, observed a tall, gaunt fellow, with a violin case strapped to his back. Wright asked him “what he was going to do with his fiddle?” The rude soldier had never heard of Mirabeau’s dying exclamation, but he almost quoted it when he said, he wanted to “die to the sound of Betsy,” his being the term of endearment which he applied to his violin.

After the fight was over, the fiddling soldier did not answer at roll-call. He was found, with a broken leg, at the root of a tree, to which he had crawled, quietly sawing the strings of “Betsy.”

Originally posted 2008-03-17 14:21:21.

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I have lately returned from the South; but my exact whereabouts in that region, for obvious reasons, it would not be politic to state. Suspected of being a Northerner, it was often my advantage to court obscurity. Known as a spy, a “short shrift” and a ready rope would have prevented the blotting of this paper. Hanging, disguised, on the outskirts of a camp, mixing with its idlers, laughing at their jokes, examining their arms, counting their numbers, endeavoring to discover the plans of their leaders, listening to this party and pursuing that, joining in the chorus of a rebel song, betting on rebel success, cursing Abolitionism, reviling Lincoln, traducing Scott, extolling Gen. Beauregard, despising Northern fighters, laughing at their tactics and sneering at their weapons, praising the beauty of Southern belles and decrying that of Northern, calling New York a den of cutthroats, and New Orleans a paradise of immaculate chivalry, is but a small portion of the practice of my profession as a spy. This may not seem honorable nor desirable. As to the honor, let the country that benefits by the investigations and warnings of the spy be judge; and the dangers, often incurred, is more serious and personal than that of the battle-field, which may, perhaps, detract from its desirability.

It was a dark night. Not a star on the glimmer. I had collected my quotum of intelligence, and was on the move for the Northern lines. I was approaching the banks of a stream whose waters I had to cross, and had then some miles to traverse before I could reach the pickets of our gallant troops. A feeling of uneasiness began to creep over me; I was on the outskirt of a wood fringing the dark waters at my feet, whose presence could scarcely be detected but for their sultan murmurs as they rushed through the gloom. The wind sighed in gentle accordance. I walked forty or fifty yards along the bank. I then crept on all-fours along the ground, and groped with my hands. I paused–I groped again–my breath thickened, perspiration oozed from me at every pore, and I was prostrated with horror! I had missed my landmark, and knew not where I was. Below or above, beneath the shelter of the bank, lay the skiff I had hidden ten days before, when I commenced my operations among the followers of Jeff. Davis.

As I stood gasping for breath, with all the unmistakable proofs of my calling about me, the sudden cry of a bird or plunging of a fish would act like magnetism on my frame, not wont to shudder at a shadow. No matter how pressing the danger may be, if a man sees an opportunity for escape, he breathes with freedom. But let him be surrounded by darkness, impenetrable at two yards’ distance, within rifle’s length of concealed foes, for what knowledge he has to the contrary; knowing, too, with painful accuracy, the detection of his presence would reward him with a sudden and violent death, and if he breathes no faster, and feels his limbs as free and his spirits as light as when taking a favorite promenade, he is more fitted for a hero than I am.

In the agony of that moment–in the sudden and utter helplessness I felt to discover my true bearings–I was about to let myself gently into the stream, and breast its current, for life or death. There was no alternative. The Northern pickets must be reached in safety before the morning broke, or I should soon swing between heaven and earth, from some green limb of the black forest in which I stood.

At that moment the low, sullen bay of a bloodhound struck my ear. The sound was reviving–the fearful stillness broken. The uncertain flew before the certain danger. I was standing to my middle in the shallow bed of the river, just beneath the jutting banks. After a pause of a few seconds I began to cree mechanically and stealthily down the stream, followed, as I knew from the rustling of the grass and frequent breaking of twigs, by the insatiable brute; although, by certain uneasy growls, I felt assured he was at fault. Something struck against my breast. I could not prevent a slight cry from escaping me, as, stretching out my hand, I grasped the gunwale of a boat moored beneath the bank. Between surprise and joy I felt half choked. In an instant I had scrambled on board, and began to search for the painter in the bow, in order to cast her from her fastenings.

Suddenly a bright ray of moonlight–the first gleam of hope in that black night–fell directly on the spot, revealing the silvery stream, my own skiff, (hidden there ten days before,) lighting the deep shadows of the verging wood, and, on the log half buried in the bank, and from which I had that instant cast the line that had bound me to it, the supple form of the crouching bloodhound, his red eyes gleaming in the moonlight, jaws distended, and poising for the spring. With one dart the light skiff was yards out in the stream, and the savage after it. With an oar I aimed a blow at his head, which, however, he eluded with ease. In the effort thus made the boat careened over towards my antagonist, who made a desperate effort to get his forepaws over the side, at the same time seizing the gunwale with his teeth.

Now or never was my time to get rid of the accursed brute. I drew my revolver, and placed the muzzle between his eyes, but hesitated to fire, for that one report might bring on me a volley from the shore. Meantime the strength of the dog careened the frail craft so much that the water rushed over the side, threatening to swamp her. I changed my tactics, threw my revolver into the bottom of the skiff, and grasping my “bowie,” keen as a Malay creese, and glittering, as I released it from the sheath, like a moonbeam on the stream. In an instant I had severed the sinewy throat of the hound, cutting through brawn and muscle to the nape of the neck. The tenacious wretch gave a wild, convulsive leap half out of the water, then sank, and was gone.

Five minutes’ pulling landed me on the other side of the river, and in an hour after, without further accident, I was among friends, encompassed by the Northern lines. That night I related at headquarters the intelligence I had gathered.


Originally posted 2008-03-16 17:57:34.

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At the battle when the order came from the headquarters for the retreat, word was passed down the line to the New York Zouaves. “Do not!” exclaimed a score of the “pet lambs” in a breath. “Do not!” “We are ordered to retreat,” said the commander. “Wot’n thunder’s that?” responded one of the hard-heads, who evidently did not comprehend the word exactly. “Go back–retire,” continued the commander. “Go back–where?” “Leave the field.” “Leave? Why, that ain’t what we come for. We’re here to fight,” insisted the boys. “We came here with 1,040 men,” said the commander. “There are now 600 left. Fall back, boys!” and the “lambs” sulkily retired, evidently displeased with the order.

Two of the New Hampshire Second were leaving the field, through the woods, when they were suddenly confronted by five rebels, who ordered them to “halt! or we fire.” The Granite boys saw their dilemma, but the foremost of them presented his musket, and answered, “Halt you, or we fire!” and, at the word, both discharged their pieces. The rebel fell, his assailant was unharmed. Seizing his companion’s musket, he brought it to his shoulder, and said to the other, “Fire!” Both fired their guns at once, and two more rebels fell. The others fled. The leader’s name was Hanford, from Dover, N. H.

As the Maine troops were leaving the field of battle, a soldier stepped up to one of the officers of the Fifth regiment, and requested him to lend him a knife. The officer took out a common pocket-knife, and handed it to the soldier, who sat down at the side of the road, pulled up the leg of his trousers, and deliberately dug a musket-ball out of his leg, jumped up, and resumed his march.

When the news of the repulse reached the camp meeting at Desplaines, Ill., Rev. Henry Cox, who was preaching at the time the intelligence was received, remarked, on closing his sermon, “Brethren, we had better adjourn this camp meeting, and go home and drill.”

Originally posted 2008-03-15 14:18:01.

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WILL RUSSELL was a writer rare,
Of genius and renown,
A war-trained correspondent he
From famous London town.

On Indian and Crimean coasts
He wrote of guns and drums,
And now as through our land he posts,
To Washington he comes.

To-morrow’s sun will see a fight
On Bull Run’s banks, they say;
So there, my friend, we’d early go,
All a two-‘oss shay.

I’ll also take a saddle-horse
To bear the battle’s brunt,
Whereon in my Crimean style,
I’ll see the fight in front.

And I will don the coolest of
My Himalayan suits—
My belt, felt hat, revolver, and
My old East Indian boots.

Fresh stores of pens I’ll surely need,
And foolscap, too, I think;
And in one holster snugly thrust
A pint of Dovell’s ink.

While in the bottom of the gig
We’ll stow the choice Bordeaux,
And eke this bottle of cold tea–
To cool us off, you know!

And for that, in this heathen land,
The grub is all a sham,
I’ve here wrapped up some sausage, too,
And sandwiches of ‘am.

Experience on Crimean shores
Has taught me how to forage,
And how these creature comforts tend
“To keep up martial courage.”

Smack! went his lips at thought thereof,
Off rolled the Yankee gig,
Before the shouts and rolling whites
Of starers, small and big!

Like clouds of dust his spirits rise,
While merry cracks the whip;
The led-horse pranced and “bobbed around”
Like porpoise round a ship.

The Long Bridge planks jumped up and down
In sympathetic jig—
They little thought he would return
Minus the “creaking gig.”

That rotten Rubicon is passed,
And likewise frowning “Runyon”–
Its outline marked with many a black
Columbiad on its trunnion.

Past fields where just the day before
The harvest-scythe was sweeping,
They rushed where soon its human sheaves
Death’s sickle would be reaping!

As rise the distant cannon’s tones,
So mounts his martial ardor,
His thought half on the work “in front”–
Half on his meagre larder.

At length he’s there at Centreville!
In sight and sound of what
He came so far to see and sketch,
Where rained the shell and shot!

But ere he ventures, careful soul!
To reach that scene of death,
He seeks a cool and shady place
“To give his horses breath.”

Then forth he draws the precious stores,–
Cold tea, Bordeaux, and ‘am,–
Mid cannon-shots and bottle-pops,
Enjoys his lunch and dram.

The dubious issue of the fight
Contents him with his seat,
Until a courier from the field
Reports the foe’s retreat!

Up sprang Will Russell from the charms
Of tea and ‘am so vile–
His toilst for “the front” prepares
In his Crimean style.

“My ‘oss! my ‘oss! quick, bring it me!
what would the Thunderer say,
If they should end this Bull Run fight,
While I lunch in my shay?”

His “Indian” sack hangs down and hides
Each short and sturdy limb;
His hat o’erhangs his jolly form
With amplitude of brim.

Beneath its shade, his round, red face
Flames like St. George’s banner;
While from its rim, in havelock style,
A buff and red bandanna!

In guise like this, he grandly mounts
And starts in warlike trot,
That did not turn to gallop as
He neared the deadly spot.

But lo! a motley frightened crowd
Before him doth appear,
Of such as ever follow camps,
All hurrying to the rear.

And pushing through this heaving mass
Of human breakers, soon
He found himself ‘mid reeling ranks,
Battalion and platoon!

But ‘mid that frightened crowd, he says
He only kept his wits,
And puffs, and scolds, and wonders, too,
What trouble “gave them fits!”

“I do declare! What means all this?
What has your vict’ry nipped?
Why run you so?” — the sole reply
Wan panted forth, “We’re whipped!”

“Dear me! I fain would get in front!
How would the people stare,
If Fame should ask my whereabouts,
And echo say, ‘the rear!’

“You cravens, stand! why do you run?
Return to the assault!”
Bang! bang!– a shell bursts o’er his head–
Will Russell calls a halt!

“Aw! that was near! no further need
For me to make researches–
I’ll simply book what I have seen,
Behind yon grove of birches.”

Bang! bang! “Aw! there’s another shell!
and one that is a screamer;
And, let me think–I must leave now,
To write by Wednesday a steamer!

And though my steed has come to-day
Full thirty miles and better,
Needs must he now to take me back
To mail my battle-letter.”

He turns his horse! both are afloat
On the retreating wave!
But as he struggles back, he scoffs
In words–not accents brave.

To clear the road and let him pass,
He hails each runaway;
But their respect for rank, alas!
Is broke and done away!

Wagon and cart, and man and beast,
All in the turnpike jammed;
Mess pork and hams, and shot and grain
No thoroughfare so dammed!

The dainty stores that fed “the staff”
Mixed with the private’s fare!
Sad waste! “O, what, my countrymen,
A falling off was there!”

The teamsters “cut and ran,” and left;
No traces you could find;
While those afoot from horsemen feared
A dreadful “cut behind!”

“The Cavalry!” at that dread sound
Will’s courage was bereft him;
Although he tried, by valiant words,
To show it had not left him.

And eke before his mental eye
The dreadful vision rose,
Of that warm suit the Southern press
Had threatened him for clothes!

“That threat! when ’tis so ‘orrid ‘ot–
Beyond East Indian weather!
How my too solid flesh would melt
In suit of tar and feather!”

His anxious looks, yet valiant words,
Make many jeer and hoot him,
While every random shot he fears
Is some attempt to shoot him.

While thus he trembles for his life,
By coward taunt and curse,
So, to his eye, each ambulance
Seems an untimely hearse!

At each artillery “thud” he hears,
Up close his legs he tucks,
Then down upon his saddle bow
His anxious visage ducks!

And else behind his Indian sack
Swells in balloon-like manner,
While flaps and flies around his neck
The buff and red bandanna!

Again he’s back at Centreville,
In search of friend and gig;
“They are not here!” nor ‘am, nor tea–
They’re just the things to prig.

O for a glass of wine, or slice
Of those fine wasted ‘ams!–
But though there’s plenty on the road,
They’re no longer Uncle Sam’s!

So now for Washington, my steed!
It is no use to whine;
You brought me here to see a fight,
Now take me back to dine!”

A sudden squad of fugitives
Here through the village fled,
And Bill’s great fancy for the front
Soon placed him at their head.

But as he leads the flying herd
Adown a hill’s decline,
Behold, across the road drawn up
A regiment in line!

“What brings you here?” the Colonel shouts
“Back! back! I say: I’ll shoot
The coward that across my ranks
Would dare to place his foot!”

The herd recoils, save Russell wild,
Who, fumbling in his vest:
“But, sir–you know!–I’m English! Come!
You must not me arrest!

I have a pass–aw! here it is!
‘Tis signed by General Scott–
Don’t keep me here!” “Pass this man up!”
Replied the Colonel, hot.

Not time lost Will, s off he dashed,
In sudden bolt that snapped
A loop of sack and havelock both,
That now far rearward flapped!

At Fairfax Court House next he stops,
To breathe his horse and sup;
But here his rest by Boniface
Is quickly broken up.

Quoth he, “They fear Virginia’s horse?
Well may they, stranger, when
These mountain riders number now
Full twenty thousand men!”

“Good ‘eavens! no?–but do they though”
Our startled hero cries.
Then off again, though cruel need,
To Washington he flies!

Night finds him bravely spurring on
Past wood, and grove, and thicket,
With brave words frequent cheering up
Each watchful, anxious picket.

“What news? What news?” they all do about
Says Russell in reply:
“It is no rout! the army’s safe!
Keep up your heart–don’t fly!”

“Stop! stop! Bill Russell! tell us why,”
Loud after him they bawl,
“If all is safe, you run so fast,
Or why you run at all?”

yet on he flies; up hill, down dale,
In very ghost-like manner;
While ever rearward flaps and flies
The buff and red bandanna!

The night wanes on, the moon is up,
And soon our correspondent,
Though near his goal, with new-born fears
Grew suddenly despondent.

“The guards are set upon the bridge
Dear me, what fate is mine!
They’ll hail me soon, and I may die
And give no countersign!”

His fears are vain–that vet’ran name
Is good, as you’ll agree,
(As has been often said before,)
To pass him through, Scott free.

At last he’s safe upon the bridge!
He sees the lights of town,
Mirrored in broad Potomac’s tide,
Hang brightly dripping down!

Then droops his head, then droops his steed,
In sympathetic manner;
Then droops his sack, then droops also
The buff and red bandanna!

Can this be he that o’er these planks
At morning dashed so trig?
Revisiting beneath the moon
In such a dismal rig!

The bridge is passed! and he again
Resumes his martial port,
And swells, and puffs, and comforts all
With words of valiant sort.

But sudden from the rising clouds
A vivid lightning flash!
“The foe!” he cries, and fearful lists
To hear the cannon’s crash!

He’s off again! up Fourteenth Street!
Once more, like ghostly banner,
Behind him dimly flaps and flies
The buff and red bandanna!

His rooms are reached, he bolts his door.
When lo! before his eyes,
A midnight supper ready spread,
To which he instant flies.

No time, by doffing hat or dress,
To balk his famished jaws!
But Cassius-like, he “plunges in,
Accoutred as he was!”

Sausage, and cheese, and ‘am again,
With draughts of wine between;
Down that vast throat of British gauge,
In quick procession seen!

What grunts of bliss beneath that hat
O’er this unlooked-for manna!
While as he munched still rose and fell
The buff and red bandanna!

At last he’s full! but quickly now
His brain is all astir;
To forge fit bolts of caustic for
His chief, the Thunderer!

His pen is drawn, and o’er his sheet
Fast its vocation plies,
In telling what he thought he saw–
Wherein his genius lies!

But soon the inspiration’s o’er!
With wine and sausage pressed,
His eyelids close, his burly head
Down drops upon his breast.

Hark to the thunders of his snore!
In deep, bassoon-like manner!
while with each swell still rose and fell
The buff and red bandanna!

Rest, Russell rest! thy race is o’er;
And well you won it, too;
For no such time was ever made
Since days of Waterloo!

Now let us sing, in jolly spring
Great Russell’s martial spree–
When next he goes to see a fight,
May he get there to see!

Ye poets! who may sing some day,
In strains, rich, racy, full,
The race from Bull Run, don’t forget
The run of Mr. Bull.

Originally posted 2008-03-14 16:00:33.

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