Monthly Archives: July 2008


While the Union cavalry were on the retreat, one of the men heard the clattering of a horse’s hoofs close in his rear, and supposing he was pursued by a rebel, put spurs to his horse and increased his pace, without looking behind him. After travelling at a rapid rate for some distance, our man turned his head, and discovered that the pursuing horse was riderless. The sudden shock of satisfaction was so great that he fell from his horse, and both horses went cantering over the fields without riders, and the Union cavalryman took possession of his unexpected prize.

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A correspondent writing from Fernandina, Fla., says:–The colored schools, which have been in successful operation here, closed for a vacation of two months. The progress made by the pupils more than equals the expectations of the most sanguine friends of the race. The children have evinced an aptitude to learn, and a capacity fully equal to white children at the North, and in all the better characteristics they are in no way behind them.

. . . . None who have witnessed the grateful expressions of fathers and mothers, and the daily tributes of flowers, and other evidences of affection of the children for their teachers, will ever question the natural susceptibility of this people to cultivation, and a prompt response to the ordinary appliances which make mankind respectable. Corporeal punishment has been so rare that I question whether, during the entire term, among three hundred children, there have been more than half a dozen cases; and I have never seen uneducated children anywhere exhibit more sensibility to the dishonor of a banishment from school, or other similar infliction, than these children of slavery.

Some of the girls and boys had committed pieces, which were properly spoken; and one little ebony, only eight years old, showed extraordinary aptness at declamation in a little piece he had learned. True, he was in rags, and his skin was coal-black, but a more intelligent and happy face I never saw. If permitted, that boy will yet shame many a “pale-face” by his superior intellectual power.

At the close of the exercises, a little book or primer was presented to each scholar as a present for their attendance and good conduct; and it was pleasing to see with what eagerness and satisfaction each received this first testimonial of scholarship. Nearly three hundred presents were distributed, which were furnished principally through the liberality of Hon. Joseph Hoxie, of New York, who had visited the schools a few months since, and whose judicious selections were universally commended, and his generosity fully appreciated. These children will never forget this occasion.

Among the songs by the school, interspersed throughout the exercises,–and every child sings in these schools,–was the following, which, aside from its intrinsic merit and affecting pathos, was particularly interesting from the fact that just before the rebellion, a congregation of slaves attending a public baptism on Sunday, at Savannah, were arrested, imprisoned, and punished with thirty-nine lashes each, for singing the song of spiritual freedom–now a crime, since slavery has become a “divine institution.”


My mother! how long! Mothers! how long!
mothers! how long!
Will sinners suffer here?
Chorus–It won’t be long! It won’t be long! It
won’t be long!
That sinners ‘ll suffer here!

We’ll walk de golden streets! we’ll walk de golden
streets! we’ll walk de golden streets!
Where pleasures never die!
Chorus. –It won’t be long! &c.

My brother! do sing! my brother! do sing! my
brother! do sing!
De praises ob de Lord!
Chorus. –It won’t be long! &c

We’ll soon be free! we’ll soon be free! we’ll soon
be free!
De Lord will call us home!
Chorus.–My brother! do sing! my brother! do
sing! my brother! do sing!
De praises ob de Lord!

And these verses, so expressive and pathetic, are added to almost indefinitely, in the same style, by the interested singers. Now, where this and the hundred kindred songs sung by the slaves came from, or who amidst the darkness of slavery inditeth them, I cannot of course say; but it is easy to determine the source of the inspiration. In patient faith and enduring hope these “songs of Zion” have been sung by generations of these bondmen, as the only relief for bleeding hearts and lacerated bodies; and now God comes in judgment to requite the nation for the wrongs inflicted upon his oppressed and suffering poor.

Another interesting and significant even connected with the people here, occurred on Monday. The women called a meeting at the church, to consider the propriety of presenting Col. Littlefield’s regiment, now enlisting here, a stand of colors. Like the great dinner and celebration on the Fourth, all was arranged by the colored women, and fifty dollars were contributed on the spot, by these poor fugitives, from the hard earnings of their brief freedom–contributed to purchase an American flag to be borne by their colored brethren–the flag which had been to them till now the emblem of oppression! They cherish no feelings of malignity for the wrongs which have been inflicted, but hail the new era of freedom with joy, and rally to the country’s standard with pride and satisfaction, now that the country is prepared to respect their humanity and protect their rights. Among the contributors was one slave woman, who has five sons and a husband in the army, while she remains at home to care for younger children.

Ned Simons, an old negro belonging to the Dungenness estate of Gen. Nathan Greene, on Cumberland Island, and who was left by the rebel inheritor, Nightingale, on his evacuation of the place, died here last week, at the house of the lady teachers of the schools, who have kindly cared for him since their arrival here. Ned was over one hundred years old, and remembered Gen. Washington well, and was one of the number who assisted in carrying him through the streets of Savannah on his last visit to that place. Old Ned took a lively interest in the affairs of the nation, and rejoiced in the prospect of the freedom of his race. He was deeply interested in the cause of education, and, though partially blind with age, he desired himself to learn to read. On being asked why he wished to learn, when he could no expect to live much longer, he replied, “As the tree falls, so it will lay;” his attainments on earth would contribute to higher attainments on high; and the ladies yielded to his request, and during the last months of his life, he, with much labor and effort, acquired a knowledge of his letters and syllables. Poor old Ned! After a long life of unrequited toil and slavery, he has “gone where the good negroes go;” where no slave-driver will ever follow; where he can sing “de praises ob de Lord” in freedom and safety.

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“CORPORAL GREEN!” the Orderly cried;
“Here!” was the answer, loud and clear,
From the lips of a soldier, who stood near;
And “Here!” was the word the next replied.

“Cyrus Drew!” –then a silence fell–
This time no answer followed the call;
Only his rear man had seen him fall,
Killed or wounded, he could not tell.

There they stood, in the falling light,
These men of battle, with grave, dark looks,
As plain to be read as open books,
While slowly gathered the shades of night.

The fern on the hill-sides was splashed with blood,
and down in the corn, where the poppies grew
Were redder stains than the poppies knew,
And crimson-dyed as the river’s flood.

For the foe had crossed from the other side,
That day, in the face of a murderous fire,
That swept them down in the terrible ire;
And their life-blood went to color the tide.

“Herbert Cline!” At the call there came
Two stalwart soldiers into the line,
Bearing between them this Herbert Cline,
Wounded and bleeding, to answer his name.

“Ezra Kerr!”–and a voice answered, “Here.”
“Hiram Kerr!” but no man replied:
They were brothers, these two: the sad wind sighed,
And a shudder crept through the cornfield near.

“Ephraim Deane!” –then a soldier spoke;
“Deane carried our regiment’s colors,” he said,
“When our ensign was shot; I left him dead,
Just after the enemy wavered and broke.

“Close to the road-side his body lies;
I paused a moment, and gave him to drink;
He murmured his mother’s name, I think,
And Death came with it and closed his eyes.”

‘Twas a victory–yes; but it cost us dear;
For that company’s roll, when called at night,
Of a hundred men who went into the fight,
Numbered but twenty that answered, “Here!”

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After the surprise and capture of New Creek, Va., by Gen. Rosser, Maj.-Gen. Crook, of the Yankee army, was assigned to the command of the department in which that station is embraced. Maj.-Gen. Kelley, who previously commanded the department, still remained in Cumberland, having his headquarters at one of the hotels in the town. Gen. Crook established his headquarters in the same town, at the other principal hotel. As soon as this state of affairs became known to Lieut. Jesse C. McNeill, upon whom has devolved the command of McNeill’s Rangers since the death of his father, the lamented old Captain, he resolved to risk an attempt to surprise and bring off those two Generals.

Having posted himself thoroughly in regard to the situation of affairs in and around Cumberland, the night of Monday, 20th inst., he, with sixty trusty men, crossed Knobby Mountain to the North Branch of the Potomac. Reaching this stream, at a point below the first picket post that overlooked the selected route of ingress into Cumberland, he crossed, and in a few minutes the Yankees on duty were relieved. “Your countersign,” demanded Lieut. McNeille, to a burly Dutchman, with such accompaniments as seemed to impress the fellow with the notion that to divulge it was a matter of self-preservation. “Bool’s Kash,” (meaning “bull’s Gap,”) was the quick response.

Then on briskly down the country road towards town, near five miles distant, he moved. As the little band struck what is known as the old pike, soon, “Halt! who comes there?” rings out on the air. “Friends, with countersign,” is the response. “Dismount, one, advance, and give the countersign,” is the picket’s next order to the Lieutenant.

Having lately had his ankle crushed, the Lieutenant was not in a condition to obey; and so urging his horse forward, he quickly heard from the astonished picket, “Don’t shoot; I surrender.”

On they rushed, and the reserves were gathered in. The first picket captured was cavalry, the next infantry. The former were brought along; the latter were disarmed, their guns smashed, and they were paroled to remain where they were until morning; were told that this town was surrounded, and it would be impossible for them to escape.

Entering town on the west side, they passed another picket on the right bank of the North Branch. By this picket they were not halted. Crossing Wil’s Creek, (which flows through the town,) at the Iron Bridge, coolly and deliberately up Baltimore Street they ride, some whistling, some laughing and talking, as if they were Yankees, at home among friends.

To and fro, on the street, by the gas-light, are seen walking Yankee guards. “Helloa, boys! whose command it that?” “Scouts from New Creek,” is the response.

Presently here they are, between two and three o’clock in the morning, in front of the St. Nicholas Hotel, Kelley’s headquarters. Down spring, quietly and calmly, the men who, by previous arrangement, are to visit Kelley’s room. They enter the hall, and having procured a light, they enter the General’s room. the General, aroused by the knock, resting on one elbow, “You know me, Genera., I suppose,” says Joseph W. Kuykendall, who had charge of this party. “I do,” said the General. “You are _____,” giving his name. “General, you had me once; it is my honor to have you now. You are a prisoner.” “But,” says the General, “whom am I surrendering to?” “To me, sir,” was the emphatic response. “No place or time for ceremony; so you will dress quickly.” The order was obeyed.

While this was going on at the St. Nicholas, another scene was transpiring at the Revere House. Thither went promptly a portion of the men, as per arrangement, under Lieut. Welton. Reaching it they halt–five men, in charge of Joseph L. Vandiver, dismount, and “Halt!” is the greeting of the sentinel, standing in front of the entrance. “Friends, with countersign, bearing important despatches for Gen. Crook,” is Vandiver’s answer. “Advance, one,” &c. In a moment, Vandiver had the sentinel’s gun, and ordered him to stand aside under guard. The door is rapped at–a voice from within asks, “Who is you? I don’t know you.” “Open the door; I must see Gen. Crook.” The door is opened, and there stands a small darkey. “Is Gen. Crook in?” “Yes, sir.” “Show me his room.” “I’m afeerd to; but I will, if you don’t tell on me.” Crook’s room is reached; a rap given. “Come in.” In obedience to the invitation, a tall and stalwart form, with light in one hand, and pistol undisplayed in the other, stands erect, cool and deliberate, before the General. “Gen. Crook, I presume,” says Vandiver. “I am, sir.” “I am Gen. Rosser, sir; you are in my power; you have two minutes to dress in.” Then the General rubbed his eyes, as if he thought he dreamed. “Come, General, there are your clothes; you can either put them on, or go as you are.” The General quickly arose and dressed.

The prisoner and his captors make their exit to their vigilant comrades without. The General is made to mount behind Vandiver. Off they start, soon rejoin the St. Nicholas party with their prize, and then they all commence to “evacuate” the city quietly, coolly, and in good order. Reaching Will’s Creek Bridge, they turned oto the left, and proceeded down the tow-path.

On the opposite side of the canal, encamped on the hills around the town, are many of Crook’s and Kelley’s soldiers, who dream not of the surprise the morning shall bring them; the sentinels too, as unconscious as their slumbering comrades of the proximity of a foe. a few are awake, and with curiosity aroused by the sound of horsemen moving, as it were, in midnight review before them, inquired, “Whose command?” “Scouts going out,” is the careless response. At length, they are about five miles below the town, where they intend to recross to “Old Virginia.” A “Halt” greets the advance. “Friends, with a countersign.” The picket gives the usual command. “Bull’s Gap,” says McNeille; “no time to dismount; are in a hurry; the enemy are reported close; we are sent out by Gen. Crook to watch his movements.” “Go on, then; cold night, boys, to be out.” “Yes, pretty cold.” “Give the Johnnies h—l, boys.” “O, yes, we are the boys to do that;” are some of the words interchanged, as McNeill and his boys file past the unsuspecting Yankees. A moment or two more, and McNeill is in Virginia!

“McGregor is on his native heath,
with McGregor’s clan around him.”

On he pushes briskly, without any report of Yankees pursuing in the rear, to which a strict watch is kept. Romney, twenty-seven miles from Cumberland, is reached; the rear-guard report about sixty Yankees in sight, with some of whom they exchanged a few shots, but the Yankees exhibited no disposition to push on very fast. At about two o’clock in the day, McNeill is seen near Moorefield, moving up the South Branch of the Potomac, while up the pike, on the opposite side, move the Yankees, about two hundred strong, their horses the worse for having galloped from New Creek Station, some thirty-five miles off, from which point they started about eight o’clock in the morning, as we afterwards learned. Tuesday night, McNeill camped on the South Fork of the South Branch, with his prisoners all safe, but, like their captors, all tired. The next morning, five hundred Yankee cavalry entered Moorefield; a large force was also reliably reported to Lieut. McNeill, going up Lost River, to intercept him; but they didn’t, as the Generals reached this city Sunday morning, about two o’clock, in charge of Lieut. J. S. Welton, who rendered prompt, active, and efficient service in effecting the capture.

It is proper to say, that the entrance into Gen. Kelley’s room was through his Adjutant-General’s apartment. An eye was kept to this gentleman, and he was brought off with four headquarter colors. His name is Major Melvin.

To have entered Cumberland, a city of eight or nine thousand inhabitants, (a majority of whom are bitterly hostile,) with, according to our best information, seven or eight thousand troops encamped in and around, is very strong evidence that Lieut. Jesse C. McNeill is a chip of the old block, a worthy son of his gallant old sire, Capt. John Hanson McNeill, who, and his eldest son, have already laid their lives upon their country’s altar.

Gen. Early, immediately on the receipt of the news of his exploit, advanced the gallant young officer to the rank of Captain in McNeill’s Rangers.

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