Never, until we stood by the grave of the Green Mountain boy, did we realize how much stranger is truth than fiction. a private was court-martialed for sleeping on his post out near Chain Bridge, on the Upper Potomac. He was convicted; his sentence was death; the finding was approved of by the General, and the day fixed for his execution. He was a youth of more than ordinary intelligence; but did not beg for pardon, but was willing to meet his fate.
The time drew near; the stern necessity of war required that an example should be made of some one; his was an aggravated case. But the case reached the ears of the President; he resolved to save him; he signed a pardon and sent it out; the cay came. “Suppose,” thought the President, “my pardon has not reached him.” The telegraph was called into requisition; an answer did not come promptly. “Bring up my carriage,” he ordered. It came; and soon the important state papers were dropped, and through the hot broiling sun and dusty roads he rode to the camp, about ten miles, and saw that the soldier was saved!
He had, doubtless, forgotten the incident, but the soldier did not. When the Third Vermont charged upon the rifle-pits, the enemy poured a volley upon them. The first man who fell, with six bullets in his body, was William Scott, of Company K. His comrades caught him up, and as his life-blood ebbed away, he raised to heaven, amid the din of war, the cries of the dying, and the shouts of the enemy, a prayer for the President, and as he died he remarked to his comrads that he had shown he was no coward, and not afraid to die.
He was interred, in the presence of his regiment, in a little grove, about two miles to the rear of the rebel fort, in the centre of a group of holly and vines; a few cherry trees, in foll bloom, are scattered around the edge. In digging his grave a skull and bones were found, and metal buttons, showing that the identical spot had been used in the revolutionary war for our fathers who fell in the same cause. The chaplain narrated the circumstance to the boys, who stood around the uncovered heads. He prayed for the President, and paid the most glowing tribute to his noble heart that we ever heard. The tears started to their eyes as the clods of earth were thrown upon him in his narrow grave, where he lay shrouded in his coat and blanket.
The men separated; in a few minutes all were engaged in something around the camp, as though nothing had happened unusual; but that scene will live upon their memories while life lasts; the calm look of Scotts face, the seeming look of satisfaction he felt, still lingered; and could the President have seen him, he would have felt that his act of mercy had been wisely bestowed.
Originally posted 2008-06-16 12:03:54.