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   Chapter 19 THE FLOWERING WOOD

The Long Roll By Mary Johnston Characters: 33149

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


"Thank you, ma'am," said Allan. "I reckon just so long as there are such women in the Valley there'll be worth-while men there, too! You've all surely done your share."

"Now, you've got the pot of apple butter, and the bucket with the honeycomb, and the piece of bacon and the light bread. If you'd come a little earlier I could have let you have some eggs-"

"I've got a feast for a king.-All these fighting men going up and down the Valley are going to eat you out of house and home.-I got some pay two months ago, and I've enough left to make it fairer-"

He drew out a Confederate note. The woman on the doorstep looked at it admiringly, and, taking it from him, examined either side. "They make them pretty as a picture," she said. "Once't I was in Richmond and saw the Capitol. That's a good picture of it. And that statue of General Washington!-My! his horse's just dancing as they say Ashby's does to music. One of those bronze men around the base is a forbear of mine." She gave back the note. "I had a little mite of real coffee that I'd have liked to give you-but it's all gone. Howsoever, you won't go hungry with what you've got. Have you a nice place to sleep in?"

"The nicest in the world. A bed of oak leaves and a roof all stars."

"You could stay here to-night. I've got a spare room."

"You're just as good as gold," said Allan. "But I want to be out where I can hear the news. I'm a scout, you see."

"I thought that, watching you come up the path. We're learning fast. Used to be I just thought a soldier was a soldier! I never thought of there being different kinds. Do you think the army'll come this way?"

"I shouldn't be surprised," said Allan. "Indeed, I'm rather expecting it. But you never know. How many of your people are in it?"

"A lot of cousins. But my sons are with Johnston. Richmond's more'n a hundred miles away, I reckon, but all last night I thought I heard the cannon. Well, good-bye! I'm mighty glad to see you all again in the Valley. Be sure to come back for your breakfast-and if the army passes I've got enough for one or two besides. Good-bye-God bless you."

Allan left behind the small brick farmhouse, stopped for a drink at the spring, then climbed a rail fence and made across a rolling field of bright green clover to a width of blossoming woods, beyond which ran the Mt. Solon and Bridgewater road. From the forest issued a curl of blue vapour and a smell of wood smoke. The scout, entering, found a cheerful, unnecessarily large fire. Stretched beside it, upon the carpet of last year's leaves, lay Billy Maydew, for whose company he had applied upon quitting, a week before, the army between McDowell and Franklin. Allan snuffed the air. "You build too big a fire, Billy! 'Tisn't a good scout's way of doing."

Billy laid down horizontally upon the leaves the stick he had been whittling. "Thar ain't anybody but home folks to smell it. Didn't we see Ashby on the black stallion draw a line like that thar stick across the Valley with a picket post for every knot?" He sat up. "Did you get anything to eat?"

"I certainly did. There surely are good women in the land!" Allan disburdened himself. "Rake the coals out and get the skillet."

Afterwards they lay prone upon the leaves and talked. They had much of life in common; they were as at home with each other as two squirrels frequenting the same tree. Now, as they lay beneath two clouds from two briar-roots, they dwelt for some time upon Thunder Run, then from that delectable region turned to the here and now. Allan had taught Billy, finding him a most unsatisfactory pupil. Billy had in those days acquired little book learning, but a very real respect for the blond giant now lying opposite to him. Since coming to the army he had been led to deplore his deficiencies, and, a week ago, he had suggested to Allan that in the interim of active scouting the latter should continue his education. "When thar air a chance I want to swap into the artillery. Three bands of red thar," he drew a long finger across his sleeve, "air my ambition. I reckon then Christianna and all the Thunder Run girls would stop saying 'Billy.' They'd say 'Sergeant Maydew.' An artillery sergeant's got to be head in ciphering, and he's got to be able to read words of mor'n one-one-"

"Syllable."

"That's it. Now they aren't any printed books hereabouts, but you've got it all in your head-"

"I can't teach you much," Allan had said soberly, "whispering under bushes and listening for Schenck's cavalry! We might do something, though. You were an awful poor speller. Spell 'sergeant'-now 'ordnance'-now 'ammunition'-'battery'-'caisson'- 'Howitzer'-'Napoleon'-'Tredegar'-'limber'-'trail'- 'cannon-powder'-"

In the week Billy had made progress-more progress than in a session on Thunder Run. Now, lying in the woods a little west of Mt. Solon, waiting for the army moving back to the Valley, this time from the west, from the Allegheny fastnesses, he accomplished with éclat some oral arithmetic-"If two Yankee Parrotts are fired every eight minutes, and in our battery we serve the howitzer every nine minutes, the Napoleon every ten, the two six-pounders every eleven, and if the Yankees limber up and leave at the end of an hour, how many shells will have been thrown?"-"If it is a hundred and ten miles from Harrisonburg to the Potomac, and if Old Jack's foot cavalry advances twenty-two miles a day, and if we lay off a day for a battle, and if we have three skirmishes each occupying two hours, and if Banks makes a stand of half a day at Winchester, and if Frémont executes a flank movement and delays us six hours, just how long will it be before Old Jack pushes Banks into the Potomac?"-"If Company A had ninety men when it started ('thar war a full hundred') and five men died of measles and pneumonia (''t were six'), and if we recruited three at Falling Springs, and six were killed at Manassas and sixteen wounded, half of whom never came back, and we got twelve recruits at Centreville and seven more at Winchester, and if five straggled on the Bath and Romney trip and were never heard of more, and if five were killed at Kernstown and a dozen are still in the hospital, and if ten more recruits came in at Rude's Hill and if we left four sick at Magaheysville, and if we lost none at McDowell, not being engaged, but two in a skirmish since, and if Steve Dagg straggled three times but was brought back and tried to desert twice but never got any further than the guardhouse-how many men are in Company A?"-"If"-this was Billy's-"if I have any luck in the next battle, and if I air found to have a speaking acquaintance with every damned thousand-legged word the captain asks me about, and I get to be a sergeant, and I air swapped into the artillery, and thar's a big fight, and my battery and Company A are near, and Sergeant Mathew Coffin gets into trouble right next door to me, and he cried out a hundred times (lying right thar in the zone of fire), 'Boys, come take me out of hell!' and the company all was forced back, and all the gunners, and I was left thar serving my gun, just as pretty and straight, and he cried out anoth'r hundred times, 'Billy Maydew, come pick me up and carry me out of hell'-and I just served on a hundred times, only looking at him every time the gun thundered and I straightened up-"

"For shame!" cried Allan. "I've heard Steve Dagg say something like that about Richard Cleave." Billy sat up indignant. "It air not like that at all! The major air what he is, and Steve Dagg air what he is! Sergeant Mathew Coffin air what somebody or other called somebody else in that thar old history book you used to make us learn! He air 'a petty tyrant.' He air that, and Thunder Run don't like that kind. He air not going to tyrannize much longer over Billy Maydew. And don't you be comparing me to Steve Dagg. I ain't like that, and I never was."

He lay prone again, insulted, and would not go on with the lesson. Allan took it calmly, made a placating remark or two, and lapsed into a friendly silence. It was pleasant in the woods, where the birds flitted to and fro, and the pink honeysuckle grew around, and from a safe distance a chipmunk daintily watched the intruders. The scout lay, drowsily happy, the sunshine making spun gold of his hair and beard, his carbine resting near. Back on Thunder Run, at the moment, Christianna in her pink sunbonnet, a pansy from the tollgate at her throat, rested upon her hoe in the garden she was making and looked out over the great sea of mountains visible from the Thunder Run eyrie. Shadows of clouds moved over them; then the sun shone out and they lay beneath in an amethystine dream; Christianna had had her dream the night before. In her sleep she had come upon a dark pool beneath alders, and she had knelt upon the black bank and plunged her arms to the shoulders into the water. It seemed in her dream that there was something at the bottom that she wanted-a breastpin or a piece of money. And she had drawn up something that weighed heavily and filled her arms. When she had lifted it halfway out of the water the moon came out, and it was Allan Gold. She stood now in her steep mountain garden bordered with phlox and larkspur and looked far out over the long and many ridges. She knew in which general direction to look, and with her mind's eye she tried to see the fighting men, the fighting men; and then she shook her head and bent to her hoeing-far back and high up on Thunder Run.

Thirty leagues away, in the flowering wood by the Mt. Solon road Allan sat up. "I was nearly asleep," he said, "back on the mountain-side above Thunder Run." He listened. "Horses' hoofs-a squad at a trot, coming east! some of Ashby's of course, but you stay here and put earth on the fire while I take a look." Rifle in hand, he threaded the thick undergrowth between the camp and the road.

It was late in the afternoon, but the road lay yet in sunshine between the clover and the wheat, the bloomy orchards and the woods of May. Allan's precautions had been largely instinctive; there were no Federals, he had reason to be sure, south of Strasburg. He looked to see some changing picket post of Ashby's. But the five horsemen who came in sight, three riding abreast, two a little behind, had not a Valley air. "Tidewater men," said Allan to himself. "How far is it to Swift Run Gap? Shouldn't wonder if General Ewell-"

A minute later the party came in line with the woods. Allan, after another deliberate look, stepped from behind a flowering thorn. The party drew up. "Good-afternoon, my man," said the stars and wreath in the centre in a high, piping voice. "Alone, are you?-Ain't straggling, I hope? Far too many stragglers-curse of this service-civilians turned soldiers and all that. What's that? You know him, Stafford? One of General Jackson's scouts?-Then do you know, pray, where is General Jackson? for, by God, I don't!"

"I came across country myself to-day, sir-I and a boy that's with me. We've been ahead with Ashby, fending off Frémont. General Jackson is marching very rapidly, and I expect him to-night."

"Where's he going, then?"

"I haven't the least idea, sir."

"Well," piped Ewell, "I'll be glad to see him. God knows, I don't know what I'm to do! Am I to strengthen Johnston at Richmond? Am I to cross into the Valley-by God, it's lovely!-and reinforce Jackson? Damn it, gentlemen, I'm a major-general on a seesaw! Richmond in danger-Valley in danger. 'Better come to me!' says Johnston. Quite right! He needs every man. 'Better stay with Jackson,' says Lee. Quite right again! Old Jackson has three armies before him and only a handful. 'Better gallop across and find out the crazy man's own mind,' says the major-general in the middle." He turned with the suddenness of a bird to Allan. "By God, I'm hungry as a coyote! Have you got anything to eat?"

"I've some bread and bacon and a few eggs and half a pot of apple butter and a piece of honeycomb, sir-"

Ewell dismounted. "You're the foster brother I've been in search of for thirty-five years! Maury and John, it sounds as though there were enough for four. Deane and Edmondson, you ride on to that mill I see in front of us, and ask if the folks won't give you supper. We'll pick you up in an hour or so. Now, my friend in need, we'll build a fire and if you've got a skillet I'll show you how an omelette ought to be made and generally isn't!"

Within the covert Billy made up the fire again, and General Ewell, beneath the amused eyes of his aides, sliced bacon, broke eggs into the skillet and produced an omelette which was a triumph. He was, in truth, a master cook-and everything was good and savoury-and the trio was very hungry. Ewell had cigars, and smoked them like a Spaniard-generous, too-giving freely to the others. As often as it burned low Billy threw dried sticks upon the fire. The evening was cool, the shadows advancing; the crackling light and warmth grateful enough. The newcomers asked questions. They were eager to know-all the country was keen-set to know-eye-witnesses of events were duly appreciated. The scout had been at McDowell?

"Yes, but not in the battle, the Stonewall Brigade not being engaged. 12th Georgia did best-and the 44th Virginia. 12th Georgia held the crest. There was one man, just a boy like Billy there ('I'm eighteen!' from Billy)-couldn't anybody keep him back, behind the rise where our troops were lying down. 'We didn't come all this way to hide from Yankees,' he cried, and he rushed out and down upon them-poor fellow!"

"That's the spirit. In the morning you followed on?"

"Yes, but Milroy and Schenck did not do badly. That was a good fetch of theirs-firing the forest! Everywhere a great murk with tongues of flame-smoke in nostril and eyes and the wind blowing fast. It looked like the end of the world. Old Jack-beg pardon, sir, General Jackson-General Jackson couldn't but smile, it was such excellent tactics. We drew off at last, near Franklin, and the army went into camp for a bit. Billy and I have been with a squadron of Ashby's."

"Keeping Frémont back?"

"Yes. General Jackson wanted the passes blocked. We did it pretty thoroughly."

"How?"

"Burned all the bridges; cut down trees-in one place a mile of them-and made abatis, toppled boulders over the cliffs and choked the roads. If Frémont wants to get through he'll have to go round Robin Hood's Barn to do it! He's out of the counting for awhile, I reckon. At least he won't interfere with our communications. Ashby has three companies toward the mountains, He's picketed the Valley straight across below Woodstock. Banks can't get even a spy through from Strasburg. I've heard an officer say-you know him, Major Stafford-Major Cleave-I've heard him say that General Jackson uses cavalry as Napoleon did and as no one has done since."

Ewell lit another cigar. "Well, I'm free to confess that old Jackson isn't as crazy as an idiot called Dick Ewell thought him! As Milton says, 'There's method in his madness'-Shakespeare, was it, Morris? Don't read much out on the plains."

The younger aide had been gleeful throughout the recital. "Stonewall's a good name, by George! but, by George! they ought to call him the Artful Dodger-"

Maury Stafford burst into laughter. "By Heaven. Morris, you'd better tell him that! Have you ever seen him?"

"No. They say he's real pious and as simple as they make them-but Lord! there hasn't been anything simple about his late proceedings."

Stafford laughed again. "Religious as Cromwell, and artless as Macchiavelli! Begins his orders with an honourable mention of God, closes them with 'Put all deserters in irons,' and in between gives points to Reynard the Fox-"

Ewell took his cigar from his lips. "Don't be so damned sarcastic, Maury! It's worse than drink-Well, Deane?"

One of his troopers had appeared. "A courier has arrived, general, with a letter from General Jackson. I left him at the mill and came back to report. There's a nice little office there with a light and writing materials."

Dusk filled the forest, the night came, and the stars shone between the branches. A large white moon uprose and made the neighbouring road a milky ribbon stretched east and west. A zephyr just stirred the myriad leaves. Somewhere, deeper in the woods, an owl hooted at intervals, very solemnly. Billy heaped wood upon the fire, laid his gun carefully, just so, stretched himself beside it and in three minutes reached the deepest basin of sleep.

Allan sat with his back to the hickory, and the firelight falling upon the leaves of a book he had borrowed from some student in the ranks. It was a volume of Shelley, and the young man read with serious appreciation. He was a lover of poetry, and he was glad to meet with this poet whose works he had not been able as yet to put upon his book-shelf, back in the little room, under the eaves of the tollgate. He read on, bent forward, the firelight upon his ample frame, gold of hair and beard, and barrel of the musket lying on the leaves beside him.

O Love! who bewailest

The frailty of all things here,

Why choose you the frailest

For your cradle, your home, and your bier?

Allan made the fire yet brighter, listened a moment to the hooting of the owl, then read on:-

Its passions will rock thee

As the storms rock the ravens on high;

Bright reason will mock thee-

He ceased to read, turning his head, for he heard a horse upon the road, coming from the direction of the mill. It came slowly, with much of weariness in the very hoof sounds, then left the road for the woodside and stopped. Ensued a pause while the rider fastened it to some sapling, then, through the bushes, the former came toward the camp-fire. He proved to be Maury Stafford. "The courier says General Jackson will reach Mt. Solon about midnight. General Ewell is getting an hour's sleep at the mill. I am not sleepy and your fire is attractive. May I keep you company for awhile?"

Allan was entirely hospitable. "Certainly, sir! Spread your cloak just there-the wind will blow the smoke the other way. Well, we'll all be glad to see the army!"

"What are you reading?"

Allan showed him. "Humph!-

Its passions will rock thee

As the storms rock the ravens on high;

Bright reason will mock thee-

Well-we all know the man was a seer."

He laid the book down upon the grey cloak lined with red and sat with his chin in his hand, staring at the fire. Some moments elapsed before he spoke; then, "You have known Richard Cleave for a long time?"

"Yes. Ever since we were both younger than we are now. I like him better than any one I know-and I think he's fond of me."

"He seems to have warm friends."

"He has. He's true as steel, and big-minded. He's strong-thewed-in and out."

"A little clumsily simple sometimes, do you not think? Lawyer and soldier grafted on Piers Ploughman, and the seams not well hidden? I would say there's a lack of grace-"

"I have not noticed it," said Allan dryly. "He's a very good leader."

The other smiled, though only with the lips. "Oh, I am not decrying him! Why should I? I have heard excellent things of him. He is a favourite, is he not, with General Jackson?"

"I don't think that General Jackson has favourites."

"At least, he is no longer in disfavour. I remember toward the close of the Romney expedition-"

"Oh, that!" said Allan, "that was nothing." He put down his pipe. "Let me see if I can explain to you the ways of this army. You don't know General Jackson as we do, who have been with him ever since a year ago and Harper's Ferry! In any number of things he's as gentle as a woman; in a few others he-isn't. In some things he's like iron. He's rigid in his discipline, and he'll tolerate no shade of insubordination, or disobedience, or neglect of duty. He's got the defect of his quality, and sometimes he'll see those things where they are not. He doesn't understand making allowances or forgiving. He'll rebuke a man in general orders, hold him up-if he's an officer-before the troops, and all for something that another general would hardly notice! He'll make an officer march without his sword for whole days in the rear of his regiment, and all for something that just a reprimand would have done for! As you say, he made the very man we're talking of do that from Bloomery Gap to Romney-and nobody ever knew why. Just the other day there were some poor fools of twelve-month men in one of our regiments who concluded they didn't want to re?nlist. They said they'd go home and cried out for their discharge. And they had forgotten all about the conscription act that Congress had just passed. So, when the discharge was refused they got dreadfully angry, and threw down their arms. The colonel went to the general, and the general almost put him under arrest. 'Why does Colonel Grigsby come to me to learn how to deal with mutineers? Shoot them where they stand.'-Kernstown, too. There's hardly a man of the Stonewall that doesn't think General Garnett justified in ordering that retreat, and yet look at Garnett! Under arrest, and the commanding general preferring charges against him! Says he did not wait for orders, lost the battle and so on. With Garnett it is a deadly serious matter-rank and fame and name for courage all in peril-"

"I see. But with Richard Cleave it was not serious?"

"Not in the least. These smaller arrests and censures-not even the best can avoid them. I shouldn't think they were pleasant, for sometimes they are mentioned in reports, and sometimes they get home to the womenfolk. But his officers understand him by now, and they keep good discipline, and they had rather be led by Stonewall Jackson than by an easier man. As for Richard Cleave, I was with him on the march to McDowell and he looked a happy man."

"Ah!"

The conversation dropped. The scout, having said his say, easily relapsed into silence. His visitor, half reclining upon his cloak beneath an old, gnarled tree, was still. The firelight played strangely over his face, for now it seemed the face of one man, now that of another. In the one aspect he looked intent, as though in his mind he mapped a course. In the other he showed only weariness, dashed with something tragic-a handsome, brooding, melancholy face. They stayed like this for some time, the fire burning before them, the moon flooding the forest, the owl hooting from his hole in some decaying tree.

At last, however, another sound intruded, a very low, subdued sound like a distant ground swell or like thunder without resonance. It grew; dull yet, it became deep. Allan knocked the ashes from his pipe. "That is a sound," he said, "that when you have once heard you don't forget. The army's coming."

Stafford rose. "I must get back to General Ewell! Thank you, Gold, for your hospitality."

"Not at all! Not at all!" said Allan heartily. "I am glad that I could put that matter straight for you. It would blight like black frost to have Stonewall Jackson's hand and mind set against you-and Richard Cleave is not the least in that predicament!"

The Army of the Valley, advance and main column, and rearguard, artillery and wagon train, came down the moon-lighted road, having marched twenty miles since high noon. On either hand stretched pleasant pastures, a running stream, fair woods. Company by company the men left the road, were halted, stacked arms, broke ranks. Cessation from motion was sweet, sweet the feel of turf beneath their feet. They had had supper three hours before; now they wanted sleep, and without much previous ado they lay down and took it-Stonewall Jackson's "foot cavalry" sleeping under the round moon, by Mt. Solon.

At the mill there was a meeting and a conference. A figure in an old cloak and a shabby forage cap dismounted, ungracefully enough, from a tired nag, and crossed the uncovered porch to the wide mill door. There he was met by his future trusty and trusted lieutenant-"dear Dick Ewell." Jackson's greeting was simple to baldness. Ewell's had the precision of a captain of dragoons. Together they entered the small mill office, where the aides placed lights and writing materials, then withdrew. The generals sat down, one on this side of the deal table, one on that. Jackson took from his pocket a lemon, very deliberately opened a knife, and, cutting the fruit in two, put one half of the sour treasure to his lips. Ewell fidgeted, then, as the other sucked on, determined to set the ball rolling. "Damn me, general! if I am not glad to have the pleasure at last-"

Jackson sent across the table a grey-blue glance, then gently put down one half of the lemon and took up the other. "Why the deuce should he look at me in that damned reproachful fashion?" thought Ewell. He made another start. "There's a damned criss-cross of advices from Richmond. I hate uncertainty like the devil, and so I thought I'd ride across-"

"General Ewell," said Jackson gently, "you will oblige me by not swearing. Profanity, sir, is most distasteful to me. Now, you rode across?"

Ewell swallowed. "Rode across-rode across-I rode across, sir, from Swift Run Gap, and I brought with me two late dispatches from General Johnston and General Lee. I thought some expression, perhaps, to them of your opinion-following the late victory and all-"

The other took and read, laid down the dispatches and applied himself to his lemon. Presently. "I will telegraph to-night to General Johnston and General Lee. I shall advise that you enter the Valley as first intended. As for Richmond-we may best serve Richmond by threatening Washington."

"Threatening Washington?"

"At present you are in my district and form part of my command. You will at once move your troops forward a day's march. Upon receipt of advices from General Johnston and General Lee-and if they are of the tenour I expect-you will move with promptness to Luray."

"And then?"

"With promptness to Luray. I strongly value swiftness of movement."

"I understand that, sir. Double the distance in half the time."

"Good! When instructions are given, it is desirable that those instructions be followed. I assume the responsibility of giving the proper instructions."

"I understand, general. Obey and ask no questions."

"Just so. Be careful of your ammunition wagons, but otherwise as little impedimenta as possible."

"I understand, sir. The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage."

Jackson put out his long arm, and gently touched the other's hand. "Good! I should be surprised if we didn't get on very well together. Now I will write a telegram to General Lee and then you shall get back to Swift Run Gap. The fewer hours a general is away from his troops the better." He rose and opened the door. "Lieutenant Meade!" The aide appeared. "Send me a courier-the one with the freshest horse. Order General Ewell's horses to be saddled."

This was the seventeenth. Two days later the Army of the Valley, moving down the Valley pike in a beautiful confidence that it was hurling itself against Banks at Strasburg, swerved to the east about New Market, with a suddenness that made it dizzy. Straight across its path now ran the strange and bold wall of the Massanuttons, architectural freak of Nature's, planted midway of the smiling Valley. The army groaned. "Always climbing mountains! This time to-morrow, I reckon, we'll climb it back again. Nothing over on the other side but the Luray Valley!"

Up and up went the army, through luxuriant forests where the laurel was in bloom, by the cool dash of mountain waters, past one-time haunts of stag and doe, through fern, over pine needles, under azure sky,-then down it sank, long winding after winding, moss and fern and richest forest, here velvet shadow, there highest light, down and down to the lovely Luray Valley, to the crossing of the Shenandoah, to green meadows and the bugles ringing "halt"!

How short the time between tattoo and reveille! The dawn was rosy, still, not cold, the river running near, the men with leave to rid themselves of the dust of yesterday's long march. In they plunged, all along the south fork of the Shenandoah, into the cool and wholesome flood. There were laughters, shoutings, games of dolphins. Then out they came, and while they cooked their breakfasts they heard the drums and fifes of Ewell's eight thousand, marching down from Conrad's Store.

The night before at Washington, where there was much security and much triumph over the certain-to-occur-soon-if-not-already-occurred Fall of Richmond, the Secretary of War received a dispatch from General Banks at Strasburg in the Valley of Virginia, thirty miles from Winchester.

"My force at Strasburg is 4476 infantry, two brigades; 1600 cavalry, 10 Parrott guns and 6 smoothbore pieces. I have on the Manassas Gap Railroad, between Strasburg and Manassas, 2500 infantry, 6 companies cavalry, and 6 pieces artillery. There are 5 companies cavalry, First Maine, near Strasburg. Of the enemy I received information last night, direct from New Market, that Jackson has returned to within 8 miles of Harrisonburg, west. I have no doubt that Jackson's force is near Harrisonburg, and that Ewell still remains at Swift Run Gap. I shall communicate more at length the condition of affairs and the probable plans of the enemy."

In pursuance of his promise General Banks wrote at length from Strasburg, the evening of the 22d:-

"Sir. The return of the rebel forces of General Jackson to the Valley after his forced march against Generals Milroy and Schenck increases my anxiety for the safety of the position I occupy.... That he has returned there can be no doubt.... From all the information I can gather-and I do not wish to excite alarm unnecessarily-I am compelled to believe that he meditates attack here. I regard it as certain that he will move north as far as New Market, a position which ... enables him also to co?perate with General Ewell, who is still at Swift Run Gap.... Once at New Market they are within twenty-five miles of Strasburg.... I have forborne until the last moment to make this representation, well knowing how injurious to the public service unfounded alarms become...."

The general signed and sent his letter. Standing for a moment, in the cool of the evening, at the door of headquarters, he looked toward the east where the first stars were shining. Fourteen miles over there was his strongest outpost, the village of Front Royal occupied by Colonel Kenly with a thousand men and two guns. The general could not see the place; it lay between the Massanuttons and the Blue Ridge, but it was in his mind. He spoke to an aide. "To-morrow I think I will recall Kenly and send him down the pike to develop the force of the enemy."

The small town of Strasburg pulsed with flaring lights and with the manifold sounds of the encamped army. Sutlers showed their wares, guard details went by, cavalrymen clanked their spurs through the streets, laughter and talk rang through the place. A company of strolling players had come down from the North, making its way from Washington to Harper's Ferry, held by three thousand Federals; from Harper's Ferry to Winchester, held by fifteen hundred; and from Winchester to Strasburg. The actors had a canvas booth, where by guttering candles and to the sound of squeaking fiddles they gave their lurid play of the night, and they played to a crowded house. Elsewhere there was gambling, elsewhere praying, elsewhere braggarts spoke of Ajax exploits, elsewhere there was moaning and tossing in the hospitals, elsewhere some private, raised above the heads of his fellows, read aloud the Northern papers. McClellan has one hundred and twelve thousand men. Yesterday his advance reached the White House on the Pamunkey. McDowell has forty thousand men, and at last advice was but a few marches from the treasonable capital. Our gunboats are hurrying up the James. Presumably at the very hour this goes to press Richmond is fallen.

Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen,

Fallen from her high estate,

And weltering in her blood.

Elsewhere brave, true, and simple men attended to their duties, wrote their letters home, and, going their rounds or walking their beats, looked upward to the silver stars. They looked at the stars in the west, over the Alleghenies where Frémont, where Milroy and Schenck should be; and at those in the south, over the long leagues of the great Valley, over Harrisonburg, somewhere the other side of which Stonewall Jackson must be; and at those in the east, over the Massanuttons, with the Blue Ridge beyond, and Front Royal in between, where Colonel Kenly was; and at the bright stars in the North, over home, over Connecticut and Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, over Wisconsin, Indiana, and Maine.

They who watched the stars from Strasburg dwelt least of all, perhaps, upon the stars in the east. Yet under those lay that night, ten miles from Front Royal, Stonewall Jackson and seventeen thousand men.

* * *

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