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   Chapter 26 THE BRIDGE AT PORT REPUBLIC

The Long Roll By Mary Johnston Characters: 38187

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


The seventh of June was passed by the Army of the Valley in a quiet that seemed unnatural. For fifteen days, north from Front Royal to Harper's Ferry, south from Harper's Ferry to Port Republic, cannon had thundered, musketry rattled. Battle here and battle there, and endless skirmishing! "One male and three foights a day," said Wheat's Irishmen. But this Saturday there was no fighting. The cavalry watched both flanks of the Massanuttons. The main army rested in the rich woods that covered the hills above the North Fork of the Shenandoah. Headquarters were in the village across the river, spanned by a covered bridge. Three miles to the northwest Ewell's division was strongly posted near the hamlet of Cross Keys. From the great south peak of the Massanuttons a signal party looked down upon Frémont's road from Harrisonburg, and upon the road by which Shields must emerge from the Luray Valley. The signal officer, looking through his glass, saw also a road that ran from Port Republic by Brown's Gap over the Blue Ridge into Albemarle, and along this road moved a cortège-soldiers with the body of Ashby. The dead general's mother was in Winchester. They would have taken him there, but could not, for Frémont's army was between. So, as seemed next most fit, they carried him across the mountains into Albemarle, to the University of Virginia. Up on Massanutton the signal officer's hand shook. He lowered his glass and cleared his throat: "War's a short word to say all it says-"

Frémont rested at Harrisonburg after yesterday's repulse. On the other side of Massanutton was Shields, moving south from Luray under the remarkable impression that Jackson was at Rude's Hill and Frémont effectively dealing with the "demoralized rebels." On the sixth he began to concentrate his troops near where had been Columbia Bridge. On the seventh he issued instructions to his advance guard.

"The enemy passed New Market on the 5th. Benker's Division in pursuit. The enemy has flung away everything, and their stragglers fill the mountains. They need only a movement on the flank to panic-strike them, and break them into fragments. No man has had such a chance since the war commenced. You are within thirty miles of a broken, retreating enemy, who still hangs together. Ten thousand Germans are on his rear, who hang on like bull dogs. You have only to throw yourself down on Waynesborough before him, and your cavalry will capture thousands, seize his train and abundant supplies."

In chase of this so beautiful a chance Shields set forth down the eastern side of Massanutton, with intent to round the mountain at Port Republic, turn north again, and somewhere on the Valley pike make that will-o'-the-wisp junction with Frémont and stamp out rebellion. But of late it had rained much, and the roads were muddy and the streams swollen. His army was split into sections; here a brigade and there a brigade, the advance south of Conrad's Store, the rear yet at Luray. He had, however, the advantage of moving through leagues of forest, heavy, shaggy, dense. It was not easy to observe the details of his operations.

Sunday morning dawned. A pearly mist wrapped the North Fork and the South Fork of the Shenandoah, and clung to the shingle roofs and bowery trees of the village between. The South Fork was shallow and could be forded. The North Fork was deep and strong and crossed by a covered bridge. Toward the bridge now, winding down from the near-by height on which the brigade had camped, came a detail from the 65th-twenty men led by Sergeant Mathew Coffin. They were chiefly Company A men, and they were going to relieve the pickets along the South Fork. Thanks to Mr. Commissary Banks, they had breakfasted well. The men were happy, not hilariously so, but in a placid, equable fashion. As they came down, over the wet grass, from the bluff, they talked. "Mist over the Shenandoah's just like mist over the James"-"No, 'tisn't! Nothing's like mist over the James."-"Well, the bridge's like the bridge at home, anyway!"-"'Tisn't much like it. Hasn't got sidewalks inside."-"Yes, it has!"-"No, it hasn't!"-"I know better, I've been through it."-"I've been through it twice't-was through it after Elk Run, a month ago!"-"Well, it hasn't got sidewalks, anyway,"-"I tell you it has."-"You 're mistaken!"-"I'm not."-"You never did see straight nohow!"-"If I was at home I'd thrash you!"

Mathew Coffin turned his head. "Who's that jowering back there? Stop it! Sunday morning and all!"

He went on, holding his head straight, a trig, slender figure, breathing irritation. His oval face with its little black moustache was set as hard as its boyish curves permitted, and his handsome dark eyes had two parallel lines above them. He marched as he marched always nowadays, with a mien aggrieved and haughty. He never lost the consciousness that he was wearing chevrons who had worn bars, and he was quite convinced that the men continually compared his two states.

The progress down hill to the bridge was short. Before the party the long, tunnel-like, weather-beaten structure loomed through the mist. The men entered and found it dusk and warm, smelling of horses, the river, fifteen feet below, showing through the cracks between the heavy logs of the floor. The marching feet sounded hollowly, voices reverberated. "Just like our bridge-told you 'twas-Ain't it like, Billy Maydew?"

"It air," said Billy. "I air certainly glad that we air a-crossing on a bridge. The Shenandoah air a prop-o-si-tion to swim."

"How did you feel, Billy, when you got away?"

"At first, just like school was out," said Billy. "But when a whole picket post started after me, 'n' I run fer it, 'n' the trees put out arms to stop me, 'n' the dewberry, crawling on the ground, said to itself, 'Hello! Let's make a trap'; 'n' when the rail fences all hollered out, 'We're goin' to turn agin you!' 'n' when a bit of swamp hollered louder than any, 'Let's suck down Billy Maydew-suck down Billy Maydew!' 'n' when a lot o' bamboo vines running over cedars, up with 'Hold him fast until you hear a bullet whizzing!' 'n' I got to the Shenandoah and there wa'n't no bridge, 'n' the Shenandoah says 'I'd just as soon drown men as look at them!'-when all them things talked so, I knew just how the critturs feel in the woods; 'n' I ain't so crazy about hunting as I was-and I say again this here air a most con-ve-ni-ent bridge."

With his musket butt he struck the boarded side. The noise was so resoundingly greater than he had expected that he laughed and the men with him. Now Sergeant Mathew Coffin was as nervous as a witch. He had been marching along with his thoughts moodily hovering over the battery he would take almost single-handed, or the ambush he would dislodge and so procure promotion indeed. At the noise of the stick he started violently. "Who did that? Oh, I see, and I might have known it! I'll report you for extra duty-"

"Report ahead," said Billy, under his breath.

Coffin halted. "What was that you said, Maydew?"

"I didn't speak to you-sir."

"Well, you'll speak to me now. What was it you said then?" He came nearer, his arm thrown up, though but in an angry gesture. "If I struck you," thought Billy, "I'd be sorry for it, so I won't do it. But one thing's sure-I certainly should like to!"

"If you don't answer me," said Coffin thickly, "I'll report you for disobedience as well as for disorderly conduct! What was it you said then?"

"I said, 'Report ahead-and be damned to you!'"

Coffin's lips shut hard. "Very good! We'll see how three days of guardhouse tastes to you!-Forward!"

The party cleared the bridge and almost immediately found itself in the straggling village street. The mist clung here as elsewhere, houses and trees dim shapes, the surrounding hills and the dense woods beyond the South Fork hardly seen at all. Coffin marched with flushed face and his brows drawn together. He was mentally writing a letter on pale blue paper, and in it he was enlarging upon ingratitude. The men sympathized with Billy and their feet sounded resentfully upon the stones. Billy alone marched with elaborate lightness, quite as though he were walking on air and loved the very thought of the guardhouse.

Headquarters was an old corner house that had flung open its doors to General Jackson with an almost tremulous eagerness. A flag waved before the door, and there was a knot beneath of couriers and orderlies, with staff officers coming and going. Opposite was a store, closed of course upon Sunday, but boasting a deep porch with benches, to say nothing of convenient kegs and boxes. Here the village youth and age alike found business to detain them. The grey-headed exchanged remarks. "Sleep? No, I couldn't sleep! Might as well see what's to be seen! I ain't got long to see anything, and so I told Susan. When's he coming out?-Once't when I was a little shaver like Bob, sitting on the scales there, I went with my father in the stage-coach to Fredericksburg, I remember just as well-and I was sitting before the tavern on a man's knee,-old man 'twas, for he said he had fought the Indians,-and somebody came riding down the street, with two or three others. I jus' remember a blue coat and a cocked hat and that his hair was powdered-and the man put me down and got up, and everybody else before the tavern got up-and somebody holloaed out 'Hurrah for General Washington-'"

There was a stir about the opposite door. An aide came out, mounted and rode off toward the bridge. An orderly brought a horse from the neighbouring stable. "That's his! That's General Jackson's!-Don't look like the war horse in Job, does he now?-Looks like a doctor's horse-Little Sorrel's his name." The small boy surged forward. "He's coming out!"-"How do you know him?"-"G' way! You always know generals when you see them! Great, big men, all trimmed up with gold. Besides, I saw him last night."-"You didn't!"-"Yes, I did! Saw his shadow on the curtain."-"How did you know 'twas his?"-"My mother said, 'Look, John, and don't never forget. That's Stonewall Jackson.' And it was a big shadow walking up and down, and it raised its hand-"

The church bell rang. A chaplain came out of the house. He had a Bible in his hand, and he beamed on all around. "There's the first bell, gentlemen-the bell, children! Church in a church, just like before we went to fighting! Trust you'll all come, gentlemen, and you, too, boys! The general hopes you'll all come."

Within headquarters, in a large bare room, Jackson was having his customary morning half-hour with his heads of departments-an invariably recurring period in his quiet and ordered existence. It was omitted only when he fought in the morning. He sat as usual, bolt upright, large feet squarely planted, large hands stiff at sides. On the table before him were his sabre and Bible. Before him stood a group of officers. The adjutant, Colonel Paxton, finished his report. The general nodded. "Good! good! Well, Major Harman?"

The chief quartermaster saluted. "The trains, sir, had a good night. There are clover fields on either side of the Staunton road and the horses are eating their fill. A few have sore hoof and may have to be left behind. I had the ordnance moved as you ordered, nearer the river. An orderly came back last night from the convoy on the way to Staunton. Sick and wounded standing it well. Prisoners slow marchers, but marching. I sent this morning a string of wagons to Cross Keys, to General Ewell. We had a stampede last night among the negro teamsters. They were sitting in a ring around the fire, and an owl hooted or a bat flitted. They had been telling stories of ha'nts, and they swore they saw General Ashby galloping by on the white stallion."

"Poor, simple, ignorant creatures!" said Jackson. "There is no witch of Endor can raise that horse and rider!-Major Hawks!"

The chief commissary came forward. "General Banks's stores are holding out well, sir. We are issuing special rations to the men to-day-Sunday dinner-fresh beef, rice and beans, canned fruits, coffee, sugar-"

"Good! good! They deserve the best.-Colonel Crutchfield-"

"I have posted Wooding's battery as you ordered, sir, on the brow of the hill commanding the bridge. There's a gun of Courtney's disabled. I have thought he might have the Parrott we captured day before yesterday. Ammunition has been issued as ordered. Caissons all filled."

"Good!-Captain Boswell-Ah, Mr. Hotchkiss."

"Captain Boswell is examining the South Fork, sir, with a view to finding the best place for the foot bridge you ordered constructed. I have here the map you ordered me to draw."

"Good! Put it here on the table.-Now, Doctor McGuire."

"Very few reported sick this morning, sir. The good women of the village are caring for those. Three cases of fever, two of pneumonia, some dysentery, measles among the recruits. The medicines we got at Winchester are invaluable; they and the better fare the men are getting. Best of all is the consciousness of victory,-the confidence and exaltation that all feel."

"Yes, doctor. God's shield is over us.-Captain Wilbourne-"

"I brought the signal party in from Peaked Mountain last night, sir. A Yankee cavalry company threatened to cut us off. Had we stayed we should have been captured. I trust, sir, that I acted rightly?"

"You acted rightly. You saw nothing of General Shields?"

"Nothing, sir. It is true that the woods for miles are extremely thick. It would perhaps be possible for a small force to move unseen. But we made out nothing."

Jackson rose and drew closer the sabre and the Bible. "That is all, gentlemen. After religious services you will return to your respective duties."

The sun was now above the mountain tops, the mist beginning to lift. It lay heavily, however, over the deep woods and the bottom lands of the South Fork, through which ran the Luray road, and on the South Fork itself.-Clatter, clatter! Shots and cries! Shouting the alarm as they came, splashing through the ford, stopping on the hither bank for one scattering volley back into the woolly veil, came Confederate infantry pickets and vedettes. "Yankee cavalry! Look out! Look out! Yankees!" In the mist the foremost man ran against the detail from the 65th. Coffin seized him. "Where? where?" The other gasped. "Coming! Drove us in! Whole lot of them! Got two guns. All of Shields, I reckon, right behind!" He broke away, tearing with his fellows into the village.

Sergeant Coffin and his men stared into the mist. They heard a great splashing, a jingling and shouting, and in another instant were aware of something looming like a herd of elephants. From the village behind them burst the braying of their own bugles-headquarters summoning, baggage train on the Staunton road summoning. The sound was shrill, insistent. The shapes in the mist grew larger. There came a flash of rifles, pale yellow through the drift as of lawn. Zzzzzz! Zzzzzz! sang the balls. The twenty men of the 65th proceeded to save themselves. Some of them tore down a side street, straight before the looming onrush. Others leaped fences and brushed through gardens, rich and dank. Others found house doors suddenly and quietly opening before them, houses with capacious dark garrets and cellars. All the dim horde, more and more of it, came splashing through the ford. A brazen rumbling arose, announcing guns. The foremost of the horde, blurred of outline, preternaturally large, huzzaing and firing, charged into the streets of Port Republic.

In a twinkling the village passed from her Sunday atmosphere to one of a highly work-a-day Monday. The blue cavalry began to harry the place. The townspeople hurried home, trumpets blared, shots rang out, oaths, shouts of warning! Men in grey belonging with the wagon train ran headlong toward their posts, others made for headquarters where the flag was and Stonewall Jackson. A number, headed off, were captured at once. Others, indoors when the alarm arose, were hidden by the women. Three staff officers had walked, after leaving Jackson's council, toward a house holding pretty daughters whom they meant to take to church. When the clangour broke out they had their first stupefied moment, after which they turned and ran with all their might toward headquarters. There was fighting up and down the street. Half a dozen huzzaing and sabring troopers saw the three and shouted to others nearer yet. "Officers! Cut them off, you there!" The three were taken. A captain, astride of a great reeking horse, towered above them. "Staff? You're staff? Is Jackson in the town?-and where? Quick now! Eh-what!"

"That's a lovely horse. Looks exactly, I imagine, like Rozinante-"

"On the whole I should say that McClellan might be finding Richmond like those mirages travellers tell about. The nearer he gets to it the further it is away."

"It has occurred to me that if after the evacuation of Corinth Beauregard should come back to Virginia-"

The captain in blue, hot and breathless, bewildered by the very success of the dash into town, kept saying, "Where is Jackson? What? Quick there, you! Where-" Behind him a corporal spoke out cavalierly. "They aren't going to tell you, sir. There's a large house down there that's got something like a flag before it-I think, too, that we ought to go take the bridge."

The streams of blue troopers flowed toward the principal street and united there. Some one saw the flag more plainly. "That's a headquarters!-What if Jackson were there? Good Lord! what if we took Jackson?" A bugler blew a vehement rally. "All of you, come on! All of you, come on!" The stream increased in volume, began to move, a compact body, down the street. "There are horses before that door! Look at that nag! That's Jackson's horse!-No."-"Yes! Saw it at Kernstown! Forward!"

Stonewall Jackson came out of the house with the flag before it. Behind him were those of his staff who had not left headquarters when the invasion occurred, while, holding the horses before the door, waited, white-lipped, a knot of most anxious orderlies. One brought Little Sorrel. Jackson mounted with his usual slow deliberation, then, turning in the saddle, looked back to the shouting blue horsemen. They saw him and dug spurs into flanks. First he pulled the forage cap over his eyes and then he jerked his hand into the air. These gestures executed he touched Little Sorrel with the rowel and, his suite behind him, started off down the street toward the bridge over the Shenandoah. One would not have said that he went like a swift arrow. There was, indeed, an effect of slowness, of a man traversing, in deep thought, a solitary plain. But for all that, he went so fast that the space between him and the enemy did not decrease. They came thunderingly on, a whole Federal charge-but he kept ahead. Seeing that he did so, they began to discharge carbine and pistol, some aiming at Little Sorrel, some at the grey figure riding stiffly, bolt upright and elbows out. Little Sorrel shook his head, sno

rted, and went on. Ahead loomed the bridge, a dusky, warm, gold-shot tunnel below an arch of weather-beaten wood. Under it rolled with a heavy sound the Shenandoah. Across the river, upon the green hilltops, had arisen a commotion. All the drums were beating the long roll. Stonewall Jackson and Little Sorrel came on the trodden rise of earth leading to the bridge mouth. The blue cavalry shouted and spurred. Their carbines cracked. The balls pockmarked the wooden arch. Jackson dragged the forage cap lower and disappeared within the bridge. The four or five with him turned and drew across the gaping mouth.

The blue cavalry came on, firing as they came. Staff and orderlies, the grey answered with pistols. Behind, in the bridge, sounded the hollow thunder of Little Sorrel's hoofs. The sound grew fainter. Horse and rider were nearly across. Staff and orderlies fired once again, then, just as the blue were upon them, turned, dug spur, shouted, and disappeared beneath the arch.

The Federal cavalry, massed before the bridge and in the field to either side, swore and swore, "He's out!-Jackson's out! There he goes-up the road! Fire!-Damn it all, what's the use? He's charmed. We almost got him! Good Lord! We'd all have been major-generals!"

A patrol galloped up. "They've got a great wagon train, sir, at the other end of the village-ordnance reserve, supply, everything! It is in motion. It's trying to get off by the Staunton road."

The cavalry divided. A strong body stayed by the bridge, while one as large turned and galloped away. Those staying chafed with impatience. "Why don't the infantry come up-damned creeping snails!"-"Yes, we could cross, but when we got to the other side, what then?-No, don't dare to burn the bridge-don't know what the general would say."-"Listen to those drums over there! If Stonewall Jackson brings all those hornets down on us!"-"If we had a gun-Speak of the angels!-Unlimber right here, lieutenant!-Got plenty of canister? Now if the damned infantry would only come on! Thought it was just behind us when we crossed the ford-What's that off there?"

"That" was a sharp sputter of musketry. "Firing! Who are they firing at? There aren't any rebels-we took them all prisoners-"

"There's fighting, anyway-wagon escort, maybe. The devil! Look across the river! Look! All the hornets are coming down-"

Of the detail from the 65th Coffin and two others stood their ground until the foremost of the herd was crossing the ford near at hand, large, threatening, trumpeting. Then the three ran like hares, hearts pounding at their sides, the ocean roaring in their ears, and in every cell in their bodies an accurate impression that they had been seen, and that the trumpeting herd meant to run down, kill or capture every grey soldier in Port Republic! Underfoot was wet knot grass, difficult and slippery; around was the shrouding mist. They thought the lane ran through to another street, but it proved a cul-de-sac. Something rose mistily before them; it turned out to be a cowshed. They flung themselves against the door, but the door was padlocked. Behind the shed, between it and a stout board fence, sprang a great clump of wet elder, tall and rank, with spreading leaves; underneath, black, miry earth. Into this they crowded, squatted on the earth, turned face toward the passage up which they had come, and brought their rifles to the front. A hundred yards away the main herd went by, gigantic in the mist. The three in the elder breathed deep. "All gone. Gone!-No. There's a squad coming up here."

The three kneeling in the mire, watching through triangular spaces between the branchy leaves, grew suddenly, amazingly calm. What was the sense in being frightened? You couldn't get away. Was there anywhere to go to one might feel agitation enough, but there wasn't! Coffin handled his rifle with the deliberation of a woman smoothing her long hair. The man next him-Jim Watts-even while he settled forward on his knees and raised his musket, turned his head aside and spat. "Derned old fog always gits in my throat!" A branch of elder was cutting Billy Maydew's line of vision. He broke it off with noiseless care and raised to his shoulder the Enfield rifle which he had acquired at Winchester. There loomed, at thirty feet away, colossal beasts bestridden by giants.

Suddenly the mist thinned, lifted. The demon steeds and riders resolved themselves into six formidable looking Federal troopers. From the main street rang the Federal bugles, vehemently rallying, imperative. Shouting, too, broke out, savage, triumphant, pointed with pistol shots. The bugle called again, Rally to the colours! Rally!

"I calculate," said one of the six blue horsemen, "that the boys have found Stonewall."

"Then they'll need us all!" swore the trooper leading. "If anybody's in the cow-house they can wait."-Right about face! Forward! Trot!

The men within the elder settled down on the wet black earth. "Might as well stay here, I suppose," said Coffin. Jim Watts began to shiver. "It's awful damp and cold. I've got an awful pain in the pit of my stomach." He rolled over and lay groaning. "Can't I go, sir?" asked Billy. "I kind of feel more natural in the open."

Now Mathew Coffin had just been thinking that while this elder bush springing from muddy earth, with a manure heap near, was damned uncomfortable, it was better than being outside while those devils were slashing and shooting. Perhaps they would ride away, or the army might come over the bridge, and there would be final salvation. He had even added a line to the letter he was writing, "An elder bush afforded me some slight cover from which to fire-" And now Billy Maydew wanted to go outside and be taken prisoner! Immediately he became angry again. "You're no fonder of the open than I am!" he said, and his upper lip twitched one side away from his white teeth.

Billy, his legs already out of the bush, looked at him with large, calm grey eyes. "Kin I go?"

"Go where? You'll get killed."

"You wouldn't grieve if I did, would you? I kinder thought I might get by a back street to the wagons. A cousin of mine's a wagon master and he ain't going ter give up easy. I kinder thought I might help-"

"I'm just waiting," said Coffin, "until Jim here gets over his spasm. Then I'll give the word."

Jim groaned. "I feel sicker'n a yaller dog after a fight-'n' you know I didn't mind 'em at all when they were really here! You two go on, 'n' I'll come after awhile."

Coffin and Billy found the back street. It lay clear, warm, sunny, empty. "They're all down at the bridge," said Billy. "Bang! bang! bang!" They came to a house, blinds all closed, shrinking behind its trees. Houses, like everything else, had personality in this war. A town occupied changed its mien according to the colour of the uniform in possession. As the two hurrying grey figures approached, a woman, starting from the window beside which she had been kneeling, watching through a crevice, ran out of the house and through the yard to the gate. "You two men, come right in here! Don't you know the Yankees are in town?"

She was young and pretty. Coffin swept off his cap. "That's the reason we're trying to get to the edge of town-to help the men with the wagon train."

Her eyes grew luminous. "How brave you are! Go, and God bless you!"

The two ran on. Mathew Coffin added another line to his letter: "A lady besought me to enter her house, saying that I would surely be killed, and that she could conceal me until the enemy was gone. But I-"

They were nearly out of town-they could see the long train hurriedly moving on the Staunton road. There was a sudden burst of musketry. A voice reached them from the street below. "Halt, you two Confeds running there! Come on over here! Rally to the colours!" There was a flash of the stars and bars, waved vigorously. "Oh, ha, ha!" cried Billy, "thar was some of us wasn't taken! Aren't you glad we didn't stay behind the cowshed?"

It came into Coffin's head that Billy might tell that his sergeant had wished to stay behind the cowshed. The blood rushed to his face; he saw the difficulty of impressing men who knew about the cowshed with his abilities in the way of storming batteries single-handed. He had really a very considerable share of physical courage, and naturally he esteemed it something larger than it was. He began to burn with the injustice of Billy Maydew's thinking him backward in daring and so reporting him around camp-fires. As he ran he grew angrier and angrier, and not far from the shaken flag, in a little grassy hollow which hid them from view, he called upon the other to halt. Billy's sense of discipline brought him to a stop, but did not keep him from saying, "What for?" They were only two soldiers, out of the presence of others and in a pretty tight place together-Mathew Coffin but three years older than he, and no great shakes anyhow. "What for?" asked Billy.

"I just want to say to you," said Coffin thickly, "that as to that shed, it was my duty to protect my men; just as it is my duty as an officer to report you for disobedience and bad language addressed to an officer-"

Billy's brow clouded. "I had forgotten all about that. I was going along very nicely with you. You were really behaving yourself-like a-like a gentleman. The cow-house was all right. You are brave enough when it comes to fighting. And now you're bringing it all up again-"

"'Gentleman.'-Who are you to judge of a gentleman?"

Billy looked at him calmly. "I air one of them.-I air a-judging from that-a stand."

"You are going to the guardhouse for disobedience and bad language and impertinence."

"It would be right hard," said Billy, "if I had to leave su-pe-ri-or-i-ty outside with my musket. But I don't."

Coffin, red in the face, made at him. The Thunder Run man, supple as a moccasin, swerved aside. "Air you finished speaking, sergeant? Fer if you have, 'n' if you don't mind, I think I'll run along-I air only fighting Yankees this mornin'!"

An aide of Jackson's, cut off from headquarters and taking shelter in the upper part of the town, crept presently out of hiding, and finding the invaders' eyes turned toward the bridge, proceeded with dispatch and quietness to gather others from dark havens. When he had a score or more he proceeded to bolder operations. In the field and on the Staunton road all was commotion; wagons with their teams moving in double column up the road, negro teamsters clamouring with ashen looks, "Dose damn Yanks! Knowed we didn't see dat ghos' fer nothin' las' night!" Wagon masters shouted, guards and sentries looked townward with anxious eyes. The aide got a flag from the quartermaster's tent; found moreover a very few artillery reserves and an old cranky howitzer. With all of these he returned to the head of the main street, and about the moment the cavalry at the bridge divided, succeeded in getting his forces admirably placed in a strong defensive position: Coffin and Billy Maydew joined just as an outpost brought a statement that about two hundred Yankee cavalry were coming up the street.

The two guns, Federal Parrott, Confederate howitzer, belching smoke, made in twenty minutes the head of the street all murk. In the first charge Coffin received a sabre cut over the head. The blood blinded him at first, and when he had wiped it away, and tied a beautiful new handkerchief from a Broadway shop about the wound, he found it still affected sight and hearing. He understood that their first musketry fire had driven the cavalry back, indeed he saw two or three riderless horses galloping away. He understood also that the Yankees had brought up a gun, and that the captain was answering with the superannuated howitzer. He was sure, too, that he himself was firing his musket with great precision. Fire!-load, fire!-load, fire! One, two,-one, two! but his head, he was equally sure, was growing larger. It was now larger than the globe pictured on the first page of the geography he had studied at school. It was the globe, and he was Atlas holding it. Fire-load, fire-load! Now the head was everything, and all life was within it. There was a handsome young man named Coffin, very brave, but misunderstood by all save one. He was brave and handsome. He could take a tower by himself-Fire, load-Fire, load-One, two. The enemy knew his fame. They said, "Coffin! Which is Coffin?"-Fire, load, one, two. The grey armies knew this young hero. They cheered when he went by. They cheered-they cheered-when he went by to take the tower. They wrote home and lovely women envied the loveliest woman. "Coffin! Coffin! Coffin's going to take the tower! Watch him! Yaaaaih! Yaaaih!"-He struck the tower and looked to see it go down. Instead, with a roar, it sprang, triple brass, height on height to the skies. The stars fell, and suddenly, in the darkness, an ocean appeared and went over him. He lay beneath the overturned Federal gun, and the grey rush that had silenced the gunners and taken the piece went on.

For a long time he lay in a night without a star, then day began to break. It broke curiously, palely light for an instant, then obscured by thick clouds, then faint light again. Some part of his brain began to think. His head was not now the world; the world was lying on his shoulder and arm, crushing it. With one piece of his brain he began to appeal to people; with another piece to answer the first. "Mother, take this thing away! Mother, take this thing away! She's dead. She can't, however much she wants to. Father! He's dead, too. Rob, Carter-Jack! Grown up and moved away. Judge Allen, sir!-Mr. Boyd!-would you just give a hand? Here I am, under Purgatory Mountain. Darling-take this thing away! Darling-Darling! Men!-Colonel Cleave!-Boys-boys-" All the brain began to think. "O God, send somebody!"

When Purgatory Mountain was lifted from his shoulder and arm he fainted. Water, brought in a cap from a neighbouring puddle and dashed in his face, brought him to. "Thar now!" said Billy, "I certainly air glad to see that you air alive!" Coffin groaned. "It must ha' hurt awful! S'pose you let me look before I move you?" He took out a knife and gently slit the coat away. "Sho! I know that hurts! But you got first to the gun! You ran like you was possessed, and you yelled, and you was the first to touch the gun. Thar now! I air a-tying the han'kerchief from your head around your arm, 'cause there's more blood-"

"They'll have to cut it off," moaned Coffin.

"No, they won't. Don't you let 'em! Now I air a-going to lift you and carry you to the nearest house. All the boys have run on after the Yanks."

He took up his sergeant and moved off with an easy step. Coffin uttered a short and piteous moaning like a child. They presently met a number of grey soldiers. "We've druv them-we've druv them! The 37th's down there. Just listen to Rockbridge!-Who've you got there?"

"Sergeant Coffin," said Billy. "He air right badly hurt! He was the first man at the gun. He fired, an' then he got hold of the sponge staff and laid about him-he was that gallant. The men ought to 'lect him back. He sure did well."

The nearest house flung open its doors. "Bring him right in here-oh, poor soldier! Right here in the best room!-Run, Maria, and turn down the bed. Oh, poor boy! He looks like my Robert down at Richmond! This way-get a little blackberry wine, Betty, and the scissors and my roll of lint-"

Billy laid him on the bed in the best room. "Thar now! You air all right. The doctor'll come just as soon as I can find him, 'n' then I'll get back to the boys-Wait-I didn't hear, I'll put my ear down. You couldn't lose all that blood and not be awful weak-"

"I'd be ashamed to report now!" whispered Coffin. "Maybe I was wrong-"

"Sho!" said Billy. "We're all wrong more or less. Here, darn you, drink your wine, and stop bothering!"

Across the Shenandoah Stonewall Jackson and the 37th Virginia came down from the heights with the impetuosity of a torrent. Behind them poured other grey troops. On the cliff heads Poague and Carpenter came into position and began with grape and canister. The blue Parrott, full before the bridge mouth, menacing the lane within, answered with a shriek of shells. The 37th and Jackson left the road, plunged down the ragged slope of grass and vines, and came obliquely toward the dark tunnel. Jackson and Little Sorrel had slipped into their battle aspect. You would have said that every auburn hair of the general's head and beard was a vital thing. His eyes glowed as though there were lamps behind, and his voice rose like a trumpet of promise and doom. "Halt!-Aim at the gunners!-Fire! Fix bayonets! Charge!"

The 37th rushed in column through the bridge. The blue cavalry fired one volley. The unwounded among the blue artillerymen strove to plant a shell within the dusky lane. But most of the gunners were down, or the fuse was wrong. The grey torrent leaped out of the tunnel and upon the gun. They took it and turned it against the horsemen. The blue cavalry fled. On the bluff heads above the river three grey batteries came into action. The 37th Virginia began to sweep the streets of Port Republic.

The blue cavalry, leaving the guns, leaving prisoners they had taken and their wounded, turned alike from the upper end of the village and rode, pell-mell, for the South Fork. One and all they splashed through, not now in covering mist, but in hot sunshine, the 37th volleying at their heels and from the bluffs above the Shenandoah, Poague and Carpenter and Wooding strewing their path with grape and canister.

A mile or two in the deep woods they met Shields's infantry advance. There followed a movement toward the town-futile enough, for as the vanguard approached, the Confederate batteries across the river limbered up, trotted or galloped to other positions on the green bluff heads, and trained the guns on the ground between Port Republic and the head of the Federal column. Winder's brigade came also and took position on the heights commanding Lewiston, and Taliaferro's swung across the bridge and formed upon the townward side of South Fork. Shields halted. All day he halted, listening to the guns at Cross Keys.

Sitting Little Sorrel at the northern end of the bridge, Stonewall Jackson watched Taliaferro's men break step and cross. A staff officer ventured to inquire what the general thought General Shields would do.

"I think, sir, that he will stay where he is."

"All day, sir?"

"All day."

"He has ten thousand men. Will he not try to attack?"

"No, sir! No! He cannot do it. I should tear him to pieces."

A heavy sound came into being. The staff officer swung round on his horse. "Listen, sir!"

"Yes. Artillery firing to the northwest. Frémont will act without Shields."

A courier came at a gallop. "General Ewell's compliments, sir, and the battle of Cross Keys is beginning."

"Good! good! My compliments to General Ewell, and I expect him to win it."

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