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   Chapter 35 WHITE OAK SWAMP

The Long Roll By Mary Johnston Characters: 39026

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


The Grapevine Bridge being at last rebuilt, Stonewall Jackson's fourteen brigades crossed the Chickahominy, the movement occupying a great part of the night. Dawn of the thirtieth found the advance at Savage Station.

The storm in the night had swelled the myriad creeks, and extended all morasses. The roads were mud, the wild tangles of underwood held water like a sponge. But the dawn was glorious, with carmine and purple towers and the coolest fresh-washed purity of air and light. Major-General Richard Ewell, riding at the head of his division, opined that it was as clear as the plains. A reconnoitring party brought him news about something or other to the eastward. He jerked his head, swore reflectively, and asked where was "Old Jackson."

"He rode ahead, sir, to speak to General Magruder."

"Well, you go, Nelson, and tell him-No, you go, Major Stafford."

Stafford went, riding through the cool, high glory of the morning. He found Jackson and Magruder at the edge of the peach orchard. All around were Magruder's troops, and every man's head was turned toward the stark and dust-hued figure on the dust-hued nag. The first had come from the Valley with a towering reputation, nor indeed did the last lack bards to sing of him. Whatever tarn cap the one had worn during the past three days, however bewildering had been his inaction, his reputation held. This was Jackson.... There must have been some good reason ... this was Stonewall Jackson. Magruder's brigades cheered him vehemently, and he looked at them unsmiling, with a mere motion of his hand toward the rusty old cadet cap. Magruder, magnificently soldierly, with much of manner and rich colour, magnanimously forgetful this morning of "other important duties" and affably debonair though his eyelids dropped for want of sleep, came gradually to halt in his fluent speech.-"Weally, you can't talk forever to a potht! If thilenthe be golden he ith the heavietht weight of hith time."-Jackson gathered up his reins, nodded and rode off, the troops cheering as he went by.

Stafford, coming up with him, saluted and gave his message. Jackson received it with impassivity and rode on. Conceiving it to be his duty to attend an answer, the staff officer accompanied him, though a little in the rear. Here were an aide and a courier, and the three rode silently behind their silent chief. At the Williamsburg road there came a halt. Jackson checked Little Sorrel, and sat looking toward Richmond. Down the road, in the sunrise light, came at a canter a knot of horsemen handsomely mounted and equipped, the one in front tall and riding an iron-grey. Stafford recognized the commander-in-chief. Jackson sat very still, beneath a honey locust. The night before, in a wood hard by, the 17th Mississippi had run into a Federal brigade. The latter had fired, at point blank, a withering volley. Many a tall Mississippian had fallen. Now in the early light their fellow soldiers had gone seeking them in the wood, drawn them forth, and laid them in a row in the wet sedge beside the road. Nearly every man had been shot through the brain. They lay ghastly, open-eyed, wet with rain, staring at the cool and pure concave of the sky. Two or three soldiers were moving slowly up and down the line, bent on identifications. Presumably Jackson was aware of that company of the dead, but their presence could not be said to disturb him. He sat with his large hands folded over the saddle-bow, with the forage cap cutting all but one blue-grey gleam of his eyes, still as stone wall or mountain or the dead across the way. As the horsemen came nearer his lips parted. "That is General Lee?"

"Yes, general."

"Good!"

Lee's staff halted; Lee himself came on, checked the iron-grey, dismounted, and walked toward the honey locust. Jackson swung himself stiffly out of the saddle and stepped forward. The two met. Lee stretched out his hand, said something in his gracious voice. The piteous row of dead men, with their open eyes, caught his glance. He drew his brows together, pressed his lips hard, parted them in a sigh and went on with his speech. The two men, so different in aspect, talked not long together. The staff could not hear what was said, but Lee spoke the most and very earnestly. Jackson nodded, said, "Good!" several times, and once, "It is in God's hands, General Lee!"

The courier holding Traveller brought him up. Lee mounted, tarried, a great and gallant figure, a moment longer, then rode toward Magruder at the peach orchard. His staff followed, saluting Stonewall Jackson as they passed. He, too, remounted in his stiff and awkward fashion, and turned Little Sorrel's head down the Williamsburg road. Behind him now, in the clear bright morning, could be heard the tramp of his brigades. Stafford pushed his horse level with the sorrel. "Your pardon, general, but may I ask if there's any order for General Ewell-"

"There is none, sir."

"Then shall I return?"

"No, you will wait, sir. From the cross-roads I may send directions."

They rode on by wood and field. Overhead was a clear, high, azure sky; no clouds, but many black sailing specks. Around, on the sandy road, and in the shaggy, bordering growth, were witnesses enough to the Federal retreat-a confused medley of abandoned objects. Broken and half-burned wagons appeared, like wreckage from a storm. There did not lack dead or dying horses, nor, here and there, dead or wounded men. In the thicker woods or wandering through the ruined fields appeared, forlornly, stragglers from the Federal column. D. H. Hill, leading the grey advance, swept up hundreds of these. From every direction spirals of smoke rose into the crystal air,-barns and farmhouses, mills, fences, hayricks, and monster heaps of Federal stores set on fire in that memorable "change of base." For all the sunshine of the June morning, the rain-washed air, the singing birds in the jewelled green of the forest, there was something in the time and place inexpressibly sinister and sad.

Or so thought Maury Stafford, riding silently with the aide and the courier. At Gaines's Mill he had won emphatic praise for a cool and daring ride across the battlefield, and for the quick rallying and leading into action of a command whose officers were all down. With Ewell at Dispatch Station, he had volunteered for duty at the crossing of the Chickahominy, and in a hand-to-hand fight with a retiring Federal regiment he and his detachment had acquitted themselves supremely well. As far as this warfare went, he had reason to be satisfied. But he was not so, and as he rode he thought the morning scene of a twilight dreariness. He had no enthusiasm for war. In every aspect of life, save one, that he dealt with, he carried a cool and level head, and he thought war barbarous and its waste a great tragedy. Martial music and earth-shaking charges moved him for a moment, as they moved others for an hour or a day. The old, instinctive response passed with swiftness, and he settled to the base of a steadfast conclusion that humanity turned aside to the jungle many times too often in a century. That, individually, he had turned into a certain other allied jungle, he was conscious-not sardonically conscious, for here all his judgment was warped, but conscious. His mind ranged in this jungle with an unhappy fury hardly modern.

As he rode he looked toward Richmond. He knew, though he scarcely knew how he knew, that Judith Cary was there. He had himself meant to ride to Richmond that idle twenty-eighth. Then had come the necessity of accompanying Ewell to Dispatch Station, and his chance was gone. The Stonewall Brigade had been idle enough.... Perhaps, the colonel of the 65th had gone.... It was a thick and bitter jungle, and he gathered every thorn within it to himself and smelled of every poisonous flower.

The small, silent cavalcade came to a cross-roads. Jackson stopped, sitting Little Sorrel beneath a tall, gaunt, lightning-blackened pine. The three with him waited a few feet off. Behind them they heard the on-coming column; D. H. Hill leading, then Jackson's own division. The sun was above the treetops, the sky cloudless, all the forest glistening. The minutes passed. Jackson sat like a stone. At last, from the heavy wood pierced by the cross-road, came a rapid clatter of hoofs. Munford appeared, behind him fifty of his cavalry. The fifty checked their horses; the leader came on and saluted. Jackson spoke in the peculiar voice he used when displeased. "Colonel Munford, I ordered you to be here at sunrise."

Munford explained. "The men were much scattered, sir. They don't know the country, and in the storm last night and the thick wood they couldn't see their horses' ears. They had nothing to eat and-"

He came to a pause. No amount of good reasons ever for long rolled fluently off the tongue before Jackson. He spoke now, still in the concentrated monotony of his voice of displeasure. "Yes, sir. But, colonel, I ordered you to be here at sunrise. Move on with your men. If you meet the enemy drive in his pickets, and if you want artillery Colonel Crutchfield will furnish you."

Munford moved on, his body of horse increasing in size as the lost troopers emerged in twos and threes or singly from the forest and turned down the road to join the command. The proceeding gave an effect of disordered ranks. Jackson beckoned the courier. "Go tell Colonel Munford that his men are straggling badly."

The courier went, and presently returned. Munford was with him. "General, I thought I had best come myself and explain-they aren't straggling. We were all separated in the dark night and-"

"Yes, sir. But I ordered you to be here at sunrise. Move on now, and drive in the enemy's pickets, and if you want artillery Colonel Crutchfield will furnish you."

Munford and the 2d Virginia went on, disappearing around a bend in the road. The sound of the artillery coming up was now loud in the clear air. Jackson listened a moment, then left the shadow of the pine, and with the two attending officers and the courier resumed the way to White Oak Swamp.

Brigade by brigade, twenty-five thousand men in grey passed Savage Station and followed Stonewall Jackson. The air was fresh, the troops in spirits. Nobody was going to let McClellan get to the James, after all! The brigades broke into song. They laughed, they joked, they cheered every popular field officer as he passed, they genially discussed the heretofore difficulties of the campaign and the roseate promise of the day. They knew it was the crucial day; that McClellan must be stopped before sunset or he would reach the shelter of his gunboats. They were in a Fourth of July humour; they meant to make the day remembered. Life seemed bright again and much worth while. They even grudgingly agreed that there was a curious kind of attractiveness about all this flat country, and the still waters, and the very tall trees, and labyrinthine vivid green undergrowth. Intermittent fevers had begun to appear, but, one and all, the invalids declared that this was their good day. "Shucks! What's a little ague? Anyhow, it'll go away when we get back to the Valley. Going back to the Valley? Well, we should think so! This country's got an eerie kind of good looks, and it raises sweet potatoes all right, but for steady company give us mountains! We'll drop McClellan in one of these swamps, and we'll have a review at the fair grounds at Richmond so's all the ladies can see us, and then we'll go back to the Valley pike and Massanutton and Mr. Commissary Banks! They must be missing us awful. Somebody sing something,-

"Old Grimes is dead, that good old man,

Whom we shall see no more!

He wore a grey Confederate coat

All buttoned down before-"

"Don't like it that way? All right-"

"He wore a blue damn-Yankee coat

All buttoned down before-"

The Stonewall Brigade passed a new-made grave in a small graveyard, from which the fence had been burned. A little further on they came to a burned smithy; the blacksmith's house beside it also a ruin, black and charred. On a stone, between two lilac-bushes, sat a very old man. Beside him stood a girl, a handsome creature, dark and bright-cheeked. "Send them to hell, boys, send them to hell!" quavered the old man. The girl raised a sweet and vibrant voice: "Send them to hell, men, send them to hell!"

"We'll do our best, ma'am, we'll do our best!" answered the Stonewall.

The sun mounted high. They were moving now through thick woods, broken by deep creeks and bits of swamp. All about were evidences enough that an army had travelled before them, and that that army was exceedingly careless of its belongings. All manner of impediments lay squandered; waste and ruin were everywhere. Sometimes the men caught an odour of burning meat, of rice and breadstuffs. In a marshy meadow a number of wrecked, canvas-topped wagons showed like a patch of mushrooms, giant and dingy. In a forest glade rested like a Siegfried smithy an abandoned travelling forge. Camp-kettles hacked in two were met with, and boxes of sutlers' wares smashed to fragments. The dead horses were many, and there was disgust with the buzzards, they rose or settled in such clouds. The troops, stooping to drink from the creeks, complained that the water was foul.

Very deep woods appeared on the horizon. "Guide says that's White Oak Swamp!-Guide says that's White Oak Swamp!" Firing broke out ahead. "Cavalry rumpus!-Hello! Artillery butting in, too!-everybody but us! Well, boys, I always did think infantry a mighty no-'count, undependable arm-infantry of the Army of the Valley, anyway! God knows the moss has been growing on us for a week!"

Munford sent back a courier to Jackson, riding well before the head of the column. "Bridge is burned, sir. They're in strong force on the other side-"

"Good!" said Jackson. "Tell Colonel Crutchfield to bring up the guns."

He rode on, the aide, the courier, and Maury Stafford yet with him. They passed a deserted Federal camp and hospital, and came between tall trees and through dense swamp undergrowth to a small stream with many arms. It lay still beneath the blue sky, overhung by many a graceful, vine-draped tree. The swamp growth stretched for some distance on either side, and through openings in the foliage the blue glint of the arms could be seen. To the right there was some cleared ground. In front the road stopped short. The one bridge had been burned by the retreating Federal rearguard. Two blue divisions, three batteries-in all over twenty thousand men-now waited on the southern bank to dispute the White Oak Crossing.

Stafford again pushed his horse beside Jackson's. "Well, sir?"

"I hunted once through this swamp, general. There is an old crossing near the bridge-"

"Passable for cavalry, sir?"

"Passable by cavalry and infantry, sir. Even the guns might somehow be gotten across."

"I asked, sir, if it was passable for cavalry."

"It is, sir."

Jackson turned to his aide. "Go tell Colonel Crutchfield I want to see him."

Crutchfield appeared. "Where are your guns, colonel?"

"General, their batteries on the ridge over there command the road, and the thick woods below their guns are filled with sharpshooters. I want to get the guns behind the crest of the hill on this side, and I am opening a road through the wood over there. They'll be up directly-seven batteries, Carter's, Hardaway's, Nelson's, Rhett's, Reilly's, and Balthis'. We'll open then at a thousand yards, and we'll take them, I think, by surprise."

"Very good, colonel. That is all."

The infantry began to arrive. Brigade by brigade, as it came up, turned to right or to left, standing under arms in the wood above the White Oak Swamp. As the Stonewall Brigade came, under tall trees and over earth that gave beneath the feet, flush with the stream itself, the grey guns, now in place upon the low ridge to the right, opened, thirty-one of them, with simultaneous thunder. Crutchfield's man?uvre had not been observed. The thirty-one guns blazed without warning, and the blue artillery fell into confusion. The Parrotts blazed in turn, four times, then they limbered up in haste and left the ridge. Crutchfield sent Wooding's battery tearing down the slope to the road immediately in front of the burned bridge. Wooding opened fire and drove out the infantry support from the opposite forest. Jackson, riding toward the stream, encountered Munford. "Colonel, move your men over the creek and take those guns."

Munford looked. "I don't know that we can cross it, sir."

"Yes, you can cross it, colonel. Try."

Munford and a part of the 2d Virginia dashed in. The stream was in truth narrow enough, and though it was deep here, with a shifting bottom, and though the débris from the ruined bridge made it full of snares, the horsemen got across and pushed up the shore toward the guns. A thick and leafy wood to the right leaped fire-another and unsuspected body of blue infantry. The echoes were yet ringing when, from above, an unseen battery opened on the luckless cavalry. The blue rifles cracked again, the horses began to rear and plunge, several men were hit. There was nothing to do but to get somehow back to the north bank. Munford and his men pushed out of the rain of iron, through the wood for some distance down the stream, and there recrossed, not without difficulty.

The thirty-one guns shelled the wood which had last spoken, and drove out the skirmishers with whom it was filled. These took refuge in another deep and leafy belt still commanding the stream and the ruined causeway. A party of grey pioneers fell to work to rebuild the bridge. From the crest on the southern side behind the deep foliage two Federal batteries, before unnoted, opened on the grey cannoneers. Wooding, on the road before the bridge, had to fall back. Under cover of the guns the blue infantry swarmed again into the wood. Shell and bullet hissed and pattered into the water by the abutments of the ruined bridge. The working party drew back. "Damnation! They mustn't fling them minies round loose like that!"

Wright's brigade of Huger's division came up. Wright made his report. "We tried Brackett's ford a mile up stream, sir. Couldn't manage it. Got two companies over by the skin of our teeth. They drove in some pickets on the other side. Road through the swamp over there covered by felled trees. Beyond is a small meadow and beyond that rising ground, almost free of trees. There are Yankee batteries on the crest, and a large force of infantry lying along the side of the ridge. They command the meadow and the swamp."

So tall were the trees, so thick the undergrowth, so full the midsummer foliage that the guns, thundering at each other across the narrow stream, never saw their antagonists. Sharpshooters and skirmishers were as hidden. Except as regarded the pioneers striving with the bridge, neither side could see the damage that was done. The noise was tremendous, echoing loudly from the opposing low ridges and rolling through the swamp. The hollow filled with smoke; above the treetops a dull saffron veil was drawn across the sky. The firing was without intermission, a monotonous thunder, beneath which the working party strove spasmodically at the bridge, the cavalry chafed to and fro, and the infantry, filling all the woods and the little clearings to the rear, began to swear. "Is it the Red Sea down

there? Why can't we cross without a bridge? Nobody's going to get drowned! Ain't more'n a hundred men been drowned since this war began! O Great Day in the Morning! I'm tired of doing nothing!"

General Wade Hampton of D. H. Hill's division, leaving his brigade in a pine wood, went with his son and with an aide, Rawlins Lowndes, on a reconnoitring expedition of his own. He was a woodsman and hunter, with experience of swamps and bayous. Returning, he sought out Jackson, and found him sitting on a fallen pine by the roadside near the slowly, slowly mending bridge. Hampton dismounted and made his report. "We got over, three of us, general, a short way above. It wasn't difficult. The stream's clear of obstructions there and has a sandy bottom. We could see through the trees on the other side. There's a bit of level, and a hillside covered with troops-a strong position. But we got across the stream, sir."

"Yes. Can you make a bridge there?"

"I can make one for infantry, sir. Not, I think, for the artillery. Cutting a road would expose our position."

"Very good. Make the bridge, general."

Hampton's men cut saplings and threw a rude foot-bridge across the stream where he had traversed it. He returned and reported. "They are quiet and unsuspecting beyond, sir. The crossing would be slow, and there may be an accident, but cross we certainly can."

Jackson, still seated on the fallen pine, sat as though he had been there through eternity, and would remain through eternity. The gun thundered, the minies sang. One of the latter struck a tree above his head and severed a leafy twig. It came floating down, touched his shoulder like an accolade and rested on the pine needles by his foot. He gave it no attention, sitting like a graven image with clasped hands, listening to the South Carolinian's report. Hampton ceased to speak and waited. It was the height of the afternoon. He stood three minutes in silence, perhaps, then glanced toward the man on the log. Jackson's eyes were closed, his head slightly lifted. "Praying?" thought the South Carolinian. "Well, there's a time for everything-" Jackson opened his eyes, drew the forage cap far down over them, and rose from the pine. The other looked for him to speak, but he said nothing. He walked a little way down the road and stood among the whistling minies, looking at the slowly, slowly building bridge.

Hampton did as Wright and Munford had done before him-went back to his men. D. H. Hill, after an interview of his own, had retired to the artillery. "Yes, yes, Rhett, go ahead! Do something-make a noise-do something! Infantry's kept home from school to-day-measles, I reckon, or maybe it's lockjaw!"

About three o'clock there was caught from the southward, between the loud wrangling of the batteries above White Oak, another sound,-first two or three detonations occurring singly, then a prolonged and continuous roar. The batteries above White Oak Swamp, the sharpshooters and skirmishers, the grey chafing cavalry, the grey masses of unemployed infantry, all held breath and listened. The sound was not three miles away, and it was the sound of the crash of long battle-lines. There was a curious movement among the men nearest the grey general-commanding. With their bodies bent forward, they looked his way, expecting short, quick orders. He rested immobile, his eyes just gleaming beneath the down-drawn cap, Little Sorrel cropping the marsh grass beside him. Munford, coming up, ventured a remark. "General Longstreet or General A. P. Hill has joined with their centre, I suppose, general? The firing is very heavy."

"Yes. The troops that have been lying before Richmond. General Lee will see that they do what is right."

Stafford, near him, spoke again. "The sound comes, I think, sir, from a place called Glendale-Glendale or Frayser's Farm."

"Yes, sir," said Jackson; "very probably."

The thunder never lessened. Artillery and infantry, Franklin's corps on the south bank of White Oak, began again to pour an iron hail against the opposing guns and the working party at the bridge, but in every interval between the explosions from these cannon there rolled louder and louder the thunder from Frayser's Farm. A sound like a grating wind in a winter forest ran through the idle grey brigades. "It's A. P. Hill's battle again!-A. P. Hill or Longstreet! Magruder and Huger and Holmes and A. P. Hill and Longstreet-and we out of it again, on the wrong side of White Oak Swamp! And they're looking for us to help-Wish I was dead!"

The 65th Virginia had its place some distance up the stream, in a tangled wood by the water. Facing southward, it held the extreme right; beyond it only morass, tall trees, swaying masses of vine. On the left an arm of the creek, thickly screened by tree and bush, divided it from the remainder of the brigade. It rested in semi-isolation, and its ten companies stared in anger at the narrow stream and the deep woods beyond, listening to the thunder of Longstreet and A. P. Hill's unsupported attack and the answering roar of the Federal 3d Army Corps. It was a sullen noise, deep and unintermittent. The 65th, waiting for orders, could have wept as the orders did not come. "Get across? Well, if General Jackson would just give us leave to try!-Oh, hell! listen to that!-Colonel, can't you do something for us?-Where's the colonel gone?"

Cleave was beyond their vision. He had rounded a little point of land and now, Dundee's hoofs in water, stood gazing at the darkly wooded opposite shore. He stood a moment thus, then spoke to the horse, and they entered the stream. It was not deep, and though there were obstructions, old stakes and drowned brushwood, Cleave and Dundee crossed. The air was full of booming sound, but there was no motion in the wood into which they rose from the water. All its floor was marshy, water in pools and threads, a slight growth of cane, and above, the tall and solemn trees. Cleave saw that there was open meadow beyond. Dismounting, he went noiselessly to the edge of the swamp. An open space, covered with some low growth; beyond it a hillside. Wood and meadow and hill, all lay quiet and lonely in the late sunlight.

He went back to Dundee, remounted, passed again through the sombre wood, over the boggy earth, entered the water and recrossed. Turning the little point of the swamp, he rode before his regiment on his way to find Winder. His men greeted him. "Colonel, if you could just get us over there we'd do anything in the world for you! This weeping-willow place is getting awful hard to bear! Look at Dundee! Even he's drooping his head. You know we'd follow you through hell, sir; and if you could just manage it so's we could follow you through White Oak Swamp-"

Cleave passed the arm of the creek separating the 65th from the rest of the brigade, and asked of Winder from the first troops beyond the screen of trees. "General Winder has ridden down to the bridge to see General Jackson."

Cleave, following, found his leader indeed before Jackson, just finishing his representations whatever they were, and somewhat perturbed by the commanding general's highly developed silence. This continuing unbroken, Winder, after an awkward minute of waiting, fell a little back, a flush on his cheeks and his lips hard together. The action disclosed Cleave, just come up, his hand checking Dundee, his grey eyes earnestly upon Jackson. When the latter spoke, it was not to the brigadier but to the colonel of the 65th. "Why are you not with your regiment, sir?"

"I left it but a moment ago, sir, to bring information I thought it my duty to bring."

"What information?"

"The 65th is on General Winder's extreme right, sir. The stream before it is fordable."

"How do you know, sir?"

"I forded it. The infantry could cross without much difficulty. The 65th would be happy, sir, to lead the way."

Winder opened his lips. "The whole Stonewall Brigade is ready, sir."

Jackson, without regarding, continued to address himself to Cleave. His tone had been heard before by the latter-in his own case on the night of the twenty-seventh as well as once before, and in the case of others where there had been what was construed as remonstrance or negligence or disobedience. He had heard him speak so to Garnett after Kernstown. The words were simple enough-they always were. "You will return to your duty, sir. It lies where your regiment is, and that is not here. Go!"

Cleave obeyed. The ford was there. His regiment might have crossed, the rest of the Stonewall following. Together they might traverse the swamp and the bit of open, pass the hillside, and strike Franklin upon the flank, while, brigade by brigade, the rest of the division followed by that ford. Rout Franklin, and push forward to help A. P. Hill. It had appeared his duty to give the information he was possessed of. He had given it, and his skirts were cleared. There was anger in him as he turned away; he had a compressed lip, a sparkling eye. Not till he turned did he see Stafford, sitting his horse in the shadow behind Jackson. The two men stared full at each other for a perceptible moment. But Stafford's face was in the shadow, and as for Cleave his mind was full of anger for the tragedy of the inaction. At the moment he gave small attention to his own life, its heights or depths, past or future. He saw Stafford, but he could not be said to consider him at all. He turned from the road into the wood, and pushed the great bay over spongy ground toward the isolated 65th. Stafford saw that he gave him no thought, and it angered him. On the highroad of his life it would not have done so, but he had left the road and was lost in the jungle. There were few things that Richard Cleave might do which would not now work like madness on the mind astray in that place.

The cannonading over White Oak Swamp continued, and the sound of the battle of Frayser's Farm continued. On a difficult and broken ground Longstreet attacked, driving back McCall's division. McCall was reinforced and Longstreet hard pressed. Lee loosed A. P. Hill, and the battle became furious. He looked for Jackson, but Jackson was at White Oak Swamp; for Huger, but a road covered with felled trees delayed Huger; for Magruder, but in the tangle of wood and swamp Magruder, too, went astray; for Holmes, but Fitz John Porter held Holmes in check. Longstreet and A. P. Hill strove unsupported, fifty thousand grey troops in hearing of their guns. The battle swayed to and fro, long, loud, and sanguinary, with much hand-to-hand work, much use of bayonets, and, over all, a shriek of grape and canister.

Back on White Oak Swamp, Franklin on the southern side, Jackson on the northern, blue and grey alike caught the noise of battle. They themselves were cannonading loudly and continuously. One Federal battery used fifteen hundred rounds. The grey were hardly less lavish. Not much damage was done except to the trees. The trough through which crept the sluggish water was filled with smoke. It drifted through the swamp and the woods and along the opposing hillsides. It drifted over and about the idle infantry, until one command was hidden from another.

Stonewall Jackson, seated on the stump of a felled oak, his sabre across his knees, his hands rigid upon it, his great booted feet squarely planted, his cap drawn low, sent the aide beside him with some order to the working party at the bridge. A moment later the courier went, too, to D. H. Hill, with a query about prisoners. The thunders continued, the smoke drifted heavily, veiling all movements. Jackson spoke without turning. "Whoever is there-"

No one was there at the moment but Maury Stafford. He came forward. "You will find the 1st Brigade," said Jackson. "Tell General Winder to move it nearer the stream. Tell him to cross from his right, with caution, a small reconnoitring party. Let it find out the dispositions of the enemy, return and report."

Stafford went, riding westward through the smoke-filled forest, and came presently to the Stonewall Brigade and to Winder, walking up and down disconsolately. "An order from General Jackson, sir. You will move your brigade nearer the stream. Also you will cross, from your right, with caution, a small reconnoitring party. It will discover the dispositions of the enemy, return and report."

"Very good," said Winder. "I'll move at once. The 65th is already on the brink-there to the right, beyond the swamp. Perhaps, you'll take the order on to Colonel Cleave?-Very good! Tell him to send a picked squad quietly across and find out what he can. I hope to God there'll come another order for us all to cross at its heels!"

Stafford, riding on, presently found himself in a strip of bog and thicket and tall trees masking a narrow, sluggish piece of water. The brigade behind him was hidden, the regiment in front not yet visible. Despite the booming of the guns, there was here an effect of stillness. It seemed a lonely place. Stafford, traversing it slowly because the ground gave beneath his horse's feet, became aware of a slight movement in a laurel thicket and of two eyes gleaming behind the leaves. He reined in his horse. "What are you doing in there? Straggling or deserting? Come out!" There was a pause; then Steve Dagg emerged. "Major, I ain't either stragglin' or desertin'. I was just seperated-I got seperated last night. The regiment's jes' down there-I crept down an' saw it jes' now. I'm goin' back an' join right away-send me to hell if I ain't!-though Gawd knows my foot's awful sore-"

Stafford regarded him closely. "I've seen you before. Ah, I remember! On the Valley pike, moving toward Winchester.... Poor scoundrel!"

Steve, his back against a swamp magnolia, undertook to show that he, too, remembered, and that gratefully. "Yes, sir. You saved me from markin' time on a barrel-head, major-an' my foot was sore-an' I wasn't desertin' that time any more'n this time-an' I was as obleeged to you as I could be. The colonel's awful hard on the men."

"Is he?" said Stafford gratingly. "They seem to like him."

He sat his horse before the laurel thicket and despised himself for holding conference with this poor thief; or, rather, some fibre in his brain told him that, out of this jungle, if ever he came out of it, he would despise himself. Had he really done so now, he would have turned away. He did not so; he sat in the heart of the jungle and compared hatreds with Steve.

The latter glanced upward a moment with his ferret eyes, then turned his head aside and spat. "If there's any of my way of thinkin' they don't like him-But they're all fools! Crept down through the swamp a little ago an' heard it! 'Colonel, get us across, somehow, won't you? We'll fight like hell!' 'I can't, men. I haven't any orders.' Yaah! I wish he'd take the regiment over without them, and then be court-martialled and shot for doing it!" Steve spat again. "I seed long ago that you didn't like him either, major. He gets along too fast-all the prizes come his way."

"Yes," said Stafford, from the heart of the jungle. "They come his way.... And he's standing there at the edge of the water, hoping for orders to cross."

Steve, beneath the swamp magnolia, had a widening of the lips. "Luck's turned agin him one way, though. He's out of favour with Old Jack. The regiment don't know why, but it saw it mighty plain day before yesterday, after the big battle! Gawd knows I'd like to see him so deep in trouble he'd never get out-and so would you, major. Prizes would stop coming his way then, and he might lose those he has-"

"If I entertain a devil," said Stafford, "I'll not be hypocrite enough to object to his conversation. Nor, if I take his suggestion, is there any sense in covering him with reprobation. So go your way, miserable imp! while I go mine!"

But Steve kept up with him, half-running at his stirrup. "I got to rejoin, 'cause it's jest off one battlefield on to another, and there ain't nowhere else to go! This world's a sickenin' place for men like me. So I've got to rejoin. Ef there's ever anything I kin do for you, major-"

At the head of the dividing arm of the creek they heard behind them a horseman, and waited for a courier to come up. "You are going on to the 65th?"

"Yes, sir. I belong there. I was kept by General Winder for some special duty, and I'm just through it-"

"I have an order," said Stafford, "from General Winder to Colonel Cleave. There are others to carry and time presses. I'll entrust it to you. Listen now, and get it straight."

He gave an order. The courier listened, nodded energetically, repeated it after him, and gathered up the reins. "I am powerfully glad to carry that order, sir! It means 'Cross,' doesn't it?"

He rode off, southward to the stream, in which direction Steve had already shambled. Stafford returned, through wood and swamp, to the road by the bridge. Above and around the deep inner jungle his intellect worked. He knew that he had done a villainy; knew it and did not repent. A nature, fine enough in many ways, lay bound hand and foot, deep in miasmas and primal heat, captive to a master and consuming passion. To create a solitude where he alone might reach one woman's figure, he would have set a world afire. He rode back now, through the woods, to a general commanding who never forgave nor listened overmuch to explanations, and he rode with quietude, the very picture of a gallant soldier.

Back on the edge of White Oak Swamp, Richard Cleave considered the order he had received. He found an ambiguity in the wording, a choice of constructions. He half turned to send the courier again to Winder, to make absolutely sure that the construction which he strongly preferred was correct. As he did so, though he could not see the brigade beyond the belt of trees, he heard it in motion, coming down through the woods to cross the stream in the rear of the 65th. He looked at the ford and the silent woods beyond. From Frayser's Farm, so short a distance away, came a deeper roll of thunder. It had a solemn and a pleading sound, How long are we to wait for any help? Cleave knit his brows; then, with a decisive gesture of his hand, he dismissed the doubt and stepped in front of his colour company. Attention! Into column. Forward!

On the road leading down to the bridge Stafford met his own division general, riding Rifle back to his command. "Hello, Major Stafford!" said Old Dick. "I thought I had lost you."

"General Jackson detained me, general."

"Yes, yes, you aren't the only one! But let me tell you, major, he's coming out of his spell!"

"You think it was a spell, then, sir?"

"Sure of it! Old Jackson simply hasn't been here at all. D. H. Hill thinks he's been broken down and ill-and somebody else is poetical and says his star never shines when another's is above it, which is nonsense-and somebody else thinks he thought we did enough in the Valley, which is damned nonsense-eh?"

"Of course, sir. Damned nonsense."

Ewell jerked his head. "Yes, sir. No man's his real self all the time-whether he's a Presbyterian or not. Old Jackson simply hasn't been in this cursed low country at all! But --! I've been trying to give advice down there, and, by God, sir, he's approaching! If it was a spell, it's lifting! That bridge'll be built pretty soon, I reckon, and when we cross at last we'll cross with Stonewall Jackson going on before!"

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