The Sword of Antietam

by Joseph A. Altsheler

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Chapter XIII. Perryville

Dick slept very well that night. The water from the little spring, gushing out from under the rock, had refreshed him greatly. He would have rejoiced in another bath, such as one as they had luxuriated in that night before Frankfort, but it was a thing not be dreamed of now, and making the best of things as they were, he had gone to sleep among his comrades.

The dryness of the ground had at least one advantage. They had not colds and rheumatism to fear, and, with warm earth beneath them and fresh air above, they slept more soundly than if they had been in their own beds. But while they were sleeping the wary Sergeant Whitley was slipping forward among the woods and ravines. He had received permission from Colonel Winchester, confirmed by a higher officer, to go on a scout, and he meant to use his opportunity. He had made many a scouting trip on the plains, where there was less cover than here, and there torture and death were certain if captured, but here it would only be imprisonment among men who were in no sense his personal enemies, and who would not ill-treat him. So the sergeant took plenty of chances.

He passed the Union pickets, entered a ravine which led up between two hills and followed it for some distance. In a cross ravine he found a little stream of water, flowing down from some high, rocky ground above, and, at one point, he came to a pool several yards across and three or four feet deep. It was cool and fresh, and the sergeant could not resist the temptation to slip off his clothes and dive into it once or twice. He slipped his clothes on again, the whole not consuming more than five minutes, and then went on much better equipped for war than he had been five minutes before.

Then he descended the hills and came down into a valley crossed by a creek, which in ordinary times had plenty of water, but which was now reduced to a few muddy pools. The Southern pickets did not reach so far, and save for the two tiny streams in the hills this was all the water that the Northern army could reach. Farther down, its muddy and detached stream lay within the Confederate lines.

Crossing the creek's bed the sergeant ascended a wooded ridge, and now he proceeded with extreme caution. He had learned that beyond this ridge was another creek containing much more water than the first. Upon its banks at the crossing of the road stood the village of Perryville, and there, according to his best information and belief, lay the Southern army. But he meant to see with his own eyes and hear with his own ears, and thus return to McCook's force with absolute certainty.

The sergeant, as he had expected, found cover more plentiful than it was on the plains, but he never stalked an Indian camp with more caution. He knew that the most of the Southern scouts and skirmishers were as wary as the Indians that once hunted in these woods, and that, unless he used extreme care, he was not likely to get past them.

He came at last to a point where he lay down flat on his stomach and wormed himself along, keeping in the thickest shadow of woods and bushes. The night was bright, and although his own body was blended with the ground, he could see well about him. The sergeant was a very patient man. Life as a lumberman and then as a soldier on the plains had taught him to look where he was crawling. He spent a full hour worming himself up to the crest of that ridge and a little way down on the other side. In the course of the last fifteen minutes he passed directly between two alert and vigilant Southern pickets. They looked his way several times, but the sergeant was so much in harmony with the color scheme of the earth on which he crept, that no blame lay upon them for not seeing him.

The sergeant was already hearing with his own ears. He heard these pickets and others talking in low voices of the Northern army and of their own. They knew that Buell's great force was approaching from different points and that a battle was expected on the morrow. He knew this already, but he wanted to know how much of the Confederate army lay in Perryville, and he intended to see with his own eyes.

Having passed the first line of pickets the sergeant advanced more rapidly, although he still kept well under cover. Advancing thus he reached the bed of the creek and hid himself against the bank, allowing his body to drop down in the water, in order that he might feel the glorious cool thrill again, and also that he might be hidden to the neck. His rifle and ammunition he laid at the edge of the bank within reach. Situated thus comfortably, he used his excellent eyes with excellent results. He could see Perryville on his left, and also a great camp on some heights that ran along the creek. There were plenty of lights in this camp, and, despite the lateness of the hour, officers were passing about.

It was obvious to the sergeant that many thousands of soldiers were on those heights, and now he wanted to hear again with his own ears. He did not dare go any nearer, and the water in the creek was growing cold to his body. But his patience was great, and still he waited, only his head showing above the water, and it hidden in the black gloom of the bank's shadows.

His reward came by-and-by. A number of cavalrymen led their horses down to the creek to drink, and while the horses drank and then blew the water away from their noses, the men talked at some length, enabling the sergeant to pick up important scraps of information.

He learned that the heights were occupied by Hardee with two divisions. It was the same Hardee, the famous tactician who had been one of the Southern generals at Shiloh. Polk was expected, but he had not yet come up. Bragg, too, would be there.

The brave sergeant's heart thumped as he listened. He gathered that Polk, perhaps, could not arrive before noon, and here was a brilliant chance to destroy a large part of the Southern army early in the morning.

He waited until all the cavalrymen had gone away with their horses, and then he crawled cautiously out of the stream. His limbs were cold and stiff, but his enforced exercise in crawling soon brought back their flexibility. He passed between the pickets again, and, when he was safely beyond their hearing, he rose and stretched himself again and again.

The sergeant greatly preferred walking to crawling. Primitive men might have crawled, but to do so made the modern man's knees uncommonly sore. So he continued to stretch, to inhale great draughts of air, and to feel proudly that he was a man who walked upright and not a bear or a pig creeping on four legs through the bushes.

He reached his own army not long afterward, and, walking among the thousands of sleeping forms, reached the tree under which Colonel Winchester slept.

"Colonel," he said gently.

The colonel awoke instantly and sat up. Despite the dusk he recognized Whitley at once.

"Well, sergeant?" he said.

"I've been clean over the ridge to the rebel camp. I reached the next creek and lay on the heights just beyond it. I've seen with my own eyes and I've heard with my own ears. They've only two divisions there, though they're expectin' Polk to come up in the mornin' an' Bragg, too. Colonel, I'm a good reckoner, as I've seen lots of war, and they ain't got more `n fifteen thousand men there on the creek, while if we get all our divisions together we can hit `em with nigh on to sixty thousand. For God's sake, Colonel, can't we do it?"

"We ought to, and if I can do anything, we will. Sergeant, you've done a great service at a great risk, and all of us owe you thanks. I shall see General McCook at once."

The sergeant, forgetting that he was wet to the skin, stretched himself in the dry grass near Dick and his comrades, and soon fell fast asleep, while his clothes dried upon him. But Colonel Winchester went to General McCook's tent and insisted upon awakening him. The general received him eagerly and listened with close attention.

"This man Whitley is trustworthy?" he said.

"Absolutely. He has had years of experience on the plains, fighting Sioux, Cheyennes and other Indians, and he has been with me through most of the war so far. There is probably no more skillful scout, and none with a clearer head and better judgment in either army."

"Then, Colonel, we owe him thanks, and you thanks for letting him go. We'll certainly bring on a battle to-morrow, and we ought to have all our army present. I shall send a messenger at once to General Buell with your news. Messengers shall also go to Crittenden, Rousseau, and the other generals. But you recognize, of course, that General Buell is the commander-in-chief, and that it is for him to make the final arrangements."

"I do, sir," said the colonel, as he saluted and retired. He went back to the point where his own little regiment lay. He knew every man and boy in it, and he had known them all in the beginning, when they were many times more. But few of the splendid regiment with which he had started south a year and a half before remained. He looked at Dick and Warner and Pennington and the sergeant and wondered if they would be present to answer to the roll the next night, or if he himself would be there?

The colonel cherished no illusions. He was not sanguine that the whole Union army would come up, and even if it came, and if victory should be won it would be dark and bloody. He knew how the Southerners fought, and here more so than anywhere else, it would be brother against brother. This state was divided more than any other, and, however the battle went, kindred would meet kindred. Colonel Kenton, Dick's uncle, a man whom he liked and admired, was undoubtedly across those ridges, and they might meet face to face in the coming battle.

It was far into the morning now and the colonel did not sleep again. He saw the messengers leaving the tent of General McCook, and he knew that the commander of the division was active. Just what success he would have would remain for the morrow to say. The colonel saw the dawn come. The dry fields and forests reddened with the rising sun, and then the army rose up from its sleep. The cooks had already prepared coffee and food.

"Show me the enemy," said Pennington fiercely, "and as soon as I finish this cup of coffee, I'll go over and give him the thrashing he needs."

"He's just across those ridges, sir, and on the banks of the far creek," said Sergeant Whitley.

"How do you know?"

"I made a call on him last night."

"You did? And what did he say?"

"I didn't send in my card. I just took a look at his front door and came away. He's at home, waiting and willing to give us a fight."

"Well, it's a fine day for a battle anyway. Look what a splendid sun is rising! And you can see the soft haze of fall over the hills and woods."

"It's not as fine a fall as usual in Kentucky," said Dick, in an apologetic tone to Warner and Pennington. "It's been so dry that the leaves are falling too early, and the reds, the yellows and the browns are not so bright."

"Never mind, Dickie, boy," said Warner consolingly. "We'll see it in a better year, because Pennington and I are both coming back to spend six months with you when this war is over. I've already accepted the invitation. So get ready for us, Dick."

"It's an understood thing now," said Dick sincerely. "There go the trumpets, and they mean for us to get in line."

A large portion of the division was already on the way, having started at five o'clock, and the little Winchester regiment was soon marching, too. The day was again hot. October, even, did not seem able to break that singular heat, and the dust was soon billowing about them in columns, stinging and burning them. The sergeant the night before had taken a short cut through the hills, but the brigades, needing wide spaces, marched along the roads and through the fields. A portion of their own army was hidden from them by ridges and forest, and Dick did not know whether Buell with the other half of the army had come up.

After a long and exhausting march they stopped, and the Winchester regiment and the Ohio lads concluded that they had been wrong after all. No battle would be fought that day. They were willing now, too, to postpone it, as they were almost exhausted by heat and thirst, and that stinging, burning dust was maddening. A portion of their line rested on the first creek, and they drank eagerly of the muddy water. Dick saw before him fields in which the corn stood thick and heavy. The fields were divided by hedges which cut off the view somewhat and which the sergeant said would furnish great ambush for sharpshooters.

The men were now allowed to lie down, but most of them were still panting with the heat. The three boys on horseback rode with Colonel Winchester to the crest of a low hill, just beyond the first creek. From that point they clearly saw the enemy gathered in battle array along the second stream. Dick, with his glasses, saw the batteries, and could even mark the sun-browned faces of the men.

"Has General Buell come?" he asked Colonel Winchester.

"He has not. Not half of our army is here."

The answer was made with emphasis and chagrin. There was a report that Buell did not intend to attack until the following day, when he would have his numbers well in hand.

"Under the circumstances," said the colonel, "we have to wait. Better get off your horses, boys, and hunt the shade."

They rode back and obeyed. It was now getting well along into the afternoon. Thousands of soldiers lay on the grass in the shadiest places they could find. Many were asleep. Overhead the sun burned and burned in a sky of absolute blazing white.

A cannon boomed suddenly and then another. The artillery of the two armies watching one another had opened at long range, but the fire was so distant that it did no harm. Dick and his comrades watched the shells in their flight, noting the trails of white smoke they left behind, and then the showers of earth that flew up when they burst. It was rather a pleasant occupation to watch them. In a way it broke the monotony of a long summer day.

They did not know that Polk, the bishop-general, was arriving at that moment in the Southern camp with five thousand men. Bragg had come, too, but he left the command to Polk, who outranked Hardee, and the three together listened to the long-range cannonade, while they also examined with powerful glasses the Union army which was now mostly lying on the ground.

Dick himself felt a strong temptation to sleep. The march through the heat that morning had been dusty and tiresome, and the warm wind that blew over him made his eyelids very heavy. The cannonade itself was conducive to slumber. The guns were fired at regular intervals, which created a sort of rhythm. The shells with their trailing white smoke ceased to interest him, and his eyelids grew heavier. It was now about 2:30 o'clock and as his eyes were about to close a sudden shout made him open them wide and then spring to his feet.

"Look out! Look out!" cried Sergeant Whitley, "The Johnnies are coming!"

The Union forces in an instant were in line, rifles ready and eager. The gray masses were already charging across the fields and hills, while their cannon made a sudden and rapid increase in the volume of fire. Their batteries were coming nearer, too, and the shells hitherto harmless were now shrieking and hissing among their ranks, killing and wounding.

Dick looked around him. The members of the slim Winchester regiment were all veterans; but thousands of the Ohio lads were recruits who had never seen battle before. Now shell and shot were teaching them the terrible realities. He saw many a face grow pale, as his own had often grown pale, in the first minutes of battle, but he did not see any one flinch.

The Northern cannon posted in the intervals and along the edges of the woods opened with a mighty crash, and as the enemy came nearer the riflemen began to send a hail of bullets. But the charge did not break. It was led by Buckner, taken at Donelson, but now exchanged, and some of the best troops of the South followed him.

"Steady! Steady!" shouted Colonel Winchester. The ranks were so close that he and all of his staff, having no room for their horses, had dismounted, and they stood now in the front rank, encouraging the men to meet the charge. But the rush of the Southern veterans was so sudden and fierce that despite every effort of valor the division gave way, suffering frightful losses.

Two of the Union generals seeking to hold their men were killed. Each side rushed forward reinforcements. A stream of Confederates issued from a wood and flung themselves upon the Union flank. Dick was dazed with the suddenness and ferocity with which the two armies had closed in mortal combat. He could see but little. He was half blinded by the smoke, the flash of rifles and cannon and the dust. Officers and men were falling all around him. The numbers were not so great as at Antietam, but it seemed to him that within the contracted area of Perryville the fight was even more fierce and deadly than it had been on that famous Maryland field.

But he was conscious of one thing. They were being borne back. Tears of rage ran down his face. Was it always to be this way? Were their numbers never to be of any avail? He heard some one shout for Buell, and he heard some one else shout in reply that he was far away, as he had been at Shiloh.

It was true. The wind blowing away from him, Buell had not yet heard a sound from the raging battle, which for its numbers and the time it lasted, was probably the fiercest ever fought on the American continent. The larger Union force, divided by ridges and thick woods from the field, had not heard the fire of a single cannon, and did not know that two armies were engaged in deadly combat so near.

Dick kept close to Colonel Winchester and Warner and Pennington were by his side. The sergeant was also near. There was no chance to give or send orders, and the officers, snatching up the rifles of the fallen soldiers, fought almost as privates. The Winchester regiment performed prodigies of valor on that day, and the Ohio lads strove desperately for every inch of ground.

It seemed to Dick once that they would hold fast, when he heard in front a tremendous cry of: "On, my boys!" As the smoke lifted a little he saw that it was Colonel Kenton leading his own trained and veteran regiment. Colonel Winchester and Colonel Kenton, in fact, had met face to face, but the Southern regiment was the more numerous and the stronger. Winchester's men were gradually borne back and the colonel gasped to Dick:

"Didn't I see your uncle leading on his regiment?"

"Yes, it was he. It was his regiment that struck us, but he's hidden now by the smoke."

The Southern rush did not cease. McCook's whole division, between the shallow creeks was driven back, sustaining frightful losses, and it would have been destroyed, but the artillery of Sheridan on the flank suddenly opened upon the Southern victors. The Southerners whirled and charged Sheridan, but his defense was so strong, and so powerful was his artillery that they were compelled to recoil every time with shattered ranks.

The decimated Ohio regiments beyond the creek were gathering themselves anew for the battle, and so were the men of Colonel Winchester, now reduced to half their numbers again. Then a great shout arose. A fresh brigade had come up to their relief, and aided by these new men they made good the ground upon which they stood.

Another shout arose, telling that Buell was coming, and, two hours after the combat had opened, he arrived with more troops. But night was now at hand, and the sun set over a draw like that at Antietam. Forty thousand men had fought a battle only about three hours long, and eight thousand of them lay dead or wounded upon the sanguinary field. One half the Union army never reached the field in time to fight.

As both sides drew off in the darkness, Dick shouted in triumph, thinking they had won a victory. A bullet fired by some retiring Southern skirmisher glanced along his head. There was a sudden flash of fire before him and then darkness. His body fell on a little slope and rolled among some bushes.

The close hot night came down upon the field, and the battle, the most sanguinary ever fought on Kentucky soil, had closed. Like so many other terrible struggles of the Civil War, it had been doubtful, or almost, so far as the fighting was concerned. The Northern left wing had been driven back, but the Northern right wing had held firm against every attack of the enemy.

Pennington, when he lay panting on the ground with the remnant of the Winchesters, knew little about the result of the combat. He knew that their own division had suffered terribly. The Ohio recruits had been cut almost to pieces, and the Winchester regiment had been reduced by half again. He was so tired that he did not believe he could stir for a long time. He felt no wound, but every bone ached from weariness, and his throat and mouth seemed to burn with smoke and dust.

Pennington did not see either Dick or Warner, but as soon as he got a little strength into his limbs he would look for them. No doubt they were safe. A special providence always watched over those fellows. It was true that Warner had been wounded at the Second Manassas, but a hidden power had guided Dick to him, and he got well so fast that he was able to fight soon afterward at Antietam.

Pennington lay still, and he heard all around him the deep breathing of men who, like himself, were so worn that they could scarcely move. The field in front of him darkened greatly, but he saw lights moving there, and he knew that they belonged to little parties from either army looking for the wounded. He began to wonder which side had won the battle.

"Ohio," he said to one of the Ohio lads who lay near, "did we lick the Johnnies, or did the Johnnies lick us?"

"Blessed if I know, and I don't care much, either. Four fellows that I used to play with at school were killed right beside me. It was my first battle, and, Oh, I tell you, it was awful!"

He gulped suddenly and began to cry. Pennington, who was no older than he, patted him soothingly on the shoulder.

"I know that you were the bravest of the brave, because I saw you," he said.

"I don't know about that, but I do know that I can never get used to killing men and seeing them killed."

Pennington was surprised that Dick and Warner had not appeared. They would certainly rejoin their own regiment, and he began to feel uneasy. The last shot had been fired, the night was darkening fast and a mournful wind blew over the battlefield. But up and down the lines they were lighting the cooking fires.

Pennington rose to his feet. He saw Colonel Winchester, standing a little distance away, and he was about to ask him for leave to look for his comrades, when he was startled by the appearance of a woman, a woman of thirty-eight or nine, tall, slender, dressed well, and as Pennington plainly saw, very beautiful. But now she was dusty, her face was pale, and her eyes shone with a terrible anxiety. Women were often seen in the camps at the very verge or close of battle, saying good-bye or looking for the lost, but she was unusual.

The soldiers stood aside for her respectfully, and she looked about, until her gaze fell upon the colonel. Then she ran to him, seized him by the arm, and exclaimed:

"Colonel Winchester! Colonel Winchester!"

"Good heavens, Mrs. Mason! You! How did you come?"

"I was at Danville, not so far from here. Of course I knew that the armies were about to meet for battle! And it was only two days ago that I heard the Winchester regiment had come west to join General Buell's army."

A stalwart and powerful colored woman emerged from the darkness and put her arm around Mrs. Mason's waist.

"Don't you get too much excited, chile," she said soothingly.

Juliana stood beside her mistress, a very tower of defense, glaring at the soldiers about them as if she would resent their curiosity.

"I thought I would come and try to see Dick," continued Mrs. Mason. "My relatives sought to persuade me not to do it. They were right, I know, but I wanted to come so badly that I had to do it. We slipped away yesterday, Juliana and I. We stayed at a farmhouse last night, and this morning we rode through the woods. We expected to be in the camp this afternoon, but as we were coming to the edge of the forest we heard the cannon and then the rifles. Through three or four dreadful hours, while we shook there in the woods, we listened to a roar and thunder that I would have thought impossible."

"The battle was very fierce and terrible," said Colonel Winchester.

"I don't think it could have been more so. We saw a part of it, but only a confused and awful sweep of smoke and flame. And now, Colonel Winchester, where is my boy, Dick?"

Colonel Winchester's face turned deadly pale, and she noticed it at once. Her own turned to the same pallor, but she did not shriek or faint.

"You do not know that he is killed?" she said in a low, distinct tone that was appalling to the other.

"I missed him only a little while ago," said Colonel Winchester, "and I've been looking for him. But I'm sure he is not dead. He can't be!"

"No, he can't be! I can't think it!" she said, and she looked at the colonel appealingly.

"If you please, sir," said Pennington, "Lieutenant Warner is missing also. I think we'll find them together. You remember what happened at the Second Manassas."

"Yes, Frank, I do remember it, and your supposition may be right."

He asked a lantern from one of the men, and whispered to Pennington to come. But Mrs. Mason and Juliana had been standing at strained attention, and Mrs. Mason inferred at once what was about to be done.

"You mean to look for him on the field," she said. "We will go with you."

Colonel Winchester opened his lips to protest, but shut them again in silence.

"It is right that you should come," he said a moment later, "but you will see terrible things."

"I am ready."

She seemed all the more admirable and wonderful to Colonel Winchester, because she did not weep or faint. The deathly pallor on her face remained, but she held herself firmly erect beside the gigantic colored woman.

"Come with me, Pennington," said Colonel Winchester, "and you, too, Sergeant Whitley."

The two men and the boy led the way upon the field, and the two women came close behind. They soon entered upon the area of conflict. The colonel had said that it would be terrible, but Mrs. Mason scarcely dreamed of the reality. It was one vast scene of frightful destruction, of torn and trampled earth and of dead men lying in all directions. The black of her faithful servant's face turned to an ashen gray, and she trembled more than her mistress.

Colonel Winchester had a very clear idea of the line along which his regiment had advanced and retreated, and he followed it. But the lantern did not enable them to see far. As happened so often after the great battles of the Civil War, the signs began to portend rain. The long drouth would be broken, but whether by natural change or so much firing Colonel Winchester did not know. Despite the lateness of the season dim lightning was seen on the horizon. The great heat was broken by a cool wind that began to blow from the northwest.

The five advanced in silence, the two men and the boy still leading and the two women following close behind. Colonel Winchester's heart began to sink yet farther. He had not felt much hope at first, and now he felt scarcely any at all. A few moments later, however, the sergeant suddenly held up his hand.

"What is it?" asked the colonel.

"I think I hear somebody calling."

"Like as not. Plenty of wounded men may be calling in delirium."

"But, colonel, I've been on battlefields before, and this sounds like the voice of some one calling for help."

"Which way do you think it is?"

"To the left and not far off. It's a weak voice."

"We'll turn and follow it. Don't say anything to the others yet."

They curved and walked on, the colonel swinging his lantern from side to side, and now all of them heard the voice distinctly.

"What is that?" exclaimed Mrs. Mason, speaking for the first time since they had come upon the field of conflict.

"Some one shouting for help," replied Colonel Winchester. "One could not neglect him at such a time."

"No, that is so."

"It's the voice of Lieutenant Warner, colonel," whispered the sergeant.

Colonel Winchester nodded. "Say nothing as yet," he whispered.

They walked a dozen steps farther and the colonel, swinging high the lantern, disclosed Warner sitting on the trunk of a tree that had been cut through by cannon balls. Warner, as well as they could see, was not wounded, but he seemed to be suffering from an overpowering weakness. The colonel, the sergeant and the boy alike dreaded to see what lay beyond the log, but the two women did not know Warner or that his presence portended anything.

The Vermonter saw them coming, and raised his hand in a proper salute to his superior officer. Then as they came nearer, and he saw the white woman who came with them, he lifted his head, tried to straighten his uniform a little with his left hand, and said as he bowed:

"I think this must be Mrs. Mason, Dick's mother."

"It is," said Colonel Winchester, and then they waited a moment or two in an awful silence.

"I don't rise because there is something heavy lying in my lap which keeps me from it," said Warner very quietly, but with deep feeling. "After the Second Manassas, where I was badly wounded and left on the ground for dead, a boy named Dick Mason hunted over the field, found me and brought me in. I felt grateful about it and told him that if he happened to get hit in the same way I'd find him and bring him in as he had brought me.

"I didn't think the chance would come so soon. Curious how things happen as you don't think they're going to happen, and don't happen as you think they're going to happen, and here the whole thing comes out in only a few weeks. We were driven back and I missed Dick as the battle closed. Of course I came to hunt for him, and I found him. Easy, Mrs. Mason, don't get excited now. Yes, you can have his head in your own lap, but it must be moved gently. That's where he's hurt. Don't tremble, ma'am. He isn't going to die, not by a long shot. The bullet meant to kill him, but finding his head too hard, it turned away, and went out through his hair. He won't have any scar, either, because it's all under the thickest part of his hair.

"Of course his eyes are closed, ma'am. He hasn't come around yet, but he's coming fast. Don't cry on his face, ma'am. Boys never like to have their faces cried on. I'd have brought him in myself, but I found I was too weak to carry him. It's been too short a time since the Second Manassas for me to have got back all my strength. So I just bound up his head, held it in my lap, and yelled for help. Along came a rebel party, bearing two wounded, and they looked at me. 'You're about pumped out,' said one of them, 'but we'll take your friend in for you.' 'No, you won't,' I said. 'Why not?' said they. 'Because you're no account Johnnies,' I said, 'while my wounded friend and I are high-toned Yanks.' 'I beg your pardon,' said the Johnny, who was one of the most polite fellows I ever saw, 'I didn't see your uniform clearly by this dim light, but the parties looking for the wounded are mostly going in, and you're likely to be left here with your friend, who needs attention. Better come along with us and be prisoners and give him a chance to get well.'

"Now, that was white, real white, but I thanked him and said that as soon as General Buell heard that the best two soldiers in his whole army were here resting, he'd come with his finest ambulance for us, driving his horses himself. They said then they didn't suppose they were needed and went on. But do you know, ma'am, every one of those Johnnies, as he passed poor old unconscious Dick with his head in my lap, took off his hat."

"It was a fine thing for them to do," said Colonel Winchester, and then he whispered: "I'm glad you talked that way, Warner. It helps. You see, she's feeling more cheerful already."

"Yes, and you see old Dick's opening his eyes. Isn't it strange that the first thing he should see when he opens them here on the battlefield should be his mother?"

"A strange and happy circumstance," said Colonel Winchester.

Dick opened his eyes.

"Mother!" he exclaimed.

Her arms were already around him.

Return to the The Sword of Antietam Summary Return to the Joseph A. Altsheler Library

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.