The Gray Jacket of "No. 4"


This story is in Thomas Nelson Page's landmark collection, The Battle of the Guns, published in 1894. You might enjoy our collection of Civil War Stories.

My meeting with him was accidental. I came across him passing through "the square". I had seen him once or twice on the street, each time lurching along so drunk that he could scarcely stagger, so that I was surprised to hear what he said about the war. He was talking to someone who evidently had been in the army himself, but on the other side -- a gentleman with the loyal-legion button in his coat, and with a beautiful scar, a sabre-cut across his face. He was telling of a charge in some battle or skirmish in which, he declared, his company, not himself -- for I remember he said he was "No. 4", and was generally told off to hold the horses; and that that day he had had the ill luck to lose his horse and get a little scratch himself, so he was not in the charge -- did the finest work he ever saw, and really (so he claimed) saved the day. It was this self-abnegation that first arrested my attention, for I had been accustomed all my life to hear the war talked of; it was one of the inspiring influences in my humdrum existence. But the speakers, although they generally boasted of their commands, never of themselves individually, usually admitted that they themselves had been in the active force, and thus tacitly shared in the credit. "No. 4", however, expressly disclaimed that he was entitled to any of the praise, declaring that he was safe behind the crest of the hill (which he said he "hugged mighty close"), and claimed the glory for the rest of the command.

"It happened just as I have told you here," he said, in closing. "Old Joe saw the point as soon as the battery went to work, and sent Binford Terrell to the colonel to ask him to let him go over there and take it; and when Joe gave the word the boys went. They didn't go at a walk either, I tell you; it wasn't any promenade: they went clipping. At first the guns shot over 'em; didn't catch 'em till the third fire; then they played the devil with 'em: but the boys were up there right in 'em before they could do much. They turned the guns on 'em as they went down the hill (oh, our boys could handle the tubes then as well as the artillery themselves), and in a little while the rest of the line came up, and we formed a line of battle right there on that crest, and held it till nearly night. That's when I got jabbed. I picked up another horse, and with my foolishness went over there. That evening, you know, you all charged us -- we were dismounted then. We lost more men then than we had done all day; there were forty-seven out of seventy-two killed or wounded. They walked all over us; two of 'em got hold of me (you see, I went to get our old flag some of you had got hold of), but I was too worthless to die. There were lots of 'em did go though, I tell you; old Joe in the lead. Yes, sir; the old company won that day, and old Joe led 'em. There ain't but a few of us left; but when you want us, Colonel, you can get us. We'll stand by you."

He paused in deep reflection; his mind evidently back with his old company and its gallant commander "old Joe", whoever he might be, who was remembered so long after he passed away in the wind and smoke of that unnamed evening battle. I took a good look at him -- at "No. 4", as he called himself. He was tall, but stooped a little; his features were good, at least his nose and brow were; his mouth and chin were weak. His mouth was too stained with the tobacco which he chewed to tell much about it -- and his chin was like so many American chins, not strong. His eyes looked weak. His clothes were very much worn, but they had once been good; they formerly had been black, and well made; the buttons were all on. His shirt was clean. I took note of this, for he had a dissipated look, and a rumpled shirt would have been natural. A man's linen tells on him before his other clothes. His listener had evidently been impressed by him also, for he arose, and said, abruptly, "Let's go and take a drink." To my surprise "No. 4" declined. "No, I thank you," he said, with promptness. I instinctively looked at him again to see if I had not misjudged him; but I concluded not, that I was right, and that he was simply "not drinking". I was flattered at my discrimination when I heard him say that he had "sworn off". His friend said no more, but remained standing while "No. 4" expatiated on the difference between a man who is drinking and one who is not. I never heard a more striking exposition of it. He said he wondered that any man could be such a fool as to drink liquor; that he had determined never to touch another drop. He presently relapsed into silence, and the other reached out his hand to say good-by. Suddenly rising, he said: "Well, suppose we go and have just one for old times' sake. Just one now, mind you; for I have not touched a drop in ----" He turned away, and I did not catch the length of the time mentioned. But I have reason to believe that "No. 4" overstated it.

The next time I saw him was in the police court. I happened to be there when he walked out of the pen among as miscellaneous a lot of chronic drunkards, thieves, and miscreants of both sexes and several colors as were ever gathered together. He still had on his old black suit, buttoned up; but his linen was rumpled and soiled like himself, and he was manifestly just getting over a debauch, the effects of which were still visible on him in every line of his perspiring face and thin figure. He walked with that exaggerated erectness which told his self-deluded state as plainly as if he had pronounced it in words. He had evidently been there before, and more than once. The justice nodded to him familiarly:

"Here again?" he asked, in a tone part pleasantry, part regret.

"Yes, your honor. Met an old soldier last night, and took a drop for good fellowship, and before I knew it ----" A shrug of the shoulders completed the sentence, and the shoulders did not straighten any more.

The tall officer who had picked him up said something to the justice in a tone too low for me to catch; but "No. 4" heard it -- it was evidently a statement against him -- for he started to speak in a deprecating way. The judge interrupted him:

"I thought you told me last time that if I let you go you would not take another drink for a year."

"I forgot," said "No. 4", in a low voice.

"This officer says you resisted him?"

The officer looked stolidly at the prisoner as if it were a matter of not the slightest interest to him personally. "Cursed me and abused me," he said, dropping the words slowly as if he were checking off a schedule.

"I did not, your honor; indeed, I did not," said "No. 4", quickly. "I swear I did not; he is mistaken. Your honor does not believe I would tell you a lie! Surely I have not got so low as that."

The justice turned his pencil in his hand doubtfully, and looked away. "No. 4" took in his position. He began again.

"I fell in with an old soldier, and we got to talking about the war -- about old times." His voice was very soft. "I will promise your honor that I won't take another drink for a year. Here, I'll take an oath to it. Swear me." He seized the greasy little Bible on the desk before him, and handed it to the justice. The magistrate took it doubtfully. He looked down at the prisoner half kindly, half humorously.

"You'll just break it." He started to lay the book down.

"No; I want to take the pledge," said "No. 4", eagerly. "Did I ever break a pledge I made to your honor?"

"Didn't you promise me not to come back here?"

"I have not been here for nine months. Besides, I did not come of my own free will," said "No. 4", with a faint flicker of humor on his perspiring face.

"You were here two months ago, and you promised not to take another drink."

"I forgot that. I did not mean to break it; indeed, I did not. I fell in with ----"

The justice looked away, considered a moment, and ordered him back into the pen with, "Ten days, to cool off."

"No. 4" stood quite still till the officer motioned him to the gate, behind which the prisoners sat in stolid rows. Then he walked dejectedly back into the pen, and sat down by another drunkard. His look touched me, and I went around and talked to the magistrate privately. But he was inexorable; he said he knew more of him than I did, and that ten days in jail would "dry him out and be good for him." I told him the story of the battle. He knew it already, and said he knew more than that about him; that he had been one of the bravest soldiers in the whole army; did not know what fear was; had once ridden into the enemy and torn a captured standard from its captors' hands, receiving two desperate bayonet-wounds in doing it; and had done other acts of conspicuous gallantry on many occasions. I pleaded this, but he was obdurate; hard, I thought at the time, and told him so; told him he had been a soldier himself, and ought to be easier. He looked troubled, not offended; for we were friends, and I think he liked to see me, who had been a boy during the war, take up for an old soldier on that ground. But he stood firm. I must do him the justice to say that I now think it would not have made any difference if he had done otherwise. He had tried the other course many times.

"No. 4" must have heard me trying to help him, for one day, about a month after that, he walked in on me quite sober, and looking somewhat as he did the first day I saw him, thanked me for what I had done for him; delivered one of the most impressive discourses on intemperance that I ever heard; and asked me to try to help him get work. He was willing to do anything, he said; that is, anything he could do. I got him a place with a friend of mine which he kept a week, then got drunk. We got hold of him, however, and sobered him up, and he escaped the police and the justice's court. Being out of work, and very firm in his resolution never to drink again, we lent him some money -- a very little -- with which to keep along a few days, on which he got drunk immediately, and did fall into the hands of the police, and was sent to jail as before. This, in fact, was his regular round: into jail, out of jail; a little spell of sobriety, "an accidental fall", which occurred as soon as he could get a drop of liquor, and into jail again for thirty or sixty days, according to the degree of resistance he gave the police -- who always, by their own account, simply tried to get him to go home, and, by his, insulted him -- and to the violence of the language he applied to them. In this he excelled; for although as quiet as possible when he was sober, when he was drunk he was a terror, so the police said, and his resources of vituperation were cyclopedic. He possessed in this particular department an eloquence which was incredible. His blasphemy was vast, illimitable, infinite. He told me once that he could not explain it; that when he was sober he abhorred profanity, and never uttered an oath; when he was in liquor his brain took this turn, and distilled blasphemy in volumes. He said that all of its energies were quickened and concentrated in this direction, and then he took not only pleasure, but pride in it.

He told me a good deal of his life. He had got very low at this time, much lower than he had been when I first knew him. He recognized this himself, and used to analyze and discuss himself in quite an impersonal way. This was when he had come out of jail, and after having the liquor "dried out" of him. In such a state he always referred to his condition in the past as being something that never would or could recur; while on the other hand, if he were just over a drunk, he frankly admitted his absolute slavery to his habit. When he was getting drunk he shamelessly maintained, and was ready to swear on all the Bibles in creation, that he had not touched a drop, and never expected to do so again -- indeed, could not be induced to do it -- when in fact he would at the very time be reeking with the fumes of liquor, and perhaps had his pocket then bulging with a bottle which he had just emptied, and would willingly have bartered his soul to refill.

I never saw such absolute dominion as the love of liquor had over him. He was like a man in chains. He confessed it frankly and calmly. He said he had a disease, and gave me a history of it. It came on him, he said, in spells; that when he was over one he abhorred it, but when the fit seized him it came suddenly, and he was in absolute slavery to it. He said his father was a gentleman of convivial habits (I have heard that he was very dissipated, though not openly so, and "No. 4" never admitted it). He was killed at the battle of Bull Run. His mother -- he always spoke of her with unvarying tenderness and reverence -- had suffered enough, he said, to canonize her if she were not a saint already; she had brought him up to have a great horror of liquor, and he had never touched it till he went into the army. In the army he was in a convivial crowd, and they had hard marching and poor rations, often none. Liquor was scarce, and was regarded as a luxury; so although he was very much afraid of it, yet for good fellowship's sake, and because it was considered mannish, he used to drink it. Then he got to like it; and then got to feel the need of it, and took it to stimulate him when he was run down. This want brought with it a great depression when he did not have the means to satisfy it. He never liked the actual taste of it; he said few drunkards did. It was the effect that he was always after. This increased on him, he said, until finally it was no longer a desire, but a passion, a necessity; he was obliged to have it. He felt then that he would commit murder for it. "Why, I dream about it," he said. "I will tell you what I have done. I have made the most solemn vows, and have gone to bed and gone to sleep, and waked up and dressed and walked miles through the rain and snow to get it. I believe I would have done it if I had known I was going next moment to hell." He said it had ruined him; said so quite calmly; did not appear to have any special remorse about it; at least, never professed any; said it used to trouble him, but he had got over it now. He had had a plantation -- that is, his mother had had -- and he had been quite successful for a while; but he said, "A man can't drink liquor and run a farm," and the farm had gone.

I asked him how?

"I sold it," he said calmly; "that is, persuaded my mother to sell it. The stock that belonged to me had nearly all gone before. A man who is drinking will sell anything," he said. "I have sold everything in the world I had, or could lay my hands on. I have never got quite so low as to sell my old gray jacket that I used to wear when I rode behind old Joe. I mean to be buried in that -- if I can keep it."

He had been engaged to a nice girl; the wedding-day had been fixed; but she had broken off the engagement. She married another man. "She was a mighty nice girl," he said, quietly. "Her people did not like my drinking so much. I passed her not long ago on the street. She did not know me." He glanced down at himself quietly. "She looks older than she did." He said that he had had a place for some time, did not drink a drop for nearly a year, and then got with some of the old fellows, and they persuaded him to take a little. "I cannot touch it. I have either got to drink or let it alone -- one thing or the other," he said. "But I am all right now," he declared triumphantly, a little of the old fire lighting up in his face. "I never expect to touch a drop again."

He spoke so firmly that I was persuaded to make him a little loan, taking his due-bill for it, which he always insisted on giving. That evening I saw him being dragged along by three policemen, and he was cursing like a demon.

In the course of time he got so low that he spent much more than half his time in jail. He became a perfect vagabond, and with his clothes ragged and dirty might be seen reeling about or standing around the street corners near disreputable bars, waiting for a chance drink, or sitting asleep in doorways of untenanted buildings. His companions would be one or two chronic drunkards like himself, with red noses, bloated faces, dry hair, and filthy clothes. Sometimes I would see him hurrying along with one of these as if they had a piece of the most important business in the world. An idea had struck their addled brains that by some means they could manage to secure a drink. Yet in some way he still held himself above these creatures, and once or twice I heard of him being under arrest for resenting what he deemed an impertinence from them.

Once he came very near being drowned. There was a flood in the river, and a large crowd was watching it from the bridge. Suddenly a little girl's dog fell in. It was pushed in by a ruffian. The child cried out, and there was a commotion. When it subsided a man was seen swimming for life after the little white head going down the stream. It was "No. 4". He had slapped the fellow in the face, and then had sprung in after the dog. He caught it, and got out himself, though in too exhausted a state to stand up. When he was praised for it, he said, "A member of old Joe's company who would not have done that could not have ridden behind old Joe." I had this story from eye-witnesses, and it was used shortly after with good effect; for he was arrested for burglary, breaking into a man's house one night. It looked at first like a serious case, for some money had been taken out of a drawer; but when the case was investigated it turned out that the house was a bar-room over which the man lived, -- he was the same man who had pitched the dog into the water, -- and that "No. 4", after being given whiskey enough to make him a madman, had been put out of the place, had broken into the bar during the night to get more, and was found fast asleep in a chair with an empty bottle beside him. I think the jury became satisfied that if any money had been taken the bar-keeper, to make out a case against "No. 4", had taken it himself. But there was a technical breaking, and it had to be got around; so his counsel appealed to the jury, telling them what he knew of "No. 4", together with the story of the child's dog, and "No. 4"'s reply. There were one or two old soldiers on the jury, and they acquitted him, on which he somehow managed to get whiskey enough to land him back in jail in twenty-four hours.

In May, 1890, there was a monument unveiled in Richmond. It was a great occasion, and not only all Virginia, but the whole South, participated in it with great fervor, much enthusiasm, and many tears. It was an occasion for sacred memories. The newspapers talked about it for a good while beforehand; preparations were made for it as for the celebration of a great and general ceremony in which the whole South was interested. It was interested, because it was not only the unveiling of a monument for the old commander, the greatest and loftiest Southerner, and, as the South holds, man, of his time; it was an occasion consecrated to the whole South; it was the embalming in precious memories, and laying away in the tomb of the Southern Confederacy: the apotheosis of the Southern people. As such all were interested in it, and all prepared for it. It was known that all that remained of the Southern armies would be there: of the armies that fought at Shiloh, and Bull Run, and Fort Republic; at Seven Pines, Gaines's Mill, and Cold Harbor; at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg; at Franklin, Atlanta, Murfreesboro, and Chickamauga, Spottsylvania, the Wilderness, and Petersburg; and the whole South, Union as it is now and ready to fight the nation's battles, gathered to glorify Lee, the old commander, and to see and glorify the survivors of those and other bloody fields in which the volunteer soldiers of the South had held the world at bay, and added to the glorious history of their race. Men came all the way from Oregon and California to be present. Old one-legged soldiers stumped it from West Virginia. Even "No. 4", though in the gutter, caught the contagion, and shaped up and became sober. He got a good suit of clothes somewhere -- not new -- and appeared quite respectable. He even got something to do, and, in token of what he had been, was put on one of the many committees having a hand in the entertainment arrangements. I never saw a greater change in anyone. It looked as if there was hope for him yet. He stopped me on the street a day or two before the unveiling and told me he had a piece of good news: the remnant of his old company was to be here; he had got hold of the last one, -- there were nine of them left, -- and he had his old jacket that he had worn in the war, and he was going to wear it on the march. "It's worn, of course," he said, "but my mother put some patches over the holes, and except for the stain on it it's in good order. I believe I am the only one of the boys that has his jacket still; my mother kept this for me; I have never got so hard up as to part with it. I'm all right now. I mean to be buried in it."

I had never remarked before what a refined face he had; his enthusiasm made him look younger than I had ever seen him.

I saw him on the day before the eve of the unveiling; he was as busy as a bee, and looked almost handsome. "The boys are coming in by every train," he said. "Look here." He pulled me aside, and unbuttoned his vest. A piece of faded gray cloth was disclosed. He had the old gray jacket on under his other coat. "I know the boys will like to see it," he said. "I'm going down to the train now to meet one -- Binford Terrell. I don't know whether I shall know him. Binford and I used to be much of a size. We did not use to speak at one time; had a falling out about which one should hold the horses; I made him do it, but I reckon he won't remember it now. I don't. I have not touched a drop. Good-by." He went off.

The next night about bedtime I got a message that a man wanted to see me at the jail immediately. It was urgent. Would I come down there at once? I had a foreboding, and I went down. It was as I suspected. "No. 4" was there behind the bars. "Drunk again," said the turnkey, laconically, as he let me in. He let me see him. He wanted me to see the judge and get him out. He besought me. He wept. "It was all an accident;" he had "found some of the old boys, and they had got to talking over old times, and just for old times' sake," etc. He was too drunk to stand up; but the terror of being locked up next day had sobered him, and his mind was perfectly clear. He implored me to see the judge and to get him to let him out. "Tell him I will come back here and stay a year if he will let me out to-morrow," he said brokenly. He showed me the gray jacket under his vest, and was speechless. Even then he did not ask release on the ground that he was a veteran. I never knew him to urge this reason. Even the officials who must have seen him there fifty times were sympathetic; and they told me to see the justice, and they believed he would let him out for next day. I applied to him as they suggested. He said, "Come down to court to-morrow morning." I did so. "No. 4" was present, pale and trembling. As he stood there he made a better defence than any one else could have made for him. He admitted his guilt, and said he had nothing to say in extenuation except that it was the "old story", he "had not intended it; he deserved it all, but would like to get off that day; had a special reason for it, and would, if necessary, go back to jail that evening and stay there a year, or all his life." As he stood awaiting sentence, he looked like a damned soul. His coat was unbuttoned, and his old, faded gray jacket showed under it. The justice, to his honor, let him off: let all offenders off that day. "No. 4" shook hands with him, unable to speak, and turned away. Then he had a strange turn. We had hard work to get him to go into the procession. He positively refused; said he was not fit to go, or to live; began to cry, and took off his jacket. He would go back to jail, he said. We finally got him straight; accepted from him a solemn promise not to touch a drop till the celebration was over, so help him God, and sent him off to join his old command at the tobacco-warehouse on the slip where the cavalry rendezvoused. I had some apprehension that he would not turn up in the procession; but I was mistaken. He was there with the old cavalry veterans, as sober as a judge, and looking every inch a soldier.

It was a strange scene, and an impressive one even to those whose hearts were not in sympathy with it in any respect. Many who had been the hardest fighters against the South were in sympathy with much of it, if not with all. But to those who were of the South, it was sublime. It passed beyond mere enthusiasm, however exalted, and rested in the profoundest and most sacred deeps of their being. There were many cheers, but more tears; not tears of regret or mortification, but tears of sympathy and hallowed memory. The gayly decorated streets, in all the bravery of fluttering ensigns and bunting; the martial music of many bands; the constant tramp of marching troops; the thronged sidewalks, verandas, and roofs; the gleam of polished arms and glittering uniforms; the flutter of gay garments, and the smiles of beautiful women sweet with sympathy; the long line of old soldiers, faded and broken and gray, yet each self-sustained, and inspired by the life of the South that flowed in their veins, marching under the old Confederate battle-flags that they had borne so often in victory and in defeat -- all contributed to make the outward pageant a scene never to be forgotten. But this was merely the outward image; the real fact was the spirit. It was the South. It was the spirit of the South; not of the new South, nor yet merely of the old South, but the spirit of the great South. When the young troops from every Southern State marched by in their fresh uniforms, with well-drilled battalions, there were huzzas, much applause and enthusiasm; when the old soldiers came there was a tempest: wild cheers choking with sobs and tears, the well-known, once-heard-never-forgotten cry of the battling South, known in history as "the rebel yell". Men and women and children joined in it. It began at the first sight of the regular column, swelled up the crowded streets, rose to the thronged housetops, ran along them for squares like a conflagration, and then came rolling back in volume only to rise and swell again greater than before. Men wept; children shrilled; women sobbed aloud. What was it! Only a thousand or two of old or aging men riding or tramping along through the dust of the street, under some old flags, dirty and ragged and stained. But they represented the spirit of the South; they represented the spirit which when honor was in question never counted the cost; the spirit that had stood up for the South against overwhelming odds for four years, and until the South had crumbled and perished under the forces of war; the spirit that is the strongest guaranty to us to-day that the Union is and is to be; the spirit that, glorious in victory, had displayed a fortitude yet greater in defeat. They saw in every stain on those tattered standards the blood of their noblest, bravest, and best; in every rent a proof of their glorious courage and sacrifice. They saw in those gray and careworn faces, in those old clothes interspersed now and then with a faded gray uniform, the men who in the ardor of their youth had, for the South, faced death undaunted on a hundred fields, and had never even thought it great; men who had looked immortality in the eyes, yet had been thrown down and trampled underfoot, and who were greater in their overthrow than when glory poured her light upon their upturned faces. Not one of them all but was self-sustaining, sustained by the South, or had ever even for one moment thought in his direst extremity that he would have what was, undone.

The crowd was immense; the people on the fashionable street up which the procession passed were fortunate; they had the advantage of their yards and porticos, and they threw them open to the public. Still the throng on the sidewalks was tremendous, and just before the old veterans came along the crush increased. As it resettled itself I became conscious that a little old woman in a rusty black dress whom I had seen patiently standing alone in the front line on the street corner for an hour had lost her position, and had been pushed back against the railing, and had an anxious, disappointed look on her face. She had a little, faded knot of Confederate colors fastened in her old dress, and, almost hidden by the crowd, she was looking up and down in some distress to see if she could not again get a place from which she could see. Finally she seemed to give it up, and stood quite still, tiptoeing now and then to try to catch a glimpse. I saw someone about to help her when, from a gay and crowded portico above her, a young and beautiful girl in a white dress, whom I had been observing for some time as the life of a gay party, as she sat in her loveliness, a queen on her throne with her courtiers around her, suddenly arose and ran down into the street. There was a short colloquy. The young beauty was offering something which the old lady was declining; but it ended in the young girl leading the older woman gently up on to her veranda and giving her the chair of state. She was hardly seated when the old soldiers began to pass.

As the last mounted veterans came by, I remembered that I had not seen "No. 4"; but as I looked up, he was just coming along. In his hand, with staff resting on his toe, he carried an old standard so torn and tattered and stained that it was scarcely recognizable as a flag. I did not for a moment take in that it was he, for he was not in the gray jacket which I had expected to see. He was busy looking down at the throng on the sidewalk, apparently searching for some one whom he expected to find there. He was in some perplexity, and pulled in his horse, which began to rear. Suddenly the applause from the portico above arrested his attention, and he looked toward it and bowed. As he did so his eye caught that of the old lady seated there. His face lighted up, and, wheeling his prancing horse half around, he dipped the tattered standard, and gave the royal salute as though saluting a queen. The old lady pressed her wrinkled hand over the knot of faded ribbon on her breast, and made a gesture to him, and he rode on. He had suddenly grown handsome. I looked at her again; her eyes were closed, her hands were clasped, and her lips were moving. I saw the likeness: she was his mother. As he passed me I caught his eye. He saw my perplexity about the jacket, glanced up at the torn colors, and pointed to a figure just beyond him dressed in a short, faded jacket. "No. 4" had been selected, as the highest honor, to carry the old colors which he had once saved; and not to bear off all the honors from his friend, he had with true comradeship made Binford Terrell wear his cherished jacket. He made a brave figure as he rode away, and my cheer died on my lips as I thought of the sad, old mother in her faded knot, and of the dashing young soldier who had saved the colors in that unnamed fight.

After that we got him a place, and he did well for several months. He seemed to be cured. New life and strength appeared to come back to him. But his mother died, and one night shortly afterward he disappeared, and remained lost for several days. When we found him he had been brought to jail, and I was sent for to see about him. He was worse than I had ever known him. He was half-naked and little better than a madman. I went to a doctor about him, an old army surgeon, who saw him, and shook his head. "`Mania a potu'. Very bad; only a question of time," he said. This was true. "No. 4" was beyond hope. Body and brain were both gone. It got to be only a question of days, if not of hours. Some of his other friends and I determined that he should not die in jail; so we took him out and carried him to a cool, pleasant room looking out on an old garden with trees in it. There in the dreadful terror of raving delirium he passed that night. I with several others sat up with him. I could not have stood many more like it. All night long he raved and tore. His oaths were blood-curdling. He covered every past portion of his life. His army life was mainly in his mind. He fought the whole war over. Sometimes he prayed fervently; prayed against his infirmity; prayed that his chains might be broken. Then he would grow calm for awhile. One thing recurred constantly: he had sold his honor, betrayed his cause. This was the order again and again, and each time the paroxysm of frightful fury came on, and it took all of us to hold him. He was covered with snakes: they were chains on his wrists and around his body. He tried to pull them from around him. At last, toward morning, came one of those fearful spells, worse than any that had gone before. It passed, and he suddenly seemed to collapse. He sank, and the stimulant administered failed to revive him.

"He is going," said the doctor, quietly, across the bed. Whether his dull ear caught the word or not, I cannot say; but he suddenly roused up, tossed one arm, and said:

"Binford, take the horses. I'm going to old Joe," and sank back.

"He's gone," said the doctor, opening his shirt and placing his ear over his heart. As he rose up I saw two curious scars on "No. 4"'s emaciated breast. They looked almost like small crosses, about the size of the decorations the European veterans wear. The old doctor bent over and examined them.

"Hello! Bayonet-wounds," he said briefly.

A little later I went out to get a breath of fresh morning air to quiet my nerves, which were somewhat unstrung. As I passed by a little second-hand clothing-store of the meanest kind, in a poor, back street, I saw hanging up outside an old gray jacket. I stopped to examine it. It was stained behind with mud, and in front with a darker color. An old patch hid a part of the front; but a close examination showed two holes over the breast. It was "No. 4"'s lost jacket. I asked the shopman about it. He had bought it, he said, of a pawnbroker who had got it from some drunkard, who had probably stolen it last year from some old soldier. He readily sold it, and I took it back with me; and the others being gone, an old woman and I cut the patch off it and put "No. 4"'s stiffening arms into the sleeves. Word was sent to us during the day to say that the city would bury him in the poorhouse grounds. But we told them that arrangements had been made; that he would have a soldier's burial. And he had it.

If you liked this story, you might enjoy other Civil War Stories and American History to read the works and profiles of historic figures.


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