Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 03.djvu/98
Southern Historical Society Papers.
cheering, with sabres glittering in the sun riding recklessly upon the enemy, who waited but a moment in the main street, then ignominiously fled. Having cleared the main thoroughfare, Captain Dahlgren swept through a cross street upon another squadron with the same success. There was a trampling of hoofs, a clattering of scabbards, and the sharp ringing cut of the sabres, the pistol flash, the going down of horse and rider, the gory gashes of the sabre stroke, a cheering and hurrahing, and screaming of frightened women and children, a short, sharp, decisive contest, and the town was in the possession of the gallant men. Once the Rebels attempted to recover what they had lost, but a second impetuous charge drove them back again, and Captain Dahlgren gathered the fruits of the victory—thirty-one prisoners, horses, accoutrements, sabres—held possession of the town for three hours and retired, losing but one of his glorious band killed and two wounded; leaving a dozen of the enemy killed and wounded. I would like to give the names of these heroes if I had them. The one brave fellow who lost his life had fought through all the conflict, but seeing a large rebel flag waving from a building he secured it, wrapped it around his body, and was returning to his command, when a fatal shot was fired from a window, probably by a citizen. He was brought to the northern shore, and there buried by his fellow-soldiers beneath the forest pines.
It thrills one to look at it, to hear the story, to picture the encounter—the wild dash, the sweep like a whirlwind, the cheers, the rout of the enemy, their confusion, the victory. Victory, not for the personal glory, not for ambition, but for a beloved country; for that which is dearer than life—the thanks of the living, the gratitude of unnumbered millions yet to be. Brave sons of the West, this is your glory, this your reward! No exploit of the war equals it. It will go down to history as one of the bravest achievements on record.
The following letters from Judge Critcher and Major Kelly show how largely the correspondent drew upon his imagination in his account of this comparatively insignificant affair. But this romancing is a fair sample of the style in which many of the so-called "histories" of the day are manufactured.
The letters of Judge Critcher and Major Kelly were written after seeing the above account of "one of the bravest achievements on record."
General FITZHUGH LEE:
My Dear Sir—There is far more of romance than truth in the newspaper account of Dahlgren's ride into Fredericksburg. The contributors to the daily newspapers seem to be under the necessity of writing something, if possible, that is marvellous and sen-