Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 08.djvu/42
Southern Historical Society Papers.
Advocate was instructed to proceed. Every charge and specification against the prisoner was sustained. The prisoner was then told to introduce his witnesses. He replied, "I have no witnesses." Astonished at the calmness with which he seemed to be submitting to what he regarded as inevitable fate, I said to him, "Have you no defence? Is it possible that you abandoned your comrades and deserted your colors in the presence of the enemy without any reason?" He replied, "There was a reason, but it will not avail me before a military court." I said, "Perhaps you are mistaken.; you are charged with the highest crime known to military law, and it is your duty to make known the causes that influenced your actions." For the first time his manly form trembled and his blue eyes swam in tears. Approaching the president of the court, he presented a letter, saying as he did so, "There, Colonel, is what did it." I opened the letter, and in a moment my eyes filled with tears. It was passed from one to another of the court until all had seen it, and those stern warriors who had passed with Stonewall Jackson through a hundred battles wept like little children. Soon as I sufficiently recovered my self-possession, I read the letter as the prisoner's defence. It was in these words:
"My Dear Edward—I have always been proud of you, and since your connection with the Confederate army I have been prouder of you than ever before. I would not have you do anything wrong for the world; but before God, Edward, unless you come home we must die! Last night I was aroused by little Eddie's crying. I called and said, 'What's the matter, Eddie?' and he said, 'Oh, mamma, I'm so hungry! 'And Lucy, Edward, your darling Lucy, she never complains, but she is growing thinner and thinner every day. And before God, Edward, unless you come home we must die.
Turning to the prisoner, I asked, "What did you do when you received this letter?" He replied, "I made application for a furlough, and it was rejected; again I made application, and it was rejected; a third time I made application, and it was rejected; and that night, as I wandered backward and forward in the camp, thinking of my home, with the mild eyes of Lucy looking up to me, and the burning words of Mary sinking in my brain, I was no longer the Confederate soldier, but I was the father of Lucy and the husband of Mary, and I would have passed those lines if every gun in the battery had fired upon me. I went to my home. Mary ran out to meet me; her angel arms embraced me,' and she whispered, 'O, Edward, I am so happy! I am so glad you got your furlough!' She must have felt me shudder, for she turned pale as death, and, catching her breath at every word, she said, 'Have you come without your furlough? O, Edward, Edward, go back! go back! Let me and my children go down together to the grave, but 0, for heaven's sake, save the honor of our name!' And here I