Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 12.djvu/355

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345
Reminiscences of Cavalry Operations.

command who have made the people of this proud old Commonwealth feel—

"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child."

He had watched their course with great pride, having put them in the field. I cannot attempt to recount the splendid deeds of personal gallantry seen in every affair and engagement, or the traditions, the songs, and the stories ever dear to the old veterans. They will live in memory and mingle with the sad trials and scenes of a retreat, and the glories of many a victory (dearly bought) whenever they meet together and fight their battles over again. They will never be forgotten by them.

" How many ages hence
Shall our lofty scenes be acted over—
In states unborn and accents yet unknown?
  * * * So oft as that shall be,
So oft shall the knots of us be called
  The men who fought for constitutional liberty."

Can we forget the music of the sweet tattoo or the merry revielle?—the stormy nights when for hours the solitary vidette[1] sat on his horse, in the face of the enemy, shivering with cold, with not even a leafless tree to shelter and turn from him the chilly, penetrating winds of December? Can we forget the neigh and whimper of our faithful steeds, with whom his master would often divide his scanty rations of hard-tack to stay the qualms of hunger? Those were the days that tried the metal and souls of our men, and taught the "boys in blue" that they might overpower us by numbers, but that flags and supplies and well-paid ranks could never conquer us in a fair fight, nor drive us from the field.

It is proper that I should give some insight into the difficulties which surrounded a cavalry soldier before I enter directly upon my narrative. Very few soldiers of the other arms of the service have examined into this subject. Many have fancied that they would have been delighted to have had an opportunity for such an easy berth; that the bugle's call for boots and saddles, followed by the note to mount, was a pleasant pastime, and that moving out to the front, to dare the field, was nothing, "as they had to follow and do the work." Remember, it takes a fusion of the best metals to make a fine-toned bell, and it takes the same sort of fusion or mixture in a body of soldiers to make an army; and when many a gallant cav-

  1. Alt. spelling of vedette