Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 30.djvu/262
254 Southern Historical Society Papers.
staunch veteran soldiers with which to defend the entire line, which was about thirty miles long. He had a few loo-day men, a few quartermaster employees, and some disabled soldiers called veteran, reserves. I was assured that a successful defence of the city could not be made, unless reinforcements speedily arrived. I was com- manded to report for duty at Battery A, Fourth United States Artil- lery, then in garrison at Fort Totten, near Bladensburg. It had been serving with Custer as horse artillery, and had been badly cut up in front of Richmond and sent to Washington for rest. Neither the officers nor the men understood handling the large guns with which the fort was armed. The magazine was opened, barrels of powder were brought out and placed in the sun to dry. Everything was placed in position on the side of the fort which was expected to- be attacked. On July loth, late in the afternoon, word was sent to- Washington that Early was marching with his entire army on the capital, and that it was then near Rockville. That evening the motliest crowd of soldiers I ever saw came straggling out from Washington to man the rifle pits which connected the forts. This force was com- posed of quartermasters' employees, clerks from the War, State and Navy Departments, convalescents from military hospitals and vete- ran reserves, the latter clad in the disheartening, sickly uniform of pale blue, which was the distinctive dress of that corps. The Con- federates aptly characterized these disabled soldiers as ' condemned Yankees.'
" These soldiers boasted of their determination to hold the rifle pits at all hazards. I smiled sorrowfully as I thought of the ease with which the Confederates, veterans of twenty pitched battles, would drive them out of their earthworks. The next morning a body of Confederate cavalry rode aimlessly to and fro along the edge of a wood about five miles from our fort. We saw their artillery glisten. That afternoon the Confederate infantry came in sight, and formed a battle line. Portions of that line were within range of some of the forts, and heavy guns opened on it away off to our left. This artillery practice, marked by the bursting shells, was the poorest I ever saw. It was evident that the department clerks or the loo-day men were serving the guns.
" The Confederates did not pay the slightest attention to this fire. Their skirmishers, a cloud of them, advanced a short distance from their main line and then sank out of sight. We grew anxious. I knew that Early, who had about 18,000 veteran soldiers with him, could break our line whenever he saw fit to strike it. I knew that