Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/93

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History of the First Battle of Manassas, &c. 87

the more inspired and encouraged, for there was not a mother or sis- ter there who had not in the ranks a son or a brother, and who through tears and wails at being left undefended and alone, yet told us it was our duty to go. Our Virginia brigade took the lead and to the east- ward, making for Ashby's Gap. We footed it fast and furious; it was at first like a run, but soon slackened to the " route step," and now we wondered at the old soldier's puzzle : " Why, when the lead- ing files of a mile of soldiers were only in a walk, that the rear files are always on a run?" As we passed through the rich and fertile Clarke county, the road was lined with ladies holding all manner of food and drink, for General Johnston's staff had passed in a sweeping gallop and given tidings of our coming. At sundown we came to the cold, swift Shenandoah, and with two and three to every horse, the rest stripped off trousers, crossed, holding aloft on muskets and head, clothing and ammunition. This was the severest test, for it was a long struggle against a cold, breast-high current, and the whole night and the next day witnessed this fording of men, guns and horses. I did not see my mare for two days ; nearly a dozen cousins and brothers or other relatives had to use her in the crossing. Luckily the road beyond was hard, dry and plain in the dark night as we slowly climbed the Blue Ridge, which rises precipitously from the river, and in a straggling line passed by the " Big Poplar Tree" that crowns the summit and is the corner of four counties, Clarke, Warren, Fauquier and Loudoun. Coming down the mountain by the hamlet of Paris, and there leaving the pike, we took the country road, soft and damp, to the railroad station of Piedmont, where, sleep- ing on the ground, we awaited the arrival of the train to carry us to Manassas Junction. At sunrise it came ; a long train of freight and cattle cars, in which we packed ourselves like so many pins and needles; and, as safety for engine and cars was more essential than speed, for we had one engine only on that part of the old Manasas Gap railroad, we slowly jolted the entire day, passed the many country stations, warmly welcomed by the gathered crowds of women and girls with food and drink.

And when at sunset we arrived at Manassas Junction, sprung at once into line, and swept out into a broken country of pine forest. Four miles brought us to the banks of " Bull Run," where we slept. That was Friday night, the iQth, and it had taken twenty-four hours to bring four thousand men to the expected field of action. Bright and early on Saturday, the 2Oth, we were up and examined with a soldier's interest the scene of the conflict of the i8th. A line of fresh