The Scouts of Stonewall by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter XIV. The Double Battle
The twenty-four hours were a rest, merely by comparison. There was no pursuit, at least, the enemy was not in sight, but the scouts brought word that the bridge over the Shenandoah would be completed in a day and night, and that Fremont would follow. Jackson's army triumphantly passed the last defile of the Massanuttons and the army of Shields did not appear issuing from it. It was no longer possible for them to be struck in front and on the flank at the same time, and the army breathed a mighty sigh of relief. At night of the next day Harry was sitting by the camp of the Invincibles, having received a brief leave of absence from the staff, and he detailed the news to his eager friends.
"General Jackson is stripping again for battle," he said to Colonel Leonidas Talbot and Lieutenant-Colonel Hector St. Hilaire. "He's sent all the sick and wounded across a ferry to Staunton, and he's dispatched his prisoners and captured stores by another road. So he has nothing left but men fit for battle."
"Which includes me," said St. Clair proudly, showing his left shoulder from which the bandage had been taken, "I'm as well as ever."
"Men get well fast with Stonewall Jackson," said Colonel Talbot. "I'll confess to you lads that I thought it was all up with us there in the lower valley, when we were surrounded by the masses of the enemy, and I don't see yet how we got here."
"But we are here, Leonidas," said Lieutenant-Colonel Hector St. Hilaire, "and that's enough for us to know."
"Right, Hector, old friend. It's enough for us to know. Do you by chance happen to have left two of those delightful cigarettes?"
"Just two, Leonidas, one for you and one for me, and now is a chance to smoke 'em."
The young lieutenants drew to one side while the two old friends smoked and compared notes. They did not smoke, but they compared notes also, as they rested on the turf. The rain had ceased and the grass was dry. They saw through the twilight the dark mass of the Massanuttons, the extreme southern end, and Happy Tom Langdon waved his hand toward the mountain, like one who salutes a friend.
"Good old mountain," he said. "You've been a buffer between us and the enemy more than once, but it took a mind like Stonewall Jackson's to keep moving you around so you would stand between the armies of the enemy and make the Yankees fight, only one army at a time."
"You're right," said Harry, who was enjoying the deep luxury of rest. "I didn't know before that mountains could be put to such good use. Look, you can see lights on the ridge now."
They saw lights, evidently those of powerful lanterns swung to and fro, but they did not understand them, nor did they care much.
"Signals are just trifles to me now," said Happy Tom. "What do I care for lights moving on a mountain four or five miles away, when for a month, day and night without stopping, a million Yankees have been shooting rifle bullets at me, and a thousand of the biggest cannon ever cast have been pouring round shot, long shot, shell, grape, canister and a hundred other kinds of missiles that I can't name upon this innocent and unoffending head of mine."
"They'll be on us tomorrow, Happy," said St. Clair, more gravely. "This picnic of ours can't last more than a day."
"I think so, too," said Harry. "So long, boys, I've got to join Captain Sherburne. The general has detached me for service with him under Ashby, and you know that when you are with them, something is going to happen."
Harry slept well that night, partly in a camp and partly in a saddle, and he found himself the next day with Ashby and Sherburne near a little town called Harrisonburg. They were on a long hill in thick forest, and the scouts reported that the enemy was coming. The Northern armies were uniting now and they were coming up the valley, expecting to crush all opposition.
"Take your glasses, Harry," said Sherburne, "and you'll see a strong force crossing the fields, but it's not strong enough. We've a splendid position here in the forest and you just watch. Ah, here come your friends, the Invincibles. See, Ashby is forming them in the center, while we, of the horse, take the flanks."
The men in blue, catching sight of the Confederate uniforms in the wood, charged with a shout, but they did not know the strength of the force before them. The Invincibles poured in a deadly fire at close range, and then Ashby's cavalry with a yell charged on either flank. The Northern troops, taken by surprise, gave way, and the Southern force followed, firing continuously.
They came within a half mile of Harrisonburg, and the main Northern army of Fremont was at hand. The general who had pursued so long, saw his men retreating, and, filled with chagrin and anger, he hurried forward heavier forces of both cavalry and infantry. Other troops came to the relief of Ashby also, and Harry saw what he thought would be only a heavy skirmish grow into a hot battle of size.
Fremont, resolved that the North should win a battle in the open field, and rejoiced that he had at last brought his enemy to bay, never ceased to hurry his troops to the combat. Formidable lines of the western riflemen rushed on either flank, and before their deadly rifles Ashby's cavalry wavered. Harry saw with consternation that they were about to give way, but Ashby galloped up to the unbroken lines of infantry and ordered them to charge.
The words were scarcely out of his mouth, when his horse, shot through, fell to the ground. Ashby fell with him, but he sprang instantly to his feet, and shouted in a loud voice:
"Charge men, for God's sake! Charge! Charge!" With a rush and roar, the Invincibles and their comrades swept forward, but at the same instant Harry saw Ashby fall again. With a cry of horror he leaped from his horse and ran to him, lifting him in his arms. But he quickly laid him back on the grass. Ashby had been shot through the heart and killed instantly.
Harry gazed around him, struck with grief and dismay, but he saw only the resistless rush of the infantry. The Invincibles and their comrades were avenging the death of Turner Ashby. Tired of retreating and hot for action they struck the Northern division with a mighty impact, shattering it and driving it back rapidly. The Southern cavalry, recovering also, struck it on the flank, and the defeat was complete. Fremont's wish was denied him. After so much hard marching and such a gallant and tenacious pursuit, he had gone the way of the other Northern generals who opposed Jackson, and was beaten.
Although they had driven back the vanguard, winning a smart little victory, and telling to Fremont and Shields that the pursuit of Jackson had now become dangerous, there was gloom in the Southern army. The horsemen did not know until they trotted back and saw Harry kneeling beside his dead body, that the great Ashby was gone. For a while they could not believe it. Their brilliant and daring leader, who had led Jackson's vanguard in victory, and who had hung like a covering curtain in retreat, could not have fallen. It seemed impossible that the man who had led for days and days through continuous showers of bullets could have been slain at last by some stray shot.
But they lifted him up finally and carried him away to a house in the little neighboring village of Port Republic, Sherburne and the other captains, hot from battle, riding with uncovered heads. He was put upon a bed there, and Harry, a staff officer, was selected to ride to Jackson with the news. He would gladly have evaded the errand, but it was obvious that he was the right messenger.
He rode slowly and found Jackson coming up with the main force, Dr. McGuire, his physician, and Colonel Crutchfield, his chief of artillery, riding on either side of him. The general gave one glance at Harry's drooping figure.
"Well," he said, "have we not won the victory? From a hilltop our glasses showed the enemy in flight."
"Yes, general," said Harry, taking off his hat, "we defeated the enemy, but General Ashby is dead."
Jackson and his staff were silent for a moment, and Harry saw the general shrink as if he had received a heavy blow.
"Ashby killed! Impossible!" he exclaimed.
"It's true, sir. I helped to carry his body to a house in Port Republic, where it is now lying."
"Lead us to that house, Mr. Kenton," said Jackson.
Harry rode forward in silence, and the others followed in the same silence. At the house, after they had looked upon the body, Jackson asked to be left alone awhile with all that was left of Turner Ashby. The others withdrew and Harry always believed that Jackson prayed within that room for the soul of his departed comrade.
When he came forth his face had resumed its sternness, but was without other expression, as usual.
"He will not show grief, now," said Sherburne, "but I think that his soul is weeping."
"And a bad time for Fremont and Shields is coming," said Harry.
"It's a risk that we all take in war," said Dalton, who was more of a fatalist than any of the others.
The chief wrote a glowing official tribute to Ashby, saying that his "daring was proverbial, his powers of endurance almost incredible, his character heroic, and his sagacity almost intuitive in divining the purposes and movements of the enemy." Yet deeply as Harry had been affected by Ashby's death, it could not remain in his mind long, because they had passed the Massanuttons now, and Fremont and Shields following up the valley must soon unite.
Harry believed that Jackson intended to strike a blow. The situation of the Confederacy was again critical--it seemed to Harry that it was always critical--and somebody must wield the sword, quick and strong. McClellan with his great and well-trained army was before Richmond. It was only the rapid marches and lightning strokes of Jackson that had kept McDowell with another great army from joining him, but to keep back this force of McDowell until they dealt with McClellan, there must be yet other rapid marches and lightning strokes.
Harry's sleep that night was the longest in two weeks, but he was up at dawn, and he was directed by Jackson to ride forward with Sherburne toward the southern base of the Massanuttons, observe the approach of both Fremont and Shields and report to him.
Harry was glad of his errand. He always liked to ride with Sherburne, who was a fount of cheerfulness, and he was still keyed up to that extraordinary intensity and pitch of excitement that made all things possible. He now understood how the young soldiers of Napoleon in Italy had been able to accomplish so much. It was the man, a leader of inspiration and genius, surcharging them all with electrical fire.
Sherburne's troop was a portion of a strong cavalry force, which divided as it reached the base of the Massanuttons, a half passing on either side. Sherburne and Harry rode to the right in order to see the army of Shields. The day was beautiful, with a glorious June sun and gentle winds, but Harry, feeling something strange about it, realized presently that it was the silence. For more than two weeks cannon had been thundering and rifles crashing in the valley, almost without cessation. Neither night nor storm had caused any interruption.
It seemed strange, almost incredible now, but they heard birds singing as they flew from tree to tree, and peaceful rabbits popped up in the brush. Yet before they went much further they saw the dark masses of the Northern army under Shields moving slowly up the valley, and anxious for the junction with Fremont.
But the Northern generals were again at a loss. Jackson had turned suddenly and defeated Fremont's vanguard with heavy loss, but what had become of him afterward? Fremont and Shields were uncertain of the position of each other, and they were still more uncertain about Jackson's. He might fall suddenly upon either, and they grew very cautious as they drew near to the end of the Massanuttons.
Sherburne and Harry, after examining the Northern army through their glasses, rode back with a dozen men to the south base of the Massanuttons. Most of them were signal officers, and Harry and Sherburne, dismounting, climbed the foot of the mountain with them. When they stood upon the crest and looked to right and left in the clear June air, they beheld a wonderful sight.
To the south along Mill Creek lay Jackson's army. To the west massed in the wider valley was the army of Fremont, which had followed them so tenaciously, and to the east, but just separated from it by the base of the Massanuttons, were the masses of Shields advancing slowly.
Harry through his powerful glasses could see the horsemen in front scouting carefully in advance of either army, and once more he appreciated to the full Jackson's skill in utilizing the mountains and rivers to keep his enemies apart. But what would he do now that they were passing the Massanuttons, and there was no longer anything to separate Shields and Fremont. He dismissed the thought. There was an intellect under the old slouch hat of the man who rode Little Sorrel that could rescue them from anything.
"Quite a spectacle," said Sherburne. "A man can't often sit at ease on a mountaintop and look at three armies. Now, Barron, you are to signal from here to General Jackson every movement of our enemies, but just before either Shields or Fremont reaches the base of the mountain, you're to slip down and join us."
"We'll do it, sir," said Barron, the chief signal officer. "We're not likely to go to sleep up here with armies on three sides of us."
Sherburne, Harry and two other men who were not to stay slowly descended the mountain. Harry enjoyed the breathing space. On the mountainside he was lifted, for a while, above the fierce passions of war. He saw things from afar and they were softened by distance. He drew deep breaths of the air, crisp and cool, on the heights, and Sherburne, who saw the glow on his face, understood. The same glow was on his own face.
"It's a grand panorama, Harry," he said, "and we'll take our fill of it for a few moments." They stood on a great projection of rock and looked once more and for a little while into the valley and its divisions. The two Northern armies were nearer now, and they were still moving. Harry saw the sun flashing over thousands of bayonets. He almost fancied he could hear the crack of the teamsters' whips as the long lines of wagons in the rear creaked along.
They descended rapidly, remounted their horses and galloped back to Jackson.
They buried Ashby that day, all the leading Southern officers following him to his grave, and throughout the afternoon the silence was continued. But the signals on the mountain worked and worked, and the signalmen with Jackson replied. No movement of the two pursuing armies was unknown to the Southern leader.
Harry, with an hour's leave, visited once more his friends of the Invincibles. He had begged a package of fine West Indian cigarettes from Sherburne, and he literally laid them at the feet of the two colonels--he found them sitting together on the grass, lean gray men who seemed to be wholly reduced to bone and muscle.
"This is a great gift, Harry, perhaps greater than you think," said Colonel Leonidas Talbot gravely. "I tried to purchase some from the commissariat, but they had none--it seems that General Stonewall Jackson doesn't consider cigarettes necessary for his troops. Anyhow, the way our Confederate money is going, I fancy a package of cigarettes will soon cost a hundred dollars. Here, Hector, light up. We divide this box, half and half. That's right, isn't it, Harry?"
Harry passed on to the junior officers and found St. Clair and Happy Tom lying on the grass. Happy pretended to rouse from sleep when Harry came.
"Hello, old omen of war," he said. "What's Old Jack expecting of us now?"
"I told you never to ask me such a question as that again. The general isn't what you'd call a garrulous man. How's your shoulder, Arthur?"
"About well. The muscles were not torn. It was just loss of blood that troubled me for the time."
"I hear," said Langdon, "that the two Yankee armies are to join soon. The Massanuttons won't be between them much longer, and then they'll have only one of the forks of the river to cross before they fall upon each other's breasts and weep with joy. Harry, it seems to me that we're always coming to a fork of the Shenandoah. How many forks does it have anyhow?"
"Only two, but the two forks have forks of their own. That's the reason we're always coming to deep water and by the same token the Yankees are always coming to it, too, which is a good thing for us, as we get there first, when the bridges are there, and when the Yankees come they are gone."
But not one of these boys understood the feeling in the Northern armies. Late the day before a messenger from Shields had got through the Massanuttons to Fremont, and had informed him that an easy triumph was at hand. Jackson and his army, he said, fearing the onset of overwhelming numbers, was retreating in great disorder.
The two generals were now convinced of speedy victory. They had communicated at last, and they could have some concert of movement. Jackson was less than thirty miles away, and his army was now but a confused mass of stragglers which would dissolve under slight impact. Both had defeats and disappointments to avenge, and they pushed forward now with increased speed, Shields in particular showing the greatest energy in pursuit. But the roads were still deep in mud, and his army was forced to toil on all that day and the next, while the signalmen on the top of the Massanuttons told every movement he made to Stonewall Jackson.
The signals the second evening told Jackson that the two Northern armies were advancing fast, and that he would soon have before him an enemy outnumbering him anywhere from two to three to one. He had been talking with Ewell just before the definite news was brought, and Harry, Dalton and other officers of the staff stood near, as their duty bade them.
Harry knew the nature of the information, as it was not a secret from any member of the staff, and now they all stood silently on one side and watched Jackson. Even Ewell offered no suggestion, but kept his eyes fixed anxiously on his chief. Harry felt that another one of those critical moments, perhaps the most dangerous of all, had arrived. They had fought army after army in detail, but now they must fight armies united, or fly. He did not know that the silent general was preparing the most daring and brilliant of all his movements in the valley. In the face of both Shields and Fremont his courage flamed to the highest, and the brain under the old slouch hat grew more powerful and penetrating than ever. And flight never for a moment entered into his scheme.
Jackson at length said a few words to Ewell, who sprang upon his horse and rode away to his division. Then, early in the morning, Jackson led the rest of the army into a strange district, the Grottoes of the Shenandoah. It was a dark region, filled beneath with great caves and covered thickly with heavy forest, through the leaves of which the troops caught views of the Massanuttons to the north or of the great masses of the Blue Ridge to the east, while far to the west lay other mountains, range on range. But all around them the country was wooded heavily.
The army did not make a great amount of noise when it camped in the forest over the caves, and the fires were few. Perhaps some of the men were daunted by the dangers which still surrounded them so thickly after so many days of such fierce fighting. At any rate, they were silent. The Acadians had played no music for a day now, and the band lay upon the ground sunk in deep slumber.
Harry had not been sent on any errand, and he was sitting on a stone, finishing his supper, when Dalton, who had been away with a message, returned.
"What's happened, George?" asked Harry.
"Nothing yet, but a lot will happen soon."
"Where have you been?"
"I've been on the other side of the Shenandoah. You needn't open your eyes. It's so. Moreover, Ewell's whole division is over there, and it will meet the vanguard of Fremont as he advances. I think I begin to see the general's scheme."
"I do, too. Ewell will fight off Fremont, holding him there until Jackson can annihilate Shields. Then he will retreat over the river to Jackson, burning the bridge behind him."
"Looks that way to a man up a tree," he said.
"It's like the general," said Harry. "He could bring his whole army on this side, burn the bridge, and in full force attack Shields, but he prefers to defeat them both."
"Yes; but I wish to Heaven we had more men."
"Sh! Here comes the general," said Harry.
The two were silent as General Jackson and an officer passed. The general spoke a word or two to the boys and went on. They were but ordinary words, but both felt uplifted because he had spoken to them.
Morning found them motionless in the forest, over the caves. They ate a hasty breakfast and waited. But the scouts were all out, and presently Harry and Dalton were sent toward the Shenandoah. Finding nothing there, they crossed over the bridge and came to Ewell's division, where they had plenty of acquaintances.
The sun was now high, and while they were talking with their friends, they heard the faint report of rifle shots far in their front. Presently the scouts came running back, and said that the enemy was only two miles away and was advancing to the attack.
Ewell took off his hat and his bald head glistened in the sun's rays. But, like Jackson, he was always cool, and he calmly moved his troops into position along a low ridge, with heavy woods on either flank. Harry knew the ground, alas, too well. It was among the trees just behind the ridge that Turner Ashby had been slain. Ewell had before him Fremont with two to one, and the rest of the army under Jackson's immediate command was four miles away, facing Shields.
"Do you hear anything behind you, Harry?" asked Dalton.
"No, why do you ask?"
"If we heard the booming of guns, and we'd hear 'em at four miles, we'd know that General Jackson himself was engaged. But as there's no sound, Shields hasn't come up, and we'll wait here a while to see if we can't have something important to report."
"I don't think so," said Harry. "We know that the enemy is about to attack here in full force, and that's enough to know about this side of the river. We ought to gallop back to General Jackson and tell him."
"You're right, Harry," said the Virginian, in whom the sense of duty was strong. "The general may be attacked by the time we get there, and he'll want to know exactly how things are."
They galloped back as fast as they could and found that General Jackson had moved his headquarters to the little village of Port Republic. They found him and told him the news as he was mounting his horse, but at the same time an excited and breathless messenger came galloping up from another direction. The vanguard of Shields had already routed his pickets, and the second Northern army was pressing forward in full force.
As he spoke, the Northern cavalry came in sight, and if those Northern horsemen had known what a prize was almost within their hands, they would have spared no exertion.
"Make for the bridge! Make for the bridge, general!" cried Dalton.
The horsemen in blue were not coming fast. They rode cautiously through the streets. Southern villages were not friendly to them, and this caution saved Stonewall Jackson. He was on his horse in an instant, galloping for the bridge, and Harry and Dalton were hot behind him. They thundered over the bridge with the Northern cavalry just at their heels, and escaped by a hair's breadth. But the chief of artillery and Dr. McGuire and one of the captains, Willis, were captured, and the rest of the staff was dispersed.
"My God!" exclaimed Harry, when the Northern cavalry stopped at the bridge. "What an escape!"
He was thinking of Jackson's escape, not his own, and while he was wondering what the general would do, he saw him ride to the bank of the river and watch the Northern cavalry on the other side. Then Harry and Dalton uttered a shout as they saw a Southern battery push forward from the village and open on the cavalry. An infantry regiment, which had been forming in the town, also came up at full speed, uttering the long, high-pitched rebel yell.
The Northern vanguard, which had come so near to such a high achievement, was driven back with a rush, and a Southern battery appearing on its flank, swept it with shell as it retreated. So heavy was the Southern attack, that the infantry also were driven back and their guns taken. The entire vanguard was routed, and as it received no support, even Harry and Dalton knew that the main army under Shields had not yet come up.
"That was the closest shave I ever saw," said Dalton. "So it was," said Harry. "But just listen to that noise behind you!"
A tremendous roar and crash told them that the battle between Ewell and Fremont had opened. Jackson beckoned to Harry, Dalton and the members of his staff who had reassembled. The three, who were captured, subsequently escaped in the confusion and turmoil and rejoined their general. Setting a powerful force to guard the bridge, Jackson said to his staff:
"While we are waiting for Shields to come up with his army, we'll ride over and see how the affair between Ewell and Fremont is coming on."
The roar and crash told them it was coming on with great violence, but Fremont, so strong in pursuit was not so strong in action. Now that he was face to face with the enemy, he did not attack with all his might. He hesitated, not from personal fear, but from fear on account of his army. The whole force of Jackson might be in front of him, and the apprehensions that he did not feel in pursuit assailed him when he looked at the ridge covered with the enemy.
Harry and Dalton watched with breathless interest. A portion of Fremont's army, but not all of it, just when it was needed most, was sent to the charge. Led by the pickets and skirmishers they came forward gallantly, a long line of glittering bayonets. In the thick woods on their flank lay three Southern regiments, ambushed and not yet stirring. No sunlight penetrated there to show their danger to the soldiers who were breasting the slope.
Harry foresaw all, and he drew a long breath for brave men who were marching to a certain fate.
"Why don't they look! Why don't they look!" he found himself exclaiming.
The next instant the entire wood burst into flame. Picking their aim and firing at short range, the Southern riflemen sent sheet after sheet of bullets into the charging ranks. It was more than human blood and flesh could stand, and the Northern regiments gave way. But it was not a rout. They retreated on their reserves, and stood there recovering themselves, while the Southern riflemen reloaded, but did not pursue. The regiments which had done the deadly work sank back in the woods, and seemingly the battle was over.
Harry had not been under fire. He and Dalton, the rest of Jackson's staff and the general himself merely watched. Nor did Jackson give any further orders to his able lieutenant, Ewell. He allowed him to make the battle his own, and in Harry's opinion he was making it right.
There came a silence that seemed interminably long to Harry. The sunlight blazed down, and the two armies stood looking at each other across a field that was strewn with the fallen. It would have been folly for the men in blue to charge again, and it was the chief business of the Southern troops to hold them back. Therefore they stood in their positions and watched. Harry judged that the bulk of Fremont's army was not yet up. It was this failure to bring superior numbers to bear at the right time that was always the ruin of the Northern generals in the valley, because the genius on the other side invariably saw the mistake and profited by it.
Harry and Dalton still waited, wondering. Jackson himself sat quietly on his horse, and issued no order. The Northern troops were motionless, and Harry, who knew how precious time was, with the rest of Fremont's army coming up, wondered again. But Trimble, the commander of the Southern riflemen hidden in the wood, saw a chance. He would send his men under cover of the forest and hurl them suddenly upon the Northern flank. Ewell gave his consent, and said that he would charge, too, if the movement were successful.
Harry, watching, saw the Southern regiments in the wood steal from the forest, pass swiftly up a ravine, and then, delivering a shattering fire at short range, charge with the bayonet upon the Northern flank. The men in blue, surprised by so fierce an onset, gave way. Uttering the rebel yell, the Southerners followed and pushed them further and further. Ewell's quick eye, noting the success, sent forward his own center in a heavy charge.
Fremont, from the rear, hurried forward new troops, but they were beaten as fast as they arrived. The batteries were compelled to unlimber and take to flight, the fresh brigade dispatched by Fremont was routed, and the whole Southern line pressed forward, driving the Northern army before it.
"General Jackson was wise in trusting to General Ewell," said Dalton to Harry. "He's won a notable victory. I wonder how far he'll push it."
"Not far, I think. All Ewell's got to do is to hold Fremont, and he has surely held him. There's Shields on the other side of the river with whom we have to deal. Do you know, George, that all the time we've been sitting here, watching that battle in front of us, I've been afraid we'd hear the booming of the guns on the other side of the river, telling that Shields was up."
"We scorched their faces so badly there in Cross Keys that they must be hesitating. Lord, Harry, how old Stonewall plays with fire. To attack and defeat one army with the other only a few miles away must take nerves all of steel."
"But if Ewell keeps on following Fremont he'll be too far away when we turn to deal with Shields."
"But he won't go too far. There are the trumpets now recalling his army."
The mellow notes were calling in the eager riflemen, who wished to continue the pursuit, but the army was not to retire. It held the battlefield, and now that the twilight was coming the men began to build their fires, which blazed through the night within sight of those of the enemy. The sentinels of the two armies were within speaking distance of one another, and often in the dark, as happened after many another battle in this war, Yank and Reb passed a friendly word or two. They met, too, on the field, where they carried away their dead and wounded, but on such errands there was always peace.
Those hours of the night were precious, but Fremont did not use them. Defeated, he held back, magnifying the numbers of his enemy, fearing that Jackson was in front of him with his whole army, and once more out of touch with his ally, Shields.
But Stonewall Jackson was all activity. The great war-like intellect was working with the utmost precision and speed. Having beaten back Fremont, he was making ready for Shields. The first part of the drama, as he had planned it, had been carried through with brilliant success, and he meant that the next should be its equal.
Harry was not off his horse that night. He carried message after message to generals and colonels and captains. He saw the main portion of Ewell's army withdrawn from Fremont's front, leaving only a single brigade to hold him, in case he should advance at dawn. But he saw the fires increased, and he carried orders that the men should build them high, and see that they did not go down.
When he came back from one of these errands about midnight, just after the rise of the moon, he found General Jackson standing upon the bank of the river, giving minute directions to a swarm of officers. His mind missed nothing. He directed not only the movements of the troops, but he saw also that the trains of ammunition and food were sent to the proper points. About half way between midnight and morning he lay down and slept in a small house near the river bank. Shortly before dawn the commander of a battery, looking for one of his officers, entered the house and saw Jackson, dressed for the saddle, sword, boots, spurs and all, lying on his face upon the bed, asleep. On a small table near him stood a short piece of tallow candle, sputtering dimly. But the officer saw that it was Jackson, and he turned on tiptoe to withdraw.
The general awoke instantly, sat up and demanded who was there. When the officer explained, he said he was glad that he had been awakened, asked about the disposition of the troops, and gave further commands. He did not go to sleep again.
But Harry's orders carried him far beyond midnight, and he had no thought of sleep. Once more repressed but intense excitement had complete hold of him. He could not have slept had the chance been given to him. The bulk of the army was now in front of Shields, and the pickets were not only in touch, but were skirmishing actively. All through the late hours after midnight Harry heard the flash of their firing in front of him.
The cavalry under Sherburne and other daring leaders were exchanging shots with the equally daring cavalry of the enemy.
As the dawn approached the firing was heavier. Harry knew that the day would witness a great battle, and his heart was filled with anxiety. The army led by Shields showed signs of greater energy and tenacity than that led by Fremont. The Northern troops that had fought so fiercely at Kernstown were there, and they also had leaders who would not be daunted by doubts and numbers. Harry wondered if they had heard of the defeat of Fremont at Cross Keys.
He looked at the flashing of the rifles in the dusk, and before dawn rode back to the house where his commander slept. He was ready and waiting when Jackson came forth, and Dalton appearing from somewhere in the dusk, sat silently on his horse by his side.
The general with his staff at once rode toward the front, and the masses of the Southern army also swung forward. Harry saw that, according to Jackson's custom, they would attack, not wait for it. It was yet dusky, but the firing in their front was increasing in intensity. There was a steady crash and a blaze of light from the rifle muzzles ran through the forest.
He took an order to the Acadians to move forward behind two batteries, and as he came back he passed the Invincibles, now a mere skeleton regiment, but advancing in perfect order, the two colonels on their flanks near their head. He also saw St. Clair and Langdon, but he had time only to wave his hand to them, and then he galloped back to Jackson.
The dusk rapidly grew thinner. Then the burnished sun rose over the hills, and Harry saw the Northern army before them, spread across a level between the river and a spur of the Blue Ridge, and also on the slopes and in the woods. A heavy battery crowned one of the hills, another was posted in a forest, and there were more guns between. Harry saw that the position was strong, and he noted with amazement that the Northern forces did not seem to outnumber Jackson's. It was evident that Shields, with the majority of his force was not yet up. He glanced at Jackson. He knew that the fact could not have escaped the general, but he saw no trace of exultation on his face.
There was another fact that Harry did not then know. Nearly all the men who had fought successfully against Jackson at Kernstown were in that vanguard, and Tyler, who had deemed himself a victor there, commanded them. Everybody else had been beaten by Stonewall Jackson, but not they. Confident of victory, they asked to be led against the Southern army, and they felt only joy when the rising sunlight disclosed their foe. There were the men of Ohio and West Virginia again, staunch and sturdy.
Harry knew instinctively that the battle would be fierce, pushed to the utmost. Jackson had no other choice, and as the sunlight spread over the valley, although the mountains were yet in mist, the cannon on the flanks opened with a tremendous discharge, followed by crash after crash, North and South replying to each other. A Southern column also marched along the slope of the hills, in order to take Tyler's men in flank. Harry looked eagerly to see the Northern troops give way, but they held fast. The veterans of Ohio and West Virginia refused to give ground, and Winder, who led the Southern column, could make no progress.
Harry watched with bated breath and a feeling of alarm. Were they to lose after such splendid plans and such unparalleled exertions? The sun, rising higher, poured down a flood of golden beams, driving the mists from the mountains and disclosing the plain and slopes below wrapped in fire, shot through with the gleam of steel from the bayonets.
Tyler, who commanded the Northern vanguard, proved himself here, as at Kernstown, a brave and worthy foe. He, too, had eyes to see and a brain to think. Seeing that his Ohio and West Virginia men were standing fast against every attack made by Winder, he hurried fresh troops to their aid that they might attack in return.
The battle thickened fast. At the point of contact along the slopes and in the woods, there was a continued roar of cannon and rifles. Enemies came face to face, and the men of Jackson, victorious on so many fields, were slowly pressed back. A shout of triumph rose from the Union lines, and the eager Tyler brought yet more troops into action. Two of Ewell's battalions heard the thunder of the battle and rushed of their own accord to the relief of their commander. But they were unable to stem the fury of Ohio and West Virginia, and they were borne back with the others, hearing as it roared in their ears that cry of victory from their foe, which they had so often compelled that foe himself to hear.
But it was more bitter to none than to Harry. Sitting on his horse in the rear he saw in the blazing sunlight everything that passed. He saw for the first time in many days the men in gray yielding. The incredible was happening. After beating Fremont, after all their superb tactics, they were now losing to Shields.
He looked at Jackson, hoping to receive some order that would take him into action, but the general said nothing. He was watching the battle and his face was inscrutable. Harry wondered how he could preserve his calm, while his troops were being beaten in front, and the army of Fremont might thunder at any moment on his flank or rear. Truly the nerves that could remain steady in such moments must be made of steel triply wrought.
The Northern army, stronger and more resolute than ever, was coming on, a long blue line crested with bayonets. The Northern cannon, posted well, and served with coolness and precision, swept the Southern ranks. The men in gray retreated faster and some of their guns were taken. The Union troops charged upon them more fiercely than ever, and the regiments threatened to fall into a panic.
Then Jackson, shouting to his staff to follow, spurred forward into the mob and begged them to stand. He rode among them striking some with the flat of his sword and encouraging others. His officers showed the same energy and courage, but the columns, losing cohesion seemed on the point of dissolving, in the face of an enemy who pressed them so hard. Harry uttered a groan which nobody heard in all the crash and tumult. His heart sank like lead. Hope was gone clean away.
But at the very moment that hope departed he heard a great cheer, followed a moment later by a terrific crash of rifles and cannon. Then he saw those blessed Acadians charging in the smoke along the slope. They had come through the woods, and they rushed directly upon the great Northern battery posted there. But so well were those guns handled and so fierce was their fire that the Acadians were driven back. They returned to the charge, were driven back again, but coming on a third time took all the battery except one gun. Then with triumphant shouts they turned them on their late owners.
The whole Southern line seemed to recover itself at once. The remainder of Ewell's troops reached the field and enabled their comrades to turn and attack. The Stonewall Brigade in the center, where Jackson was, returned to the charge. In a few minutes fickle fortune had faced about completely. The Union men saw victory once more snatched from their hands. Their columns in the plain were being raked by powerful batteries on the flank, many of the guns having recently been theirs. They must retreat or be destroyed.
The brave and skillful Tyler reluctantly gave the order to retreat, and when Harry saw the blue line go back he shouted with joy. Then the rebel yell, thrilling, vast and triumphant, swelled along the whole line, which lifted up itself and rushed at the enemy, the cavalry charging fiercely on the flanks.
Shields got up fresh troops, but it was too late. The men in gray were pouring forward, victorious at every point, and sweeping everything before them, while the army of Fremont, arriving at the river at noon, saw burned bridges, the terrible battlefield on the other side strewn with the fallen, and the Southern legions thundering northward in pursuit of the second army, superior in numbers to their own, that they had defeated in two days.
Every pulse in Harry beat with excitement. His soul sprang up at once from the depths to the stars. This, when hope seemed wholly gone, was the crowning and culminating victory. The achievement of Jackson equaled anything of which he had ever heard. While the army of Fremont was held fast on the other side of the river, the second army under Shields, beaten in its turn, was retreating at a headlong rate down the valley. The veterans of Kernstown had fought magnificently, but they had been outgeneralled, and, like all others, had gone down in defeat before Jackson.
Jackson, merciless alike in battle and pursuit, pushed hard after the men in blue for nine or ten miles down the river, capturing cannon and prisoners. The Ohio and West Virginia men began at last to reform again, and night coming on, Jackson stopped the pursuit. He still could not afford to go too far down the valley, lest the remains of Fremont's army appear in his rear.
As they went back in the night, Harry and Dalton talked together in low tones. Jackson was just ahead of them, riding Little Sorrel, silent, his shoulders stooped a little, his mind apparently having passed on from the problems of the day, which were solved, to those of the morrow, which were to be solved. He replied only with a smile to the members of his staff who congratulated him now upon his extraordinary achievement, surpassing everything that he had done hitherto in the valley. For Harry and Dalton, young hero-worshippers, he had assumed a stature yet greater. In their boyish eyes he was the man who did the impossible over and over again.
The great martial brain was still at work. Having won two fresh victories in two days and having paralyzed the operations of his enemies, Jackson was preparing for other bewildering movements. Harry and Dalton and all the other members of the staff were riding forth presently in the dusk with the orders for the different brigades and regiments to concentrate at Brown's Gap in the mountains, from which point Jackson could march to the attack of McClellan before Richmond, or return to deal blows at his opponents in the valley, as he pleased. But whichever he chose, McDowell and sixty thousand men would not be present at the fight for Richmond. Jackson with his little army had hurled back the Union right, and the two Union armies could not be united in time.
The whole Southern army was gathered at midnight in Brown's Gap, and the men who had eaten but little and slept but little in forty-eight hours and who had fought two fierce and victorious battles in that time, throwing themselves upon the ground slept like dead men.
While they slept consternation was spreading in the North. Lincoln, ever hopeful and never yielding, had believed that Jackson was in disorderly flight up the valley, and so had his Secretary of War, Stanton. The fact that this fleeing force had turned suddenly and beaten both Fremont and Shields, each of whom had superior forces, was unbelievable, but it was true.
But Lincoln and the North recalled their courage and turned hopeful eyes toward McClellan.