The Scouts of Stonewall by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter XV. The Seven Days
Harry did not awaken until late the next morning. Jackson, for once, allowed his soldiers a long rest, and they were entitled to it. When he rose from his blankets, he found fires burning, and the pleasant odor of coffee, bacon and other food came to his nostrils. Many wounded were stretched on blankets, but, as usual, they were stoics, and made no complaint.
The army, in truth, was joyous, even more, it was exultant. Every one had the feeling that he had shared in mighty triumphs, unparalleled exploits, but they gave the chief credit to their leader, and they spoke admiringly and affectionately of Old Jack. The whole day was passed in luxury long unknown to them. They had an abundance of food, mostly captured, and their rations were not limited.
The Acadian band reappeared and played with as much spirit as ever, and once more the dark, strong men of Louisiana, clasped in one another's arms, danced on the grass. Harry sat with St. Clair, Happy Tom and Dalton and watched them.
"I was taught that dancing was wicked," said Dalton, "but it doesn't look wicked to me, and I notice that the general doesn't forbid it."
"Wicked!" said St. Clair, "why, after we take Washington, you ought to come down to Charleston and see us dance then. It's good instead of wicked. It's more than that. It's a thing of beauty, a grace, a joy, almost a rite."
"All that Arthur says is true," said Happy Tom. "I'm a Sea Islander myself, but we go over to Charleston in the winter. Still, I think you'll have to do without me at those dances, Arthur. I shall probably be kept for some time in the North, acting as proconsul for Pennsylvania or Massachusetts."
"Which way do you think we are going from here, Harry?" asked St. Clair. "I don't think it's possible for General Jackson to stay longer than twenty-four hours in one place, and I know that he always goes to you for instructions before he makes any movement."
"That's so. He spoke to me this morning asking what he ought to do, but I told him the troops needed a rest of one day, but that he mustn't make it more than one day or he'd spoil 'em."
Happy Tom, who was lying on the ground, sat up abruptly.
"If ever you hear of Old Stonewall spoiling anybody or anything," he said, "just you report it to me and I'll tell you that it's not so."
"I believe," said Dalton, "that we're going to leave the valley. Both Shields and Fremont are still retreating. Our cavalry scouts brought in that word this morning. We've heard also that Johnston and McClellan fought a big battle at a place called Seven Pines, and that after it McClellan hung back, waiting for McDowell, whom Old Jack has kept busy. General Johnston was wounded at Seven Pines and General Robert Edward Lee is now in command of our main army."
"That's news! It's more! It's history!" exclaimed St. Clair. "I think you're right, Harry. Two to one that we go to Richmond. And for one I'll be glad. Then we'll be right in the middle of the biggest doings!"
"I'm feeling that way, too," said Happy Tom. "But I know one thing."
"Not a soul in all this army, except Old Jack himself, will know a thing about it, until it's done, and maybe we won't know very much then. I passed Old Jack about an hour ago and he saw me as clearly and plainly as I see you, but he did not tell me a thing about his plans. He did not even say a word. Did not speak. Just cut me dead."
Not one of the four was destined for some days to learn what Jackson intended. His highest officers even were kept in the same ignorance. While the bulk of the army did little, the cavalry under Munford, who had succeeded Ashby, were exceedingly active. The horsemen were like a swarm of hornets in front of Jackson, and so great was their activity that the Northern leaders were unable to gauge their numbers. Fremont, exposed to these raids, retreated farther down the valley, leaving two hundred of his wounded and many stores in the hands of Munford.
Then Jackson crossed South River and marched into extensive woods by the Shenandoah, where his army lay for five full days. It was almost incredible to Harry and his friends that they should have so long a rest, but they had it. They luxuriated there among the trees in the beautiful June weather, listening to the music of the Acadians, eating and drinking and sleeping as men have seldom slept before.
But while the infantry was resting the activity of the cavalry never ceased. These men, riding over the country in which most of them were born, missed no movement of the enemy, and maintained the illusion that their numbers were four or five times the fact. Harry, trying to fathom Jackson's purpose, gave it up after that comparatively long stay beside the Shenandoah. He did not know that it was a part of a complicated plan, that Lee and Jackson, although yet apart, were now beginning their celebrated work together. Near Richmond, Northern prisoners saw long lines of trains moving north and apparently crowded with soldiers. For Jackson, of course! And intended to help him in his great march on Washington! But Jackson hung a complete veil about his own movements. His highest officers told one another in confidence things that they believed to be true, but which were not. It was the general opinion among them that Jackson would soon leave in pursuit of Fremont.
The pleasant camp by the Shenandoah was broken up suddenly, and the men began to march--they knew not where. Officers rode among them with stern orders, carried out sternly. In front, and on either flank, rode lines of cavalry who allowed not a soul to pass either in or out. An equally strong line of cavalry in the rear drove in front of it every straggler or camp follower. There was not a single person inside the whole army of Jackson who could get outside it except Jackson himself.
An extraordinary ban of ignorance was also placed upon them, and it was enforced to the letter. No soldier should give the name of a village or a farm through which he passed, although the farm might be his father's, or the village might be the one in which he was born. If a man were asked a question, no matter what, he must answer, "I don't know."
The young Southern soldiers, indignant at first, enjoyed it as their natural humor rose to the surface.
"Young fellow," said Happy Tom to St. Clair, "what's your name?"
"I don't know."
"Don't know your own name. Why, you must be feeble minded! Are you?"
"I don't know."
"Well, you may not know, but you look it. Do you think Old Jack is a good general?"
"I don't know."
"Do you think he's feeble-minded like yourself?"
"I don't know."
"What! You dare to intimate that Stonewall Jackson, the greatest general the world has ever known, is feeble-minded! You have insulted him, and in his name I challenge you to fight me, sir. Do you accept?"
"I don't know."
The two looked at each other and grinned. The ignorance of the army grew dense beyond all computation. Long afterward, "I don't know," became a favorite and convenient reply, even when the knowledge was present.
It was nearly two weeks after Port Republic before the troops had any idea where they were going. They came to a little place called Hanover Junction and they thought they were going to turn there and meet McDowell, but they passed on, and one evening they encamped in a wood. As they were eating supper they heard the muttering thunder of guns toward the south, and throughout the brigades the conviction spread that they were on the way to Richmond.
The next night, Harry, who was asleep, was touched by a light hand. He awoke instantly, and when he saw General Jackson standing over him, he sprang up.
"I am going on a long ride," said the general briefly, "and I want only one man to go with me. I've chosen you. Get your horse. We start in five minutes."
Harry, a little dazed yet from sleep and the great honor that had been thrust upon him, ran, nevertheless, for his horse, and was ready with a minute to spare.
"Keep by my side," said Jackson curtly, and the two rode in silence from the camp, watched in wonder by the sentinels, who saw their general and his lone attendant disappear in the forest to the south.
It was then one o'clock in the morning of a moonlight night, and the errand of Jackson was an absolute secret. Three or four miles from the camp a sentinel slipped from the woods and stopped them. He was one of their own pickets, on a far out-lying post, but to the amazement of Harry, Jackson did not tell who he was.
"I'm an officer on Stonewall Jackson's staff, carrying dispatches," he said. "You must let me pass."
"It's not enough. Show me an order from him."
"I have no order," replied the equable voice, "but my dispatches are of the greatest importance. Kindly let me pass immediately."
The sentinel shook his head.
"Draw back your horses," he said. "Without an order from the general you don't go a step further."
Harry had not spoken a word. He had ceased to wonder why Jackson refused to reveal his identity. If he did not do so it must be for some excellent reason, and, meanwhile, the boy waited placidly.
"So you won't let us pass," said Jackson. "Is the commander of the picket near by?"
"I can whistle so he'll hear me."
"Then will you kindly whistle?"
The sentinel looked again at the quiet man on the horse, put his fingers to his lips and blew loudly. An officer emerged from the woods and said:
"What is it, Felton?"
Then he glanced at the man on the horse and started violently.
"General Jackson!" he exclaimed.
The sentinel turned pale, but said nothing.
"Yes, I'm General Jackson," said the general, "and I ride with this lieutenant of my staff on an errand. But both of you must swear to me that you have not seen me."
Then he turned to the sentinel.
"You did right to stop us," he said. "I wish that all our sentinels were as faithful as you."
Then while the man glowed with gratitude, he and Harry rode on. Jackson was in deep thought and did not speak. Harry, a little awed by this strange ride, looked up at the trees and the dusky heavens. He heard the far hoot of an owl, and he shivered a little. What if a troop of Northern cavalry should suddenly burst upon them. But no troop of the Northern horse, nor horse of any kind, appeared. Instead, Jackson's own horse began to pant and stumble. Soon he gave out entirely.
It was not yet day, but dimly to the right they saw the roof of a house among some trees. It was a poor Virginia farm that did not have horses on it, and Jackson suggested to Harry that they wake up the people and secure two fresh mounts.
The commander of an army and his young aide walked a little distance down a road, entered a lawn, drove off two barking dogs, and knocked loud on the front door of the house with the butts of their riding whips. A head was at last thrust out of an upper window, and a sleepy and indignant voice demanded what they wanted.
"We're two officers from General Jackson's army riding on important duty," replied the general, in his usual mild tones. "Our horses have broken down and we want to obtain new ones."
"What's your names? What's your rank?" demanded the gruff voice.
"We cannot give our names."
"Then clear out! You're frauds! If I find you hanging about here I'll shoot at you, and I tell you for your good that I'm no bad shot."
The shutter of the window closed with a bang, but the two dogs that had been driven off began to bark again at a safe distance. Harry glanced at his general.
"Isn't that a stable among the trees?" asked Jackson.
"Then we'll find our horses there. Get the other two and bring them here."
Harry obeyed promptly, and they opened the stable, finding good horses, of which they selected the two best to which they changed their saddles and bridles.
"We'll leave our own horses for our inhospitable friends," said General Jackson, "and he'll not suffer by the exchange."
Mounting the fresh horses they rode rapidly, and, after the coming of the dawn, Harry saw that they were approaching Richmond, and he guessed now what was coming.
General Jackson had in his pocket a pass sent to him by General Lee, and they swiftly went through the lines of pickets, and then on through Richmond. People were astir in the streets of the Southern capital, and many of them saw the bearded man in an old uniform and a black slouch hat riding by, accompanied by only a boy, but not one of them knew that this was Stonewall Jackson, whose fame had been filling their ears for a month past. Nor, if they had known him would they have divined how much ill his passage boded to the great army of McClellan.
They went through Richmond and on toward the front. Midday passed, and at three o'clock they reached the house in which Lee had established his headquarters.
"Who is it?" asked a sentinel at the door.
"Tell General Lee that General Jackson is waiting."
The sentinel hurried inside, General Jackson and his aide dismounted, and a moment later General Lee came out, extending his hand, which Jackson clasped. The two stood a moment looking at each other. It was the first time that they had met in the war, but Harry saw by the glance that passed that each knew the other a man, not an ordinary man, nor even a man of ten thousand, but a genius of the kind that appears but seldom. It was all the more extraordinary that the two should appear at the same time, serving together in perfect harmony, and sustaining for so long by their united power and intellect a cause that seemed lost from the first.
It was not any wonder that Harry gazed with all his eyes at the memorable meeting. He knew Jackson, and he was already learning much of Lee.
He saw in the Confederate commander-in-chief a man past fifty, ruddy of countenance, hair and beard short, gray and thick, his figure tall and powerful, and his expression at once penetrating and kind. He was dressed in a fine gray uniform, precise and neat.
Such was Robert Edward Lee, and Harry thought him the most impressive human being upon whom he had ever looked.
"General Jackson," said General Lee, "this is a fortunate meeting. You have saved the Confederacy."
General Jackson made a gesture of dissent, but General Lee took him by the arm and they went into the house. General Jackson turned a moment at the door and motioned to Harry to follow. The boy went in, and found himself in a large room. Three men had risen from cane chairs to meet the visitor. One, broad of shoulders, middle-aged and sturdy, was Longstreet. The others more slender of figure were the two Hills.
The major generals came forward eagerly to meet Jackson, and they also had friendly greetings for his young aide. Lee handed them glasses of milk which they drank thirstily.
"You'll find an aide of mine in the next room," said General Lee to Harry. "He's a little older than you are but you should get along together."
Harry bowed and withdrew, and the aide, Charlie Gordon, gave him a hearty welcome. He was three or four years Harry's senior, something of a scholar, but frank and open. When they had exchanged names, Gordon said:
"Stretch out a bit on this old sofa. You look tired. You've been riding a long distance. How many miles have you come?"
"I don't know," replied Harry, as he lay luxuriously on the sofa, "but we started at one o'clock this morning and it is now three o'clock in the afternoon."
"Fourteen hours. It's like what we've been hearing of Stonewall Jackson. I took a peep at him from the window as you rode up."
"I suppose you didn't see much but dust."
"They certainly tell extraordinary things of General Jackson. It can't be possible that all are true!"
"It is possible. They're all true--and more. I tell you, Gordon, when you hear anything wonderful about Stonewall Jackson just you believe it. Don't ask any questions, or reasons but believe it."
"I think I shall," said Gordon, convinced, "but don't forget, Kenton, that we've got a mighty man here, too. You can't be with General Lee long without feeling that you're in the presence of genius."
"And they're friends, not jealous of each other. You could see that at a glance."
"The coming of Jackson is like dawn bursting from the dark. I feel, Kenton, that McClellan's time is at hand."
Harry slept a little after a while, but when he awoke the generals were still in council in the great room.
"I let you sleep because I saw you needed it," said Gordon with a smile, "but I think they're about through in there now. I hear them moving about."
General Jackson presently called Harry and they rode away. The young aide was sent back to the valley army with a message for it to advance as fast as possible in order that it might be hurled on McClellan's flank. Others carried the same message, lest there be any default of chance.
While the army of Jackson swept down by Richmond to join Lee it was lost again to the North. At Washington they still believed it in the valley, advancing on Fremont or Shields. Banks and McDowell had the same belief. McClellan was also at a loss. Two or three scouts had brought in reports that it was marching toward Richmond, but he could not believe them.
The Secretary of War at Washington telegraphed to McClellan that the Union armies under McDowell, Banks, Fremont and Shields were to be consolidated in one great army under McDowell which would crush Jackson utterly in the valley. At the very moment McClellan was reading this telegram the army of Jackson, far to the south of McDowell, was driving in the pickets on his own flank.
Jackson's men had come into a region quite different from the valley. There they marched and fought over firm ground, and crossed rivers with hard rocky banks. Now they were in a land of many deep rivers that flowed in a slow yellow flood with vast swamps between. Most of it was heavy with forest and bushes, and the heat was great. At night vast quantities of mosquitoes and flies and other insects fed bounteously upon them.
The Invincibles lifted up their voices and wept.
"Can't you persuade Old Jack to take us back to the valley, Harry?" said Happy Tom. "If I'm to die I'd rather be shot by an honest Yankee soldier than be stung to death by these clouds of bloodsuckers. Oh, for our happy valley, where we shot at our enemy and he shot at us, both standing on firm ground!"
"You won't be thinking much about mosquitoes and rivers soon," said Harry. "Listen to that, will you! You know the sound, don't you?"
"Know it! Well, I ought to know it. It's the booming of cannon, but it doesn't frighten these mosquitoes and flies a particle. A cannon ball whistling by my head would scare me half to death, but it wouldn't disturb them a bit. They'd look with an evil eye at that cannon ball as it flew by and say to it in threatening tones: 'What are you doing here? Let this fellow alone. He belongs to us.'"
"Which way is McClellan coming, Harry?" asked St. Clair.
"Off there to the east, where you hear the guns."
"How many men has he?"
"Anywhere from a hundred thousand to a hundred and thirty thousand. There are various reports."
Langdon, who had been listening, whistled.
"It doesn't look like a picnic for the Invincibles," he said. "When I volunteered for this war I didn't volunteer to fight a pitched battle every day. What did you volunteer for, Harry?"
"I don't know."
The three laughed. Jackson's famous order certainly fitted well there.
"And you don't know, either," said Happy Tom, "what all that thunder off there to the south and east means. It's the big guns, but who are fighting and where?"
"There's to be a general attack on McClellan along the line of the Chickahominy river," said Harry, "and our army is to be a part of the attacking force, but my knowledge goes no further."
"Then I'm reckoning that some part of our army has attacked already," said Happy Tom. "Maybe they're ahead of time, or maybe the rest are behind time. But there they go! My eyes, how they're whooping it up!"
The cannonade was growing in intensity and volume. Despite the sunset they saw an almost continuous flare of red on the horizon. The three boys felt some awe as they sat there and listened and looked. Well they might! Battle on a far greater scale than anything witnessed before in America had begun already. Two hundred thousand men were about to meet in desperate conflict in the thickets and swamps along the Chickahominy.
Richmond had already heard the crash of McClellan's guns more than once, but apprehension was passing away. Lee, whom they had learned so quickly to trust, stood with ninety thousand men between them and McClellan, and with him was the redoubtable Jackson and his veterans of the valley with their caps full of victories.
McClellan had the larger force, but Lee was on the defensive in his own country, a region which offered great difficulties to the invader.
Harry and his comrades wondered why Jackson did not move, but he remained in his place, and when Harry fell asleep he still heard the thudding of the guns across the vast reach of rivers and creeks, swamps and thickets. When he awoke in the morning they were already at work again, flaring at intervals down there on the eastern horizon. The whole wet, swampy country, so different from his own, seemed to be deserted by everything save the armies. No rabbits sprang up in the thickets and there were no birds. Everything had fled already in the presence of war.
But the army marched. After a brief breakfast the brigades moved down the road, and Harry saw clearly that these veterans of the valley were tremulous with excitement. Youthful, eager, and used to victory, they were anxious to be at the very center of affairs which were now on a gigantic scale. And the throbbing of the distant guns steadily drew them on.
"We'll get all we want before this is through," said Dalton gravely to Harry.
"I think so, too. Listen to those big guns, George! And I think I can hear the crack of rifles, too. Our pickets and those of the enemy must be in contact in the forest there on our left."
"I haven't a doubt of it, but if we rode that way like as not we'd strike first a swamp, or a creek twenty feet deep. I get all tangled up in this kind of a country."
"So do I, but it doesn't make any difference. We just stick along with Old Jack."
The army marched on a long time, always to the accompaniment of that sinister mutter in the southeast. Then they heard the note of a bugle in front of them and Jackson with his staff rode forward near a little church called Walnut Grove, where Lee and his staff sat on their horses waiting. Harry noticed with pride how all the members of Lee's staff crowded forward to see the renowned Jackson.
It was his general upon whom so many were looking, but there was curiosity among Stonewall's men, too, about Lee. As Harry drew back a little while the two generals talked, he found himself again with the officers of the Invincibles.
"He has grown gray since we were with him in Mexico, Hector," he heard Colonel Leonidas Talbot say to Lieutenant-Colonel Hector St. Hilaire.
"Yes, Leonidas, grayer but stronger. What a brow and eye!"
St. Clair and Langdon, who had never seen Lee before, were eager.
"Is he the right man for Old Jack to follow, Harry?" asked Happy Tom.
"I don't think there's any doubt of it, Happy. I saw how they agreed the first time they met, and you can see it now. You'll find them working together as smooth as silk. Ah, here we go again!"
"Then if it's as you say I suppose it's all up with McClellan, and I needn't trouble my mind about the matter any more. Hereafter I'll just go ahead and obey orders."
The words were light, but there was no frivolity in the minds of the three. Despite the many battles through which they had already gone their hearts were beating hard just then, while that roaring was going on on the horizon, and they knew that a great battle was at hand.
Lee and his staff rode toward the battle, and then, to the amazement of his men, Jackson led his army into the deep woods away from the sound of the thundering guns which had been calling to them so incessantly. Harry was mystified and the general vouchsafed no word, even to his own staff. They marched on through woods, across fields, along the edges of swamps, and that crash of battle grew fainter behind them, but never died out.
"What do you think it means?" Harry whispered to Dalton.
"Don't know. I'm not thinking. I'm not here to think at such times. All the thinking we need is going on under the old slouch hat there. Harry, didn't we go with him all through the valley? Can't we still trust him?"
"I can and will."
The army curved about again. Harry, wholly unfamiliar with the country, did not notice it until the roar of the battle began to rise again, showing that they were coming nearer. Then he divined the plan. Jackson was making this circuit through the woods to fall on the Northern flank. It was the first of the great turning movements which Lee and Jackson were to carry through to brilliant success so often.
"Look at the red blaze beyond those bushes," said Dalton, "and listen how rapidly the sound of the battle is growing in volume. I don't know where we are, but I do know now that Old Jack is leading us right into the thick of it."
The general rode forward and stopped his horse on the crest of a low hill. Then Harry and Dalton, looking over the bushes and swamps, saw a great blue army stationed behind a creek and some low works.
"It's McClellan!" exclaimed Dalton.
"Or a part of him," said Harry.
It was a wing of the Northern army. McClellan himself was not there, but many brave generals were, Porter, Slocum and the others. The batteries of this army were engaged in a heavy duel with the Southern batteries in front, and the sharpshooters in the woods and bushes kept up a continuous combat that crackled like the flames of a forest fire.
Harry drew a long breath.
"This is the biggest yet," he said.
The soldiers of Jackson were already marching off through the woods, floundering through deep mud, crossing little streams swollen by heavy rains, but eager to get into action.
It was very difficult for the mounted men, and Harry and Dalton at last dismounted and led their horses. The division made slow progress and as they struggled on the battle deepened. Now and then as they toiled through the muck they saw long masses of blue infantry on a ridge, and with them the batteries of great guns which the gunners of the North knew so well how to use.
Their own proximity was discovered after a while, and shell and bullets began to fly among them, but they emerged at last on firm ground and on the Northern flank.
"It's hot and growing hotter," said Dalton.
"And we'll help increase the heat if we ever get through these morasses," said Harry.
He felt the bridle suddenly pulled out of his hand, and turned to catch his runaway horse, but the horse had been shot dead and his body had fallen into the swamp. Dalton's horse also was killed presently by a piece of shell, but the two plunged along on foot, endeavoring to keep up with the general.
The fire upon them was increasing fast. Some of the great guns on the ridge were now searching their ranks with shell and shrapnel and many a man sank down in the morass, to be lost there forever. But Jackson never ceased to urge them on. They were bringing their batteries that way, too, and men and horses alike tugged at the cannon.
"If we ever get through," said Harry, "we're bound to do big things."
"We'll get through, never fear," said Dalton. "Isn't Old Jack driving us?"
"Here we are!" Harry shouted suddenly as his feet felt firm ground.
"And here's the whole division, too!" exclaimed Dalton.
The regiments and brigades of Jackson emerged from the forest, and with them came six batteries of cannon which they had almost carried over the swamp. The whole battlefield now came into sight, but the firing and the smoke were so great that it seemed to change continuously in color and even in shape. At one moment there was a ridge where none had been before, then where Harry had seen a creek there was only dry land. But he knew that they were illusions of the eyes, due to the excited brain behind them.
Harry saw the six batteries of Jackson planted in a long row on the hard ground, and then open with a terrific crash on the defenders of the ridge. The sound was so tremendous that he was deafened for a few moments. By the time his hearing was restored fully the batteries fired again and the Northern batteries on the hill replied. Then the mass of infantry charged and Harry and Dalton on foot, waving their swords and wild with excitement, charged with them.
The plans of Lee and Jackson, working together for the first time in a great battle, went through. When Lee heard the roar of Jackson's guns on the flank he, too, sent word to his division commanders to charge with their full strength. In an instant the Northern army was assailed both in front and on the side, by a great force, rushing forward, sure of victory and sending the triumphant rebel yell echoing through the woods of the Chickahominy.
Harry felt the earth tremble beneath him as nearly a hundred thousand men closed in deadly conflict. He could hear nothing but the continued roar, and he saw only a vast, blurred mass of men and guns. But he was conscious that they were going forward, up the hill, straight toward the enemy's works, and he felt sure of victory.
He had grounds for his faith. Lee with the smaller army, had nevertheless brought superior numbers upon the field at the point of action. Porter and Slocum were staunch defenders. The Northern army, though shattered by cannon and rifle fire, stood fast on the ridge until the charging lines were within ten feet of them. Then they gave way, but carried with them most of their cannon, reformed further back, and fought again.
Harry found himself shouting triumphantly over one of the captured guns, but the Southern troops were allowed no time to exult. The sun was already sinking over the swamps and the battlefield, but Lee and Jackson lifted up their legions and hurled them anew to the attack. McClellan was not there when he was needed most, but Porter did all that a man could do. Only two of his eighty guns had been taken, and he might yet have made a stand, but the last of Jackson's force suddenly emerged from the forest and again he was struck with terrible impact on the flank.
The Northern army gave way again. The Southern brigades rushed forward in pursuit, capturing many prisoners, and giving impulse to the flight of their enemies. Their riflemen shot down the horses drawing the retreating cannon. Many of the guns were lost, twenty-two of them falling into Southern hands. Some of the newer regiments melted entirely away under an attack of such fierceness. Nothing stopped the advance of Lee and Jackson but the night, and the arrival of a heavy reinforcement sent by McClellan. The new force, six thousand strong, was stationed in a wood, the guns that had escaped were turned upon the enemy, Porter and Slocum rallied their yet numerous force, and when the dark came down the battle ceased with the Northern army in the east defeated again, but not destroyed.
As Harry rode over the scene of battle that night he shuddered. The fields, the forests and the swamps were filled with the dead and the wounded. Save Shiloh, no other such sanguinary battle had yet been fought on American soil. Nearly ten thousand of the Southern youths had fallen, killed or wounded. The North, standing on the defensive, had not lost so many, but the ghastly roll ran into many thousands.
That night, as had happened often in the valley, the hostile sentinels were within hearing of each other, but they fired no shots. Meanwhile, Lee and Jackson, after the victory, which was called Gaines' Mill, planned to strike anew.
Harry awoke in the morning to find that most of the Northern army was gone. The brigades had crossed the river in the night, breaking down the bridges behind them. He saw the officers watching great columns of dust moving away, and he knew that they marked the line of the Northern march. But the Southern scouts and skirmishers found many stragglers in the woods, most of them asleep or overpowered by weariness. Thus they found the brilliant General Reynolds, destined to a glorious death afterward at Gettysburg, sound asleep in the bushes, having been lost from his command in the darkness and confusion. The Southern army rested through the morning, but in the afternoon was on the march again. Harry found that both St. Clair and Langdon had escaped without harm this time, but Happy Tom had lost some of his happiness.
"This man Lee is worse than Jackson," he lamented. "We've just fought the biggest battle that ever was, and now we're marching hot-foot after another."
Happy Tom was right. Lee and Jackson had resolved to give McClellan no rest. They were following him closely and Stuart with the cavalry hung in a cloud on his flanks. They pressed him hard the next day at White Oak Swamp, Jackson again making the circular movement and falling on his flank, while Longstreet attacked in front. There was a terrible battle in thick forest and among deep ravines, but the darkness again saved the Northern army, which escaped, leaving cannon and men in the hands of the enemy.
Harry lay that night in a daze rather than sleep. He was feverish and exhausted, yet he gathered some strength from the stupor in which he lay. All that day they marched along the edge of a vast swamp, and they heard continually the roar of a great battle on the horizon, which they were not able to reach. It was Glendale, where Longstreet and one of the Hills fought a sanguinary draw with McClellan. But the Northern commander, knowing that a drawn battle in the enemy's country was equivalent to a defeat, continued his retreat and the Southern army followed, attacking at every step. The roar of artillery resounded continuously through the woods and the vanguard of one army and the rear guard of the other never ceased their rifle fire.
Neither Harry nor his young comrades could ever get a clear picture of the vast, confused battle amid the marshes of the Chickahominy, extending over so long a period and known as the Seven Days, but it was obvious to them now that Richmond was no longer in danger. The coming of Jackson had enabled Lee to attack McClellan with such vigor and fierceness that the young Northern general was forced not only to retreat, but to fight against destruction.
But the Union mastery of the water, always supreme, was to come once more to the relief of the Northern army. As McClellan made his retreat, sometimes losing and sometimes beating off the enemy, but always leaving Richmond further and further behind, he had in mind his fleet in the James, and then, if pushed to the last extremity, the sea by which they had come.
But there were many staunch fighters yet in his ranks, and the Southern leaders were soon to find that they could not trifle with the Northern army even in defeat. He turned at Malvern Hill, a position of great strength, posted well his numerous and powerful artillery, and beat off all the efforts of Lee and Jackson and Longstreet and the two Hills, and Armistead and the others. More than five thousand of the Southern troops fell in the fruitless charges. Then McClellan retreated to the James River and his gunboats and the forces of the North were not to come as near Richmond again for nearly three years.
The armies of Lee and Jackson marched back toward the Southern capital, for the possession of which forty thousand men had fallen in the Seven Days. Harry rode with Dalton, St. Clair and Langdon. They had come through the inferno unhurt, and while they shared in the rejoicings of the Virginia people, they had seen war, continued war, in its most terrible aspects, and they felt graver and older.
By the side of them marched the thin ranks of the Invincibles, with the two colonels, erect and warlike, leading them. Just ahead was Stonewall Jackson, stooped slightly in the saddle, the thoughtful blue eyes looking over the heads of his soldiers into the future.
"If he hadn't made that tremendous campaign in the valley," said Dalton, "McClellan allied with McDowell would have come here with two hundred thousand men and it would have been all over."
"But he made it and he saved us," said Harry, glancing at his hero.
"And I'm thinking," said Happy Tom Langdon, glancing toward the North, "that he'll have to make more like it. The Yankees will come again, stronger than ever."