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- An Original Belle - 60/94 -
senses somewhat. I saw that the enemy's advance was checked, that the spot where lay the Confederate general would mark the highest point attained by the crimson wave of Southern valor, for Union troops were concentrating in overwhelming numbers. The wound in my hand had broken out afresh. I hastened to get back out of the melee, the crush, and the 'sing' of bullets, and soon reached my old post of observation, exhausted and panting. The correspondents were still there, and one of them patted me on the shoulder in a way meant to be encouraging, and offered to put my name in his paper, an honor which I declined. We soon parted, unknown to each other. I learned, however, that the name of the gallant brigadier was Webb, and that he had been wounded. So also was General Hancock at this point.
"The enemy's repulse was now changed into a rout. Prisoners were brought in by hundreds, while those retreating across the plain were followed by death-dealing shot and shell from our lines. As I sat resting on my rock of observation, I felt that one could not exult over such a foe, and I was only conscious of profound gratitude over my own and the army's escape. Certainly if enough men, animated by the same desperate courage, had taken part in the attack, it would have been irresistible.
"As soon as I saw that the battle at this point was practically decided, I started back towards our left with the purpose of finding my regiment and our surgeon, for my hand had become very painful. I was so fortunate as to meet with my command as it was being moved up within a few rods of the main line of the Third Corps, where we formed a part of the reserve. Joining my little company and seeing their familiar faces was like coming home. Their welcome, a cup of coffee, and the redressing of my wound made me over again. I had to answer many questions from the small group of officers remaining, for they, kept in the rear all day, had not yet learned much about the battle or its results.
"While I gladdened their hearts with the tidings of our victory, our surgeon growled: 'I'll have you put under arrest if you don't keep quiet. You've been doing more than look on, or your hand would not be in its present condition.'
"Soon after I fell asleep, with my few and faithful men around me, and it was nearly midnight when I wakened."
"It's very evident that none of your present audience is inclined to sleep," Marian exclaimed, with a deep breath.
"And yet it's after midnight," Mr. Vosburgh added. "I fear we are taxing you, captain, far beyond your strength. Your cheeks, Marian, are feverish."
"I do not feel weary yet," said the young officer, "if you are not. Imagine that I have just waked up from that long nap of which I have spoken. Miss Marian was such a sympathetic listener that I dwelt much longer than I intended on scenes which impressed me powerfully. I have not yet described my search for Strahan, or given Mr. Merwyn such hints as my experience affords. Having just come from the field, I do not see that he could gain much by undue haste. He can accomplish quite as much by leaving sometime tomorrow. To be frank, I believe that the only place to find Strahan is under a rebel guard going South. Our troops may interpose in time to release him; if not, he will be exchanged before long."
"In a matter of this kind there should be no uncertainty which can possibly be removed," Merwyn said, in a husky voice. "I shall now save time by obtaining the information you can give, for I shall know better how to direct my search. I shall certainly go in the morning."
"Yes, captain," said Marian, eagerly. "Since you disclaim weariness we could listen for hours yet. You are a skilful narrator, for, intensely as your story has interested me, you have reserved its climax to the last, even though your search led you only among woful scenes in the hospitals."
"On such scenes I will touch as lightly as possible, and chiefly for Mr. Merwyn's benefit; for if Strahan had been left on the field, either killed or wounded, I do not see how he could have escaped me." Then, with a smile at the young girl, he added: "Since you credit me with some skill as a story-teller, and since my story is so long, perhaps it should be divided. In that case what I am now about to relate should be headed with the words, 'My search for Strahan.'"
BLAUVELT'S SEARCH FOR STRAHAN.
"You will remember," said the captain, after a moment's pause, that he might take up the thread of his narrative consecutively, "that I awoke a little before midnight. At first I was confused, but soon all that had happened came back to me. I found myself a part of a long line of sleeping men that formed the reserve. Not farther than from here across the street was another line in front of us. Beyond this were our vigilant pickets, and then the vedettes of the enemy. All seemed strangely still and peaceful, but a single shot would have brought thousands of men to their feet. The moon poured a soft radiance over all, and gave to the scene a weird and terrible beauty. The army was like a sleeping giant. Would its awakening be as terrible as on the last three mornings? Then I thought of that other army sleeping beyond our lines,--an army which neither bugle nor the thunder of all our guns could awaken.
"I soon distinguished faint, far-off sounds from the disputed territory beyond our pickets. Rising, I put my hand to my ear, and then heard the words, 'Water! water!'
"They were the cries of wounded men entreating for that which would quench their intolerable thirst. The thought that Strahan might be among this number stung me to the very quick, and I hastened to the senior captain, who now commanded the regiment. I found him alert and watchful, with the bugle at his side, for he felt the weight of responsibility so suddenly thrust upon him.
"'Captain Markham,' I said, 'do you hear those cries for water?'
"'Yes,' he replied, sadly; 'I have heard them for hours,
"'Among them may be Strahan's voice,' I said, eagerly.
"'Granting it, what could we do? Our pickets are way this side of the spot where he fell.'
"'Captain,' I cried, 'Strahan was like a brother to me. I can't rest here with the possibility that he is dying yonder for a little water. I am relieved from duty, you know. If one of my company will volunteer to go with me, will you give him your permission? I know where Strahan fell, and am willing to try to reach him and bring him in.'
"'No,' said the captain, 'I can't give such permission. You might be fired on and the whole line aroused. You can go to our old brigade-commander, however--he now commands the division,--and see what he says. He's back there under that tree. Of course, you know, I sympathize with your feeling, but I cannot advise the risk. Good heavens, Blauvelt! we've lost enough officers already.'
"'I'll be back soon,' I answered.
"To a wakeful aid I told my errand, and he aroused the general, who was silent after he had been made acquainted with my project.
"'I might bring in some useful information,' I added, hastily.
"The officer knew and liked Strahan, but said: 'I shall have to put my permission on the ground of a reconnoissance. I should be glad to know if any changes are taking place on our front, and so would my superiors. Of course you understand the risk you run when once beyond our pickets?'
"'Strahan would do as much and more for me,' I replied.
"'Very well;' and he gave me permission to take a volunteer, at the same time ordering me to report to him on my return.
"I went back to our regimental commander, who growled, 'Well, if you will go I suppose you will; but it would be a foolhardy thing for even an unwounded man to attempt.'
"I knew a strong, active young fellow in my company who would go anywhere with me, and, waking him up, explained my purpose. He was instantly on the qui vive. I procured him a revolver, and we started at once. On reaching our pickets we showed our authority to pass, and were informed that the enemy's vedettes ran along the ridge on which we had fought the day before. Telling our pickets to pass the word not to fire on us if we came in on the run, we stole down into the intervening valley.
"The moon was now momentarily obscured by clouds, and this favored us. My plan was to reach the woods on which the right of our regiment had rested. Here the shadows would be deep, and our chances better. Crouching and creeping silently from bush to bush, we made our gradual progress until we saw a sentinel slowly pacing back and forth along the edge of the woods. Most of his beat was in shadow, and there were bushes and rocks extending almost to it. We watched him attentively for a time, and then my companion whispered: 'The Johnny seems half dead with sleep. I believe I can steal up and capture him without a sound. I don't see how we can get by him as long as he is sufficiently wide awake to walk.'
"'Very well. You have two hands, and my left is almost useless,' I said. 'Make your attempt where the shadow is deepest, and if he sees you, and is about to shoot, see that you shoot first. I'll be with you instantly if you succeed, and cover your retreat in case of failure."
"In a moment, revolver in hand, he was gliding, like a shadow, from cover to cover, and it was his good fortune to steal up behind the sleepy sentinel, grasp his musket, and whisper, with his pistol against his head, 'Not a sound, or you are dead.'
"The man was discreet enough to be utterly silent. In a moment
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