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- Taken Alive - 2/66 -


He often practiced close economy in order to give his sons a good education. The one act of my life which I remember with unalloyed pride and pleasure occured while I was at boarding-school in Vermont, preparing for college. I learned through my mother that my father had denied himself his daily newspaper; and I knew well how much he would miss it. We burned wood in the large stone seminary building. Every autumn great ranks of hard maple were piled up, and students who wished to earn a little money were paid a dollar a cord for sawing it into three lengths. I applied for nine cords, and went at the unaccustomed task after study hours. My back aches yet as I recall the experiences of subsequent weeks, for the wood was heavy, thick, and hard as bone. I eventually had the pleasure of sending to my father the subscription price of his paper for a year. If a boy reads these lines, let me assure him that he will never know a sweeter moment in his life than when he receives the thanks of his parents for some such effort in their behalf. No investment can ever pay him better.

In one of my books, "Nature's Serial Story," my father and mother appear, slightly idealized.

Toward the close of my first year in Williams College a misfortune occurred which threatened to be very serious. Studying by defective light injured my eyes. They quickly became so sensitive that I could scarcely endure lamplight or the heat of a stove, only the cold out-door air relieving the pain; so I spent much time in wandering about in the boisterous weather of early spring in Williamstown. At last I became so discouraged that I went to President Hopkins and told him that I feared I must give up the purpose of acquiring an education. Never can I forget how that grand old man met the disheartened boy. Speaking in the wise, friendly way which subdued the heart and strengthened the will, he made the half-hour spent with him the turning-point of my life. In conclusion, he advised me to enter the Senior class the following fall, thus taking a partial course of study. How many men are living to-day who owe much of the best in their lives to that divinely inspired guide and teacher of youth!

I next went to another man great in his sphere of life--Dr. Agnew, the oculist. He gave my eyes a thorough examination, told me that he could do nothing for them; that rest and the vigor acquired from out-door life would restore them. He was as kind and sympathetic in his way as the college president, and charged but a trifle, to relieve me from the sense of taking charity. Dr. Agnew's words proved correct; and the following autumn I entered the class of '61, and spent a happy year. Some of my classmates were very kind in reading aloud to me, while Dr. Hopkins's instruction was invaluable. By the time I entered Auburn Theological Seminary, my eyes were quite restored, and I was able to go through the first year's course of study without difficulty. In the summer of 1862 I could no longer resist the call for men in the army. Learning that the Second New York (Harris's Light) Cavalry was without a chaplain, I obtained the appointment to that position. General Kilpatrick was then lieutenant-colonel, and in command of the regiment. In December, 1862, I witnessed the bloody and disastrous battle of Fredericksburg, and can never forget the experiences of that useless tragedy. I was conscious of a sensation which struck me as too profound to be merely awe. Early in the morning we crossed the Rappahannock on a pontoon bridge and marched up the hill to an open plain. The roar of the battle was simply terrific, shading off from the sharp continuous thunder immediately about us to dull, heavy mutterings far to the right and left. A few hundred yards before us, where the ground began to slope up to the fatal heights crowned with Confederate works and ordnance, were long lines of Union batteries. From their iron mouths puffs of smoke issued incessantly, followed by tremendous reverberations. Back of these batteries the ground was covered with men lying on their arms, that they might present a less obvious target. Then a little further to the rear, on the level ground above the bluff, stood our cavalry. Heavy guns on both sides of the river were sending their great shrieking shells back and forth over our heads, and we often "ducked" instinctively when the missile was at least forty feet above us. Even our horses shuddered at the sound.

I resolved to learn if the men were sharing in my emotions--in brief, what effect the situation had upon them--and rode slowly down our regimental line. So vivid was the impression of that long array of awed, pallid faces that at this moment I can recall them distinctly. There were strange little touches of mingled pathos and humor. Meadow-larks were hemmed in on every side, too frightened to fly far beyond the rude alarms. They would flutter up into the sulphurous air with plaintive cries, then drop again into the open spaces between the troops. At one time, while we were standing at our horses' heads, a startled rabbit ran to us for cover. The poor little creature meant a dinner to the fortunate captor on a day when a dinner was extremely problematical. We engaged in a sharp scramble, the prize being won by the regimental surgeon, who kindly shared his game with me.

General Bayard, commanding our brigade, was mortally wounded, and died like a hero. He was carried to a fine mansion near which he had received his injury. Many other desperately wounded men were brought to the spacious rooms of this abode of Southern luxury, and the surgeons were kept busy all throught the day and night. It was here I gained my first experience in hospital work. This extemporized hospital on the field was so exposed as to be speedily abandoned. In the morning I recrossed the Rappahannock with my regiment, which had been ordered down the river on picket duty. Soon after we went into winter quarters in a muddy cornfield. In February I resigned, with the purpose of completing my studies, and spent the remainder of the term at the Union Theological Seminary of New York. My regiment would not get another chaplain, so I again returned to it. In November I received a month's leave of absence, and was married to Miss Anna P. Sands, of New York City. Our winter quarters in 1864 were at Stevensburg, between the town of Culpeper and the Rapidan River. During the pleasant days of late February several of the officers were enjoying the society of their wives. Mrs. Roe having expressed a willingness to rough it with me for a week, I sent for her, and one Saturday afternoon went to the nearest railroad station to meet her. The train came, but not my wife; and, much disappointed, I found the return ride of five miles a dreary one in the winter twilight. I stopped at our colonel's tent to say to him and his wife that Mrs. Roe had not come, then learned for the first time very startling tidings.

"Chaplain," said the colonel, "we are going to Richmond to-morrow. We are going to wade right through and past everything in a neck- or-nothing ride, and who will come out is a question."

His wife was weeping in her private tent, and I saw that for the first time in my acquaintance with him he was downcast. He was one of the bravest of men, yet now a foreboding of evil oppressed him. The result justified it, for he was captured during the raid, and never fully rallied after the war from the physical depression caused by his captivity. He told me that on the morrow General Kilpatrick would lead four thousand picked cavalry men in a raid on Richmond, having as its special object the release of our prisoners. I rode to the headquarters of the general, who confirmed the tidings, adding, "You need not go. Non-combatants are not expected to go."

It was most fortunate that my wife had not come. I had recently been appointed chaplain of Hampton Hospital, Virginia, by President Lincoln, and was daily expecting my confirmation by the Senate. I had fully expected to give my wife a glimpse of army life in the field, and then to enter on my new duties. To go or not to go was a question with me that night. The raid certainly offered a sharp contrast with the anticipated week's outing with my bride. I did not possess by nature that kind of courage which is indifferent to danger; and life had never offered more attractions than at that time. I have since enjoyed Southern hospitality abundantly, and hope to again, but then its prospect was not alluring. Before morning, however, I reached the decision that I would go, and during the Sunday forenoon held my last service in the regiment. I had disposed of my horse, and so had to take a sorry beast at the last moment, the only one I could obtain.

In the dusk of Sunday evening four thousand men were masked in the woods on the banks of the Rapidan. Our scouts opened the way by wading the stream and pouncing upon the unsuspecting picket of twenty Confederates opposite. Then away we went across a cold, rapid river, marching all that night through the dim woods and openings in a country that was emphatically the enemy's. Lee's entire army was on our right, the main Confederate cavalry force on our left. The strength of our column and its objective point could not remain long unknown.

In some unimportant ways I acted as aid for Kilpatrick. A few hundred yards in advance of the main body rode a vanguard of two hundred men, thrown forward to warn us should we strike any considerable number of the enemy's cavalry. As is ever the case, the horses of a small force will walk away from a much larger body, and it was necessary from time to time to send word to the vanguard, ordering it to "slow up." This order was occasionally intrusted to me. I was to gallop over the interval between the two columns, then draw up by the roadside and sit motionless on my horse till the general with his staff came up. The slightest irregularity of action would bring a shot from our own men, while the prospect of an interview with the Johnnies while thus isolated was always good. I saw one of our officers shot that night. He had ridden carelessly into the woods, and rode out again just before the head of the column, without instantly accounting for himself. As it was of vital importance to keep the movement secret as long as possible, the poor fellow was silenced in sad error as to his identity.

On we rode, night and day, with the briefest possible halts. At one point we nearly captured a railroad train, and might easily have succeeded had not the station and warehouses been in flames. As it was, the train approached us closely, then backed, the shrieking engine itself giving the impression of being startled to the last degree.

On a dreary, drizzling, foggy day we passed a milestone on which was lettered, "Four miles to Richmond." It was still "on to Richmond" with us what seemed a long way further, and then came a considerable period of hesitancy, in which the command was drawn up for the final dash. The enemy shelled a field near us vigorously, but fortunately, or unfortunately, the fog was so dense that neither party could make accurate observations or do much execution.

For reasons that have passed into history, the attack was not made. We withdrew six miles from the city and went into camp.

I had scarcely begun to enjoy much-needed rest before the


Taken Alive - 2/66

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