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dark shaft at the faintly glimmering water, — for the well was deep, - I thought how often the old General had probably come up thither from the field, taken off his hat in the shade, and solaced his thirst with a drink from the dripping bucket.
Passing between the kitchen and the butler's house, you come upon a small plateau, a level green lawn, nearly surrounded by a circle of large shade-trees. The shape of this pleasant esplanade is oblong: at the farther end, away on the left, is the ancient entrance to the grounds; close by on the right, at the end nearest the river, is the mansion..
Among the shade-trees, of which there are a great variety, ' noticed a fine sugar-maple, said to be the only individual of the species in all that region. It was planted by General Washington, “who wished to see what trees would grow in chat climate,” the gardener told me. It has for neighbors, among many others, a tulip-tree, a Kentucky coffee-tree, and a magnolia set out by Washington's own hand. I looked at the last with peculiar interest, thinking it a type of our country, the perennial roots of which were about the same time laid carefully in the bosom of the eternal mother, covered and nursed and watered by the same illustrious hand,-a little tree then, feeble, and by no means sure to live; but now I looked up, thrilling with pride at the glory of its spreading branches, its storm-defying tops, and its mighty trunk which not even the axe of treason could sever.
I approached the mansion. It was needless to lift the great brass knocker, for the door was open. The house was full of guests thronging the rooms and examining the relics; among which were conspicuous these : hanging in a little brass-framed glass case in the hall, the key of the Bastile, presented to Washington by Lafayette; in the dining-hall, a very oldfashioned harpsichord that had entirely lost its voice, but which is still cherished as a wedding-gift from Washington to his adopted daughter ; in the same room, holsters and a part of the Commander-in-chief's camp-equipage, very dilapidated; and, in a square bedroom up-stairs, the bedstead on which Washington slept, and on which he died. There is no sight more touching than this bedstead, surrounded by its holy associations, to be seen at Mount Vernon.
From the house I went out on the side opposite that on which I had entered, and found myself standing under the portico we had seen when coming down the river. A noble portico, lofty as the eaves of the house, and extending the whole length of the mansion,- fifteen feet in width and ninetysix in length, says the Guide-Book. The square pillars supporting it are not so slender, either ; but it was their height which made them appear so when we first saw them miles off up the Potomac.
What a portico for a statesman to walk under, — so lofty, so spacious, and affording such views of the river and its shores, and the sky over all ! Once more I saw the venerable figure of him, the first in war and the first in peace, pacing to and fro on those pavements of flat stone, solitary, rapt in thought, glancing ever and anon up the Potomac towards the site of the now great capital bearing his name, contemplating the revolution accomplished, and dreaming of his country's future. There was one great danger he feared : the separation of the States. But well for him, 0, well for the great-hearted and wise chieftain, that the appalling blackness of the storm, destined so soon to deluge the land with blood for rain-drops, was hidden from his eyes, or appeared far in the dim horizon no bigger than a man's hand!
Saved from the sordid hands of a degenerate posterity, saved from the desolation of unsparing civil war, Mount Vernon still remains to us with its antique mansion and its delightful shades. I took all the more pleasure in the place, remembering how dear it was to its illustrious owner. There is no trait in Washington's character with which I sympathize so strongly as with his love for his home. True, that home was surrounded with all the comforts and elegancies which fortune and taste could command. But had Mount Vernon been as humble as it was beautiful, Washington would have loved it scarcely less. It was dear to him, not as a fine estate, but as the home of his heart. A simply great and truly wise
man, free from foolish vanity and ambition, he served his country with a willing spirit; yet he knew well that happiness does not subsist upon worldly honors nor dwell in high places, but that her favorite haunt is by the pure waters of domestic tranquillity.
There came up a sudden thunder-shower while we were at the house. The dreadful peals rolled and rattled from wing to wing of the black cloud that overshadowed the river, and the rain fell in torrents. Umbrellas were scarce, and I am sorry to say the portico leaked badly. But the storm passed as suddenly as it came; the rifted clouds floated away with sun-lit, edges glittering like silver fire, and all the wet leafage of the trees twinkled and laughed in the fresh golden light. I did not return to the boat with the crowd by the way we came, but descended the steep banks through the drenched woods in front of the mansion, to the low sandy shore of the Potomac, then walked along the water's edge, under the dripping boughs, to the steamer, and so took my leave of Mount Vernon.
LEAVING Washington by steamer again, early on the morning of the twelfth of September, a breezy sail of three hours down the Potomac brought us to Acquia Creek.
The creek was still there, debouching broad and placid into the river, for, luckily, destroying armies cannot consume the everlasting streams. The forests, which densely covered all that region before the war, had been cut away. Not a building of any kind was to be seen; and only the blackened ruins of half-burnt wharves, extending out into the river, remained to indicate that here had been an important depot of supplies.
Taking the cars near an extemporized landing, we traversed a country of shaggy hills, completely clad in thick undergrowths which had sprung up where the ancient forests stood. At the end of two hours' slow travel, through a tract almost exclusively of this character, we arrived at a hiatus in the railroad. The bridge over the Rappahannock not having been rebuilt since the war, it was necessary to cross to Fredericksburg by another conveyance than the cars. A long line of coaches was in waiting for the train. I climbed the topmost seat of the foremost coach, which was soon leading the rumbling, dusty procession over the hills toward the city.
From a barren summit we obtained a view of Fredericksburg, pleasantly situated on the farther bank of the river, with the high ridge behind it which Burnside endeavored in vain to take. We crossed the brick-colored Rappahannock (not a lovely strearn to look upon) by a pontoon bridge, and ascending the opposite shore, rode through the half-ruined city.
Fredericksburg had not yet begun to recover from the effects of Burnside's shells. Scarcely a house in the burnt portions ENTERING FREDERICKSBURG.
had been rebuilt. Many houses were entirely destroyed, and only the solitary chimney-stacks remained. Of others, you saw no vestige but broken brick walls, and foundations overgrown with Jamestown-weeds, sumachs, and thistles. Farther up from the river the town had been less badly used; but we passed even there many a dwelling with a broken chimney, and with great awkward holes in walls and roofs. Some were windowless and deserted; but others had been patched up and rendered inhabitable again. High over the city soar the church-spires, which, standing between two artillery fires on the day of the battle, received the ironical compliments of both. The zinc sheathing of one of these steeples is well riddled and ripped, and the tipsy vane leans at an angle of forty-five degrees from its original perpendicular.
Sitting next me on the stage-top was a vivacious young expressman, who was in the battle, and who volunteered to give me some account of it. No doubt his description was beautifully clear, but as he spoke only of “our army," without calling it by name, it was long before I could decide which army was meant. Sometimes it seemed to be one, then it was more likely the other; so that, before his account of its movements was ended, my mind was in a delightful state of confusion. A certain delicacy on my part, which was quite superfluous, had prevented me from asking him plainly at first on which side he was fighting. At last, by inference and indirection, I got at the fact; — "our army” was the Rebel army.
“ I am a son of Virginia !” he told me afterwards, his whole manner expressing a proud satisfaction. “I was opposed to secession at first, but afterwards I went into it with my whole heart and soul. Do you want to know what carried me in ? State pride, sir! nothing else in the world. I'd give more for Virginia than for all the rest of the Union put together; and I was bound to go wit! my State.”
This was spoken with emphasis, and a certain rapture, as a lover might speak of his mistress. I think I never before realized so fully what “ State pride” was. In New England and the West, you find very little of it. However deep it may