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freedmen, whom the previous speaker wished to see driven out of the State ; seasoning his speech for the vulgar with timely panegyrics on the heroism of the Confederate soldiers.
The election took place a few days later; and I thought it creditable to the good sense of the district that the younger candidate was chosen.
Of the political views of the people, or of the real sentiments of the speakers themselves, not much was to be learned at such a meeting. The heart of the South was boiling with thoughts and emotions which did not come openly to the surface. On the subject of the national debt, for example. Public speakers and public prints were ominously silent about it; and seldom could a discreet citizen be induced to speak of it with any degree of frankness. I was plainly told, however, by a gentleman of Richmond, that the question was often privately discussed, and that the secessionists would never, if they could help it, submit to be taxed to pay the expenses of their own subjugation. : “ But how is it proposed to help it ?”
" The first step is to resume their place in the Union. Until that is accomplished, they will remain silent on this and some other delicate subjects. They hope gradually to regain their old power in the nation, when they will unite with the Democratic party of the North, and repudiate the debt."
If I could have been seriously alarmed by such a prospect, what I witnessed at political meetings and elsewhere, would have done much to dispel my apprehensions. I was strongly impressed by this important fact. The old trained politicians,
— whom a common interest, slavery, banded together, and whom no consideration of reason or justice could turn from their purpose, – that formidable phalanx had been broken : nearly every man of them had taken an active part in the Rebellion, and could not therefore, without shameful recreancy and voluntary humiliation on the part of the North, be readmitted to the councils of the nation they had attempted to destroy. In their place we may for some years hope to see a
very different class of men, whose youth, or modesty, or good fortune, or good sense, before kept them aloof from political life; men new to the Congressional arena, and therefore more susceptible to the regenerating influence of national ideas and institutions.
CHAPTER XXVI. FORTIFICATIONS. — DUTCH GAP. — FAIR OAKS. At nine o'clock one fine morning, Major K— the young Judge-Advocate of the Department of Virginia, called for me by appointment, accompanied by an orderly bringing a tall war-horse General Terry was so kind as to furnish for my use.
I was soon mounted, and riding out of the city by the Major's side, — down the long, hilly street, past the Rocketts, by the left bank of the river, taking the New-Market Road. First we came to a circle of detached forts surrounding the city; a few minutes' ride farther on brought us to a heavy continuous line of earthworks surrounding the first line. These were the original fortifications of Richmond. Crossing a desolate undulating country of weeds and undergrowth, we reached the works below Laurel Hill, of more recent construction, and of a more formidable character. The embankments were eighteen feet high from the bottom of the ditch. This was some six feet deep and twelve broad. There were two lines of bristling abatis. These, together with the wooden revetments of the works, had been levied upon by the inhabitants in search of firewood.
Three quarters of a mile beyond we came to the heavy intrenchments of the Army of the James. Between the two lines were the picket-lines of the opposing forces, in places no more than three hundred yards apart. Here the two armies lay and watched each other through the last weary Autumn and Winter of the war. The earth was blotched with “ gopher holes," — hasty excavations in which the veteran videttes proceeded at once to intrench themselves, on being sent out to a new post. “It was astonishing," said the Major, " to see
what a breastwork they would throw up in a few minutes, with no other tools than a bayonet and a tin-plate. The moment they were at their station, down they went, scratching and digging."
We had previously stopped at Laurel Hill, to look across the broken country on the south, at Fort Gilmer, which the troops of General Foster's division charged with such unfortunate results. The Major, then serving on Foster's staff, participated in that affair. “I never can look upon this field," said he, “ without emotion. I lost some of my dearest friends in that assault.”
So it is in every battle : somebody loses his dearest friends.
We rode on past the Federal works into the winter-quarters of the army, - a city of huts, with streets regularly laid out, now deserted and in ruins. Here and there I noted an oldfashioned New-England well-sweep still standing. The line of works was semicircular, both ends resting on the river. Within that ox-bow was the encampment of the Army of the James.
We next visited New-Market Heights, where Butler's colored regiments formed unflinchingly under fire, and made their gallant charge, wiping out with their own blood the insults that had been heaped upon them by the white troops. “ The army saw that charge, and it never insulted a colored soldier after that,” said the Major.
We then galloped across the country, intending to strike Dutch Gap Canal. Not a habitation was in sight. Vast fields spread before us, and we rode through forests of weeds that overtopped our horses' heads. We became entangled in earthworks, and had to retrace our course. More than once we were compelled to dismount and tear our way through abatis and chevaux-de-frize. The result was, we lost our bearings, and, after riding several miles quite blindly, struck the James at Deep Bottom. Then up the river we galloped, traversing pine woods and weedy plains, avoiding marsh and gully, and leaping ditches, past Aiken's Landing, to a yellow elevation of earth across a narrow peninsula, which proved to be Dutch