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DOWN THE RIVER TO HARPER'S FERRY.
SHARPSBURG is not a promising place to spend the night in, and I determined to leave it that evening. In search of a private conveyance, I entered a confectioner's shop, and asked a young lady behind the counter if she knew any person who would take me to Harper's Ferry.
“Yes; Mr. Bennerhalls,” she replied; “I reckon ye can get him.”
She gave me particular directions for finding his house, and I went up one of the broken pavements “ fanged with murderous stones,” in search of him. To my surprise I was told that Mr. Bennerhalls did not live on that street; further, that no person of that name was known in Sharpsburg. I returned to the confectioner's shop.
** You said Mr. Bennerhalls ?” ; “ Yes, sir; Mr. Bennerhalls, and Mr. Cra nerhalls, and Mr. Joneshalls ; I should think you might get one of them.”
I fancy the young lady must have seen a smile on my countenance just then. Bennerhalls, Cramerhalls, Joneshalls, - what outlandish cognomens were these ? Did half the family names in Sharpsburg rejoice in the termination halls ?
"I know Mr. Joneshalls,” said the young lady, as I stood solving the doubt, probably with an amused expression which she mistook for sarcastic incredulity.
“ Joneshalls” I had never heard of. But I had heard of Jones. Thanks to that somewhat familiar name, I had found a clue to the mystery.' " Jones hauls,” thought I, that is to say, Jones hauls people over the road in his wagon.
And the first-mentioned individual was not Bennerhalls at all, but one Benner who hauled.
I thanked the young lady for her courtesy, - and I am sure she must have thought me a very pleasant man, — and went to find Mr. Benner without the halls.
No difficulty this time. He was sitting on a doorstep, whure he had perhaps heard me before inquiring up and down for Mr. Bennerhalls, and scratched his head over the odd patronymic.
“ Yes, I have hosses, and I haul sometimes, but I can't put one on 'em over that road to Harper's Ferry, stranger, nohow!”
I got no more satisfaction out of Cramer, and still less out of Jones, who informed me that not only he would not go, but he did n't believe there was a man in Sharpsburg that would.
I returned to the tavern, and appealed to the landlord, a pleasant and very obliging man, although not so well versed as some in the art of keeping a hotel. To my surprise, after what Jones had told me, he said, “ if I could find no one else to haul me, he would.”
At five P. M. we left Sharpsburg in an open buggy under a sky that threatened rain. Black clouds and thunder-gusts were all around us. The mountains were wonderful to behold the nearer slopes lying in shadow, sombre almost to blackness, while beyond, rendered all the more glorious by that contrast, rose the loveliest sun-smitten summits, basking in the peace of paradise. Beyond these still were black-capped peaks, about which played uncertain waves of light, belts and bars of softest indescribable colors, perpetually shifting, brightening, and vanishing in mist. It was like a momentary glimpse of heaven through the stormy portals of the world. Then down came the deluging rack and enveloped all.
Through occasional spatters of rain, angrily spitting squalls, we whipped on. It was a fleet horse my friend drove. He was pleased to hear me praise him.
“ That's a North-Carolina horse. I brought him home with
“ You have been in the army then ?”
And out came the interesting fact that I was riding with Captain Speaker of the First Maryland Cavalry, a man who had seen service, and had things to tell.
Everybody remembers, in connection with the shameful surrender of Harper's Ferry just before the battle of Antietam, the brilliant episode of twenty-two hundred Federal cavalry cutting their way out, and capturing a part of one of Longstreet's trains on their escape. Captain Speaker was the leader of that expedition.
"I was second lieutenant of the First Maryland Cavalry at the time. I knew Colonel Davis very well; and when I heard Harper's Ferry was to be surrendered, I remarked to him that I would not be surrendered with it alive. He asked what I would do. •Cut my way out,' said I. When he asked what I meant, I told him I believed I could not only get out myself, but that I could pilot out with safety any number of cavalry that would take the same risk and go with me. I had lived in the country all my life, and knew every part of it. Colonel Davis saw that I was in earnest, and knew what I was talking about. The idea just suited him, and he applied to Colonel Miles for permission to put it into execution. Colonel Miles was not a man to think much of such projects, and he was inclined to laugh at it. Who is this Lieutenant Speaker,' said he, who is so courageous ?' Colonel Davis said he knew me, and had confidence in my plan. • It 's all talk,' said Miles ; · put him to the test, and he 'll back down.'
" . Just try him,' said Davis.
" · Lieutenant Speaker, will you take charge of a cavalry force and lead it through the enemy's lines ?
“I just wrote under it, on the same piece of paper, · Yes, with pleasure ;' signed my name, and sent it back to him.”
At ten o'clock the same night they started. · It was Sunday, the 14th of September, the day of the battle of South Mountain. The party consisted of twenty-two hundred cavalry and a number of mounted civilians who took advantage of the expedition to escape from the town before it was surrendered. Lieutenant Speaker and Colonel Davis rode side by side at the head of the column. They crossed on the pontoon bridge, which formed the military connection between
Harper's Ferry and Maryland Heights, and turned up the road which runs between the canal and the Heights, riding at full charge along the left- bank of the Potomac. It was a wild road ; the night was dark; only the camp-fires on the mountain were visible; and there was no sound but the swift clatter of thousands of galloping hoofs, and the solitary rush of the Potomac waters.
Near a church, four miles from the Ferry, Speaker and Davis, who were riding ahead of the party, were challenged by the Rebel pickets.
“ Who goes there?”
“ Second Virginia Cavalry,” said Colonel Davis, — which was true, the Second Virginia Union Cavalry being of the party, while the Second Virginia Rebel Cavalry was also in the vicinity. "Who are you?”
“ Louisiana Tigers."
The leaders rode back, formed their party at a short distance, gave the word, and charged. They went through the Rebel line like an express-train. A few shots were fired at them by the astonished pickets, but they got through almost without loss. Three horses were killed and three men dismounted, but the latter escaped up the mountain side, and afterwards made their way safely into the Union lines.
They galloped on to Sharpsburg, keeping the same road ali the way by which Captain Speåker was now conveying me to the Ferry. The enemy held Sharpsburg. Fortunately in every street and by-road Speaker was at home. He callea up a well-known Union citizen, from whom he obtained important information. “The Rebels are in strong force on the Hagerstown Road. They have heavy batteries, too, posted on the Williamsport Pike.” There was then but one thing to do. “Down with the fences and take to the fields," said the pilot of the party.
CAPTAIN SPEAKER'S NARRATIVE.
This they accordingly did ; — tramp, tramp, in the darkness, by cross-roads and through fields and woods.
“We struck the pike between Hagerstown and Williams-. port about two o'clock. We came to a halt pretty quick, though, for there was a Rebel wagon-train several miles in length, passing along the pike. There were no fences; and the woods were clear and beautiful for our purpose. Our line was formed along by the pike, extending some three-quarters of a mile. Then we charged. The first the guards and drivers knew, there were sabres at their heads ; and all they had to do was to turn their wagons right about and go with us. We captured over seventy wagons, all the rear of the train. They had to travel a little faster in the other direction than they had been going, so that some of the wagons broke down by the way; but the rest we got safely off.”
It was just daylight when they arrived at Greencastle and turned the wagons over to the Federal quartermaster there. " Then you should have seen each fellow tumble himself off his horse! Remember, we had been fighting at the Ferry, and this was the third night we had had no sleep. Each man just took a turn of the bridle around his wrist, and dropped down on the pavement in the street, anywhere, and in three minutes was fast asleep.
“ Colonel Davis and I found a cellar-door, softer than stones, to lie on, and there we dropped. I was asleep as soon as my head struck the board. But it could n't have beer, five minutes before I was woke up by somebody pulling the bridle from my wrist.
" What do you want?'
“Want your horse ; want you; want to give you some breakfast.'
“I got my eyes open ; it was broad day then ; and it was a beautiful sight! Everybody in Greencastle was crowding to see the cavalry fellows that had cut their way through the Rebel lines. The Colonel and I were surrounded with ladies bringing us breakfast. I tell you, it was beautiful!” And the Captain's eyes glistened at the remembrance.
“ We were hungry enough! But I said. “Just give my horse