« PreviousContinue »
features while narrating their misfortunes, there was a mute appeal to every manly sentiment of my bosom for retribution, which I could no longer withstand. On my passage through the lower Valley into Maryland, a lady had said to me, with tears in her eyes, 'Our lot is a hard one, and we see no peace; but there are a few green spots in our lives, and they are when the Confederate soldiers come along and we can do something for them.' May God defend and bless those noble women of the Valley, who so often ministered to the wounded, sick, and dying Confederate soldiers, and gave their last morsel of bread to the hungry! They bore with heroic courage the privations, sufferings, persecutions and dangers, to which the war which was constantly waged in their midst exposed them, and upon no portion of the Southern people did the disasters which finally befell our army and country fall with more crushing effect than upon them."
It is hardly just to judge Gen. Early's military merits by his fortunes or misfortunes. With a mind clear, direct and comprehensive, his opinion was entitled to that respect which it always received from Gen. Lee. Quick to decide, and almost inflexible in decision, with a boldness to attack that approached rashness, and a tenacity in resisting that resembled desperation, he was yet on the field of battle hardly equal to his own intellect and decision. He moved too slowly from point to point; and had he possessed the personal activity of Breckinridge, or the dash of Gordon, he would, in his misfortune, better have escaped censure. Moreover, he received with impatience, and never acted upon advice-a suggestion from his subordinates. Arbitrary, cynical, with strong prejudices, and totally irreligious, he was personally disagreeable to the majority of men; he made no admirers or friends either by his manners or his habits, and those who defended him did so because they were convinced of his patriotism, of his earnestness, and of his great ability. He had tender feelings, but he endeavoured to conceal them, and often acted as if he would be ashamed to be detected in doing a kindness; yet many will recall with pleasure, little acts of Old Jubal, which proved that his heart was not unkind.
The strong character of the man was fruitful of anecdote. The soldiers of his army had a hundred jests and witticisms about him. They called him “Old Jube," sometimes “Old Jubilee." His burly person, his neglected dress, his peculiar speech, made him a marked man. Long exposure had made the old coat which he wore quite dingy. A wide-brim hat overshadowed his sparkling eyes, his swarthy features, and grizzled hair. His face, set upon a short neck, joined to stooping shoulders, attracted attention from every one. In the dark eye you could read the resolute character of the man, as in his satirical smile you saw the evidence of that dry, trenchant, often mordant humour, for which he was famous. The keen glance drove home the sarcastic speech, and almost every one who ventured upon word combats with Gen. Lee's “bad old man” sustained a "palpable hit.”
An instance of his wit at the expense of Stonewall Jackson was greatly relished by his troops. In the retreat from Sharpsburg, Jackson had been left at Winchester to remove some supplies, and was making one of his rapid marches to rejoin Longstreet in the neighbourhood of Culpeper Court-House. There was a good deal of straggling on the march, and evidences among the men of a free imbibing of the "apple-jack” which abounded in this part of the country. Gen. Jackson happened to ride in rear of Early's division, and was greatly concerned to find the men scattered for miles along the road. Gen. Early had expended his eloquence and his oaths in vain; he had even spread the report that the mountain huts were full of small-pox; but this did not prevent his prying followers from satisfying their curiosity at every sign of habitation on their route. At night, while be was nursing his rheumatism by the camp-fire, an orderly rode up with a dispatch from Gen. Jackson, curtly inquiring “why he had seen so many stragglers in rear of Gen. Early's division that day." The answer was drawn up, with due form:
HEADQUARTERS EARLY'S DIVISION. CAPTAIN: In answer to your note, I would state that I think it probable that the reason why Gen. Jackson saw so many of my stragglers on the march to-day is that he rode in rear of my division. Respectfully,
J. A. EARLY,
Major-General. Capt. A. S. PENDLETON, A.A.G.
All the anecdotes about Gen. Early were characteristic. Speak
ing slowly and with a species of drawl in his voice, all that he said was pointed, direct, and full of sarcastic force. These “hits” he evidently enjoyed, and he delivered them with the coolness of a swordsman making a mortal lunge. All the army had laughed at one of them. While marching at the head of his column, dusty, in his dingy gray uniform, and with his faded old hat over his eyes, he had seen leaning over a fence and looking at the column as it passed, a former associate in the Virginia Convention, who had violently advocated secession. This gentleman was clad in citizen's clothes-black coat and irreproachable shirt-bosom-and greeted Early as he passed. The reply of the General was given with his habitual smile and sarcastic drawl: “How are you?” he said. “I think you said the Whigs wouldn't fight.” The blow was rude, and made the whole army laugh. Of this peculiar humour a better instance still is given. After Fisher's Hill, when his whole army was in complete retreat, and the Federal forces were pressing him close, he was riding with Gen. Breckinridge. It might have been supposed that their conversation would relate to the disastrous events of the day, but Gen. Early did not seem to trouble himself upon that subject. In full retreat as they were, and followed by an enraged enemy, his companion was astounded to hear from Early the cool and nonchalant question: "Well, Breckinridge, what do you think of the decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case, in its bearings upon the rights of the South in the Territories ?" The man who could amuse himself with political discussions between Fisher's Hill and Woodstock, on the 22d of September, 1864, must have been of hard stuff or peculiar humour.
With another anecdote of Gen. Early, in which for once he appears to have been worsted, and which is given on the literal authority of a distinguished companion in arms, we close this curious budget of military humour. Before the battle of Fredericksburg, Early's division and that of a friend were posted at Port Royal and vicinity. At sunset the day before, the troops were from fifteen to twenty-five miles from the city, but by marching that night they were up in time for the fight next morning. The General's friend had received as a present a flask of old whiskey, which he had resolved to give to the General, as that kind of liquor did not agree with himself. He informed the General of his intention, but the hurried night-march and the battle prevented him from fulfilling his promise. The night after the fight he took out the flask, saw that the contents were all right, and that the cork was tight and firm; then placing it under his head, he lay down on the bare ground and slept as the tired soldier only can sleep. The dawn found him on his feet and examining his flask. The cork was in place just as on the night before, but the inside was as dry as the sand in the desert of Sahara. The two officers met some hours after, when the following conversation took place:
GENERAL E. : Well, Burnside is gone, and I am thirsty.
FRIEND: General, I am sorry to tell you that I put your flask under my head last night, and on looking at it this morning the cork was all right, but the whiskey was all gone.
GENERAL E. (in his most sawlike tones): Jerusalem! were you drinking all night?
FRIEND: Ah! General, we are so apt to judge others by ourselves.
On the close of the war Gen. Early's course of individual action was as characteristic as ever. He had always said that he never again should live under the rule of the Yankees. As soon as he was able to ride, the obstinate, bitter old man, who, since his wound at Williamsburg in 1862 bad seldom mounted his horse without assistance, bade farewell to Virginia, and went to seek a home in foreign lands. With his pistols in his holsters, and with one or two companions, he journeyed on horseback from Virginia to Texas, running the gauntlet the whole way, but undisturbed, except at the crossing of the Mississippi. The design of this journey Gen. Early declares was “ to join the army of Gen. Kirby Smith, should it hold out, with the hope of at least meeting an honourable death, while fighting under the flag of my country.” In crossing the river he lost his riding-horse, bridle and saddle. But those who captured them did not know whose they were, and the General had a led-horse with which he managed to continue his retreat. Arriving undiscovered in Texas, he found the Confederate cause lost; remained there three months, and escaped thence by way of Galveston to the Bahama Banks, where he landed in a settlement composed chiefly of negroes, and was compelled to remain for nine days, “ hobnobbing with gentlemen of African descent.” He then managed to get to Nassau, whence he went to Havana, and thence to Mexico. He remained at the Mexican capital three months, holding himself entirely aloof from the government of Maximilian, because he had no sympathy with it, and did not believe it had strength enough to sustain itself. He then returned to Havana, and went to Canada.
In his exile Gen. Early has written an interesting memoir of his last campaign, from which we have drawn a number of facts contained in this sketch. There is something peculiarly melancholy in the condition of this unrelenting and unsurrendered “rebel” wandering sulkily and secretly from the ancient Commonwealth of Virginia, which he loved more than his life, and choosing exile in foreign lands, until the few days left him are entirely numbered. But the picture is not without a severe dignity. Gen. Early has made a sacrifice of self, however mistaken the necessity or consideration for the crucifixion of his love. He remains in exile, while some of those who reviled him for his opposition to secession have been duly pardoned, and are restored to home and fortune, and others have quitted the impoverished South to enjoy the ease of Northern cities.