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HENRY VILLARD



CHAPTER XXIII


Carrying the News to Washington.—1862


I SOUGHT my quarters shortly before eleven, and arranged to be called so as to start for Acquia Creek at 3 A.M. I set out on horseback. Never before or since have I had such a terrible ride. It was pitch dark — indeed, I could not make out anything beyond my horse's head. There was no distinct road, but the army trains, in trying to avoid mud and move on solid ground, had made tracks of a seemingly infinite width, but all reduced to a miry state. Hence I travelled most of the way through a sea of mire from one to two feet deep. From time to time I struck stretches of corduroy, but, as the logs were loose, they made riding only more difficult and dangerous. Four times my horse stumbled and fell, throwing me once, so that I landed with a splash in a pool from which I emerged covered with liquid earth. I could not tell in what direction I floundered on, and, not meeting any one, had to trust to my animal's instinct. I was glad enough, therefore, when day dawned and broken-down wagons and debris of all sorts assured me that I had not gone astray. I had calculated on making the distance in from three to four hours, but I did not reach Acquia Creek before nine o'clock.

I proceeded directly to the tent of the quartermaster in charge of the depot of supplies and transportation. He was the same official whom I had met on my way down. He had heard the boom of the artillery the day before and knew that a general action had taken place, but had heard nothing of the result. Hence, he was glad and grateful to get the scanty scraps of news I was inclined to give in exchange for a plentiful breakfast which his cook pre-

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