Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/23

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column to the right, down the railroad embankment, we marched >s the open field to where he was sitting in his saddle, with Gen- eral B. R. Johnson on his horse a little in the rear. The latter had fled from Sailor's creek and reported me killed and the whole divi- sion cut to pieces and dispersed. As I moved up with the two bri- gades I saw that General Lee was suppressing a laugh. I knew he had a sub- vein of humor, which he was hardly concealing when he my appearance that of a Comanche savage. He was right ; I was savage and looked like an Indian, and waited not to be accosted, when I exclaimed with an oath: " General Lee, these men shall not move another inch unless they have something more to eat than parched corn taken from starving mules!" He smiled with great blandness, and said:

"They deserve something to eat, sir. Let them, without taking down the fence, move to the trees on yonder hill, and they shall be filled for once at least. And you, General Wise, will pause here a moment with me." When the brigades passed on he turned to me and said: " You, sir, will take command of all these forces." There were no organized forces but the two brigades I came up with, in sight; there were thousands of disorganized troops in all directions without order or command. I protested that I could not take such a command. I had no horses. He ordered me to get a horse and make all the stragglers and disorganized men fall into my ranks. I told him that it would put my brigade hors du combat, to have to play field marshal for such a disorganized mass. He said: "You must obey your order, sir." I replied: " I will, sir, or die a trying, but I must first understand it. It is not the men who are deserting the ranks, but the officers who are deserting the men who are disor- ganizing your army. Do you mean to say, General Lee, that I must take command of all men. of all ranks?" looking at General B. R. Johnson. Lee then understood my meaning, turned his head the other way to smile, said: " Do your duty, sir." And I first went to breakfast and then to the work which wound up at Appomattox on the 9th, when and where I signed the paroles of more than 5,000 men besides those of my own brigade. It was this which gave rise to the ridiculous story lately published in the newspapers of the day and in Harper's Magazine. The correspondent, as usual, blundered upon enough of fact to make fiction murder truth, and make me ludicrous. It was the proudest moment of my life, and I am glad to explain its true history.

Without intermission I was with that brigade in whole and in part