Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/273

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\\ith anything to eat. It was a xid scene, but the doors of the Dan- vilU- house-, \v ir wide open, an old Virginia welcome met the refugees, and they were soon housed as comfortably as possible.

We then knew all in regard to the evacuation of Petersburg, and that Lee and his generals, with that gallant remnant of our Army of Northern Virginia were (we could not realize it then), in retreat, as we supposed, moving to join Johnston's army, and we were ordered to prepare to take trains of supplies to them at Mattoax Station, where they would cross the railroad. There were large government storehouses in Danville, all filled to the ceiling, as well as many loaded cars, awaiting shipment. Trains of supplies were made up, but it was slow work. The yard was crowded with cars. Cabinet Ministers and their families and other prominent people, living in box cars, were in our way, and we could not get rid of them, but did the best we could. Our first train was ready when the order came to hold it. Lee had not been heard from. The next we heard it was too late; he had crossed the road, going in the direction of Appo- mattox, and no provisions in sight to feed the starving soldiers, while there were thousands of rations in the storehouses and cars in Dan- ville, soon to be raided and plundered by a mob. Some one blundered Time passed rapidly. There was no opportunity for sleep or rest. I was in the yard busily engaged in getting a train off for Greens- boro'. The assistant superintendent came up and said: "John, come here." I joined him. "Lee has surrendered." I felt as though the ground had opened up under me. He was an operator, and had caught the news off the wire as it was flashed to President Davis. It was then 3 P. M., and at 5 P. M. an aide of the President came down and ordered an engine, a flat-car, a stock-car a box-car, and a passenger coach, to carry President Davis and party to Greens- boro', then held by General Johnston.

The train was made ready, but one after another of the President's Cabinet and men of prominence arranged with the President's staff officer for their box-car to be taken on. All this took time, but, with as much haste as possible, car after car was added, until ten cars composed the train. We told them we could take no more. They, however, insisted, and two more were added. The engine was in bad order, and blew out a cylinder-head five miles from Danville. More time was lost in getting another engine to take its place. When the morning dawned the operator said the wire to Greens- boro' was gone, and it was impossible to obtain information of the President's train. We did not, however, wait long. Soon the tick,