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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/139

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Closing Scenes of the War about Richmond. 131

o'clock, however, the belief was common that the Capital must be abandoned, causing a general activity, though more settled gloom. The scenes that afternoon will never be forgotten. Bundles, trunks and boxes were brought out of houses for transportation from the city, or to be conveyed to places within it which were fancied to be more secure.

Vehicles of every sort and description, and a continuous stream of pedestrians, with knapsacks or bundles, filled the streets which led out from the western side of Richmond, while the forms of a few wounded officers, brought home from the battlefields, were borne along the pavement on litters, their calm, pallid faces in strange con- trast with the busy ones around.

Ladies stood in their doorways or wandered restlessly about the streets, interrogating every passerby for the latest news. All form- ality was laid aside in this supreme calamity, all felt the more closely drawn together, because so soon to be separated.

I did not, however, witness the last and saddest hours of the evac- uation, for learning that movements would soon take place in my own command, I mounted at sundown and galloped back to Chaf- fs' s farm.

Here I found more of the confusion which I had left in Richmond, but there was only, instead, the unnatural stillness of stealthy prep- arations.

Orders had been received at Division Headquarters to move out as soon as the moon went down, which would be at 2 A. M. The hostile lines were very close at this point, Fort Harrison (Burnham) being only four or five hundred yards from Elliott's Hill, while the pickets were almost face to face; at one place two logs thrown across a path, separated by an interval of a few steps only, marked the limits of the respective beats.

An "armed neutrality" had always been strictly observed, how- ever, and this tacid understanding of the pickets could be as well trusted as a safeguard from Lee or Grant together.

It is well known that during the latter part of the war pickets often declared \var on each other and made truces independent of the rest of the army, and I have often known a warfare to be carried on be- tween posts at one end of a brigade picket line while peace prevailed at the other; here one might expose himself without the slightest apprehension of danger, there the same exposure would be certain to draw a shot.