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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/35

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on Fort Stcilimnt. 27

companies of the division already in Fort Stedman, and the whole division followed rapidly.

As to the captain, I never saw him again, as he did not return to the Confederate lines. What his fate was I do not know. He may have been killed that morning, but it is most likely that he suffered himself to be captured rather than return and be shot by a sentence of court-martial.

I have always declined to give the name or regiment of this man. If he or his descendants are alive, I would not give them pain by publishing him. He had a good record as a soldier, and was un- questionably a brave man. Why he acted as he did on that occasion can be readily accounted for. He saw, as nearly all the men in the ranks saw, that the Confederate cause was hopeless, and that they were shedding their blood in vain, and that valor and patriotism must in- evitably yield to the overwhelming numbers and resources.

It was rumored that in the winter of 1864-' 5 an organization had crept into some regiments of the Army of Northern Virginia, called <( Red Strings" from its badge, which was a red string, displayed conspicuously on the person. The object of this order was to bring an end to the war by refusing to fight and by laying down their arms and surrendering to the enemy when brought face to face with the foe. I have always believed my captain was a member of this order. I am glad to say that" the order had but few members in General Lee's army, and its influence was never felt. The soldiers of that army fought to the last, and remained true to their chieftain until the white flag was run up at Appomattox. The remarkable part of this starlight encounter with the Captain is that his men did not take sides with him and shoot me down with their muskets or run me through with their bayonets. Had they done so, no one could have known the manner of my taking off, but it would have been credited to a Federal blow, and my epitaph would have been l< Killed in battle."

As the head of the column entered Fort Stedman the resistance wholly ceased, and in the dim light of the coming dawn the fleeing enemy could be seen on every side, hastening to the protection of the second line of forts.

Our being in possession of Fort Stedman made the enemy's breast- works on either side and as far as the neighboring forts untenable and they were rapidly abandoned.

A strong skirmish line of Confederates was at once thrown for- ward towards the second line of the enemy's works, and got within