Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/379

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How Gen. Lee Saved Life of a Federal Officer.




As our army approached Amelia Courthouse on the morning of April 4, 1865, the Light Squadron of the Fourteenth Regiment of Virginia Cavalry was ordered to the front at trot. On reaching the courthouse, it went in a southerly direction on the Avery's Church road. The commanding officer had been informed that a flanking movement on that road was anticipated, and he was ordered to offer all possible resistance to the enemy's advance, until infantry could be brought up to prevent the penetration of our line of retreat.

The squadron had not proceeded more than three miles on that road, when it met a force of Federal cavalry. As our army had not then reached the courthouse, the critical significance of the presence of the enemy in that locality was understood by every member of the squadron. It was of the first importance to maintain a bold front, without disclosing our weakness. Accordingly, the men were dismounted behind the crest of a hill, and a vigorous fire was opened with carbines, causing the enemy to fall back behind a fence, which skirted a piece of woods, about three hundred yards distant.

While we were thus holding the enemy upon the defensive, Gen. W. P. Roberts, who commanded a brigade in our division, galloped up and ordered the squadron to mount and move out into the open field. We had advanced but a short distance when a Federal squadron charged us. We met them in a counter charge, using our pistols as we came within range of their line. Just before the two squadrons clashed in a hand-to-hand encounter, a Federal officer, riding in advance of his men, dashed into our ranks. Instantly three or four pistols were turned upon him and a command rang out, "Don't shoot!"

I thought I recognized in the command the voice of General Lee, and, turning, saw him at my horse's heels, with his hand raised, his countenance and posture indicating intense anxiety for the safety of the Federal officer.