Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/112

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

Returning to the improvised office at the shop, after penetrating still nearer the town on the westside of the Valley 'pike, report was wired via Staunton to Richmond. Hunter was preparing to move to the upper Valley, and all seemed in perfect readiness.

This was the most formidable movement yet made to sweep the Valley—formidable and serious in appearance, because the Confederate commander could not at the moment spare a force adequate to meet it, because of the press of things in Eastern Virginia. Up to this date no Federal force had yet been able to penetrate the Valley as far as Staunton, on the Virginia Central railroad, the principal feeder of the Confederate capital. Banks, Fremont, Seigel, and others had in turn been driven back. The news matter wired that evening from that blacksmith vise to the Richmond papers proved several days ahead of the eastern blockade runner's route, causing comment in Richmond. But that reporter could not continue these favors. He had other work to do.

Our outpost picket all that day was near Lacey Spring, a point nine miles south of New Market, and midway between, New Market and Harrisonburg. General Imboden lay nearer Harrisonburg with a small cavalry force. Nine miles, therefore, stretched out between the enemy's lines and ours, and it was to get some news from Hunter through this deserted space that I received orders that morning from Richmond to push as far down the Valley with a field magnet as I could and find out all I could.

What deserts these spaces between the lines of armies are! In that nine miles not one traveller was met; not a human being anywhere visible. The inhabitants do not show themselves often. You must call to bring them from the houses. No cattle in the fields along this great highway. No laborers in the fields—work waits. The dwellings have a lonesome, abandoned air about them. The very look of things suggests a moral apathy, paralysis, slow dying.

I have been behind the enemy's lines. The sensations, the sights, the sounds are depressing enough. But between the lines there is scarcely sound or sight. Awful silence! A silence, too, that presages a storm coming or tells of one that is past. War's