Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/279

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The Last Sad Days.

I had often seen him, it appeared to me I had never before seen him look so grand and martial and handsome on horseback. He was the finest specimen of a man I ever looked at, then apparently about 60 years of age, deep brown eyes, clear skin, a well-shaped Roman nose, abundant gray hair, silky beard and mustache, well and neatly trimmed, wearing a gray coat and soft hat, his uniform buttoned up and fitting to perfection. He was a picture worth seeing. He was always well mounted. It was a beautiful spring day, the jonquils and white hyacinths in bloom, the young foliage being sufficiently advanced to cause a little shade. In fact, all nature seemed to "clap its hands with joy." General Lee and staff rode up and rested a few minutes under the slight shade of the new leaves. I think General Longstreet was of the party, as well as a few staff officers. Presently the party moved on and the march was resumed, and when he disappeared it seemed as if a great light had gone out.

No one can describe the horror and suffering of the march or retreat. We were pressed on every side. Sheridan met us at the cross roads and at Detonville we made a stand, but the troops had become demoralized and panicky. The cavalry made frequent dashes upon our flank, which added to the panicky feeling. A cry, "The Yankee cavalry is coming," would cause a stampede, so demoralized the troops had become from loss of sleep and hunger and fatigue from the march.

At Sailor's Creek a stand was made to enable the artillery and wagon trains to pass over the creek. There was then a sharp engagement. By this time the army had been "sifted" down to as noble a set of men as ever lived. During the week the fighting had been continuous and the want of food and rest had demoralized thousands, who slipped off into the darkness of the night, when approaching their homes, and did not again return. The little handful of 8,000 or 9,000 men who remained did so with, the determination to die, if necessary. We could not stand long at this place (Sailor's Creek)—in an hour or less it was all over. The wagon train became jammed and the enemy's cavalry dashed in, making such a scene as I had never before witnessed or wanted to witness again. Across the creek.