SHELBY'S EXPEDITION TO MEXICO; AN UNWRITTEN LEAF OF THE WAR.
BY JOHN N. EDWARDS. 1872
They rode a troop of bearded men,
Rode two and two out from the town,
And some were blonde and some were brown,
And all as brave as Sioux; but when
From San Bennetto south the line
That bound them to the haunts of men
Was passed, and peace stood mute behind
And streamed a banner to the wind
The world knew not, there was a sign
Of awe, of silence, rear and van.
Men thought who never thought before;
I heard the clang and clash of steel,
From sword at hand or spur at heel,
And iron fefet, but nothing more.
Some thought of Texas, some of Maine,
But more of rugged Tennessee
Of scenes in Southern vales of wine,
And scenes in Northern hills of pine,
As scenes they might not meet again;
And one of Avon thought, and one
Thought of an isle beneath the sun,
And one of Rowley, on the Rhine,
And one turned sadly to the Spree.
What follows may read like a romance, it was the saddest reality this life could offer to many a poor fellow who now sleeps in a foreign and forgotten grave somewhere in the tropics somewhere between the waters of the Rio Grande and the Pacific Ocean.
The American has ever been a wayward and a truant race. There are passions which seem to belong to them by some strange fatality of birth or blood. In every port, under all flags, upon every island, shipwrecked and stranded upon the barren or golden shores of adventure, Americans can be found, taking fate as it comes a devil-may-care, reckless, good-natured, thrifty and yet thriftless race, loving nothing so well as their country except an enterprise full of wonder and peril. Board a merchant vessel in mid-ocean, and there is an American at the wheel. Steer clear of a lean, lank, rankish looking craft beating up from the windward towards Yucatan, and overboard as a greeting comes the full roll of an Anglo-Saxon voice, half-familiar and half-piratical. The angular features peer out from -under sombreros, bronzed and brown though they may be, telling of faces seen somewhere about the cities eager, questioning faces, a little sad at times, yet always stern enough for broil or battle. They cruise in the foreign rivers and rob on the foreign shores. Whatever is uppermost finds ready hands. No guerrillas are more daring than American guerrillas; the Church has no more remorseless despoilers; the women no more ardent and faithless lovers; the haciendas no more sturdy defenders; the wine cup no more devoted proselytes; the stranger armies no more heroic soldiers; and the stormy waves of restless emigration no more sinister waifs, tossed hither and thither, swearing in all tongues rude, boisterous, dangerous in drink, ugly at cards, learning revolver-craft quickest and surest, and dying, as they love to die, game to the last.
Of such a race came all who had preceded the one thousand Confederates led by Shelby into Mexico. He found many of them there. Some he hung and some he recruited, the last possibly not the best.
The war in the Trans-Mississippi Department had been a holiday parade for some; a ceaseless battle and raid for others. Shelby's division of Missourians was the flower of this army. He had formed and fashioned it upon an ideal of his own. He had a maxim, borrowed from Napoleon without knowing it, which was: "Young men for war."
Hence all that long list of boy heroes who died before maturity from Pocahontas, Arkansas, to Newtonia, Missouri died in that last march of 1864 the stupidest, wildest, wantonest, wickedest march ever made by a General who had a voice like a lion and a spring like a guinea pig. Shelby did the fighting, or, rather, what he could of it. After Westport, eight hundred of these Missourians were buried in a night.
The sun that set at Mine Creek set as well upon a torn and decimated division, bleeding at every step, but resolute and undaunted. That night the dead were not buried. Newtonia came after the last battle west of the Mississippi river. It was a prairie fight, stern, unforgiving, bloody beyond all comparison for the stakes at issue, fought far into the night, and won by him who had won so many before that he had forgotten to count them. Gen. Blunt is rich, alive, and a brave man and a happy man over in Kansas.
He will bear testimony again, as he has often done before, that Shelby's fighting at Newtonia surpassed any he had ever seen. Blunt was a grim fighter himself, be it remembered, surpassed by none who ever held the border for the Union.
The retreat southward from Newtonia was a famine. The flour first gave out; then the meal, then the meat, then the medicines. The recruits suffered more in spirit than in flesh, and fell out by the wayside to die. The old soldiers cheered them all they could and tightened their own sabre belts. Hunger was part of their rations. The third day beyond the Arkansas river, hunger found an ally small-pox.
In cities and among civilized beings, this is fearful. Among soldiers, and, therefore, machines, it is but another name for death. They faced it as they would a line of battle, waiting for the word. That came in this wise: Shelby took every wagon he could lay his hands upon, took every blanket the dead men left, and improvised a hospital. While life lasted in him, a soldier was never abandoned. There was no shrinking; each detachment in detail mounted guard over the terrible cortege protected it, camped with it, waited upon it, took its chances as it took its rest. Discipline and humanity fraternized. The weak hands on one were intertwined with the bronze hands of the other. Even amid the pestilence there was poetry.
The gaps made in the ranks were ghastly. Many whom the bullets had scarred and spared were buried far from soldierly bivouacs or battle-fields. War has these species of attacks, all the more overwhelming because of their inglorious tactics. Fever cannot be fought, nor that hideous leprosy which kills after it has defaced.
One day the end came, after much suffering, and heroism and devotion. A picture like this, however, is only painted that one may understand the superb organization of that division which was soon to be a tradition, a memory, a grim war spirit, a thing of gray and glory forevermore.
After the ill-starred expedition made to Missouri in 1864, the trans-Mississippi army went to sleep. It numbered about fifty-thousand soldiers, rank and file, and had French muskets, French cannon, French medicines, French ammunition, and French gold. Matamoras, Mexico, was a port the Government could not or did not blockade, and from one side of the river there came to it all manner of supplies, and from the other side all kinds and grades of cotton. This dethroned king had transferred its empire from the Carolinas to the Gulf, from the Tombigbee to the Rio Grande. It was a fugitive king, however, with a broken sceptre and a meretricious crown. Afterwards it was guillotined.
Gen. E. Kirby Smith was the Commander-in-Chief of this Department, who had under him as lieutenants, Generals John B. Magruder and Simon B. Buckner. Smith was a soldier turned exhorter. It is not known that he preached; he prayed, however, and his prayers, like the prayers of the wicked, availed nothing. Other generals in other parts of the army prayed, too, notably Stonewall Jackson, but between the two there was this difference: The first trusted to his prayers alone; the last to his prayers and his battalions.
Faith is a fine thing in the parlor, but it never yet put grapeshot in an empty caisson, and pontoon bridges over a full-fed river.
As I have said, while the last act in the terrible drama was being performed east of the Mississippi river, all west of the Mississippi was asleep. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House awoke them. Months, however, before the last march Price had made into Missouri, Shelby had an interview with Smith. They talked of many things, but chiefly of the war. Said Smith:
"What would you do in this emergency, Shelby?"
"I would," was the quiet reply, "march every single soldier of my command into Missouri infantry, artillery, cavalry, all; I would fight there and stay there. Do not
deceive yourself. Lee is overpowered; Johnson is giving up county after county, full of our corn and wheat fields; Atlanta is in danger, and Atlanta furnishes the powder; the end approaches ; a supreme effort is necessary ; the eyes of the East are upon the West, and with fifty thousand soldiers such as yours you can seize St. Louis, hold it, fortify it, and cross over into Illinois. It would be a diversion, expanding into a campaign a blow that had destiny in it."
Smith listened, smiled, felt a momentary enthusiasm, ended the interview, and, later, sent eight thousand cavalry under a leader who marched twelve miles a day and had a wagon train as long as the tail of Plantamour's comet.
With the news of Lee's surrender there came a great paralysis. What had before been only indifference was now death. The army was scattered throughout Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, but in the presence of such a calamity it concentrated as if by intuition. Men have this feeling in common with animals, that imminent danger brings the first into masses, the last into herds. Buffalo fight in a circle;
soldiers form square. Smith came up from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Marshall, Texas. Shelby went from Fulton, Arkansas, to the same place. Hither came also other Generals of note, such as Hawthorne, Buckner, Preston and Walker.
Magruder tarried at Galveston, watching with quiet eyes a Federal fleet beating in from the Gulf. In addition to this fleet there were also transports blue with uniforms and black with soldiers. A wave of negro troops was about to inundate the department.
Some little re-action had begun to be manifested since the news of Appomattox. The soldiers, breaking away from the iron bands of a rigid discipline, had held meetings pleading against surrender. They knew Jefferson Davis was a fugitive, westward bound, and they knew Texas was rallied to overflowing with all kinds of supplies and war munitions. In their simple hero faith they believed that the struggle could still be maintained. Thomas C. Reynolds was Governor of Missouri, and a truer and braver one never followed the funeral of a dead nation his commonwealth had revered and respected.
This Marshall Conference had a two-fold object: First, to ascertain the imminence of the danger, and, second, to provide against it. Strange things were done there. The old heads came to the young one; the infantry yielded its precedence to the cavalry; the Major-General asked advice of the Brigadier. There was no rank beyond that of daring and genius. A meeting was held, at which all were present except Gen. Smith. The night was a Southern one, full of balm, starlight and flower-odor. The bronzed men were gathered quietly and sat awhile, as Indians do who wish to smoke and go upon war-path. The most chivalrous scalplock that night was worn by Buckner. He seemed a real Red Jack in his war-paint and feathers. Alas! why was his tomahawk dug up at all? Before the ashes were cold about the embers of the council-fire, it was buried.
Shelby was called on to speak first, and if his speech astonished his auditors, they made no sign : "The army has no confidence in Gen. Smith," he said, slowly and deliberately, "and for the movements proposed there must be chosen a leader whom they adore. We should concentrate everything upon the Brazos river. We must fight more and make fewer speeches. Fugitives from Lee and Johnson will join us by thousands; Mr. Davis is on his way here; he alone has the right to treat of surrender; our intercourse with the French is perfect, and fifty thousand men with arms in their hands have overthrown, ere now, a dynasty, and established a kingdom. Every step to the Rio Grande must be fought over, and when the last blow has been struck that can be struck, we will march into Mexico and reinstate Juarez or espouse Maximilan. General Preston should go at once to Marshal Bazaine and learn from him whether it is peace or war. Surrender is a word neither myself nor my division understand."
This bold speech had its effect.
"Who will lead us?" The listeners demanded.
"Who else but Buckner," answered Shelby. "He has rank, reputation, the confidence of the army, ambition, is a soldier of fortune, and will take his chances like the rest of us. Which one of us can read the future and tell the kind of an empire our swords may carve out?"
Buckner assented to the plan, so did Hawthorne, Walker, Preston and Reynolds. The compact was sealed with soldierly alacrity, each General answering for his command. But who was to inform General Smith of this sudden resolution this semi-mutiny in the very whirl of the vortex?
Again it was Shelby, the daring and impetuous. "Since there is some sorrow about this thing, gentlemen," he said, "and since men who mean business must have boldness, I will ask the honor of presenting this ultimatum to General Smith. It is some good leagues to the Brazos, and we must needs make haste. I shall march tomorrow to the nearest enemy and attack him. Have no fear. If I do not
overthrow him I will keep him long enough at bay to give time for the movement southward."
Immediately after the separation, Gen. Shelby called upon Gen. Smith. There were scant words between them.
"The army has lost confidence in you, Gen. Smith."
"I know it."
"They do not wish to surrender."
"Nor do I. What would the army have?"
"Your withdrawal as its direct commander, the appointment of Gen. Buckner as its chief, its concentration upon the Brazos river, and war to the knife, Gen. Smith."
The astonished man rested his head upon his hands in mute surprise. A shadow of pain passed rapidly over his face, and he gazed out through the night as one who was seeking a star or beacon for a guidance. Then he arose as if in pain and came some steps nearer the young conspirator, whose cold, calm eyes had never wavered through it all.
"What do you advise, Gen. Shelby?"
The order was written, the command of the army was given to Buckner, Gen. Smith returned to Shreveport, each officer galloped off to his troops, and the first act in the revolution had been finished. The next was played before a different audience and in another theatre.
Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner was a soldier handsome enough to have been Murat. His uniform was resplendent. Silver stars glittered upon his coat, his gold lace shone as if it had been washed by the dew and wiped with the sunshine, his sword was equaled only in brightness by the brightness of its scabbard, and when upon the streets women turned to look at him, saying, "That is a hero with a form like a wargod."
Gen. Buckner also wrote poetry. Some of his sonnets were set to music in scanty Confederate fashion, and when the red June roses were all ablow, and the night at peace with bloom and blossom, they would float out from open casements as the songs of minstrel or troubadour. Sir Philip Sidney was
also a poet who saved the English army at Gravelines, and though mortally wounded and dying of thirst, he bade his esquire give to a suffering comrade the water brought to cool his own parched lips. From all of which it was argued that the march to the Brazos would be but as the calm before the hurricane that in the crisis the American poet would have devotion equal to the English poet. From the Marshall Conference to the present time, however, the sky has been without a war cloud, the lazy cattle have multiplied by all the water-course, and from pink to white the cotton has bloomed, and blown, and been harvested.
Before Shelby reached his division away up on the prairies about Kaufman, news came that Smith had resumed command of the army, and that a flag of truce boat was ascending Red river to Shreveport. This meant surrender.
Men whose rendezvous has been agreed upon, and whose campaigns have been marked out, had no business with flags of truce. By the end of the next day's march Smith's order of surrender came. It was very brief and very comprehensive.
The soldiers were to be concentrated at Shreveport, were to surrender their arms and munitions of war, were to take paroles and transportation wherever the good Federal deity in command happened to think appropriate.
What of Buckner with his solemn promises, his recent conferred authority, his elegant new uniform, his burnished sword with its burnished scabbard, his sweet little sonnets, luscious as strawberries, his swart, soldierly face, handsome enough again for Murat? Thinking of his Chicago property, and contemplating the mournful fact of having been chosen to surrender the first and the last army of the Confederacy.
Smith's heart failed him when the crisis came. Buckner's heart was never fired at all. All their hearts failed them except the Missouri Governor's and the Missouri General's, and so the Brazos ran on to the sea without having watered a cavalry steed or reflected the gleam of a burnished bayonet. In the meantime, however, Preston was well on his way to Mexico. Later, it will be seen how Bazaine received him, and what manner of a conversation he had with the Emperor Maximilan touching Shelby's scheme at the Marshall Conference. Two plans presented themselves to Shelby the instant the news came of Smith's surrender.
The first was to throw his division upon Shreveport by forced marches, seize the government, appeal to the army, and then carry out the original order of concentration. The second was to make all surrender impossible by attacking the Federal forces, wherever and whenever he could find them. To resolve with him was to execute. He wrote a proclamation destined for the soldiers, and for want of better material, had it printed upon wall paper. It was a variegated thing, all blue, and black and red, and unique as a circus advertisement.
"Soldiers, you have been betrayed. The generals whom you trusted have refused to lead you. Let us begin the battle again by a revolution. Lift up the flag that has been cast down dishonored. Unsheath the sword that it may remain unsullied and victorious. If you desire it, I will lead; if you demand it, I will follow. We are the army and the cause.
To talk of surrender is to be a traitor. Let us seize the traitors and attack the enemy. Forward, for the South and Liberty!"
Man proposes and God disposes. A rain came out of the sky that was an inundation even for Texas. All the bridges in the west were swept away in a night. The swamps that had been dry land rose against the saddle girths. There were no roads, nor any spot of earth for miles and miles dry enough for a bivouac. Sleepless and undismayed, the brown-bearded, bronzed Missourian toiled on, his restless eyes fixed on Shreveport. There the drama was being enacted he had struggled like a giant to prevent; there division after division marched in, stacked their arms, took their paroles, and were disbanded.
When, by superhuman exertions, his command had forced itself through from Kaufman to Corsicana, the fugitives began to arrive. Smith had again surrendered to Buckner, and Buckner in turn had surrendered to the United States. It was useless to go forward. If you attack the Federals, they pleaded, you will imperil our unarmed soldiers. It was not their fault. Do not hold them responsible for the sins of their officers. They were faithful to the last, and even in their betrayal they were true to their colors.
Against such appeals there was no answer. The hour for a coupe d'etat had passed, and from a revolutionist Shelby was about to become an exile. Even in the bitterness of his overthrow he was grand. He had been talking to uniformed things, full of glitter, and varnish, and gold lace, and measured intonations of speech that sounded like the talk stately heroes have, but they were all clay and carpet-knights.
Smith faltered, Buckner faltered, other Generals, not so gay and gaudy, faltered; they all faltered. If war had been a woman, winning as Cleopatra, with kingdoms for caresses, the lips that sang sonnets would never have kissed her.
After the smoke cleared away, only Shelby and Reynolds stood still in the desert the past a Dead Sea behind them, the future, what the dark?
One more duty remained to be done. The sun shone, the waters had subsided, the grasses were green and undulating, and Shelby's Missouri Cavalry Division came forth from its bivouac for the last time. A call ran down its ranks for volunteers for Mexico. One thousand bronzed soldiers rode fair to the front, over them the old barred banner, worn now, and torn, and well nigh abandoned. Two and two they ranged themselves behind their leader, waiting.
The good-byes and the partings followed. There is no need to record them here. Peace and war have no road in common. Along the pathway of one there are roses and thorns ; along the pathway of the other there are many thorns, with a sprig or two of laurel when all is done. Shelby chose the last and marched away with his one thousand men behind him. That night he camped over beyond Corsicana, for some certain preparations had to be made, and some valuable war munitions had to be gathered in.
Texas was as a vast arsenal. Magnificent batteries of French artillery stood abandoned upon the prairies. Those who surrendered them took the horses but left the guns. Imported muskets were in all the towns, and to fixed ammunition there was no limit. Ten beautiful Napoleon guns were brought into camp and appropriated. Each gun had six magnificent horses, and six hundred rounds of shell and canister.
Those who were about to encounter the unknown began by preparing for giants. A complete organization was next effected. An election was held in due and formal manner, and Shelby was chosen Colonel with a shout. He had received every vote in the regiment except his own. Misfortunes at least make men unanimous. The election of the companies came next. Some who had been majors came down to corporals, and more who had been lieutenants went up to majors. Rank had only this rivalry there, the rivalry of self-sacrifice. From the colonel to the rearmost men in the rearmost file, it was a forest of Sharp's carbines. Each carbine had, in addition to the forty rounds the soldiers carried, three hundred rounds more in the wagon train. Four Colt's pistols each, dragoon size, and a heavy regulation sabre, completed the equipment. For the revolvers there were ten thousand rounds apiece. Nor was this all. In the wagons there were powder, lead, bullet-moulds, and six thousand elegant new Enfields just landed from England, with the brand of the Queen's arms still upon them. Recruits were expected, and nothing pleases a recruit so well as a bright new musket, good for a thousand yards.
For all these heavy war materials much transportation was necessary. It could be had for the asking. Gen. Smith's dissolving army, under the terms of the surrender, was to give up everything. And so they did, right willingly. Shelby took it back again, or at least what was needed. The march would be long, and he meant to make it honorable, and therefore, in addition to the horses, the mules, the cannon, the wagons, the fixed ammunition, and the muskets, Shelby took flour and bacon. The quantities were limited entirely by the anticipated demand, and for the first time in its history the Confederacy was lavish of its commissary stores.
When all these things were done and well done these preparations these tearings down and buildings up these re-organizations and re-habilitations this last supreme restoration of the equilibrium of rank and position, a council of war was called. The old ardor of battle was not yet subdued in the breast of the leader. Playfully calling his old soldiers young recruits, he wanted as a kind of purifying process, to carry them into battle.
The council fire was no larger than an Indian's and around it were grouped Elliot, Gordon, Slayback, Williams, Collins, Langhorne, Crisp, Jackman, Blackwell, and a host of others who had discussed weighty questions before upon eve of battle questions that had men's lives in them as thick as sentences in a school book.
"Before we march southward," said Shelby, "I thought we might try the range of our new Napoleons."
No answer, save that quiet look one soldier gives to another when the firing begins on the skirmish line.
"There is a great gathering of Federals at Shreveport, and a good blow in that direction might clear up the military horizon amazingly."
No answer yet. They all knew what was coming, however.
"We might find hands, too," and here his voice was wistful and pleading; "We might find hands for our six thousand bright new Enfields. What do you say, comrades?"
They consulted some little time together and then took a vote upon the proposition whether, in view of the fact that there were a large number of unarmed Confederates at Shreveport awaiting transportation, it would be better to attack or not to attack. It was decided against the proposition, and without further discussion, the enterprise was abandoned. These last days of the division were its best.
For a week it remained preparing for the long and perilous march a week full of the last generous rites brave men could pay to a dead cause. Some returning and disbanded soldiers were tempted at times to levy contributions upon the country
through which they passed, and at times to do some. cowardly work under cover of darkness and drink. Shelby's stern orders arrested them in the act, and his swift punishment left a shield over the neighborhood that needed only its shadow to ensure safety. The women blessed him for his many good deeds done in those last dark days deeds that shine out yet from the black wreck of things a star.
This kind of occupation ended at last, however, and the column marched away southward. One man alone knew French and they were going to a land filled full of Frenchmen. One man alone knew Spanish, and they were going to the land of the Spaniards. The first only knew the French of the schools which was no French; and the last had been bitten by a tawny tarantula of a senorita somewhere up in Sonora, and was worthless and valueless when most needed in the ranks that had guarded and protected him.
Before reaching Austin a terrible tragedy was enacted one of those sudden and bloody things so thoroughly in keeping with the desperate nature of the men who witnessed it. Two officers one a Captain and one a Lieutenant quarreled about a woman, a fair young thing enough, lissome and light of love. She was the Captain's by right of discovery, the Lieutenant's by right of conquest. At the night encampment she abandoned the old love for the new, and in the struggle for possession the Captain struck the Lieutenant fair in the face.
"You have done a serious thing," some comrade said to him.
"It will be more serious in the morning," was the quiet reply.
"But you are in the wrong and you should apologize." He tapped the handle of his revolver significantly, and made answer.
"This must finish what the blow has commenced. A woman worth kissing is worth fighting for.
I do not mention names. There are those to-day living in Marion county whose sleep in eternity will be lighter and sweeter if they are left in ignorance of how one fair-haired boy died who went forth to fight battles of the South and found a grave when her battles were ended.
The Lieutenant challenged the Captain, but the question of its acceptance was decided even before the challenge was received. These were the terms: At daylight the principals were to meet one mile from the camp upon the prairie, armed each with a revolver and a saber. They were to be mounted and stationed twenty paces apart, back to back. At the word they were to wheel and fire advancing if they chose or remaining stationary if they chose. In no event were they to pass beyond a line two hundred yards in the rear of each position. This space was accorded as that in which the combatants might rein up and return again to the attack.
So secret were the preparations, and so sacred the honor of the two men, that, although the difficulty was known to three hundred soldiers, not one of them informed Shelby. He would have instantly arrested the principals and forced a compromise, as he had done once before under circumstances as urgent but in no ways similar.
It was a beautiful morning, all balm, and bloom and verdure. There was not wind enough to shake the sparkling dew drops from the grass not wind enough to lift breast high the heavy odor of the flowers. The face of the sky was placid and benignant. Some red like a blush shone in the east, and some clouds, airy and gossamer, floated away to the west. Some birds sang, too, hushed and far apart. Two and two, and in groups, men stole away from the camp and ranged themselves on either flank. A few rude jokes were heard, but they died out quickly as the combatants rode up to the dead line. Both were calm and cool, and on the Captain's face there was a half smile. Poor fellow, there were already the scars of three honorable wounds upon his body. The fourth would be his death wound.
They were placed, and sat their horses like men who are about to charge. Each head was turned a little to one side, the feet rested lightly in the stirrups, the left hands grasped the reins well gathered up, the right hands held the deadly pistols, loaded fresh an hour before.
"Ready wheel!" The trained steeds turned upon a pivot as one steed.
The Lieutenant never moved from his tracks. The Captain dashed down upon him at a full gallop, firing as he came on. Three chambers were emptied, and three bullets sped away over the prairie, harmless. Before the fourth fire was given the Captain was abreast of the Lieutenant, and aiming at him at deadly range. Too late! The Lieutenant threw out his pistol until the muzzle almost touched the Captain's hair, and fired. The mad horse dashed away riderless, the Captain's life-blood upon his trappings and his glossy hide. There was a face in the grass, a widowed woman in Missouri, and a soul somewhere in the white hush and waste of eternity. A great dragoon ball had gone directly through his brain, and the Captain was dead before he touched the ground. They buried him before the sun rose, before the dew was dried upon the grass that grew upon his premature and bloody grave. There was no epitaph, yet this might have been lifted there, ere the grim soldiers marched away again to the South :
"Ah, soldier, to your honored rest,
Your truth and valor bearing;
The bravest are the tenderest,
The loving are the daring."
At Houston, Texas, there was a vast depot of supplies filled with all kinds of quartermaster and commissary stores.
Shelby desired that the women and children of true soldiers should have such of these as would be useful or beneficial, and so issued his orders. These were disputed by a thousand or so refugees or renegades whose heads were beginning to be lifted up everywhere as soon as the last mutterings of the war storm were heard in the distance.
He called to him two Captains James Meadow and James Wood two men known of old as soldiers fit for any strife. The first is a farmer now in Jackson the last a farmer in Pettis both young, brave, worthy of all good luck or fortune. They came speedily they saluted and waited for orders.
Shelby said: "Take one hundred men and march quickly to Houston. Gallop oftener than you trot. Proclaim to the Confederate women that on a certain day you will distribute to them whatever of cloth, flour, bacon, medicines, clothing, or other supplies they may need, or that are in store. Hold the town until that day, and then obey my orders to the letter."
"But if we are attacked?"
"Don't wait for that. Attack first."
"And fire ball cartridges?"
"And fire nothing else. Bullets first speeches afterwards."
They galloped away to Houston. Two thousand greedy and clamorous ruffians were besieging the warehouses. They had not fought for Texas and not one dollar's worth of Texas property should they have. Wood and Meadow drew up in front of them.
"Disperse!" they ordered.
Wild, vicious eyes glared out upon them from the mass, red and swollen by drink. They had rifled an arsenal, too, and all had muskets and cartridges.
"After we have seen what's inside this building, and taken what's best for us to take," the leader answered, "we will disperse. The war's over, young fellows, and the strongest party takes the plunder. Do you understand our logic?"
"Perfectly," replied Wood, as cool as a grenadier, "and it's bad logic, if you were a Confederate, good logic if you are a thief. Let me talk a little. We are Missourians, we are leaving Texas, we have no homes, but we have our orders and our honor. Not so much as one percussion cap shall you take from this house until you bring a written order from Jo. Shelby, and one of Shelby's men along with you to prove that you did not forge that order. Do you understand my logic?"
They understood him well, and they understood better the one hundred stern soldiers drawn up ten paces to the rear, with eyes to the front and revolvers drawn. Shrill voices from the outside of the crowd urged those nearest to the detachment to fire, but no weapon was presented. Such was the terror of Shelby's name, and such the reputation of his men for prowess, that not a robber stirred. By and by, from the rear, they began to drop away one by one, then in squads of tens and twenties, until, before an hour, the streets of Houston were as quiet and as peaceful as the cattle upon the prairies. These two determined young officers obeyed their instructions and rejoined their general.
Similar scenes were enacted at Tyler and Waxahatchie. At the first of these places was an arsenal guarded by Colonel Blackwell, and a small detachment consisting of squads under Captain Ward, Cordell, Rudd, Kirtley and Neale.
They were surrounded in the night time by a furious crowd of mountain plunderers and shirking conscrips men who had dodged both armies or deserted both. They wanted guns to begin the war on their neighbors after the real war was over.
"You can't have any," said Blackwell.
"We will take them."
"Come and do it. These are Shelby's soldiers, and they don't know what being taken means. Pray teach it to us."
This irony was had in the darkness, be it remembered, and in the midst of seven hundred desperate deer-hunters and marauders who had baffled all the efforts of the regular authorities to capture them. Blackwell's detachment numbered thirty-eight. And now a deed was done that terrified the boldest in all that band grouped together in the darkness, and waiting to spring upon the little handful of devoted soldiers, true to that country which no longer had either thanks or praise to bestow. James Kirtley, James Rudd, Samuel Downing and Albert Jeffries seized each a keg of powder and advanced in front of the arsenal some fifty paces, leaving behind them from the entrance a dark and ominous train.
Where the halt was had a little heap of powder was placed upon the ground, and upon each heap was placed a keg, the hole downwards, or connected with the heap upon the ground. The mass of marauders surged back as if the earth had opened at their very feet.
"What do you mean?" they yelled.
"To blow you into hell," was Kirtley's quiet reply,
"if you're within range while we are eating our supper. We have ridden thirty miles, we have good consciences, and therefore we are hungry. Goodnight!" And the reckless soldiers went back singing. One spark would have half demolished the town. A great awe fell upon the clamoring hundreds, and they precipitatedly fled from the deadly spot, not a skulker among them remaining until daylight.
At Waxahatchie it was worse. Here Maurice Langhorne kept guard. Langhorne was a Methodist turned soldier. He publishes a paper now in Independence, harder work, perhaps, than soldiering. Far be it from the author to say that the young Captain ever fell from grace. His oaths were few and far between, and not the great strapping oaths of the Baptists or the Presbyterians. They adorned themselves with black kids and white neckties, and sometimes fell upon their knees. Yet Langhorne was always orthodox.
His pistol practice was superb. During his whole five years' service he never missed his man. He held Waxahatchie with such soldiers as John Kritzer, Martin Kritzer, Jim Crow Childs, Bud Pitcher, Cochran, and a dozen others. He was surrounded by a furious mob who clamored for admittance into the building where the stores were.
"Go away," said Langhorne mildly. His voice was soft enough for a preacher's, his looks bad enough for a backslider. They fired on him a close, hot volley. Wild work followed, for with such men how could it be otherwise? No matter who fell nor the number of the dead and dying, Langhorne held the town that night, the day following, and the next night. There was no more mob. A deep peace came to
the neighborhood, and as he rode away there were many true brave Confederates who came to his little band and blessed them for what had been done. In such guise did these last acts of Shelby array themselves. Scorning all who in the name of soldiers plundered the soldiers, he left a record behind him which, even to this day, has men and women to rise up and call it noble.
After Houston, and Tyler, and Waxahatchie, came Austin. The march had become to be an ovation. Citizens thronged the roads, bringing with them refreshments and good cheer. No soldier could pay for anything. Those who had begun by condemning Shelby's stern treatment of the mob, ended by upholding him.
Governor Murrah, of Texas, still remained at the capital of his State. He had been dying for a year. All those insidious and deceptive approaches of consumption were seen in the hectic cheeks, the large, mournful eyes, the tall, bent frame that quivered as it moved. Murrah was a gifted and brilliant man, but his heart was broken. In his life there was the. memory of an unblessed and an unhallowed love, too deep for human sympathy, too sad and passionate for tears. He knew death was near to him, yet he put on his old gray uniform, and mounted his old, tried war-horse, and rode away dying to Mexico. Later, in Monterey, the red in his cheeks had burned itself out. The crimson had turned to ashen gray. He was dead with his uniform around him.
The Confederate government had a sub-treasury in Austin, in the vaults of which were three hundred thousand dollars in gold and silver. Operating about the city was a company of notorious guerillas, led by a Captain Rabb, half ranchero and half freebooter. It was pleasant pasturage over beyond the Colorado River, and thither the Regiment went, for it had marched far, and it was weary. Loitering late for wine and wassail, many soldiers halted in the streets and tarried till the night came a misty, cloudy, ominous night, full of darkness and dashes of rain.
Suddenly a tremendous battering arose from the iron doors of the vaults in the State House where the money was kept. Silent horsemen galloped to and fro through the gloom ; the bells of the churches were rung furiously; a home guard company mustered at their armory to the beat of the long roll and from beyond the Colorado there arose on the night air the full, resonant blare of Shelby's bugle sounding the wellknown rallying call. In some few brief moments more the head of a solid column, four deep, galloped into the Square, reporting for duty to the Mayor of the city a maimed soldier of Lee's army. Ward led them.
"They are battering down the treasury doors," said the Mayor.
"I should think so," replied Ward. "Iron and steel must soon give way before such blows. What would you have?"
"The safety of the treasure."
"Forward, men!" and the detachment went off at a trot and in through the great gate leading to the Capitol. It was surrounded. The blows continued. Lights shone through all the windows; there were men inside gorging themselves with gold. No questions were asked. A sudden, pitiless jet of flame spurted out from two score of Sharps' carbines; there was the sound of falling men on the echoing floor, and
then a great darkness. From out the smoke, and gloom, and shivered glass, and scattered eagles, they dragged the victims forth dying, bleeding, dead. One among the rest, a greatframed, giant man, had a king's ransom about his person. He had taken off his pantaloons, tied a string around each leg at the bottom and had filled them. An epicure even in death, he had discarded the silver. These white heaps, like a wave, had inundated the room, more precious to fugitive men than food or raiment. Not a dollar was touched, and a stern guard took his post, as immutable as fate, by the silver heaps and the blood puddles. In walking his beat this blood splashed him to the knees.
Now this money was money of the Confederacy, it belonged to her soldiers, they should have taken it and divided it per capita. They did not do this because of this remark.
Said Shelby when they appealed to him to take it as a right: "I went into the war with clean hands, and by God's blessing, I will go out of the war with clean hands."
After that they would have starved before touching a silver picayune.
Ere marching the next morning, however, Murrah came to Shelby and insisted that as his command was the last organized body of Confederates in Texas, that as they were on the eve of abandoning the country, he should take this Confederate property just as he had taken the cannon and the muskets. The temptation was strong, and the arguments were strong, but he never wavered. He knew what the world would say, and he dreaded its malice. Not for himself, however, but for the sake of the nation he had loved and fought so hard to establish.
"We are the last of the race," he said, a little regretfully, "but let us be the best as well."
And so he turned his back upon the treasury and its gold, penniless. His soldiers were ragged, without money, exiles, and yet at his bidding they set their faces as iron against the heaps of silver, and the broken doors of the treasury vaults, and rode on into the South.
When the line of demarkation was so clearly drawn between what was supposed, and what was intended when, indeed, Shelby's line of march was so straight and so steadfast as to no longer leave his destination in doubt, fugitives began to seek shelter under his flag and within the grim ranks of his veterans. Ex-Governor and Ex-Senator Trusten Polk was one of these. He, like the rest, was homeless and penniless, and joined his fortune to the fortunes of those who had just left three hundred thousand dollars in specie in Austin. From all of which Trusten Polk might have argued : "These fellows will carry me through, but they will find for me no gold or silver mines."
Somewhere in the State were other fugitives straggling to reach Shelby fugitive Generals, Governors, Congressmen Cabinet officers, men who imagined that the whole power of the United States Government was bent upon their capture.
Smith was making his way to Mexico, so was Magruder, Reynolds, Parsons, Standish, Conrow, General Lyon of Kentucky, Flournoy, Terrell, Clark and Snead of Texas; General John B. Clark, Sr., General Prevost of Louisiana; Governor Henry W. Allen, Commodore M. F. Maury, General Bee, General Oscar Watkins, Colonel Wm. M. Broadwell, Colonel Peter B. Wilks, and a host of others, equally determined on flight and equally out at elbows. Of money they had scarcely fifty dollars to the man. Magruder brought his superb spirits and his soldierly heart for every fate; Reynolds, his elegant cultivation and his cool, indomitable courage; Smith, his useless repinings and his rigid West Point courtesy; Allen, his electric enthusiasm and his abounding belief in providence; Maury, his learning and his foreign decorations; Clark, his inimitable drollery and his broad Southern humor; Prevost, his French gallantry and wit; Broadwell, his generosity and his speculative views of the future; Bee, his theories of isothermal lines and cotton planting; and Parsons, and Standish and Conrow the shadow of a great darkness that was soon to envelop them as in a cloud the darkness of bloody and premature graves.
The command was within three days' march of San Antonio. As it approached Mexico, the grass gave place to mesquite the wide, undulating prairies to matted and impenetrable stretches of chaparral. All the rigid requirements of war had been carried out the picquet guard, the camp guard, the advanced posts, and the outlying scouts, aimless and objectless, apparently, but full of daring, cunning and guile.
Pasturage was scarce this night, and from water to grass was two good miles. The artillery and commissary teams needed to be fed, and so a strong guard was sent with them to the grazing place. They were magnificent animals all, fat and fine enough to put bad thoughts in the fierce natures of the cow-boys an indigenous Texas growth and the unruly borderers.
They had been gone an hour, and the sad roll of tattoo had floated away on the night air. A scout Martin Kritzer rode rapidly up to Shelby and dismounted. He was dusty and tired, and had ridden far and fast. As a soldier, he was all iron ; as a scout, all intelligence; as a sentinel, unacquainted with sleep.
"Well, Martin," his General said.
"They are after the horses," was the sententious reply.
"Those of the artillery."
"Why do they want them?"
The cavalry soldier looked at his General in surprise. It was the first time in his life he had ever lost confidence in him. Such a question from such a source was more than he could well understand. He repeated slowly, a look of honest credulity on his bronzed face: "Why do they want them Well, because they are fine, fat, trained in the harness, scarce to find, and worth half their weight in gold. Are these reasons enough?"
Shelby did not reply. He ordered Langhorne to report to him. He came up as he always came, smiling.
"Take fifty men," were the curt instructions, "and station them a good half mile in front of the pasturing place. There must be no bullets dropping in among our stock, and they must have plenty of grass room. You were on duty last night, I believe."
"And did not sleep?"
"Nor will you sleep to-night. Station the men, I say, and then station yourself at the head of them. You will hear a noise in the night late in the night and presently a dark body of horsemen will march up, fair to see between the grass and the sky-line. You need not halt them. When the range gets good fire and charge. Do you understand?"
In an hour Langhorne was at his post, silent as fate and terrible, couching there in his lair, with fifty good carbines behind him. About midnight a low note like thunder sprang up from towards San Antonio. The keen ear of the practiced soldier took in its meaning, as a sailor might the speech of the sea.
"Get ready they are coming."
The indolent forms lifted themselves up from the great shadow of the earth. When they were still again they were mounted.
The thunder grew louder. What had before been noises was now shape and substance. Seventy-eight border men were riding down to raid the herders.
"Are you all loaded?" Asked Langhorne.
"All. Have been for four years."
From the mass in front plain figures evolved themselves. Under the stars their gun-barrels shone.
"They have guns" sneered Langhorne, "but no scouts in front. What would Old Joe say to that?"
"He would dismount them and send them to the infantry," laughed John Kritzer.
The leading files were within fifty yards- near enough for a volley. They had not heard this grim by-play, rendered under the night and to the ears of an unseen death crouching in the prairie grass.
"Make ready!" Langhorne's voice had a gentleness in it, soft as a caress. The Methodist had turned lover. Fifty dark muzzles crept out to the front, and waited there, gaping.
"Take aim!" The softest things are said in whispers.
The Methodist was about to deliver the benediction.
A red cleft in the heart of the midnight a murky shroud of dun and dark that smelt of sulphur a sudden uprearing of staggering steeds and staggering riders a wild, pitiful panic of spectres who had encountered the unknown and fifty terrible men dashed down to the charge. Why follow the deadly work under the sky and the stars. It was providence fulfilling a vow fate restoring the equilibrium of justice, justice vindicating the supremacy of its immortal logic. Those who came to rob had been a scourge more dreaded than the pestilence more insatiate than a famine. Defying alike civil and martial law, they had preyed alternately upon the people and the soldiers. They were desperadoes and marauders of the worst type, feared and hated or both.
Beyond a few scattering shots, fired by the boldest of them in retreat, they made no fight. The dead were not buried. As the regiment moved on toward San Antonio, thirty-nine could have been counted lying out in the grass booted and spurred, and awaiting the Judgment Day.
San Antonio, in the full drift of the tide which flowed in from Mexico, was first an island and afterwards an oasis.
To the hungry and war-worn soldiers of SHELBY'S expedition it was a Paradise. Mingo, the unparalleled host of Mingo's Hotel, was the guardian angel, but there was no terror in his looks, not any flaming sword in his hand. Here, everything that European markets could afford, was found in abundance.
Cotton, magnificent even in its overthrow, had chosen this last spot as the city of its refuge and its caresses. Fugitive Generals had gathered here, and fugitive Senators, and fugitive Governors, and fugitive desperadoes, as well, men sententious of speech and quick of pistol practice. These last had taken immediate possession of the city, and were rioting in the old royal fashion, sitting in the laps of courtesans and drinking wines fresh through the blockade from France.
Those passers-by who jeered at them as they went to and fro received a fusillade for their folly. Seven even had been killed seven good Texas soldiers and a great fear had fallen upon the place, this antique, half-Mexican city which had been Fannin's new Thermopylae, and the black Spanish death-flag wind itself up into the Alamo. When the smoke had cleared away and the powder-pall had been lifted, the black had become crimson.
First a speck and then a vulture, until the streets had become dangerous with desperadoes. They had plundered a dozen stores, had sacked and burnt a commissary train, had levied a prestamo upon the citizens, and had gone one night to "smoke out Tom Hindman," in their rough border dialect.
Less fortunate than Putnam, they found the wolf's den, and the wolf was within, but he showed his teeth and made fight. They hammered at his door furiously. A soft, musical voice called out:
"What do you want?"
Hindman was a small man, having the will and the courage of a Highlander. Eloquent of speech, cool, a colloquial swordsman whose steel had poison on it from point to hilt, audacious in plot, imperturbable in finesse, grayeyed, proud at times to isolation, unsuccessful in the field, and incomparable in the cabinet, it was this manner of a man who had called out from behind his barricade.
The leader of 'the attacking party answered him : "It is said that you have dealt in cotton, that you have gold, that you are leaving the country. We have come for the gold that is all."
"Indeed!" and the soft voice was strangely harsh and guttural now. "Then, since you have come for the gold, suppose you take the gold. In the absence of all law, might makes right."
He spoke to them not another word that night, but no man advanced to the attack upon the building, and when the daylight came, Shelby was in possession of the city. A deputation of citizens had traveled twenty miles that day to his camp, and besought him to hasten forward, that their lives and their property might be saved. The camp was in deep sleep, for the soldiers had traveled far, but they mustered to the shrill bugle call, and rode on through the long night afterwards, for honor and for duty.
Discipline is a stern, chaste queen beautiful at times as Semiramis, ferocious as Medea. Her hands are those of the priest and the executioner. They excommunicate, which is a bandage over the eyes and a platoon of musketry ; they make the sign of the cross, which is the acquittal of a drum-head
court-martial. Most generally the excommunications outnumber the genuflections.
D. A. Williams did provost duty on one side of the river, A. W. Slayback upon the other. What slipped through the hands of the first fell into those of the last. What escaped both, fell into the water. Some men are born to be shot, some to be hung, and some to be drowned. Even desperadoes have this fatality in common with the Christians, and thus in the ranks of the plunderers there is predestination. Peace came upon the city as the balm of a southeast trade-wind, and after the occupation there was an ovation. Women walked forth as if to a festival. The Plaza transformed itself into a parterre. Roses bloomed in the manes of the horses these were exotic; roses bloomed in the faces of the maidens these were divine. After Cannae there was Capua. Shelby had read of Hannibal, and Carthagenian, and had seen Hannibal the elephant, and so in his mind there was no more comparison between the battle and the town than there was between the man and the animal. He would rest a little, much, many glad and sunshiny days, filled full of dalliance, and dancing, and music.
Mingo's Hotel from a cloister had become to be a cantonment. It was noisy like a hive, vocal like a morning in May. Serenading parties improvised themselves. Jake Connor lead them, an artillery officer, who sang like Mario and fought like Victor Emmanuel. In his extremes he was Italian. On the edge of all this languor and love, discipline, like a fringe, arrayed itself. Patrols paraded the streets,
made time, and in the midst of a flood of defeat, disaster, greed, overthrow, and rending asunder, there was 'one ark which floated hither and thither, armed in a fashion unknown to Noah, bearing a strange barred banner at the fore the Banner of the Bars. When its Ararat was found there was no longer any more Ark.
On the evening of the second day of occupation, an ambulance drew up in front of the Mingo House. Besides the driver, there alighted an old man, aged, bent, spent with fatigue, and dusty as a foot soldier. Shelby sat in the balcony watching him, a light of recognition in his calm eyes. The old man entered, approached the register, and wrote his name.
One having curiosity enough to look over his shoulder might have read:
Fair enough name and honest. The old man went to his room and locked his door. The windows of his room looked out upon the plaza. In a few moments it was noticed that the blinds were drawn, and the curtains down. Old men need air and sunlight; they do not commence hibernating in June.
When he had drawn his blinds, Shelby called up Connor.
"Get your band together, Lieutenant," was the order.
"For what, General?"
"For a serenade."
"A serenade to whom?"
"No matter, but a serenade just the same. Order, also, as you go out by headquarters, that all the men not on duty, get under arms immediately and parade in front of the balcony."
The assembly blew a moment afterwards, and as the sun set a serried mass of soldiers, standing shoulder to shoulder, were in line, waiting. Afterwards the band marched into the open place reserved for it, Connor leading.
Shelby pointed up to the old man's window, smiling. "Play Hail to the Chief," he said. It was done. No answering signals at the window. The blinds from a look of silence had put on one of selfishness.
Shelby spoke again:
"Try 'Dixie,' boys. If the old man were dead it would bring him to life again."
The sweet, familiar strains rose up, rapid and exultant, filling all the air with life and all the pulses with blood. When they had died with the sunset, there was still no answer.
Shelby spoke again:
"That old man up there is Kirby Smith; I would know him among a thousand. Shout for him until you are hoarse."
A great roar burst forth like a tempest, shaking the house, and in the full torrent of the tide, and borne aloft as an awakening cry, could be heard the name of "Smith! Smith!"
The blinds flew open. The curtains were rolled up, and in plain view of this last remnant of his magnificent army of fifty thousand men, Gen. E. Kirby Smith came forth undisguised, a look full of eagerness and wonderment on his weary and saddened face. He did not understand the greeting, the music, the armed men, the eyes that had penetrated his disguise, the shouts that had invaded his retreat. Threatened with death by roving and predatory bands from Shreveport to San Antonio, he knew not whether one friend remained to him of all the regiments he had fed, clothed, flattered, and left unfought.
Shelby rose up in his place, a great respect and tenderness at work in his heart for this desolate and abandoned man who lived the military life that was in him, and who a stranger in a land filled full of his soldiers had not so much as a broken flag staff to lean upon. Given not overmuch to speaking, and brief of logic and rhetoric, he won the exile when he said to him:
"General Smith, you are the ranking officer in the Trans-Mississippi Department. These are your soldiers, and we are here to report to you. Command, and we obey; lead us and we will follow. In this public manner, and before all San Antonio, with music and with banners, we come to proclaim your arrival in the midst of that little band which knows neither dishonor nor surrender. You were seeking concealment, and you have found a noontide of soldierly obedience and devotion. You were seeking the night and the obscurity of self-appointed banishment and exile, and you have found guards to attend you, and the steadfast light of patriotism to make your pathway plain. We bid you good morning instead of good night, and await, as of old, your further orders."
Shouts arose upon shouts, triumphal music filled all the air again. Thrice Smith essayed to speak, and thrice his tears mastered him. In an hour he was in the ranks of his happy soldiers, as safe and as full of confidence as a king upon his throne. There came also to San Antonio, before the march was resumed, an Englishman who was a mystery and an enigma.
Some said he was crazy, and he might have been, for the line of demarkation is so narrow and so fine between the sound and unsound mind, that analysis, however acute, fails often to ascertain where the first ends and the last begins.
This Englishman, however, was different from most insane people in this that he was an elegant and accomplished linguist, and extensive traveler, a soldier who had seen service in Algeria with the French, and in the Crimea with the British, and a hunter who had known Jules Girard and Gordon Cumming. His views upon suicide were as novel as they were logically presented. His knowledge of chemistry, and the intricate yet fascinating science of toxicology, surprised all who conversed with him. He was a man of the middle age, seemingly rich, refined in all his habits and tastes, and singularly winning and fascinating in his intercourse with the men. Dudley, that eminent Kentucky physician, known of most men in America, declared, after the observations of a long life, that every man born of a woman was crazy upon some one subject. This Englishman, therefore, if he was crazy at all, was crazy upon the subject of Railroad Accidents. He had a feverish desire to see one, be in one, enjoy one, and run the risk of being killed by one. He had traveled, he said, over two continents, pursuing a phantom which always eluded him. Now before and now behind him, and then again upon the route he had just passed over, he had never so much as seen an engine ditched. As for a real, first-class collision, he had long ago despaired of its enjoyment. His talk never ended of wrecked cars and shattered locomotives. With a sigh he abandoned his hopes of a luxury so peculiar and unnatural, and came as a private to an expedition which was taking him away from the land of railroads. Later, this strange Englishman, this traveler, linguist, soldier, philosopher, chemist this monomaniac, too, if you will was foremost in the battle of the Salinas, fighting splendidly, and well to the front. A musket ball killed his horse. He mounted another and continued to press forward. The second bullet shattered his left leg from the knee to the ankle. It was not known that
he was struck until a third ball, entering the breast fairly, knocked him clear and clean from the saddle, dying. He lived until the sun went down an hour and more. Before he died, however, the strangest part of his life was to come that of his confession. When related, in its proper sequence, it will be found how prone the best of us are to forget that it is the heart which is oftener diseased than the head. He had suffered much in his stormy lifetime, had sinned not a little, and had died as a hunted wolf dies, victoriously and at bay.
At San Antonio, also Governor Reynolds and Gen. Magruder joined the expedition. The first was a man whose character had to be tried in the fiery crucible of military strife and disaster, that it might stand out grand, massive and indomitable. He was a statesman and a soldier. Much residence abroad had made him an accomplished diplomatist.
He spoke three foreign languages fluently. To the acute analysis of a cultivated and expanded mind, he had added the exacting logic of the law. Poetry, and all the natural and outward forms of beauty affected him like other imaginative men, but in his philosophy he discarded the ornate for the strong, the Oriental architecture for the Corinthian. Revolution stood revealed before him, stripped of all its glare and tinsel. As a skilled physician, he laid his hand upon the pulse of the war and told the fluctuations of the disease from the symptoms of the patient. He knew the condition of the Confederacy better than its President, and worked like a giant to avert the catastrophe. Shams fled before him as shadows before the sun. He heard no voice but of patriotism, knew no word but devotion, had no ambition but for his country, blessed no generals without victorious battle-fields, and exiled himself before he would surrender. His faith was spotless in the sight of that God of battles in whom he put his trust, and his record shone out through all the long, dark days as a light that was set upon a hill.
Magruder was a born soldier, dead now and gone to heaven. He had a figure like a Mars divested of immortality. He would fight all day and dance all night. He wrote love songs and sang them, and won an heiress rich beyond comparison.
The wittiest man in the old army, Gen. Scott, adored him. His speech had a lisp that was attractive, inasmuch as it lingered over its puns and caressed its rhetoric. Six feet in height, and straight as Tecumseh, Magruder, in full regimentals, was the handsomest soldier in the Confederacy.
Not the fair, blonde beauty of the city, odorous of perfume and faultless in tailor-fashion, but a great, bronzed Ajax, mighty thewed, and as strong of hand as strong of digestion. He loved women, too, and was beloved by them.
After Galveston, with blood upon his garments, a bullet wound upon his body, and victory upon his standards, he danced until there was daybreak in the sky and sunlight upon the earth. From the fight to the frolic it had been fifty-eight hours since he had slept. A boy of sixty-four, penniless, with a family in Europe, homeless, bereft of an avocation he had grown gray in following, having no country and no calling, he, too, had come to his favorite officer to choose his bivouac and receive his protection. The ranks opened eagerly for this wonderful recruit, who carried in his old-young head so many memories of the land towards which all were journeying.
FROM San Antonio to Eagle pass was a long march made dreary by mesquite and chapparaI. In the latter war laggards abounded, sleeping bV day and devouring by night. These hung upon the flanks and upon the rear of the column, relying more upon force than stratagem-more upon surprises for capture, than sabre or pistol practice. Returning late one night from extra duty, D. A. Williams with ten men met a certain Captain Bradford with thirty-two. Williams had seven mules that Bradford wanted, but to get them it was necessary to take them. This he tried frem an ambush, carefully sought and cunningly planned-an ambush all the more deadly because the superb soldier Williams as riding campward under the moon, thinking more of women than of war. In front, and back from the road upon the right, was a clump of mesquite too thick almost for a centipede to crawl through.
'When there was water, a stream bounded one edge of this undergrowth; when there was no water, the. bed of this stream was a great ditch. When the ambushment was had, instead of water there was sand. On guard, however, more from the force of haLit than from the sense of danger, ''Williams had sent a young soldier forward, to reconnoitre and to stay forward, watching well upon the right hand and upon the left. George R. Cruzen was his name, and a braver and better never awoke to the sound of the reveille. Cruzen had passed the mesquite, passed beyond the line of its shadows, passed out into the glare of a full harvest moon, when a stallion neighed fiercely to the right of him. He halted by instinct, and drew himself together listening. Thanks to the sand, his horse's feet had made no noise; thanks to the stallion, he had stopped before the open jaws of the defile had closed upon their prey. He rode slowly back into the chapparal, dismounted, tied his horse, and advanced on foot to the brink of the ravine just where it skirted the edge of the brush. As he held his breath he counted thirty stalwart men crouching in the moon·light. Two he did not see. These were on guard where the road crossed the dry bed of the creek. Cruzen's duty was plain before him. Regaining his horse speedily, he galloped back to where Williams had halted for a bit of rest. "Short greeting serves in time of strife," and Cruzen stated the case so plainly that Williams' could almost see the men as they waited there for his little band.
He bade his soldiers dismount, take a pistol in each hand, and follow him. Before doing this the horses and led mules were securely fastened.
Stealing round the point of the chapparal noiselessly as a flight of birds through the air, he came upon the left flank of the marauders, upon that flank which had been left unprotected and unguarded. He was within five paces of them before he was discovered.
They fired a point blank volley full in his face, but his detachment fell forward and escaped untouched. As they arose they charged. The melee was close and suffocating. Three of Williams' soldiers died in the ravine, two scrambled out wounded to the death, one carries yet a bullet in his body. But he triumphed.
Never was there a fight so small, so rapid and so desperate. Cruzen killed three, Cam. Boucher three, Williams four, Ras. Woods five with one pistol, a heavy English dragoon, and other soldiers of the ten two apiece. Out of the thirty-two, twenty-seven lay dead in a space three blankets might have covered. Shelby heard the firing, and sent swift succor back, but the terrible work was done. Williams rarely left a fight half finished. His deeds that night were the talk of the camp for many long marches thereafter.
The next day at noon, while halting for dinner, two scouts from the rear James Kirtley and James Rudd-galloped in with the news that a Federal force, 3,000 strong, with a six gun battery, was marching to overtake the column.
"Who commands?" asked Shelby.
"Colonel Johnson," replied Rudd.
"How far in the rear did you see him?"
" About seventeen miles."
"Mount your horse again, Rudd, you and Kirtley, and await further orders."
Shelby then called one who had been his ordnance master, Maj. Jos. Moreland. Moreland came, polite, versatile, clothed all in red and gold lace. Fit for any errand, keen for any frolic, fond of any adventure, so only there were wine and shooting in it, Moreland reported.
"I believe," said Shelby, "you can turn the prettiest period, make the grandest bow, pay the handsomest compliment, and drink the pleasantest toast of any man in my command. Take these two soldiers with you, ride to the rear seventeen miles, seek an interview with Colonel Johnson, and give him this."
It was a note which he handed him-a note which read as follows:
" COLONEL: My scouts inform me that you have about three thousand men, and that you are looking for me. I have only one thousand men, and yet I should like to make your acquaintance. I will probably march from my present camp about ten miles further to-day, halting on the high road between San Antonio and Eagle Pass. Should you desire to pay me a visit, you will find me at home until day after to-morrow."
Moreland took the message and bore it speedily to its destination. Amid many profound bows, and a multitude of graceful and complimentary words, he delivered it. Johnson was a gentleman, and dismissed the embassy with many promises to be present, He did not come. That night he went into camp five miles to the rear, and rested there all the next day. True to his word, Shelby waited for
him patiently, and made every preparation for a stubborn fight.
Once afterwards Colonel Johnson came near enough to indicate business, but he halted again at the eleventh hour and refused to pick up the gage of battle. Perhaps he was nearer right than his antagonist.
The war was over. and the lives of several hundred men were in his keeping. He could afford to be lenient in this, the last act of the drama, and he was. Whatever his motives, the challenge remained unaccepted. As for Shelby, he absolutely prayed for a meeting. The old ardor of battle broke out like a hidden fire, and
burnt up every other consideration. He would have staked all and risked all upon the issue of the fight-one man against three.
The march went rapidly on. But one adventure occurred after Williams' brief battle, and that happened in this wise: Some stores belonging to the families of Confederate soldiers had been robbed by renegades and deserters a few hours previous to Shelby's arrival in the neighborhood. A delegation of women came to his camp seeking restitution. He gave them retribution. Eleven miles from the plundered habitations was a rugged range of hills, inaccessible to most soldiers who had ridden and raided about its vicinity.
Here, as another Rob Roy, the leader of the robber band had his rendezvous. This band numbered, all told, nearly three hundred, and a motley band it was, composed of Mexicans, deserters from both armies, Indians, men from Arizona and California, and desperate fugitives from justice, whose names were changed, and whose habitations had been forgotten. To these hills the property had been taken, and to these hills went Slayback with two hundred men. He found the goods piled up breast high, and in front of them, to defend them, were about two hundred robbers. They scarcely waited for a fire. Slayback charged them with a great rush, and with the revolver solely. The nature of the ground alone prevented the attack from becoming an extermination. Slayback finished his work, as he always did, thoroughly and well, and returned to the command without the loss of a man.
About this time three men came to Shelby and represented themselves as soldiers of Lee's army who where abandoning the country, and who wished to go with him to Mexico. They were enrolled at once and assigned to a company. In a day or two some suspicions were aroused from the fact of their being well acquainted with the Spanish language, speaking it fluently upon every occasion when an opportunity offered. Now Lee's soldiers had but scant time for the acquirement of such accomplishments, and it became at last a question of some doubt as to the truth of the statements of these three men. To expose them fully it cost one of them his arm, the other two their lives, together with the lives of thirteen Mexicans who, guiltless in the intention, yet sinned in the act.
When within three days' journey of the Rio Grande, General Smith expressed a desire to precede the regiment into 1IIexico. and asked for an escort. This was cheerfully furnished, and Langhorn received his orders to guard the Commander-in Chief of the Trans-Mississippi Department safely to the river, and as for beyond this the need might be, if it were to the Pacific ocean. There was not a drop of the miser's blood in Shelby's veins. In everything be was prodigal-of his money, when he had any, of his courage, of his blood, of his men, of his succor, of his influence, of his good deeds to his comrades and superior officers, and of his charities to others not so strong and so dauntless as himself. 'With Smith there went also, Magruder, Prevost, Wilcox, Bee, and a score of other officers, who had business with certain French and Mexican officer at Piedras Negras, and who were tired of the trained marching and the regular encampments of the disciplined soldiers.
Langhorn did his duty well. Punctilious in the performance of every obligation as careful of his mission as he could have been of a post of honor in the front of battle, Smith said to him, when he bade him good-bye:
"With an army of such soldiers as Shelby has, and this last sad act in the drama of exile would have been left unrecorded."
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