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    Chapter 2

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    Chapter 3
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    As the Autumn of 1863 advanced towards Winter the difficulty of supplying
    the forces concentrated around Cumberland Gap--as well as the rest of
    Burnside's army in East Tennessee--became greater and greater. The base
    of supplies was at Camp Nelson, near Lexington, Ky., one hundred and
    eighty miles from the Gap, and all that the Army used had to be hauled
    that distance by mule teams over roads that, in their best state were
    wretched, and which the copious rains and heavy traffic had rendered
    well-nigh impassable. All the country to our possession had been drained
    of its stock of whatever would contribute to the support of man or beast.
    That portion of Powell's Valley extending from the Gap into Virginia was
    still in the hands of the Rebels; its stock of products was as yet almost
    exempt from military contributions. Consequently a raid was projected to
    reduce the Valley to our possession, and secure its much needed stores.
    It was guarded by the Sixty-fourth Virginia, a mounted regiment, made up
    of the young men of the locality, who had then been in the service about
    two years.

    Maj. C. H. Beer's third Battalion, Sixteenth Illinois Cavalry--four
    companies, each about 75 strong--was sent on the errand of driving out
    the Rebels and opening up the Valley for our foraging teams. The writer
    was invited to attend the excursion. As he held the honorable, but not
    very lucrative position of "high, private" in Company L, of the
    Battalion, and the invitation came from his Captain, he did not feel at
    liberty to decline. He went, as private soldiers have been in the habit
    of doing ever since the days of the old Centurion, who said with the
    characteristic boastfulness of one of the lower grades of commissioned
    officers when he happens to be a snob:

    For I am also a man set under authority, having under me soldiers,
    and I say unto one, Go; and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he
    cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

    Rather "airy" talk that for a man who nowadays would take rank with
    Captains of infantry.

    Three hundred of us responded to the signal of "boots and saddles,"
    buckled on three hundred more or less trusty sabers and revolvers,
    saddled three hundred more or less gallant steeds, came into line "as
    companies" with the automatic listlessness of the old soldiers, "counted
    off by fours" in that queer gamut-running style that makes a company of
    men "counting off"--each shouting a number in a different voice from his
    neighbor--sound like running the scales on some great organ badly out of
    tune; something like this:

    One. Two. Three. Four. One. Two. Three. Four. One. Two. Three.

    Then, as the bugle sounded "Right forward! fours right!" we moved off at
    a walk through the melancholy mist that soaked through the very fiber of
    man and horse, and reduced the minds of both to a condition of limp
    indifference as to things past, present and future.

    Whither we were going we knew not, nor cared. Such matters had long
    since ceased to excite any interest. A cavalryman soon recognizes as the
    least astonishing thing in his existence the signal to "Fall in!" and
    start somewhere. He feels that he is the "Poor Joe" of the Army--under
    perpetual orders to "move on."

    Down we wound over the road that zig-tagged through the forts, batteries
    and rifle-pits covering the eastern ascent to the Flap-past the wonderful
    Murrell Spring--so-called because the robber chief had killed, as he
    stooped to drink of its crystal waters, a rich drover, whom he was
    pretending to pilot through the mountains--down to where the "Virginia
    road" turned off sharply to the left and entered Powell's Valley. The
    mist had become a chill, dreary rain, through, which we plodded silently,
    until night closed in around us some ten miles from the Gap. As we
    halted to go into camp, an indignant Virginian resented the invasion of
    the sacred soil by firing at one of the guards moving out to his place.
    The guard looked at the fellow contemptuously, as if he hated to waste
    powder on a man who had no better sense than to stay out in such a rain,
    when he could go in-doors, and the bushwhacker escaped, without even a
    return shot.

    Fires were built, coffee made, horses rubbed, and we laid down with feet
    to the fire to get what sleep we could.

    Before morning we were awakened by the bitter cold. It had cleared off
    during the night and turned so cold that everything was frozen stiff.
    This was better than the rain, at all events. A good fire and a hot cup
    of coffee would make the cold quite endurable.

    At daylight the bugle sounded "Right forward! fours right!" again, and
    the 300 of us resumed our onward plod over the rocky, cedar-crowned

    In the meantime, other things were taking place elsewhere. Our esteemed
    friends of the Sixty-fourth Virginia, who were in camp at the little town
    of Jonesville, about 40 miles from the Gap, had learned of our starting
    up the Valley to drive them out, and they showed that warm reciprocity
    characteristic of the Southern soldier, by mounting and starting down the
    Valley to drive us out. Nothing could be more harmonious, it will be
    perceived. Barring the trifling divergence of yews as to who was to
    drive and who be driven, there was perfect accord in our ideas.

    Our numbers were about equal. If I were to say that they considerably
    outnumbered us, I would be following the universal precedent.
    No soldier-high or low-ever admitted engaging an equal or inferior force
    of the enemy.

    About 9 o'clock in the morning--Sunday--they rode through the streets of
    Jonesville on their way to give us battle. It was here that most of the
    members of the Regiment lived. Every man, woman and child in the town
    was related in some way to nearly every one of the soldiers.

    The women turned out to wave their fathers, husbands, brothers and lovers
    on to victory. The old men gathered to give parting counsel and
    encouragement to their sons and kindred. The Sixty-fourth rode away to
    what hope told them would be a glorious victory.

    At noon we are still straggling along without much attempt at soldierly
    order, over the rough, frozen hill-sides. It is yet bitterly cold, and
    men and horses draw themselves together, as if to expose as little
    surface as possible to the unkind elements. Not a word had been spoken
    by any one for hours.

    The head of the column has just reached the top of the hill, and the rest
    of us are strung along for a quarter of a mile or so back.

    Suddenly a few shots ring out upon the frosty air from the carbines of
    the advance. The general apathy is instantly, replaced by keen
    attention, and the boys instinctively range themselves into fours--the
    cavalry unit of action. The Major, who is riding about the middle of the
    first Company--I--dashes to the front. A glance seems to satisfy him,
    for he turns in his saddle and his voice rings out:


    The Company swings around on the hill-top like a great, jointed toy
    snake. As the fours come into line on a trot, we see every man draw his
    saber and revolver. The Company raises a mighty cheer and dashes

    Company K presses forward to the ground Company I has just left, the
    fours sweep around into line, the sabers and revolvers come out
    spontaneously, the men cheer and the Company flings itself forward.

    All this time we of Company L can see nothing except what the companies
    ahead of us are doing. We are wrought up to the highest pitch. As
    Company K clears its ground, we press forward eagerly. Now we go into
    line just as we raise the hill, and as my four comes around, I catch a
    hurried glimpse through a rift in the smoke of a line of butternut and
    gray clad men a hundred yards or so away. Their guns are at their faces,
    and I see the smoke and fire spurt from the muzzles. At the same instant
    our sabers and revolvers are drawn. We shout in a frenzy of excitement,
    and the horses spring forward as if shot from a bow.

    I see nothing more until I reach the place where the Rebel line stood.
    Then I find it is gone. Looking beyond toward the bottom of the hill, I
    see the woods filled with Rebels, flying in disorder and our men yelling
    in pursuit. This is the portion of the line which Companies I and K
    struck. Here and there are men in butternut clothing, prone on the
    frozen ground, wounded and dying. I have just time to notice closely one
    middle-aged man lying almost under my horse's feet. He has received a
    carbine bullet through his head and his blood colors a great space around

    One brave man, riding a roan horse, attempts to rally his companions.
    He halts on a little knoll, wheels his horse to face us, and waves his
    hat to draw his companions to him. A tall, lank fellow in the next four
    to me--who goes by the nickname of "'Leven Yards"--aims his carbine at
    him, and, without checking his horse's pace, fires. The heavy Sharpe's
    bullet tears a gaping hole through the Rebel's heart. He drops from his
    saddle, his life-blood runs down in little rills on either side of the
    knoll, and his riderless horse dashes away in a panic.

    At this instant comes an order for the Company to break up into fours and
    press on through the forest in pursuit. My four trots off to the road at
    the right. A Rebel bugler, who hag been cut off, leaps his horse into
    the road in front of us. We all fire at him on the impulse of the
    moment. He falls from his horse with a bullet through his back. Company
    M, which has remained in column as a reserve, is now thundering up close
    behind at a gallop. Its seventy-five powerful horses are spurning the
    solid earth with steel-clad hoofs. The man will be ground into a
    shapeless mass if left where he has fallen. We spring from our horses
    and drag him into a fence corner; then remount and join in the pursuit.

    This happened on the summit of Chestnut Ridge, fifteen miles from

    Late in the afternoon the anxious watchers at Jonesville saw a single
    fugitive urging his well-nigh spent horse down the slope of the hill
    toward town. In an agony of anxiety they hurried forward to meet him and
    learn his news.

    The first messenger who rushed into Job's presence to announce the
    beginning of the series of misfortunes which were to afflict the upright
    man of Uz is a type of all the cowards who, before or since then, have
    been the first to speed away from the field of battle to spread the news
    of disaster. He said:

    "And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have
    slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped
    alone to tell thee."

    So this fleeing Virginian shouted to his expectant friends:

    "The boys are all cut to pieces; I'm the only one that got away."

    The terrible extent of his words was belied a little later, by the
    appearance on the distant summit of the hill of a considerable mob of
    fugitives, flying at the utmost speed of their nearly exhausted horses.
    As they came on down the hill as almost equally disorganized crowd of
    pursuers appeared on the summit, yelling in voices hoarse with continued
    shouting, and pouring an incessant fire of carbine and revolver bullets
    upon the hapless men of the Sixty-fourth Virginia.

    The two masses of men swept on through the town. Beyond it, the road
    branched in several directions, the pursued scattered on each of these,
    and the worn-out pursuers gave up the chase.

    Returning to Jonesville, we took an account of stock, and found that we
    were "ahead" one hundred and fifteen prisoners, nearly that many horses,
    and a considerable quantity of small arms. How many of the enemy had
    been killed and wounded could not be told, as they were scattered over
    the whole fifteen miles between where the fight occurred and the pursuit
    ended. Our loss was trifling.

    Comparing notes around the camp-fires in the evening, we found that our
    success had been owing to the Major's instinct, his grasp of the
    situation, and the soldierly way in which he took advantage of it. When
    he reached the summit of the hill he found the Rebel line nearly formed
    and ready for action. A moment's hesitation might have been fatal to us.
    At his command Company I went into line with the thought-like celerity of
    trained cavalry, and instantly dashed through the right of the Rebel
    line. Company K followed and plunged through the Rebel center, and when
    we of Company L arrived on the ground, and charged the left, the last
    vestige of resistance was swept away. The whole affair did not probably
    occupy more than fifteen minutes.

    This was the way Powell's Valley was opened to our foragers.
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