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Between the lines: a story of the war online

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us on the instant. We are utterly alone. Sir, we will
not accept aid or comfort for ourselves. Let this
prove ray words" — and he turned to Lucy — "the
package, daughter, with Major Kearny's money; bring
it here. I shall ask you, colonel, to see that it is safe-
ly restored to him. We will not, I say, ask or accept
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226 BETWEEN THE LIKES.

aid for ourselves, but should you ever hear of my boy
in danger of his life or honor, you will not forget ?"

" Forget ? By Heaven ! I could as soon forget my
mother's face," answered Westerlo. "With every
time I look upon your daughter's eyes I am ready to
implore that you should let me take you — take you
and her to my home. There you are safe, at least, as
my own ; there you can have tender care and nursing,
and your health will return. Judge Armistead, Burdy
it can be done,"

" You are a noble, a knightly soldier. Colonel West-
erlo. From my heart I thank you. It is too late —
too late. I shall never leave Virginia ; but when I
am gathered to my fathers, she — my child — will be
utterly alone here. If then — if then—"

" Hush I she comes. Then, now, at any time hence-
forth, she shall be as my own. You have my word."

And Judge Armistead's trembling hand sought and
clasped the broad and sinewy palm extended to him
as the two men looked in each other's eyes. Then
Lucy re-entered the room, and handed to her father
the sealed packet and some letters.

An hour later Colonel Westerlo had bidden them
adieu and started on his return. He had exchanged
a few words with Captain Wise, and given him some
hints as to the propriety of diminishing his guards
and augmenting his personal courtesies to the stricken
household. He had made arrangements to have the
assistant surgeon sent up to see the failing old man,
and he had stolen into the kitchen and had a brief
consultation with Aunt Bell, as a result of which some



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BETWEEN THE LIKES. 227

more boxes were smuggled over from the camp of the
cavalry detachment. Then, bearing his precious doc-
uments, he waved his hand in adieu to Lucy, who ap-
peared one instant on the piazza, and set forth on his
return.

Two miles outside of headquarters he came upon
the cavalry picket at a fork of the road. The ser-
geant looked up eagerly as he saluted the popular old
field-oflScer.

" They're expecting you back, colonel, and are get-
ting mighty impatient, from what I can learn."

" Why, what has happened ?"

" Oh, nothing much, except that the man we took
to be Tierney isn't him at all. It is a Reb officer
we've got, running our lines as a spy in disguise.
There's going to be a hanging at sunrise."

" My God !" was all Westerlo could say as he struck
spurs to his horse and urged him to the gallop.



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XXII.

Despite the vigor of his actions as temporary com-
mander of the district, " old Van Duzen" was a sorely
perturbed official. Some one had succeeded in arous-
ing in his mind grave distrust as to the security of
his position. Mosby, it is true, had scampered away
to the Shenandoah, and was frequently heard of at
various points along that beautiful valley. Graham,
with three regiments, had given chase, and was now
separated by many a long mile from the inexperienced
soldier whose years had pointed him out as a good
man to leave behind when rapid marching was ex-
pected of the column, and whose prominence in poll-
tics gave him, supposably, some qualifications as a
manager of local affairs. It was by no means a tur-
bulent neighborhood. All the people who had else-
where to go had long since left so dangerous a field as
that which lay subject to incessant incursions from
troopers of the opposing forces. Most of the little
towns were well-nigh depopulated. Few of the farms
had other tenants than the birds of the air ; but what
made the region full of wordless terrors to the old
politician-colonel was the close proximity of the fords
and bridges of the upper Rappahannock — only a long
day's march away. Beyond them his scouts dare not



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BSrWBBK THB LINES. 229

venturey and who could say what that restless rider,
Staart, might not be doing on the southern shore ?
Night and day Van Duzen's dream was of a sudden
rush past his outposts, and a furious descent upon his
scantily garrisoned camp. He had pickets and out-
posts covering every road for miles to the south and
east. He sent couriers every day to follow the Shen-
andoah column, and he besieged the War Department
with despatches urging that he be strongly rein-
forced. The country, he said, was full of spies. He
had every reason to expect a dash of Rebel cavalry
any hour of the day or night. He was ready to fight
to the last man, so he declared in ringing reports to
an admiring constituency at home, but he begged his
friends to urge their representatives at Washington to
insist on his being instantly and greatly strengthened.
By this time, as was well known at the War Depart-
ment, Stuart was kept very busy along the lower Rap-
pahannock watching the movements of Hooker's dra-
goons ; but Van Duzen was one of those men who
could hardly believe that the cause of the rebellion
cherished one higher ambition than to capture and
carry off to Richmond no less a personage than him-
self, and he would sooner be shot, he said, than fall
into the hands of the Confederacy. Yet he enjoyed,
after a way of his own, the prominence of his posi-
tion. In the absence of news from other sources the
representatives of the press had no trouble in getting
whole columns of sensation from his oracular lips.
"Special correspondents" were easily obtainable
among his henchmen, and the vehement and vigorous



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230 BETWEEN THE LIKES.

efforts of the gallant Colonel Van Duzen in the sup-
pression of the rebellion were daily thrilling thou-
sands and thousands of readers with reviving hope,
and people were already wondering how long an un-
grateful administration would delay his promotion
to a generalship ; and Major Kearny had just marched
across the Long Bridge with his new regiment when
he was startled, and many a reader electrified, by the
tidings that Colonel Van Duzen had captured within
his lines, disguised as a Union scout and amply pro-
vided with authentic orders, credentials, etc., an officer
holding confidential relations with General "Jeb"
Stuart — " a distinguished scion of the F. F. V.'s " —
Major Henry Armistead of the Confederate Cavalry ;
and that it was probable that the fate of the spy,
death by hanging, would be the penalty of his rash-
ness before the setting of another sun. He had safe-
ly penetrated the lines, said this glowing account ;
had obtained most important information as to our
forces, their numbers and position, and was just about
returning when arrested by the vigilance and unerring
judgment of Colonel Van Duzen. At first he stoutly
maintained that he was what his papers represented
him — a scout and secret-service employee, but he was
recognized at once by several "intelligent contra-
bands " who had known him for years, and when ar-
rested was in the act of bidding farewell to his ven-
erable father at his home near Hopeville Gap. The
case against him was clear, and it was absolutely nec-
essary, said the scribe, that a stem example be prompt-
ly made. Ample authority had already been given



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BBTWEBK THB IlKES. 231

Colonel Van Dazen in the premises, and there could
be no question that so fervent a patriot and sterling a
soldier would do his full duty.

And so it happened that Kearny, miles away, and
Westerlo, close at hand, were spurring that night to
reach the scene before the fatal order could be carried
into eflfect, Westerlo was on the spot and in presence
of the district commander as the cavalry trumpets
were sounding tattoo. Kearny was clattering through
the streets of a well-nigh deserted village with an all-
night ride before him. Few words were needed to gain
the desired permission. His new colonel was an old
soldier of the ante-bellum days, who knew the story of
his young major's rescue and preservation by that
very family, who already half suspected that his heart
was left behind him in the shadows of the Bull Run
range, who had noted the eagerness with which ho
rode forth upon the well-remembered highway beyond
Fort Runyon when they reached the "sacred soil'*
that morning ; and who knew his suspicions were well
grounded when at nightfall Kearny came to him, pa-
per in hand, trembling at the lips with anxiety and
emotion, to profiEer his request to be allowed to push
ahead without delay.

Meanwhile old Westerlo had lost no time. Briefly
reporting to his superior the result of his observations
during the day, he asked the honor of a private inter-
view, and Van Duzen, hardly knowing what to make
of the matter, acceded. He stood a little in awe of the
educated soldier whom the fortunes of a war replete
with oddest fortunes had thrown under his command.



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232 BETWEEN THE LINES.

"I hear from several sources as. I return to camp,"
began Westerlo, the moment they were alone, ** a
strange story. Is it true, colonel, that our prisoner
is recognized as Captain Armistead, the son of the
poor old gentleman at Hopeville ?"

" It is true, sir, beyond a doubt. His identity was
discovered to us just after you left by a faithful
colored man, and corroborated by several others. It
is a most important arrest — a most important arrest.
I telegraphed the news at once to Washington — at
least, my adjutant assures me it went at once, and
the line is fortunately up. They make no reply. It
is evident they have full confidence in my ability
and intention to carry out the custom of war in like
cases."

" And, pardon me, you will wait no instructions ?"

" I need none, sir," was the stately reply. " I know
my duty — ^painf ul though it be. So flagrant a case,
after all we have published as to our intentions, can-
not be overlooked. Why, sir, it was sheer bravado —
Southern braggadocio — that prompted that young cox-
comb to dare me in this way. I have not a doubt,
sir, he has seen my proclamation to the people of this
district, and he and his fellow-rebels put up the scheme
to make me a laughing-stock — a laughing-stock. He
dared to ride clear through my lines, sir, and doubtless
vaunted himself on the exploit, and now was going
back, laughing in his sleeve at me, to bring Stuart
and his whole force at his heels to drag us off to Libby.
But I beat him at his own game, sir, and we'll see how
he'll laugh to-morrow."



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BETWEEN THE LINES. 233

" You will hang him then, I judge ?" said Westerlo,
quietly.

" What else ? What said our immortal Washing-
ton of Andr6 — *He was hanged as a spy' — did he
not?"

" Words to that eflfect, colonel, as I remember ; yet,
was there not something else? 'He was tried as a
spy.' Have you tried Captain Armistead ?"

" Cui bonOj Colonel Westerlo, cui bono f Why
attempt to prove a self-evident proposition? What
could be clearer than his case ?"

" Colonel Van Duzen, I am too old a soldier to
argue with my senior ; I am too respectful to you,
personally and oflScially, to venture a word of advice
without your full consent and by your invitation. I
have asked a private interview that no man might
know I ventured to ask you, my commander, to con-
sider one little point. Sir, while I have been a soldier
from boyhood, humble and accustomed to obey, yours
has been the proud gift to be a ruler of men, a swayer
of the public mind. Yours is a name with which our
state resounds — mine is known but as your loyal sub-
ordinate. I would not for one moment question your
judgment in this most important matter. It is to pre-
sent to you a phase of the question you cannot yet
have heard tliat I am here — to ask it of you, not as a
right, but as a favor."

Van Duzen was disarmed. The subtle tribute to
his greatness was more than the statesman of the Sus-
quehanna could withstand.

" Proceed, Colonel Westerlo," he answered, with be-



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284 BETWEEN THE LINES.

coming dignity, yet with softened manner. '^ I shall
be glad of the counsel of so eminent a soldier."

*' They tell me, colonel, he is to hang at sunrise. I
question not that you are satisfied your authority is
ample, and that the government will interpose no or-
ders or delays* I look upon you, indeed, as having
final jurisdiction in the matter, and realize that the
fate of this unhappy youth is solely in your hands.
It is to you, therefore, I bring these papers, confided
to me ai^ a sacred charge, and ask your consideration
of one pointl He is here, this young rebel, in disguise
and with false papers. Thid brings him within the
penalties of your proclamation, and yet, if I prove to
you he came not as a spy, but solely to pay a last
visit, as he supposed, to a dying father, will it not in-
duce you to defer his execution until another day, that
ho may see once more the dear ones of his home."

^'And meantime have Jeb Stuart rushing in and
whisking the whole crowd of us off to Libby ? Thank
you. Colonel Westerlo, but delays are dangerous. I
tell you, sir, this war has been conducted too long on
the kid-glove principle. The nation — the people— de-
mand of us that we now take the bull of the rebellion
by the horns and crush the viper to eaith." (Van
Duzen's metaphors, with his toddies, became mixed
in equal proportions, and Westerlo looked anxiously
around him, sure of seeing somewhere the demijohn
of Monongahela which was an invariable accompani-
ment of his senior's campaigning.) ^^ I conceive it to
be my boundcn duty to make an immediate and telling
example of this case, and I have so decided."



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BBTWEBN THE LINES. 235

" One moment more. Bear with me, my colonel,"
said the old trooper. " Last year a young officer of
high connections and distinguished family was shot
and captured while carrying despatches. Ah I You
know the story. I will not weary your patience, sir.
It was the father and the sister of this gentleman now
your prisoner who braved the wrath of all Virginia,
who sacrificed their social standing, who lost every
friend they ever had in this community, to save that
suffering comrade from a fate- you declare to be worse
than death. You know the circumstances, but you
cannot know, as I do, the' sorrow and the sufferings of
these noble but most unfortunate people. Sir, the
revered old judge who so humanely gave Lieutenant
Kearny the shelter of his name and fireside now lies
at the door of death, heart-broken at the calamity that
has befallen his only son. The fair, lovely daughter
whose tender care nursed our Union soldier back to
life and strength, whose quick woman's art found him
a hiding-place when the Rebel authorities searched the
premises for him, the only sister of this condemned
Virginian is at her father's bedside sustained from de-
spair and utter prostration only by his imminent need
of her care. When you hang Henry Armistead, you
kill one, perhaps both, of those loving souls at his
home across the range. Sir^ I implore you, grant us
respite for one brief day. I say us, for I have learned
to know and honor these people. I say us because
their grief has become mine."

Van Duzen was silent. He would gladly have found
a good way out of the mire in which his high-flown



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236 BBTWEBN THB LINES.

proclamations and portentous threats had plunged
him. On the other hand, would not all the morning
papers of his native state and of the waiting North be
filled with details of the energetic measures taken by-
Colonel Van Duzen to crush the rebellion at its very-
core ? Of his pursuit and capture of this dangerous
and desperate man ? Of his stem but soldierly course ?
Of the last night of the condemned man on earth? It
would never do to weaken now. Never I

"I appreciate your feeling, Colonel Westerlo. I
would gladly show these people how we value the
services they rendered to a loyal son of the Union,
but they cannot ask of us the life of a spy for the life
of a soldier. Depend upon it, this misguided young
man would be among the first to condemn their action
and upbraid them for their disloyalty to their state.
It would be very different had we been indebted to
him for Major Kearny's life,"

" You admit, do I understand, that it would induce
you to suspend sentence if it were young Armistead
to whom we owed Kearny's life ?" tremblingly asked
Westerlo, though striving to veil his deep anxiety.

" Well — ah— at an earlier stage of the proceedings
it would have had great weight — ^great weight. Things
have gone so far, however — "

" Colonel Van Duzen, forgive my haste. Forgive
me that I interrupt, but listen ; Henry Armistead and
Frank Kearny were intimate and devoted friends in
their college days. A romantic incident separated
and made a coldness between them. It was the fort-
une of war that threw the latter, wounded, senseless,



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BETWEEN THE LUTES. 237

and bleeding, into the hands of the former. It was
Armistead who tenderly cared for his captive for two
days and nights until he found means to send him to
his father's house. It was he who exacted of his peo-
ple that they should conceal him, nurse him, restore
him to life and liberty, and the service of the Union
again if need be, that his promise might be kept un-
sullied. Here is the letter he wrote. Listen :

" * In the Field, neab Oainesyille, August 80, 1862.

" * Father, — The strangest fortune that ever fell to soldier's lot is
mine to-night. You know the old intimacy and friendship that ex-
isted between Frank Kearny and me at Princeton. We were like
brothers until our senior year, when there came between us a cloud —
a woman. I loved her — ^and the quarrel was my fault. In the win-
ter of '60-'61 he came to Richmond and we met as friends, but there
were subjects, this among them, on which we could not speak. In
the spring that followed, after Sumter's guns, I hastened hither from
New York, where I had gone to see her. She told me gently that my
hopes were all in vain — that her heart was his^ — that he had already
volunteered for the war. There is no need to tell you what this
meant to me. Before we parted she had won from me this promise
— God knows I gave it solemnly, and, pitying her fears and sorrow,
with my heart in my words — ^that if ever he fell into my hands, and
it lay in my power to save him, save him I would.

" * Thursday night, late, I had ventured with a small detachment to
strike the road between the Federal cavalry and the lines at Hay-
market, hoping to pick up staff-officers or stragglers. Luck was with
us. An officer strove to cut his way through, and in the ej!;citement
and darkness my men almost killed before they could capture him.
Then, by the faint light of a camp-fire in the woods I examined roy
unconscious prize, and found myself face to face with — my promise.

** ' Bleeding, senseless, stunned, and bruised, he has lain here hid-
den for two days, nursed by the negroes who bear him to you and
tended by a surgeon whom I brought to him. I had to leave him all



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238 BETWEEN THE LINES.

day to take my part in the glorious victory we liave won. The Yan-
kees are in full retreat upon Washington. We go at dawn with
Jackson to strike their flank. Honor calls me with my troop— my
word of honor is given here. In your hands and in Lucy's I place
my captive and my faith. As you love me, as you would preserve
my honor unsullied, receive this helpless enemy of our cause beneath
your roof. Conceal him from those who would take him to imprison-
ment in which he would languish and die. When occasion offers, re-
store him to his friends, and when all is over— the war or my life —
send this to her, that the woman I loved may know how an Armis-
tead kept his word — even though it was to give her to another's arms.
" * Lucy, you know her name. Do not speak it to a soul until this
letter is to be sent to her. Dear ones both, God bless and guard you,
and sustain me in the cause we love.

" * Yours ever, Hknrt Armistsad.' "

There was a moment of silence in the room of the
old Virginia house in which the colonel was making
his headquarters. Then Westerlo spoke again.

" Colonel Van Duzen, would you hang as a spy a
man like that — when he hasn't been spying at all ?"



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XXTTL

Thbbb were some sorely disappointed men among
the "camp followers" around district headquarters
during the next few days. Full and graphic details
of the hanging of one of the most distinguished sons
of a most distinguished Virginia family having been
prepared in advance, several correspondents having
spent the night in writing touching descriptions of
the manner in which the Rebel spy refused all friend-
ly offices (he had simply declined to be interviewed),
and one energetic gentleman having "pre-empted"
the telegraph wire at no inconsiderable expense, it
was hard luck that they should be greeted with the
rising of the sun with such cheerless tidings as that
the condemned man had been accorded a respite. The
soldiers broke ranks after HveiUe roll-call, and scat-
tered about their fires and coffee-kettles with un-
feigned alacrity and cheerfulness^ They were all
" ready and willing to blaze away and kill Armisteads
by the dozen in fair stand-up fight, or sabre them in
a cavalry charge, where every man had a show for his
life," said one old troop commander ; " but this here
hanging a fellow in sight of his friends and neighbors
is too one-sided a business for most of us, and d — n
me if I wouldn't rather see the whole thing stopped."



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240 BETWSBN THB LINES.

Around the house in which Armistead had spent
the night a dozen soldiers armed with loaded carbines
paced restlessly to and fro. A dim light burned in
the room where he sat writing his last messages. At
dusk the adjutant had waited upon him, and with a
voice that shook despite his efforts to control it, an-
nounced to him that under authority of the President
of the United States, and by order of the district com-
mander, he would be hanged as a spy at daybreak.
The idea of being executed without trial other than a
mere search and a verbal examination— on his own ad-
mission, too, that he was Henry Armistead — had not
occurred to him as possible. He turned very pale, but
stood and looked calmly in the officer's eyes.

"Do you mean that this is true? Do you mean
that I, who am in no sense a spy, am to be executed
as such without the form of a trial and in such inde-
cent haste ?"

"Such are the orders, sir. I have no alternative
but to tell you so and to ask how I can serve you
meantime."

Armistead was silent a moment, then, to the sur-
prise of his much-embarrassed visitor, replied,

" By leaving me alone to think over this for half an
hour. Then, if you will call, I will thank you."

And the adjutant bowed and withdrew, giving orders
to the sentry at the door to keep his eyes on the pris-
oner, and permit him to make no attempt on his life.

When the adjutant returned at the appointed time
he found the Virginian seated at a little wooden table.
He raised his head.



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BBTWSSN THB LINBS. 241

" I presume you will permit me to see one friend ?"

^^It is the intention of the colonel to send at once
for your relatives at Hopeville. He has just succeed-
ed in getting an ambulance up from Thoroughfare."

" Spare them that, and all knowledge of this — ^mur-
der — ^until it is done. My father lies in an illness that
may be fatal. My sister cannot leave him. The man
I ask to see is our old family physician, Dr. Loring.
He lives not far from here."

" I regret that Dr. Loring has been sent to Wash-
ington. We cannot reach him."

" Then let me have writing materials and freedom
from interruption of any kind. It is all I ask of you."

And it was all he would accept. Two officers be-
sought him to let them be of service. He returned
their cards with courteous but positive refusal. Others
sent steaming coffee and a hot supper. He would not
touch it. The correspondents vainly pleaded for an
interview, and, his patience being exhausted, Armis-


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Online LibraryCharles KingBetween the lines: a story of the war → online text (page 15 of 20)