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Mohun, or, the Last Days of Lee   By: (1830-1886)

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Nec aspera terrent.


On the wall over the mantel piece, here in my quiet study at Eagle's Nest, are two crossed swords. One is a battered old sabre worn at Gettysburg, and Appomattox; the other, a Federal officer's dress sword captured in 1863.

It was a mere fancy to place them there, as it was a whim to hang upon that nail yonder, the uniform coat with its stars and braid, which Stuart wore on his famous ride around McClellan in 1862. Under the swords hang portraits of Lee, Jackson, and Stuart. Jackson wears his old coat, and his brow is raised as though he were looking out from beneath his yellow old cadet cap. Stuart is seated, grasping his sabre, with his plumed hat resting on his knee. His huge beard flows on his breast, his eyes are clear and penetrating, and beneath the picture I have placed a slip cut from one of his letters to me, and containing the words, "Yours to count on, J.E.B. Stuart." Lastly, the gray commander in chief looks with a grave smile over his shoulder, the eyes fixed upon that excellent engraving of the "Good Old Rebel," a private of the Army of Northern Virginia, seated on a log, after the war, and reflecting with knit brows on the past and the present.

From this sketch of my surroundings, worthy reader, you will perceive, that I amuse myself by recalling the old times when the Grays and Blues were opposed to each other. Those two swords crossed those pictures of Lee, Jackson, Stuart, and the "Old Rebel" you are certain to think that the possessor of them is unreconstructed (terrible word!) and still a rebel!

But is it wrong to remember the past? I think of it without bitterness. God decreed it God the all wise, the all merciful for his own purpose. I do not indulge any repinings, or reflect with rancor upon the issue of the struggle. I prefer recalling the stirring adventure, the brave voices, the gallant faces: even in that tremendous drama of 1864 5, I can find something besides blood and tears: even here and there some sunshine!

In this last series of my memoirs I shall deal chiefly with that immense campaign. In the first series which, I trust the reader of these pages will have perused, I followed Jackson through his hard battles to the fatal field of Chancellorsville. In this volume I shall beg the reader first to go with Stuart from the great review of his cavalry, in June, 1863, to the dark morning of May 11, 1864, at Yellow Tavern. Then the last days will follow.

I open the drama with that fine cavalry review in June, 1863, on the Plains of Culpeper.

It is a pleasure to return to it for Gettysburg blackened the sunshine soon. The column thundered by; the gay bugles rang; the great banner floated. Where is that pageant to day? Where the old moons of Villon? Alas! the strong hours work their will. June, 1863, is long dead. The cavalry horses, if they came back from the wars, are ploughing. The rusty sabres stick fast in the battered old scabbards. The old saddles are shabby and our friends take them away from us. The old buttons are tarnished, and an order forbids our wearing them. The brass bands clash no more; and the bugles are silent. Where are the drums and the bugles? Do they beat the long roll at the approach of phantom foes, or sound the cavalry charge in another world? They are silent to day, and have long disappeared; but I think I hear them still in my dreams!

It is in June, 1863, therefore, worthy reader, that I open my volume. Up to that time I had gone with Jackson's "foot cavalry," marching slowly and steadily to battle. Now, I was to follow the gay and adventurous career of the Virginia Rupert Stuart, the Knight of the Black Plume! If you are willing to accompany me, I promise to show you some animated scenes. You will hear Stuart laugh as he leads the charge, or jest with his staff, or sing his gay cavalry songs... Continue reading book >>

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