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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Judson Knight: A Chase along the Pamunkey 1864 - Conclusion

Serg't Knight's Adventures In the Swamps of the Pamunkey.
(Continued from last week.)

THE tension on my nerves, which had been considerably strained for the last 24 hours, had become relaxed, and I felt more like having fun than anything else. When the Lieutenant said he would have to keep me until morning, it put a stop to all funny business, as far as I was concerned, and I told him it was his duty to either send or take me to Gen. Smith at once, and I also said that he would be very apt to get blamed for not doing it. A Sergeant in the party settled it when he said: "Yes, Lieutenant, you will get into trouble if you don't take him to Gen. Smith at once." 
A guard was detailed, who surrounded me, and we set off across the fields. I don't know how often we were tripped up by the running blackberry or dowberry(dewberry) vines, but as near as I remember every one of the party were down more than once before we made the mile that separated us from the "White House." On our arrival Smith's tent had been pitched, and he had just lain down, when the Lieutenant went in, mid told him who I said I was, and he ordered him to bring me in immediately. When I came in he said: "Who are you?" After rolling him, his next question was: "When did you leave Gen. Grant?" Upon answering this his next was: "When did you leave his Headquarters?"
"At noon yesterday." 
"What have you been doing since " 
I gave him an outline of my experience, and said I came out of the swamp since dark.
"I heard the first whistle about four miles up the river. Here are three dispatches for you; the remainder go to Yorktown; please to look at this," handing him Col. Ingalls's order on Quartermasters.
"Capt., roared he. Capt. come into the tent. Give this man the fastest boat you have got, and don't wait to unload anything." 
Then to me: "I trust the remainder of your trip will be much pleasanter then the first part. Good-night."
In a few minutes not to exceed 20, I think I was sound asleep on the steamer, and remained so until we reached Yorktown. The steamer landed me and went back immediately. Going first to the telegraph office I delivered the dispatches that had to be telegraphed; then to the post office and got rid of the remainder, together with the letters. The next thing in order was to find an eating house, where I ordered a breakfast regardless of expense. After breakfast I concluded to replenish my wardrobe. Socks, drawers, and shirt had suffered in the swamp, and they were replaced by new ones. The shirt was gorgeous, French cashmere. I could not burden myself with anything except what I could wear, consequently only one article of a kind was purchased, with the exception of paper collars.They were something that one had to make some sacrifice for, and I laid in a supply of at least a dozen of "Gray's patent molded collar." After going to a barbershop and getting my hair cut and a shave, I made my appearance in the streets of Yorktown. My wide-brimmed straw hat and purple coat made me a conspicuous object, even without the extra adornments. I had mounted, and I was immediately surrounded by a crowd of both soldiers and officers, all eager for news, Somehow they had learned from the telegraph office that one of Grant's Headquarters scouts was in town, and they picked me out immediately as the man. No certain news for some time had they heard, and I was literally besieged. It happened that I had seen most of the fighting at Spotsylvania Courthouse; had seen Johnson's Division when they were taken out of the works, and could give a pretty good description of the operations in that neighborhood for several days which culminated in the fight of the 12th of May, 1864. I entertained them to the best of my ability for over an hour. I never saw men in my life so eager for news. I was really glad about 2 p.m. when the Quartermaster came and told me he had signaled a steamer going up the river to run in. She came and I went aboard the steamer Wyoming, Capt. Lyttleton S. Cropper, of Havre De Grace, Md. Capt. Cropper was as whole-souled, genial a man as I ever met, and his boat, which had double engines, was fitted up as a hospital boat. When Capt. Cropper learned who I was, there was nothing on board too good for me. My name, as well as all of the scouts at Headquarters, was entered on his log-book, and a signal was agreed upon by which he would know any of the boys who might signal him from the shore, and he requested me to inform them that he would always be pleased to have any of them come on board and make themselves known to him at any time. 
Some of them did go aboard of the Wyoming later, but who they were I have forgotten now, but I can remember they were loud in their praise of Capt. Cropper. There was a number of soldiers on board who were detailed as guards and nurses, under the charge of a Surgeon, whose name has escaped my memory. I met the Surgeon afterward, several months subsequent to the close of the war, and one of the men who was detailed, and serving on board on that trip. His name was Jones, and he belonged in the town of Marcy, N. Y. 
The next day, early in the morning, I found the Wyoming fast to the wharf at the White House, and found that the Eighteenth Corps had gone forward the day before. Leaving the boat, I started on foot up toward Tunstall's Station. By the time I had gone three or four miles I came upon one of our cavalrymen, and from him learned that Gen. Gregg was not far away. Gen. Gregg was a man I was very anxious to see, and I took a good many steps in various directions, as I was told by several cavalrymen where they thought he could be seen. At last I found him. Showing him my pass, to let him know who I was, I asked him to loan me a horse, and to tell me where Army Headquarters were to be found.
"See here," said he, "I have loaned you scouts horses before, and never saw them again."
"Well, General, you never loaned me one, did you?" 
"No. I never did, and don't think I ever will. You people got a horse, and that is the last of him."I could see by a twinkle in his eyes that he intended to let me have one, and pressed the request, saying: "You acknowledge you never let me have one. How is it possible for you to say you will never see him again. I will promise that he shall he returned as soon as it is possible to do be in four or five days at the farthest."
"Well, I suppose I will have to try you. Now, if I don't get this horse back, it is the last time a scout over gets one from me." 
Calling a man he ordered him to furnish me with a certain horse that I thought to myself would be a small loss if he should never see again. On asking him where I would be apt to find Army Headquarters, he replied that he had no idea, but the night before they were at Old Church Tavern, which was several miles off. I saw no one that could give me the desired information until I arrived at the tavern. The landlord was very surly, and would scarcely give me a civil answer, until my patience became exhausted, when I asked him which of two roads both in sight (I had come in on a third one) they took when they left his place that morning, at the same time intimating that a civil and quick reply would be conducive to his well being. Ho very graciously pointed to the road that he said they had taken. I followed that road into the woods probably four miles, when shell began tearing through the tree-tops, and the farther I went the worse it got, until I became satisfied that the landlord had lied.
I remembered seeing a road about two miles back, leading to the left, and concluded to go back and try it. I had not gone far before I saw an infantry regiment come out of the woods and take the same direction on the same road that I was on. My horse soon overtook them, and turned out of the road of his own accord, and commenced passing them. We had passed over half the regiment before anyone bestowed more than a casual glance at us. At last a young fellow took a good look at the whole outfit, left the ranks, and ran toward the head of the regiment. Just before I came up I saw him speak to the Colonel. When I attempted to pass, the Colonel stopped me, and wanted to know who and what I was. I rode along by his side, and showed him my pass, which was written on a printed form; explained to him that I had just got back to the army, and was looking for Headquarters. The young soldier meanwhile was on the other side of the Colonel, and as soon as he discovered that his Colonel was satisfied with my explanation, he attempted to sneak back to his company. I saw the move and stopped him, and said: "I want to have a few words with you, young man." A half-sullen look name to his face as I began.  I thanked him for what he had done, and told both him and the Colonel that I was frequently disgusted with the way men could go through the army without being stopped by anyone; that it appeared to us sometimes that they did not care whether a man was a spy or not, nor whether he found out what was going on, and wont direct to the enemy and reported. I also told them that frequently I had heard other scouts make the same complaint, and I said:
"Now, my young friend, I am glad to see that one man, at least, in this regiment cared enough to put himself to some trouble to find out whether I was a friend or an enemy." The sullen look had disappeared; he had expected a cursing, which I am sorry to say was what a private soldier got more of than was good for him.
I found Headquarters in the course of a couple of hours after leaving that regiment, which was an Ohio one. The battle of Cold Harbor was fought that next day, I think; if not on that day, within 4 couple or three days", at all events. How long the army stopped here after the 4th of June I can't remember. My old regiment (2d N. J.) went home from Cold Harbor, and a day or two afterward one of the guards at the "bull-pen," a member of the 20th N. Y., came to me and said: "There is a man in the bull-pen who says he belongs to your old regiment, and wants to see you."
I went back with him, when a young fellow who was on the inside of the line of guards pressed forward as far as the guard would let In in, and said: "Don't you know me, Sergeant?" I took a good a good look at him, and answered: "No; I can't say that I do."
Said he: "Sergeant, I used to belong to your old regiment"
"What company were you in?" 
"G, and yours was H." 
"Yes; that is right So you were in Capt. Close's company. How did you get in here? The regiment has gone home, and I can't see how you should be in the bull-pen." 
He then told me that he was in one of the Wilderness fights, and was wounded; had been sent to Washington to a hospital, and as soon as no could leave it applied to be sent to his regiment; had come down the Potomac to Port Royal, and had helped to guard a wagon-train from there to Army Headquarters; when he got there his regiment was gone. His story had not been believed, and he had brought up in the pen. After listening to his story he said:
"You remember me now, don't you, Sergeant?" I could not recollect him, and said so. Tears came into his eyes as I turned away and walked to Col. Sharp's tent, who at that time was Deputy Provost-Marshal-General of the Army of the Potomac. I went in and told the story to Sharp, and when I got through he said: Do you remember him?" 
"Hardly; but I know he tells the truth." 
"Well," said he, "it is a shame, and we will have him out."
He then wrote an order to turn the boy over to me, and told me to go and get him. When he came the Colonel questioned him a few minute, gave him an order for transportation and the papers he would need to keep him out of trouble with military authorities, and turned him loose. He was one of the most grateful boys I ever saw. He was not over 21 years old, and lived in Bloomfield, N.J. His name had escaped my memory. Within a few days I got a chance to send the borrowed horse to Gen. Gregg, I'd did so.

JUDSON KNIGHT, Washington, D. C.
(The End)

-The National Tribune, January 26, 1893

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