In the Ranks
Copyright, 1904, by A. S. Barnes Co.. Publishers. 156 Fifth Avenue. New York II
E slender remnant Lee's ar
tillery swung slowly posi
tion a few miles wes
but with spirit still, the batteries park
ed their guns in a field facing a strip
of woodland. The guns were few in
number now, but they were all that
were left of those that had done battle
on a score of historic fields.
Lee had been forced out of his works
at Richmond and Petersburg a week
before. Ever since, with that calm
courage which had sustained him
throughout the later and losing years
of the war, he had struggled and bat-
tled in an effort to retreat to the
Roanoke river. He had hoped there to
unite the remnant of his army with
what was left of Johnston's force and
to make there a final and desperate
In this purpose he had been baffled.
Grant's forces were on his southern
flank, and they had steadily pressed
him back toward the James river on
the north. In that direction there was
no thoroughfare for him. Neither was
there now in any other. Continual bat
tling had depleted his army until it
numbered now scarcely more than 10,-
000 men all told, and starvation had
weakened these so greatly that only
the heroism of despair enabled them to
fight or to march at all.
The artillery that was parked out
there in front of Appomattox Court
House was only a feeble remnant of
that which had fought so long and so
determinedly. Gun after gun had been
captured. Gun after gun had been
dismounted in battle struggle. Cais
son after caisson had been blown up
by the explosion of shells striking
Captain Guilford Duncan, at the head
of eleven mounted men, armed only
with swords and pistols, paused before
entering the woodlands in front.
looked about in every direction, and,
with an eye educated by long experi
ence in war, he observed the absence
of infantry support.
He turned to Sergeant Garrett, who
rode by his side, and said sadly:
"Garrett, this means surrender. Gen
eral Lee has put his artillery here to be
captured. The end has come."
Then, dismounting, he wearily threw
himself upon the ground, chewed and
swallowed a few grains of comthe
only rations he hadand sought a brief
respite of sleep. But before closing his
eyes he turned to Garrett and gave the
"Post a sentinel and order him to
wake us when Sheridan comes."
In a minute the captain was asleep.
So were all his men except the sentinel
posted to do the necessary waking.
That came all too quickly, for at this
juncture in the final proceedings of
the war Sheridan was vigorously car
rying out Grant's laconic instruction
to "press things." When the sentinel
waked the captain, Sheridan's lines
were less than fifty yards in front and
were pouring heavy volleys into the
unsupported Confederate artillery park.
Guilford Duncan and his men were
moved to no excitement by this situa
tion. Their nerves had been schooled
to steadiness and their minds to calm
under any conceivable circumstances
by four years of vastly varied fighting.
Without the slightest hurry they
mounted their horses in obedience to
Duncan's brief command. He led them
at once into the presence of Colonel
Cabell, whose battalion of artillery lay
nearest to him. As they sat upon their
horses in the leaden hailstorm with
countenances as calm as if they had
been entering a drawing room Duncan
touched his cap to Colonel Cabell and
"Colonel, I am under nobody's orders
here. I have eleven men with me, all
of them, as you know, as good artil
lerymen as there are in the army. Can
you let us handle some guns for you?"
"No," answered Colonel Cabell. "I
have lost so many guns already tHat
1 have twenty men to each piece."
Then, after a moment's pause, he
"You, captain, cannot fail to under
stand what all this means."
"I quite understand that, colonel,"
answered Duncan, "but as I was in it
at the beginning of this war, I have
a strong desire to be in it at the end
The colonel's cannon were firing vig
orously by this time at the rate of
six or eight shots to the minute from
each gun, but he calmly looked over
the little party on horseback and re
"You have some good horses, and
this is April. You will need your
horses in your farming operations. You
had better take them and your men
out of here. You can do no good by
staying. This fight is a formality pure
and simple, a preliminary to the final
"Then you order me to withdraw?"
"Yes, certainly, and peremptorily if
you wish, though you are not under my
command," answered Colonel Cabell.
"It is the best thing you can do for
yourself, for your men, for your horses
and for the country."
Duncan immediately obeyed the or
der, in a degree at least. He promptly
withdrew his men to the top of a little
hillock in the rear and there watched
the progress of the final fight. His
nerves were all a-quiver. He was a
young man, twenty-five years old per
haps, full of vigor, full of enthusiasm,
full of fight. He was a trifle less than
six feet high, with a lithe and sym
metrical body, lean almost to emacia
tion by reason of arduous service and
long starvation. He had a head that
instantly attracted attention by its
unusual size and its statuesque shape.
He was bronzed almost to the com
plexion of a mulatto, but without any
touch of yellow in the bronze. was
dark by nature, of intensely nervous
temperament and obviously a man
capable of enormous determination and
He had not yet lost the instinct of
battle, and it galled him that he must
sit idly there on his horse, with his
men awaiting his orders, simply ob
serving a fight in which he strongly
desired to participate. He could see
the Federal lines gradually closing in
upon both flanks of the artillery, with
the certainty that they must presently
envelop and capture it. Seasoned sol
dier that he was, he could not endure
the thought of standing still while
such a wor of war was going on.
Seeing the situation, he turned to his
men, who were armed only with
swords and pistols, and in a voice so
calm that it belied his impulse he said
"This is our last chance for a fight,
boys. I am going into the middle of
that mix. Anybody who chooses to
follow me can come along!"
Every man in that little company of
eleven had two pistols in his saddle
holsters and two upon his hips, and ev
ery man carried in addition a heavy
cavalry saber capable of doing execu
tion at close quarters. They were gen
tlemen soldiers, all. The cause for
which they had battled for four long
years was as dear to them now as it
ever had been. More important still,
their courage was as unflinching in
this climax and catastrophe of the war
they had waged as it had been at Bull
Run in the beginning of that struggle
or in the Seven Days' fight or at Fred
ericksburg or Chancellorsville or Get
tysburg or Cold Harbor. Duncan had
not doubted their response for one mo
ment, and he was not disappointed in
the vigor with which they followed him
as he led them into this final fight. As
they dashed forward their advance
was quickly discovered by the alert
enemy, and a destructive fire of car
bines was opened upon them. At that
moment they were at the trot. Instant
ly Duncan gave the commands:
With that demoniacal huntsman's cry
which is known in history as the "rebel
yell," the little squad dashed forward
and plunged into the far heavier lines
of the enemy. There was a detached
Federal gun there doing its work. It
was a superb twelve pounder, and
Duncan's men quickly captured it with
its limber chest. Instantly dismounting
and without waiting for orders from
him, they turned it upon the enemy with
vigorous effect, but they were so fear
fully overmatched in numbers that
their work endured for scarcely more
than a minute. They fired a dozen shots
perhaps, but they,were speedily over
whelmed, and in another instant Dun
can ordered them to mount and retire
again, firing Parthian shots from their
pistols as they went.
When he again reached the little hill
to which he had retired at the begin
ning of the action, Duncan looked
around him and saw that only seven of
his eleven men remained. The other
four had paid a final tribute of their
lives to what was now obviously "the
By this time the fight was over, and
practically all that remained of the ar
tillery of the Army of Northern Virginia
was in possession of the enemy.
But that enemy was a generous one,
and, foreseeing, as he did, the surrender
that must come with the morning, It
made *io assault upon this wandering
squad of brave but beaten men, who
were sadly looking upon the disastrous
end of the greatest war in human his
Captain Duncan's party was on a
bald hill within easy range of the ear
bines of Sheridan's men, but not a shot
was fired at them, and not so much as
a squad was sent out to demand their
Night was now near at hand, and
Guilford Duncan turned to his men and
"The war is practically over, I sup
pose, but I for one intend to stick to
the game as long as it lasts. General
Lee will surrender his army tonight or
tomorrow morning, but General John
ston still has an army in the field in
North Carolina. It is barely possible
that we may get to him. It is my pur
pose to try. How many of you want to
go with me?"
The response was instantaneous and
"We'll all stick by you, captain, 'till
the cows come home,' they cried.
"Very well," he answered. "We
must march to James river tonight and
cross it. We must make our way into
the mountains and through Lynchburg,
if possible, into North Carolina. We'll
All night long they marched. They
secured some coarse foodstuffs at a
mill which they passed on their way
up into the mountains. There for a
week they struggled to make their way
southward, fighting now and then, not
with Federal troops, for there were
none there, but with marauders. These
were the offscourings of both armies
and of the negro population of that
region. They made themselves the
pests of Virginia at that time. Their
little bands consisted of deserters from
both armies, dissolute negroes and all
other kinds of "lewd fellows of the
baser sort." They raided plantations
they stole horses they terrorized wom
en they were a thorn in the flesh of
General Grant's officers who were
placed in strategic positions to prevent
the possible occurrence of a guerrilla
warfare and who therefore could not
scatter their forces for the policing of
a land left desolate and absolutely
During the sojourn in the mountains,
in his effort to push his way through
to Johnston, Guilford Duncan came
upon a plantation where only women
were living in the mansion house. A
company of marauders had taken pos
session of the plantation, occupying its
negro cabins and terrorizing the popu
lation of the place. When Duncan
rode up with his seven armed men he
instantly took command and assumed
the role of protector. First of all he
posted his men as sentries for the pro
tection of the plantation homestead.
Next he sent out scouts, including a
number of trusty negroes who belong
ed upon the plantation, to find out
where the marauders were located, and
what their numbers were, and what
purpose they might seem bent upon.
From the reports of these scouts he
learned that the marauders exceeded
him in force by three to one or more,
but that fact in no way appalled him.
During a long experience in war he
had learned well the lesson that num
bers count for less than morale and
that with skill and resoluteness a small
force may easily overcome and destroy
a larger one.
Duncan sent at once for the best
negroes on the plantationthe negroes
who had proved themselves loyal in
their affection for their mistresses
throughout the war. Having assem
bled these, he inquired of the women
what arms and ammunition they had.
There were the usual number of shot
guns belonging to a plantation and a
considerable supply of powder and
buckshot. Duncan assembled the ne
groes in the great hall of the planta
tion house and said to them:
"I have seven men here, all armed
and all fighters. I have arms enough
for you boys if you are willing to join
me in the defense of the ladies on this
plantation against about the worst set
of scoundrels that ever lived on earth."
Johnny, the head dining room serv
ant, speaking for all the rest, replied:
"In co'se we is. Jest you lead us,
mahstah, and you'll see how we'll do
The marauders had established them
selves in four or five of the negro
quarters on the plantation, and in a
certain sense they were strongly forti
fied. That is to say, they were housed
in cabins built of logs too thick for
any bullet to penetrate them. Four of
these cabins were so placed that a fire
from the door and the windows of
either of them would completely com
mand the entrance of each of the oth
ers. But to offset that, and to offset
also the superiority of numbers which
the marauders enjoyed, Guilford Dun
can decided upon an attack by night.
He knew he was outnumbered by two
or three to one, even if he counted the
willing but untrained negroes whom he
had enlisted in his service. But he did
not despair of success. It was his pur
pose to dislodge the marauders in a
night attack, when he knew that they
could not see to shoot with effect. He
knew also that "he is thrice armed
who knows his quarrel just."
Cautioning his men to maintain si
lence and to advance as quickly as pos
sible, he got them into position and
suddenly rushed upon the first of the
four or five negro quarters. Knowing
that the door of this house would be
barricaded, be had instructed some of
the negroes to bring a pole with them
which might be used as "a battering
ram. With a rush, but without any
hurrah, for Duncan had ordered quiet
as a part of his plan of campaign, the
negroes carried the great pole forward
and instantly crushed in the door.
Within ten seconds afterward Dun
can's ex-Confederate soldiers, with
their pistols in use, were within the
house, and the company of marauders
there surrenderedthose of them who
had not fallen before the pistol shots.
This first flush of victory encouraged
the negroes under his command so far
that what had been their enthusiasm
became a positive battle madness.
Without waiting for orders from him
THIS PRINCETON ITNION: THUBSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 1906.
they rushed with their battering ram
upon the other houses occupied by the
marauders, as did also his men, who
were not accustomed to follow, but
rather to lead, and within a few min
utes all of those negro huts were in his
possession, and all their occupants
were in effect his prisoners.
At this moment Guilford Duncan,
who had now no legal or military au
thority over his men, lost control of
them. Both the negroes and the white
men seemed to go mad. They recog
nized in the marauders no rights of a
military kind, no title to be regarded as
fighting men and no conceivable claim
upon their conquerors' consideration.
Both the negroes and the white men
!*vere merciless in their slaughter of the
marauding highwaymen. Once, in the
melee, Guilford Duncan endeavored to
check their enthusiasm as a barbarity,
but his men responded in quick, bullet
like words, indicating their idea that
these men were not soldiers entitled to
be taken prisoners, but were beasts of
prey, rattlesnakes, mad dogs, enemies
of the human race, whose extermina
tion it was the duty of every honest
man to seek and to accomplish as
quickly as possible.
The contest lasted for a very brief
while. The number of the slaughtered
in proportion to the total number of
men engaged was appalling. But this
was not all. To it was immediately
added the hasty hanging of men to the
nearest trees, and Guilford 'Duncan
was powerless to prevent that The
negroes, loyal to the mistresses whom
they had served from infancy, had
gone wild in their enthusiasm of de
fense. They ran amuck, and when the
morning came there was not one man
of all those marauders left alive to tell
the story of the conflict.
In the meanwhile Guilford Duncan,
by means of his men, had gathered in
formation in every direction. knew
now that all hope was gone of his join
ing Johnston's army, even if that army
had not surrendered, as by this time it
probably had done. He therefore
brought his men together. Most of
them lived in those mountains round
about or in the lower country east qf
them, so he said to them:
"Men, the war is over. Most of you,
as I understand it, live somewhere
near here or within fifty miles of
here. As the last order that I shall
ever issue to you as a captain, I direct
you now to return to your homes at
once. My advice to you is to go to
work and rebuild your fortunes as best
you can. We've had our last fight.
We've done our duty like men. We
must now do the best that we can for
ourselves under extremely adverse cir
cumstances. Go home, cultivate your
fields, take care of your families and
be as good citizens in peace as you
have been good soldiers in war."
There was a hurried consultation
among the men. Presently Sergeant
Garrett spoke for the rest and said:
"We will not go home, Captain Dun
can, until each one of us has written
orders from you to do so. Some of us
fellows have children in our homes,
and the rest of us may have children
hereafter We want them to know, as
the years go by, that we did not desert
our cause even in its dying hours that
we did not quit the army until we were
ordered to quit. We ask of you, for
each of us, a written order to go home
or to go wherever else you may order
us to go."
The captain fully understood the loy
alty of feeling which underlay this re
quest, and he promptly responded to it.
Taking from his pocket a number of
old letters and envelopes, he searched
out whatever scraps there might be of
blank paper. Upon these scraps he
issued to each man of his little com
pany a peremptory order to return to
his home, with an added statement in
the case of each that he had "served
loyally, bravely and well even unto
That night, before their final part
ing, the little company slept together
in the midst of a cluster of pine trees
with only one sentry on duty.
The next day came the parting. The
captain, with tears dimming his vi
sion, shook hands with each of his men
in turn, saying to each, with choking
utterance: "Goodby! God bless you!"
Then the spokesman of the men,
Sergeant Garrett, asked:
"Are you going home, Captain Dun-
For twenty seconds the young cap
tain stared at his men, making no an
swer. Then, mastering himself and
speaking as one dazed, he replied:
"Home? Home? On all God's earth
I have no home!"
Instantly he put spurs to his horse,
half unconsciously turning toward the
A moment later he vanished from
view over the crest of a hill.
E young man rode long and
late that night. His way lay
always upward toward the
of the high mountains of
the Blue Ridge range.
The roads he traversed were scarcely
more than trails, too steep in their
ascent to have been traveled by wag
ons that might wear them into thor
oughfares. During the many hours of
his riding he saw no sign of human
habitation anywhere and no prospect
of finding food for himself or his horse,
though both were famishing.
About midnight, however, he came
upon a bit of wild pasture land on a
steep mountain side, where his horse
at least might crop the early grass of
the spring. There he halted, removed
his saddle and bridle and turned the
animal loose, saying:
"Poor beast! You will not stray far
away. There's 'half an acre of grass
here, with bare rocks all around it.
Your appetite will be leash enough to
keep you from wandering."
Then the young manno longer a
captain now, but a destitute, starving
R. D. A. McRAE
Office in Odd Fellows Block.
R. F. L. SMALL,
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