Join Date: November 2, 1998
General, hold my horse.
The following account is given by a Civil War chaplain.
The doctors mounted and I did the same. They were gallant young surgeons. One rode on either side of me and several men were mounted and followed after us. To an excited lieutenant who had charge of the ambulance I looked very much like a general. Riding up in front of our calvacade and tipping his hat to me, he said: "General, where shall I direct the ambulances?" I did not undeceive him but replied, in a tone of authority: "Have them driven to Fairfax!" I knew that so far the command was correct, and the lieutenant did as I told him. We marched the night through, having had nothing to eat all day except parched corn. At four o'clock next morning, having passed over a small river, the Occoquon, I think, and finding ourselves safely out of the trap, we halted, tied our horses to some small trees, and, though it was raining gently, slept on the ground until seven. Then started again, and, coming to a small log cabin, entered and asked for something to eat. The poor people seemed to be alarmed and said they had nothing. "Oh," we said, "we do not wish to deprive you, and we are willing to pay." Then, they took courage and gave us some fat pork, corn bread, and a kind of coffee, made, I think, out of burned peas. But it was warm. There were three of us, the two doctors and myself. We gave our hosts five dollars, and they were delighted, and so were we. Hunger made that breakfast the most delicious we had in six months. We continued our journey, and when we reached Fairfax, again near to our troops, we saw a tent where a sutler was selling cakes and canned meats. One of my companions went in to make our pruchases while I stayed outside with the other. After marching all night and sleeping in the rain, I had been mistaken on the evening previous. While standing outside the sutler's tent, covered with mud, horse-hair, and oak-leaves, my hair and beard, unkempt and uncombed for three days, flying in the wind, a man on horseback dashed up to the same tent, dismounted and with considerable nonchalance, and with scarcely a glance at me, peremptorily ordered me to hold his horse. Suiting his actions to his words, he extended his bridle-rein toward me. It was customary in those days to hand a boy or an idle loafer ten or twenty-five cents for holding an officer's horse for a short time. The occurence was somewhat stunning. "How hath my greatness fallen in one night!" I soliloquized. "Last night I was taken for a general; this morning I am taken for a loafer waiting to earn ten or twenty-five cents." The man who commanded me to hold his horse was not an officer, as far as I could ascertain. He looked like one who was earnest in his duty. Just as he was extending the bridle-rein to me, the doctor, who had been making the purchases in the tent, came out, and, lifting his right hand to his hat very politely, by way of salute, said: "General (keeping up the joke), I have a good supply for to-day." The stranger who owned the horse looked sharply at me, with terror in his face, and quickly darted out of sight. He seemed confounded at the thought of having asked a general to hold his horse.
The Chaplain in question is Father William Corby of the Irish Brigade. He is best known for offering absolution to the Irish Brigade before they plunged into the maelstrom known as Gettysburg. So touching was the moment that even General Winfield Hancock doffed his hat while he watched from a distance. If you visit Gettysburg today, you will find a statute of Father Corby there.
Have a safe & Merry Christmas everyone.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!